1032-relax-and-succeed-dont-place-your-mistakesI’ve got a rare situation that’s given me an equally rare state of mind to write from. This makes it an ideal time for me to write about how I’ll face this emotional challenge, because the nicest thing about living in the present moment is that you trust that you learn from experience so you feel authentically bad about unfortunate things, but then you can move on.

You feel hits to your ego but you don’t hold grudges nor do you worry about what might happen and maybe most importantly you don’t beat yourself up. You accept that everyone learns and everyone makes mistakes, you grab the lesson with humility and then move on as soon as you’re sure the lesson’s been learned. There’s no extra time wasted in ruminating on should’a could’a would’as. But today I crossed that line we all have within us; the mistake that bothers us the most because it betrays some fundamental aspect of ourselves that we place great faith in.

1032-relax-and-succeed-courage-is-the-decision-to-favour-actionI had figured out by nine years old that the human mind could not really be trusted despite people’s best intentions. This lead me to develop a series of thought-tests that I would put my own ideas and other people’s ideas through to ensure they were solid. Today I did the thing that bothers me the most: I didn’t make use of a mental tool that I knew I had built for a reason when I know full well I only build those tools when it’s important.

What a lot of my students start off doing is they start telling themselves stories about what they should have done. Then another part of the brain will calculate the damage, and then it’ll be angry that it happened at all, and then fear of what will happen, then the consideration of an alternate future where you made the opposite decision, and finally self-criticism for making the same mistake yet again despite the fact that making the same mistake actually makes a lot of psychological sense.

1032-relax-and-succeed-if-all-else-failsI will feel strongly compelled to react in all of the ways noted above. I suspect I will bounce into actually doing those things for bursts of time. But I spend so much time peaceful that I will notice when I’m tortured, so that’ll be a good cue. From there I’ll pursue strategies to take my mind off the painful useless subject and place it on better things.

This means that the idea becomes like a ball of pain on a ping pong table, where my natural reaction to the approaching pain is to swat it away. I think of those words and narratives as little balls of pain and when I run into one in my head I hit it away but shifting my attention to something more productive and peaceful.

I will wage this little battle for as long as it takes before my mind finally accepts the situation fully, and meanwhile I’ll have been able to take immediate action to mitigate any additional damage. That’s as good as you can do after a mistake, and dreaming like it was possible to never make one was something I surrendered many thousands of surrenders ago.

Bad feelings feel bad for a reason. Just by their sensation they urge you not to think them. So when you feel in pain, don’t turn inside yourself and self-discuss that pain. Recognise that as coming from your thinking and then shift it. That power is always in your hands and the more you use it the stronger you’ll be.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

PS. Funny side-note, it turns out I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had. Good thing I didn’t engage in a bunch of painful, useless thinking about something that was ultimately just a false belief.

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.

The Blame Game

You have to begin by appreciating the fact that you and absolutely everyone around you is in a constant, moment-by-moment fluctuation between ego and wisdom. And so we’ll never completely get rid of ego because of course it is Yang to wisdom’s Yin. So what we’re shooting for is a largely enlightened society where there are enough people living in wisdom for long 470 Relax and Succeed - Even the nicest peopleenough stretches that they can absorb and not re-transmit the negativity that tends to emit from ego.

One of the key ways we can express negativity is through frustration, anger and blame. Blame is the result of the chaining together of expectations that are then compared to what is and then a judgment is made—and this is all taking place in only your consciousness. The fact that an ego would tell itself such a story should hardly be surprising. So when someone points the finger of blame at you, remember to understand it as being impersonal.

As I noted, blame is about comparing what is with what we wanted. Arguing the logic that they had no business making their initial assumption in the first place will not go over well when people are feeling frustrated. What we should do instead is really put ourselves into their shoes. See what’s happened not from your superior position of knowing what happened behind the scenes, but what it looks like to them. I can give you a great example.

I have a client I really like and she is friendly and reasonable and even generous. But you know those tasks or projects that just end up being the Bermuda Triangle of activities? Where no single major thing goes wrong. In fact, if the disappointed person was there to witness it, they would easily understand and wouldn’t feel let down at all. And most people will give you the benefit of a doubt even if they didn’t see it themselves. But when you get those fluke instances where one person runs into several consecutive experiences like that, it makes sense that the part of their brain that’s starting to feel familiar is: incompetence. Now, on our end—precisely because 470 Relax and Succeed - Breathe deep and let gothings had gone so badly—everyone was working extra, extra hard in an effort to make up the difference. So it’s really bad math when things keep failing by fluke. Because the harder the people try, the more negativity they face. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the natural flow of things.

