Just how brilliant do you allow your children to be? How much of a chance do you give them to learn things for themselves? And do you let them think for themselves?
Due to what we shall term ‘A Baby-Sitting Malfunction’ I ended up taking my 7 year old son to Toastmasters, my speakers club, on Wednesday evening. In lots of ways it didn’t seem like a good idea. For a start he would be up very late – I don’t usually get back till at least 11pm – and in addition to that he would have to sit quietly for the best part of 3 hours and listen to a variety of adults speak, and respond appropriately. He would also have to listen to me speak, and manage himself whilst I wasn’t sitting with him. Now my little boy is a very intelligent and lively young man and at the age of 7 is still capable of a full-on-screaming-abdabs tantrum on rare occasions, so taking him with me did have an element of risk attached. However, the babysitter had indeed malfunctioned, and I was speaking that night so I couldn’t exactly ‘bunk off’. As it was the summer holidays he could be excused the late night … so off we went.
In the car on the way there I told him how the evening would go, and he was really excited about it. When we got there I introduced him to some of my friends and then we went and sat right at the front. The president of the club was lovely. She included his glove puppet ‘squeak mouse’ when she mentioned the guests that we had in the audience, which he loved, then the speeches began. Would you believe it? My little roof-raiser sat quietly through the evening, clapped at appropriate occasions, and conversed politely with people during the break. When it was time to go home he told me he had had the ‘best time in his life ever!’ ‘Ever?’ I asked. ‘Well so far!’ he said 🙂
The club doesn’t allow you to join or speak till you’re 16, which is understandable given the fact that it’s a place for professionals to keep their speaking skills sharp, but it set me wondering. There are so many things our kids could do if we just gave them half the chance. I’ve talked about this before (Fearless as a Child). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ‘hot-housing’ – forcing your kids into academic brilliance when they’re not up for it. But when you see your child has a natural ability for something, and most of all they enjoy it, how many of us support them to follow that thing through, even if it’s something they’re theoretically too young for? You know at the age of three and a half my son had an avid interest in dinosaurs. And I’m not talking ‘Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs’, I mean the real McCoy. We used to sit there reading from a book so heavy that he couldn’t even rest it on his little legs. The typeface was of course tiny, but the pictures were wonderful. He’d leaf through till one caught his eye, and then say ‘Mummy tell me about that one!’ and I’d read and explain the accompanying text. Then when he went to school he was suddenly plunged into a world of ‘Tom is here. Jill is here. Where is the dog?’ It switched him off for a long time, though thankfully he has had a brilliant teacher this last academic year who has turned him on to learning again. If your child picked up an academic book clearly written for adults, and asked you about the contents, would you read it to them? Not all parents would you know.
I think that as a culture we sometimes stunt our kids’ growth without even realising it. We don’t always give them the chance to find out for themselves. A dear friend once reprimanded me for giving her young son grapes still on the stem. ‘If you give it to him like that, he’s going to eat the stem too!’ she said. Well, maybe the first time, but he won’t do it again will he? How is he ever going to learn to pick the grapes off himself if you keep doing it for him? It’s a balance and not always an easy one to achieve. Of course you don’t let your children find out for themselves that walking into the road without looking could get you into trouble, part of a parent’s job is to keep their children safe. Yet there are so many things that they can work out for themselves thereby learning about the situation in hand, AND learning vital skills in terms of thinking and analysis.
Many years ago now I used to head up a Jewish Sunday school, and on one occasion the children and teachers were preparing for a meal to which all the parents would be invited. We were cutting a salad and I asked my teaching assistant to cut the tomatoes. I watched, astonished, as she pretty much annihilated them. She was doing her best. She explained to me that this was the first time she had ever cut a tomato! Wow! I was shocked. How is it possible for a person to reach a good 20 years of age and never learn to cut fruit and vegetables with a sharp knife?
Do you let your children use sharp knives? I do. How else will they learn? I allow my two and three year old to hold the knife with me so that they get used to the various motions of cutting. If it’s something easy, say my three year old has a small amount of cheese on her plate and she wants it in even smaller pieces I will allow her to use a sharp knife independently while I watch. And I let my seven year old son use a knife independently and unsupervised, because he has been using one so long that he knows how. If there’s something he isn’t confident about cutting he will ask for help. The other day he peeled a kiwi and cut it into pieces. That’s my boy! I don’t have to hide knives away from them because they know that knives can be dangerous if misused, so they treat them with respect. I explained to my kids that the most useful things are often also the most dangerous. Things like knives or fire, or cars or electricity. I explained that you shouldn’t be afraid of them, just learn how to use them safely and effectively.
Let’s empower our kids. Instead of cosseting them from life, leaving some of them ignorant and incapable and others so plain frustrated and angry that they have to launch a full scale rebellion just to gain themselves the right to live their own lives, let’s support them in following their capabilities and their dreams. I’ll tell you what, as a life coach and hypnotherapist I wouldn’t be dealing with half the cases I end up dealing with if people had given their kids a chance to start with. We all make mistakes, every one of us, so let’s not dwell on the past, but focus on the now and on the future. Ask yourself the question ‘How can I empower my child today to be the best that he or she can be?’
I was so proud of my son the other night. Several members of the club came up to him and congratulated him on doing so well, and he accepted the compliments most graciously. The experience may even have ignited in him a lifelong passion for the spoken word, and all because circumstance gave him a chance to experience being amongst people who have just that passion.
This week, empower yourself, others and most of all the children whose lives you are blessed to touch!
Ever suddenly discovered a really simple answer to something complex and asked yourself ‘Why didn’t I think of that before?’
