“It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” – Noel Coward

truthThe inspiration for this tip came after I had the great fortune to find out about the work of Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. Together they run The Hendricks Institute, a hugely successful learning center that teaches core skills for conscious living. Whilst much of the work they do is based around strengthening relationships, the area that I was particularly struck with is a process they have devised for identifying and transforming what they call “unconscious commitments”.

Have you ever been really frustrated with yourself for not following through on a task or activity that you know would have given you great rewards?

For example:

* Not filling out the job application even though you were really keen on moving forward in your career.
* Falling off the healthy eating plan even though you already felt uncomfortable with your level of wellbeing.
* Treating yourself to a little luxury item after you vowed to pay off maxed-out credit cards first.
* Saying you’d make more of an effort in your relationship and then spending more time in front of the TV.

Those scenarios may ring bells for you or they may not, but I’m willing to stick my neck out and say that everyone has a little thing or area of life where their own actions stop them from getting what they really want.

The key to reversing this kind of self sabotage is to take a good look at yourself and to be completely honest about what is really going on in that head of yours. Although we like to think that our desires are driven by what we consciously choose, there is a far more powerful force at play in the deepest recesses of your unconscious mind.

Take the guy who says he wants to move his business up to the next level. He may have all kinds of ideas and visions for where he’d like the business to go; he might even write down a few lofty goals and do some research on the kind of resources he might need. BUT, if his unconscious mind, for whatever reason, is not ready to play ball, he will inevitably seek out and find all the excuses as to why progress cannot be made right now: It’s not the right time; the market is not there; he’s too busy; he’s too tired; there’s no support; his wife wouldn’t like it… And the sad thing is that probably the only place where any of these excuses are actually true is in the story he’s making up in his head.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow but he will only be able to stop obstructing himself when he is willing to admit that he is holding onto an unconscious commitment to keep his business exactly where it is right now.

Initially it can be a very uncomfortable thing to acknowledge that you may be unconsciously committed to avoiding the very thing you say you want. Some people start out by strenuously resisting this notion:

“That’s ridiculous, there is nothing more I’d love than to do than be the most successful person in my industry. It’s not my fault it happened to rain today. I definitely would have gone to that networking event had it been less of a downpour!”

The purpose of taking a radically honest stance is not to beat yourself up about not doing the best you can, but it’s to uncover the mental blocks that are getting in the way of your success.

My own experience of this is when some years ago I got the idea into my head that I wanted to build a career in personal development (of all things). I thought about all the possible ways that I could be of service make a positive difference in the lives of others through private consultation, workshops and seminars, creating products and generally being a pretty damn good coach. So I set about signing-up to as many training events as I could get onto (and afford). I read mountains for books on just about every area of personal growth and self development, and I even set up my very first website. I was on a roll. I was so excited at the prospect of being a sought after and respected expert in the field, and I felt so strongly that this was the right path for me to follow.

There was one small problem though. In my busyness to expand my knowledge and formulate a plan for magnificent success I wasn’t actually doing anything to get any work. But more than that, I was even turning down opportunities that were being handed to me on a plate. I’d get invites to deliver talks to local groups. Friends were always offering to pass my details onto other people they knew would definitely want to see me for coaching or therapy. But somehow I always found a way of avoiding putting my skills into practice. I’d find reasons why I was too busy, or my presentation wasn’t quite polished enough, or I’d think I might be coming down with something. I spent so much time perfecting the look and feel of my website that I forgot to fill it with the kind of content that people actually wanted to know about. I’d hide behind emails, rather than picking up the phone and talking with people directly.

This carried for a while until eventually it got to the stage that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It was the elephant in the corner of the room. Even though I hadn’t heard about the Hendricks’ idea of “unconscious commitments” back then, I came to my own realisation that I was committed to being invisible and resisting my own success.

Is that because I was lying when I talked about all the things I wanted to achieve as coach? Of course not, but what it did mean is that I was probably a bit scared, and my unconscious mind was doing the only thing it knows how to do; to protect me from coming to any harm.

The really cute thing about the unconscious mind is that, despite its infinite wisdom, it really isn’t very good at distinguishing between a real threat to our physical being and an imagined threat to our imagined being, or self-image – otherwise known as the ego.

When you are about to embark on an exciting but uncertain journey the ego has no assurances that it will survive unscathed. “What if I fail? What will other people think? What if they disapprove? What if I can’t handle the pressure of success? You’d better back in your box right now!”