So whenever the woman would express frustration in an email, one co-worker would feel she was being unreasonable because she wasn’t respecting how hard everyone was working in their efforts to try to ensure things went right. When you’re ignoring other people’s needs to address someone else’s it’s easy to feel gratitude would naturally flow from that. But if the person is continually not having their promised needs met, it makes sense that their egoic narrative would begin to loop angrily through the region that includes incompetence. I on the other hand wanted only to resolve the woman’s concerns immediately. Her frustrations seemed entirely understandable to me and I wasn’t insulted at all whenever she expressed them. I understood that from her perspective it was impossible to see how hard everyone was working to resolve things.

We can’t really live successfully if our objective is to avoid any and all discord. But we can eliminate a lot of the unnecessary discord by being more patient and understanding about the sources of people’s behaviour. If you understand that someone is reacting to their narrative rather than your reality then it’s much easier to not take their responses personally.

As much as possible try not to lay blame. It’s largely counter-productive. But if you lay it, forgive yourself. And if you’re the one blamed, take it in stride. It’s not that big a deal. Just hear it remembering that the blame is them responding to their internal monologue, not yours. Realities are separate and they can be quite different. So don’t exasperate yourself by trying to get other people to live in yours. It just can’t be done. So when people blame you, just remember that they forgot that you can’t see their reality nor live up to all of their expectations.

Now knowing all of this, I wouldn’t blame you at all for having yourself an uber-fantastic day!

peace. s 😉

Other Perspectives #15

378 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Learn to admit your mistakes

Admitting to mistakes I’m all for. We’ve built cultures that are so aggressive, negative and punitive that we’ve discouraged people from being honest. So yes, admit your mistakes and in doing so own them and learn from them. But if you think you can stop people from exaggerating, embellishing or even downright lying about you—then think again. You have virtually no control over the actions of others and if there’s anything egos thrive on, it’s gossip. Egos feel it’s far better to sit and judge other people’s behaviour rather than making efforts to influence and direct their own. Let’s be clear: people will say things about you that aren’t true. They’ll say them for reasons that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. They’ll say them because they don’t want to take responsibility, or they don’t want to be seen in a bad light—they’ll even say them because they’re jealous of your success or ability or confidence. You can’t spend your life worrying about that. That’s like worrying about rain or wind. It’s going to happen regardless, so why invest so much time pretending you can do anything about that? You’re far better off to focus on building your Self and your sense of the world than you are in defending yourself against hollow accusations. In the latter case you gain nothing, in the former you expand your very being. And in the end, there’s no greater victory than that.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offence to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.


Repetitive Mistakes

I’m desperate for money but I keep making the same mistake at work and I’m worried I’m going to get fired. My boss has a temper but I can’t blame him. Every time he asks me, “How can you keep making the same mistake over and over?” I never know what to say. It’s not like what he’s asking me is hard. But for some reason that’s always the thing I forget.

The Mistakemeister

Dear Meister,

Those must be mighty unpleasant thoughts. If your finances are a matter of stress for you then you’re likely to waste a lot of time walking on eggshells in the hopes that you don’t make the mistake and then face the subsequent financial threat. But if your mind is focused on worrying 351 Relax and Succeed - The expert in anythingthen you’re actually more likely to make the mistake than if you were mindful.

This would all obviously be easier if your boss had an understanding that imminent threats only serve to distract employee’s thinking away from their work. Better that people feel cared about and supported. Then we’re motivated to do good work out of personal pride and a sense of respect toward our boss and co-workers. That’s human nature. It’s unfortunate that so many people work against our natures rather than with them. We trade a win-win for a lose-lose. But you don’t control your boss you only control you, so let’s focus on that.

First off—you always forgetting the same thing isn’t strange, it’s logical. Your brain is wired by your history. It will give you certain advantages and certain disadvantages. The “mistakes” you make will be consistent with duties that don’t fit well with the matrix of thought that is “you.” So ask a brilliant mathematician to describe a dance move and despite her intelligence she’s crippled. Likewise, ask the dancer to do some high level math and he’s stumped, unable to turn the numerical symbols into useful ideas. Both people are brilliant. But both will consistently be bad at the same things over and over. Because that’s who they are. So nothing’s wrong with you. You just have some duties that don’t suit your personality. But that’s okay. Everyone has those. You just have to build yourself a back-up.