Yesterday I was fitting out a small box room for my son’s use. Now this room had previously had in it a ‘shorty’ bed, that is a children’s bed, and actually the width of the room wouldn’t admit a bed any bigger. My son had set his heart on an office bed, you know, one of those bunk beds with an office underneath but of course as I discovered they don’t make office beds in a shorty size. So I used my brain and came up with an elaborate solution involving a bookcase and cupboard of similar height, several boards, a mattress and a stepladder – genius if I say so myself! It was only yesterday in constructing the first set of shelves that I realised what a simple error I’d made. I started to lay out the pieces of the shelf so I could put it together and of course the room was too small for me to lay them out width-wise, so I tried laying them out in a diagonal fashion. That didn’t seem to work either so I said to myself “Why don’t I try laying them out in the length of the room?” I tried it, and they fit … as would an adult size bed! What a first class idiot I felt! Seeing the bed that was already there I had not thought to question that you might put a bed along the other wall in that room. That wall was about 20cm longer. I could have bought him a regular office bed, and I would have got something perfect at a great price in the recent Argos sale!!! It’s rare to never that I stew in regret, but I did spend a few minutes kicking myself, before I started to see the advantages of what I’d done.
I had been the victim of what cognitive science describes as ‘functional fixedness’ – because of my previous experience with a particular object (the bed that was previously there) I had been unable to see a different way of using the object (putting the bed along the other wall). The opposite of this is ‘cognitive flexibility’ being able to transfer knowledge to novel situations. The classic experiment that displays these human tendencies of ours is Maier’s Two String Problem (1931). The subject is brought into a room in which two strings are hanging from the ceiling, given a chair and a number of objects including a pair of pliers and asked to join the two pieces of string. The strings are of such a length and such a distance apart that when you are holding one you are too far away to reach the other. Your task is to join the strings. The solution? You need to use the pliers in a novel way, as a weight, rather than as they were designed to be used, tie them to the end of one of the strings and set it swinging and then go grab the other string and wait for the first one to swing towards you, so that you can grab that one too! Most subjects in the experiment do not at first discover the pliers solution, although Maier found that if he walked across the room and ‘accidentally’ brushed against one of the strings, setting it swinging, then the subject often suddenly made the cognitive leap and worked out the solution. I too had accidentally discovered that a full size bed would have fit in the other direction, through trying to solve a different problem – that of how to construct the shelves in such a small room. Unaware of this experiment at the time, I redeemed myself in terms of cognitive flexibility later – by using an old pair of earphones as a string and a pair of pliers as a weight to give myself a line along which to nail the backboard to the shelf underneath that I couldn’t see … so I don’t have to feel too cognitively sorry for myself!!
How do you avoid ‘functional fixedness’ and embrace ‘cognitive flexibility’? In other words how do you become the kind of person that can come up with novel solutions to a problem? Well seeing as we tend to choose solutions based on our previous experience, I say ‘Get as Much Experience as Possible!’ Grab life by the horns, and learn everything you can – then you will have a great variety of previous experiences to choose from when finding a novel solution. I also recommend brainstorming and experimenting. When faced with an ‘unsolvable’ problem I like to use the ‘no holds barred’ approach, and list as many answers to the problem as I can, one after another, without filtering them for common sense or practicality. Sooner or later you then ‘accidentally’ discover a new approach that linear thinking would never have found for you. And if all else fails, sleep on it. How many times have you gone to bed with a question on your mind and woken up in an ‘Aha!’ moment, sometimes in the middle of the night, with the perfect key to your conundrum? By doing this you give your powerful and intuitive unconscious mind a chance to have a crack at it, and the solutions you discover are often so neat and simple that you can’t help asking yourself “Why didn’t I think of that before?!”
Have a week of novel approaches 🙂
The sky is suitably overcast as we meet at the graveyard. My great uncle has died, and here we all are for the funeral. People are gathered in clumps, as if being part of a group will protect them from death. I’m no different – I stick with my mother and brother. I never really know what to say on these occasions. What is there to say when the person lost is much loved, and has been there forever. Words can’t be enough. My presence will have to suffice. Though we children didn’t spend as much time as we should have with him, to me my great uncle was one of those people who was just a given. You know, someone who holds up part of the edge of your world just by being there. It’s strange that he is dead. It feels weird. One more of the old guard is gone and the rest of us move one step closer to becoming the old guard ourselves.
It feels disrespectful to walk amongst the gravestones, so I stand with some others a little back as the coffin is lowered and the prayers are said. I stand there remembering how not that many years ago despite his frailty he was part of the party that accompanied my granny, his sister to her final resting place, even though he didn’t have his coat and it was freezing. As we all watch the young lad with the digger fill in the grave, my eye roves over the nearby gravestones, and I read so many peoples’ final words to each other. I allow the words on the nearest gravestone to dissolve and envision my name there, and I ponder what I’d want my gravestone to say. Don’t you find these things make you value your life? If there’s one thing each of us can be sure of it’s that we will eventually die. I’m grateful to still be in the game.
After the funeral it’s back to the craziness of Passover preparations. Passover is really an all consuming festival. It celebrates the survival and rescue of the Jewish people from generations of slavery in ancient Egypt. The celebration involves a lot of symbolism, to help the participants feel like they too have been rescued from that same slavery. As part of the preparation involves removing even the tiniest amount of leavened grain product (bread, cake, pasta, biscuits etc) from your home, i.e. a massive and intense spring cleaning operation, by the time you get to the festival you really do feel like you’ve emerged from slavery! I’m a busy woman, being a wife and mother of three, and serving my clients too. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, so you have to prioritise. What usually falls off the list is the domestic stuff, so when Passover comes, there’s a lot to do. My kids bless them are like three little tornados of chaos leaving a tumult of disorder in their wake. So it’s pointless trying to remove said grain products more than a week before the event. And the clean up process when it does happen has to be a deep one – you find bits of pasta in the strangest places! All of which explains why you didn’t get your blog last week. Usually if I don’t manage to sit here and write about life it’s because I’m too busy living it!
As with a lot of religious practices, Passover is all about ‘as without, so within’. I found an interesting reference to this regarding spring cleaning. Written by David Ault, one of my personal development heroes, it’s a piece suggesting that you do some internal spring cleaning whilst you spring clean your house and really that’s part of what Passover is about – removing the leavened ‘puffed up’ ego, so that you can get to the real stuff underneath. It’s about leaving behind the past so that you can embrace the present and ever renewing life.