Your subconscious is an extremely powerful force in your life and drives the majority of your behaviour. But it craves familiarity! It likes your self image just the way it is and, left to its own devices, will organise your thoughts and actions to keep it that way. If you want to move past this you have to become aware of what’s really going on inside and consciously decide to override this well intentioned protection system with deliberate thoughts and actions that are congruent with your desired outcome.

Here is the really magical thing that I experienced. As soon as I admitted that I was just a bit nervous about launching myself onto the public stage, and that I was willing to work consciously towards being clearly visible my potential client base, it’s as if I was suddenly free of that old unconscious commitment to remain hidden from view.

Anyone can overcome their unconscious commitments and unblock the flow of success in their life, but it takes two things: Radical self-honesty that the only obstacle you are facing is yourself, and a genuine willingness to be consciously committed to turning the situation around.


Homework

I encourage you to think about your own life and the areas where you may have unconscious commitments that stop you achieving the results you want. Here are some steps to overcome them (it’s important that you let go of any self-judgement as you do this).

1, Identify the non-desirable recurring issues in your life. What do you find yourself consistently complaining about, either verbally to others or silently to yourself? Have you been blaming something or someone for holding you back?

Example: You’ve been fed up for ages that you are working so hard in your job that it leaves you too little energy to go to the gym.

Now, as if you knew that this is just an excuse, finish off the following sentence with the real unconscious truth.

“I am committed to…”

Example:

* “I am committed to blaming everything else for my own lack of action”
* “I am committed to finding excuses not to exercise”
* “I am committed to convincing myself I am too tired when that’s not actually true”
* “I am committed to presenting myself as a victim”

2, Say the unconscious commitment out loud and notice the emotional effect it creates in you. If it feels uncomfortable there’s a good chance you’re on the money!

3, The next step is to repeat the statement out loud over and over, but each time vary the way that you say it. Say it slowly then really quickly. Use a high pitched voice and then a deep low voice. Say it in a sexy voice and then in the style of your favourite cartoon character.

Carry on doing this for a little while and then check back in with your feelings to see how the statement affects you now. This process is very good at ‘de-sensitising’ the unconscious commitment by removing its emotional charge. When you can say the statement without any negative sensations, move on.

4, This is a really important step. Identify the positive intention your unconscious had in giving you this commitment. Ask yourself “What are all the positive ways in which this unconscious commitment has served me?” And with whatever comes up, send your deep gratitude and love to your unconscious for everything it has been trying to do you for doing.

Example: By making me frustrated with my it was trying to get me to have a better work / life balance

5, Create a conscious commitment to override the unconscious one

* I am committed to taking the best care of myself
* I am committed to making health and happiness the most important part of my life
* I am committed to finding creative ways to exercise even when I’m busy
* I am committed to being 100% responsible for myself

Repeat the new commitment out loud over and over until it feels natural and a part of you. Do things to remind yourself of it, like putting post-its around your desk, your home or in your car.

When you catch yourself revisiting that old unconscious commitment, which you inevitably will from time to time, just bring yourself gently back by affirming your new commitment until you feel it in your body.


Take great care. Namaste.

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“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” – Sam Keen

questionI think we all get that questions are a really powerful communication tool when we?re dealing with others, but the impact of the questions we ask ourselves usually gets overlooked, and often this can be the cause of many unnecessary difficulties in our lives.

Every moment of every day we are shaping our own experience of life through our perceptual filters and the meanings we attach to what?s going on around us.

I believe the single most empowering skill you can develop is the skill of consciously choosing where to focus your attention. This is because your mind is wired to always get you more of what you consistently think about. The quality of the results you get in any area is directly related the behaviour you demonstrate in the lead up to those results. The way you behave is directly influenced by your emotional state, which itself is driven by the quality of the thoughts flowing through your mind.

That?s why I often refer to thoughts as being things. What you think about on the inside invariably finds a way of influencing the physical world around you. Sometimes this can be a subtle as a shift in your body posture or facial expression that sends an unconscious message to those around you. And other times it can be as dramatic as launching you into a very definite and intended course of action; the effects of which will either move you closer towards a satisfactory outcome or further away from what you want to experience. But unless we bring a level of conscious awareness to the kind of thoughts we are having, or at least be willing to challenge the validity of our assumptions about what things mean, then our ability to be flexible in the way we interact with the world is always going to be limited at best. We?ll continue to keep seeing things in the same old ways and as a result keep having the same kinds of experiences over and over again. Of course, if seeing things in the same old ways leads us to have lots fun and live rich and fulfilling lives then bring it on! But what about if those same old experiences continually bring pain, stress or unhappiness?

