No problems, no challenges and no difficulties, just well-being

We recently held our 8th Liberate Your Thinking retreat in Weymouth.  It was an absolute joy and privilege to observe the group settle and then glow with well-being.  Several of the group shared ahead of the retreat that they felt anxious and stressed a lot of the time.  They were able to get in touch with their innate well-being quickly because it never actually leave us, but like the clouds in this photo hiding the sun, it is always there, ready to shine through.

Here is one participant’s experience…

Before the retreat Karl was finding his job stressful and frustrating. He recently took 6 weeks off for stress after finding that his anxiety had triggered a physical response of not being able to read simple work instructions. He shared a powerful metaphor, when he said his mind was like a computer screen with too many windows open. This resulted in him getting easily distracted and dwelling on things that had passed. He said it would be a miracle for him if following the retreat, he could focus more easily on one thing at a time, knowing that other stuff would still be there when he was ready for it.

Following the retreat Karl said, “I’ve been back at my place of employment for two days now and, as far as I am aware, nothing significant changed during my absence.

However, I have!

There are no problems, nor are there any challenges or difficulties, there are simply tasks that I am given. Each task will either be completed or not completed.

Each task that I complete will be fine and can be put in the ‘done that, gone now’ folder, archived and only required for reference. Incomplete tasks? I will have to figure out whether I want to continue trying, or pass on that task to A.N.Other to progress it.”


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Are You Innocently Over-Thinking?

I have always loved Marianne Williamson’s poem; you know the one that starts with the lines “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” The poem continues and her words encourage each of us to step into our power so that we can shine and in so doing help others around us to shine also. When I first read the poem about 12 years ago I wanted to do just that.

Now that I look back I can see why it took me so long to figure it out! Current psychological models and most self-development thinking is directing us to change something that already exists in our lives, be it our thinking or something else in our circumstances. We are being hit with an increasing morass of messages about how to achieve a ‘better’ life, which inevitably gives rise to feelings of ‘if only…’ and we’re on a relentless search for more of this or less of that! It takes a brave (and very wise) person to stand up to this tide of misinformation. But when you see that mental suffering is increasing at an alarming rate, for example 25% of 14-year-old girls across the UK are clinically depressed, it’s surely time to say that existing models are not working.

We run 3-day retreats in Weymouth Dorset, where we share the Inside Out nature of our experience and in doing so point people to the formless power that we all have inside of us that has yet to become a thought and an experience of our circumstances. It is this power within us all that I now see Marianne Williamson, through her poem, is directing us towards. Once we see that power for ourselves it no longer seems to matter what we actually think in the moment or what our circumstances are because it’s always changing in the next moment without ever actually affecting who we really are – our light. That is the true nature of the power of thought.

Here is a quote from an attendee at one of our recent retreats: –

“Before attending the retreat, my emotions were out of control, I was finding it difficult to cope with every day challenges. I was frankly crying a lot and quick to anger and frustration. I heard about the retreat and was intrigued but sceptical in equal measure. I had tried many self-help remedies in the past and nothing had really made any lasting difference. Other things I had tried required me to do things, like trying to reframe my thoughts to be more positive. Now I see that I was innocently adding more thoughts and giving myself more ammunition for self-admonishment. Having been on the retreat my life has changed in many ways and continues to change. I know I won’t be going back to how I felt before. I am a lot more relaxed about things. I still get angry and upset sometimes but it doesn’t seem to matter, I let go of things much more easily and I have lost that negative emotional intensity. At some level I had always thought there was something wrong with me so it was a really big thing for me to see that there was nothing actually wrong with me, it was just my misunderstanding of where my feelings were coming from.”

If you would like to find out more about the retreats follow this link or get in touch with us.

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Why Do Men Behave Badly?

Let’s start by making clear that this title is merely a reflection of current stories in the press, it’s a way of capturing your attention and a touch ironic; it might more accurately be titled “why do humans behave badly?” The answer, it turns out, is quite simple, and is relevant to all walks of life; work, school and home, anywhere humans interact with each other!

