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The most basic foundation of shaping up the life you want is KNOWING what you want! Stands to reason, right? After all, if you don’t know what you want it is very difficult to take (or allow to emerge) clear and congruent action toward it. But what if you just don’t know what you want?
Well, this isn’t so rare. Many people get so habituated into simply reacting to circumstances and feelings that they forget that they largely get to choose what their life and interactions are going to be about.
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This morning, I received an interesting enquiry regarding coaching. I decided to share some of the conversation here because I know that many people who read this blog have an interest in ‘high performance’, ‘state management’, ‘hypnosis’ and ‘unconscious programming’.
I am looking for coaching work which can help with establishing powerful triggers during my work. I manage money and trade financial markets and have used several modalities to assist with the emotional aspects of this work and all of them have helped.
I am interested in being able to create more unconscious triggers that make more of my skills and talents available while I am working.
Do you think this is something you would be able to help me with?
Let me see if I can help a little right here…
First off, I would suggest that your outcome as presented here sets for itself a trap. You are specifying a particular means (unconscious triggers) to an end (make more of my skills and talents while working). So we already have a ‘closed box’ inside of which to work, and it is very rare that effective work happens inside of such a box.
So, let me offer you a shift in perspective here… whilst I’m not exactly sure what you mean by ‘unconscious triggers’, I seriously doubt that they (or lack thereof) are what are stopping you from manifesting your skills and talents at their best.
From the way your question is framed, it sounds like you are asking from a behaviourism based ‘machine model’ of how humans work, so let me say this right here:
You are not a machine – you are a human being!
Now, whilst it is certainly true that the ‘machine model’ (trigger-response) CAN serve up to a point, it is worth recognising its limitations as it is NOT a particularly far reaching or complete representation of how we work. As such it is pretty limited as a model for performance psychology.
To be yourself at your best you will need to understand that human performance is not machine performance. As such you will access your skills and talents at your best when you remove the blocks in thinking and understanding that are keeping you from it, and, in turn, refine the underpinning understandings that best support the expression of those skills and talents.
If you take any world class player of any game, whilst they may create sequences and rituals that support them in the execution of their skills, their real performance power comes from their connection with the game, and this connection comes from how they see it and make sense of it. If, for example, they experience un-useful emotions, these are arising from ideas they are holding (and/or thoughts they are running) that are not serving them… NOT from a deficiency in appropriate triggers!
So, my question here to you is:
What do you want?
I mean, what do you really want? What is the outcome beyond your outcome? When you make more of your skills and talents, what does that get for you?
I ask these things because I am happy to work with you in bringing more fulfilment, prosperity and enriching human experience into your life, but if it is just about turning you into a high performance machine and be-damned the rest then I am not going to be the right guy for you.
All the very best
There is a line that is pushed in some philosophies and self-help movements that there is no such thing as truth. everything we know is a lie, so we may as well make up whatever set of understandings – whatever ‘lies’ – best suits us.
Of course, if this is true, then this perspective itself is a lie! but is it a useful one?
Personally speaking, I believe in truth… but I also believe ‘true truth’ is ineffable and lays beyond perception. So all we are left with is our perceptions, perspectives and understandings. Or as Arthur Eddington so elegantly put it:
“Reality is not only stranger than you think, it’s stranger than you CAN think.”
In the coaching and training that I do, I often encourage people to stop seeking truth and to instead start shaping understandings that serve. Not because there isn’t ‘truth’, just that we can’t know it and therefor modest understanding is all we have.
So what is the relationship between ‘understanding’ and ‘truth’? I believe that the best in understanding points us to something of the ineffable truth. And that the most profound understandings are those that get us closest to the truth that lies beyond understanding.
So, I wouldn’t get hung up on the truth… you can’t know it. But explore life, take multiple perspective and create and shape understandings that serve you and others deeply and profoundly, and you will be individual getting very close to it!
Image Courtesy of Stuart Mills
In life, our ability to influence is a major (the major?) element in being able to create prosperity, fulfilment connection and a whole host of wonderful things.
Sometimes, through our desire to influence we drop into the mode of ‘trying to convince’, and within this mode find ourselves resorting to making ‘promises’ in an attempt to get what we want.
“I promise you, if you do x then y will happen”
…or something similar.
Now we may think are being strong and bold in going for what we want and promising to deliver, but really we are undermining ourselves and the quality of the connection we have with the person we are beseeching with our promises.
Promising like this is weak. And it is weak for 3 reasons:
- 1. Neediness – It is driven by, and therefor communicates, neediness.
