Sow Before Bedtime

Sow before bedtime

“Ah, the seeds of dreams!” I thought to myself as I laid there in the bed, exhausted. I had spent the night wandering through a distressing dreamscape disturbed by nightmares. Now, I was wondering why the unconscious mind seemed to fixate on so many negative imaginations – its creative genius perverted to divert me from a good night’s sleep.

There was some comfort in tracing the seeds of those dreams back to the activities that had planted them that day. As I get older, hairs grow inside my ears – a ridiculous if somewhat bemusing state of affairs. I can perceive no purpose for them there. Penelope has a passion for removing them, so she had spent a happy ten minutes deforesting my own miniature Eden project biomes! This seed became a dream about going deaf – very unpleasant, but I could see the link. The other nightmare was about my studio burning down – guilt, I think, because I hadn’t checked on it when I was down in the town that day. Clearly, I sowed the seeds. My unconscious was the gardener. And emotion played her or his part in the direction of growth.

I don’t like nights like that. So I revisited an age old question: can we direct our destiny? Even if this is only partially true, it offers hope. Here, I had the ‘evidence’ that my own activities, emotions and thoughts had played their part in the drama that had developed.

So before bedtime: sow before bedtime. I will deliberately seek a happy emotion to be my resting state before sleep (and, believe me, I know how hard that will be at times – but I will ‘seek’ it.) I will load some wholesome thoughts that I purposefully choose – perhaps through reading some poetry or inspirational quotes. And I shall act as Director even if I cannot play the full role as Producer. I shall be very direct with my inner Producer and suggest that he should create a pleasant masterpiece in the Theatre of the Night!

Dream on!

Worrier or Warrior?

Worrier or Warrior?

Oh what a difference a couple of vowel movements can make! Swap an “A” for an “O” – and change begins to flow; then a final “E” for an “O” and off we really go!

Two words with the same framework of consonants and one shared vowel in the same place: W-rri-r, but what a different outcome! Of course, the vowel they both share in the same place is the identifying letter, “I”. “I” is the decision-maker!

I’ve been a professional Worrier for years – paralysed by fears.

But I’d rather be a Warrior, ready for action. And I think that this is the difference that makes a difference: taking action. When I focus on worrying, I become frozen and inactive. Everything seizes and ceases. But if I seize the moment and take action, everything changes.   Sometimes gradually; sometimes dramatically.

I can’t pretend to be brave, but perhaps being courageous doesn’t require one to be brave?

Perhaps the courageous person is the one who takes action when other people hesitate?

Through the eyes of my inner Worrier, I have some impossible challenges before me – 50 years of clutter and mess to sort, save or shed.

Through the eyes of my inner Warrior, I have a plan: one box at a time, one shelf at a time, one cupboard at a time. It’s not a battle like so many dear people are having to face for their future at the moment – I am not in dire straits, so it’s important to have a sense of perspective. But emotionally, it is a battle for me.

We are all in a tug of war between our Inner Worrier and our Inner Warrior. Today, I would appeal to your Inner Warrior and simply ask, “What’s the first physical action you can take?”

I wish you a courageous day!

I Long for Structure

I Long For Structure


If you are of a certain age, you may remember “boring Sundays”. In the UK, when and where I was growing up, most business pressed “pause” on Sundays. There were no shops open, save for a few Newsagents. Everyone, it seemed, rested.

Whilst I now believe this was a good thing, as a child I thought it was boring.

Why? Well, there was “nothing” to do. My time was not structured for me.

I can vividly remember regularly going down to the tennis courts, where the guardian of the key to the courts watched benevolently with his pipe and Red Setter. My sister is four years younger than me, and, at that time, deferred to my seniority, even though she is a great tennis player and knew more about the sport than I did.

So, we would begin to knock a ball back-and-forth, to-and-fro, monotonously.   Boring! Then one of us would wake up!
“Hey!” they’d say, “Let’s play a game!” Suddenly there would be a structure to our Sunday – a purpose.

Where time dragged and energy flagged before, passion would be ignited and the time would fly by. We even say this cliché: “Time flies when you’re having fun!” My sister and I discovered the truth in this.

What we experienced satisfied what is stated as a basic human need by psychologists. Apparently, we crave structure – especially structured time. We may resist a standard 9-5, Monday-Friday routine but it gives us a rhythm to the week.

My Father is now loving the routine he has in his retirement. He finds comfort in structure.

Because of known rhythms to our week, we can have beginnings and endings, and a sense of closure.

As someone who directs my own time, I too often lack this structure, and, as you can well imagine, it causes a lot of stress. Nothing seems to have an end to it. There’s always more to do.