There is one root cause of ‘bad’ behaviour, but first let’s be clear about the definition of ‘bad’ – any behaviour which doesn’t stem from a place of love and understanding, so that includes any behaviour stemming from a place of psychological pain such as jealousy, hatred, superiority, inferiority, suspicion, to name but a few. A psychologically healthy person wouldn’t consider demeaning, groping or dominating others as acceptable behaviour, in any situation with or without alcohol and a surfeit of hormones.

The root cause of ‘bad’ behaviour and its subsequent impact on mental wellbeing is a deep misunderstanding of how our psychological system works. There is no purpose here in attaching blame to those caught up in this misunderstanding, the traditional but erroneous teachings of how life works, leads to the belief that external circumstances can be directly responsible for how we feel and therefore how we act. The ego (false sense of self) then seeks to protect itself from any form of pain and subsequently to place the blame on something other than itself. Imagine for a moment a scenario where a ‘normally, well respected’ business man attends a charity, men only dinner. Without understanding the dangers of this false ego, there is a real risk that a sense of entitlement or a desire not to stand out from the crowd will rise to the surface and dominate the thoughts of this otherwise ‘respectable’ man leading to the ‘bad’ behaviour.

This type of psychological pain can rear its head in any situation, irrespective of gender, age, religious beliefs, professional position or background. The newspapers are full of stories, which have psychological pain at their source. Workplaces are littered with examples of the misunderstanding of the principles of psychological wellbeing, which in turn leads to lower productivity and less effective leadership. A whole industry of self-help and personal development is similarly based on addressing this pain, itself only the result of this misunderstanding.

Now let’s return to the positive solution (noted earlier) to a fear dominated society, where psychological pain appears to be growing more prevalent. We only have to see a growing number of children suffering from stress and poor mental health to know that this situation cannot continue unchecked. The great news is that with the appropriate understanding of how the process of life actually works we can completely turn the situation around quickly and easily. Schools can become seedbeds of healthy adults, workplaces can be places where people flourish, communities can be places where everyone respects and cares for each other. …And the answer is love; love and understanding that comes from deeply knowing that the ego is a false ‘icon’, that 100% of our experience comes from the inside out and never from our circumstances, that our thinking in the moment is responsible for everything that we feel, and that at our core (true self) “all we are is peace, love and wisdom, and the power to create the illusion that we are not (Jack Pransky).”

At Powerful Performance we run open retreats and in-Company programmes to share the understanding of the 3 Principles behind our psychological experience


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Life is a Blank Canvass – Embracing the Inner Painter in You

A friend recently shared a great TED talk with me by Brene Brown on Vulnerability. I had watched it a couple of years ago and at the time it had resonated with me and so it felt like a great opportunity to watch it again. However, this time round I noticed several interesting things that didn’t sit comfortably. It got me to thinking about the differences and in particular to how I could share this apparent change of heart with my friend. In the talk Brene refers to us being ‘hardwired for struggle’, suggesting that it’s difficult to avoid the negative emotions of shame and guilt. She recommends letting ourselves be seen, being vulnerable and believing that ‘we are enough’ as strategies to adopt in order to be happy and wholehearted. I now view this idea as missing the crucial piece of the jigsaw puzzle about how the human psychological system works. The missing link is the understanding known as the 3 Principles (first shared by Sydney Banks in 1973), which points to the ‘inside out’ nature of our experience.

Michael Neill, in the ‘Inside Out Revolution’ says, “We are only ever one new thought away from a completely different experience of being alive”. Our total experience of life comes from our thinking in the moment; thought cannot exist in the future or in the past, only now. It is our thinking that creates our feelings, nothing on the outside, i.e. our circumstances or someone else can make us feel anything that we don’t think! And once we have thought something, if we believe it, it becomes ‘paint on our canvass’.

A second major implication of the 3 Principles is that we are all ‘hard-wired for success’, but it’s the creative power of thought that can have us believing the opposite. Until of course we see it for what it is – just a thought that looks real to us in that moment. Our thinking can run riot, like the snow in a snow globe, we have no control over it and we can easily make up a nightmare in our heads. It can have us believe that we are undeserving, not good enough, fearful. None of this is true, we’ve simply made it up. When we trust that we are ‘hard-wired for success’ we don’t need to do anything or follow any strategies as suggested by psychologists, therapists or others coming from an outside in approach. We are deeply OK.