The most influential force in determining the quality of our thoughts, and therefore our attitudes and behaviours, is the questions we ask ourselves.

We ask ourselves thousands of questions everyday and yet we scarcely realise we are doing it. If you have a problem you could say to yourself ?how did this happen?? or you could say ?what can I to do to sort this out?? Both are equally valid questions, but each has the potential to send your train of thought off into completely different directions. It?s the train of thought that is generated off the back of any question that determines what you get to experience next. Now that may be the outcome of a specific behaviour, or even just a feeling. So it?s worth knowing that different types of questions lead to different types of thought.

To make it simple, I find questions generally fall in one of two categories: Disempowering and Empowering.

As you?d probably expect disempowering questions keep you stuck and they close you off from finding potential solutions. This is because they are nearly always focused on causes to problems. They are questions like:

Why can?t I do this?
Why did this have to happen?
What have I done to deserve this?
What else is going to go wrong today?
Why does this always happen to me?
What?s wrong with me?
Who?s to blame?
How come everyone else gets the lucky breaks?

It doesn?t take a genius to realise that these kinds of negative questions can only lead to negative answers.

I agree with Maxwell Maltz, the famous plastic surgeon and the guy who is considered by many to be the Godfather of modern day personal development. He described the unconscious mind as being a goal striving mechanism. Its job is find ways of turning your thoughts into reality. This means that is sees whatever you are thinking about as a target to aim for. It takes whatever coordinates you give it, by means of your internal dialogue and the images you paint in your mind, and it seeks out all the ways it can find to move you towards that reality. It also means that whatever question you ask of it, it will dutifully give you an answer, even if it has to make some stuff up!!

So if we were to use the question ?What?s wrong with me?? as an example, your unconscious mind, being duty bound to provide answers could easily comes back with something along the lines of:

You?re stupid
You?re not worthy
You should have paid more attention at school
Good things don?t happen to people like you

Obviously, these thoughts are going to affect the way you feel and therefore the way you behave. There is nowhere a question like can take you besides further into frustration and negativity. And you?re not left feeling bad because any of answers you get are actually true. You?re left feeling bad because the nature of the question itself was disempowering.

There is a great quote from Spinoza, who said, ?No matter how thin you slice it there is always two sides.? You can apply this powerful philosophy in any area of life. No matter what challenge you face, you can either drive yourself deeper into confusion and despair or you can be lifted towards a positive and satisfying resolution simply by the questions you choose to ask yourself.

For every disempowering question there is always an empowering alternative that can be asked instead. As Anthony Robbins so rightly puts it ?Successful people ask better questions and as a result get better answers?.

We?re all human and no one is exempt from doing dumb things from time to time. But if when you do something really dumb your question is ?Why did I do that?? your mind has no choice but to look for and create reasons that justify your behaviour. If on the other hand your question is ?How can I make it so that I don?t do that again? your mind shifts into learning mode and creates a plan for being more successful in the future.

Asking yourself the right empowering questions in any situation open you up to the most creative and productive solutions because they are always focused on possibilities. They are questions like:

How can I use this to my advantage?
What opportunities now exist that didn?t exist before?
What resources do I have?
Who can help me with this?
What would success look like?
What am I grateful for?
What has this taught me?
What would I love to create from this?

And my personal favourite?

Rather than ?What?s wrong with me?? – What?s RIGHT with me?

I hope that you get that the purpose of consciously choosing to ask yourself these kinds of empowering questions is not to simply put a glossy coat on a terrible situation, but to engage your creative mind and focus your attention on the choices you have that will lead to you into positive action. They are designed to intelligently challenge your unconscious to consider everything you haven?t thought of yet. They literally fire up the right hand side of your brain which is responsible for creativity and problem solving. And best of all, the answers you get are most likely to lead you into thinking the kind of thoughts where you get to feel good in yourself and gain better perspectives on the situations you find yourself in.

If you believe in the philosophy that in every adversity there is opportunity, then that opportunity can only be recognised off the back of the right question.


