One POWERFUL Question



I have recently joined two special interest groups on Facebook. Both are to do with a rare Myers-Briggs psychological profile I share: INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving). We make up just 4% of the population, so we can easily feel like outsiders.

With a sense of isolation, it is tempting to stray too often into negative territory – being clear on what we don’t want rather than thinking of what we do want. A post on one of the sites got me thinking about how to structure my goals in a way that would help.

I use a mnemonic called P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. to set powerful outcomes! For this blog, I just wanted to share the first letter’s meaning: P for Positive.

It seems our minds work better when we focus on a positive goal rather than a negative goal. This is because a negative goal pulls our attention towards the very thing we don’t want.

If I ask you, just for a few seconds, not to think about Santa Claus wearing ballet shoes…

…my hope is that you couldn’t help but think about this very thing!

So, if my goal (either formally or informally) is NOT to do something, my brain will focus on what it will be like to do that thing. For example, if I wish to NOT be so irritable – my brain will be actively scanning for times when I am irritable. If I wish I didn’t feel so anxious all the time – my brain scans for signs of me being anxious.

One question can turn this natural psychological tendency around so that your brain may be a better servant.

The question is: what would you rather have?

I can answer these in a heartbeat: I want to be calm and relaxed; I want to be at peace and have hope.

If you find yourself drawn to thinking about what you don’t want, flip this instantly with the question: what would I rather have? Then you can invest your energy wisely, moving towards more of what you prefer.

Time to Renegotiate and Remortgage!!

You are free. You are freer than you may be allowing yourself to realise. You have all the time you need. You and I have 168 hours a week. It’s one of the few matters in life that is utterly fair.

The reason many of us don’t feel free is that we’ve ‘mortgaged’ our time. We may have made some poor choices on how to spend our time. We’ve made commitments with our time that mean that it is no longer ours to spend as we choose. In this sense, this is like a mortgage – we’ve made a commitment to the future to spend time just like a mortgage is a commitment to pay money in the future. For example, when I promise a friend that I’ll meet them next Monday for a cup of tea, I’ve committed in advance to spend that time. It is no longer ‘free’ time.

A proper job is like this too – a commitment of future time in return for money.

None of this is bad – it is just like it sometimes feels like we’ve sacrificed our freedom. And freedom is important to the human spirit.

Promises, commitments and appointments are all ‘open loops’ or ‘unfinished business’ that can create a sense of pressure until they are fulfilled (closing the loop). They are like a sentence left unfinished… …which we long to complete. We long to be free.

My suggestion today is to revisit some of your commitments. They may have seemed like a good idea at the time but times have changed. Now, it may be time to renegotiate how you have promised to give your time. Giving your time reluctantly or, even worse, when you’ve come to resent this, rarely leads to a good outcome. Your heart is not in it. And the heart is the powerhouse of motivation and results.

Sometimes it is simply better to be open, honest and assertive and see if you can change the deal! Just like a home loan, time can be remortgaged – commitments can be renegotiated. And sometimes, just sometimes, you can get a better interest rate!

A promise isn’t broken if both parties agree to changing the promise.

I think it may well be time for you to take back control of some of your time and reinvest it as you choose.

Go on, have the time of your life!

Marching Forwards

I love marching. There’s something about March music that gets you into a good place psychologically and physiologically – body and mind marching to the beat of the same drummer. I say this even though I have no military background or interest in the military – other than a deep gratitude for those who have allowed us to live safely through their dedication and sacrifice.

I think the 2/4 time signature is far more fundamental than the institutions we have associated with it – it is deeply visceral. It is good for us.

I will often ‘march’ up to the local shop. There’s a real sense of progress in my stride. Playing music in my mind (my iMind!!) also adds to the effect – something like the Radetzky March being a top choice. I really do believe in using ‘music on purpose’ and the purpose of music being to enhance life. I choose music to change my state of mind. My choice has meaning, a purpose, and great power to transform my day.

However, today I have something else in mind: Marching for something. There is a story about Mother Teresa being asked to join a protest march against a conflict in one of the many troubled areas of the globe. She refused. Puzzled, the sincere protestor asked her why she wouldn’t march. Her reply was that she would never march against anything… but she would gladly march for peace.

