From Confusion to Clarity.

Life can be so confusing.

Those living happy lives invariably have clarity.

They’re clear on what life is generally all about, and they’re also clear how they fit in. They’re not perfectionists — getting 80% is pretty good for most assessments. But they have a good idea.

OK — that’s them — we all know there are people happy with their lot in life. But that may not be you. You may well want to be like that, or more like that. Maybe 60% certainty is a good interim aim for you. Especially if you’re not even 20% sure about life and how to get the best out of it.

Or perhaps even that is optimistic: maybe you’re someone who, when asked to score the quality of your life from 1-10, would say…. “ -1”. 

But even though the score is low, you’re not stupid. You’re not going to change from -1 to 8/10 overnight. But you do know one thing. You’re not happy with your current score! So how can things improve? It’s not as though you haven’t tried. You know you tried so many times to get fit, lose weight, manage personal finances better, find a loving relationship — and everything just fell apart.

Which, if you think about it,  is good  — because if you are honest —  you may not know how to get a great life — but you do know what didn’t work before!  So why not use that?

You know you want change. And if change is to bring about a better quality of life, it has to be a change that lasts. Everyone who wants to lose weight can lose weight. Keeping it off is the key. Anyone who wants to be more secure financially can save some money. But can they do that consistently?

So how to proceed?

One of the best ways to start to bring about a change for the better is to start by asking a question.

If you’re not happy with your life, why is that? If you lost something or someone, what do you take from that? If you’re overwhelmed, what can you do to get clarity? If you are fearful, how can you stop the fear paralysing you?

Once you start asking questions, you start to get answers.

But here’s the thing.

If the question is not a great question, the answer won’t be all that good. For example…

“Why can’t I lose weight??” might elicit the answer:

Because you’re a slob who eats junk food

It’s not a great answer, but it’s an ANSWER. It’s a starting point.

You want to improve the quality of your life. Well, why not begin by trying to get a better quality question.

Instead of “Why am I always so overweight?” why not ask “how could I lose weight AND enjoy the process??

Ask a better question, and what happens?  You get a better answer!

And, with a better answer, does that show you a path you could follow.

Questions produce clarity.

So ask a question. But if you don’t like the answer, aim for a better question.

Of course, it takes practice.

But so does the quality of life

What’s the question you could ask….?

You’re not that bright….

None of us are. We  like to think we’re smart, just how clever are we?  How many inspirational insights do we “tick” as being relevant, without really internalising them by absorbing them fully. 
One of my favourites is ‘do what you have always done, and you’ll get what you’ve always got.’ If you want a different outcome in life, you can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different result; I think Einstein defined this as insanity. But most of us keep doing what we’ve always done and wonder why we always get the same results.
 
An equally wise thinker, Aristotle, recognised that we are what we habitually do. And, of course, our thinking patterns are nothing if not habituated. We may think we are supremely intelligent, whether we attended the university of life, or other of hallowed halls of learning. But when it comes to thinking about our lives, what the hell happened to all those lofty dreams we had for ourselves when we were young?
The sad reality is that we rarely use our intelligence. Most of the time we live on autopilot; a classic example is driving somewhere without any conscious recollection of the journey. Far from being the personification of laser-focus, most of us often potter along life’s highway in a trance, most days.
 
One major misconception that what we believe is the result of long, continuous periods of careful, rational analysis. But the truth is that everything we encounter isn’t analysed. Instead we simply compare it to what we already know or believe: so it either confirms what we already know, or it’s rejected if it’s not in accord. We like being “right”, so we unconsciously seek out confirmation, and dismiss anything than contradicts our perceptions. And because we consistently do this, the older we are, the more entrenched our views tend to become.
 
We also do this retrospectively; we tend to revise memories to keep our view of how we used to be consistent with whom we believe ourselves to be now. How many times do we, or others, say “I knew that would happen” or “I had a feeling he was going to say that”? Both of these are examples of mental shortcuts, and they have influenced the way we think for most of our lives; the former is ‘confirmation bias’ and the latter is ‘hindsight bias. Have you ever noticed that politicians rarely if ever admit they were wrong in the past? Now you know why.
 