Homework


Start to become more consciously aware of the kinds of questions you ask yourself. Have a think about a situation or problem that you have found particularly challenging and track back over your internal dialogue. Were the questions you asked yourself about this geared towards looking for the causes of a problem or did they point you in the direction of possibilities and solutions.

Knowing how to focus your attention so that you get the best out of any circumstance is a skill that can be mastered, but it does take practice. So practice by being curious about what you?re saying to yourself. Catch yourself in the act of posing disempowering questions and simply reword them so that your mindset shifts to a more empowering standpoint.

Take great care. Namaste

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green lightThere is one type request that I get more than any other and that is to provide strategies for generating and maintaining motivation, some people call this ‘self-discipline’. It’s actually not that common for people to ask me for step-by-step instructions on what they need do to get a task completed. You see, most often people already know what they need to do to achieve a particular goal. They know which actions are likely to lead them towards the outcome of their desire.

Those who want to lose weight usually don’t need me to tell them to moderate their calorie intake, eat a varied and balanced selection of healthy foods and to get a good amount of exercise.

Someone who wants to get their finances into check isn’t necessarily looking for me to point out that they should spend less than they earn and cut back on the unnecessary expenses that don’t add any real value to their life.

Every smoker I’ve ever met has been intelligent enough to know that quitting cigarettes is a lot easier when you stop putting them in your mouth and lighting them.

In theory, putting into practice those actions we know will bring us success should be easy. But in practice, as we know, that is not always the case. In my experience, the one thing that prevents people from following through with their well intentioned plans, more than any other obstacle, is their own willingness to keep taking the actions they know they need to take.

I’m sure at some time or other you will have had the experience of deciding to make a positive change in your life, launching into a flurry of enthusiastic activity, only to find that no sooner have you started that you just seem to lose your appetite to continue. Your “I want to” rapidly switched to “Do I really have to?”

Surely we are not so indecisive about what we want that we can’t hold one fixed goal in our minds for long enough to build a bit of momentum around it? In the example of the person who wants to be fitter and healthier, there is no denying that they would love to have that become their reality, but if it feels so good to imagine what the outcome would be like, why are they so reluctant to play a part in making it happen?

It is because the key to unlocking your motivation in any area actually has nothing to do with how much you want the result, but what you imagine it is going take to get there.

Here’s a little thought experiment for you:

Let’s say that I wanted to give you a gift of £10 and that all you needed to do is cross over the street to collect it. If you are like most people you would probably be quite happy to take the short trip to get the money, because your focus would be on the benefit of the outcome. As you make the journey you might be thinking about what you’d like to spend the £10 on.

But let’s now rewind the experiment and start again, only this time rather than crossing the street, you’d have to walk to the other side of town.

Now, while you might still want the money, your decision as to whether or not you can be bothered to go and collect it will not be as automatic. This is because your focus will have shifted from the benefit or value you’d gain from the money, to the inconvenience of walking across town. You are more likely to be thinking about the time it is going to take you to get there and the energy you’d need to exert, rather than what having an extra £10 will do for you. You may still decide to go, but you will certainly be less motivated to do so than had the money been waiting for you just across the street.

This imaginary exercise highlights the law that underpins our motivation to do just about anything in life. It’s the good old Pain / Pleasure Principle.

Behind all human behaviour is the inbuilt desire to move away from pain and towards pleasure. Everything from getting up in the morning in order to make it to work on time, through to planning a family or going on holiday, is driven by the motivation to either avoid something that we perceive will bring us pain, or move towards something that will bring us pleasure. While some people are motivated to get up and go to work because they love their job, others are motivated to get up and go to work because they don’t want to get fired and lose the house!

The Pain / Pleasure Principle is such an integral part of being Human that without it we literally wouldn’t and couldn’t get anything done. If you’re not being moved away from or towards something then you must be standing still; not a great way for a species to evolve, I’m sure you’ll agree.

So what does this have to do with motivating ourselves to reach our goals? Well think of it this way. Imagine that ‘motivation’ is a set of balancing scales where one side represents doing the actions that lead towards the fulfilment of a goal and the other side represents avoiding doing those actions. For the purpose of this exercise let’s assume the action concerned is to going to the gym. Now, let’s also imagine that in your hand you have a heavy weight that I’m going to refer to as your “pleasure token”.

