Words, Will and Ways

Professor Sue Black, the forensic anthropologist, was the guest on “The Life Scientific” (Radio 4) this week. Aside from her excellent taste in music, what she shared was fascinating. She had grown up in a remote Scottish village where her Grandmother had sown seeds of possibility deep in her psyche. Granny had consistently called Sue her, “Varsity Girl” – instilling the idea of going to University.

At school, Sue spent some time gaining experience as a laboratory assistant and had enthusiastically declared to her biology teacher that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Her teacher was a refined man and so shocked her into a change of vision by uncharacteristically swearing at her – saying that she shouldn’t be so (expletive) stupid – she was going to go to University! He recognised her talent, and shoved her firmly in the right direction!

Two influential members of the cast of Sue’s life drama had said the right ‘magic’ words at the right time, nudging the course of her development in the right direction for her. Positive words have power.

Of course, in her heart, Sue agreed with this direction – she was in alignment with it. In fact, she had a very unhappy time at one school and used her will-power to knuckle down to study so that she could qualify for a more appropriate academy. As another demonstration of her will-power, later, she withheld some of the truth about her University funding so that her parents wouldn’t bear the financial burden of seeing her through college. She worked her way through herself. Clearly, Sue is a ‘driven’ personality.

But what touched me most was how she dealt with grief. Her Grandmother smoked over 40 per day and eventually paid the price. As she lay there dying, she told Sue not to worry because she wasn’t “going away”. She said that any time Sue needed her, she’d be at her shoulder to watch over her and guide her. Sue shared on the programme that although she had Christian values, she was not religious and had never had a spooky experience – but that this thought had comforted her throughout life and had influenced her behaviours.

Grief is a difficult subject, but one that should not be avoided. I finished listening to the programme wondering how I might be the messenger of good words into the lives of others – sowing the seeds of possibility. How might I nudge them forward towards bolder choices in life when I could see potential that they hadn’t fully recognised? And I considered how I might be a comfort to my loved ones as Grandmother’s wisdom had sustained Sue years after her passing. It was a moving experience that has empowered resolve in my life to be a more positive influence on those around me.

[After reviewing this, I wondered if there was value in a new definition of “Teacher” – “one who sees potential in others that they have not fully recognised or realised in themselves”?]

Taking The Plunge

I broke the bath. Yes, that’s right, you heard me correctly. My vast gravitas was way more than the bath could take when I stood in it to have a shower. It cracked up – couldn’t take me seriously.

The lady of the house, however, took the situation very seriously. She was not amused.

So we needed a new bath.

After months of unfulfilled promises from various vendors, we finally had a new bath fitted. But one of the old bath’s problems remained: the water wouldn’t drain away fast enough. The lady of the house was once more unamused.

I’m not a DIY-kind-of-chap. There aren’t many practical bones in my body (well, actually, all my bones are very practical, but you know what I mean.) I do, however, understand a little bit of Physics. I showed the lady how the bends in the pipe made it physically impossible for the water to drain away. In fact, I was quite proud of my scientific stance on the matter.

We’ve known each other for nine years now. She holds me in deep respect. Typically, she totally ignored me! What did she do? She took a plunger to it. The water flowed away perfectly.

“Science” = 0; “Lady of the House” = 1. Game over!

OK, so what’s the lesson? For me, it was the danger of commitment to an idea that was wrong. I was totally convinced, convicted I tell you, that there was no way the water would ever flow given the existing plumbing. So I stopped trying to fix it. But it was fixable, wasn’t it?

Fancy trying on a new belief for size today?

How about challenging an old one that’s stopping you from taking action?

Is there a belief that you’ve quit on that could do with fresh examination?

Go on, take the plunge!

Ten Good Friends

Ten Good Friends

I am active – feeling full of energy

I am enthusiastic – showing eagerness

I am alert – being quick to notice and act

I am interested – wanting to be involved in something

I am attentive – paying close attention

I am inspired – feeling the desire to do something

I am excited – looking forward to things

I am determined – being resolute, showing determination

I am strong – feeling able to cope with difficulties

I am proud – feeling a real sense of achievement today.

