“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” Victor Frankl

freedomOne of the things I love most about coaching others is when they really get that creating more of what they want in their lives doesn’t have to be complicated. Nine times out of ten those light bulb moments follow on from a simple realisation that there is nothing wrong with them after all; it is just that what they have been doing (or thinking) up until that point has been misaligned with the kind of results they want experience.

This takes the attention away from them feeling as though they are the problem and somehow need to be ‘fixed’, and towards an honest curiosity about the law of cause and effect. The look of relief on their faces when it finally dawns on them that the fact they do not have everything they want isn’t to do with them being a bad, undeserving or unlovable person is really quite heart warming :o)

The reason so few people are readily willing to accept this is because we have been conditioned to believe that we live in an ‘outside – in’ world, where the cause of all our feelings (good or bad) lies in whatever happens to be going on around us at the time, and to what extent we are approved of by other people. In a nutshell we still believe we are ‘Stimulus / Response” creatures.

However, the one thing that really separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we have evolved to be ‘self aware’. Simply put, this means we have the ability to have thoughts about our thoughts:

Example: We might have a fabulous idea for a new invention that everyone will want, but then shoot ourselves down when we realise that we are just being stupid and that no one would take us seriously!

It also means that we have feelings about our feelings:

Example: We might lose our cool in front of others and then feel embarrassed about it later.

This unique state of being self aware is very important because it is fundamental to our ability to direct our lives in any way we wish… as long as we understand how to make the most of it!!

Victor Frankl, creator of Logotherapy and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”, explained that the reason he was able to survive the horrendous mental and emotional ordeal of being incarcerated at Auschwitz during the Holocaust was because he firmly understood that between stimulus and response there is always a space. It is in this space that we have the freedom to choose our reactions and attitudes towards anything. But most of us are so used to reacting without thinking that we fail to recognise that this space exists. It is not a fault; it is just conditioning.

So what can we do to utilise the value of this space? One of the most intuitive ways that I know of is in understanding the formula:

E (Event) + R (Response) = 0 (Outcome)

The quality of the OUTCOME we get to experience in relation to, well… anything, is always the result of the actual EVENT itself plus our own unique REPSONSE to it. And like all good formula’s we can apply numbers to demonstrate the point:

Let’s say the EVENT is worth 2 and the RESPONSE you give is also with a 2. That means the quality of the OUTCOME you experience has to be a 4. Simple!

But what if you hate 4’s? What if a 4 means that you have to feel like a victim? What if a 4 creates tension between you and others? What if a 4 makes you ill with stress?

What if what you really wanted was to experience a 10? Well then we would have to go back and review the components of the formula. If we did that we would soon realise that, actually, there is not always a lot we can do about the EVENT; that is usually out of our control (particularly when it has already happened!!). So that just leaves us with our RESPONSE. If we know the EVENT is a 2 and we are looking for an OUTCOME of 10, then our RESPONSE is going to have to be an 8.

Perhaps an 8 response is not letting the rain ruin your family picnic by bringing the fun of the outdoors indoors into your living room, rather than cancelling the event and getting frustrated when your disappointed children get upset.

Perhaps an 8 response is forgiving someone that hurt you rather than holding onto the resentment or planning their comeuppance.

Of course there are occasions when the primitive part of our brains kick in with the fight or flight response before the logical reasoning faculty of our higher brain has a chance to work its magic. But even when our unconscious reactions starts to take us somewhere we don’t want to go, that state of automatic defence need only last a moment until we remember who’s really driving the bus!! Then, the first step is to just stop and recognise you have an opportunity to ask yourself some questions:

How could I respond to this?

What are my options?

From the options available to me, what seems the wisest or kindest way for me to take it from here?

 


HOMEWORK


1 – Think of a recent situation in which your reaction to an event (or another person) may have contributed to a less than desirable outcome.

2 – Then grab a piece of paper and write the headings EVENT, RESPONSE and OUTCOME across the top.

3 – Use the headings to guide you in writing out the situation as you experienced it, making sure you separate the facts of the event from the way you emotionally filtered it at the time:

EXAMPLE 1:

EVENT = John said he was too busy to come to my party.

RESPONSE = I took it really personally and was hurt that my party wasn’t a priority for John. I vowed to give John the silent treatment and not invite him to any more of my social events… so there!!!

OUTCOME = There is now a very uncomfortable feeling between John and me, and I’ve heard that John feels really bad and doesn’t understand what he has done to upset me so much.

EXAMPLE 2:

EVENT = My computer crashed which meant I couldn’t get on with the work I was planning to do.