So my suggestion today is to embrace routine like a long-lost friend. Seek structure where it does not currently exist, confident in the knowledge that your psyche longs for this. Add a rhythm to the day.
And, to be utterly specific, break your day into 45 minute segments with a micro-break in-between. Find tasks that can be completed within 45 or 90 minutes. Get closure. More than this, there is s surprise set of benefits awaiting you. Taking a micro-break that involves a shift in posture will “reboot” your lymphatic system, leading to more energy, more creative insights, and a surprising boost to your immune system!

You don’t have to believe me, just test this for yourself!

Then share with me your results!

Making Associations

Make Link Break Link

Making Associations

In an earlier blog, entitled, “Breaking Associations,” I encouraged us to challenge unhelpful links that we’d allowed to define us negatively. The blog post was originally published on Moodscope.  In response, “Hopeful One” said, “There seems to be an underlining assumption that being defined in this way is always negative. In my opinion it’s not so much the definition or the associations but the internal judgements we make that do the damage.”

We are in agreement, Hopeful One!

Associations have their own associations! We can make them mean what we want them to.

For example, we can change the context. One of my favourite film clips is from a rather violent thriller called, “Face Off!” In it, Nicholas Cage and John Travolta swap roles as goody and baddy. In my chosen scene, Judy Garland’s version of, “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow,” plays serenely while a S.W.A.T. team destroys the flat our hero is sheltering in. The association is ‘wrong’ – it shouldn’t work. It works perfectly.

So the flip side of breaking bad associations is to make good associations – deliberately. An association is simply, “This means that,” or “This links to that.”

Naturally occurring associations include hearing a song when you’re having a good time. The song and the feeling of feeling good become linked automatically. The next time you hear the song, you feel good because the two files are linked in the library of your brain! Even more powerful is scent. You may associate an after-shave or perfume with a person. Smell the scent, remember the person.

These links happen naturally and unconsciously. In fact, all the sense data you were receiving at the time becomes linked in your mind to the event. Famous Canadian Neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield, demonstrated the physical nature of memory by stimulating areas of patients’ brains. The memories that were triggered enabled the patients to relive experiences – along with all the senses recorded at the same moments in time.

This is good news because we can create this process consciously as well as unconsciously. You and I can choose to link a song, a scent, even an object to an emotional feeling. When we sense we are beginning to feel great, we can choose to pop on our “Feel Great” Playlist… and turn up the volume! The brain doesn’t care what comes first, the chicken or the egg! It simply splices the memories together. Do the procedure often enough and you will discover that your “Feel Great” Playlist will remind your mind what it is like to feel great… et voila! You will feel better.

Right, I’m off to find a magic feather… heard some flying elephant dropped one near here.

Rhythms Cycles and Ripples pt1

Rhythms, Cycles and Ripples

Sammy Davis Jnr said it,

“And the rhythm of life is a powerful beat,
“Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet,
“Rhythm in your bedroom, rhythm in the street,
“Yes, the rhythm of life is a powerful beat.”

[Song, “The Rhythm of Life.”]

There’s a rhythm and a cycle to your year, your Seasons, your month, your week, your day and night.

Every moment has its own rhythm.

And your personality has its own “Signature Rhythm”… something that sets ‘you’ apart by the way you walk, the way you talk, even the way you shrug your shoulders.

Or to sing again…

“The way you wear your hat.
“The way you sip your tea…

“The way your smile just beams.
“The way you sing off-key.
“The way you haunt my dreams…

“The way you hold your knife (do-do-do-do do-do).
“The way we danced until three.
“The way you’ve changed my life…”

[Song, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”]

There are many messages here, but I’d like to begin today with drawing our attention to circles that ripples make.

Life happens. Events happen like dropping a stone into the pond of our lives. The effects ripple out.

Some things we can control, some things we can influence, and some things are outside this in what we can call “The Circle of Concern”. Knowing the difference between these ripples or circles can really help respond with resilience. By focusing on what we can control and what we can influence, we can feel empowered. It’s not always possible to let go of those matters that are outside our control and influence yet still weigh upon our concerns. However, time is mercifully finite. If we choose to invest our finite time in giving attention to the circles of control and influence, the positive ripples will spread out and even tranform the ways we see the circle of concern.

To conclude this first in a series, I’d just say that there will be a rhythm and cycle to your day – a time in the day when you’ll feel more able to deal with ‘stuff’. I’m stronger, sharper, more effective in the morning. I know this. So, getting in-synch with this rhythm of life can make all the difference to working on what you can control and influence.

