Managing Your Consciousness

I don’t know why you pay so much attention to the outside world. If you pay attention to your personal interior world you’ll see that when I say that you live within your consciousness I’m not speaking figuratively or metaphorically. As I’ve said before, Stephen Hawking’s body might have been bound to a wheelchair but his consciousness has touched the edges of the known universe. And that rule applies to all of us. We would all applaud a surgeon cutting our bodies wide open to repair us just as long as our consciousness isn’t present to notice.

658 Relax and Succeed - Not my circusBecause your emotional experiences take place in your consciousness via your thoughts, it is a beautiful thing to be able to genuinely wish the best for someone who would traditionally be categorized as an enemy. Because any hating or resentments or anger would be taking place in my consciousness not theirs. I would be experiencing it not them. So I can love an “enemy” and they won’t even know I’m doing it and yet it allows me to feel much better than I would if I was hating them. That’s totally in my control and the good thoughts are guaranteed to feel better than the bad ones.

Likewise, when other people are upset with you that’s something that happens in their consciousness. If you start to consider and re-think and wonder about their thoughts then you can injure yourself because now those are your thoughts too. People have lied about you to get things they wanted, or to accomplish things they thought were important, or to hide a mistake they made etc etc.. And people have given you credit for things you didn’t do, or they’ve had overly generous opinions—in the end, good or bad, every opinion of you is just that: an opinion. So there is no need for you to invest any of your lifetime in trying to manage the interior of everyone else’s consciousness.

Opinions are ideas about who you are and even the most detailed ones are based on shockingly little information when you think about the complexity of a human life and all of the reasons you did this or that thing. So someone can know someone for two months and decide they’re “slutty” when in fact the person is just going through the tail end of a divorce and it’s enormously common for most people to be a bit slutty during that am I still attractive? phase. So is that person casual about their sex or did someone see 1/10,000th of their life and paint an entire picture based on it?

658 Relax and Succeed - Never explain yourselfYou’ve all had this happen. There are all kinds of opinions out there about all of you and they differ wildly. So you can’t be all of those people so who are you? You are the thinker of your own opinion of you. You too have an idea of who you are. And keeping that version of you healthy already requires a lot of your attention so there’s no need to cripple your awareness by considering every other opinion about you.

In the end the closest thing to who you are is what you do under given circumstances. So pay less attention to what people think about you—bad or good—and focus on what your friends know about you by watching you live your life over time. Because most people’s judgments will have been gotten second hand so they can easily storm up and combine to “define” someone’s reputation. And yet those views are ultimately nothing more than a collection of thoughts in a collection of heads. Those don’t matter. Half the time people have misinterpreted your motives even if they do get some decent facts. So you can’t live your life trying to have a good reputation. You have to live your life fully as yourself, unafraid of judgment, because that is where real bravery, real character and real respect reign.

Now go have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Teen Parents

An extremely common thing I am approached about is teens who begin to exhibit behaviors that are perceived to be undesirable. I’ve never actually counted them, but I’m confident they would be my most common client—them or their parents or some combination of both. Because it’s so common it’s also a good basis for discussing the concept of separate realities, so I’ll use it as a case study to explain where the tension comes from and what you can do about it.

553 Relax and Succeed - No one should abandon dutiesHuman beings are wired up not to notice things if they’re too repetitive. Better to invest the available brainpower in something useful, than to constantly stop everyth—SQUIRREL!!! You get my point. So if something goes on too long, it becomes invisible to us by being absent from our consciousness. As I often note, pig farmers don’t smell pigs.

A good example of this is one of the subtle things that happens to parents: they have, for more than a decade, unconsciously been the undisputed masters of their kids schedules, activities, resources and wisdom. So when the child actually begins to change that relationship by having their own ideas, that stands out as extremely noticeable to a parent. It is a shift from near-absolute automatically presumed control, to an inability to control, combined with belligerence and distance. It’s like a two year old with a driver’s licence. To the parent it’s a real whack to the wiring in the brain and even the most open-minded person will need time to adjust.