RESPONSE = I got really frustrated and started to rant about how technology is the bane of my life, if only it was like the good old days when things were simple and our lives were not ruled by robots!!!

OUTCOME = I got so worked up I needed to get out and go for a walk to clear my head, which wasted even more time.

4 – Now, think of at least three other (more productive) responses that you could have given in relation to that event. For each alternative response use your imagination to run a movie of how the outcome may have turned out more favourably for you.

5 – Having mentally rehearsed the cause and effect of your different response options, decide which feels right for you and make a commitment to follow that strategy for similar situations in the future.


Take great care. Namaste.

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“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive – the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

fearWouldn’t it be wonderful have a fool proof strategy for getting unstuck and moving forward again whenever you find yourself in the grip of fear?

I once had an almost obsessive desire to discover ‘the magic formula’ for overcoming fear in any situation. Not just so I could use it as a coaching tool but more so because I felt I could really do with it in my own life. However, having trawled through countless books, recordings, courses and seminars I finally came to the point of admitting defeat. I was ready to accept that there is no ONE ultimate exercise or intervention for combating all fear.

That was until, by chance, I heard someone use a phrase that literally stopped me in my tracks. In a moment of profound clarity I realised that the absolute antidote to fear could never be found in an exercise or technique, but rather in the acceptance of a simple truth. The phrase I heard was:

“The question is irrelevant; Love is the answer”

(All together now… Ahhhhhh!!)

At any moment in life there are only two spaces we can be operating from – The space or love or the space of fear. That may seem over simplistic, but when you sit with it for a while it is easy to connect with the truth of it. Let’s look at how these two powerful emotions drive us:

 

FEAR

Fear shows up in many forms, from the obvious to the heavily disguised. The obvious side of fear can be recognised by the physical and emotional discomfort we get through being scared, worrying or having a lack of confidence. The less obvious side of fear manifests in us having the desire to change or control our environment and the people in it. This happens when something inside of us feels threatened or insecure about what we perceive is going on in the outside world, because it doesn’t measure up to our ideas of how things are supposed to be. Sometimes this causes us to be protective: “I must control your actions because I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you”, and sometimes it can come out as anger: “You must feel the wrath of my aggression until you feel obliged to comply with my model of the world”. The interesting thing about anger, though, is that it is not an assertion of power; it is a request for power from someone who is feeling powerless – or to put it another way, afraid.

Fear is also present whenever we judge, belittle or deliberately humiliate others, or when we seek their approval by showcasing our nice shiny badges of wealth and success.

 

LOVE

It is important to define what love means in this context. I am not referring to the romantic ‘fluffy bunny’ kind of love (although that does very much have its place!!). Here, I am referring to love as being a genuine acceptance and reverence for all. When we come from a space of love, fear finds itself out on the street. Love and fear cannot occupy the same space. You can alternate between the two, but you’ll never experience both at the same time. Love is what happens when we strip away our expectations of the world and reconnect with the innate wellbeing that is always present within us. Love is having a deep knowing that happiness and joy is an inside job. No matter what happens on the outside, your wellbeing remains intact because it is not dependent on the thoughts and actions of other people or the right kind of circumstances. Coming from a space of love means acting on your natural desire to show kindness and compassion to yourself and others, and to not expect them to adhere to your own personal standards. It is where unconditional really does mean unconditional. And if you want to get all spiritual about it, yes, it is where you feel at one with nature and the universe.
The difficulty in overcoming fear lies in the action of the ‘overcoming’ itself. In order overcome anything you first have to place your attention of the thing you want to get passed and give it permission to have power over you. Of course it is possible to win the battle, but that can take more time and energy than is necessary for you to exert (and there may be many more battles to come before you finally win the war).

Actually, I do have a lot belief in Susan Jeffer’s popular principle of “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”, but I have certainly found that this is not always the most efficient (or kind) way of getting things done. In my experience, living fearlessly has less to do with ‘overcoming’ and more to do with shifting perspectives.

One of the most powerful questions I have come to rely on for bringing me out of that space of fear is “What would love do?”

Let’s take a couple of examples:

Scenario 1: You have to make an important presentation to a group of highly influential people.

What would fear do? Fear would have you imagining fluffing your lines, making a fool of yourself and being exposed as a fraud. Fear’s strategy to help you through this ordeal might be to picture the audience in their underwear or two feet tall so that you can tower over them and dominate them with your magnificence.

