An interesting phrase 'Self Improvement" ...
What 'self' is being improved and why??
I guess it can mean being a better person, learning something new, accomplishing more, or simply figuring out how to better enjoy the life you have.
I saw a post on Facebook which announced something along the lines of "I need a change in my life soon because I'm sick and tired of this same old routine every day"
Who of us hasn't felt something like that at some time or another?
I suppose the first thing to do is work out what are we 'sick' about - the routine itself; the demands that routine is making on our lives?
The next thing to consider is, perhaps.how much of that routine is the result of choice and how much is beyond your scope of control?
If we're really honest with ourselves there will be much of "the routine that makes us sick' is because of choices we either made or did not make at some point in our past.
We work and need to bring in money, to pay the bills for things we have chosen to 'have' at some point in the past.
We believe we have no other choices in how we can pay those bills, and we can't immediately unchoose the house, family, the lifestyle we aspired too - so we are 'trapped' in a life we have, at some point, decided is less than what we want now.
Perhaps taking responsibility for the reality of past choices, and being specific about what we want is the first step into 'self-improvement'.
Of course, there are things which affect our lives that are genuinely beyond our control and influence - and perhaps we need to consider how we can view these differently and stop beating our heads against the walls that we haven't built.
If life is shit, consider what you can do to change it ... kinds simple I guess.
Here's an interesting set of "measures for personal development" that might help focus your thoughts...
Each one of these dimensions is something we can do something about ...
Think in terms of improving (or developing) some of these dimensions...
Intellectual - study, developing thinking skills, or otherwise improving the mind.
Physical - becoming stronger, faster, fitter - developing stamina
Acquiring Talents - unlike the previous two items, which are relatively general, talents might have both a mental and physical component but are really about doing a distinctive thing. Learning how to juggle, for instance, or playing an instrument, or learning an art or craft.
Organizational - cleaning, decluttering, time management - develop systems and processes to organise yourself
Interpersonal - connecting. Improving the quality of relationships, from the most casual of co-workers to the most significant of others.
Experiential - seeking out new sensations and experiences. This could be as involved as international travel, or as simple as savouring a pleasant aroma.
Removal - getting rid of bad habits, or reducing negative effects on your life. Clearing the physical, emotional and spiritual clutter.
These are based on the 7th Paths to Self Development by Aaron Rath
What would happen if you gave yourself score out of ten for each of these dimensions (10 meaning that you'd totally 'cracked' that facet of your life)?
Would such an assessment help you consider how you could bring about change?
Positive Thinking - The Problems
A quick look beyond the covers of any self-help book and you will find the same, possibly dangerous, rhetoric of positive thinking.\
You have a really bad day at work - just think positively...
Your relationship ends terribly - just think positively, there is a silver lining...
Superficially subscribers to what is termed Positive Thinking , tend to be endorsing an attitude to lief in which 'the darker side' is repressed, or given short shrift. Indeed any philosophical approach in which personal realities are polished or shrouded may contain a problem.
Put more directly, if you focus on only the positive aspects of your life, then you are in danger of discounting (repressing) other parts of you life.
In short you are creating a fluffy reality - one in which the gulf between what you are feeling and you are allowing yourself to feel grows.
Jung spoke of the idea of our shadow and maintained that enlightenment was not about finding the light, but shining the light into the darkness.
In terms of our ability to 'bounce' back from difficulties, our emotional resilience, denying the light in the shadow and the shadow in the light does not the 'skill' of 'bouncing back' to be practised or developed.
No I am not for one minute saying that we should adopt morose attitude to life, what I am saying is that there needs to be a desire to 'walk in balance'. It's as ok to 'sad' as it is to be 'happy' as long as you 'own' those feelings as yours. Such ownership can encourage deeper and more relevant personal development.
Again to put another spin on things...
If you refuse to see the pain, does not mean that the pain ceases to exist.
I may not like the darkness, and I may prefer to stay in the light, but simply thinking about the light does not mean we actually have 24 hours of sunlight.
The challenge is about exploring the causes (attachments to) of sadness as well the causes (attachments to) happiness. In a forthcoming book I explore the idea of happiness in a bit more detail, but for now its worth your consideration to question 'what happiness means to me?'