Which brings me to my final point. Has this been happening to anyone else, or is it just me? Things that you wouldn’t usually expect to have been springing to life around me. It all started with the chow chow. If you’ve never encountered one, a chow chow is a bright green hand sized vegetable, with paler green flesh inside, and a soft white seed in the middle. As I understand it, it’s native to places like the Philippines. It’s mild and slightly sweet in flavour and great as a steamed vegetable side dish. Well I had one of these chow chows sitting on my kitchen window ledge for a while and due to the other clutter there, if I’m honest I completely forgot about it. When I did eventually remember it and decide to cook it, an astonishing thing had happened. It had sprouted a shoot and was growing a plant straight out of the vegetable itself. Little roots were patiently waiting under the shoot for such a time when they would encounter some soil. Now I’m a sucker for a sprouting plant. If it has a root, I’ll plant it. Over the years I have loved many avocado plants, cobnut trees, and bulls eye seedlings. I currently have a 4 year old jackfruit sapling growing in my office. Don’t ask me why. Being a tropical plant it will never bear fruit in this country. If it asks for soil I provide. So I planted the chow chow. It has subsequently shot up, like Jack’s beanstalk, and I have it on good authority that if I take care of it, it will provide us with chow chows all summer.
Then the dead stick on the orchid started flowering again – never seen that before. Then I found sprouting ginger in the fridge – which I have since planted. And you know what I found this morning? We have a weekend treat in this house, for those who wake up early enough. We have a ‘fruit party’, which consists of a variety of the usual and some more exotic fruit. So I was about to crack this coconut, and I took off part of the hair at the top, and the coconut had sprouted! Now this was not something that had been sitting around in my kitchen, I’d only just bought it. Of course I’m going to plant it … so it looks like we’ll be hosting a baby coconut palm too 🙂 Now all we need is sunshine!
So, what with bidding a sad and grateful farewell to a stalwart of the past, cleaning out our house and hearts of the old us to make way for the new us, and new life emerging in all directions, it seems spring is really taking hold at this end of the world.
How is spring manifesting in your life?
I’d love to hear about it!
How do you relate to Native Americans? If your upbringing was anything like mine, we grew up thinking of them as almost mythical characters that ran around hollering in feathered headdresses! Whereas of course they’re actually the original Americans, before the English came over and made themselves at home … and they’re very much alive and well and living in their own areas of the US.
The more I learn about traditional Native American philosophy, the more I warm to it. Check this link http://home.earthlink.net/~tessia/Native.html for some Native American thinking … like this for example:
American Indian Commandments
Sacred Instructions Given By The Creator To Native People At The Time Of Creation
Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
Remain close to the Great Spirit.
Show great respect for your fellow beings.
Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
Do what you know to be right.
Look after the well being of mind and body.
Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
Be truthful and honest at all times.
Take full responsibility for your actions.
If all of humanity were to follow such a line of thought, the world would be a very different place, don’t you think? I also really recommend the book “The Wind is My Mother” by Bear Heart and Molly Larkin.
Guess what I was doing when I should have been writing your blog last week… I was partying! To be more precise two of my kids and I were attending various fancy dress parties in honour of the Jewish festival of Purim dressed as … Native Americans 🙂 – you see I was coming to a point!
One of the themes of Purim is to get your head around the idea that the world isn’t always as you see it. That there is a reality hidden under what you might think is reality. Hence the fancy dress part, which I embrace wholeheartedly, much to the bemusement of the more staid fellow adults around me … to whom I say: Chickens!
In the pre-party scramble for costumes I ended up picking the Native American theme almost by chance, but as we were driving down, I realised that I actually felt very at home in my costume – (despite the blazing red feather tucked into my headband … and suspect wig – I’m guessing not that authentic!)
Any other grownups out there who love fancy dress? I love it because it gives you a chance to see life and be life in a different way. You get to ask yourself the question “Who would l I be if I was a witch, scarecrow, elephant, fish, rock star etc ” and then you get to answer the question. I once dressed up as a very dishevelled tramp for the day of Purim, and it was an interesting experience. People didn’t want to go near me (ok, I was sitting at a bus stop, my bags scattered around me, eating out of a can at the time, but still), even people who knew I was in costume answered the door in an edgy manner, and one woman stopped her car and tried to take me into a shelter! So fancy dress can teach you something … and it’s not just a knowledge download, it’s experiential.
As well as just learning what it feels like to be another being for the day, I think you can choose to absorb something too. Just like you are what you eat, I think you also are (or you become) how you continuously present yourself. Want to feel like a professional? Dress like a professional. Want to be true to who you are? Dress and behave like yourself – even if it doesn’t always align with the whims of society. Want to be confident? Act confident and the feeling will come. What’s on the outside can come to be what’s on the inside. Though beware of being inauthentic – because what’s on the inside also inevitably leaks to the outside too.
In my case over the course of the day I really started to feel that Native American vibe! When evening came and I had to go back to being me, it was with reluctance. In getting my kids to bed various bits of the costume had to come off out of necessity. Finally when everyone was asleep I just had on my headband with feather, plaited wig and my ceremonial paint. I looked in the mirror. “You know” I thought to myself “I still look like a Native American”. I looked into my eyes. There was a love of nature there, a certain steely resolve, respect for the world, confidence, and pride. “Good” I thought, “it’s still there”. Slowly I took off my headband and feather. Checked my face and eyes again. Yep, it was still there. I took off the wig and finally I wiped off the face paint. Again I looked deeply into my own face in the mirror. And then I smiled … I still looked and felt a little bit Native American.
Have you ever dressed up like someone or something else for the day? How did you feel? And what did you learn? Any full time Native Americans want to comment?
Anybody miss me last week? My apologies for vanishing. We ran our fantastic event ‘Cocktails and Consciousness’ on Thursday – recording should be available soon – and suffice it to say that preparing for it occupied so much of my non-family time that I didn’t get to change my clothes for 3 days prior. Ugh I know, but that’s dedication for you! I just worked till I fell asleep each day, then got up at 4am and worked some more. Then I had a shower, stepped out, got my hair done and looking gorgeous did my best to entertain and educate – see how much I love my ‘job’?