What would love do? Love would remind you that no one wants you fail. You have valuable knowledge that others want to know about and, as long as you remain true to that purpose, nothing can be threatened. Love’s strategy for guiding through this opportunity might be to send thoughts of warmth and well wishes to your audience before and throughout your presentation.
Scenario 2: Someone says something hurtful to you.

What would fear do? Fear would immediately feel the pain of the wound and lash out in defence. Something inside of you may feel broken or betrayed. You might try to redirect the attention toward their shortcomings in an attempt to re-establish a bit of power, or you might just feel you are the victim of some grave injustice.

What would love do? Love would recognise they are coming from a space of their own fear. They must be suffering in some way. When you know someone is suffering you can be compassionate. Even if there is nothing you can do at that time, love can remind you that your own innate wellbeing is not dependent on their thoughts and opinions of you in that moment.


HOMEWORK


Take a moment to be honest with yourself and think about a situation that you have not been handling particularly well lately (I know, I know, you’re perfect… but just humour me ;o). Perhaps you’ve been scared about an upcoming event. Perhaps you have been too controlling or harsh with someone close to you. Whatever that situation may be for you, spend some quality time contemplating these three questions:

“What is it specifically that I have been afraid of?”

Then,

“So, what has been the underlying positive intention of me responding in this way?”

Then,

“What would love do?”

 

Lots of love!!

Take great care. Namaste.

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“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” – C.S.Lewis

bad dayA lot of personal development teachers and motivational guru’s like to drill home that the key to success is ‘State Management’, i.e. your ability to manipulate your physical and emotional being so that you are constantly aligned with success producing thoughts and actions. In fact, much of what I do in my own work involves helping people understand the structure of their own thoughts and behaviours so that they gain a deeper insight into what does and doesn’t work for them.

But (and it’s a big BUT) somewhere along the line the original message behind why it is important for us to learn how to master our moods has gotten a bit lost in translations. Rather than seeing it as a practice that we CAN undertake, because it is useful in helping us achieve desirable results more quickly and efficiently, the communication that many people actually get is that if you find yourself in anything other than a “I can move mountains” kind of a mood then you must be doing something wrong… or worse, there must be something wrong with you!

This was explained to me several years ago as being the path to “Self Help Hell”; where someone of a personal journey of growth and discovery spends more time beating themselves up about why they are not feeling more empowered, than they do on actually getting more of what they want.

I always cringe when I hear mantras like “You can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought!” Seriously? If there is ever a battle you are guaranteed to lose it has to be that is that one. At best it is just plain energy zapping.

How many of the thoughts that float through your mind in a 24 hour period do you consciously choose to put there? Thoughts come and go in our heads all day long and, for the most part, they happen all by themselves. Some are good, some are bad. Some go by without so much as a ‘hello’ while others jam their foot in the door and insist on an audience. But just because a negative thought comes a knocking, doesn’t mean you have to invite it in for a cup of tea. It’s just a thought! It is only when you sit down with it and say “tell me more” that you emotionally buy into its story.

In order to stop negative thoughts dictating the mood of your day you do not have do somehow overpower them with nicer happy thoughts; you just need to leave them outside on the step. Sure they might shout at you through the letterbox for a bit, but sooner rather than later they’ll just get bored and wander off.

When it comes to having a bad day, the grumpy mood you find yourself in is not the problem. The problem is almost always in you thinking that you shouldn’t be in that mood and that if you don’t do something right away to snap out of it then that will make you a bad person!!

It is not what people usually expect to hear from me but one of the best pieces of advice I can ever give is that it really is OK to let yourself have an off day from time to time. There will be plenty of days for you to be brilliant and move mountains and love everyone you meet, but if today is not that day then go easy on yourself. Have enough trust in yourself (and the laws of nature) to know that if you just let it be, it will soon pass.

It is like having a headache. If, instead of trying to ignore it, overcome it or simply wish it wasn’t happening, you decided to accept that it is there and that you really can be OK with that, then it will naturally dissipate more quickly and of its own accord. Trying to force ourselves into feeling better when we are in a bad mood often just reinforces the loop of increasing frustration and self-flagellation, which of course means we get to feel bad for longer.


HOMEWORK


I encourage you, next time you are having a rubbish day, or you don’t feel like being the master of the Universe, to just ride it out and stick to these three simple rules:

1, Resist looking for reasons WHY you are in a bad mood and just accept that you are (e.g. don’t try to make it someone else’s fault when really you know its not!)

2, Leave it until you are feeling more perky before making important decisions.

3, Ask “What is the kindest way for me to be taking care of myself right now?” Then with what ever comes up, just do that.

Wishing you lots of Happy days!!!


Take great care. Namaste.