When it comes to deciding what we need to do, we all know what we SHOULD be doing. We all know what we NEED to be doing. We’re brilliantly effective at planning what we will do — tomorrow. Or next week. We’re crystal-clear in our mind about how to focused on what’s important and must be done. And, in our mind’s eye, we can visualise ourselves doing it. We have support mechanisms like post-it notes everywhere, and smart-phones programmed with reminders. We really know how to do what needs doing. When it’s in the future. A note to the wives: when your husband says he will do something, HE WILL DO IT. He doesn’t need reminding every six months!
 
How often have we delayed getting on with something important because we just need to check Facebook and want to know what our friends might be doing today? After all, that’s something we can get out of the way quite quickly. And we may well put the kettle on and have a cup of tea or coffee while we’re browsing what others are up to. And let’s just check our email why we’re at it, from where we find an irresistible news item about celebrity nipples, or “12 women that actually exit in real life (click here). And, of course, there are links to “five ways to beat procrastination” which might just come in useful. Although Google will also tempt us with 5, 11, 26, 17, or 8 scientifically proven ways to beat procrastination, or 6 ways celebrities beat procrastination, or the 8 best ways of wasting your time, or the 5 most revealing cleavages/budgie-smugglers EVER.  Needless to say (so why did I write it and why are you reading this) there are also all those productivity apps that enable us to have a list at our fingertips of things we really must get around to thinking about considering doing.
 
But let’s not rush into this. Let’s think about it for a moment, and explore some of the underlying issues. If you were today offered a choice of dessert for tomorrow, of fruit or ice-cream, which would you choose? The healthy option? If you were offered dessert now, what would you choose now? Chances are you may well opt for ice-cream.
 
Do you have a fridge crisper full of lettuce and green vegetables, which you piously bought, fully intending to eat, but somehow always got tempted by the lemon-drizzle cake instead, and eventually have to throw the lettuce away? The angel in you always suggests the healthy option tomorrow, but somehow the devil in you opts for naughty-but-nice….now. Have you ever noticed all that chocolate on sale at the supermarket check-out? You know why it’s there: impulse buying. If the kids are with us, we buy it for them. Naturally. When we’re on our own…?
 
We like to think we know ourselves. But we’re deluded again and again and again. How often do we practice testing whether something we think we know is actually true? We so often kid ourselves that the reason we can’t stick to a diet is because we’re weak-willed, so after a few attempts we give up and take solace in comfort food. We read articles that show most people put on weight after dieting, so this confirms our belief. We learn to live with what we become and learn not to try to become something else. We learn to stay stuck.
 
We learn to believe we can’t succeed. So we stop trying.
 
Or we can decide to stop thinking and just keep doing. Our minds will try and persuade us that we’ll never change. But now you know the insidious effects of confirmation bias, you now know it’s not real: it’s only a misperception.
 
After all, nothing succeeds like a parrot.

First Aid when you are feeling low.

There are times when life catches us out, and our mood plummets. I’ve been thinking about some easy tips that can help deflect us from gloomy thoughts and low mood. I hope these three first-aid tips may help…

 
(1) Physiological control:
Stress is physical and its effects are actual physical consequence. Agitation, shallow breathing, raised pulse – the hormone adrenaline is flowing – and is physically felt.
 
Taking physiological control helps to calm, soothe, and slow down overthinking and racing thoughts, as well as pacify bodily systems hyped up by stress.
 
Breathe deeply and exhale shallow de-oxygenated air held in the lungs. Getting fresh air inside you will invigorate you. Ground yourself by naming and touching things around you, talk to yourself by naming what you can see and touch nearby, and even smell, if you have flowers or other aromatics nearby. This all deflects the mind — and as your mind can only deal with one thought at a time, intentional distractions shift the focus away from what was causing you stress and lessens their effect on you..
 