If, as you consider the possibility of going to the gym, you start associating with all the good things that would happen as a result, i.e. the endorphin release from working out; the sense of satisfaction you’ll have as you notice how much better you look and feel; the anticipation of being able to get into those smaller clothes; the compliments you’ll get; then its obvious that you’re inclined to place your heavy pleasure token on the “take action” side of the scales. When you think in these terms, motivation is not an issue, it is just a natural desire to go and exercise.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself thinking of why going to the gym might just be inconvenient or not enjoyable, i.e. it’ll be hard work; you might be sore the next day; you have to rush to get there in time; you’ll have to forego the sofa and miss some good stuff on TV; then its not surprising that you’ll place your pleasure token on the “Don’t take action” side of the scales. In this case the pleasure comes from doing nothing and choosing comfort.

Don’t forget, at our core we are just pleasure seekers! If we perceive that going to the gym has pain attached it then it must come as no shock that we’ll buy into any lame excuse as to why we don’t get around to working out.

But all is not lost. It is far easier to begin generating the motivation to do those previously “painful” activities than you might think. The secret is to practice attaching massive amounts of pleasure to getting them done, and recognising the painful consequences of not doing them.

So that leads us onto…


HOMEWORK


1, Think about something you have been putting off doing that you know if you did get around to doing would amount to a positive change in your life, and that left undone would gradually lead to negative consequences.

2, Now take a moment to relax with a few deep breaths to get yourself into a settled and creative state.

3, Close your eyes and imagine that in front of you are two paths running away from you and parallel to each other. The path on your left represents a future where you continue to choose to do nothing about working towards the outcome you’d like to have happen. The path on the right represents the future where you do take the necessary actions to achieve that goal.

[For this demonstration we’re going to be travelling along each path one year into the future, but when you do this for yourself you might want to adjust the timeframe shorter or longer depending on what feels most realistic for your goal]

4, So, here we are today [what ever today’s date is], and we have a choice. We can either choose action or inaction for our future path, so let try each one out. Imagine that you have walked along the left hand path of inaction and you arrive one month into the future. As you think about the consequence of another month of inaction, what’s going on for you? Make it as if it is actually happening right now by seeing it through your own eyes, hearing what you hear and really feeling what it feels like. What have you been missing out on? Has anything got worse? How does this affect things like your relationships and your own happiness? Linger on it for a while before moving on.

5, Now travel further along the path to the 6 month milestone. Another six months of avoiding making that goal happen. What does that feel like? As if it’s happening, really consider what life is like now. What are all the consequences of your inaction; of choosing what you thought is the “comfortable” path? How about your relationships? Happiness? Health? Wealth? Remember to see it through your own eyes and really go with the feelings.

6, Next, go to the one year anniversary of your travels long this inaction path. As you think back to the beginning, when you had the choice to start making things happen, how does it feel to know you’ve let another entire year slip by with no change whatsoever? How did you get here? You did it one day at a time! What have been the effects of that? If you could symbolise the negative consequences into objects [e.g. piles of wasted money, mountains of junk food, bills up to your eyeballs, a ‘goodbye’ letter from someone who left you!! etc.] then imagine a years worth of those accumulated items all around you. Even thought it probably feels uncomfortable to do so, really feel it like its happening now.

7, Ok, relax for a moment. Let’s travel back to the present day and see what the other path has to offer.

8, Imagine that you’ve travelled one month along the action path, having done all the things you know to do to work towards that desired outcome. What positive benefits are you already noticing? See it, hear it and feel it through your own senses and experience how good it feels? Remember to congratulate yourself on a job well done.

9, Now go to the six month marker. Half a year of making your life better through those positive actions. What are you able to do now that you couldn’t have done six months ago? How does this affect your experience of life? Your relationships? Your health? Your finances? Let yourself really exaggerate that good feeling and stay with it for a while before moving along the path even further.

9, Right, now let’s travel to the one year anniversary of making that positive change in your life. Fully associate into how wonderful it feels to be celebrating this milestone. You did it. You made it happen. What are all the great things that you get to experience because of the steps you’ve taken over the last year? How much have things improved in terms of your happiness, relationships, health, money, direction, optimism for the future? Hold your body as you would in this situation and let the feeling radiate up to the top of your head and down the tips of your toes. Double it! Make it feel as real and as wonderful as you can. And then relax and return to the present day.

