#Upstream to find ourselves

This piece from Perry Timms prompted me to share my own world of upstream and what that means to me. Thank you Perry.

Photo by Tobias Stonjeck on Unsplash

#Upstream is a place where we can go before we think about the transformation we are being invited to consider.” This quote from Perry’s piece really strikes a chord with me. In three client sessions yesterday when we went upstream, each client came back to the downstream challenges they walked in with and saw a simple and clear way forward and, in some instances, the challenge had all but disappeared into the ether. read more

The Truth of Self Development

I’ve started writing on Medium. Jump over there to follow me if you’d like. And I’ll keep posting intros to those pieces here too so you can see what might be of interest.

This piece is about how we’re all looking in the wrong place to find our best selves, and the security and freedom we seek. read more

A theme for LearnConnectDo 2019

On 14th March this year it’s the first LearnConnectDo event of 2019 as these events run into their 4th year now!  Wow.

“These are always thought-provoking and useful sessions!”

CH, previous delegate.

Huge thanks to everyone who has attended, facilitated and helped us along the way – including PKF Cooper Parry who kindly sponsor us by letting us use their amazing workspace for every event.  read more

Emotional intelligence made easy

Think of a time when you were in flow. Either on your own, or in a group or team. One of those times when things just seemed to happen really naturally and easily. When you didn’t have to put much effort in and yet you were making great progress, or getting great results.

Now compare that to the definition of emotional intelligence:

“the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”

When you were in flow, to what extent were you doing any of the things in that definition?

My guess would be not very much, if at all, and certainly not consciously. Not with intellectual effort.

This is because when we’re in our natural state, we don’t need strategies and tactics. We don’t need breathing and centring, or visualisations of the best version of us, or mantras about listening to understand not to reply.

And this is because, in our natural “flow state”, we aren’t paying attention to the thinking going on in our heads. We’re not grabbing hold of thoughts and believing them. We’re not analysing why someone’s said what they said, or why we ourselves are getting frustrated by something, and crucially we’re not trying to manage ourselves out of an emotional response we think we shouldn’t be having in that moment. We’re keeping our intellectual, egoic, personal thinking out of the way and we’re accessing a much deeper space of wisdom and intuition.

Why aren’t we in flow more?

For years we’ve been teaching people (me included until recently) that we need to intellectually manage what’s going on for us emotionally. That we need to use our brain muscle to fix ourselves, that we need to practice and repeat to build new habits and new neural pathways, all so we can be better versions of ourselves more of the time because we’ve been led to believe there’s some version of us which is not good enough and not acceptable to society right now.

The trouble is, the application of our intellectual capabilities to these emotional management tasks, takes valuable energy away from our ability to generate fresh new thoughts and ideas in any moment, from our ability to listen and hear others, from our ability to connect and collaborate.

Remember that flow state? All those things just happened naturally there because you weren’t stuck, caught, or getting tangled in your thinking. And I’m not saying that in flow everything is about positivity and full agreement, with permanent grins on everyone’s faces – but you and others will have felt able to express any frustration or concerns without it seeming like a big deal. In fact the complete opposite. Any such insights will have been gratefully received and discussed, leading to an even better way forward.

So if we’re not “managing” our state through emotional intelligence tactics, how do we get to this state of flow more of the time?

We understand how our human system really works.

What we’ve been doing with emotional intelligence is explore:

the “what” – the content of our thoughts, labelling the emotions we’re feeling,

and

the “why” – what’s triggered you to get to that response. Often then examined to be re-framed or replaced with a more helpful thought.

This different approach understands the “how” of our underlying system. Think of making a car go. There is no benefit in commenting on the shape or design of the bodywork (the “what”). And there’s also no benefit in polishing the paintwork to a high shine to make it look nicer (the “why”). Neither of these approaches is going to get the car going. You must first understand “how” all the parts of the engine work and fit together to make the thing move forward.

The exact same here.

So how does our system work?

There are two areas where we can see the system working the way it always has and always will.

  • Everything works inside-out. Everything you’ve experienced, ever, in your whole life has been experienced through your thoughts. There is no other way. Nothing on the outside can “do” anything to you or “make” you feel anything. It’s all seen through the movie projector of our experience. “We’re the writer, the director, the producer – and in fact the audience”*.
  • Our system rights itself. Without intervention from us, our thinking moves on, our feelings change and we move to a different state. Automatically. In fact, I might go so far as to use the new word I recently learnt “automagically”! We “think” we’re so clever and we’ve been taught all our lives to be clever: in education, by parents, and in work. The message we’ve received is that intellectual capabilities are THE most important capability we have. And it’s not that intellectual is unimportant, but it’s the fact that this is not all there is. In emphasising our intellectual, we’ve denied and hidden the rest of what makes us whole; the true source of our brilliance and innate wisdom. We’ve been so busy fixing ourselves to be better we forgot that we didn’t need fixing in the first place.
  • read more

    Racing with square wheels

    I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.

    This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts

    When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed.  But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.

    Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.

    Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.

    Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.

    The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.

    If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.

    We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity.  Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.

    *3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).