Stoic philosophers maintained that any event is just an event. It is the meaning that we attach to each event which gives it its importance.
To be mindlessly happy despite the intensity of any event is to fail to explore the real attachments you place upon it.
In a spiritual sense, such denial does make personal enlightenment a bit of a challenge.
I came across this on The Learning Mind and thought it was very interesting.
Like all of these visualisation approaches it relies on the hypotheses that there are certain common themes, images and ideas that 'speak' to the unconscious.
Jung spoke about the 'collective unconscious' and archetypes, which feeds directly into this kind of analysis.
So here's , The Castle Visualisation...
Imagine that you are in front of a castle.
The scenario then unfolds through the questions that follow.
Take paper and pencil, note the responses and learn more about your character, through this imaginary walk in the castle.
1. You are in front of the door of the castle. How exactly do you imagine it?
It is a simple door
It is covered by plants and is somewhat hard to find
It is a huge wooden door with metal details and it looks a little frightening
2. You pass the door of the castle what is the first thing you see?
A huge library, wall to wall full of books
A huge fireplace and a hot fire burning
A large banquet hall with huge chandeliers and red carpets
A long corridor with many closed doors
3. You look around and find a staircase. You decide to climb the stairs. What does the staircase look like?
It looks sharp and massive like not leading anywhere
It is an impressive spiral, grand staircase
4. After you climb the stairs, you reach a small room in which there is only one window. How big is it?
It is a normal window
It’s too small, almost skylight
The window is huge, so that it takes almost the entire surface of the wall
5. You look out the window. What do you see?
Large waves crashing furiously on rocks
A snowy forest
A green valley
A small, vibrant city
6. You go down the stairs and you’re back in the area where you were when you first entered the castle. You go ahead and find a door at the rear of the building. You open it and go out in a yard. What exactly does it look like?
It is full of plants, grasses, broken wood and fallen barbed wire
It is impeccably maintained with countless colorful flowers
It’s a little jungle, but you can imagine how beautiful it would be if someone cleaned and put it in order.
The door represents your attitude to new experiences. If you imagined a simple, everyday door, you probably are not afraid of any new challenge and will test your luck in new things and situations without a second thought.
If you have chosen the hidden door, you probably do not know what you need to do in the future and your life in it, and it looks blurry and undefined.
Of course, if you have chosen a big, scary door, then you probably are afraid of the unknown and find it difficult to get out of your comfort zone and try new experiences.
The space inside the castle is the idea that you believe others to have of you. If for example you saw a library, you probably think that you are the person who supports others and helps them find answers to their problems.
A large fireplace gives a feeling of warmth and passion that you think you cause in people.
A fancy ballroom suggests that you feel that you can dazzle people around you and that you have a lot to give.
If you ended up in a long corridor with closed doors, you feel that you are difficult to understand and others will have to try much to ‘penetrate’ more within you.
The stairway shows the image that you have of life. The sharp and massive staircase shows a person who sees life as suffering, with many difficulties. Unlike the beautiful spiral staircase which shows how romantic a person is.
The window is the way you feel right now. A small window means that you feel depressed and trapped in your life. It may feel like there’s no way out of what you are experiencing in this period.
A normal window shows a person with realistic demands and expectations of life at this stage. You realize that there are limitations, but the future is here and it looks clear for you.
Conversely, if the window is gigantic, you probably feel invincible, free and able to achieve what you want.
The View from the Window
The view from the window is the overview of your whole life! A stormy sea shows a hectic and erratic life, while a snowy forest is associated with a person who lived isolated and detached from the crowds.
A green valley suggests that your life is calm and steady, without much stress and anxiety. Finally, the vibrant city is related to someone who generally lives full life socialising with lots of people.
The Courtyard of the Castle
The image of the courtyard is the image that you have in mind of your future!
So if your garden is neat and shiny, then you feel that your future will be heavenly.
On the other, a picture of a promising but neglected garden shows an optimistic person, who is worried if he can find the energy to take control of his life and make his future more beautiful.
Those who chose the grassy, damaged garden are pessimistic that do not have a nice picture of the future.
As with all of these kinds of 'tests' use them for personal reflection and not for any form of diagnosis.
It's easier than you think....
Most people listen with the intent to reply rather than the intention to understand
The Art of Not Listening is not as difficult to master as you may think.
