Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Throw yourself a party!
Okay, so hear me out.
This party isn’t just going to be a regular knee up. Instead, this party is going to be about saying goodbye to an old chapter in your life – even an old version of yourself – and welcoming the new.
Why It’s Time to Say Goodbye
Too many of us find that we feel “trapped” by our own personalities, our histories, and our traits. We can get trapped in something called “pattern thinking” or “type thinking” where we behave the way we always have… just because we always have.
There are many reasons for this. We could get into the neuroscience of plasticity, and how repeating certain behaviors makes those behaviors much easier in the future (thereby meaning we’re more likely to repeat them even more!).
But there are also more straightforward surface reasons for this.
One is that we think of ourselves in a certain way, and we want to act in a way that appears congruent with what we’ve learned about ourselves. We all think of ourselves as being a certain way. Maybe you’re “funny,” maybe you’re someone who “doesn’t take any nonsense.”
Whatever the case, it can then become very difficult to break out of this pattern as you begin to “revert to type.” This is who you are, it’s what everyone expects from you, how can you act any differently?
Of course, if that means that you’re going to continue damaging your health because you’ve always been the guy who clears his whole plate… well then that can be a big mistake!
In other ways, we might revert to type when we’re tired or when we’re weak. While you might try to engage in new habits and behaviors, it’s always easier to revert back to the old ones.
By throwing this “going away” party for yourself though, you mark a psychological end to that period of your life and that chapter. This can have a huge impact by making you really see that time as over, and by giving you a good reason not to go back there. It has drawn a line under it, and you know that you can’t “go back” without significant consequences or without really going against what you said you were going to do.
Time to say goodbye!
Many of us want our lives to change, but we don’t know how to do anything about it. We assume that our lives will change and that we will then change as a result – to feel happier and more confident.
What we might not realize is that more often, this interaction works the other way around. That is to say, that is by acting the way we want to feel, we end up feeling that way… and then our life ends up changing too! This is what we call the “law of attraction.”
How it Works
Want to be more successful? Start acting like you're already successful. Thus people start treating you as more successful and thus they give you more opportunities. You become 'luckier'.
Want to be richer? Act richer. Want to do better at work? Believe you can. Want to be smarter? Act smarter.
This is closely related to what is known as 'self-fulfilling prophecies'. These are situations where you actually change your behavior in line with your beliefs. A great example is what's known as a 'scotoma' or a 'blind spot'.
Ever lost your phone and searched for it for hours only to have a friend come up and find it in seconds? That's a scotoma in action – you have convinced yourself that the item is lost and this belief literally prevents you from finding that item.
The same can happen in our careers or love lives. If you tell yourself you're a failure then your unconscious mind will actually sabotage your success in those areas. To be as successful as you can be in any capacity, you need to eliminate doubt.
For example, if you believe you are no good at your job, you might find yourself slouching, not speaking up in meetings, and trying to hide from taking on additional responsibility – it’s normal!
But as a result, you will find that people don’t believe you have what it takes to get a promotion (which would MAKE you better at your job).
The same thing happens in dating. If you think you’re bad looking, you won’t approach attractive members of the opposite sex, and you won’t dress to impress. Plus, everyone wants a partner who is confident. You may even avoid eye contact!
To break the cycle, start by acting as you believe in yourself. That means dressing better, taking risks, and being more assertive. You’ll find you attract more positive attention and that this can lead to better results – even improving the way you think about yourself.
Many of us will answer “I don’t mind” to a vast array of questions. From what we want for dinner, for what we want to do.
The reason that most of us will say 'I don't mind' a lot is probably because we think it's the more pleasant response when posed with a question. Rather than forcing everyone to do what we want, we instead pretend that we don't have an opinion in order to ensure that everyone else is happy.
On other occasions you can't decide what to do for best and don't want the responsibility of making the wrong choice, so you say 'I don't mind' thereby giving someone else the job of making that decision.
Actually though, this tends not to be how things play out. For starters, there's a very real chance that everyone will say they don't mind, which then slows things down and prevents you from making any progress and usually results in one of the worst outcomes. Now you've just inconvenienced everyone else and ended up doing something that no one wanted to do… great!