- 2. Trust – As an activity it only makes sense within the context of a lack of trust – and so its operation re-affirms (or even creates) the very lack of trust it attempts to overcome.
- 3. Disconnection from ‘what is’ – It creates a future orientation; disconnecting people from the present and ‘what is’, and connecting them to a hypothetical future that the promise or promiser has no validity to guarantee.
Lets look at each of these in turn.
Neediness is simply not attractive or impactful. People just don’t like it. For some reason they’re just not into people who are always looking to others to get stuff from them. And even if they go along with it, they are always resenting it on some level and have bad feelings about it (this may not even be within consciousness even, but it’s there).
The opposite of neediness is completeness, centredness and ‘abundance’ (which is an attitude founded in an understanding), and coming from this place you just have so much more to offer… and therein lies the key! Having something to offer is ALWAY more powerful, impactful and attractive than wanting to get something. And when you offer, wonderful things tend to flow back to you in return (just so long as you are open to receive).
But promising… why would you promise something unless you were trying to persuade someone of something? And why would you try to persuade them if there wasn’t some need of your own you were trying to get met?
When you are the one with the cool stuff to offer, why would you need to promise anything? Just show the person the cool stuff! Let them experience it. Be present with them and what you have to offer and if they like what you have to offer they will be thrilled. They will want more.
This principle applies to all relationships and exchanges. Show up as a person with something to offer – even if that something is just your centredness, presence and leadership in that moment. People love that and respond powerfully to that alone. And ‘promising’ things just undermines it.
Overt promising is essentially what you do when you attempt to convince someone in the face of a lack of trust. What you are saying is “I know you have your doubts, but… I promise…”
So by promising, you are reenforcing the frame of ‘lack of trust’… or even creating it! Because that is what will happen if you default to promise making when there is no lack of trust in the first place – you will establish the frame and then get caught up in it. And I don’t need to say why ‘lack of trust’ is not a frame that will serve you!
DISCONNECTING FROM ‘WHAT IS’
I mentioned above the qualities of centredness, presence and leadership. Powerful experiences happen in the present moment only, and what makes them powerful is being present with them. If you wish to have an impact on someone, you need to keep them in the present moment, because that is the only moment that any kind of impact can happen.
By promising, you are taking the person out of the present moment and connecting them to a future moment. You are disconnecting them from ‘what is’ and instead connecting them to a hypothetical future that hasn’t happened yet. And worse than that a hypothetical future that you and your promise have no validity to guarantee.
Keeping people in the present is strong. Connecting them to what is. If you do talk about hypotheticals, be honest about what they are contingent upon (instead of just blindly promising them) and bring them alive in the moment! Use present continuous tense in your language, and make sure what you are saying/doing/being is serving them right now in this present moment! Again, right now is all there is!
As an example of this, a client recently asked me a question regarding my ‘thoughts on necessary duration’ regarding a coaching program. He wanted to know how long it would take to deliver his stated objectives, and he wanted me to state that. Now, within this request there are a whole bunch of invitations to step into frames that will neither serve me, the client or the coaching process, so to engage with them would be counterproductive.
So instead I chose to keep things in the moment and serve the client by connecting him to ‘what is’ (rather than what might be) INCLUDING his own power and creativity to transform himself:
“You can bring these things into your life right now… this is less about an ‘instillation’ and more about clearing out what is in the way of you being as you want to be. You are already a creator and already a powerful guy (and I’m not fluffing you here – we have spoken and I have read what you have written in your emails)… we’re just bringing that out more and refining it.”
There are no promises made in this statement – only statements of the truth as I see it. I bring the entire thing back into the present reconnect the client to his ‘ownership’ through emphasising what he is that is powerful.
Everything in this statement is about the present and the continuing developing present. This is the only place I can serve the client. This is the only place the client can transform. Right now.
So instead of persuading and promising I am orientating to serving the client – serving him by orientating him into the moment and connecting him with empowering frames. We are working right now, not promising to work in the future.
Now, this is an example from the world of coaching, but the principle is the same for relationship building across any context (personal or professional) – forget promising things for the future and focus on connecting people to things (ideas, perceptions, feelings, experiences) that have impact for them right now!
(just to close the loop on that example, his response was: “Thanks James. Sounds good. Lets get moving :-)”)
PROMISES VS. AGREEMENTS
Just to be clear… I’m NOT saying “don’t make any commitments or agreements” here!
Having clear agreements on what you commit to do is STRONG. But this is very different from ‘promising’. The entire energy/vibe is different.