I love this quote from Ken Manning, Robin Charbit and Sandra Krot, from their book ‘Invisible Power’, “The power is in the artist, not in what he paints. The power is in the thinker, not in what she thinks. This built-in capacity is the undervalued, often ignored secret to your success.” They are pointing to the creative power of thought. Each new moment is an opportunity for us to create a ‘new’ picture on our canvass of life. We can choose not to ‘fall for’ those self-diminishing thoughts. And my favourite quote of all time (after Winnie the Pooh) is from Marianne Williamson’s poem “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”.

It’s not about re-arranging the paint that is already on our canvass, i.e. re-framing negative thoughts into the positive and it’s not about strategies, that may or may not work.  It is clarity about how the system works that is consistent and gives us the freedom and space to connect wholeheartedly with our true selves and with each other – to take full responsibility for how we live our lives. We are so much more than our thoughts, we are hard wired, not to fear or to struggle, but to love. As Jack Pransky says in his book ‘Somebody Should Have Told Us’, “All we are is peace, love and wisdom and the power to create the illusion that we’re not.”  We can all embrace the ‘inner painter’ and see the amazing fun and freedom that comes with the knowledge that we are creating our own canvass, in every moment, through fresh, insightful thinking. We are deeply OK on the inside, irrespective of ‘old’ thinking and what happens on the outside.

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Conflict – what if it’s an illusion, only in your mind?

On a scale of 1 – 10, this would hardly register on anyone’s conflict scale, however, it gave me a valuable insight into how it works for me. Like most people I naturally avoid ‘conflict’; I have seen myself as a ‘flight’ person rather than a ‘fight’ one. Until that is I noticed recently the role of my mind in creating what can appear to be a conflict situation, but it’s just an illusion.

Here’s the story… I came out of the house on Saturday morning to find two white vans parked on our communal grass. It’s a space that we love, it’s a focal point for our small neighbourhood; we hold ‘get togethers’ and BBQs on it in the summer, we have a large communal Christmas tree on it over the festive period, we raised money for Portland stone benches, and we obviously mow it and tend the flower beds. So, I had some ‘stritchy’ feelings when I saw these commercial vans (window replacements) parked in the centre of it.

I was on my way out for a walk with the dogs so I continued. On the way round my thoughts returned several times to the issue of the vans. In the past these thoughts would have built up, I would have quickly felt powerless to do anything about it and any way surely the damage had already been done! The difference for me on this occasion was that I didn’t get caught up in a spiral of thoughts and so I didn’t feel powerless. I now know that thought is everything and that we live in an inside-out experience, so I was able to calmly look at my thoughts and see them for what they are; anything more than the vans being physically on the grass was made up only in my mind! Indeed, from this place of calm it seemed perfectly obvious that I would just go and find the guys responsible and ask them to move their vans. It wasn’t a challenging conversation at all, I had no feelings associated with conflict. They moved the vans and apologised – job done and I got on with my day.
The real learning for me in this situation was to appreciate that I had previously had a tendency to create a conflict where there was none – how interesting! How often do we avoid a situation because we perceive it to be a conflict or a challenge? How often do we harbour ‘bad’ thoughts about a person because we perceive them to be the cause of our anxiety? When we truly know the power of the mind in creating our experience (100% of the time) we have the ultimate freedom to choose to do what ‘feels’ right rather than to feel powerless.

In the words of Sydney Banks “If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” At that moment I had a deep sense of what Syd meant by these words; conflict is an illusion.

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Is Your Organisation’s Culture a Force for Success? …and what is organisational culture?

I woke up this morning seeing ‘organisational culture’ as nothing more than the prevailing ‘group mind-set’. This is great news for organisations, given that mind-sets are generally far more flexible and dynamic than we might imagine. We know that our own mind-set can in one instance make us feel stuck and frustrated and in another wise and on top of our game. This means that ‘culture’ is actually nothing more than a collection of thoughts that over time appear to have taken on a more solid form, through custom and practice, and re-telling of stories they have the appearance of being ‘real’. They may or may not be relevant and appropriate in today’s organisation; like clouds on a cloudy day, they may block out the sun!