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“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli

HappyI believe we are living in very exciting times when it comes to our understanding of what makes us truly happy in the long term. Up until relatively recently (well, about 10 years ago actually) the general perception of the personal development and self-growth movement was pretty much split down the middle. One half of the camp embraced the theory that “we are what we think” and that we can be powerful beyond measure if we so choose, while the other half would roll their eyes and barely be able to hide their distaste of that “fluffy clap trap!”.

I remember my own internal conflict around that time. While I was hooked on the idea that working on myself and my spiritual path would help me carve out an amazing future – and it has ;o) – at the same time there was another part of me that was just an out and out science guy. I was eager to do as I was told by many of the great philosophers and self-help gurus of the day, but I also wanted to know that there was a solid basis for why I should invest my trust in the principles I was learning.

Notions such as practicing daily gratitude and forgiveness intrigued me. Sure, it felt really good when I did them, but I was kind of left wondering whether I was actually becoming a happier person or if I was just experiencing momentary “nice” feelings.

Perhaps that is why I am such a devout advocate of the field of Positive Psychology; the now officially recognised science of how truly happy people get to be truly happy. Thanks to the work of its founder, Dr. Martin Seligman (and many others since), not only can we continue to put faith into the long trusted principles of personal development and spiritual self-care, but now there is an abundance of empirical evidence to support the fact those principles really do bolster our long term happiness.

Here is one of the most interesting things I’ve learned about the nature of happiness (look for Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky’s brilliant book “The How of Happiness”). Having investigated extensively under strict scientific conditions, psychologists are able to confidently determine that the happiness we experience in our lives is made up of:

50% Genetic “Set Point”
Through clever testing (far too clever to go into here!!) it has been realised that half of all the happiness we feel is due to a natural default level that is different for each of us. This means that unless something absolutely horrific happens to us we will always return to at least our in-build baseline level of happiness after our lives are shaken up in some way (for good or for bad). It would appear this is why some people are better able to pick themselves up after a fall than others. It may also explain why some people seem not to get as excited about exciting events as we think they should!

10% Circumstances
Staggeringly, only 1/10th of our experience of happiness is due to the conditions of our life circumstances. I can almost feel the resistance from some of you as you read this!! (I know it jarred with me at first). It seems completely counterintuitive but, if you are used to living by moderate means, coming into a lot of money will only bring a temporary boost to your happiness at best. If you have always enjoyed good health, a dose of long term illness will not necessarily make you miserable. Leaving a dead end job for a seemingly better one is, more often than not, not all it’s cracked up to be. This is because is it in our nature to adapt to the circumstances of our environment extremely quickly. It is called “hedonic adaption”. Remember a time when you were really excited about buying something new; maybe a car, an item of clothing, or even your house. Now remember how quickly that object felt like any other natural detail of your life.

40% Intentional Activity
Intentional activities are the things that we make a conscious decision to engage ourselves in. Depending on what those activities are we will either experience elevated levels of authentic happiness or simply hang out around our default set point. What the research has uncovered is that the world’s happiest people are those who capitalise on this 40% by routinely doing things that nurture their spirit and help them view their life in a positive way. By making it a habit of immersing themselves in the kind of activities that act a reminder of what is really important to them (see the suggestions in the homework section below), they literally train their neurology to “just be happy”.

We may not be able to control our genetic set point, and changing our life circumstances is only likely to shift our happiness up or down by 10%, but we do have it in our power to choose the quality what we put our efforts and attention onto. The great news is that it is this 40% that can make the most wonderful difference to our overall experience of life.

The moral of the story is, by all means, don’t stop going after all the nice things you want to have in your life (more money, bigger house, nicer car, that promotion, etc) but don’t expect those things to BE the happiness you are looking for.


HOMEWORK


Make a list of the material things you have desired recently (including any external ‘symbols of success’ such as power and status), where you have believed that having them would make you happier.

Just as an experiment, for 30 days make a commitment to stop working towards getting them and, instead, intentionally engage in one (…or some, …or all!!) of these daily activities:

Gratitude – At the end of each day think deeply about what you are truly thankful for (people, things, abilities, opportunities, or anything you think of). Make sure you connect emotionally with your gratitude.

Social Connection – Plan to spend more quality time with your friends or find ways to increase your social circle. Have fun.

Acts of Kindness – Do something every day to make a positive difference to the life of someone else (it is important do this out of love and not because you expect something in return ;o). A powerful way for you to really benefit from this is to perform acts of kindness anonymously.