And my computer died. Astonishing how much a part of life these little purring electronic beasties have become, isn’t it? This happened an hour before I had to leave for the event, which was a real pain and also put paid to any thoughts of me putting out my blog on Thursday evening. So now you know.
Well anyway I had to replace the thing. Now generally I’m pretty good at traditional boys stuff – I can hang light fittings, confidently and usefully handle a variety of power tools and singlehandedly monkey strap 4 fencing panels to my roof rack if the situation calls for it. I once even changed the points in my car. Back in my student days I drove a succession of ‘old bangers’ which broke down with such frequency that I got warned I was using the AA too much (that’s AAA to the Americans) and would have to pay next time I was rescued. I even got to know the local AA rescue guys! I would stand with them as they tinkered under the bonnet and annoyingly ask question after question, so that over time I got pretty familiar with the workings of my various vehicles. When one of these vehicles took longer and longer to start and eventually wouldn’t start at all, I reluctantly called a local mechanic. They wanted £50 just to tow it to the garage and couldn’t tell me how long they would have it or how much it would cost to fix it. “It might be something really simple” I said “couldn’t you just take a look?” “Oh it could be anything” said Mr Know-It-All Mechanic Man “It could be the engine, the tyres, the brakes … we’d have to bring it in and take a proper look”. This comment incensed me so much I just said thank you and hung up. How thick did he think I was that I would buy the idea the car might not be starting because the tyres or brakes were faulty! Steaming, I stomped over to the local auto spares shop, described the situation and what I had done so far and said that I wanted to have a go at fixing it myself. Did he know what the problem was? “Well it could be your points” he said. He told me where the distributor cap was, described what the points looked like and sold me a new set for £4.34. “It might or might not work” he said. Well it wasn’t working at the moment and I wasn’t going to pay the con-artists down the road several months budget to fleece me, so I would have to have a go. It took me an hour and a half under the bonnet and the car sprung to life. Hah!
So as I say I’m generally pretty good at boys stuff. One of the exceptions is computers though. I’m not talking about using them – I’m great at that. But once you start talking specifications my eyes glaze over. You say “500 Megabytes of RAM with a Pentium Dual-Core Processor” and I hear “nya nya nya ga ga ga ga ga”. I go to my happy place. If you could see inside my head I’d be sitting by a lake watching the swans. If you keep talking about it, eventually the top of my head creaks open, and a bird boings out on a spring saying “coo coo, coo coo”!
Which is why I decided that I would have to do this myself. Armed with the information that I currently had 4 Gig of one thing and 250 Gig of another, off I toddled to Costco, 3 kids in tow. Costco was ridiculously busy, so much so that I had to approach someone who was leaving just to get a trolley, in which I safely installed the kids. They gave me the coupon book and leafing through I noticed that there was an offer on an Acer. I had to visit the membership desk first because I’d lost my membership card and (after an hour’s wait) happened to get a computer geek as an assistant. In chatting I told him I had come for a laptop. “Oh are you getting the Acer?” he said “I just got one for my mum”.
Card sorted, we plunged through the crowds to the computer section. There were two in my price range. The cheaper one was barely better than what I had in that it also had 4 Gig of whatever and about 350 Gig of whatever else. A little beyond my budget, the Acer was the next one up and crowds were buzzing round it like flies. There were so many people there I couldn’t even get my hands on the thing. By now my son had worked out that you can pull up the wall of one side of the trolley from the bottom and was masterminding the escape of all three children. I plunked them back in, gave them sweets to keep them quiet (yes, I do it too) and looked at the specifications again. Nya nya nya. But it looked a lot better than the other one. To stop any further escapes and give me a little thinking time I set off ‘around the block’ of printers, DVD players etc. What to do?
Well, computer geek at the front had bought the Acer. The crowds were buzzing round it which meant it had to be worth considering (read ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by James Surowiecki) and Costco have a habit of finding something great and discounting it so that they’re far cheaper than anyone else. I chose the Acer.
Later that evening computer geek hubby, who had desperately wanted to help me make the purchase, asked me what I’d got. I showed him, saying “I think you’ll find I’ve done well!” with a lot more confidence than I felt. He looked and was actually impressed. “Do you know it has a nya nya nya processor?” He said. “I don’t know what that means” I smiled “I bought on psychological principals, you know.” It took him several hours of research to find a comparable Dell computer at the same price, online. Bare-faced cheek and a little right-brained thinking won the day!
The moral of the story? Well sometimes I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do something you previously thought you couldn’t. If you can’t do it the conventional way, just do what it takes. It’s very easy to get stuck in your beliefs about what you can and can’t do, but where’s the fun in that? Pushing your limits isn’t always easy or comfortable, but in the words of Peter Mc Williams, a self help author:
Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.
You never know what you can achieve till you give it a go, so this week push some boundaries!
Ever noticed how dogs and their masters often really do look alike? The same applies to older couples, who often take on a similar look and manner as the years go by. In the same vein if you had to play ‘match the living room/bedroom/office’ in which you were given a bunch of pictures of peoples personal spaces and then some pictures of people who might own them you could probably match them up.
Why is this? Well it turns out your granny was right when she told you to hang out with a good crowd, in nice places. Because we humans we’re pretty porous beings. You are not only what you eat, you are also where you spend your time and who you spend it with. You are even what you spend your time doing, as well as what you see, hear and say. Surround yourself with toxicity and eventually you have to breathe it in. On the other hand if you surround yourself with enlivening and enlightening people and things, well, you can’t help but be affected.
