Tag Archives: useful thinking


The other day, a friend I haven’t spoken to for a while was on my mind when I woke up, so later in the day, I gave him a call. He burst out laughing when he heard my voice and said: ‘I was thinking about you this morning, and was going to call you this evening.’

I find that my life has lots of examples like this of so-called coincidence. We think nowadays that it is purely by chance when there is a coincidence, that it has no particular meaning. Yet the word, in its etymology, was originally used in astrology and means that the planets or stars are in alignment. This was seen as a good omen; it was the right time for something special to happen.

I choose to believe pretty much the same thing: that there is a good reason for a coincidence happening, and it is up to me to follow it through. Whether it be bumping into someone in town that you haven’t seen for years, or wondering if you should visit somewhere, switching on the tv and seeing a documentary about that place, I assume that there is something here for me to follow through.

I can’t prove that this isn’t just a coincidence, but I can enjoy following the thread, and it has led to many lovely things in my life.

We may dismiss things like astrology because we don’t believe it’s factual and want to make our lives follow a logical course. By doing so, we miss out on some of the magic and wonder that being alive can bring. What a shame!

Maybe one day our scientists will prove that coincidences aren’t an accident, but a message to help us on our way. Meantime I will continue to delight in the stars aligning to introduce something different into my life, should I choose to take notice of it.


Our minds are designed to learn. In the first place, they are like empty cupboards with lots of space to store things in and they absorb everything. So as small children, we find it easy to place things: language, behaviour, experience.

Along the way we collect lots of useful stuff that comes to have its own place in our mind, and that we can find without any effort. We don’t have to think about how to talk to others, how to act and react in common situations, how to deal with most things that crop up in our everyday life. It all becomes habitual.

Unfortunately, we also collect stuff that’s less than useful, those habits that don’t serve us well. It is relatively easy to identify these as we get older, such things as: procrastinating and thereby putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure; making others wrong to give ourselves an excuse; ignoring problems until they’ve grown like Topsy; under- or over-eating – there are so many not useful habits we can develop!

This is not because we are stupid or careless or bad. When we are young, we aren’t able to discriminate between the useful and less useful stuff. We collect it all and find a place to store it in our mind. And that’s why it’s hard to unlearn. We have to consciously clear out that space of not useful habit and fill it with a more useful one instead.

How do we do that? A bit at a time. We can’t just decide to empty that shelf, because it will refill automatically with the same type of stuff if we leave it empty. We have to begin to replace it with something more useful, until that space is so full of the new habit that it relabels itself and goes on to automatic.

So if you want to change a less than useful habit, you start by deciding on what would work better for you. Then you identify where or when you could easily use the new behaviour or approach instead.

When you come to that identified place where it would be easy to change the habit, take a breath before you launch in, to remind yourself that you want to do something different.

Once you have become used to using the new way in those circumstances, you can extend it to more situations. Gradually it becomes your default behaviour and the shelf gets relabelled.

It’s hard to unlearn, but it’s well worth it. Every small step towards a more useful habit is a step towards an easier and more enjoyable life.


I read an article recently about a man who gives talks on imagining a bright future, for us and for the world. It was inspiring and made me reflect on the power of our imagination.

Imagination is a gift we all have. From being very young, we create stories in our minds: fairies living at the bottom of our garden; a whole world made of lego; our future lives as an astronaut or an explorer.

Then we are taught to ‘face reality’ and deal with the day-to-day, and we become infected by the often depressing or distressing stories we are fed by the media.

In ancient times, people would sit around the fire in the evening and tell stories about heroes and grand adventures. It was a way of inspiring them to live their lives to the full.

Nowadays we watch the news, documentaries, dramas, about crimes – it doesn’t feed our positive imaginations and depresses our belief in possibilities. Yet our imagination is still there, ready to be used to our advantage.

I’m reminded of when I first came across the concept of visioning – imagining a positive future. I loved the idea and set to, writing a story about the home I would have, the type of work I’d be doing, the friends I would have etc.

I then forgot all about it until three years later when I was moving house. As I was clearing stuff out ready to move, I found the notes I had written. And I was moving into that home I had described and doing work I loved. It wasn’t a 100 per cent match, but a surprising amount of my story had come true.

This imagining the future is not an exercise in wishing: ‘I wish I could be fitter,’ etc. It is about making a leap forward in your imagination to 3,4,5 years’ time: ‘in 2026 I am…, I have…’ It’s about living that future in your imagination.

By painting a picture for yourself of how you want your life to be, you gear up your unconscious to notice opportunities to create it for real. It has to be vivid: see things, hear the sounds, feel the sensations, put in details. It’s fun to do. And to make it more powerful, write it down, revisit it occasionally, read it through again, add more.

Our ability to create our own lives is underestimated. We can all imagine a brighter future if we choose to.

