Much of the stress and confusion we can feel in our lives comes from our thoughts about the past and future; but what if the past and future aren’t all they appear to be?!?!? In this episode Paul explains a new way of thinking about the present moment that may just get your head spinning (in a good way!!)

“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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Have you ever felt that YOU can sometimes get in the way of your wn success? In this episode Paul describes how we can often make unconscious commitments that conflict with the outcomes we consciously tell ourselves we really want. But don’t despair! He also walks you through a really effective process for re-aligning your thoughts and actions to get you back on the right track.

“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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In this episode Paul talks about the “empowering” and dis-empowering  questions we ask ourselves and the way they influence our experience in any situation.

If you have ever found yourself avoiding making a decision because you didn’t know the best course of action to take, then this episode is for you! Paul talks about how the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our decisions and helps you to stop being afraid of getting it wrong.