Let’s take a look at some of those elements:
You are what you eat – purely in a physical sense if you eat trash, guess what building blocks you’re giving your body to build itself up with? Take a look at your diet. If you’re living on chips and fizzy drinks it isn’t doing you any favours. This is one of my personal soapbox topics, so I’ll resist the temptation to go on about it for days, except to say that if you know your diet is less than healthy, perhaps now is the time to take an audit, and see what you can cut out or reduce and which healthy elements you can bring in instead. I’ll always remember a video clip that we saw at a Tony Robbins Event – I think it was ‘Unleash the Power Within’, where this guy had had a heart attack. The heart surgeon had to go in and try to clear some of the tubes, and he found them to be full of what looked and smelled exactly like white greasy meat fat. On a whim he asked the man what he’d had for dinner. Burger and fries. If you don’t want that stuff kicking around inside you, don’t eat it!
Oh and by the way, have you ever played this game? At the supermarket look at what people are buying and then look at the people themselves. It almost always matches! The people with conveyor belts full of snacks and fatty meats, and neon coloured fizzy drinks etc etc, are almost always overweight, pale and exhausted, whilst those who load up on the fruit and veg, a little fish, whole grains etc etc are light on their feet and full of energy. See, now you have something to do when stuck in a long supermarket line!!!
You are where you are – your physical environment affects you. Just as the earth seems to shape its inhabitants depending on which part of the globe you occupy, every environment you’re a part of will affect you. Do you live in clutter (embarrassed cough)? Maybe it’s time we had a clear out! Do you live in a beautiful, natural place? When you look out of the window do you see concrete and graffiti … if you do, is it at least good graffiti?!?
Many people don’t realise just how important environment is. If you set up the physical world you occupy so that it supports and nurtures you, life suddenly becomes easier and your goals get closer. If you study or work from home, do you have a desk to do that at? Do you have places for all the important things in your life? What do you decorate your home with? Why not surround yourself with reminders of the good people and things in your life!
You are who you are with – sorry, but ‘fraid so! You are, or you become who you hang out with. Ever noticed how people who work or spend time with kids are often younger at heart than those who never see a child? There’s a reason for that. Take a look at your friends. Can you respect them? Is there something about each one of them that inspires you? Would you like it if you had to take responsibility for some of the things they do? We’re not looking for perfection here – there’s no such thing – we just want to make sure that the people around us represent different elements of who we want to be … because over time we become those things. I have a theory that this doesn’t just apply to the people you physically hang out with, or even just those you hang out with online. I also truly believe that the people you hang out with by watching them on TV affect you too! So, do you really want to be one of the people in the Big Brother house? Or maybe one of those incredible people that they find from who knows where on those daytime shows where they tell the world about their problems and then try to thump each other and have to be held back by security guards …? Don’t kid yourself that you’re just watching them out of curiosity. If you spend a long time with these guys, there’s a part of them that reflects who you are – or who you’re going to be. So pick what you watch based on what you want for yourself … you want to be funny, happy and light, watch those shows. You want to be inspired and inspiring? Watch those shows and hang out with those kinds of people. You want to be strong, understanding, emotionally stable and well developed? Make sure those people are in your life. With the power of the internet you can bring anyone you like into your life on a daily basis – use the power!
You are what you do – our daily habits and practices shape us. Physically if you choose to work out regularly, that shapes your body. If you choose to wake up at a productive hour and do something that adds value to the world, and you do that regularly, then that’s who you are, or who you become. If you occasionally go the extra mile to help out a friend or stranger, that’s who you become! If you want to be creative, productive, rich, beautiful, happy, healthy etc etc etc, it’s no good just wishing for it, DO what you want to be!
You are what you think and say – and this is where the magic really happens. Sometimes I talk about the things we say as ‘your magic word’. Because what you continually and consistently think about and talk about, will eventually materialise for you, good or bad. I used to have this fear that I’d get out of the car one day and my car keys would fall off my lap into one of the street drains. The fear continued until one day I did exactly that! I had to laugh at myself… and spend a long time fishing around in said drain with two kind builders who happened to be parked there till I got my keys back! So if you spend large portions of your day thinking dark thoughts, or moaning about all the thing that are wrong with the world, or the things that you haven’t got… guess what? Your thoughts and your magic word will create that for you. So think positive thoughts, focus on the good stuff and talk positively whenever you can … and your magic word will create THAT for you, instead!
I can imagine there are a number of people reading this who are a little grumpy with me right now. They’re saying things like “don’t you think you’re taking this a little far? What do you mean I’m the product of my environment and of who I hang out with? You’re saying I have no choice. I’m more intelligent than that, I’m not a puppet on a string!!” And I’m here to tell you that …. YOU’RE RIGHT! Phew, thank goodness for that! Here comes a huge dollop of good news, are you ready?
When all is said and done, we still have choice. Humans are unique in this world in that we are not condemned to just react to the environment around us – we have the capability of shaping the world around us too. You see, the porosity works both ways! The rest of the world is as dependent, as malleable, as vulnerable to being shifted as we are! What are the telling factors? Strength. Intensity. Determination. Single-mindedness. In the interplay between us and the world, the most committed contestant will win. End of story.
So how can we each become the element that influences the world around us, instead of being at its mercy? I believe that if we set up our environment, our habits, our thoughts and all those other things as best we can so that they reflect who we want to become, then we get stronger. If we push past the limits of what we thought we could achieve and go one step further, we are ever growing. There will always be things or people around you that you can’t change. That produce a heavy negative aura and influence. But if you get the rest of your world right, then you become far stronger, and you become the influencing factor. The rest of your environment will start to be affected by YOU. Magical, Beautiful, Integral YOU. Now isn’t that worth getting up in the morning for?
This week, clarify WHO and WHAT you want to be … and then start to shape the things that influence you, so that you become YOU!
Plug for upcoming event:
For the ladies: Here’s a positive thing you could add to your environment … come hang out with my colleague Ronit Gerber and I as we provide you with a cocktail, motivate you to break through your limitations, and give you the opportunity to do a little shopping … it’s all wrapped up in a girl’s night out with a difference!
See here for more details:
For a limited number of applicants I will also provide a complementary half hour telephone or skype life coaching session for those that book through me … see how much I love my blog readers 🙂
Email me to change your life for the better: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s going to be a short one today … in case it escaped your attention, we’re in that alternate dimension known as school holidays! This involves getting up just as early as you do during term time, and going to bed much later, the whole household spending at least half the day in pyjamas and getting to do all those things that you never end up doing like …. playing chess. Indeed, chess has become the game of choice in our house.
