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Free Your Mind #3 Likes, Dislikes and other innocent Lies

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Aristotle

 

When it comes to preferences, we human beings have many.

We prefer people who are like this and not like that. We prefer particular types of weather, environments or work. And if I asked you to list all the foods you like and dislike, I’m sure you’d have a few things on those lists too.

When I was at school, I was regularly forced by the headmistress to eat rice pudding when it was given to us for desert. She would send me to the back of the hall and demand that I finish what by then, was a cold, congealed bowl of yuck while all the other kids were allowed to go out to play.

Now, as an adult, if I so much as smell that particular food, it makes me feel physically unwell. In fact I’ve been known to go pale just by looking at a rice pudding label. But how can I have that response when I’m not even eating it?

The power of thought is incredible – it’s creating our entire experience of life moment to moment –  all feelings, perceptions and physiological reactions. For example, if I asked you right now, to think of a food that you love, you might find saliva beginning to form in your mouth. And similarly when you think about a food you dislike, you may get some physical responses to that too. Just from the thought of it.

The absence of rice pudding doesn’t impact my life in any negative way, so I have no need to like it. But I know I could.  I understand that I have a ‘Pavlov’ style conditioned response to the smell that my brain learned many years ago, and it creates a strong response in my mind and body whenever I see or smell it.  But I’m pretty sure that if I was in a life or death situation where this was the only food available, I would eat it.

That’s what a change in thinking can do.

Here’s another ordinary example of how thought determines our likes and dislikes.

One day I was doing some accounting work in my office whilst also telling myself how much I dislike doing my accounts.  Thoughts such as ‘I have better things to do with my life’…’this is so frustrating’ ‘it’s so boring’…’i hate doing this’ bla bla. Two hours later I was getting into my car to travel to a client and I realised something about my earlier experience. At some point, I had forgotten about not liking accounting and got so absorbed in the moment that it became a totally different experience.

As I reflected on this, I realised how I’d spent years telling myself that I hated working with numbers and that I was terrible at it. I could even tell you a story about what a poor student of maths I was at school – told off frequently by an impatient teacher who had no interest in helping me. But that would just be my story, and it has no bearing on the here and now.

Here’s how it really works:

FACT: There is something we call ‘numbers’ or ‘accounts’.

It has no inherent meaning in and of itself.

FICTION: Our thoughts (ideas, stories) about numbers and accounts – and this is where all the meaning, feelings and responses come from – moment to moment.

You could swop ‘accounts’ for anything that might be more relevant to your life.

The truth is that when we are in the moment, not thinking about anything in particular and just present, there is no like or dislike. There is no resistance. There is simply being and doing.

The experience of accounting – or anything else for that matter –  is always an experience of our own thinking, moment to moment.  As soon as I realised this, my dislike of it dissolved because I suddenly saw it for what it was. And then I began to consider all the other likes and dislikes that I’d created and had continued to keep alive. I was shocked to discover how many preferences I had. They hadn’t looked like thought but instead had become part of my reality – some kind of truth – and because of that, I hadn’t stopped to re-consider them.

When we have preferences, this automatically creates certain boundaries and constraints. It sets up expectations and gaps – that would not otherwise exist, but for our thinking.

It’s incredible how innocently we limit our experience of life through the power of thought. But the very same power that creates these self-made limitations is also the same power that opens up new potential and possibilities.

So perhaps it’s worth re-considering all the preferences that you’ve acquired or created over the years. What are some of your own likes and dislikes in relation to work, people or personal pursuits?

While you might choose to keep some of them (they might be serving you in some way), maybe there are some that will dissolve as you become conscious of them.

Life is a moment to moment experience. Our preferences are made of thought. They’re based on the past and they have no reality or power of their own. As soon as we realise this, we get a fresh perspective and a new realm of possibility open us.

 

FREE YOUR MIND #2 WHY POSITIVE THINKING IS OUT-DATED : Part Two – The secret of appy-ness (BBC Radio Interview)

Last month, BBC Radio host Mike Parr invited me to take part in a show about gratitude and positivity. After reading my article published in Stylist Magazine (Ditch the gratitude app – Why positive thinking is out-dated), they wanted my alternative view.

You can hear the interview on the player below

… But first, here’s some context so it makes more sense when you listen.

At the point when I joined the conversation, the radio host had been discussing the benefits of using gratitude tools. He first interviewed Carla White, creator of the Gratitude Journal app and then invited a psychologist to share her opinions.

Carla’s app prescribes that you should ‘write down 5 things you’re grateful for each day’ and that it will ‘change your life forever’.  The idea is that by doing this daily ritual, you will ‘re-wire your brain’ and be conditioned to think more positively which means you’ll feel better, happier or more content. But there are some major flaws with this concept.

Being happy is not about conditioning ourselves to think in a particular way. Feeling grateful isn’t something you have to work at.  It’s something we naturally experience when our minds are free and unburdened. So all we really need, is to understand what gets in the way of a free, unburdened mind. And the one thing that gets in the way of feeling peace, contentment or happiness is the mistaken belief that our feelings can be coming from somewhere other than our own thinking  – for example from other people, phone apps or the weather
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Happy apps and techniques also promote the idea that feeling positive is the ultimate goal. But feeling positive or happy in any given moment doesn’t mean we have clarity and perspective.  We can be happy and yet at the same time be deluded.   So, the key is to understand where our experience is coming from so that we can experience life with perspective and enjoy unconditional peace of mind.

To find out more, listen to the clip below and if you haven’t already, you can read my Stylist article here.

And of course, please post your comments, questions and feedback on the blog!

FREE YOUR MIND #1 WHY POSITIVE THINKING IS OUT-DATED : Part One

The search for happiness, fulfilment and success has never been more popular and to help us with our search we have books, blogs, seminars and plenty of new technology. With our busy lives and our desire to have instant satisfaction, phone apps that promise happiness at your fingertips, are becoming increasingly popular.

Many of these apps are intended to condition you to think more positively in order to feel better, more confident or more content about yourself or your life. But being truly content or happy is not about tricking ourselves into thinking more positively. What if this is an outdated approach? And what if there’s a simpler,  more natural way to experience a happy, fulfilling or successful life?

There’s a major misunderstanding that keeps us stuck. To discover what this is and why we don’t need to think positive thoughts in order to improve our lives,  scroll down and read my article ‘Ditch the gratitude app – Why positive thinking is outdated’ published in Stylist Magazine…..and you’ll discover why app-ness doesn’t equal happiness!

Scroll down and click on the Download link bottom left.

 

 

Now you’ve read the article, feel free to post your comments, questions and experiences below! I love to hear from you!

Part two coming soon..

BBC 2 RADIO INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA FELTZ

BBC RADIO LONDON

On Easter Bank Holiday Monday, I was interviewed on BBC London radio by Vanessa Feltz about my book ‘Instant Motivation‘.

Vanessa wanted to talk about stress and anxiety in the workplace and what it is that helps us to deal with the every day demands that life presents. It was quite a lively conversation!  You can hear the radio show below and there’s also a link to the book.

 

 

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INSTANT MOTIVATION PODCAST DUBAI EYE RADIO

Last week, Suzanne Redford and her co-host Jo McKibben interviewed  me about my book Instant Motivation on their radio show, Voices of Diversity on Dubai Eye radio.  I really enjoyed our conversation. We really delved into the nature of motivation and thought in our lives in terms of wellbeing and performance at work.

You can listen to the podcast here.

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