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.


About Powerful Performance

Powerful Performance Partnership provides a unique blend of assessment tools and development programmes to support organisations in developing and sustaining a high performance culture.
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