 
(2) Relate to someone
If you have a supportive partner, family member or friend, do tell them you are feeling low – they don’t need to know the details, only that you’re just feeling a bit low and would appreciate them being there for you, even for just a moment. Distractions through conversations also shift your focus away from stress. Everyone gets stressed out now and again, and everyone knows what it’s like. So, as we do far more for others we care about than we ever do for ourselves, just ask! Most will be grateful to you for calling on their support — even though your social anxiety may be sky-high and you may be reluctant to “burden” others; but the truth is that we like to be asked for help as it makes us feel valued, and gives us a shot of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
 
Not convinced? A great way to “test” this is to try it out when you are NOT stressed. You can just say you’re feeling a bit down and could do with some support: nothing major, just a bit fed up — and see what happens. This is not to suggest trying it with everyone in the office! But trying it once or twice when you’re NOT feeling too deflated — or perhaps when you feel it might happen soon, and you may well be surprised just how supportive people can be. So when you really DO need help, you will know it’s literally there for the asking, rather than your inner critic telling you that you’re best not to bother anyone because no-one really cares.
(3) Regain your perspective: what has worked for you?
Do remember the words of Michael Montaigne: “My life has been full of misfortunes, most of which never happened.” If you can anticipate a worst-case scenario and know you can deal with that – you’ve massively empowered yourself. You KNOW you can cope. This deflects pressures and stresses from getting to you. Also, recall great moments in your life – really get fully back there to that fantastic time/joyful moment, and chest-bursting moment of pride. We’ve all had them, even though you may have forgotten! We don’t recall happy memories so much as re-create them. So make a conscious effort to recreate happier times. And, as you can only focus on one thought at a time, you take control and choose the thoughts you DO want to focus on, rather than the ones you don’t.
These aren’t intended as anything other than a “quick fix” to deflect those gloomy thoughts and deflated feelings. But hopefully they will give you ideas of practical steps you can take to move from thoughts controlling you, to you taking control of your thoughts.

A fullfilling life is not just an option: it’s there for everyone.

Life will always be challenging at times and we’ve all had setbacks. But these present a choice: they can lead us to survive, or they can challenge us to strive for something more than mere survival, or settling for the status quo. Those who flourish have learned to live beyond, not with stress, worry and anxiety.

But real though the experiences of the past were, what causes current stress, anxiety and despair is often us actively keeping the pain of the past very much alive in the present.

It may be tempting to assume that anxiety-related conditions are somehow medical disorders, for which there are two options: medication and therapy. There is also advice from well-meaning friends and family to ‘pull yourself together’. None of the options seem very effective.

Medication artificially alters brain chemistry and is not without side effects. Therapy can be protracted, expensive, and is often ineffective; if benefits do materialise, it is usually down to the particular skills of the individual therapist, rather than a particular therapeutic method per se. Well-meant advice to ‘deal with it’ and ‘get over it‘ is often as effective a way to eradicate depression and anxiety as asking a deaf person to listen more carefully.

But there is now overwhelming evidence that lives blighted by low mood and pessimism have more to do with the beliefs we hold today, about what happened in the past. Time heals, they say. But not when we actively maintain unpleasant experiences and keep them current. And, of course, because they figure prominently in our perceptions, particularly if they make us feel “worthless,” they continually influence how we perceive things today.

But it’s relatively easy to learn to let go. By learning how to relate our thinking styles to our behaviour, it’s much easier than many believe to abandon unhelpful perspectives, negative limiting beliefs and overly-critical self-talk, and to move beyond despair, so we blossom and flourish, living a full and happy life devoid of angst but replete with optomisim and resilience to deal with whatever life may throw our way.

If want to overcome the limitations that have held you back, you can learn how how to do that in just six-eight weekly or bi-weekly sessions.

Why not contact me to arrange a free no-obligation 40 minute consultation? It can literally set you up for life, no matter what happened in the past. Why not ask me how?

Is The Thrive Programme therapy, or counselling… ? NO!

People often ask us if the Thrive Programme is therapy, or like CBT, NLP, or Mindfulness or psychotherapy?  It isn’t any of these and is genuinely unique. So what sets the Thrive Programme apart?

