Pick Your Poison

When we’re looking for change we almost always want major change. We want some big part of our life to be different, or rather to give us cause to feel differently about it. But when talking about the change of all changes, the shift is very subtle and the effect very simple. What is remarkable is how profound such a small change can be.

The other day on the radio I heard a woman talk about a blog she had written under a false identity. The perspective she wrote from was strong and capable and she had a voice. The woman then lamented that she wished she personally could live her life more in alignment with her character than the person she was choosing to be.

Imagine that. She created that person and lived that person’s reality when she wrote the blog, and she could feel the joy associated with that person’s freedom, and yet she would say that she is someone else. She would tell us that she isn’t strong like her character. And someone like me would think that was bizarre. Why suffer being someone you don’t like when you know who it feels truly good to be?

Picking poisons. That’s all it is. We all re-create situations because we have coping skills that emerged from our experiences. We prefer the situations that match our skills and we feel uncomfortable being in ones that don’t match. But being good at being an ego is like being good at punching yourself in the face. You don’t want the life that you know, you want the want the one that feels good to live.

By choosing a life that the blog writer found stifling; one where she surrendered opportunities too quickly and failed to gain her own self-respect, she was doubling down on her lack of belief in herself. And yet there’s the person she wants to be, contained within her, writing to the world every day. If she would be willing to learn that person’s life skills she could step into the life that excites her spirit. But instead she stays safe and misses out.

You’re ego’s right. There will be people that will stop liking you if you change. If someone used to complain with you all the time and you don’t want to complain anymore, they’ll feel like you’ve changed for the worse. But while you lose those people, you find others, because the real matches to you can now see and recognise you for who you really are.

Seek a safe, encouraging, supportive environment with no violence or abuse and then find your nature. Because if fear or control take your ego over, you will live a life that is a thin shadow of an existence. But if if you are willing to accept the consequences of being the person that it feels truly good to be, then you will experience life’s challenges as that strong person. And that is much more rewarding than volunteering to be someone less capable and confident; someone who repetitively suffers through familiar problems.

It’s all just self-identity thoughts. The strong ones don’t use more energy than the weak ones. They’re not harder to  have. So be strong. It’s allowed. The crap was always going to come anyway. If you can’t avoid that then you might as well accept it and be who it’s most enjoyable to be.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Freedom of Possibility

1006-relax-and-succeed-this-is-just-not-going-to-work-outProvided they haven’t experienced powerful trauma, kids are naturally very skillful at enjoying life. In the healthiest situations they are excited by their fears; they want to stay up and hear the scary campfire story that will keep them up all night terrified. They believe they can do anything. And every experience is met with wonder. And they grow and grow and grow.

You don’t limit yourself to the expected when you’re a kid. You see more possibility. And we could argue that those odds are long, and yet it is also true that even long odds are ultimately true sometimes. So you can live in a boring world where houses get boarded up because people die, or you can live where kids live; where houses are boarded up because they’re haunted. Waves are sea serpents, basements contain boogeymen, and all meteor’s are spaceships. When we’re young we go into every situation anticipating adventure.

As we age repetitive experiences limit our imagination. If we’re abused long enough we’ll start to actually seek out abuse because that’s all we can fit into our highly limited imagination. And yet our child-mind is still alive within us. We still maintain the ability to see things another way.

1006-relax-and-succeed-the-idea-is-to-die-youngThink of the people you know. The freest ones are the ones who are willing to offer the craziest solutions. They just never say die. There’s always good news somewhere and they’re just as pleased to search for it as find it. Other friends see gloom and doom at every corner. They see the worst in others. They see lots of limits, lots of reasons that things can’t happen.

If you don’t believe something’s possible you won’t take the steps to see that thing happen in your life. If you think you’ll never have friends because everyone hates you, then you’ll never have friends because you never met anyone–because you guessed they’d all hate you when only some of them would. But even they would only hate you out of confusion.

Your friends wouldn’t love you more than your enemies, they would just see you more clearly. So even friendship is a childlike thing that we do less of as we age. When we’re young we’re more prepared to assume someone might be the source of good experiences but by the time we’re older we just sit in judgment all the time and then wonder why we don’t have more fun.

1006-relax-and-succeed-the-soul-is-healed-by-being-with-childrenYour life is a set of beliefs about things you think can’t happen or have to happen, but those beliefs are not the actual world they’re just your idea of it. People’s lives change every day, but in most cases it was because they actually began doing something different. The different thing you can do is truly monitor your judgments about things and find your own limits within those judgments. Again: those limitations are not the world, those are ideas you have and they prevent you from experiencing all that life has to offer. Be more childlike.