It can be learned by adopting theses six basic practices...
1) When someone is speaking watch their facial expressions. The moment they start to take a breath, leap in with your own point and agenda.
2) Take every opportunity to bring any topic back to you, This may take a little thought, but you can be thinking about how to do this whilst the other person is speaking - what they are saying is not important anyway.
3) Disregard what the person is saying about how they are feeling and close their self-pitying diatribe down with phrases of 'It can't be that bad' or' That can't be true' - then immediately tell your story, make your inane comment or irrelevant point. The further your more interesting input is from the topic that was being talked about the better.
4) Pick up on the least important point someone as said, emphasise that, then bring in your opinion, point or poorly researched fact. This takes a bit more practice - but you can do it. For example if someone is making a far too well thought out point about religious fundamentalism, mention Hitler and then talk about your recent holiday in Austria.
5) The person who is currently sharing their point or story may themselves be a skilled 'non-listener'. These people present the most difficult of challenges as they may know the first four rules of not listening.
The best way to deal with these people is to out of the blue suggest that 'others' in the group would enjoy a cup of tea or some biscuits. If this enticement does not break the intense listening that is happening; make the refreshments and then contrive to stand in-between the speaker and the listener making comments about the choice of biscuit of cake and so in...
6) If all else fails - start a different conversation with someone else whilst the person speaking is still speaking. Do this by finding something in what is being said to subvert in someway. Ensure that your new side conversation is little more than a whisper so that others will be forced to listen harder to what you are saying.
Follow these approaches and you will soon become a skilled 'non-listener'.
Identify your 'Hero' ...
If you've been looking at the various articles on this blog and pages on this website you will no doubt have noted that the boxer Muhammad Ali features as a source of inspiration for me.
What was, possibly one of his 'throw away' comments about having a 'Future History' really caught my imagination. He was talking about a visualisation technique, but we do know that simple visualisations may not be as effective as some self-help writers and trainers suggest. However, with the addition of other sensory modalities 'total sensory visualisations' can be very powerful. This is something explored in my forthcoming book.
In this article I really wanted to explore the idea of personal 'heroes' and 'inspirations'.
As we grow and develop we may 'look up' to many different people - some within your own family and friends, some from the stories we read and the films we watch.
We may identify the the heroic behaviours of those who have overcome incredible odds and challenges; we may recognise the values and attitudes of those who have achieved and we may recognise those characters who set themselves incredible goals.
If I reflect on these inspirational people my list would include...
Captain Picard (Star Trek)
And many more you could find on my growing Pinterest Boards Inspirations and Icons
The point, for me, is that it possible to draw inspiration from so many sources - and, you may not have to agree with everything about an 'icons' behaviour and personality. You can be inspired by their behaviours and actions in specific situations.
Whilst it is interesting to ask 'who inspires you', it is more useful to ask 'how' they inspire you?
What facets of their outlook, commitment and engagement in life are inspirational and possibly aspirational?
Now let's be clear here.
We're not trying to become a carbon copy of which ever heroine or hero inspires us. We are looking to our 'idea' of them to offer different perspectives on our current situation. This means that a powerful question could be...
What would Picard do in this situation?
What would Marie Curie say, do?
Of course these questions may never have been answered by our named 'heroic guru'.
But, that's not the point.
The point is that we have created an internal representation of these people; and in many ways it is as complete as we want it to be. We can hallucinate (imagine) the characteristics, values and attitudes of our heroes, they our versions of them.
Of course we can research more about these people; we can read biographies and better understand their motivations, perhaps, and this could create a deeper understanding of them, However, by identifying them as inspirations we have created an internal, personal, representation of who and what they are.
In NLP terms, your Heroes and Heroines can become part of the resources you use to navigate your own way through life.
Both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have written about the power of archetype and myth - so let's embrace our heroes and let them guide us on our own quests.
Create and revisit your own list of inspirations, heroes and heroines (you could use Pinterest to do this in a very visual way).
Then ask yourself about the qualities you admire in each; explore how these qualities could help you when you feel that you are out of ideas or lacking in resources.
Play with your ideas about these people and if you like read more about them...
FIND INSPIRATION FROM YOUR HEROES.
Dr Alan B JOnes
Director Inspire NLP