For Mother Teresa, marching was always marching forwards and marching towards something better. It was neither ‘against’ or ‘away from’ something. This positive psychology of choosing a noble goal and marching positively towards it is a great way to feel motivated.

I’d encourage you to start marching forwards towards the New Year, and for causes you believe in – even if this is as simple as the good cause of having a positive day! I promise you that you will discover something amazing – your positive stride will catch on and you will find that other people may well choose to march to the beat of a similar drummer!

Your Gift of Time

Your Gift of Time

Time is one of the Universe’s fair resources. Prince or Pauper, Goose or Gander, we all have 168 hours per week. No one can buy more time for us – not really, and no one can, in reality, buy our time. (Of course, we can agree to spend our time in a certain way on behalf of someone else – but it remains our time.)

Here’s the scene… A long journey lay ahead of me the next day. I was going to use Public Transport and the potential for delays and complications was magnified by each additional connection. I knew taking responsibility by driving to my destination was actually only an illusion of control. I would be subject to the choices other people made to use the same roads. Their choices could also delay my planned progress. So which to choose?

Up until now, my life has been lived “at the last minute”. By this I mean allowing just enough time to get from A to B so that I could spend my time on other interesting or distracting things as well. Unsurprisingly, this often allowed stressors to mount up like a wave and flood my ability to cope every time I was late. 90% of the time, this was my fault. It was a result of how I chose to allocate my use of time.

For my long journey, I chose a new strategy. I would get up ridiculously early and get ready as if it was a day off with no pressing commitments. No rushing my bathroom time. No panic. No outbursts of bad temper when something (usually an inanimate object) was “stupid” for not doing what I wanted it to do. I would also catch the train that the timetables said would get me there just in time.

The plan went well, and I got ready in a calm and pleasant manner. In fact this was so efficient that I was then in a position to catch an earlier train… if I hurried. The sense of panic was horrible. It made sense to get there early just in case anything went wrong… My heart beat faster… Time to choose…

But my willingness to maintain the experiment prevailed. I decided to catch my intended train, giving me plenty of time to get to the station, get my tickets and park without panic.

So I drove sedately to the station while other commuters, dancing to the beat of another drummer, zoomed past me at illegal speeds. There was no queue at the ticket office – after all, I was there at the wrong time! I had a chat with the member of staff who sold tickets. He was amazingly clued in on how to get the best deal – and I even got a better deal that what the internet had suggested as the best deal. We had a nice chat.

I then had time to pop into the independent coffee shop in the station and have a life-affirming chat with two very charismatic members of their team. When I came out, the queue outside the ticket office was long and filled with frustrated time-pressed people.

I caught the train, on time. I got to my final destination, on time. I got back in a similar way. And I had lots of very pleasant encounters on the way. I left the computer behind all day. I read books.

My experiment was a success, and I was nice to be around. I did good business. I hope I’ve learned something.

Give yourself the gift of your time… there’s nothing quite like this present.

Amazingly Simple

I watched a young child race his mother to the pedestrian crossing. Why did he dash to the crossing? For the amazingly simple pleasure of pushing the button! How many children get a wonderful amount of pleasure from being allowed to push a button or turn on a switch? Of course, celebrities enjoy this too – turning on the Christmas lights or cutting the ribbon to open something.

I’ve just made my first cup of tea of the morning. I was suddenly thrilled by the concept. Here was tea all the way from India (Assam), processed in a way that I simply had to add water to experience that taste of the East in moments – amazing! The experience was made possible by the electric company, the kettle manufacturer, the water company, and the dairy who had prepared the milk to such exacting standards. I was in receipt with a little miracle of modern life… and in touch with it again like the child’s thrill in pressing the button.

Of course, I could go on. My father’s shower is one of the most glorious experiences on the planet! I am very often grateful for the engineering skill that allows me to enjoy hot water coursing over my grateful nerve endings.

And in case you’re thinking I’m the most positive person on the planet… just talk to someone who really knows me. I fight against clouds of gloom on a daily basis but I know that where my attention rests can change my state of mind. I am enormously grateful that I still have a child-like sense of awe about the most seemingly simple of pleasures: the morning tea, the shower, the joy of rain drops on a pond, the sight of a Mistle Thrush…

My hope for you today is that you enjoy that same tingle of pleasure from things that are simply amazing.