Monday, August 31, 2009

Doing Is Believing

The other day, Brian and I were talking about business plans that he'd been developing. We talked about things like time allocation, effort, positive cash flow, when the business would be profitable, and so on. As we spoke, there were some questions that I would consider fundamental, that Brian didn't seem to have the answers for and the thought occurred to me, "Hmmm...., I don't believe this business is going to materialize."

So, I asked Brian about whether or not he really believed he was going to make this business work. Brian answered strongly affirmatively.

Then the thought occurred to me, "Hmmmm... I don't believe that you really believe that!"
If you know me, you've probably anticipated that I then said this out loud.

I did.

Brian, insisted that he did believe it; I insisted that he didn't.

Of course, my position was completely silly. I mean, I can't possibly know what Brian believes or doesn't believe. Only Brian does.

A Tree Falling in the Forest
As I thought about our conversation, there was something about the correlation between Brian's beliefs and Brian's activities that didn't resonate for me. I'm not talking about Brian being inauthentic or lying or pretending, I'm just talking about consistency between his actions and his words.

Before proceeding, I'd like to clarify a couple of things:

First, this sense on my part is a reflection on me, not on Brian. I have beliefs on what it means to believe that you're going to start a business; I have beliefs about the actions that you would undertake commensurate with the starting-a-business belief.

Second, by actions or activities, I'm not just talking about the task list; I'm also talking about the amount of time involved, the quality of the activity, and the level of effort.

So, the thought occurred to me that it didn't actually matter if Brian believed it or not. All that actually matter was Brian's actions.
If a belief occurs in the mind without any action to manifest it, does the belief actually exist?

For me, the answer is "no".

Cart-Horse, Chicken-Egg, Belief-Action
So, I've concluded that a belief without commensurate action may be fun to talk about, but in the end is a bit masturbatory.

The other thing that I've concluded is that action and belief form what's called a virtuous cycle. We begin with a belief that we act upon; as we act, we reinforce, refine and develop our belief. As our belief develops, we refine and develop our actions, and so on...

In many ways, action and belief become inseparable. The question of what we believe moves from theory to practice.

The philosophy of happiness is a philosophy (not simply theory, not academic pursuit, and not religion), so what matters is whether it works or not. Discussing beliefs is fun, but in the end, we embrace the philosophy to effect change: change in ourselves, change in the lives of those around us, change in our world.

Homework
So, here's a little homework assignment that might be fun to pursue with someone close to you.

Sit down together and each take a sheet of paper. Draw two vertical lines segmenting the paper into three columns. Now, each of you do the following.
  1. In the left column, write down a belief that you hold strongly.

  2. In the second column, write down a list of activities that you regularly undertake (with quality and energy) that manifest that belief.

  3. In the third column, write down a list of activities that you regularly pursue that seem at odds with your belief. Also, in the third column, include any activities that would seem to be commensurate with your belief, but that you don't regularly pursue with quality and energy.
Once you've each completed your lists, look at them together. What do your actions tell you about your beliefs? What would you change about your actions to get them to align with your beliefs? What would you change about your beliefs to get them in line with your actions?

Not Just for Personal Beliefs
The homework that I describe above can be a really great tool in business.

For example, if you're working with an executive team, you might want to talk about corporate goals or elements of your mission statement (left column). You would then list activities in the other two columns that either support and reinforce them (center), or don't (right). You would also include in the right column, activities that would support your goals, but aren't being taken.

This would also serve as a great tool for conducting regular reviews with employees, helping them to align their activities with their performance goals.

Paying attention to the alignment of your stated beliefs and you actions can bring tremendous clarity to your life and will dramatically accelerate achieving your goals.

Have an amazingly aligned week!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Just a Way of Thinking

Mary and Brian
As I walked into the coffee shop this morning, I told a friend about our friends Mary and Brian.

Mary lives in the Netherlands; Brian lives here in the US. Mary and Brian are both friends of Iris on her Facebook page. One day several months ago, Mary saw Brian's picture among those of Iris' friends and decided that he was the guy for her. So, she contacted him via Facebook.

Mary and Brian began corresponding, then chatting, then Skyping, and fell in love. Last Thursday, Mary arrived here in the US. Brian and she are spending five weeks living at our place as they decide what they'll do together. They've already decided to get married and now are working through the details. It's just an amazing story of seeing what you want and going for it...

As I told this to my friend at the coffee shop, she commented that, "wow, how can you really tell if someone's right for you without actually being with them physically. Doesn't it require pheromones, etc?"

Models, Models, Models
As I thought about this, it occurred to me that there are so many ways to look at and understand almost anything.

For example, you can think about music aurally hearing differences in volume, rhythm and pitch. You could also think about music from a physics perspective in terms of amplitude, frequency and how these both vary over time. Or, you could think about music visually either in terms of notes on a page or in terms of a visualizer such as the ones found in iTunes. Or... you could think about it emotionally in terms of happy, sad, calming, exciting, and so on.

All of these are ways to experience and think about music. None of them is music, each is just a perceptual model of music.

Our Bodies
My friend Jonathan came up with a chip that can block epileptic seizures. Viewing the brain electrically, the chip detects the seizures and then surrounds them. The chip is now coming out of FDA trials and will be on the market soon.

Other people view the brain chemically, treating people with medications. And still others view seizures as a response to heightened emotions and stress.

All of these are simply models for viewing how our bodies, or in this case, how our brains work. However, sometimes when I talk to people about epilepsy, they'll actually talk as though the model were the epilepsy itself, not just a way of thinking about.

For example, since taking medication can result in a decrease or complete cessation of seizures, they'll insist that seizures are therefor a chemical phenomenon, rather than viewing seizures as a phenomenon that can be modeled chemically.

Of course, this manner of thinking limits their alternatives when trying to help themselves or others who are experiencing seizures.

How You Doin?
Consider the pervasive question "How are you?" and all its variants. Let's consider a subset of answers that would reflect our emotional state. "I'm feeling great!" or "I'm depressed" or "I'm really upset" or "I'm anxious".

We could actually model these emotional states in any number of ways, and then based on that model, come up with methods to change our state (from depressed to anxious) or replicate our state (be happy) at a different time.

For example, we could model our state chemically looking at things like blood sugar and serotonin levels. We could model our state electrically seeing what our brain activity looks like. We could model our state in terms of the constellation of beliefs that we hold at that moment. We could model our state cardiovascularly looking at heart rate, oxygen processing, blood pressure and blood flow.

No doubt, all of these models would reveal patterns that correspond to out emotional state. Any of these models would prove valid ways of looking at our emotions.

The Problem with Models
The problem with models is when we don't recognize them as such. We see them as the thing, not as a way of looking at the thing. In particular, many of us are biased to make so-called "physical" models real, and so-called "emotional" models artificial.

They're all artificial.

And better yet, they all interact reciprocally. I can change my emotional state through chemistry, but I can also change my chemical state by changing my emotions. In fact, inputs to any one of the models will always result in changes that can be seen in any other of the models.

Physical Doesn't Mean Real

Over the years I've talked to person after person who insists that a certain ailment is real because it's physical. For example, they'll say that so-and-so is really depressed because someone did a blood workup and his chemistry is that of a depressed person. The chemistry is causing the depression.

Of course, this isn't the case. More accurately, the chemistry and the depression are coincidental. Surely, if one were to change the depressed person's chemistry with medication, his emotional state would change. But, as the models are interrelated, if one were to change his emotional state, his chemistry would change as well.