I didn’t have anyone to teach it to me as a child. I read the rules on the box and learnt the moves for each piece, but I didn’t get a feel for the thing, and didn’t end up taking to it. Now my nearly seven year old son has discovered it – on the computer of course. I had so long ago decided that I didn’t understand chess, that I didn’t even ‘see’ the chess game icon. Of course my son had no such preconceptions and clicked the icon. You play against the computer, and you can always undo the last move if you make a mistake, so it’s easy to learn, and in the space of 2-3 days we’ve both begun to get into it. A few years ago I bought a beautiful (second hand) glass chess board from a school fair. So we’ve now progressed to playing each other on a proper chess board. It feels ever so intellectual 🙂
My boy is becoming a really good chess player … well ok, he gives me a run for my money! As yet he hasn’t worked out how to put a good face on when he loses a game though. This morning I pulled out all the stops and did my best to beat him, and wonder of wonders the tide turned and the game started to go my way. Well, out came the big sulk. In an effort to restore peace I suggested “I tell you what, let’s turn the board round and I’ll be the white pieces instead”. He thought there was nothing more he could do with the pieces he had, occupying the positions they were in, so really I wanted him to see that actually there was plenty he could do, and that he might even win. We drew with just a king left each in the end, which proved my point and avoided further sulking!
He got me thinking though, as he usually does … isn’t that a great thing to be able to do in life? When you think you’ve got no options left, mentally ‘turn the board around’ and experience things from the other person’s point of view. You suddenly get to see your (and the other persons) weak and strong points from the opposite angle. You’ll also notice opportunities that were there all along but weren’t visible to you before. Perspective is everything. You could ‘zoom out’ and take a wider view. Usually when we take a step back and see the bigger picture, it’s far easier to make decisions, and we get to see that nothing is quite as big or little as it first seems. Or you could take it the other way and zoom in … when you get up close to a situation, break it down into its component pieces and really analyse it, you often find that things weren’t what you first thought, as well as a new way of dealing with matters.
We tend to subscribe to this hypnosis, don’t we, that we are somehow locked into our bodies and can only ever see things from where we stand. That’s the beauty of the mind and the imagination. I think we as humans tend to waste our imagination quite a lot. OK it’s great for day dreaming and for having a laugh, but how often do you use yours for discovery? Whilst what you can do with your body is locked into earthly space and time (at least for most people), your imagination isn’t locked into anything except the walls you put round it. So if you can’t physically move from where you are to get a different view point, fire up that imagination and go for a spin … you may amaze yourself with what you discover…
This week contemplate something you might feel checkmated on … and then change your perspective so you can win the game!
Oh and happy holidays everyone!
I’m going to get a teensy bit metaphysical on you today, but I’ll do my best to keep it real 🙂
So I’ve been reading Gregg Braden as followers of this blog will know. I’m really enjoying his books though I find I need to take it slow and digest little bits at a time. Suits me, that’s about as much reading time as I take anyway with three little kiddies running around! What impresses me the most about the man is that he has the rare ability to sit on two sides of a fence at the same time and still make sense. He was an earth sciences expert and computer systems designer, then his interest turned to ancient sacred sites and texts, and he now manages to marry spirituality and science so that they get along. I love that, because sometimes I get so frustrated with those two camps not agreeing that I could just bang their heads together! Anyway…
In ‘The Isaiah Effect’ Braden tells of how (within a class of other students) he saw a healing take place on video, filmed at ‘the medicineless hospital’, Huaxia Zhineng Quigong Clinic and Training Centre in the city of Quinhuangdao, China.
Now follows my précis of a few paragraphs of ‘The Isaiah Effect’:
The footage showed a woman lying awake and fully conscious on her back in a clinical setting, wearing loose clothing with her abdomen exposed, and a nurse using an ultrasound wand to scan her stomach. Immediately behind her stood three medics in white jackets, one of whom started to wave his hands over her face and chest. The footage then focused on the ultrasound image where (as the instructor illustrated to them) a bladder cancer was clearly visible.
The three medics stood behind her and with much concentration began to utter over and over again a single word, which translates into English as ‘already gone’ or ‘already accomplished’. The live image of the cancer as shown by the ultrasound began to quiver and with the rest of the image in perfect focus, started to fade from view. In two minutes and forty seconds the tumour had simply disappeared! The ultrasound image of the bladder was then perfectly healthy. The patient looked on with relief, as the three medics and the nurse conferred and agreed that the healing was complete. They bowed to each other at the waist, and the procedure was finished.
Wow. Now we could have a whole debate about whether the video was a fake or not, but you know we’d be ages and we probably wouldn’t reach a solution as neither you nor I actually met the client or saw the video, so how could we judge. Personally when it’s not absolutely certain whether something is true or not, I like to go along with the convenient theory and see where it takes me. The idea that healing is possible and is verifiable by ultrasound is most convenient to me, so I’m going to run with it – wanna come along?
So here we have an example of being able to control the world with your mind. When I say ‘your’, I see no difference between those three medical healer guys and you or I. If they can do it so can we, if we just learn what they do, and do the same. That’s classic NLP for you. If you want to learn to do something, find someone who’s good at it and model what they do – i.e. copy them.
Here’s more classic NLP – or maybe classic psychology – for you and I quote from the book ‘Talk and Grow Rich’ by Ron G Holland:
“The renowned psychologist, William Moulton Marston, used to get people to rehearse in
their mind’s eye. If someone came to him wanting advice on his or her career he used to get
them to visualize themselves in the “position” they required. “Rehearse the future as it is
desired,” he told them. It is imperative that you see your desires clearly in your mind’s eye,
be they material or intangible goals. Reading your desires, parrot fashion, from a list will
bring no results, whatsoever, and it is essential that you visualize every night and every
morning. It is of no use at all to practice only when you feel like it. It is of the essence that
you believe your goals have already materialized and it is similarly important that you do
not think of how you will achieve such ambitions. As Paracelsus, the great physician, said,
“Those who make room for impressions, receive them.”