Here’s to perfect timing.

Jedi Nights

“Jedi Nights”

Yes, I know that’s spelt wrong.

It’s the “Jedi” bit that got me going. I was just about to spend out more money on yet another internet-based offer of information on how to sell effectively… …when the ‘still, small voice’ inside said, “You’ve got plenty of knowledge already; you need to take action!

This then reminded me of JDI – Just Do It!- the Nike trademarked campaign (how can you trademark a phrase like that? Incredible.) So I can’t use that. Then I wondered what “JEDI” could stand for. The answer came quickly, “Just Enthusiastically Do It!”

You see, the moment you take action, everything changes.

Nothing can remain the same because you live in a dynamic system where everything connects to everything else. In fact, everyone connects to everyone else! The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Ushuaia, Argentina can caused a cool breeze to blow in Swanage, England.

This isn’t a Jedi Mind-Game. Physical action makes the difference. You’ve got to say something, touch something, type something, move something.

Peter Thomson says, “Action is the key.”

There are many types of action, but by far my favourite is “enthusiastic action” – doing something as if you are really enjoying it. Sometimes the thought of the end result is enough to help you find the enthusiastic motivation you need to drive your actions forward.

Vanda North shared a story with me years ago. It was about the rich kid who wanted a pony for his birthday. The parents already had stables, and a stall ready for a new pony. On the dawn of his birthday, the lad leapt out of bed, and, still in his pyjamas, ran to the stable. The stable was full of poo – horse poo. With a yelp of delight, he mucked in and started digging into the pile of poo with total enthusiasm. Bemused, his parents joined him and asked him what he was so excited about. He answered with a grin, “Mum, Dad, with all this huge amount of poo, there’s got to be a pony in there!”

So why, “Jedi Nights”?

Well, I think it’s a great idea to never let a day go by without taking enthusiastic action. Like the lad who desired a pony, set your ambition boldly for the day. At the end of the day, when night comes, you may discover you’d really only been sifting and shifting shit all day, but you will have enjoyed the journey because you did it with all your heart. The poo might be the same, just in a different place, but you will be different. Same shit, different day? Not really, because you will have become stronger and more resilient in the process… and nothing will ever be the same again.

Just Enthusiastically Do It!

And here’s an example of Team Jedis

 

Whinge Learn Change

Whinge-Learn-Change

WLC = Whinge, Learn, Change

This morning, I gave the sofa some feedback.  I told it, in no uncertain terms, what an idiot it was for bumping into me.  It was personal.  The sofa was out to get me…

…except it wasn’t.  I was the idiot.

Do you ever find yourself giving a good talking to inanimate objects?  As humans, we tend to anthropomorphise ‘stuff’ and then assign malicious intent to it!  Why do we do that?  (Or am I the only one?)

My justification?  I was tired.  But I’m more tired of this stupid sub-routine in my mind.  Time to change.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside four consultancies who shared the same learning model.  The WLC model:

Win, Learn, Change

The Win, Learn, Change model is used for gathering feedback and commitment to action at the close of an intervention.  What was the win for you, what did you learn, what would you like to change?  I’d like to share the Lex Revised Version:

 Whinge, Learn, Change.

I don’t know about you, but I meet a lot of people who Whinge!!  Well, they say, “It takes one to know one!”

I can’t remember a single time when I found a whinge helpful, can you?  But a whinge can become our friend, when it becomes a catalyst for change.  This morning, when I caught myself whinging about the evil sofa trying to kill me, I remember my positive intention to write this blog.  So here’s how Whinge, Learn, Change could work for you…

Whenever you catch yourself whinging or even just having a murmur of discontent (let alone a Winter of it!) let it be a wake-up call for an opportunity to learn and change.  The Whinge is the trigger to choose a better response.  Heed its call.  Then ask yourself:

 “What can I Learn from this?”

Of course, I learned that the sofa wasn’t evil, that I was being stupid, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I needed a cup-of-tea to help the morning wake-up ritual.  What’s next?

 “So what do I need to Change?”

Take responsibility for my own movement around the house and be more careful.  Develop enhanced acuity.  Laugh at myself when I’m feeling ratty.  Get some sleep!  Have a cup-of-tea first (isn’t that what Stephen Covey means by “First Things First”?)

I hope I’ve brought a smile to your lips as you read this.  We all whinge (trust me, you do too).  Now you have a simple strategy for turning your whinge into an asset for change.  And, if you’ve got deep enough rapport with your friends, you’ve got a great tool for transforming their thinking if they ever think your ear looks like a garbage container worthy as a receptacle for their interminable whinging!