    Life is LITERALLY what you make it

    It really seems like that person is irritating / lazy / slow at their work / makes lots of mistakes.

    Or that this other person is amazing / so capable / always on it / full of great ideas.

    It really seems like this situation is upsetting, or that one is fun.

    That this one will make me cry, or that one will make me laugh out loud.

    It seems like these are definites.

    But when you see that our minds are entirely like projectors, that definite-ness shifts.

    Nothing, ever, in our whole lives, has “made” us think or feel any of those things.

    All those people and experiences are 100% neutral until we experience them through our thinking.  We are a projector, not a camera, and always have been.

    Life is LITERALLY what we make it because we can and have always experienced life through our thoughts.

    The thing that makes these experiences seem so convincingly true and makes them seem like they’re coming from outside of us is that we mostly agree about what’s upsetting or fun and what counts as irritating or amazing.  We get taught these rules from the moment we enter the world so our thinking around people and situations is mostly very similar.

    I witnessed it the other day in the supermarket. Someone talking to a baby.. “oh that’s better, there’s that smile” because clearly the baby not smiling wasn’t good or acceptable. Or at least that’s the message the baby – and we all – received. The thought that the baby attached its identity to.

    But then you meet someone who doesn’t see things the same way as you.

    A common reaction to these people is to find a way to not be with them.  The greater the differences the more we’ll psychologically or intellectually fight or run away from them.  Our ego likes to be right and certain and these people who remove such certainty and who challenge our right-ness are a danger – or at least our ego thinks so.

    I ran some happiness workshops recently and while most people were in agreement about the stress and pressures of diaries and conflicting priorities, about the difficult people and demanding bosses, the high expectations and reducing budgets…there was one person who was different.

    “You all seem to be thinking about this stuff far too much” he said.

    “This is just work.  You come in, do your best with the time you’ve got, you close things off well for the day, you go home and you do other things”.

    Most of the group held onto their own views and saw his as strange, or dismissed this difference with “well you must have an easy job” or “you mustn’t have the pressures that I have in my job” or, I’ve no doubt some were thinking, “your work isn’t as important as mine”.

    As far as I know this guy hadn’t had any special lessons in how to get the most from life but he really seemed to have a good appreciation for the nature of Thought, and that when you really see that, your thoughts naturally drop away more easily and bother you less.  When you see that the feelings thoughts generate don’t need solutions life gets easier, more obvious and more fun.

    Notice for yourself. Next time you find yourself confronted by a different view, see what it’s like to notice that thought and not follow it or hold onto it as if it were the truth.

    Parrots, Reality and Flow

    This parrot led to tears and upset.

    As my daughter drew it, copying from the video, she burst into tears. The tail looked all wrong, far too wide for the body. “But mummy look, the tail needs to go to under its first toe”.

    Trouble is, of course, my daughter’s parrot’s toes were slightly different to the one in the video so the tail going to there did make it look a bit crazy-wide.

    When we try to copy a pre-prepared plan to the letter, when we expect people to behave in a certain way that matches the movie in our heads, when we think it shouldn’t be raining today because we’ve got that outdoor event, when we think we should be earning more / achieving more….

    This is where our suffering begins: when we believe every single thing we think and see it as a solid, definite truth.

    Once you really see how our minds work, the more you live in the moment working with what is, instead of what you think it “should” be. The more you’re here, the more you stay fluid and flexible, adaptive and agile, adjusting and integrating, and the better you feel.

    All this without having to actively “do” anything. No mind-management techniques, no practicing of new habits. Once you “get” this understanding, the flow just flows.

    It’s hard work swimming upstream against the current of the world around us.

    Jump in and be in the flow.

    Get in touch if you want to know more.

    Self Care Week 2018 : don’t make it another “should”

    I saw a tweet recently from someone whose goal is to “drink more water”. This is the world we live in now….. a world where we don’t prioritise our own needs, not even our most basic need to stay hydrated!

    It might just be me but I find this incredibly sad and I hear my internal voice of desperation asking “what on earth are we doing??”.

    I also wonder how many people find expectations of self-care just another stress to add to the pile of other things “I’m not good enough at”.

    It’s all with good intention but it’s not getting to what really needs to be got at.

    Yes, look after ourselves better but not in this way.

    Not when looking after our own health is a to-do list or goal.

    I have a lot of time for you Michelle Obama (assuming she actually said these words in the quote!) but self-care can’t be attached to a “we need to” i.e. “we should”. Anything along those lines is a force, a push, a cajole, a tell, an expectation that’s being put on us from outside of us, a standard that if we fall short we’re rubbish (and then we give up).

    Yes, look after ourselves better but not when we believe we have an important role to play in getting things “right” with our health and wellbeing, because the more we do this the more we get in our own way.

    Layering our thinking and piling expectations into our heads only takes us further away from our innate wellbeing that we already have inside us; in all of us. It takes us away from letting our system right itself, which it does all the time if we stop meddling.

    Instead, when we drop all that thinking, looking after ourselves becomes the most obvious thing to do. Anything else just looks bonkers! And we don’t need someone outside of us to tell us what to do or how to do it.

     

    If you’d like to talk more about what this means for you just get in touch.