The man in the article is imagining a brighter future for the world and asking people to do the same. We can all do that as well, but let’s start small and imagine a brighter future for ourselves.


Okay, I’m not talking about memory tests here: did I remember to get something out of the freezer, or someone’s birthday. Those things are really recall – did I keep that in the front of my mind.

I’m talking about those memories that pop up sometimes because something reminds us of them. For example, we may hear a song on the radio, or see an old-fashioned sweet in a shop, or watch a programme about a place we have visited. This is rich remembering for several reasons.

It tends to have detail that we weren’t conscious of absorbing at the time. So a song may make us think of particular people, places, moods and feelings. Or a sweet may evoke a whole period of our childhood.

Remembering also gives us a chance to review the significance of things in our past. It may have seemed catastrophic at the time, yet now we can laugh at it. or it may have seemed unimportant, yet now we can see how it helped us to grow in some way or played a part in a bigger pattern in our lives.

Remembering is putting things back together, joining them up. It means that we put singular events into a bigger context, the context of our whole lives till now.

Remembering helps us to value and understand who we are and how we’ve developed. It helps us to let ourselves i=off, so we don’t feel bad about things in our past: ‘I was only a youngster’, or ‘that was pretty awful, no wonder I felt like that’.

And above all, it can be delightful to remember times when we felt happy, had fun, enjoyed our lives – it brings back those same feelings.

So enjoy those times when you reminisce, on your own or with others, and even prompt it sometimes to remind yourself of the richness of your life.


Over recent years more and more commentators have referred to our government policies as sticking plasters policies: they come up with yet another plan to try and hold a system or process together and ignore the fundamental problems which are causing the holes/crises to appear.

A good example is the production of renewable energy. We now produce over a third of our electricity through wind power, which is great. They did subsidise off-shore wind farms to achieve this. But there is no significant investment in improving the National Grid infrastructure so that the use of wind power can be extended. Investors in wind power now will be waiting years to connect it to the Grid. And it has no effect on our prices for energy, as that is controlled by global prices for gas and oil.

So it looks good on the surface, but is limited in its positive effect.

If we were to use the same sticking plaster mentality on our lives, we would soon hit the limit on the use of short-term measures to alleviate problems.

Or have we already? How many people take painkillers so they can carry on rather than establishing the cause of the pain? How many people buy ready meals full of preservatives rather than making their food fresh? How many people ignore their body’s messages to slow down and then wonder why they are worn out or develop an illness?

I’m not being critical of others here – I’m far from perfect myself. But I do wonder if we have learnt to ignore the fundamental causes of our discontent or discomfort, instead going for some short-term quick fixes, which will shudder to a halt at some point in the future, or lead to other problems.

So when you find yourself reaching for the sticking plaster remedy, just stop for a moment and consider whether you could instead begin to deal with the underlying cause. Have the mould on the wall treated rather than paint over it. Go and have a nap rather than having an energy drink. Get yourself an appointment with an osteopath or chiropractor rather than taking more painkillers for a bad back.

Take more care of yourself for the long-term – you have more life to live!


I remember years ago being told off by someone for saying that I hoped I’d be able to handle something that was coming up for me. ‘Hope aways implies there’s a doubt, and you need to think positively and say that you can do this.’

For sure we sometimes trip ourselves up by creating our own seeds of doubt, so that we won’t be too disappointed if we don’t succeed in something. Telling ourselves we can do whatever it is is a powerful tool that feeds our unconscious with the instruction to find a way, and I have used it a lot in my life, to good effect.

But more recently, several different things have reminded me that it is important to acknowledge that hope can also be useful. We all know the difference between situations where we probably can do it, and those where the odds are against us. And when the odds are against us, hope can shift the balance somewhat and make it possible to do it.

A simple example is being out somewhere and seeing big rain clouds coming over. Saying, ‘I hope I can get inside before it pours with rain’ will automatically quicken your pace and give you a better chance. Saying, ‘I’m going to get soaked’ has the opposite effect. We give up even trying to beat the rain. And of course, the way the Ukrainians are dealing with the Russian invasion is a prime example of hope giving strength and perseverance.

Our thoughts are instructions to our unconscious mind on how to behave. They affect our attitudes, our reactions. So if it doesn’t seem likely that you will succeed, don’t just give up. At least find some hope and give yourself a better chance, increase the odds in your favour.


Do you ever berate yourself for making the same silly mistake again? I certainly do, and a few days ago I did two silly things that resulted in me tripping over and hurting myself (not too drastically).

I was telling myself what a fool I was – I knew I had overstretched myself, and I knew I should have cleared up the stuff piling up in my yard. Then I remembered the angel Emmanuel talking to me years ago, when I asked him if I would ever learn to stop repeating the same mistakes. He said that what matters is that you notice you’ve done it again, because that means you’re learning to avoid it more often in the future.