Another danger is that you end up seeming disinterested like you don't care about the question enough to give an answer. That's pretty annoying when someone is offering you a hot drink…
Alternatively, you say you don't mind, the other person then gives their opinion, and so you default to doing what they want instead. That then means that you don't get to do what you wanted to do, and in some scenarios, you may even end up resenting them for that. Which is pretty nuts really when you failed to provide an alternative option…
The other problem is that when you say you don't mind, it appears as though you have no opinion or are just completely indecisive. This may come as a surprise to you, but that's actually not something that people consider particularly attractive. Keep saying I don't mind and pretty soon you'll come across as 'wet'. Want more respect? Then learn to make at least the tiniest decisions – such as whether you'd rather have orange juice or apple juice.
Here's the worst part: if you keep saying “I don’t mind” then you might well come across as though you don’t feel you value your own opinion enough to share it – or that you don’t feel you’re entitled to a vote.
This can eventually change the way that others see you, and even lead you to actually believe that about yourself.
Speaking Your Mind
'I don't mind' is essentially conflict avoidance taken to the extreme, and if you don't stop it now, then you'll possibly find yourself coming off worse in the vast majority of discussions and looking completely incapable of making decisions.
And the crazy part is that there's actually nothing impolite at all about speaking your mind and saying what you'd prefer. Just make sure you make it clear that you'll potentially go along with another decision and don't be too forceful with your opinion. Instead of 'I don't mind', try: 'I'd prefer we had the lasagne tonight, but I'm open to other options'. There you go, that wasn't so hard, was it?
Negative beliefs and thoughts can end up impacting your entire life in a “butterfly effect” type of way. If you think that you are worthless, then this can change the way you stand, the chances you take, and opportunities that you believe are available to you. The result is that you make a worse impression on others, and don’t take full advantage of your innate skills and abilities.
But did you know that similar beliefs can affect you on a day to day level? Hidden beliefs that you aren’t aware of can change the very way you approach tasks… or fail to.
The example we’re going to use here is a busy day in the office. Let’s say that you get to work and you find that things have really piled up. There are 100 (angry) emails to answer, you have one project that’s late, and you have another one that you haven’t even started yet that is going to be horrible to work on.
You now find yourself frozen. Without knowing which thing to start on first, you might find yourself doing nothing.
Likewise, you might find yourself wasting time thinking of ways to outsource the work (palm it off) or otherwise not do it. Great if it works… not so great if you spend 20 minutes looking for a shortcut and get nothing for your efforts!
You might write a to-do list or find other ways to procrastinate.
But here’s what you really need to do: start.
While you can wallow and feel sorry for yourself all you like, while you can try and “get out of it,” the truth is that things will only get worse the more you put it off. If you just dive in and start, you’ll at least make positive headway. And you’ll feel MUCH better as a result.
Another one we love is the “one minute rule.” This states that if something takes less than a minute… you should just do it!
To get to this point though, you need to learn to better recognize your own thoughts and emotions and to better understand how to take them and transform them into positive beliefs and thoughts – determinations that help you to get work done.
This comes from two places:
* Changing your deeply felt beliefs about you, what you’re capable of, and what “worth” you have
* Becoming better at identifying unhelpful thoughts and immediately swapping them for better ones
Once you can do this, you’ll completely change your ability and your life.
If you have heard about the law of attraction, then you will know that being highly positive, believing in yourself and acting lucky will all help to make you luckier. That's all great. But simply changing the way you think and feel about yourself isn't quite so easy as just deciding you're going to do it.
Beliefs about ourselves and about the world are deeply ingrained as a result of years of experience. It's no good to just tell yourself you want to believe in your own luck – you have to really believe it right down to your core. Any doubt and you will continue to carry out the same negative patterns.
In fact, there are ways you can 'reprogram' yourself to become precisely the person you want to be.
It was Freud who first postulated that we might have an 'unconscious' aspect to our thoughts and while some of his other ideas have since come under some fire, this one is now accepted by the entire psychological community. Our conscious mind is comprised of all the thoughts and ideas we 'hear' in our head. This is our internal monologue.
Our unconscious mind though is filled with all the fundamental thoughts and ideas we have about the world that are largely outside of our direct control. It's this that you need to change if you want to really believe something but the difficulty lies in getting a concept through the barrier of the conscious mind to the unconscious where it can really have an impact and inform your behavior and self-belief.
The problem is that when you 'tell yourself' something, your mind tends to disregard it and not believe it. Likewise, when someone else tells us a fact, we also tend to reject it.
