Tag Archives | useful thinking

ACTIVE AND PASSIVE CHOICES

‘You always have a choice, and you always make a choice.’

When John Grinder said this, I was sure he was wrong. After all, we sometimes have things imposed on us, and sometimes we have no control over what happens, and sometimes there seems to be no alternative, and sometimes others make decisions and we just go along with them.

It took me years to realise that he was right! The distinction isn’t between whether we have a choice or not, it’s between whether we make an active choice or a passive choice – bummer!!

Once you get this, it takes away all our excuses for being a victim of circumstance, and places the responsibility squarely on our own shoulders. And at the same time, this gives us the opportunity to be in full control of our own story.

We are all aware of our active choices, because we make them consciously. We decide to act or react in a situation in the way that feels right for us.

Passive choices are harder to spot, but symptoms include feeling like you have no control, or you can do nothing about it, or not speaking up when you know it would make a difference, or just feeling powerless. And in those circumstances, we can just take a moment to consider: what would make me feel better about this?

As soon as we ask the question, we are becoming active in our choice, even if we choose to do nothing. A simple example would be dealing with the weather – very relevant for me right now! We can bemoan the fact that it’s raining, the river is flooding, travel is difficult, or we can decide to dress for the weather and go out anyway, or to do something useful or fun at home. The weather doesn’t change, but our reaction to it does.

I have never felt comfortable with being a victim of circumstance – I’m obviously a control freak!  And I certainly prefer the feeling of making an active choice – don’t you?

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CLEANING UP YOUR ACT

We so often launch into things without stopping to consider what our intention is. And that’s OK a lot of the time.

Sometimes, though, it is useful to stop for a moment. It is those situations where you are ambivalent that benefit from that moment’s thought – otherwise we may find that we get caught in our ambivalence and end up doing it badly or resentfully.

I know that there are times when I am unclear about why I’m dong something. It may be a task: am I doing this ironing because it’s piled up and I should, or because I want to clear it and I’m in the mood? Once I’ve identified my own contradictory thoughts about it, I can choose which version of my intention to follow – or to leave the task until I’m genuinely ready to approach it in a positive way.

Of course, the same applies to interactions with others. We’ve all had those times where we’ve arranged to meet someone and then, as the time got nearer, wished we hadn’t. If we go into that situation without cleaning up our intention, we will be half-hearted in our connection and both sides will be dissatisfied.

Unclean intentions always result in muddied communication – a little sharpness in the voice tone, a lacklustre response, a misunderstood comment – which in turn can lead easily into disagreement or disappointment.

This doesn’t mean that we have to always approach everything in a positive way – it just means we think about what will work best for us, what outcome we want from the situation, which thread of our possibilities to follow, so it’s not accidental.

Those few moments asking myself what outcome I intend from anything I engage in can make my life easier and more enjoyable – and that’s always my intention!!

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THE INTELLECT IS A GREAT SERVANT BUT A POOR MASTER

 I was blessed and cursed with a strong intellect. The blessing is that I am bright and can learn quickly, and I can usually find a good argument for almost anything. The curse is that it can lead me to ignore my intuition and my heart.

I have had to cultivate and consciously grow my awareness of my true emotions – my heart – and my inner knowing – my intuition. I did this over the years, not because I am clever but because my cleverness didn’t bring me a happy and contented life.

We may have the ability to be logical and analytical, and this can be very useful. We can ‘work things out’ and do the pro’s and con’s on situations. But this is only using one part of our brain – the conscious mind – and it is a small percentage of who we are.

When it comes down to it, our decisions are usually based on emotion, not logic, so we need to understand and allow our emotions, and listen to our intuition. A great example of this is finding a home. We work out what we need, what we afford, but our final choice is, more often than not, based on how we feel about places we look at. The intellect gives us some parameters, but it cannot calibrate our feelings, and they are what will lead us to a real home as opposed to just somewhere to live.

In fact, as the master of the situation, our intellect can often lead us to indecision, fear, or even paralysis. It can tie us up in knots with its ability to analyse the situation, and we can end up not acting at all to make any change.

So, cultivate your emotions, ask your heart not your mind, to make final decisions. We may have a bright mind, but we all have an even brighter intuition, and it is the gift that leads us into happier, more enjoyable lives.

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20-20 VISION

Nobody knows yet what this year holds in store for us, so we have the opportunity to create at least our part of the vision of 2020.

I chose to call this 20-20 vision because it has the implication of perfect or ideal – and we all need to shoot for the stars in creating our story. If we aim to make things a bit better – or, even worse, not so bad – we are setting a very low bar. Better to set a high bar and not quite reach it – it’ll still be closer to that ideal.

So, the first question is: how do you want to be in 2020? This sets the tone for the other aspects of your creation of your story. Your answers will be descriptions of how you want to feel as you go thrugh the year. Examples might be: happy; healthy; calm; active; kind.

Then we can go on to the next question: what can you do to help yourself to be like that? Notice that this question emphasises the actions you can take for yourself. If the way you want to be depends on external influences, such as other people, or a good job, or a change of government, you will have already made yourself a victim of circumstance, rather than the creator of your own story.