From the kid’s perspective, they didn’t go looking for autonomy. All that happened was, they eventually had enough trusted outside sources of perspective to allow them to develop an idea about the world that differs from their parent’s. And they notice it when they do it. I remember doing this. It was startling. It was like a whole new way to be. And kids like this new thing to do with their mind, and so they exercise it a lot—which is understandably insanely frustrating to their parents who, until then, could wade in and end any big kerfuffle quickly and effectively. There is no way to break up eye rolling. They either volunteer to quit rolling them or you voluntarily control homicidal fantasies on a fairly regular basis. Either way, for both parties it’s all new.

553 Relax and Succeed - You do not have to make your childrenThe kid is at a huge advantage. All of this capability of opinion is captivating. They develop paper-thin perspectives on everything. And blasting electricity into these new parts of the brain feels exciting and compelling. On the flip side, parents are pulling their hair out as they legitimately watch their carefully built lives completely upended by the dramatics that go with the hormones that go with the teen years. This whole era for the relationship is a much better deal for the kid than the parent.

What I want to focus on is the fact that the reason these two parties are in conflict is because of what is contained in their consciousness. The parent wants the kid to have a clean room, and the kid—at least some kids—previously kept their rooms clean out of a sort of blind obedience. But it’s not like a clean room ever had much actual value to a 10 year old. They’d live in a tree fort if they could. So they clean it out of obedience in a one-mind kind of way. They don’t recognize that they have certain autonomies and so they “behave.” But as they age those opportunities to decide appear more and more often and autonomy increases as a result. We never achieve pure independence, but that’s what we seem to target.

My point is that what is in the kid’s brain is legitimate. For a kid. Yeah, an adult can choose to think about how much they paid for the house and how they imagined it looking (like from a magazine), etc. So then this messy room gets converted into some glowing sign pointing at bad parenting, a bad kid, and a non-showhome home. But meanwhile the kid’s actually not doing anything wrong. Doesn’t it make sense that a teen isn’t necessarily going to be invested in the reasoning behind slaving to keep a gorgeous room that only the occupant will ever see? That’s saner than it is crazy.

553 Relax and Succeed - Yeah I made mistakesA lot of kids have trouble following the parent’s rules simply because their mind is filled with the sorts of things it should be at those ages. They are learning about who they are and an integral part of that involves learning things through experience. So they need to be involved in those experiences. They need to be invested in their own life and priorities to a large degree. If they’re destroying your home, kick them out. But if they leave socks on the floor well… so do lots of great people.

It is not unreasonable for parents to feel violated if they have worked hard to buy nice things and live somewhere nice, and then have it be disrespected by the very people who they built it all for. In their imaginations they have built that castle in the sky and now they want to live in it. But the kid sees no such castle and so they simply cannot comprehend what you mean when you describe their mistakes as defying logic and common sense. Because they cannot see the future you see, they cannot imagine what logical steps would get them there.

This process is entirely innocent. The kids aren’t aware they’re doing it, and yet the parents have every reason to feel exasperated on a regular basis. It’s simply the chemistry of those ages. It’s why older parents like mine are much more sanguine about things. They weren’t when my much-older brothers were kids. But by the time I rolled around they were wiser, and I got the benefit of that. They just didn’t offer much resistance at all and I was given general support, but never firmly guided on what to do. I’m sure I looked lazy for a while, especially during the time where my friends and I spent long summer days in the basement playing video games. But those friends grew into good men, and we’ve all gone on to good lives.