If you’ve allowed yourself to get into the spirit of this exercise and have fully associated into each step, then there is no doubt which path you’ll want to choose. Practice this as often as you like and the motivation to make those goals become your reality will just flow naturally to you!


Take great care. Namaste. 

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futureThere seems to be an unwritten rule that states if you are going to be taken seriously in the field of personal development as a therapist, coach or trainer, then you have to have been completely screwed up at least once in your life!

Well, I’m not convinced that this is absolutely necessary but, to be on the safe, you might be glad to know that, yes, life hasn’t always been as rosy for me as it is right now. Not that you’d be glad that I was miserable (I hope), but that I can speak from experience about pulling myself up by the bootstraps to create a life that far exceeds any level of happiness I had previously thought possible.

I’ll bore you with the details another time, but I well remember a period in my life when I was broke, alone, with no fixed address, completely depressed and filled with thoughts of ending it all. I really couldn’t see a way out of the dark hole I was in; my problems seemed to suffocate me like a heavy black curtain. But the most significant thing about this whole episode is that, looking back now, I wouldn’t change a second of it.

If it wasn’t for that time and all the experiences that went along with it I definitely would not be sat here writing this for you now.

I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunity I was given to face up to life’s challenges and to grow beyond measure. But did I know at the time that I’d be looking back now with a smile on my face and a deep sense of richness and lust for life? Of course not.

Back then my issues seemed too big to peer over; they were all-encompassing. The question I asked myself was “why is this happening?” rather than “what am I learning?” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it teaches us time and time again that there are hidden lessons in our suffering.

I know it’s an old cliché but what doesn’t kill you certainly does make you stronger, because of what you learn. When the light is cast on those secret inner strengths you have it is impossible to poke them back under the surface and pretend that they are not there, because they instantly form an important part of a newer more evolved you. They become tools for your toolbox that can be selected and used whenever you need them again in the future. The knowledge that you have those tools is what gives you that sense of certainty that if you had to face the same situation again you’d be ok.

If only we could recognise the lessons we are being taught at the time of going through those rough patches. Well, what’s to stop us?

Time is a very funny thing, if for no other reason than that it is entirely a figment of our imagination. That being the case, we are as affected by our thoughts of time as we are by the actual experience of time, and this can be very useful indeed.

It means we have the ability to project our thoughts out into the future and imagine what it would be like to look back at this moment (now) as an older and wiser version of ourselves. How cool is that?

It’s amazing what changes can happen to your perception of a problem when you know how to shift your thinking to an entirely different position.

Much of the work I do with people is based on the simple principle that the human mind cannot tell the difference between an actual event and one that is vividly imagined. By thinking of yourself from a future stand point, having already come through the other side of what you are currently experiencing, your mind has to go through the process of coding that thought as an actual experience; a memory of the future! A memory in which you are able to clearly see how a current challenge will have helped you to grow and develop into a stronger, wiser version of you.

Most of the problems we face in life are not what we think they are. Most of our problems stem from us not being able to see that we are growing. Growing simply means learning something we didn’t know before.

When you hold onto the notion that “right here, right now” (which is all we ever have) is only a lesson for making the future better than today, you have to conclude that, you know what? You’re going to be ok.

Homework:

You don’t have to be going through any particular difficulty in your life to have a great time doing this exercise, but if you are, then you might want to give this your full attention o)

1, Take a moment to close your eyes and let yourself relax.

2, Imagine that you can float out of your body and travel off into the future where you re-enter the body of your older, wiser self.

3, Realize that as you look back you are really happy and satisfied with the life you have led. You acknowledge that it has not always been plain sailing but that the challenges you have met along the way have been the source of your strength and have provided the positive lessons you need to master.

4, As the future you, think back to the time you are ‘visiting’ from and understand why that was such an important period for you and your development. Think of at least three ways in which you are better off because of it (even though you may not have recognised it that the time!!). E.g. “Ah yes, I remember that time. I’m grateful for losing my job back then because it made me evaluate what is really important to me. I got to develop a much healthier attitude towards money which set me on a whole new path that has allowed me to be a better more positive expression of the real me.”

5, Stay with it for as long as you need to and when you’ve got a good feeling about how that challenge needed to happen in the way it did in order to contribute to the bigger, more positive picture of your life, rise out of the future you and float back in time to rejoin yourself in the present moment.