Either model is valid; the trick is finding the one that works best for him.

Making Models Work for You
Models are powerful tools. They're the basis for different fields in science. They all have strengths and they all have weaknesses. None is right; none is wrong.

The measure of a model is simply how well it works in accomplishing what you want to accomplish.

If you're facing a persistent challenge, perhaps it's time to start building different models, ways of thinking about the challenge.

For example, if you're experiencing a challenge with depression, or anxiety, or lethargy, or procrastination, or whatever, you could model the challenge chemically or electrically or in terms of beliefs. But, you could also model it in terms of what you read every day.... or how often you work out... or what you eat... or who you hang out with... or how many hours of TV you watch... or whether or not you meditate. Any of these might lead you to a solution.

In fact, you could draw a little chart that correlates the degree of challenge with all these factors, and then see the pattern that emerges.

By viewing models simply as ways of thinking and then expanding the set of models we use to include all sorts of parameters, we can overcome challenges that seem impossible otherwise.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

He Said, She Said

One of the least productive activities I get to observe on a regular basis is the fruitless pursuit of who said what to whom when.

I know people who will spend hours if not days searching through old emails or correspondences to try to prove that someone who says they said A actually said B. Although this type of activity may have merit in a court case, it almost never provides value in relationships; unless of course you're trying to end the relationship.

If you've found yourself in a relationship that seems to be stuck or has certain areas that are hot points or off-limits, then you're probably practicing the art of the fruitless pursuit of the facts.

In this blog, I'll speak to why we do this, and how to move to more fertile ground. These rules of thumb are equally applicable in business and in personal relationships. At least in those that you want to work.

Do You Want Resolution?
The very first question to ask yourself before pursuing the rest of this article is:
"Do I actually want to resolve this situation?"
A second and equally important question is:
"Is my relationship with this person more
or less important than getting what I want?"
If you answered "yes" to both questions, then please proceed with the rest of the article.

If you answered "no" to wanting resolution, then you want to focus on whether what you want is more important than having the relationship. If it is, then it may be time to move on; it if isn't, then your energy may be better spent pursuing how to be together or work together in the face of a fundamental disagreement, i.e., skip the argument and move on to relating.

The Facts Don't Matter
All around us, every second of every day, there are billions of facts happening. Trees are falling, trees are growing, hearts are beating, hearts are stopping, people are working, people are playing, dogs are chasing cats, people are chasing dogs. Billions and billions and billions of facts.

Statistically, we pay attention to none of them.

Therefore, the nature of our pulling some facts into the conversation and not others, is bias. It may be bias due to our interests and what we observe; it may be bias due to our agenda, items that support our point. The facts that we select don't tell us so much about what happened as what our agenda and biases are.

When a "fact" enters the conversation, rather than discussing the veracity of the fact, you might ask questions like:
"Of all the possible facts that we could bring into this conversation, why that one? What was the motivation? How does it relate to our agenda? What agenda does it relate to?"

Judge Ye Not...
Nine times out of ten, the pursuit of who actually said what is tied to a judgment of what we believe was said or a judgment of the speaker being a liar.

So, if you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you or someone else is relentlessly and perhaps heatedly pursuing the veracity of the facts, you might want to explore what the judgments are that are driving the heated pursuit.

In those instances:
  1. pause for a moment and breath
  2. acknowledge that you, the other person or both of you seem to have put significant emotional energy into proving or disproving the fact in question
  3. then ask yourselves, "what are the judgments that we're harboring about this fact that were so relentlessly trying to prove or disprove?"
Resistance is Futile
If you find yourself the target of judgment or the relentless pursuit of the facts, the easiest thing to do is to concede; just go with it. You can ask questions, like: "Let's say it all happened just as you said it happened. What would you like to do now?"

What often happens is that the person pursuing the facts suddenly gets to their real agenda. Oftentimes, the agenda has simply been your acknowledging them as right. Other times, you'll discover hidden emotions, beliefs and judgments. In either case, you can get past the facts and on to what's really going on.

Stay on Target
Over the years, I've become really good at running meetings. A critical skill has been the ability to nip in the bud the pursuit of facts and discussions that are not relevant to our agenda. Whenever someone begins pursuing a line of thought or set of data that seems irrelevant to our agenda, I always ask, "how does what you're talking about relate to our current topic of discussion?"

Sometimes, the person establishes a meaningful connection and we pursue the discussion. In other cases they don't and we take one of three courses of action:
  1. We drop the pursuit of that information and return to our discussion
  2. We decide that the information is important, but not timely; we put it up on the whiteboard and return to it later.
  3. We decide that the information has brought us to something even more important than our original topic. So, we switch topics and pursue the information.
I all these instances, the important thing is to always be aware of what you're trying to accomplish and then to constantly evaluate how what is being said relates to it. If something seems irrelevant, question it and then, drop it, board it, or pursue it.

Note, in order to do the above, you want to make sure that you know what your agenda is before starting your discussion or meeting.

Make Your Discussions and Arguments Productive
I believe that, by actively practicing the steps outlined above, even the most irrational, unreasonable and difficult to work with people can become highly productive diplomats. If you find yourself in situations with people who are difficult or challenging (even if those people are often you), try the tips from above.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend of rich, enjoyable, loving and productive arguments.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Aliens Part 1: Do You Fear Aliens?

"Aliens do not exist. Yes, I do!"

I'm a regular at the Fuel coffee shop. I love their coffee... I love meeting my friends and fellow citizens there... I love their gluten free sandwiches, crepes and current scones. It's a little paradise where I blissfully write many of my articles for this blog.

For today's article, I even took the quote above from Fuel's bathroom wall. I have read the graffiti above many times and I am always curious about who wrote the first sentence, why the the person wrote it, and why the second person answered "Yes, I do". But this is not why I mention it in this article. It s because over the last days I have been thinking about fear. Why do we fear, in what ways do we fear, and how do we stop fearing.

Fear and Aliens
This morning, when I read the quote, I began combining my thoughts about fear with the subject of aliens; in my mind I pictured movie advertisements for movies like Independence Day, Aliens, Predator and War of the Worlds, which all consist of fighting the "unknown alien".

I believe that fights are always born of fear. The question is: why do we choose to fear the unknown at sometimes and not at other times not? It doesn't seem to have to do with the unknown itself. For example, when we discovered a previously Unknown Tribe in Brazil that had never made contact with other humans, we didn't decide that we were in danger and take out our military to defend us from them.

When we discovered the flying frog, we didn't decide that they were creating a way to become the new rulers of earth.

I also have not heard any rumors that the Nepenthes Attenboroughii, a plant that can eat pray as big as a rat, will become the biggest enemy of humanity in the near future and will eat us away if we don't do something about it right now!

So, if it is not the unknown itself, what is it that causes us to respond with fear in one situation and without fear in another? Let's look at some different factors:

1. We Do Fear. Fear is not created by an external factor; it's not about what the alien, the frog or the people are doing to us. Instead, we create fear as a way to take care of ourselves in the face of the unknown.

2. We don't actually fear the unknown. We might say that we fear the unknown, but we actually fear what we've made up about the unknown. It's our beliefs about the unknown that drive our fear, not the unknown itself.

3. We only fear when we believe what the unknown is bad for us. If you believe the alien movies above, we seem to generally believe that aliens are going to harm us when they arrive on earth.