Hypnotherapy works by trying to avoid this happening. Here, the therapist will often use strategies from the 'Milton Model' of communication as described in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). This involves framing statements in such a way as to get ideas in 'under the radar' using implicit assumptions and terms of phrase. Instead of telling someone they 'will be more confident', a hypnotherapist might say 'you might enjoy how much more confident you feel the next time you stand on stage'. The difference is subtle but powerful – especially when combined with preparation to put the client in a 'receptive state'.
Now you can try and use this sort of strategy yourself and there are even tapes and guided meditations you can listen to that will use these techniques. One thing you can do right now is to give yourself small 'unconscious cues' that will linger in the back of your mind and remind you that you are 'luckier'.
A great way to do this is to use post-its with positive messages around your home. Or how about placing a positive quote on your phone’s wallpaper?
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a very popular form of psychological therapy that has largely replaced psychotherapy and plain behavioral therapy in clinical settings. This model of psychology is often used to treat anxiety and mental health problems and it has been proven very effective in doing this.
But interestingly it has used much beyond that, which we will look at next week. Make sure to keep your eyes on your inbox because this is some pretty powerful stuff!
CBT is a psychotherapeutic approach used to treat mental illness. Specifically, it works by looking at the contents of the thoughts and then trying to change those. Someone who has a fear of heights for instance is likely to have lots of negative thoughts like 'I'm going to fall' or 'it isn't safe' and this will only make their problem worse. CBT looks to change that and thus improves mental health.
There are two ways that they do this:
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a form of meditation where you 'watch' thoughts go by. Here you will not try to 'calm your mind' or anything like that: you are literally just going to close your eyes and see what thoughts come to you. When you're finished, make a note of these and you can identify ones that might be causing trouble.
Cognitive Restructuring: This is the point in which you are going to change those negative thoughts for positive ones. So if you think you're in danger on top of the roof, you will be trying to replace those thoughts with things like 'this place was built with safety in mind' and 'I'm in complete control'.
Cognitive Restructuring and Luck
So to use this in the context of improving positivity, confidence, and luck, you first need to use some mindfulness to try and identify some of the negative thoughts you might be having which could be impacting how lucky you feel you are and how successful. Maybe you think things like 'bad things always happen to me'. Once you're aware of these thoughts, you'll be one step closer to dealing with them.
Once you've made a note of your negative beliefs you can then use some more strategies to use cognitive restructuring. One is something called 'thought challenging' where you critically analyze thought to ask yourself whether it's truly valid.
Sit down and actually assess the content of that negative thought.
How likely is it really that you would jump or fall from that height? Or that it hasn’t been safety tested to near exhaustion?
What other beliefs are holding you back?
How can you increase your happiness?
Of course, improving the circumstances surrounding your life can do this to a great extent but that's easier said than done.
What else can you do?
Luckily there are once again a few options available to you and a few 'hacks' that can actually greatly boost your mood and your health. Bear in mind that health and happiness are very closely linked.
One of the biggest regulators of our mood is the weather and even if you don't have 'seasonal affective disorder' you're likely to have much more energy and to be much happier when it's sunny.
If you live somewhere that's dark in winter though, you can 'hack' the effect that the sun has on your brain. One way to do this is with a 'daylight lamp' which creates light in your home that has the same wavelength as the sun. If you get one with a built-in alarm you can get it to wake you up with a pleasing effect similar to a sunrise. You will start every day feeling healthier and more energetic.
Improving your sleep is crucial for your mental health and happiness. Make sure that you are getting lots of healthy sleep by taking time to wind down in the evening, avoiding caffeine, and having a hot shower before bed. Make sure your room is perfectly dark too. Don't underestimate the importance of this aspect – it is critical for your mood and performance the next day.
Exercise is also very important for your mood. Not only will this improve your health, thereby getting more energy to your brain and thus keeping you happy, but it will also stimulate the production of endorphins that make you feel much happier and much luckier.
Generally, it can also help to streamline your lifestyle and to remove as many stressors as you can – whether that means having less clutter in your rooms (this makes a huge difference) or it means using systems to automate some of your jobs.
One of the most powerful ways to transform your happiness though is to change what you focus on. You can have objectively the best life in the world, but if you only focus on what is missing, you will never be happy!
Instead then, learn to focus on the good by spending time every day writing down things you are grateful for, things you have done well, and things you are excited about. This last one is truly game-changing.
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