In my early career I worked for many years in organisational development (and HR) for a company with a predominant growth and development mind-set. Our MD really saw the value of people pulling together, of respect, kindness and giving the space for people to grow, develop and enjoy what they were doing. The feeling that we created was so palpable that visitors, including customers, often commented. I clearly remember coming in early one morning for a new product trial with a Tesco Technical Manager; we passed the night shift clocking off at the end of their shift and most of them greeted us warmly and politely. The Tesco Manager commented on the extraordinary sense of comradery. During this time, teams were regularly given the space to explore new ideas and new ways of doing things (we also had a suggestion scheme). It was a great place to work and we pushed the boundaries of product development and profitability.

What I often see now in organisations is the opposite effect. People are too busy-minded; the mind-set is one of surviving rather thriving. We talk about organisations in the 21st century having an ever-increasing need to deal with complexity, rapid change, more outside interference – be more agile, faster, better, act more responsibly! We want people to be resilient, creative, collaborative and yet fill every minute of every day doing stuff, following prescriptive procedures and chasing improbable targets.

Culture, like an individual mind-set will either stimulate or inhibit the energy in the system. I now see this reservoir of energy as potentially infinite if all the ‘stops’ are out. More energy is available when individuals understand the inside-out nature of how the mind works; busy, ego-based thoughts settle and in the resulting silence and space comes fresh thinking, leading collectively to greater feelings of well-being, clarity and resilience. Ideas, intuition and humanity are the forces behind growth and business success.

The most hopeful part of this message is that if indeed ‘organisational culture’ is nothing more than a prevailing ‘group mind-set’, a collection of thoughts in people’s minds, then your organisation is only ONE (collective) thought away from being a completely different place to work. This is supported by the fact that when our MD retired he was replaced by a leader with a very different mind-set and immediately things started to change – gone was the space and with it the extraordinary collaboration and humanity for each other, to be replaced over time by the survival mentality!

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Can You Choose Well-being over Burn-out?

I was speaking to a manager recently; he mentioned that he had been researching ‘burn-out’ on the internet and believed he ticked most of the symptoms boxes.  His question was whether he should therefore be going to the doctor and seeking help, with the possible outcome being medication. 

Fortuitously, we were on an executive retreat at the time exploring our innate well-being and the role that thought plays in our experience of life.  As I saw it he was standing at a fork in the road; one way involving him sticking with his outside-in misunderstanding of our psychological world, with the assumption that his circumstances (job, health, happiness, colleagues, etc.) were to blame for his low mental state.  In which case seeking medical help might make sense to him.  Or he could take the other fork in the road and embrace a ‘road less travelled’, realising for himself that our human psychological system works in completely the opposite way – his low mental state was causing the circumstances to look stressful.  And in which case he certainly wouldn’t need outside medical intervention.  He needed to see the role of thought, rather than the content of his thoughts and to trust that he already had an infinite potential for well-being. 

Over the next couple of days on the retreat his mind settled.  He saw for himself that his feelings of stress and burn-out were only ever come from his thinking and never from the circumstances.  Our experience is 100% created by thought, from the inside-out.  He experienced this in a powerful way and several weeks on is reporting the following on-going benefits – “A better understanding of others and their motivations; the way I react to a situation is totally within my control; I am stronger and more resilient to outside issues; I notice and appreciate more of the world around me.”

The really great news about this understanding is that once we realise this for ourselves, it makes absolutely no sense to us to keep thinking in that stressful, burnt-out way.  The switch to well-being happens immediately as soon as we see it; it’s that powerful. 

So in answer to the question “can you choose well-being?” I believe we do have a choice but the opportunity to make that choice comes when our minds quieten down, we get into a reflective space and we recognise that we’re standing at a cross roads.  This can happen at any moment.  However, we don’t see it as a choice when our thinking is revved up and we are caught up in the drama of our lives.  For our consistent and long term well-being we can make the choice to live in an inside-out understanding and then the question of which path to take is no-longer relevant.  If we go too far down the outside-in fork in the road we lose sight that we have a choice in the first place!      

Do you believe that we have the choice of well-being over burn-out?  If you would like to explore this issue in more detail please get in touch and I will point you towards a priceless understanding of the human psychological system.

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