4. Our beliefs are influenced by what we have been taught by our parents, our friends, our educational system, our communities, the media, the government etc. If we look at what we've been taught and how we've developed, we can identify the beliefs that drive our fears.

5. We can eliminate fear by changing the beliefs that drive our fear. I promise you that, as soon you can decide that a given unknown will be good for you rather than bad for you, the fear will evaporate.


A Little Exercise
I believe we all have moments of fear. If you'd like to work through one of your fears, take a moment to answer the steps below:
  1. Take ownership for the fact you are doing fear. It's not happening to you.

  2. Identify the bad outcome that you are anticipating in your unknown. What is it? How will it affect you? Be specific and make it big!

  3. Think about when and where you started to believe that this bad outcome was going to happen. What contributed to you beliefs? Why do you believe it's going to be bad?

  4. Imagine potential "good" outcomes that could happen? What would they be? How would they come about? Make them clear and big.

  5. Seeing all this, which belief set do you want to adopt? Do you want to stay fearful or do you want to let go of your fear by changing it into something more comfortable?

Have a fantastic
fearless Friday!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Setting Up Prerequisites

As I relate different events in my head, they evolve into some kind of mutually dependent event sequence So a is related to b which is related to c. I translate this to first a, then b, then c. In the end, it results in a situation where I can't even think of going for c before I have gotten to a and b.

Walking Before We Run
Most of us know that it might me easier to learn to run if you know how to walk, it might be easier to learn to play basketball if you know how to throw and to catch a ball.

If I want to run a marathon, it makes sense to decide to first run a 5k, then a 10k, and a then half marathon.

Does it make sense to decide to buy new shoes before I start running? Or, will the running inspire me to get the shoes?

A friend of mine just moved to a French speaking country and he argued that he will first learn the language and then apply for a job. I thought that getting a job would make it much easier to learn the language.

If you were to move to France would you:
1. a) learn the language and then, b) move to the country, or

2. a) move to the country and then, b) learn the language
The reason for approach 1 could be that knowing the language would make it easier to integrate in the country, it might be easier to get a job and get friends.

The reason for approach 2 could be that living in the country and having people around you who spoke the language could make it easier to learn the language.

Sometimes you have to make choices, and take approach 1 and other times, approach 2.

In My Life
An example is my life: I want to have a better health, an interesting, well paid job, and a fantastic life partner. So let's call them a, b and c...

a) great health
b) an interesting, well-paid job
c) a life partner

Remember, now that I've associated these, I've also decided that they occur in sequence. First a) great health, then b) interesting, well-paid job, and then c) a life partner.

In order to get a great health, I decided that I need to change my eating habits, work out and meditate; this will result in more energy and happiness (that's a belief, but let's not question it for now).

To get "the" job, I need to network, look in to the job market, send resumes and go to interviews. I have a belief that my chances of getting the job I want are greater if I am energized, so I decided that a) great health must precede b) job.

BUT, I could also make up that long hours in front of a computer doing analysis lead to a higher consumption of coffee resulting in lower motivation for work outs and meditations. When I feel excited, I often naturally feel an urge to eat fruits and vegetables (which I see as healthy); I feel like running, dancing, swimming and I often meditate on love and happiness.

So in my mind I have built the relationship first a then b; it could as well have been the other way.

What About C
When I think about how it would be to be to in a relationship with a life partner, my first thought is happiness. I see myself being "the best version of me", and I see both of us developing the best version of ourselves. We'd grow it stronger day by day.

I have created this belief that, when I live a healthy life and when I am enthusiastic and happy about my work (which I could chose to be in the job I have, but I do not always do that as a way to motivate me to change -- one day), THEN I will be more likely to attract the kind of man I want to share my life with. In other words: when a AND b THEN c comes easier.

BUT: if I found a perfect partner, I might be inspired to create better health and/or explore better work-life possibilities. I would have someone to help me, inspire me, give me feedback. This would make it easier to go for and get what I really, really wanted.

I could even argue that getting c AFTER a and b will mean losing a and b. What if I meet someone who lives in another country? Holding onto b would be asking him to move rather than me being flexible? What if I meet someone who lives with incompatible habits when it comes to health? Would I want to give up my newly developed habits?

Maybe it would be better for me to change or even drop the required order I've created.

The Terrible Truth


Well here comes the (terrible) truth:

I don't dare to change the order of events; the sequence is not set by the reasons I just gave you. Those are just reasons I keep telling myself in order to stick to the decision I already made. The real reason for my ordering is... you wanna hear it? Get ready... here it comes... It's FEAR!

It's the fear of wanting something and not being able to get it. (Why did I take the Fearless program only once? I even came in as the second most fearless person in the program; I must have been either hiding my fears or among VERY fearful people!!!).

My ordering is determined by where I feel the most in control. The health issue is pretty much in my own hands since I eat and I move etc., whereas b and c depend on other people.

What Are Your Prerequisites?
I hope that this will inspire you to look at how you establish dependencies, order events, and so on. See if you make up reasons that sound reasonable, but don't really reflect the underlying reason for your decision.

I have decided that I want to change my way of thinking fundamentally, but that is a totally new subject... which is not dependent of this.

Love
Joy

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Change Your Belief, Change Your Life.. Momentarily: Part II

Over the past few days, I received several calls and emails from people who expressed concern on the part of others regarding my blog Change Your Belief, Change Your Life.. Momentarily. As the case may be, the people expressing the concern were not the people who actually had the concern, so I'm piecing this together. Nonetheless, I'm going to take a crack at addressing what I think the concern might be.

In my blog, I talk about how many people who participate in personal development programs seem to make changes, but then later don't seem to follow through with the changes. Their changes in belief seem to lack staying power.

I believe that the first concern is that this is somehow and indictment he programs or the philosophy.

It hadn't occurred to me that this would be the case or even appear to be the case. It would be akin to purchasing a bouquet of flowers, leaving them locked in the car on a hot day, taking them home and never giving them water, and then blaming the florist.

An Amazing Place to Learn and Grow
However, if you see the florist as the culprit in this scenario, then I want to be clear. I've participated in programs that are simply amazing. I absolutely love the teachers' styles and manner of facilitating class. I've never experienced anything like it and would absolutely recommend taking a program to anyone who can get there no matter where you are in life.

It's Up to You
I also believe that, as would be the case with receiving the world's most beautiful and stunning bouquet of flowers, what you do with gift received at the program and how you care for it is up to you. If you want the changes to last, then you want to determine the best ways to nurture and grow your new beliefs.

Part IIa
Louis (whom I mention in the blog), sent me an email today expressing that I hadn't accurately reflected his perspective in my blog. It wasn't clear to me whether he meant specific words used or the general concept of people needing to do more than just take a program to see lasting change. So, I've asked him to let me know. When he does, I'll let you know.

However, to be clear, I like to include the people who participate in any discussions that appear in my blog. It's not so much to chronicle who said what to whom, when they said it, and why; it's just to provide a bit of context and color.

You might have noticed that our blog is open to comments from anyone. If you ever disagree with what I say, or feel that I've misrepresented you, or think I'm completely off, please I'd welcome comments and insights.

Have a great afternoon!

Defending Your Honor

One of my favorite people on the planet is Mark Kaufman. In addition to being a really sweet guy, he's versed in all sorts of obscure references and he's an exceptionally quick thinker... except when he's not.