Saying these out loud simply feels good.

I am sure we all recognise these ten good friends. If you are a fan of practical psychological tips, you’re likely to have come across several experiments where hearing positive words and phrases has improved the listeners’ mood and state. When surrounded by positive words, there is a tendency for humans to behave more tolerantly and to be more generous.

I’ve been told, “Be careful what you wish for!” But far more fundamental is, “Be careful what you think about!” What we think about has a habit of expanding until it consumes our attention… and everything we think about has an emotional charge associated with it. Our ten good friends have a positive charge, and they work well together. They are worth thinking about often.

So I got thinking to myself, “What would have to happen for all ten good friends to join me today?” It will be different for all of us, but it’s a fun exercise which I am recommending to you.

To feel full of energy, I certainly would have to have had a good night’s sleep – one undisturbed by bad dreams or too many loo breaks! A good shower and an excellent coffee would allow my child-like curiosity and enthusiasm permission to emerge. I’d also be naturally alert – especially in the morning – my best time. So, assuming I wasn’t aware of anything boring or horrible in the day ahead, I’d be off to a great start with at least three good friends. And knowing how positive friends, like birds of a feather, are likely to flock together, I’m sure the other magnificent seven would check-in somewhen during the day!

I wonder what would jump-start your day in a positive way?

Would you share?

 

The Three Gifts

The Three Gifts

I address you today as if you were the richest person in the whole wide World.

I share with you today as if you are the luckiest person in the Universe.

I stand in awe of you today because of the phenomenal power you shall possess.

I believe you are the richest person I know because you have 168 hours to spend every week. No one can take that away from you. Oh, of course, you can trade it to spend on others but it is always yours – and always will be.

You are the luckiest person in the Universe because you have the gift of consciousness. You have self-awareness. You have self-identity. You have self-knowledge.

And the power you have that I stand in awe of is the phenomenal power of choice. With it you can change your future.

 

You can choose how to use the gift of consciousness today in the abundant time you have that no one can take from you.

What will you do with these three gifts?

Life to the Max

Life to the Max?

[Audio version: Life to the Max]

I’ve got a little friend called, “Max.” Max is my neighbour’s dog. He looks like “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy” if you’ve ever seen the Lynley Dodd books (or care to Google the image).

Max is an enthusiast. Nothing is held back. I have known him try to draw me through the garden fence by the power of his nose suction alone. This little black, wet nozzle of a snozzle finds a tiny gap under the fence and inhales as if his life depends upon it… His wagging tail causes a small tremor that can be felt through the ground… he is truly inspirational!

I think it would be fair to create a verb in Max’s honour: to be Maxed. To be Maxed means to be enthusiastically ‘assaulted’ by an energetic bundle of hairy love!

I’m pretty sure Max’s love is unconditional, or perhaps indiscriminate. It still feels nice – if you’re not wearing your posh togs.

Walking to the shop the other day, I saw Max in the distance, and thought to myself, “Today, I do not wish to be ‘Maxed’!” I wondered how I could politely avoid being pounced upon without offending him or his owner. My concerns were unnecessary. Max was ‘elsewhere’. He had found some fascinating scent along the bottom of another fence and was busy pursuing this trail. Nose down, he was blissfully unaware of anything else.

Max had found joy and freedom through single-minded focus. One thought, one purpose, one pursuit. I don’t think he has many worries, but if he did, he wouldn’t have been troubled at this time. His mind was absorbed.

Could you find joy and freedom in single-minded focus today? Could you make a promise to your brain that you’ll come back to the other stuff it’s fretting about later but in the meantime just focus enthusiastically on something lovely and absorbing?

Live life to the Max.

 

Jailbreak


It’s a glorious day.

Warm with a refreshing breeze.

The Sun is smiling down on the Conservatory in which…

…I am doing my VAT Return.