He pointed out that it is part of the deal of being human, and rather than being cross with ourselves, we should celebrate the fact that we’ve realised that we did it – that’s progress. In fact, he suggested we should buy ourselves flowers – but this time my ‘reward’ was a large glass of wine!

And all this reminded me that in our lives, we rarely get the most useful behaviours and beliefs totally embedded, but every time we dust ourselves off and have another go, we are increasing our stock of being able to remember more often. I know that over my lifetime I have got better at some things, even if I haven’t reached perfection yet!

So I’m having another go at remembering to stop when I know I’ve done enough for now, and to clear up a bit after myself instead of laying unintentional booby traps everywhere.

Next time you get cross with yourself for making that silly mistake, for goodness’’ sake celebrate that you realised in your own inimitable way, and then have another go.


We all experience fear, but we rarely stop and think about what it is about. It can be an acronym for False Events Appearing Real – which gives us a clue: most of our fear is of something in the future that hasn’t happened yet.

While we’re in fear, we are incapable of being rational about it: we’re in fight or flight mode, and our logic shuts down. However, we could look at the evidence after the predicted event, and if we do, we begin to realise how often our fears are unfounded. Sometimes the event doesn’t happen at all, sometimes it is much better than we had expected, and yes, occasionally we were right. So the first way of counteracting our tendency to fear is to begin to check up how many times it was inaccurate.

And when our fear was justified? It is worth reviewing our own actions and reactions when we could see it coming true. Sometimes we ‘cause’ the fear to be real by the way we approach the situation. We are in the fight or flight mode and we give off the vibes of someone in fear. This can make us combatant or wary or anxious. Others involved may pick up on that unconsciously and so react accordingly. And even when there is no-one else involved, we can be clumsy or a bit stupid. Fearing slipping over in the snow almost inevitably makes me mis-step and fall over!

Of course, it is right to feel fear sometimes, but mostly it just makes things worse. It is bad for our health and makes life harder. We can counteract it, we can teach ourselves to stop it before it gets a hold, and our lives will be better for it.


I remember how popular it was in the 60’s and 70’s to talk about ‘vibes’ – good and bad vibrations. This is the law of resonance. Resonance originally means that similar sounds to those you send out will come back to you – echoes if you will. It applies to any form of energy wave, which means it includes our emotional energies, our physical energies, our mental energies.

We all know that when we’re ‘off’ in one of these forms of energy, others can seem to catch it from us, or the universe seems to send us more reasons to stay ‘off’ – the law of resonance at work.

It’s also reflected in the way social media algorithms work:  you show some interest in a particular perspective and you get more of the same sort of thing, tempting you further along that path.

We are often unaware of how powerfully we affect our own perspective on the world, through the ‘vibrations’ we are sending out, and consider ourselves instead to be the victim of circumstance. But we can change the story.

We are creating self-fulfilling prophecies, so let’s make them good ones most of the time! By being aware of the law of resonance, we can interrupt its negative power.

When the vibe feels bad, we can stop and check: is it us who’s setting it off, or someone we’re around? If it’s someone else creating a resonance in us, we can choose to disengage, move away. If it’s us, we can make a deliberate effort to change our state, and change the vibe.

And when the vibe feels good, the same check applies. If someone else is the source, that’s a great person to be around! And if it’s us, let’s amplify it and increase the good vibes in the world.


We’ve heard a lot about viruses over the last few years, but no-one mentions the one that all of us suffer from on a fairly regular basis – it’s thought viruses.

We all have our own particular thought viruses: stories we tell ourselves that put ‘the fear of God into us’, as my mum would say. They’re the thoughts that trigger us into a state of fear or anxiety, usually about something that hasn’t actually happened, but we fear might.

There are also ones that take hold more widely in our cultures, which is how racism, sexism etc become so prevalent.

They all operate a double negative for us:

  1. Once there, we look for evidence that they’re likely to be true, in our own past, and in what we see and hear around us, so we build their hold on us.
  2. They affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being and increase our negative feelings and stress levels.

Like other viruses, we need to find a way to recover from them, and help ourselves to develop an immunity.

Firstly, we need to recognise we have them. Those recurring anxieties about our health or certain meetings, or something bad happening, all show us where they are.

Secondly, we need to start to exert some control over them. Look for evidence to the contrary: how many times in the past they weren’t true, how illogical most of them are.

Thirdly, we need to actively challenge them. When one pops its head up, we need to say: ‘Not you again! You’re not a fact, you’re a figment of my imagination. Go away, I don’t want you any more.’

Lastly, we need to laugh at them, because that is a fine way to reduce their power over us.

Thought viruses can spoil our happiness and peace of mind. Let’s choose not to let them.