Study your own limits. Ask yourself how you’ve actually changed since you were a child. What things did you think were possible that you talked yourself out of? Open yourself up to more possibility. Imagine a life bigger than the current you could ever deserve. You can have something bigger than that. People certainly call Elon Musk’s dreams crazy but does he care? He doesn’t have the time/thought-space to think about their judgments: he’s too busy building a spaceship!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Decision-making Simplified

If you’re looking to live a peaceful life then a principled life provides the greatest levels of consistency and the most positive results overall. Yes, statistically the principled life can mean prices can be high, but the reward is the calm equanimity of a life with a peace of mind. So how do these principles work?

654 Relax and Succeed - How you do anythingKeep in mind, this isn’t me reading a dictionary to you. This is my definition based on my understanding of how the human mind is wired up. A principle is like a conceptual limit. Anything outside of it would exist outside your definition of yourself. So if you don’t believe in murder, then imagining yourself killing someone would be highly unpleasant because the thought would conflict directly with your principles.

If you claimed to hold the principles stated above, then killing someone for money would be to sell your character. Because that deal means you’ll be forced to function outside the framework of the principles you claimed to have. As soon as you’re outside that line you’re behaviour lacks character and you are a wild card for the rest of the world and for yourself. A great deal of energy is expended in being this way because each experience becomes strictly an emotional outcome rather than the larger philosophical growth opportunity it could be. Because if we take enough of those growth opportunities and we add them together we eventually end up at wisdom. So if you’re operating from a basis of principles you can climb quite high in life. But if you’re only using your daily opinion then 20 years of experience gets turned into the same year re-done 20 times.

654 Relax and Succeed - The more you love your decisionsThe reason wisdom is important is because our mood—our thought chemistry—can drastically impact how we’ll react to any given circumstance. Something that seemed reasonable 10 minutes ago can suddenly seem horrifying, or insane and the opposite’s true too. So we can’t be making decisions based only on how we feel, especially during a pique of emotion. Even the Dalai Lama will admit to having a temper. So we need something to filter out the kinds of errors we’ll make when we’re overly emotional: enter principles.

These are like pre-decided conceptual ideas. If you claim to value human life then you are in principle against murder. That means that when you get asked whether or not the government should be able to use the death penalty you know the answer must be no because yes would exist outside of your principles. Likewise, if you value human dignity then you would in principle want people to be treated with respect. And that would mean you that you absolutely would not take advantage of a date who was under any kind of influence. To the contrary you would protect them.

You can’t buy character. You pay for character. If you believe people should be treated equally, then character dictates that if you work for a CEO that lays off a bunch of low level employees and then he applies their salaries to the bottom line to boost executive bonuses, then you have to quit or figure out what charity you’re going to give that money to. Because spending it would be to allow one group to take advantage over another, and if you truly believe in everyone being treated equally then you know the 654 Relax and Succeed - The ultimate measure of a manmoney was obtained through unprincipled means and you have to find some reasonable way to get yourself back on-side with your principles.

If this sounds expensive sometimes it really is. But do not underestimate how much easier it makes life. Because when you see tortured people trying to make the “right” decision in some tense or difficult situation, you can just calmly look at it and know what the mathematics of your principles would dictate and your answer would be spit out by your pre-determined belief structure, rather than your current brain chemistry. That often leads to much better long term outcomes, and the nature of it means that you’ll do less actual thinking than the people who are trying to feel what the right thing to do is, rather than calculate it based on their carefully chosen principles.

Take the pressure off yourself. Set your principles and then live by them. You’ll be surprised at how good you feel when you pay a price to live up to them. It’s only then that you realize that most of the heroes in the movies and books and shows of your life have all been the one who exercised strong principles—even if you didn’t always agree with their values. But in the end, the closest thing anyone can consistently be is the decisions that emerge from their character. Their thoughts will change, their cells will change, but only by experience and by choice will their decision-making change.

Figure out where your lines in the sand are. What are your absolutes? Build yourself a framework of principles and then spend some time living with them. They’re trickier than you first realize if you’re serious about it. But after you fall into the habit they make a wonderful decision-making tool.

Here’s to easier decisions that are more in alignment with our values and which should therefore create more peace of mind and the opportunity to more deeply enjoy the very act of living. I wish you the very best.

peace, s

A Room Full of Toys

What’s the advantage of a should-have-been-dead accident when you’re five years old? It teaches you very clearly that any human being can die on any day. Any of us can watch the news and see that half the world struggles with even surviving basic hunger. And even if you’re lucky enough to be born or move to the 1st World, you’re still human. Cars, diseases, work-place accidents—people die every single day. But that’s not depressing. It’s exactly the opposite. If you’re really paying attention, that’s actually invigorating.