In fact, Mark and my friend Jonathan (who's one of the smartest people you'll ever meet) are in a long running competition for World's Dumbest Smart Guy. I'll explain the competition in detail in another blog, but for now, let's just say that involves grown men with extremely high IQ's finding ways to do things like:
  • ending up in jail for a string of unaddressed misdemeanors...
  • or, stranding themselves on power boats just yards from shore...
  • or, trying to unclog a drain pipe with a hammer and screwdriver while standing directly below and looking up into the clogged pipe.

Defending Your Honor
One of the things that Mark will often do is to tenaciously defend a statement he's made, no matter what is said that might indicate his statement is a bit far-fetched or even perhaps, a lie. Oftentimes the original statement is a casual throw-away with no real implications whatsoever, it's just something he said as a filler. Nonetheless...

Typically, as Mark defends his position, the defense tends to become more and more bizarre, unbelievable and, well, funny.

For example, Mark stayed over after Iris' birthday party. The next day, I walked into the kitchen and found him preparing lunch. We had a conversation that went something like this.


Teflon
: Where'd you get the coconuts?

Mark: I found them outside.

Teflon: Found them? In South Egremont? The coconut's tropical!

Mark: What do you mean?

Teflon: Well, this is a temperate zone and...

Mark: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?

Teflon: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

Mark: Not at all. They could be carried.

Teflon: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?

Mark: It could grip it by the husk!

Teflon: It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.

Mark: Well, it doesn't matter. Will you please go and tell Iris that I'd like to speak with her?

Teflon: Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?

Mark: Please!

Teflon: Am I right?

... or something like that.

Letting Go
Do you ever end up in really bizarre situations simply because you wanted to make a point, or wanted to be right, or wanted to not get caught in a lie, or wanted avoid embarrassment, or... you name it. Perhaps it's something you experience more often at family gatherings or holiday get-togethers. Maybe it's something you experience at work.

If you ever end up in these situations, one of the best things I've found is to...
  1. Stop
  2. Breath
  3. Think of what you want to say
  4. Don't say it
  5. Repeat three times
...and then say what you finally come up with.

With any luck, you might say something like...
  • I have no idea why I said that; can I have a do-over...

  • Or, wow, listening to what I just said, I don't even believe it...

  • Or, I'm sorry, I just experienced and internal blue screen of death and have successfully rebooted. Now, where were we?

Have a great Wednesday!

What's In A Dream?

Mary: What's in a dream? Usually people have dreams they forget, or don't pay attention to. But there certainly are dreams that will keep you busy, by thinking about them. One of these dreams may be a very conscious one, which could be something you dream of to do. For example being this great investigator who will discover the one thing people are looking for. Or you may dream about how to create a large amount of money. You may dream of becoming this world famous writer or the most famous formula 1 driver ever.

Using Dreams For Inspiration
But there are other dreams that come to you, dreams you dream at night that will provide you with another thought in awakening. Like the finding of the love you always wanted to. Like the knowing that everything is possible when you start to believe in it. It's all about believes you create. The most empowering capacity you can imagine is right inside of you. Being more aware of that, you can connect to that enormous field of energy we call the universe, the universe that can provide you with everything you ask for. Now here comes another interesting part, you can choose what to do with it! You can choose to connect with this powerful thought you woke up with, or you can let it go.To me, a dream is a channel through which we can receive certain insights we are looking for. Every time when you are looking for an insight, you can be aware of the question and trust on it that it will be given to you in a dream. Still, a dream will not only appear to be the regular one you may have at night. Dreams may come to you during the day as well. When you are in this "hazing off", or zoning- out atmosphere, riding on your bike without any particular thought, this insight may reach out for you in ust a second. Sometimes this will happen when you open your eyes the next morning and you drift away for a few seconds. Sometimes it will take a while before you get the answer, or the insight. But no matter what, the dreams you have are connected to the things we desire and long for. Just give it a try! It will provide you with some unexpected miracles...

Brian: For me, dreams are a great pipeline into what my waking world is like. What comes up when the lights go down? Do the things I didn't deal with or worried about during the day remain and invade the mood of my dreams? (They did in the past). Or is this a place where I can visualize a future not yet realized-even without a conscious mind as a guide? (As they often are now.) What about becoming an aware, active participant in your dreams, while you are dreaming? Oh, yes, it's possible! What would the implications of that be?

For the first part of my life, dreams were either a mix of wild, wonderful explorations of a blending of worlds or a harrowing, downward spiral of nightmares - expressions of the fear I felt in life bleeding into my dreams...

Using Dreams For Empowerment
After I first ripped my fears away I was left with a huge hole in my life where fear had been and found that my dreams reacted accordingly. Most nights ended up being a delightful blending of the joys of the day and the anticipation of the future. Occasionally, the last remaining fear, that of being in "free-fall", that is, the condition of zero or near-zero effective gravity (such as during a skydive or on many thrill rides during a drop), would make it's way into my dreams. Because that was the only fear I had left that I could find, when it manifested in my dreams, I would find myself falling from a pier thousands of feet above the water, falling out of an airplane, or hanging by a root off a cliff far above the water. The last scenario was the one I found myself in when I had my first effective dream. While hanging thousands of feet above the crashing sea below, holding onto a fast-slipping root, I felt enough fear inside the dream to raise my consciousness to the point where I was aware that I was in a dream. And I thought, "Well, if this IS a dream, then I can control anything I want inside it!" So I imagined myself lifting into the air, trying to fly myself to a safe spot at the flat top of the ridge. Within the dream, it seemed I had to exert a GREAT EFFORT to even lift an inch above the cliff edge, but all of a sudden I realized that I was actually doing it! With continued effort, like pushing myself to new limits in the gym, I was able to move, hovering a few inches above the ground, to the top of the hill and drop to the ground safely. Wow, an amazing sense of triumph welled up within me! I could actually control my dreams without waking up! Over the next few months I had another 5-6 episodes of effective dreams, each time finding a way to alter the outcome to prevent the fall.

So what can I take from this? That was the question I asked of myself, since I felt this was an amazing new ability that I never knew existed (I have since talked to others who have experienced this). The answer for me was: I did something I didn't believe was possible, so what if I just applied that to my waking life as well? Decide that even if something seemed impossible, I would just decide to go after it anyway, believe it would happen and go from there! Whether or not any of my "impossible dreams" in waking life succeeds or not is not really the question. The joy is in the journey! I have such a wonderful and exciting time in the process, that success will just be an extra bonus!

What about you? The choice is yours: go after your dreams even if they seem impossible, or stay in what you know you can do, in what is "safe". What is something you want from your life that seems "impossible"? Will you go for it anyway?

With big love and hugs, Mary and Brian

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Savoring ... Part 2

I'm sooo glad I decided on having my 'savoring' intention for our mural painting day. We had a great time, so many positive moments, so many memories created. There were many opportunities to pursue other intentions (like complaining) but my code word, savoring, short circuited the downhill slide and put me right back on the path I wanted to be on. It reminded me to stay clear and comfortable on my insides. I'm so glad I took those savoring opportunities, especially the ones on the Whitestone Bridge in construction traffic making a 20 minute ride into an hour. I found myself driving and thinking 'savoring, savoring,...' over and over, and feeling the tension disappear, and the wonderful warm gratitude for the moment flooding my insides. The opportunity I almost didn't take was hidden in the disagreement with my husband, leading to the almost argument, about something I can't even remember now! I reminded myself not to judge that, and went right back to 'savoring, ...'