Health and Wellbeing – Make your own wellness a priority and do what you know to do take better care of yourself. Doesn’t have to be a strict fitness regime; could be getting more sleep, drinking more water, take the stairs rather than the lift, eating your 5-a-day, etc. The important thing is to focus on the respect you have for your body and soul.

Nurture Important Relationships – Treat the most important people in your life as if they are the most important people in your life. Identify areas of your relationships that you have been neglecting and bring your focus back to strengthening those bonds.

Meditate – Regularly make time to be quiet and still. Find some relaxing music or get a guided meditation tape to help you, but either way re-master the skill of just being present in this very moment.

Forgiveness – Identify any people, situations or events towards which you have been holding onto resentment. Do whatever you need to do let go, accept and forgive. As Mark Twain once said “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it”

At the end of the 30 days, go back over your original list of ‘wants’ and give an honest assessment as to whether you still want them and, if so, notice if your attitude has changed around what you expect them to get for you.

Wishing you lots of happiness!


Take great care. Namaste. 

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“Joy is a net of love in which you can catch souls.” – Mother Teresa

joyThere are two things that have always astounded me about us Human Beings. The first is just how complex we can be with our thinking and behaviour. The second is that, despite all our complexities, what drives us at a fundamental level is remarkably simple: The desire to be happy.

Extensive research from the field of Positive Psychology has produced evidence for what many great thinkers have known for some time; that the happiest people are those who live in accordance with their highest values and have a sense of purpose and meaning in their life.

If we were to go a bit deeper and ask the question, “How do you know when you are living a meaningful life?” The answer for most people is likely to be a derivative of “When I get a feeling that I am contributing towards something worthy, good and right.”

However, if we were to continue our line of questioning with “…And what’s important about that? … And what’s important about that?”, there is a better than average chance that the final answer will be something along the lines of “Because it makes me happy.”

So, it could be argued that, when all is said and done (and however you choose to get there) the ultimate purpose of life is to experience authentic joy (I also like to refer to this as ‘love in action’).

It’s a romantic thought I know, but I often wonder, if everyone’s purpose is to experience deep joy, what would happen to the World if everyone on it were to successfully live their purpose? (Perhaps we should leave that to an ex-Beatle to right a song about!)

The interesting thing about joy, though, is that we don’t have to wait until we’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize before we experience it. We just need regular reminders to express ourselves in ways that connect us with that joyful place within us. That may be through engaging in fun and inspiring activities, making a positive difference to another person, or simply choosing to mentally and physically put yourself into a happy and joyful state (see my article “How Do You DO Happiness?”)

A lot of people think they cannot access their true joy because they have yet to discover their life’s purpose. The irony is that people do not find their life’s purpose until they have experienced their joy. It would appear that you need to have come alive before you can have a real effect on the World. It would make sense, then, that you’re far more likely to discover your path of purpose and meaning whilst you are busy having fun than when you are miserable and struggling to find answers.

So, I’ve created a game which I’m calling ‘The Game of Joy’. Woo Hoo!!

Objective:
To score maximum points by experiencing as much joy as you can within a 7 day period.

Rules:
1. Must be completed during a ‘normal week’ (going on holiday to a tropical paradise is cheating!)

2. You can introduce as many creative ways as you like to enhance your daily tasks so that they are more fun to perform. E.g. singing at the top of your voice while doing the washing up; completing that report over a cappuccino in a cafe rather than at your desk; getting someone to tell you a joke every 10 minutes; putting up photos of happy events and / or loved ones where you can always see them…

3. You can also include as many extra events into the weekly schedule as you like. E.g. going on a date with your spouse, booking a spa treatment, going to a comedy club, taking up a new hobby, getting involved in a community project, etc.

4. Be completely honest with the scoring.

Scoring:
At the end of every morning, afternoon and evening rate the level of joy you have experienced out of 10 (0 = would rather forget it, 10 = So much joy you need a tranquiliser). So that’s a maximum of 30 points per day. At the end of the 7 days, tot up your total score out of 210:

181 – 210= Living the dream (please share your secret!!)


131 – 180 = Keep it up and enjoy the party


81 – 130 = Doing OK but you might want to question whether you’re on the right track. What would need to happen to put a bigger smile on your face?


Less than 80 = Probably best to take a holiday, evaluate what’s really important to you and plan for a change in direction.


BONUS TIP 1: When you’ve completed the game, play it again for another 7 days and beat your score ;o)

BONUS TIP 2: Review all of the activities that brought you the greatest amount of joy. Write down what it was about those times / events that made them special. What do they all have in common? There’s a good chance your answers will provide inspiration and clues for finding a worthy life purpose.


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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