649 Relax and Succeed - How are you investingIf you watch people closely you will see that the majority of you are remarkably timid about your own lives. Even though you’ll be a capable adult, you’ll still be afraid to be the first person to put your hand up to ask a question at work or in school. You’ll routinely see people standing a long distance away from the line up here sign as though being front and centre and next-in-line is somehow too big a stage for their insecure selves. People will speak so softly and timidly that you routinely can’t even hear them, which only forces them to repeat themselves over and over, which frustrates the listener and only further adds to the speaker’s fears.

You’re not a vampire. You are not immortal. And as Bram Stoker pointed out, the agony of being a vampire is the absence of mortality. Because if you cannot die you cannot truly live. Because unless life is precious it’s much like kids with swimming pools—they only swim when someone who values a pool is visiting. Whether it’s diamonds, gold, Ferrari’s, Faberge Eggs, or time, anything that’s limited in supply will have its value increased. But you’re not investing your time in joy. You’re not going on that big trip or starting that new business or quitting that lousy job because you’re afraid. You spend all of your time calculating the downsides and too little thinking about what you might accomplish and how you might grow. You’re too worried about what others think to really dive into life and live it large.

649 Relax and Succeed - It is not how much we haveYou know people who do live deeply. Everyone knows at least one. Someone who’s bold and excited by their life. Someone who says yes a lot. These people are quick to volunteer. You can actually hear them sing the anthem at sports events. They’ll karaoke, they’ll wear outrageous Halloween costumes. They’ll have had a kid and still wear their bikini to the beach even though they have a C-section scar. But these people aren’t any better than you. They just understand one simple idea.

Imagine that everyone you know is represented by four other people. Now imagine life is a room filled with 500 fantastic toys in it. These toys are metaphors. Some are objects like clothes or houses, but some are also capabilities like job skills or personality strengths. And now imagine that your lifetime is represented by the fact that you only get eight hours to play in that room and then you’ll will be locked out forever. So one lifetime equals five kids, 500 toys and eight toy-room hours.

Inside the room twenty of the 500 toys are broken. So you when you enter you have the option to have a ton of fun playing with 480 toys for eight full hours! But you know what most of you do? Out of 480 other choices, you will notice that people are judging the toys and then collecting the ones that they deem the most valuable. So soon virtually no kids are playing because every kid is too busy grabbing toys and placing them in boxes with their names on them. If you’re aware of it you’ll notice that they spend a lot of time keeping an eye on their boxes so that no one else steals the toys they’ve already collected. This is why adults surrender fun time to meet with security companies.

As they’re busy collecting the kids will periodically stop to compare their boxes. The kids with the best toys will be described as successful but if you were watching closely they will have spent the most time 649 Relax and Succeed  - Are you trading the hours of your lifecollecting and protecting their toys rather than playing with them. And they’ll be further convinced that ownership is better than experience because most of the other kids will gather around the closed boxes and they’ll sacrifice experiences with their own toys in order to worship or want what’s inside the better collector’s box.

Of course the kids also stumble upon some of the twenty broken toys. They want to own as many toys as possible so that they win the contest, but before they can show the broken toys (traits, abilities etc.) to anyone they feel they need to repair the damage. So as with “personal faults” the problem with this is that if people believe that they will be judged for having a broken toy then they will invest far too much time attempting to hide and repair it before anyone notices. Do you realize what this means for your lifetime? So for your short eight hours of time to play you will spend most of it hoarding, hiding and fixing your toys, but you’ll spend surprisingly little time in actually playing with them. And then there’s people like a small percentage of us.

We come in the room and we start playing right away. We grab a toy and we play with it. It naturally leads us to another toy and we play with that. If someone takes it we’ll just grab a different one and keep playing. We don’t see the room as a competition. It’s an open opportunity to play. So while others are busy hoarding, hiding and repairing their toys, we just play. And if we 649 Relax and Succeed - The happiest of peopledo run into a damaged toy we just set it aside and move on to the next toy. Indeed, by the end of the eight hours we’re the only kids who have the potential to have a box filled with the broken toys.

The other kids will obviously have a few broken toys in their box too, but they’ll invest a lot of time hiding those, and even more time in collecting the good toys to distract you. But me? I had that bad accident when I was young, so I remember that I’m just going to get kicked out of the room anyway, so I don’t really care what broken toys are in my toy box. I don’t really care what the other kids think of my toys or what my tally of toys was compared to theirs. We all leave the room. Ownership is essentially meaningless. Like the Pharaoh’s wealth it’ll just be entombed in a room anyway. I’d rather be exhausted from all of the playing I did than be exhausted from building a big vault.