So hear is what I learnt.
  1. Decide on a clear intention for my day
  2. Create a positive intention of something I'm going to do, vs an intention about something I'm going to stop doing (so an intention of 'not complaining' would not have been as useful for me as 'savoring' or 'gratitude')
  3. Having a clear intention before I am in the situation in which I want to act out my intention greatly increases my chances of living out that intention.
  4. Pre-playing (visualising) myself acting in my clear positive intention in the face of some typically challenging situations can be very helpful.
  5. Celebrate the times that I act in my clear positive intention, vs judging, reprimanding and scolding myself for the times I don't

So I'm going to be more intentional about having a daily, clear intention. I think my intention for tomorrow will be 'relaxing'. What will yours be?

Falling asleep...

An Opportunity to Observe
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of observing a HANDLE (Holistic Approach to Neuro-Development & Learning Efficiency) evaluation done by a HANDLE practitioner with Joe, one of the special children that I work with on a regular basis.

Following an in-depth observation in his natural environment (e.g. his home) and an interview with the mom, Jessica created a treatment plan that allows for the activation and integration of all the special Joe's systems (e.g. sensory systems, immune system, digestive system etc.,) to work in unison, thus significantly improving the his ability to engage with people in his environment in an empowering manner.

Prior to the evaluation, Jessica asked Joe's mom a few questions. The questions included Joe's sleeping and eating patterns over the last few weeks. Joe's mom stated that there had been no changes in his eating and sleeping patterns, saying that he consistently sleeps through the night without any difficulty.


In the Playroom, Your Child is the Boss
Following the conversation with Joe's mom, Jessica, Joe and I entered the playroom. Upon walking into the playroom Joe immediately began to climb on my back indicating that he would like to play the game that we often play during our sessions. I first introduced Jessica to him and then decided to play his favorite game in order to show Joe that he is still the boss even though there is a new person present.

After our game, Joe became very aware of Jessica's presence in the room and started looking at her more frequently. I then decided to step to the side of the room and become an observer.

In the Playroom, Actio
ns Are Words
Jessica proceeded to set up the playroom for her evaluation. The first part of the evaluation required Joe to sit down at the table and pick one toy of his liking on the table in font of him. As Joe sat down and looked at the objects in front of him, he began to stare as if he was hypnotized. His eyes looked at Jessica; however, he seemed not to notice her as if she was not even there.

As Jessica continued to slowly explain to him what she wanted him to do, he continued to stare. He then slowly slouched over on to the table in order to support his body and finally slid off the chair onto the floor.

In a few minutes both Jessica and I heard intense snoring. Joe slept for the next two hours. Our attempts to wake him were unsuccessful. Every time we gently rocked his body or sang into his ear, he pushed us away and fell right back asleep.

Since both the HANDLE approach and the autism treatment program I am trained in teach that your child's behavior is his or her language of communication, Jessica and I discussed what Joe's behavior was communicating about the way he interacts with the world.

Interpreting Actions as Communications
Based on what we both know about the different levels of "arousal" (a state of the nervous system, describing how alert the individual feels), we realized that Joe's system was asleep. His nervous system may be described as being in a state of low arousal. This means that for his brain to stay awake, alert and focused, he must be engaged in a movement activity other wise he falls asleep. He must be "on the go" all the time in order to send signals from his muscle and joints to the brain in order to know that he exists in a physical reality.

Identifying that Joe's system was in a state of low arousal is very significant since that allowed us to design a treatment plan based on his specific needs. The treatment plan is always geared towards helping Joe achieve a level of optimal arousal (getting him into the zone of optimal functioning). This is accomplished through a set of simple exercises.

Tuning Your Program to Your Child's Systems
Knowing the level of arousal of the nervous system allows you to choose appropriate exercises for your child. For Joe, we decided to pick movements that would promote alertness (waking up) integration and organization of his brain.

On the other hand, for a child whose nervous system is on high arousal, I would recommend a series of exercises that first and foremost promote calming affects on the nervous system as opposed to an alerting one.

Identifying the specific state of the nervous system of your child is one of the foundations from which you can begin helping your child to achieve a state of balance. If you would like to learn more about the different levels of arousal and how to identify your child's specific needs you may do so by using the book called How Does Your Engine Run? by Mary Sue Williams, OTR/L.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday is Listening Day

One of the things that Iris and I frequently notice is that there are only a few people in my life who ask me questions. I'm not talking about "how's it going?" or "what do you think about all this rain we're having?" I'm also not talking questions like "how can I create a website?" or "can you help me with my computer?"

I'm talking about deeper questions that would have meaningful responses.

Conversationally, this is never a challenge as I like to ask questions. I'm always curious about people, who they are, what they believe and why they do what they do. I'm interested in everything from philosophy to mountain biking and from math and science to music and art.

Sometimes I like to see what happens when I stop asking questions. Quite often the conversation simply stops. There's a long pause and then the person I'm speaking with will mention something about the weather or the Red Sox or the latest news around town, apparently at a loss for words.

Questions on Monday
So, this morning I was thinking that it would be great to declare Monday, August 24 2009, Listening Day. On Listening Day, we exchange gifts called questions.

Creating Your Gifts
There are several steps required to transform a question into a gift suitable for wrapping,

First, the question must have no intent other than curiosity and interest in the person of whom it is asked.

For example, it can't be a "can you help me with..." or "would you go get the..." type of question. It also can't be a an accusation wrapped in a question such as "what the heck were you thinking when you..." It also should lack any direction or command such as "wouldn't you feel better if you just..."

Nope, the question would be a simple what, how or why type of question. The why questions tend to make the best gifts.

Second, to bring the question to life, you must listen lovingly, intently and without judgment to the answer. Really, really, really pay attention. It's the active and focused listening that brings the gift to life.

Third, subsequent questions in your gift package are based on the answers to previous questions all derived from you amazing active listening.

Fourth, this may go without saying, but the questions are best delivered in person or over the phone or even via instant messenger. Interactivity is key.

Will You Celebrate Listening Day?
If you'd like to join me in celebrating Listening Day, then identify some people to whom you'd like to give some questions.

Don't worry about what the questions are? Just focus on that person and creating a loving and accepting attitude. If you'd like to get a running start, build your curiosity about them. Who are they really? What motivates them? What are their passions? What are their fears? What do they want most from life?

I believe that celebrating Listening Monday can have a profound impact on our lives and relationships. If you're someone who "never knows what to say" when meeting people, make every day Listening Day and you will completely transform your life.

So, today, August 24, 2009, I'm celebrating Listening Day. Will you join me?

Have an awesome day!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

De-Cop Your OP


The other day, I sat with a couple of fellow happiness enthusiasts  and experienced the following snippet of conversation:
Enthusiast A: "I really want to do thus and such, but I can't seem to get there. It seems that ..."

Enthusiast B: (interrupting A) "If you really wanted to do that, you'd be doing that. You must not want what you say you want. You're being inauthentic!"
This is an example of op-copping, taking an amazing philosophical construct and transforming it into a moral imperative that requires policing.



I Do Therefore I Want

On the one hand, there is some merit to what Enthusiast B said. Indeed, within the construct of the Option Method and the methods that came out of this, we do what we do because we want to do it.

This is a tremendously empowering concept. There are no external influences that are forcing me to get drunk or gain weight or feel depressed or be unhappy or hate my boss or lie to my mother, etc. Whatever I do, I do because I want to and with good reason.