I read this book years ago, and that phrase has stuck in my mind – “rehearse the future as it is desired”. NLP does a lot of this. Whatever you wish to accomplish, a good NLP practitioner will have you rehearsing in your mind the state of things as you wish them to be, in full colour and detail, using visual, auditory and kinaesthetic channels – so that you really experience and FEEL that the situation IS as you want it to be. NLP practitioners will tell you that the brain ‘can’t tell the difference’ between what’s real and what you deeply imagine. So if you want to be an amazing basketball player and you imagine over and over again that you are putting the ball through the hoop accurately and precisely each time you throw, the brain takes that as real experience and you become in some senses an expert, just by mental rehearsal. When you find yourself in the actual situation in real life you have all that expertise behind you, and that expertise carries over into the real situation, helping you to perform beautifully. Every sports person the world over is encouraged to see and feel themselves doing what it takes to win and winning, so that they get good at doing just that.
In a similar vein, read any book on the ‘Force of Attraction’ and you are encouraged to do exactly the same thing – to see, feel, hear, even taste and smell the thing you want, in order to attract it into your life. Want to be rich? Imagine what it feels to be rich. Deeply feel being rich. According to the law of the ‘Force of Attraction’ it brings you riches.
At one of Tony Robbins live events (and if you are thinking of going, go, go, go, you’ll love it and learn a lot) he told us about how he taught this principal to the room of attendees and then afterwards a couple stood up and said something like “Fine, we’re going to win the lottery”. Robbins said “No, no, no, it has to be something that you can control, the lottery is out of your control, it won’t work.” “No” the couple insisted, “If it works, it works. We’re going to go home and win the lottery and then come back and tell you about it.” They went home and told all their friends they had won the lottery. They started living it up like as though they had really won. They kept it up till they felt like millionaires. Guess what? They won. They came back to a Robbins event, stood up in the room and told him about their win. “Well I’m very happy for you” he said to them “but it was a fluke”. “No it wasn’t!” They said, “We’ll do it again.” They repeated the process and sure enough, they won again, and went back and told him too. He had to admit they were right.
So what is going on here? Is all this true? Let’s go with the convenient theory. We are seeing, across many different events, from a healing in China, to getting a job, to sports all over the world, to winning the lottery, that what you do with your thoughts and more importantly with your feelings is what attracts events in your life to you and that there is every possibility that you can make things happen, just by thinking about them and feeling them. Again, wow.
Let’s play with this power. You know what I’ve been doing with it? I wouldn’t tell you, but this is a ‘warts and all’ type of blog, so here goes …you’ll laugh, and I told you I was going to keep it real … I’ve been unblocking toilets. Yup. A little somebody in this household persists in chucking in far too much paper, often resulting in a blockage that is annoying to say the least. Usually I discover this when attempting to flush, and the water instead of going down starts to rise. You know the feeling … so my little mental prayer at this point used to be ‘please let it go down, oh please let it go down’ … are you picking up on the desperation? (!!!) The blockage mostly stayed right where it was. Right. Well you could say I have a new technique … mentally the words I say are a variation on those used at the Chinese healing … I say “It is done” over and over again. I envisage the blockage releasing and the water flowing down as it should. I consciously allow the stress that often accompanies these things to flow away, and I invite in the relaxed feeling that would go along with the water flowing as it should. I allow myself to feel at ease as though the water had already started to flow away. And guess what happens … well, the blockages have been clearing. Chance? Maybe … or maybe not.
I’ve started to use this in other aspects of my life (you’ll be pleased to hear). I use those words “It is done”, I envisage the situation as though what I want has already happened, and (I think this is the important bit) I allow myself to FEEL the feelings that go along with the thing I want having already happened. I am getting mixed results at the moment, but some of them make me smile. The other day I was a good half hour late for parents evening, and stuck in traffic. There was no way I was going to get there anywhere near on time. I was sitting there, bumper to bumper, stressing away, till I said to myself “enough is enough, my girl – do the ‘it is done’ thing” so I did. You know what happened? When I got to school I realised that I’d neglected to set my watch back for the change to winter time, and forgotten to mentally minus off the hour because I was in so much of a rush to get there in time. I was half an hour early, and I got to jump the queue and get home far earlier than I should have. What do you make of that?
You can make your own decision on all of this, obviously. I’m choosing the convenient theory. I believe that it is perfectly possible to achieve things with your mind and your feelings. I am so far having to make a strong conscious effort to go with the good feelings instead of the feeling of stress that we are all so trained into – and I think this will improve with practice. I think the key is the feelings bit, and we’ve spoken about this before (Feel Abundant and Get What You Want). What you feel, you get. You know what, even if it doesn’t really work, if it results in me taking every aspect of life calmly and happily, that’s still a powerful and healthy benefit. So I’m going with it wholeheartedly … wanna come?
You know the image that comes to mind? That old story of the little child running around trying to grab a butterfly with his net, getting more and more upset because he can’t catch it. Eventually the child stops trying and just sits down to rest and think of something else to do. And the butterfly flutters down and sits on his knee.
Let’s release all that old stress we used to feel was so necessary, and believe instead that the butterfly will land of its own accord – if we just let it.
Have a magical week 🙂
I don’t have many vices – I’m pretty clean living – but there is this one thing… chillies. I love chillies and spice … in fact you might say I’m something of a spice girl … when I need a little pepping up, spare me the chocolate, put away your cookies, you can keep your coffee, just hand me the pickle jar and a nice pack of crisps and … you know, leave me alone for a while. I’m such a spice aficionado, that I actually make my own Indian pickle. On what I have lovingly called ‘Pickle Sunday’- any Sunday I choose to make pickle – the smell of spicy pickle wafts down the street and has the less hardy of those who call at our house buckling at the knees.