Stop wasting your valuable life trying to get the most coveted toys in your box. There are no windows into the room so whoever built the room is definitely not studying you to judge whether you won or lost, or whether you were deserving or not. The room is merely an opportunity for you to exercise your ability to choose this toy or that. There’s no right toys to get. No one gets to keep anything. In the end when the buzzer sounds and the door opens back up and we leave the room, that’s when most kids realize they never really did play much. Don’t be those kids. Don’t squander your life trying to fix your 649 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to live foreverproblems or hoard all the toys. Play instead. Because in the end the kid that won the game was the one that did the most playing. Yes, they had to accept that their box had some broken toys in it. But what does that matter in the face of having had so much more fun?

Stop being so timid. Stop worrying about being judged for the toys you have or don’t have. Just play with them. You only have eight hours. You’ll be amazed at how fast it goes by. So if you want the time you have to feel long, then the best thing you can do is play a lot. Because in the end life is a verb. So the real winner isn’t the person with the fewest broken toys, or the person who has the most or best toys, the real winner is the person who spent the most time playing. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to play. 😉

peace. s

Addictive Behaviour

Through my years of practice I’ve had numerous addicts express the same curious concept to me: their addiction had a limit. Now not all addicts have the same limits, so while one person might be able to do one thing, another could do something else. So, for instance, one alcoholic couldn’t stay sober unless there was an event important to her daughter, yet in another case531 Relax and Succeed - And once the storm is over another alcoholic couldn’t stay sober even for a wedding, and yet they could if they were going to church.

There’s all sorts of forms of these limits. Crack users that stopped at needles even though they fully believed the next high would be even better. Or people who will crave painkillers but they won’t touch the one that killed their mother even if they’re jonesing. People that think they can’t control their eating and yet all day long they control their eating by making choices. I’ll give you a great example of that last one.

I like to travel by mixing with the locals and trekking etc. I think I’ve tried everything else except a cruise. I was once on a bus trip (that will seem so strange to my friends) in Europe. We arrived at a hotel where we picked up some other Canadians who had just landed late the night before. I was seated behind a woman who could be fairly described as obese. She got on the bus with a very large purse/bag, and in it she had an assortment of snacks like chips and cheezies and candies, and she shot through them very quickly.

Throughout the drive the woman was telling her seatmate all about her various attempts to lose weight. Each time she said she just did not have the will-power necessary to succeed. Keep that statement in mind for later in the trip when she’s run out of cheezies. Because as an inexperienced traveler she was shocked not to see all the brands and items she would expect to see at home. Everything looked different. She was fickle and she curled her nose in distaste. No. No, none of this will do. She’ll eat at the next stop.

531 Relax and Succeed - Believe in the powerThat happened stop after stop. She would go in, not recognize any of the packages for the foods that she ate, she would turn up her nose and she would leave without eating. There were other foods she recognized—like many chocolate bars—but she didn’t like those. She was craving a bag of Old Dutch chips or Hawkins Cheezies but they—especially way back then—didn’t have anything like that in Europe. They had their local brands. And so she went all day without eating. Not because there wasn’t crisps or chips or whatever. And not because there wasn’t chocolate in various forms and shapes. She didn’t because her thoughts told her not to. Her thoughts told her that those other foods weren’t foods because she didn’t like them. And so she does have will-power against food. She just doesn’t have it when it comes to her own thinking.

The simple fact is, that woman was hungry and there was food all over the place and yet she stopped herself by simply telling herself a story that there was no food she would accept. Because if she stayed in Europe long enough, eventually she’d get hungry enough and she would try some new things and she would eventually develop new favourites and then she would have the same problem she has now, only with European foods. The point is, on that bus trip her barriers to those foods are were made purely of thought. She didn’t believe those were foods for her so they weren’t. And until she changed that belief, turning those foods down was easy for her.

531 Relax and Succeed - Try notIf you’re battling an addiction you’re not really battling the substance or behaviour. You’re battling your thoughts about it. You see yourself as an addict and everything is weighed against that. That identity holds you back. Instead be no one. Study your thinking. Study your addictions and your restraints closely. Get to know them so well that you can see that they are subtle forms of the same idea. Your thoughts will lose power and control over you, and you will be able to exercise more volition over what you do with your time on this Earth.

Thinking you have no control is having no control. Knowing that you are capable of control means that it is simply a matter of enactment. Turn your wisdom into a verb. As Yoda said, “Do or not do. There is no try.” You don’t try to quit an addiction. You simply no longer see it as yours. Change who you think you are and a different life will seem more appropriate for you to live. Enjoy.

peace. s