Periods of apparent drift shouldn’t be worried about too much, because it makes perfect sense that a teenager would not have the same priorities as someone in middle age. They are learning to socialize and this automatically translates to at least some failure as they learn to make their way through life. But however they get there, if children have been around respectful, positive, compassionate behaviour for most of their life, then they’ll have learned all they need to be truly successful.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #42

540 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Dress every day

The implication of this quote is that you should be dressing so that you look good for others. Hey, it’s nice if that happens. It’s nice if people look at what you chose and they choose to appreciate it. Appreciation always feels good. But you should also be dressing so that you appreciate yourself. Not because you’ll look good to others, but because you feel good yourself. Life isn’t a show, it isn’t a competition. It isn’t something we’re supposed to necessarily look good for. Just go live. If you don’t feel like dressing up, then don’t—otherwise you have less freedom than a four year old. If you live by people’s praise you’ll die by their rejection. Create art for the sake of creating it, not for the reaction. Cook for your own palate, dress to your own comfort and taste. Stop trying to use all of these things to be accepted. You don’t need to be accepted. You were born perfect and every step you take is taken within the profound holiness of the universe’s infiniteness. Trust me, the universe is big enough that it can accommodate anything you’ll choose to wear on any given day. So don’t worry about what the rest of us think. Don’t even worry much about what you think. Just be instead. If you do that you’ll be more beautiful than even the most talented designer in the world could make you.

peace. s

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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.

Other Perspectives #30

468 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - I think everybody should like everybody

Hey, I’m as much an Andy Warhol fan as the next guy, but because Andy had some cool things to say about the world doesn’t mean that every phrase he uttered is true. I love his sentiment here—it would be awesome if everyone liked everyone, but that would also make the world kind of boring. We need all types to make this world spin and you are one type and people you can’t stand are another type. So you can go ahead and not-like people and they can go ahead and not-like you. There’s nothing bad happening just because two people don’t see eye to eye. Sure, expand yourself by truly trying to understand someone else’s position. See if you can like everyone you meet. But if you realize that you just see things too differently, then do your best to mitigate any damage that might result and otherwise just limit your contact with the people with whom you have difficulty. Trust me, there’s no shortage of people you’ll be able to connect with as long as you’re doing your best to live outside of your judgmental ego. So like everyone you can, and forgive the rest for not matching your preferences, for it’s important to remember that you don’t match theirs either. 😉

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 offense 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.

Producing Disappointment

I ways back I used to eat my porridge every morning in a greasy spoon near where I lived. An old farmer owned it and it was one of those totally unpretentious places where everyone knew everyone, the service was fast and friendly and it wasn’t unusual to have strangers at your table. I went in the morning of my 28th birthday and ended up sitting next to a huge Aboriginal guy who was quiet, but very friendly. He heard the staff wishing me a happy birthday and he asked me how old I was turning. When I told him he said, “Ah, 28. The year you learn to say ‘no.’”

453 Relax and Succeed - There is only one wayNot long after that I got a call from a billionaire that used to meet with me fairly regularly. He used to use my ability to notice strange patterns in things to help him make business decisions, although secretly I think he was actually more interested in the fact that my Dad is my hero and I think he wanted to know how to be a hero to his kids. This time the call was all business. He was greatly expanding his television network and he wanted me to come on board to help choose and develop future programming on the both the film and TV side. I had just come off a couple of movies and a few series, so I was due for a change and I agreed. What exactly I was agreeing to though, I did not fully comprehend.

Canada was/(still is?) the second largest exporter of TV worldwide after the US, but it was still a small enough industry that all of the steady working people knew most of the people in their region and a lot of us knew most of the people from one end of the country to the other. That closeness proved to be an interesting factor when it came time to do the job.

I had a budget that was the envy of the industry. I had the freedom to work in both free and pay TV, on series as well as features. It was the only job like it in the country and it brought virtually every type of producer into my office. On average we would receive about 1600+ submissions a year, we would develop maybe 25-50 and produce about a dozen, including series. Of course those numbers meant that I was saying “no” the vast majority of the time.

The trick was, I was saying no to my friends. People who I had grown up with in the industry. People I liked and respected. People close to me. And to each of those people their projects were generally the only thing they were working on. They had all of their eggs in that basket—their heart and soul was into it, and I would be the guy who would crush their dreams of ever getting or sustaining a mortgage.