Now, it's the good reason part that is critical here. Basically, it goes like this:
When we recognize that we do everything because we want to (even those things we find abhorrent), then we open ourselves to exploring our motivations for our wanting. As we explore and understand our motivations, we find the path to change.

When we say that we don't want to do what we do, we effectively cut off this path of exploration. It would be oxymoronic to explore your motivations for doing something that you don't want to do.
Op-Cop Challenges
Although technically correct, there are several challenges being faced by our Op-Cop (enthusiast B).

1. It's Not True
First, our Op-Cop appears to be treating the I Do Therefore I Want construct as though it were true. It's not a truth, it's a philosophical construct that can be quite useful in helping us to make changes in our lives, especially in areas where we've found it difficult to change. It's merit lies in its being useful, not in its being true.

2. Manner Matters
Second, Op-Cop's delivery feels more like an accusation than helping hand. For example, he could easily have said something like:
"Hey, if you're finding it difficult to make the change you want to make, then there may be something motivating you not to change. Something you haven't considered yet.

Let's assume for a moment that you want to continue doing what you've been doing and with good reason. If we uncover those reasons, then we can better understand what it takes to make the changes."
3. Halfway There
Third, our Op-Cop hasn't quite got the whole construct yet. Within the I Do Therefore I Want construct is the concept of conflicting wants. Examples of conflicting wants include:
I want to lose weight, but also want to eat that pizza.

I want to be happy, but I also want to change jobs;
if I were happy I might not quit.

I want to learn piano, but I also want to watch TV.

I want to have a better relationship with my kids,
but I also want to get ahead at work.

I want to get up in the morning and work out;
but I also want to sleep in.
Oftentimes, the reason we don't do what we say we want to do is because we want something else more.

Resolving the Conflict

The key to resolving conflicting wants
is to equitably explore both sides of the
conflict and see what really drives them.

For example, let's say that on the one hand, you want to workout because you want to get healthy. You want to lose weight and look good. You want to be more vibrant and energetic.

On the other hand, you want to sleep in so that you're ready for your day. You don't want to fall asleep at your desk. You want to feel alive and alert.

Were you to explore both wants, you would discover common ground, for example, energy, wakefulness and alertness. You might decide that, by getting up and working out, you would be more awake and alert than you would have been sleeping in.

Moving Past Op-Coppery
As I write this, I keep hearing "Bad-boys, whatcha gonna do..."

I think that the key to avoiding becoming an Op-Cop is to focus your newly (or perhaps not so newly) acquired skills on yourself. Don't worry about fixing anyone else or ensuring that they've got it right. Just use what you've learned to help you.

As you change (becoming more loving, happy and content), any tendencies towards Op-Coppery will dissipate and people will ask you about you and why you're always so happy (really, they will). Then you can offer what you know and be helpful.

Have an amazing Op-Cop-Free Sunday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

You Can Learn Anything!

A Practical Guide To Studentship: Part IV
Are you someone who's never been able to do math? Perhaps you've been told that you're tone-deaf and can't carry a tune in a bucket? Do reading and writing come to you with difficulty? Do legal documents scare you?

Regardless of what your learning challenges have been, I'm here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing that you cannot learn how to do.

Step One: Abandon Disbelief
For those of you who responded with a smirk or a sense of doubt to my use of the phrase absolutely nothing, thinking "Hey, I can't learn to golf like Tiger Woods!" or "I could never learn to play guitar like Jimmi Hendrix", we have step one. An important prerequisite for great studentship is believing that you can accomplish what you set out to accomplish, even if you don't feel that way.

This abandonment of disbelief doesn't require a dialogue or counseling session; it doesn't have to be permanent. Basically, just set aside your doubts for a while. Try on the belief that you can do what you want to do. It's like trying on a pair of shoes. Just do it!

Step Two: Learn Slowly
When trying to learn something that we believe we can't learn, we make the experience less than enjoyable. This causes us to rush through exercises, assignments and readings. We get into the mode of trying to get them done, not trying to learn from them.

When we rush we incorporate inaccuracies into our learning. What we learn is wrong.

For example, the key to playing blazing fast guitar solos is to practice really, really slowly with a metronome. Importantly, you never want to play faster than you can play clearly and accurately.

When you play faster than you can play without making mistakes, you actually learn the mistakes, not the notes you want to play. Your so-called muscle memory acquires the mistakes and and can recall them. If you find yourself making the same mistake over and over, it's because you've taught yourself the mistake.

This is the case for anything that you learn, what goes in is what get's learned.

So, if you want to get more from your reading, read slowly. Pause and ask yourself what you read. If you can't recall or are unsure of what you've read, read it again. You'll be able to get through even the most complicated text.

If you want to learn math, do the problems slowly. Check your work and see where you made mistakes. If you did make mistakes, do the problem again. Make sure that what goes into your memory is the process of solving the problem, not making mistakes.

Most importantly, never conclude a learning session immediately after making a mistake. Always end on a solid run of the exercise.

Step Three: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
It's nearly impossible not to learn something if you do it lots and lots and lots of times. In fact, what we often call talent could easily be summed up in terms of the number of repetitions required to acquire a new skill: the fewer the repetitions, the greater the talent.

Imagine two blocks of walnut. One has rough edges and a course texture; the other is relatively smooth and the edges square. Either block of wood could become a beautiful walnut cube, but one may require more planning and sanding than the other.

This is the case for any skill that we want to acquire. Some of us are the rough block and others the smooth block. The difference has no implication to our potential. It's just a matter of how much work it will take.

People often ask me how I'm able to do all I do with the piano and I always go back to spending eight hours a day practicing when I was music school. It's not so much talent as repetition.

Right Brained People Can Do Math
As a kid, I could never do math. I was totally right-brained as it were.

When I found myself in a position where it was learn calculus or never get ahead at work, I thought I was done for. Out of desperation, I started treating math like playing piano. Rather than memorizing or reading and reading and reading, I simply started practicing calculus problems. I bought five calculus books that came with the answers to all the exercises in the back of the book.

I spent hours practicing math, even repeating problems I'd already done.

I ended up getting the only A on the final exam. Ever since then, math has been easy.

Step Four: Pay Attention
When Iris and I talked about repetition, she recalled working in the tulip fields as a kid and getting paid based on the number of crates of bulbs she could process in a day. She remembers starting out with just a single crate and working her way up to twenty. Through years of repetitive work, she got better and better.

I said, "Yup, repetition really works."

But then Iris pointed out that there were many adults who had been doing the work for decades and still processed only ten or twelve crates per day. There were also families of migrant workers who would come in and process twice as many crates as Iris. They seemed totally dialed in to what they were doing.

As we talked about it, we decided that repetition works best when you really pay attention and are aware of what you're doing. If you're playing scales, be aware of how your fingers move from key to key. Are they tense or relaxed, is there a flow in motion or is it stilted?

If you're reading a book, how does your body feel? Are you really present or are you distracted? What are the words really saying?

A Second Set of Eyes
Sometimes, you can boost your awareness by having someone watch you and provide feedback. For example, as Iris has been learning to sing and to play drums, I often sit and listen to her, paying attention to her pitch, where she's placing her voice, whether she's ahead of or behind the beat and so on. Since Iris is just starting out, it's helpful to have someone else paying attention with her.

As we've been doing this, Iris has been picking up on these elements of awareness and starting hear them all herself. She records herself singing, and then plays it back listening with the same awareness. The process has improved her skills amazingly.