As a manager I knew my weak points and I always made sure that my most senior employees were strong in the areas I was weak. You want to shore up your procedures in the same way. If you know you make the same kind of mistake over and over then you have to change the process so that it makes a different kind of sense to you. So say you’re great at physical work but you always forget to document what you do for invoicing purposes. You’re not lazy and 351 Relax and Succeed - Your past mistakesyou obviously have skills, but the way you see the world means you don’t think of documenting things. Maybe your family never took photos or you were never big on looking at the ones they did take. Something would have trained you not to think of the world as still images. So you need to find triggers that will lead you to ask yourself the question—should I be taking photos of this?

Maybe it’s a sign hanging on your toolbox and you have a ritual that you ask yourself the question every time you grab a tool. Or maybe you put white marks on the work and as you rub each mark off you ask yourself if you need any photos of where you’re at. The important thing is to just keep doing it for month even if you fail a lot of times. Because even the failures help wire the idea into your brain and I assure you, you will eventually begin to find the behaviour natural. And that same thing would apply to any skill you want to acquire. You just have to be willing to fail in order to cover the distance to collect the skill. There is no other way. But at least you can rewire yourself.

Get your angry boss off your back by expanding your abilities. Do not tell yourself that you’re the kind of person who can’t do that because that is only a story you tell yourself. Like Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Your brain is amazing and it will do incredible things if you ask it to. So ask it to remember the things you tend to forget. Find ways to remind yourself. And be okay with failing. But over time the serious consideration of the idea will meld it into your being and like all things that now feel natural, you will have repeated the action in your mind enough times that it will have become an aspect of you.

351 Relax and Succeed - Knowledge comes from learningDon’t be distracted by fearful thoughts. Be mindful. Be present in your own life. Quiet your mind and notice things. Your world will change. It’s a common thing for people to take my course and then find they’re much more mentally and physically coordinated. In fact they were always coordinated—they just weren’t mindful. Be mindful. Know your world in a deep and profound way. Understand more and then you won’t need to rememberyou’ll see the action as part of a process that makes sense to you. You just have to alter the narrative you tell yourself about the work and ensure it includes everything your boss needs it to include. Do that and repeat it and it’ll be wired into you quite quickly. Your day will go better and your boss will be off your back. Congratulations.

peace. s

2013’s Blog of the Year #2

Was one of your favourites in the Top Ten so far? I’m pleased to see this one easily took 2nd Place. People are far too hard on themselves and it does them nor the world any good at all. And it represents a misunderstanding we have. Human consciousness is too new and we’re still coming 279 Relax and Succeed - The biggest mistaketo understand how we can get lost in what The Buddha called The Illusion.

I’m Canadian. Wayne Gretzky is generally considered the greatest hockey player to ever have lived. And do you know what he has in common with all of the other candidates for that title? They all took a lot of shots. They scored a lot because they shot a lot. We cannot be afraid to discover. You didn’t think you were failing when you were a baby learning to walk and talk. You didn’t not-crawl because you thought you should go straight to walking. And you didn’t suddenly talk—you babbled incoherently for months until you learned even basic control over your own mouth.

Maybe you should have patience like that again. Because you know how the baby has it? They don’t know words yet, so they can’t give themselves hell for not already knowing what they’re learning. That uses up a lot of energy, which is why kids learn to walk and talk so fast even though both things are so difficult. All that self-talk slows everyone else down so much that even easy things can seem hard.

Look, it’s not like your life is some beacon of awesomeness thanks to you hiding from making mistakes. So what do you have to lose? Go big. Stop hiding. Get out there and live. You have less time on this planet than you think and as you age you’ll increasingly realize that they only way to get anywhere is by taking the steps to get there—even if that means being wrong along the way. So in an effort to help you get comfortable with that very idea, I am pleased and proud to present to you the 2nd Most Popular Blog of the Year:


No Mistake About It

My accident had caused me to think differently, but the first time I recognized that was when I first noticed how people reacted to being wrong. It made Grade One surreal. Everyone saw wrong as a mistake or a problem or otherwise something that you do not want to do. That truly baffled me because it’s an indefensibly crazy idea.