When you set an agreement you say “this is what I will do”. It is a statement of’what is’ and as such there is no introduction of counterproductive ‘trust issues’ – because it sits squarely within a ‘matter of facts’ frame rather than a ‘matter of trust’ frame.
Now some may well say:
“Well that is just semantics… if you say you are going to do it then you ARE promising to do it”.
Well it IS semantics. And semantics count – they shape the meaning which shapes the attitude which shapes the inferences and connotations which dictate the flavour of the entire exchange. Never think that how you make sense of something doesn’t count! IT COUNTS FOR EVERYTHING! People think they are describing reality when in fact they are shaping it!
So, make clear agreements that serve by all means, but if you want to be an influential and impactful human being, stay away from those pernicious little promises.
The results you get in life emerge from the systems that produce them, and those systems work perfectly to get exactly those results. So…
If you don’t like the results your getting, you’d better be willing to change the system!
But, interestingly this is exactly where so many people fall down they attempt to keep the old system largely in place whilst trying to get different results from within it. And that just doesn’t work.
This morning I received 3 questions in relation to a former blog post Finding Purpose. Now, not only did they relate well to the post they were about (as you would expect) they also relate for another reason to the principle I was discussing in the last blog video What is it that is missing from your life right now? And what are you doing to keep it out?
The question were…
- What happens if you’ve forgotten how to dream?
- Or become so good at doing stuff for others that you’ve forgotten what you want for yourself?
- Or that you carry on banging your head against the same wall, in the hope that you can force your way through, simply because you don’t know what else to do instead?
And my reply to the questioner ran as follows:
Firstly – did you get the opportunity watch the video “What is missing from your life and what are you doing to keep it out?” If not, watch it! Because all of three of your questions relate to this - notice how they all represent stories of hardship that you are telling yourself. You probably think these things you are saying are ‘true’ but really they are just ‘sense creations’ that undermine you (I’m sure that is a point you would be ready to argue with me). They are great examples of something you are doing that will keep what you say you want from your life.
If you want to turn your life and experience of life around, it is time to change the conversation you are having inside your head. Time to change the stories you are telling yourself about your life (your current ones undermine clarity, creativity and motivation).
Each of the questions you ask is directing your attention in a specific way. It is directing you into stuck thinking. In this sense each one serves as a piece of debilitating ‘self hypnosis’.
I am going to answer each question AS IF it was not a crappy self-defeating question, but please DO NOT take this as any kind of endorsement of the questions… Just me playing the game.
“What happens if you’ve forgotten how to dream?”
Re-learn. And if your answer to that is ‘but I don’t know how?’ Re-watch the “what is missing from your life and what are you doing to keep it out?” video… Pay SPECIAL ATTENTION to the story about my friend who wanted to write songs but couldn’t play any instruments he could write on. ‘How to’ is never even close to as important as ‘want to’. When the ‘want to’ is in place, the ‘how to’ takes care of itself.
But even after saying that ‘how do I learn to dream?’ Asked with the tonality and energy of genuine curiosity would be a FAR superior question to ask yourself here… See how it directs attention differently? As the old saying goes ‘you get more of what you focus on’.
“Or become so good at doing stuff for others that you’ve forgotten what you want for yourself?”
What you want to do is NOT an immutable static thing that exists for you to forget or remember, it something you create moment by moment. Back to creation. Back to YOU choosing to take responsibility for that creation.
What would you like to have happen instead here?
“Or that you carry on banging your head against the same wall, in the hope that you can force your way through, simply because you don’t know what else to do instead?”
Stop it! Whatever you are doing, at least have the VERY BEST relationship you can with it WHILST you engage with turning your self and life around – otherwise you drive yourself into low states that do not serve you as a creator or master of your own destiny. DO NOT DO THIS. Instead learn to use your thinking to move you into clearer, more resourceful states of mind for creating and shaping a fulfilling life. This means changing the conversation you are having with yourself about what you are doing… Which probably means changing the kind of conversations you are having with yourself in general.
Have better quality conversations with yourself. Tell better quality stories about yourself and your life!
You think you are describing your reality here, but actually you are creating it. You feel your thinking, not your circumstances.
As a general rule, if you are not getting what you want from life, both inside and out, the place to begin is with changing the conversation you are having inside your head and with the world around you, and changing how you pay attention and what you pay attention to in life. To change your life you change your mind.
To paraphrase Osho…
The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.
This is a follow on from the previous video I posted (Living with Purpose and The Natural Order).