One of the main differences between the Thrive Programme and interventions such as therapy/ NLP/ CBT/ Psychotherapy and counselling is that they sometimes have a patchy success record, and may or may not work for individual clients. Success with these often comes down to just how good the individual therapist is. Also, they may often involve lengthy treatments and can be quite expensive — especially for the top-performing therapists.

It’s quite understandable if people are reluctant to pursue “psychological interventions” if they perceive a stigma with mental health issues. But mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body – is something to which we all happily aspire.

But the very concept of “therapy” assumes the client is somehow ‘broken’ and in need of putting back together. However, the Thrive Programme doesn’t use ‘medical’ assumption that you have a debilitating condition that needs to be treated by a medical professional.

We don’t usually offer hypnotherapy. Although it may be tempting to go into a trance and wake up knowing the hypnotherapist has ‘transplanted’ replaced a faulty mindset with an improved one. Under hypnosis,  the client is often only been a passive recipient of someone else’s suggested solutions. But the foundation of whatever the referring symptom will probably still remain in place in the form of established cognitive (“hard-wired”) patterns. And these can be so ingrained they can be incredibly resistant to change.

The Thrive Programme focuses on systems of beliefs, thinking styles, and the self-talk language we use: you develop insights into how you think, and develop skills and resources to bring about changes that serve you better. And if it seems we go past the initial problem – phobias or depression/anxiety/worry — yes indeed! The aim is to get you Thriving, and as such you will find the worrying issues that brought you here just seem to disappear. What you end up with literally set you up for life.

All the principles are firmly underpinned by empirically published psychological research and the exercises will enable you genuinely to thrive.

Need proof of the effectiveness of Thrive?  Do check out the video testimonials from many of the thrivers who went through The Thrive programme: http://www.thriveprogramme.org/thrivers/

There are over 100 Thrive Programme consultants who can take you through the The Thrive Programme. I am currently the only one in Munster, or indeed in southern Eire. Do get in touch on (+353) 08385 88283 to discuss how I can help you through a free no-obligation 30-minute consultation.

See www.thrivewithjohn.eu for more information.

What do you think about mental health?

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What IS the Thrive Programme really all about?

The Thrive Programme is all about you. And how you react to life, not what life does TO you. As this short (2 minute) animation shows…click here

The world’s happiest people weren’t born that way. They acquired the understanding, insights, skills and resources to supercharge their lives. This is what the Thrive Programme teaches. And how you can literally turn your life around.

So are we destined to be unhappy?

Is it me, or is unhappiness becoming more and more widespread? Show me a street and I will show you gloomy people where a smile is as rare as integrity in politicians. When I lived near a rail station one hour’s commuting time from London, I would often be on my way back from the gym as the 7pm arrival brought in hundreds of gloomy-faced commuters. Heads down; shoulders’ hunched; grim-faced; trudgery in motion. You’d think they were on their way to their execution.
Although modern life, in the West, at least, has ticked more and more boxes of human endeavour  — better health care, greater longevity, higher standards of education, instant communication world-wide, access to more knowledge in one day than we will even need in an entire lifetime; we are more widely travelled, and, tellingly, generally enjoy far greater prosperity. We don’t have to make do with our parents’ choice of marriage partners from the neighbouring village; and if our relationship doesn’t work out, we can quickly move onto another. We can, and do, seek employment or business opportunities from a global choice of offerings, rather than be limited to what’s available in the local neighbourhood.

Continue reading “So are we destined to be unhappy?”

Confused, conscious, and challenged

I’m confused. Which is not unusual for anyone trying to understand modern life.
But I was pondering a paradox. We prize intelligence. We regard ourselves as the most intelligent species on the planet. And we are better educated than ever before in human history. Yet if we have the biggest brains (only the Neanderthals had bigger, but that’s another story!) why are so many people unhappy? Most people are dissatisfied with their lives; more than a few are downright unhappy and only a very few feel fulfilled. The quest for sustained happiness eludes us.

Continue reading “Confused, conscious, and challenged”