Your brain processes/creates the world in such a way that you notice patterns in things. That’s how you know how the world works. So if your mom buys five apples at the store, before 279 Relax and Succeed - To be outstandingtoo long you’ve figured out that you don’t need to look back in the fridge for another apple if you’ve already eaten all five. By making that mistake when you were little, you learned that five is five is five and gone is gone and done is done. These are concepts that your brain had to learn to absorb and then apply elsewhere.

The point in the apple story is that you needed to be wrong. You had to try something that wouldn’t work before you could begin to understand the reasoning behind what did work. For you to recognize a pattern you have to identify its edges by failing. As William Blake said, “You never know what is enough unless you know what it is more than enough.”

Failing is why you lost your helium balloon as a kid. Kids always lose them because they are making the mistake that the balloon will fall down and not up. Because they’ve practiced that gravity idea, remember? They dropped stuff from their highchair all the time. Intentionally. Just to watch it fall. And in doing so they built the idea of gravity. And it looks like it’s always in operation—until a kid sees either a hot air or helium balloon, or a plane or helicopter—and of course these are all things that amaze kids. These things break the Law of Gravity and that’s one of the most certain ones we feel we have.

Throughout life you apply your ability to reason and then you build and learn the laws and principles that emerge through your experience of life (like gravity or grammar or local customs etc.), and then you live your life according to them. Had you been born in another place you would think different things and eat different foods. But none of those neural networks that you build can exist without you using a literal form of Socratic Method.

Your brain must guess and test itself through the world and the wrong answers are worth more than the right ones because they will eventually be what exposes why the right answer is right. And then 279 Relax and Succeed - I haven't failedthat principle can get applied to other situations. So much like the best batters are also the people who strike out the most, being smart is like being willing to be wrong the most. Remember: when you’re born your brain doesn’t grow outward like branches on a tree. Rather, the entire thing glows with possibility and by learning what isn’t possible you shut ideas off—you remove possibilities. Yes you can add new concepts too, but in the end your beliefs/identity are less like a tree and more like a sculpture. Your Ego was constructed from a reduction of your totality not an expansion of it. We are better to be free of that limitation.

There is no shame in being wrong. As Jonathan Swift said, it’s a way of saying your smarter today than you were yesterday. How can you be upset about finding out you’ve been wrong? Finding out you’ve been wrong is the end of being wrong. Why would you be upset that the ignorant part is over? You should celebrate that. You just had a eureka moment. You’re bigger now. You understand more. You’re more capable.

Your vocabulary doesn’t expand if you don’t look up the words you don’t know. If you can’t admit you don’t understand something then you can’t take the steps to correct your misunderstanding. So people who don’t like to be wrong are the same people who learn the least. You know those people; they’ve had the same job for 20 years, but really they haven’t grown—they’ve just re-lived the same year 20 times with no growth-from-wrongness occurring.279 Relax and Succeed - Man cannot discover

Leap towards your mistakes. Revel in being wrong. Rejoice at learning that you were incorrect. This is an expansion of you. This is what makes you better at being you. Failed relationships increasingly point to what we truly want in a partnership and from ourselves. Getting fired points out either bad bosses or missing skills. Being turned down for one thing creates an opportunity for another.

Your divorce wasn’t a failure. It was you testing the world to see what you truly want. And maybe that was a healthy marriage for who you were at one time. But life changes. People grow. Sometimes together sometimes apart. So don’t think you made the wrong decision getting married 20 years earlier. Realize instead that you’ve had 20 years of growth from two people and that it would almost be surprising if they were still wanting all of the same things in life. And even than doesn’t mean we’re moving to something better….

Your life isn’t a collection of successes and failures. It’s a set of tests that had results, and the results informed which directions you chose in life. That’s all anyone is doing. And even if they’ve been super successful at negotiating the work world, that doesn’t mean they’ll have been good at the marriage world, or the kid-raising world, or the friend world. So stop comparing yourself. Life is multifaceted.

Stop beating yourself up for the mistakes that are an inevitable part of your growth. The realizations that you’ve made a “mistake” are merely you recognizing that your tests of life have lead you to become someone who is both bigger and better.

Now go stumble your way to an awesome day. 😉

peace. s