Well, this time around, I’d made a huge batch of mango pickle, fresh and dried, chilli hot and no chilli – for the kids – and our long-suffering cleaning lady walked in the door, just as I was finishing labelling the jars. “Here, taste this, I just made it!” I enthusiastically offered and handed her a spoonful of the ‘not hot’ variety – just spice. “Mmm!” she said politely, which was quickly followed by coughing, and spluttering. Then, still aflame, she managed to gather up her broken English and say “I like water!” which I quickly produced, to put out the fire. We both laughed, and I quipped “Now you work fast!” Ok, so I’ve got a mischievous streak. I used to dare my school chums to taste green chillies – only to have them running for the taps to wash their tongues … I guess some things never change!
It got me thinking though … what lights a fire under you? It’s different for everybody, and of course there can be more than one thing, depending on the situation. If you can work out what drives and excites you, and make a habit of bringing it into your life, then you have more fun and you get all the energy in the world to make things happen! Just like any plain old food can be woken up with the addition of chillies, if you’re having difficulties getting something done, because it doesn’t inspire you, what could you add to it, to give it that spark?
So here’s a challenge for you: Make a list of things you think you ought to be doing, but aren’t.
Now take a good hard look at the list. Some of those items you aren’t doing because they actually belong on someone else’s list and they just managed to offload them onto you, or guilt you into it. Strike those out – time is short enough without having to do other people chores as well as your own. Now of what’s left, some of those items will be things you really don’t know whether you actually need to do or not, or couldn’t much care about. Personally I’d sideline those too – if they’re not important enough to motivate you at all, why bother. That will leave things that really are important, that you really want to get done, but can’t seem to find the gumption for.
Then you can ask yourself the big question: What could I do to spice this up?
If you find exercising boring but you really want to make it a part of your life, what could make it more enjoyable and fulfilling? Listening to music? A new route to run every day? A variety of different types of exercise to do on different days of the week? What about housework … would blaring music get you going? Or perhaps getting your kids to compete and see who gets their chores finished first? What about getting up early to get a good start on the day – would a nice mug of hot chocolate help? Or allowing yourself a 15 minute stint on Facebook before you do anything else? A pair of cosy slippers? Or perhaps porridge with chillies in it … whatever floats your boat…
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself things that you like, and lots and lots of reasons to do what’s important to you. Judge yourself favourably and give yourself every chance to succeed. You want to get the most out of yourself? Treat yourself well. It’s often said, when dealing with other people that ‘you catch more flies with honey’ – i.e. that you get further with people by being nice to them. Well the adage is just as true with regard to yourself. Figure out what ignites your passion and get more of it – here’s to your success!
Ps: If a spoon of pickle will do the trick, just let me know…
Rest in Peace Steve Jobs. As you must know by now the co-founder of Apple died last Wednesday 5th October, age 56. I’ve just sat here and watched him delivering his commencement speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005 (you can find it on YouTube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA). The speech is very moving, simple and honest – if you haven’t seen it I’d say it’s worth 15 minutes of your time.
Don’t you ever find yourself wondering “What’s the difference that makes the difference with people like that?” There he is up on stage, just another human being talking frankly about his life, and sharing some things he’s learnt for the benefit of the graduating students present. Now he’s dead, the sentence already passed on every living being. Yet he was different, and in that he lives on. He was different enough to be instrumental in creating the Apple Mac computer, that has revolutionised computing and thereby the world. He mentions in his speech that he started Pixar (who pioneered feature length computer animated films). And most lately of course his company is responsible for the ipod/phone/mac. So a true innovator, and a sad loss for the world.
I think the thing that most struck me about the man, watching that speech, was that he spoke from the heart. It’s always refreshing to see someone who is in the public eye just be themselves with no airs and graces. And perhaps that is where the difference lies. I’m beginning to think that perhaps that’s what sets true geniuses, innovators and trendsetters apart. Perhaps it isn’t the brilliance of their ideas. After all we all have mind-blowing ideas from time to time – how often have you seen some new invention come up and said “Hey I thought of that last year!” Perhaps, just perhaps, it has more to do with the fact that they’re not afraid to be themselves, and to stand up for what they believe in. Everybody has ideas, THEY follow up on their ideas, and have the guts to offer them to the world. Look at the big people in our history – Einstein, Van Gogh, Picasso, Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte , Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi , Princess Diana, Thomas Edison, Mohamed Ali, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon even J.K. Rowling, to name but a disparate few. Every one of them a striking and unique individual. Every one of them bold enough to offer their personal gift to the world, without apology.
Steve Jobs himself touches on this idea during said speech:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
So if you truly want to make your mark on the world and share your gift with humanity, isn’t it time you started to live in accordance with your truest beliefs? Isn’t it time to really be yourself? I say this as much to myself as anyone. I think it’s something most of us really struggle with, because being authentic is a risky business. We risk being ostracised or ridiculed. We risk losing friends. We risk feeling stupid or the odd one out and we risk failure. Scary isn’t it? In times gone by if you were chucked out of your community that meant exposure to the elements and predators and almost certainly an early death, so it’s probably programmed into each and every human being to conform, purely for the sake of safety. It’s actually known that the best ideas usually get laughed out of town before they’re accepted as fact. I guess you have to weigh up the benefit of being safe and boring or living it large, and taking some risks.
Which leads me to one of my favourite quotes:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, shouting GERONIMO!” Hunter S. Thompson from Hell’s Angels
Wanna be a trend setter? Wanna be the next Steve Jobs or J.K. Rowling? The truth is, you can never be them. You can only be the one and only authentic you. Starting TODAY.
My wish for you (and for myself!) this week is that we take some time out from the tumult around us, and tune in to the quiet yet persistent inner voice within each of us. That we listen well and act on those flashes of inspiration that come to us. The voice gets louder, and the ideas get better the more you listen. Your inspiration deepens, and the power of your creative though becomes more far reaching, the more you invite it into your life and the more you share it. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. You’re just tapping in to your own truth, and the deepest wisdom sitting there in the Universe waiting for you, just you, to claim it and proclaim it aloud. Draw down that gift that’s yours to give, and share it with existence – that’s your birthright, and your obligation.
Wishing you a deeply inspired, authentic week –