You Absolutely, Positively Can Learn Anything!
I totally believe that if you:
  1. Abandon Disbelief

  2. Acquire new knowledge and skills slowly and accurately

  3. Practice, practice, practice (slowly and accurately), and;

  4. Pay attention as you do so,

you'll amaze yourself with what you are able to accomplish.

One more thing: if you do the above, you'll never have to memorize anything.

So, what are you going to learn?

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Who is the observer?

Last night I played with the band my second performance ever. We had a great time. We did a great job. We had fun visitors. We had birthday cake for Pete. It was so cool.

Now six hours later, I'm writing this blog before heading out to work. The adrenaline has gone back to normal (lower) levels and I while thinking back at the situation I'm asking myself how did it go?

People were having fun. That's a good sign!
People making compliments. That's a great sign!
People applauding. That's awesome!
People were dancing. Now that says something!

A little voice in my head comments on these words: I believe we improved 1000% from the first performance. I also see possibilities to improve a 1000% by the next performance. You do great, but it can be the beginning of greatness if you...

In meanwhile I am observing myself having this conversation with myself and I notice how I'm going from the" bliss me" to the "comment me" and how the different "me's" influence my thoughts, energy, enthusiasm etc.

This comes to a question that Mark and I have discussed regularly over the years: who is the observer that observes the things we do and experience? I would like you to really think about this and than answer it. It's a very interesting question to ponder!

In meanwhile: little voice I hear you. But for now I am ignoring you and I am going to sail a little longer on the wind of bliss...

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perceived stability

Usually, I love my job. I spend most days helping business leaders translate their business strategies into reality through their people. Lately, I have been challenged in a different way. I have spent the last three weeks telling people that they no longer have jobs and explaining the details of their notice period, severance, and benefits. In addition, (since I am now doing 2 jobs) I have been working with leaders in a newly created business to build their people strategy. The irony of the situation is that the newly created business is all about selling parts of the businesses where the jobs no longer exist. In one moment, I am telling people who really want their job that they don't have one and in the next moment, I am telling people how the job they have has changed and in most cases is a job they don't want. To complicate things a bit more in a highly beaurocratic, risk averse, 200 year old company, the person delivering these messages (me) happens to believe that this is the best thing that could possibly happen to each person I talk to. The challenge is..... no one believes me.


I am used to the fear response when people are told that they no longer have a job but the fear response from the people who have a job but are anticipating that their jobs will go away some day has been very insightful for me. After all, don't most jobs go away some day? In the case of the new business (run off) everyone actually has more information than most people have in their everyday lives about the longevity of their particular job. Given the fact that most of us don't have the ability to see into the future, in the abscence of this information, we make it up. Many of us to chose to make up that our jobs will be there tomorrow. This is actually helpful in many ways. It is also not so helpful in many ways too.


I have been inspired by three amazing colleagues who were all recently told that they no longer have jobs. They were informed in different ways with different timeframes resulting in different feelings of anger, resentment, self doubt and fear. All three of them put their own emotions aside long enough to bond together and offer encouragement to one another. What blossomed was an amazing expression of gratitude for each other but most importantly for themselves. The bond of losing their jobs together helped to spark a deeper and more profound friendship as they each challenged one another to go for their dreams, challenge their beliefs, and have fun. This bond was not created through empathy, understanding, and simply listening (which is how many people are taught is what you are supposed to do in this type of situation), it was created through active challenge, believing in one another, and love. I found one of the most profound challenges of the day was a simple question "why aren't you taking your own advice?"


My challenge to all of you this week is to take one thing that is of great importance to you (your job, relationship, money, eyesight, physical ability, etc) and imagine that one day you wake up and it is gone. What would you change about your life today if you knew something of great importance to you would be gone tomorrow? How is "perceiving stability" of it helping you in your life? How is not helping you in your life?


Love to all ! and a very special thanks to Cheryl, Mary, and Kathy for being my inspiration this week!

Kathy

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Change Your Belief, Change Your Life.. Momentarily

Many of have seen the power of belief. By changing a single belief, one can completely change his or her life... at least for the moment. In this blog, we'll talk about transforming fledgling beliefs into the powerhouses we know they can become.

It Started at Dinner
The other night Iris and I were having dinner with Louis and Dodge.

One of the questions I'd been pondering lately is:
Why is it that so many people return to personal development programs year after year after year with exactly the same issues and challenges that they faced the year before -- specially when the year before, they had boldly declared having overcome the challenge?
I felt that, if I could answer this question, I could fill in a big missing piece in the puzzle of making life changes sustainable.

I shared my question with Dodge and Louis who were both familiar with the phenomenon. We all had experienced the power of belief and changing belief, but we also had all seen how, for many people, the changes seemed not to last.

So, we began theorizing...

Hypothesis, Hope and Bravado
We quickly came to the notion that beliefs take on many forms and have many qualities.

Hypothesis
Hypothesis is a form of belief that asserts something you plan to prove with evidence. Researchers and scientists use this form of belief daily. You begin with an assumption that you believe to be true, an assertion. You then take steps to prove your belief through experiments or studies.

Hope
Hope is a form of belief that operates in the absence supportive evidence or in spite of contrary evidence. It's a filtering form of belief that only allows through evidence that supports what we desire. When we abandon hope, we're often flooded with the evidence we ignored.

For example, people often spend years in relationships where all the evidence points to the relationship failing. Still, they're hopeful.

When the relationship does end, all the evidence that hope had overlooked, shows up like a tractor trailer pulling up to the front door. The sudden rush of years or decades of filtered evidence often results in demonizing the former partner.

Bravado
Bravado is what we do when we don't actually believe something that we really want to believe. Bravado operates on the premise that stating something loudly and confidently can transform doubt into belief.

Of course, the half-life of bravado is typically a couple of days. Bravado gets us through the moment, but is no basis for lasting change.

Changing Belief is Just the Beginning
Over the next couple of days, we continued discussing and thinking about helping beliefs to thrive. We came to the conclusion that changing belief is powerful, but for the change to be pervasive and lasting requires more: we must nurture and refine the new belief.

1. Build Evidence
Treat your newly acquired belief as a scientist with a hypothesis. Begin to look for evidence that supports your belief.

For example, if you believe that you can become a great singer, find people who are great singers, people who started out like you. If want to lose 100 pounds, find people who have done so. If you want relationships to be easy versus a lot of work, find people for whom relationships are easy.

Flood your life with evidence of your new belief.

2. Put Your Belief into Action
The best way to kill a belief is to never act on it. If you want your belief to have staying power, find as many opportunities as possible to put it into action.

For example, if your change of belief has helped you overcome a lack of confidence, throw yourself into those situations in which you normally lack confidence.

If your belief is about being able to do math, don't wait until the next math test to try it out; go google some math problems and start working them.

If your belief is about finding a new job, go out today and by that new power suit. Put your belief into play.

3. Share Your Concerns and Doubts
As you put your belief into action, you'll no doubt discover implications of your belief that you hadn't anticipated, e.g., quitting my job because I believed I can get a new one means I can't go out for dinner as often as I used to.

You may also find evidence that contradicts your belief, e.g., in my first five interviews, the interviewers didn't seem that excited about my credentials.

It's important to recognize that any belief has both supportive and contradictory evidence. As you encounter undesired results and unsupportive evidence, share them with friends. Discuss how they affect your new belief; openly share your doubts and concerns. By keeping doubts and fears inside, you don't protect your belief, you squash it.