453 Relax and Succeed - If nobody hates youBeing the guy I am I was able to appreciate that someone had to make the determination. They couldn’t give the money out on a first come first served basis. Nor could we do it alphabetically, or by script weight. Someone had to give an opinion about what they thought would work and the billionaire anointed me. I won’t say that I liked turning down my friends—or even the non-friends who I knew had worked super hard on their submissions. But this wasn’t a popularity contest. I had a job and my job was to pick things that would recoup their investments and it turned out I was extremely good at that. But that meant that I had to turn down development proposals that ended up destroying companies and careers. And it’s not like I didn’t turn away some heartfelt personal stories. And undoubtedly I was wrong many times. I crushed a lot of dreams being a success at that job.

When you’re responsible for money like that it’s strange. Everyone has theories about what they would do if they had the job, but it’s much different imagining spending one million dollars on Richard Chamberlain. It’s another thing altogether to actually be responsible for one million dollars for Richard Chamberlain. Because there is no way to actually calculate beforehand if he would be worth it (it turned out he was), and there was no shortage of people I’d turned down who disagreed. I also had to chastise lazy writers, and inform neophytes about what they didn’t know. I had to not cast people’s spouses and even for those that got money, they didn’t always get what they wanted.

People used to ask me if it bothered me that there were people that hated me for those decisions (and undoubtedly for differences in our personalities too). But the answer was no, it didn’t bother me. Why would it? No matter who I chose, someone wasn’t getting money. A lot of someones weren’t. The majority of someones weren’t. And so I made a lot more people angry than I made happy. But hey, that’s why it’s tough at the top. That’s why they pay you the big bucks. But bottom line, you can’t be who you are and also cater to the desires of everyone you meet. You have to be your own person. You have to have faith in yourself. Not to be 453 Relax and Succeed - Stop being afraid of what could go wronginfallible. But to realize that you’ve been given a job because it needs doing. And your job is to do it the best you can, which I did.

We won a lot of awards and set a few records while I was there, but that’s not why I felt successful. I felt—and continue to feel—successful because I chose those projects with great care and with tremendous respect for the money I was investing and for the work that had gone into the projects. I knew I couldn’t be right every time, but I was going to be right as often as I could.

You sense of self can’t come from the approval of others. If everyone likes your decisions then you’re not making any—or at least any of consequence. To make an omelet you have to crack a few eggs. You can’t focus on the cracked shells, you have to focus on your objective, and the objective wasn’t to reject things. I’m sure there were many money makers in the “no” pile. But again, I only had so much money. So rather than focus on who I disappointed, I focused on who I could help. And I’m pleased to say that I gave a start some very talented people who’ve gone on to great careers. But I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t prepared to put myself out there to be criticized for my decisions. I get that. If I worked two years on something and it got rejected I would be upset too. And I might even call the person who did it some names for a few minutes after I found out about the rejection. But eventually that would wear off and I would know that someone had to choose, and they couldn’t say yes to everything and so it only makes sense that we all have a better chance of being in “no” pile.

453 Relax and Succeed - You are not designedDon’t let fears of being liked prevent you from doing what you think is right. You absolutely will be wrong quite often, just like all of us. But as long as you’re right more than you’re wrong, they let you keep playing the big sandbox.

I’m glad to be out of that now. I had a ton of fun at the height of the industry—just before the internet took the legs out from underneath the golden age. It was nice hotels, limos, cool festivals and real life movie stars. But you got none of that unless you were willing to have some writer scream obscenities at you in a hotel bar. You had to be willing to know that a good friend considered you the reason that her business failed. Again, everyone has their separate realities and it’s obvious I would be the villain in many people’s rejection narratives. But that’s like having someone mad at you because you don’t want to date them. You’re not saying they’re not worth anything. You’re just saying they don’t match you.

Don’t be a pleaser. Be yourself and those who love you will make ample room for your choices. You’re not here to make us happy, you’re here to make you happy. So respect people. Be empathetic to their pain. But as much as possible, don’t let the downsides dictate a decision. Just make the best decisions you can with the information you have and go from there. And just always remember that they could be right; you could be wrong. 😉

peace. s