I think it is useful to look at the different aspects of yourself in this next set of answers. Firstly, what can you do to help your mind stay in a positive, constructive attitude? Then, what can you do to help your body feel good? And finally, what can you do to keep your spirits good – ways of feeding your soul?

At this point it is useful to consider how others can help you to help yourself. Not depending on others actions doesn’t mean we have to do it all by ourselves.  We can ask for practical and/or moral support from others. Examples might be finding a ‘buddy’ to do some physical activity with, or asking a friend or partner to encourage you by noticing when you’ve done well in your intentions.

All of this is about making your everyday life closer to the story you want to have, because that’s what makes the most difference to how we feel. A wish list is all very well, but it’s every day that we create the story of our lies most consistently.

So come on, set a 2020 vision for yourself and decide to make it a good year for you, no matter what happens!

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WHAT GIVES US HOPE

My dad died recently, of old age – 97 – and I was lucky enough to be with him for his final days. Through this experience, I have had a grand dose of the incredible kindness of other people.

I had loving support and kindness from friends and family, but also from the doctor, the district nurses – thanks to our NHS! – the funeral director, the minister who took the service for his funeral, his neighbours, the lovely lady who cleaned for him, and then those people who deal with all the paperwork and processes post-death.

Everyone I’ve encountered has been helpful, considerate and supportive, and between them they have made the whole business easier to deal with.

I am sometimes questioned on my belief in the essential goodness of human beings, but yet again I have been reminded of just how lovely people can be, and not just those closest to you, but also complete strangers who have no emotional attachment.

It gives me hope for our world in the midst of the noisy surface chaos and mess and lack of care, because lying just beneath that surface is compassion and warmth. When we relate to each other from our hearts, we remind each other that we may have created the mess, but we can also create the solutions between us, because we are essentially caring beings.

Yet again I am reminded to stay with my optimism that we can create a better world.

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BE A LEARNER

My daddy loved to learn. He thrived at school and at college. As a small boy, he taught himself to make model aeroplanes. When in the RAF, he took up fencing, horse riding, sailing and ballroom dancing, as well as doing the day job.

When he got married and had a family, he learned how to do DIY, service his own car, grow fruit and veg, and do dressmaking. When computers first became available, he had one of the earliest models and even taught himself how to programme it as well as use it.

And in his later years, he decided to train as a reiki master, and researched not just that, but also nutrition, meditation and Wiccan.

The result, besides being multi-talented and able to turn his hand to anything, was that in his 90’s, he was still as bright as a button, with all his mental faculties. Even 2 days before he died, he was still giving me instructions on what to do with his things, and explaining how to make the perfect gin and tonic!

He was a great role model for the benefits of keeping the mind active and exercising its plasticity.

And it meant that he would constantly surprise me. He was set in his ways as far as habits were concerned and liked his routines, but mentally he expanded his horizons. For example, when Brexit came along, my dad – a conservative all his life – extolled the benefits of being in the EU, with more cogent reasons than any politician. I also got a full lecture on herbal supplements and their uses when I kept getting colds!

Staying active mentally, being curious about other possible points of view or approaches, exploring anything that interests you – these all give us not just knowledge, but also a level of wisdom, and enable us to be truly alive.

So let’s keep learning..

Dedicated to my beloved daddy, who died on 10th November 2019 of just old age,

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WHAT CAN I DO?

I was talking with a friend the other day about the state of the world, as you do. And it is only too easy to get depressed and feel powerless as you go through the things that are in a mess: politics, our injustices, our environmental issues, our broken institutions and support systems, the high levels of stress that most people seem to have.

But feeling depressed and powerless doesn’t make any difference to anything, except us, in a negative sense. So we launched into what we can do that makes a positive difference.

Firstly, we need to notice any positives there are: the gradual slow improvements that underlie the mess. For example, most people in the UK do now recycle a lot more than we used to, and we now have more awareness of bad behaviour and poorly run institutions, because they are scrutinised more and that information is available. This helps us to have a more positive frame of mind.

Secondly, we can educate ourselves. That increase in information means that we can find out more, and have all sides of the argument before we form our opinions.

Thirdly, we can take action. This can be as simple as reducing our own use of plastic, or treating others as we would like to be treated. Being the change we want to see in the world is more powerful than we realise: if everyone did a little bit more in their own lives to make the world a better place, it would change the world.

And we can go further. We can talk about the issues with others, share the expanded information we discover, and influence them to also take more action in their lives. In this, we need to be careful not to become judgemental or evangelical in our attitude. I don’t change someone else’s view by trying to bully them into it, or by criticising them. And I need to respect their position. But I can expand their view, or explain more clearly my own reasons, or suggest possible benefits to them of making a change.

Finally, we can make our voices heard. We can join in protests, vote, write to our newspapers/MP’s – we can come out of the silent majority.

I’m not prepared to sit passively by and see our world go to hell in a handcart – are you? I may not be a Greta Thunberg – I’m not that courageous – but I can do my bit…

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POSITIVE THINKING IS NOT TURNING INTO AN OSTRICH!