6, Holding onto that deeper sense of inner knowing, get on with the rest of your day with the realization that you’re living the lessons you need to learn for your amazing future.

Namaste.

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happy womanIn one of my personal development workshops I get my students to close their eyes and imagine, in vivid detail, one of their happiest memories, and to fully re-living it in that moment. It is amazing to witness the instant transformation in their facial expressions and body language as their nervous systems kick back into happy mode. I then ask them what actually changed in the outside world while they were doing that. Of course the answer is nothing, but isn’t it interesting how easily they were able to access deep feelings of joy without there having to be an outside cause?

When was the last time you felt really happy for no reason whatsoever?

The term ‘The Human Race’ is very apt because metaphorically speaking we seem to think of our happiness as being out there in front of us and that we must race to catch up with it. We use language like ‘chasing our dreams’, and ‘the pursuit of happiness’, which on the surface seems like very exciting things to be involved in, but it also presupposes that happiness is somewhere off in the distance and that we are lagging behind. We immerse ourselves in an “I’ll be happy when…” mentality, in which we are convinced that happiness will arrive in the form of that next promotion, or the bigger house, the perfect relationship, or that lottery win.

We also tend to think of happiness as being an ‘it’ – a something that has a form – like one day there will be a knock at the door and the FedEx guy will say “Hi, who’s gonna to sign for this box of happiness?”

But look at a child. Children are much smarter than adults when it comes to being happy. For them it is just a state of being. They don’t place conditions on when they will and when they won’t feel it. As long as they’re not hungry, in pain, or being told off, they are happy. It’s their default program. And it is meant to be your default program too. The thing is, at some stage in a child’s development they start copying what the adults do. They buy into our cultural idea that, actually, you can’t just have your happiness, you have to earn it. You have to prove that you are worthy of it. If you work hard enough at working hard then one day just might get lots of nice things that will ‘make’ you happy, but you have to deserve it.

Of course we all know what happiness feels like, and we do encounter many happy times throughout our lives – marriages, births, birthdays, holidays, parties… It can even take us by surprise sometimes, like when you are out in nature and suddenly you are filled with a strong and comforting sense of connectedness with the world around you. This kind of happiness is great, but it is a fair weather friend; it comes when the going is good and shoots off again when the party is over. But a lot of people settle for it because they’re promised to a more permanent kind of happiness – they just have to wait for the future to arrive!

The real truth about happiness is that do not have to wait for it happen to you. You do not have to be in the right place at the right time. You do not have to keep gambling with life until it comes knocking at your door. You have all the resources you need already within you to turn it on at will. It’s like a switch. If you are stood in a darkened room you have the choice to flick the switch and turn the light on, but in order to do that you must first know that the switch is there and that you have the ability to control it.

Your happiness switch is exactly the same. You must recognise that it there for you to use at any moment and that you can control it with the belief that it is only ever your thoughts and attitudes that light up your world.

Happiness brings with it the kind of creativity, openness and clarity that makes any task seem almost effortless. Work stops feeling like work as soon as you go about your business with a genuine inner smile. But why do most people find this so hard to do?

It’s because somewhere along the line we learned that we cannot be truly happy unless there is a reason to be happy. We introduce criteria that must be met before we will allow ourselves to let happiness in and feel ok about having it. Some people have even learned to attach guilt to their happiness. “Why should I feel happy while others still suffer?”

There’s a very quirky thing about us humans, and that is that we can become very suspicious of other people who do not appear to have a good enough reason for their blatant displays of happiness. Whenever someone asks how I am I will usually say something like “I’m great” or “fantastic”, to which the next question is often “Why, what’s up?” I’ll say “Nothing, I just feel good”, and then enjoy the confused look on their face as they let out a slow “Riiiiiiiiight!”
The thing that really throws a spanner in the works of the common belief about happiness is that actually you can have it whenever you want it, and you don’t have to do a thing to earn it. Because ‘it’ isn’t an ‘it’ at all, it’s a function of the human condition that serves a very practical purpose. As Michael Neil would put it, to ask if you deserve happiness is like asking if you deserve a nose. “Well….eeerrrrr…. I have a nose, but I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it”. It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

The key to having your happiness now rather than later is to know that happiness is not something that happens to you, it is something that you do. You must let go of the idea that happiness is a reward for good behaviour or that you must be worthy of it. You must also accept that your happiness is not on that ship that you’re waiting on to come in. It is the ocean in which the ship sails, so if you want it, dive in and learn how to swim. In other words, your life is your happiness and you just need to start responding more happily towards it.