4. Refine Your Belief
The beauty of beliefs is that they are completely and instantly malleable. As you encounter new experiences and new evidence that contradict your belief, don't simply discard your belief; instead, adapt your belief to accommodate them.

In some cases, you may replace your belief with a deeper and more profound belief. In others, you may supplement your belief with other supportive beliefs. For example, the belief that you can be a great pianist may require the belief that becoming a great pianist requires daily practice.

Desire Trumps Belief
In end, we don't adopt beliefs because they are true, we adopt beliefs because they align with our desires and wants. I know this may be anathema to many, but try it on; think of how often a change in belief coincides with a change in or recognition of new wants and desires.

If you buy into this premise, then the measure of any belief is the degree to which the belief helps you to achieve what you want to achieve or to become who you want to become.

As we view our beliefs in terms of their being useful and not in terms of their being true, we become better believers and nurturers of belief.

Homework
Is there something in your life that you've resolved to change (perhaps many, many times), but still haven't changed? Perhaps it has not to do with the process of changing belief, perhaps it has to do with the nurturing of belief.

I invite your to transform you key beliefs from hypotheses, assertions, hopes and statements of bravado into sustainable powerhouses of transformative energy.

Have a great Wednesday!

PS
Please join us tomorrow night, Thursday, August 20, 2009 at Club Helsinki for a concert of our band No Room for Jello.

Iris's car

Yesterday, the four-year-old boy I work with and his parents walked me to the car after our playroom session. While walking up to it, the little man said spontaneously: "Iris's car". We were all very exited. Not only because he recognized and labeled the car, but also because he was using a possessive verb and his pronunciation was fabulous. He had his parents and me in awe about that little piece of art he produced in that moment.

Surprises are one of the things I receive lots of lately in and around the playroom. I am constantly surprised how much the kids know and understand and how fast they learn. They may have difficulties communicating what they are thinking with people around them, but it does not say anything about their capacity of knowing and learning.

A couple of days ago, the little one asked for a ho-do. He said: "ho-do-ho-do-ho-do-ho-do-ho-do", while pacing around the room, squeezing his little fingers from excitement. First I didn't understand what it was and his excitement changed into crying for his "momma" while pointing upstairs. I explained the little man that his crying does not help me to understand what he wants to tell his momma. I asked him: what is it that you want to tell your momma? Let me help you. Then I said: "Momma, I want..." and waited for him to finish up my sentence. He looked at me and nothing happened. So, I explained that this is an opportunity for him to say what he wants and again I said, "Momma, I want..." We did this for a couple of times where he first responded with words "ho-do" and then added the word "eat". And then I got what he wanted to say to his momma: "Momma, I want hotdog!" We celebrated the clarity of our communication that day with hotdog and lots of celebrations of the "I want hotdog" sentence.

And that was only first of the celebrations. Today, the little guy was telling me not only: "I want hodoc (hotdog)" but also "I want diaper", "I want toa (toast)" and he wanted "cere". This last request I did not understand, but the little man was not easily deterred and did anything possible to help me understand that he wanted his "cereal". It seems that the sentence "I want" has given him new depths of persistence helping him to climb over the communication barrier.

There is always hope for change in any situation. If we are able to persist in our wants we can grow so far out or our boundaries that we create a miracle...

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Top 10 Cherished Relationships

While conversing after dinner with Mark, Iris, and Dodge, I was asked by Mark who I considered to be my Top 10 most valued relationships. With two edits (I added one I didn't think of last night and we later decided we could include dead people, so I added one of those as well), this is my list along with my reasons why.

1. Mary V: I've never been more madly in love with someone who so perfectly fits what I look for in a life partner! Not only does she have the things at the top of my list: authenticity, fearlessness, intelligence, physical beauty, and a deep love of herself, but I'm also constantly delighted and amazed at all the EXTRA goodies I keep finding in our relationship. She lovingly pushes me to excel and we are constantly exploring new ideas and ways of being that bring about an ever-increasing sense of joy in our lives...and she's so much fun! Can't wait for us to meet in person!

2. Karen H: The best friend I've ever had, male or female. We absolutely never worry about what to say or not say to each other because we know we can't hurt us. I love her smiles and our deep conversations on Sunday mornings about where we are at this moment in our lives and how much we genuinely and actively want each other to be happy in our lives.

3. Mark & Iris: They are a total inspiration to me in the way they do their romantic love relationship! Watching them interact with such joy and unbridled love is just a delight for me. With all the intellectual interplay last night, the sweetest moment for me was them saying goodnight to each other with lit up smiles and gentle kisses.

4. The founder of the developmental program in the Berkshires I love so much: The writer and teacher of the most empowered philosophy I've ever found and the tools I used to alter my life from one of a frightened people-pleaser to one of a joyful, passionate, playful dude! My life is FAR beyond what I ever dreamed it could be, and that simply would not be the case without this life approach. Also, flat out the best classroom teacher ever.

5. Lynne V: My other best friend in the world, and, at least up until Mary, the one who accepted me in just the biggest possible way, including all the things about me that are my biggest challenges, especially my drinking ish. She was the first to show me how really deep a friendship could go.

6. Gary L: Founder of the Integrity Project to radically increase the amount of happiness in the world, starting with redesigning the corporate structure around the happiness of the individuals within it. My involvement with this project is what initially led me to the place that taught classes in how to be happier. Also, I just love him. Also, he is hilarious.

7. John Johnson: My best friend before I knew how deep friendships could really go if I stopped censoring myself. He modeled love and fearlessness on a level that still stands at the top of the hill to this day. He dragged me onto the dance floor, both literally and figuratively, which started a long, slow climb for me out of my intense shyness. I initially did a lot of grief at his death, but now I only feel a deep sense of gratitude for him as a friend and as a guide who never gave up on me, no matter how many times I refused to take his offered path.

8. Sara/Sally/Mom: I love her for her love of her kids and grandkids, even if she sometimes shows it in a way that tends to motivate though unhappiness--that is, to use unhappiness to try and get them to do what she wants. I've had a great deal of joy in not only watching her move towards a life of more awareness, authenticity, and love, but also in building a deeper relationship between us. She is by far the only one in my birth family who has the type of relationship with me that I have with other friends in my life.

9. Rachel J: Although she claims I don't know her deeply, she also says she doesn't know herself deeply, so let's face it, how would she know? LOL! I SO love our time together to talk about the deepest corners of our lives! She asks me the most wonderful and offbeat questions and delights in the answers I come up with. Of everyone on this planet, she knows the song in my heart and joyfully sings it back to me when I've forgotten (or when I've pushed it down the list on the I-Pod in my heart to where it's no longer on the front screen).

10. Jeannene C: Surprise! A relationship I deeply cherish with someone that I, in fact, don't really have a relationship with. Even though we rarely see or talk to each other, and even when we were in the same geographic location never really had a friendship, Jeannene is a constant source of inspiration for me. She's someone who decided that everything in her life was up for discussion and change and she creating this amazing, leaping, loving, and joyful version of herself on the fly. Whenever I start to think there's something in my life that I can't change, I think of her and I drop that limitation.

As you can imagine, this list will evolve over time, but since I'm a huge believer that this moment is all I get, this be it for this moment!

How about you? Who is someone in your life who's friendship/love you cherish and why? I love you and I'm deeply grateful to have you in my life. To be continued...

Brian