I’m gazing longingly at the garden, hoping for a jailbreak.

 

I kid myself I am a free man, but I’m not.  The consequences of not doing my VAT Return on time are serious, though not life-threatening.  So I’ve done a deal: I’ll act as an unpaid and unappreciated tax collector for the Government in return for looking like a serious business and getting a stunning 20% off my business expenses.  I agreed to this.  I put myself in this jail.  This is one of my many jails.

 

Civilised life is like that, isn’t it?  We all agree to minor compromises of our ‘freedom’ in return for some kind of payoff.  I was distressed talking to a friend the other day as she shared how she had to get so many permissions from her employer to do what she wanted to do with her time.  People joke about “wage slaves” but it’s not far from the truth.

 

I shake my head and sigh again in disbelief for possible the 10th time today.  My Moodscope score is 20%.

But we can change.

I can change.

A Zen Master once asked his keen and highly attentive students, “What keeps a tiger in its cage?”

Not seeing the trap, a confident apprentice said, “The bars, Master!”

The Master bowed his head, then raised it beaming broadly at his pupils.  With a twinkle in his eye, he declared, “You are nearly there.  It is not the bars but the distance between the bars.”

 

Does my VAT Return need to be done today?  Almost.  I’ve been putting it off because it scares me, but there’s still time.  Maybe I could move the bars?  I could do some tomorrow and the next day.  And this afternoon, I could catch some rays and lift my mood.  I can renegotiation my commitment to the jailers.

 

I know you’re in jail too.

Tonight, today – whenever you are reading this, I propose a jailbreak.  Slap on some “Thin Lizzy” and move those bars.

I’ll see you on the outside.

Just let me know where and when…

 

Faith – the Final Frontier (POWERFUL Goal-Setting pt.6)

Daniel_Ilabaca“Daniel Ilabaca” by Jon Lucas. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daniel_Ilabaca.jpg#/media/File:Daniel_Ilabaca.jpg

Faith – The Final Frontier

If you’re going to take a leap of faith, you need to leap boldly. It may be argued that climbing has been transformed by bold people like Sébastien Foucan who is famous for Parkour and Free Running. These disciplines combine as much momentum as possible to get from A to B as efficiently as they can. This may mean seeming to ‘run’ up a cliff-face.

The difference from traditional climbing is stark. Safe climbing demands keeping one foot and one hand in position at any time. You scale whatever challenge you’re facing in a lizard-like movement. Not so with free running. With Parkour and Free Running the momentum and the jumps are key parts of getting you to the summit. Mindset, according to Daniel Ilabaca, another star of the discipline, is also vital. If you think you’ll fall, you’re more likely to fall.

It seems then that this revolution in climbing to the summit requires a leap or two of faith. Faith is a sure and certain expectation to do with the future and the unseen. Like free running, I think it is a tough discipline. It requires a revolutionary kind of commitment – a commitment to propelling oneself towards a future that is just that little bit out of reach.

Fear, on the other hand (and foot) is a sure and certain understanding to do with the present and the seen. It helps us cling safely to where we are. And that’s its purpose – keeping us safe. I’m not down on fear – fear is good when it serves a survival purpose. It keeps us safely in the comfort zone.

But creating an extraordinary future requires change, momentum, a positive mindset and faith. It requires courage and daring, and, dare I say it, a little bit of craziness?

If we keep on doing what we’ve always been doing, we will continue to get what we’ve always been getting. If you and I want something different, something more, something better, we need to do something different. Is it time for a leap of faith?

If it is, you’ll need to fuel your faith. Those who engage in Parkour and Free Running do a lot of practice. Developing faith takes practice too. Faith comes from hearing words and stories of those who have successfully dared to cross a new frontier. If you surround yourself with naysayers – your faith will dissipate. If you surround yourself with accounts of the bold and courageous, you will find your courage and faith rising.

OK, I’m off to play some Van Halen! Might as well…