I’ve never been particularly keen on the expression ‘positive thinking.’ It has somehow a built-in tendency towards pretending that everything’s great, and ignoring anything that isn’t by burying your head in the sand – that’s the ostrich reference! I prefer to call it constructive or useful thinking.

The intention of the phrase is good to remember though. It is about the perspective you choose to take on whatever is happening, not about avoiding the reality of what’s going on. No-one has the perfect life, with everything working well – even if it looks that way from the outside, we all find some things irritating or frustrating or upsetting. So the trick to making it work as well as possible without pretending is two-fold.

Firstly, we need to make sure we notice what is working for us. This isn’t just about appreciating the good things in life; it also sets us up a constructive or positive frame of mind.

From that, we can look at what isn’t so good in our lives, and decide what to do about it. There are some things we can actively change. For example if we have a dripping tap that is irritating us, we can call a plumber and get it fixed – (confession: it took me over a week to finally do this!)

There are other things we can’t change directly, but we can change our reaction to them. I can’t magically stop the pouring rain, but I can either dress appropriately to be out in it, or treat it as an opportunity to do an inside job I’ve been meaning to do for a while, or just an opportunity to sit and read a book or watch a movie. I can make the best of the situation.

We don’t feel any better about things that aren’t so good in our lives if we just moan or complain about them, or if we berate ourselves for letting it affect us negatively. The situation doesn’t change that way either.

We do feel better if we remember that those situations aren’t all that’s going on in our lives – some parts are good – and if we choose to act or react differently, so as to alleviate the negative effect.

And it’s really all about feeling better about our lives, isn’t it?

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HAVE YOU THE FAMILY YOU WOULD LOVE TO HAVE?

Most of us have a family we were born into, and a set of relatives that comes with that. And I often hear people say that they find it really hard to get on with a brother, or sister, or parent. This always feels hurtful because we have an expectation that these are the people who should care most for us. But it’s not really that surprising, because each of us is a unique personality, and we don’t get on with every other personality.

I like to think that we really have two sorts of family: the one we were born into and related to by blood, and the one we create for ourselves. This is our real family, because it is those we meet who become our mutual support network, people we feel genuine love and concern for. If we’re lucky, some of our blood ties are also in our ‘personalised’ family – we choose to have them as an important part of our lives – but it’s not compulsory.

And because this is a family we create throughout our lives, we are not constrained by numbers or categories or age – we can create according to any criteria we choose. I have lots of sisters and brothers, and many sons and daughters. When I was younger, I had more favourite aunts and uncles and elder brothers and sisters – now I think I’m probably the matriarch of my lovely created family!

When I was a child, we were encouraged to call friends of the family auntie or uncle. I think that was based on a form of showing respect because they were adults and we were children, but it also indicated that my parents felt they were part of the family really. And my favourite ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ were in this category. I felt loved and cared for by them as if they were real family, and of course they were!

So who have you got in your family? Let’s recognise our closeness and love for these special people who have agreed to be part of our family in this lifetime, just as we have chosen to have them in our family. Some of them will be very close to us: lots of contact and mutual support; some of them will have gone their own way, yet still be there if you need them; and some of them will be that somewhat eccentric or awkward one that you can’t help but love anyway!

Cherish these people – they are your real family. And if you meet someone you wish were part of your family, nurture the relationship and bring them in. You really can create the family you would love to have.

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101 REASONS TO BE THANKFUL

OK, so I haven’t really found 101 yet, although I’m not far off! And I’ve only been looking at those things we take for granted.

My dad has lost his hearing temporarily, and I was thinking about the impact that would have on my life. TV and films would lose a chunk of their appeal, no music, wouldn’t hear the phone ring or be able to call anyone, wouldn’t know if someone came to the door – it’s a massive impact.

And that led me to thinking about how we take our senses for granted. We can feel, taste, smell, hear and see, and we don’t even think about it normally. Plus, our limbs move in a co-ordinated way, so it’s easy to move about, our hands can grasp and hold, our bodies just get on with complex procedures like digestion, repair, immune systems. Oh, and all those trillions of cells that we’re made of can co-operate and support each other in their various roles. And none of that requires conscious effort on my part.

Wow!! ‘What a piece of work is man’, as Shakespeare said.

Then there’s our minds, which manage all the amazing things our bodies can do as a matter of course, but also absorb and store incredible amounts of information, which enables us to remember, assess, discriminate, and learn and grow. I know they can also cause us problems, but they do a pretty good job on the whole.

So, without even looking outside ourselves, we have a lot of wonderful reasons to be thankful we’re human.

Add to that the simplest of our needs being met on a regular basis and we must be close to my 101 reasons. I’m referring to a bed to sleep in, a roof over our head, food on the table, water we can drink no predators hunting us so a level of safety, easy access to clothes to keep us warm, lights if it’s dark. We just take all of these for grated don’t we? I know I do most of the time.

It’s easy to get pissed off, feel life isn’t great, wish things were different. And on those days it can be hard to find anything to be thankful for – we just notice all the things that confirm our state of mind.

I think it is useful to remind ourselves of all these reasons to be thankful – it helps us to change our state of mind, and to realise that life isn’t that bad after all..

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