It shapes the idea a little further, and gives a little ‘question tool’ to help in orientating yourself to ‘doing without doing’.
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OK, so I hung back on putting this out, just in case it was too ‘out there’!
It’s about how when we connect to our purpose and clear stuff out the way, our purpose can just express itself through creative action… without having to project plan or create ‘to do’ lists or get into ‘analysis paralysis’.
And please do make use of the comments section below for your questions and contributions!
P.S. There is a follow-up video on this where I get a little more into the pragmatics of it: What is it that is missing from your life right now? And what are you doing to keep it out?
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Now, without question, living life ‘on purpose’ is a wonderful and fulfilling thing, but the idea that our purpose is something that pre-exists for us to find somewhere can very often be toxic and undermining.
This morning I received an email from a subscriber to this blog concerning just this. The dialogue below comprises some parts of that email along with some perspectives I think are worth sharing on the topic.
“My problem is that I’ve been out of work for almost fifteen months now. I know I want to get a job and I know I can make a big contribution but I haven’t really been able to work out what I want to do despite putting hours and hours into the process. I know I want a job but don’t know what I want to do and don’t know how how to get there.”
If you can’t work out what you want to do, it simply means you don’t want to do any of the things you have considered. The question is ‘why?’ Or, more specifically, ‘what is it that is stopping you wanting to do any of those things?’ In truth there are lots of things you could do well right now, so what are the stories that you are telling yourself that are getting in the way.
Are they stories about self worth?
Are they stories that have you believe this is a big decision?
Are they stories about having to ‘get it right’ otherwise inevitable disaster ensues?
What are the stories?
Oftentimes in life, choosing and moving and taking action are more important and empowering than making the ‘right’ or ‘best’ (or ‘perfect’) choice. Action and movement beats inaction and inertia, whatever the quality, because you can only steer something once it’s moving. Take action and course correct as you go.
David Deida has said “life is really just the correction of one mistake into the next” that can sound grim to some, so I’m going to change it up.
“Life is just the steering from one exploration or adventure into another.”
Before training as an NLP trainer I took a job as an assistant project manager in local government. There was nothing inspiring about it. Nothing that suggested that it was aligned with my purpose (which was ill formed at best at the time). But I did it anyway and I did it with a vow to make the very best of it FOR ME and to learn whatever I could from it. It was there I met the person who hooked me up with the people with whom I originally studied NLP.
That is one example of many I could give you as to how ‘less than desirable’ jobs and compromises have lead to life shaping opportunity.
“It might be an excuse but I think part of the problem (or at least my internal reasoning) for not finding a job so far is that I have a sense of being here for a purpose but I don’t know what that is.”
The only purpose you are here for is the purpose you actively create. If you haven’t created and shaped your purpose yet, you don’t have one!
Living life ‘on purpose’ is about stepping into your power to define your own mission… NOT waiting passively for some ‘calling’ (that is the opposite – reactive living, not purposeful living).
So how are you keeping yourself from stepping into your creativity and having some fun creating your purpose?
Most people do it by having a crappy self image filled with definitions about what they are not capable of and what is not possible or what is not right for them. The crappy self image is based upon who they grew up thinking they are.
So, forget the past – create what you want afresh NOW!
“I’m not religious so this is probably about working out what shaped hole would suit a ‘me like’ peg, but I do have the sense that if I knew why I was here, finding a way of doing that would be so much easier.”
Carve out your own hole, or re-shape yourself, or both. Get active. Get creative. Nobody is coming to bring you the ideal circumstances or the perfect fit or a mission or a life purpose. YOU are the only one with the power – switch it on, get creating and get creative.
“As it is I’m just doing a scatter gun approach for anything that I’m vaguely qualified for, wasting my time and my life and getting nowhere.”
Then it is time to stop wasting time SEARCHING and get focused on CREATING. start by clearing some time and a space in your brain for creating the first draft of the blueprint of the lifestyle you want. Clear away the bullshit stories about what is possible or practical… Just for NOW get into the land of fantasy and DREAM. This is the ONLY way to start getting in touch with passion and purpose. Of course, the ‘realist’ and the ‘critic’ will try and jump in and ruin your quality dreaming time, but kick them out (their time to contribute will come).
And you don’t need to do this in isolation. You can be taking action now by taking any work that gets you engaging with the world, and approach it with the mind to make the most of it from a developmental perspective WHILST at the same time engaging in the iterative process of creating and shaping your purpose.
Nothing exists before it is created, and that includes ‘purpose’, so the only way OUR purpose can come to exist is when WE create it. Don’t wait, create.