Numerous scientific studies into whether success leads to happiness shows that there is no quantifiable evidence to suggest that it does. What has been highlighted though, is that people who already experience high levels of happiness are significantly more likely to become successful later. Interesting! Happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Who’d have thought?

What this tells us is that genuine authentic happiness is unconditional. It is not out there. It is in here, and always has been. Happiness is only ever the result of your attitude and your behaviour, and learning to nurture it unconditionally gives you much more than just a good feeling; it makes your whole life run a lot smoother. That’s nature’s plan.

The only reason you ever need to be happy is that it allows you to get things done in a really efficient way. The most successful people learn to master the simple notion of being happy in the moment, not just because it feels good, but because being happy puts them into their most resourceful and productive state. I consider happiness to be a vital tool in the work I do because I am committed to producing the best quality output I am capable of. I know I can only achieve that if I am in a happy mood. Whether I’m running a workshop, writing an article, recording some audio, or coaching someone one on one, I will always spend a few moments up front getting myself into a happy frame of mind, because that’s how I need to be for my best work to come out. Things just seem to flow better, I’m more creative, I see the bigger picture, and here’s the really interesting bit, I encounter fewer obstacles.

I have spent countless hours studying the different philosophies about what happiness is and, while the various teachings use different kinds of language and terminology, they all agree that happiness does not wait on time, it waits on welcome. You may as well just open the door and let it in because it’s already here, just waiting for your invitation.

“But hang on a minute, Paul. Surely it’s unrealistic to be happy all the time. What about when you really do have problems. Sometimes, things just piss you off. That’s life!”

Absolutely, life happens, and it doesn’t always happen the way we want it to. It is the most natural thing in the world to feel unhappy, angry or sad in certain circumstances, and it is right and proper that we do feel that sometimes. But the problem comes when we habituate into these negative feelings; when being pissed off or grumpy becomes your standard response to most things.

There is nothing that you can achieve in an agitated frame of mind that you cannot do better with happiness.

There are two things you can choose to do to enjoy feeling more happiness more often.

1. WORK ON YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Just like happiness, all feelings have a practical purpose, even the bad ones. They are signals from you unconscious mind as to whether or not life is happening the way you want it to. Bad moods are not designed to just give you the experience of feeling miserable. If you listen closely to what they are telling you then you will always be able to find a much quicker route back to happiness. Negative emotions are like the warning lights on the dashboard of you car. They are a call to action. When the petrol light comes on, that is not a signal for your car to become depressed, it is a sign that action needs to be taken to get fuel. When you add more petrol the light goes out. The moment you bring your conscious attention to the cause of the feeling, and realise what actions needs to be taken to redress the balance, then its job is done. It no longer serves any useful purpose.

It is critical to acknowledge all of your feelings and not to mask them with a fake happiness. If you just cover them up with a painted-on smile then their simmer will turn into a boil and eventually the pot will overflow. Remember, they have a message they want you to know about, so stop and take the time to listen. Ask yourself, “Why might I be feeling like this in this situation? What is it trying to suggest?” And it’s important to focus on the areas in which you have an element of control. It is no good to say “Well, it’s suggesting that Bob is a pillock!” Get clear about the steps that will lead you away from frustration and toward a solution that feels better. As soon as you get an answer then exercise whatever control you have and decide to let go of the negativity around it. Ask yourself the question, “Now that I know what to do to sort this out, is it possible and acceptable for me to do it happily?” You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you are willing.

2. GET TO KNOW THE PHYSIOLOGY OF HAPPINESS

Happiness has two parts: the internal experience of joy and the physical aliveness in your body. You’ve probably noticed that when you are down your body language becomes an outward symbol of how you feel inside. It becomes slouched, tensed and heavy and lacks signs of energy. When you are happy you stand taller and have a more open airy posture. Often the quickest way out of a negative mood is simply to move and adopt a more empowering body language. This sends a very clear signal to your brain that it is time to start feeling happier. Try this out for yourself the next time you are being a bit of a grump. Stand up straight, stick your chest out, and put a deliberate smile on your face. Your nervous system can only respond in a positive way to this kind of instruction from your physiology, that’s just the way we work!

 

Namaste.

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