The Importance of Failure

In the last podcast we were looking at people’s fear of returning to the workplace and imposter syndrome. Alongside these fears is the fear of failure. I have been trying explain to people that what we see as failure may not actually be a bad thing, how else do we learn? As my American friends say…

…we don’t have problems we have learning opportunities. 

If we can change the concept of failure to being a learning point then our previous experience of failure can become a positive and not a negative. After all had we not had we not had the experience we would not have had the opportunity to learn the lesson.

The opposite of failure is an attitude

We live in a world of opposites that are totally dependent on each other, one cannot exist without the other. Hot and cold, high and low, rough and smooth, light and dark, happy and sad, positive and negative, rich and poor, good and evil, the list is endless. Yet each of these symbiotic twins are relative to each other. Though they only ever a relative concept. For example something will only seem cold if it is at a lower temperature of what we have labelled hot. Just as something will only seem hot if it is a higher temperature then what we have labelled cold. The difference between these twins is never an ‘actual’ measurement it is a ‘relative’ measurement.

Compared to the ceiling the floor is low. Compared to the sky the ceiling is low. Compared to the moon the sky is low. Compared to the Sun the moon is low. Compared to Alpha Centauri the Sun is low. It is all just the way that we look at it. Our concepts of success and failure have such a profound effect on our self esteem and our ability to function happily in our life. Even if you are on benefits in the UK, you may feel relatively poor but, you are actually in the richest 10% of the worlds population. I worked with someone who felt a failure because all the houses in their street has two cars and they only had one. This type of attitude os known in psychology as relative deprivation. Because it is a relative relationship our experience and beliefs will vary. 

My concept of success might be your concept of failure. 

Let’s say your success is to have one million pounds and for me five hundred pounds would be my success. You may then experience my success as a failure. When the average wage was about £18k I remember being told that is you did not earn £40k you were not even on the first run of the ladder. the ladder was their relative concept of success. Life is not a competition it is a journey. I is not what we have it is what we do that is important.

I have often said that I see competition as a senseless wast of time. My example is that if nine people embark on the 100 metre dash only one person will experience success while eight people will experience failure.

It is taking part that counts not winning

Competitive types tell this is the wrong way to look at it because the eight that didn’t win the race will be driven on to do better next time and become winners. The person who continually comes fourth managed to come third so this is a success. Or one runner improved their time and felt success. In my world to have competed at a high level meeting at all and to come last might be experienced as success and one not to be missed.

Failure could be the mother of invention 

I am reminded of Eddison and his quest to invent the light bulb. His problem was finding the right element that would glow without burning out that would create light. He tried over 200 different elements before he found tungsten that worked. That is over 200 experiences of failure, or was it. I have often thought about his tenacity. At what point would I have conceded failure and given up. Was it that each element that failed spurred him on to try the next in his determination to succeed?

Remember both success and failure are our own individual concepts

I suspect that it is our concept of failure that is vitally important to our achieving our concept of success. Just as there is no up without down, and there is no success without failure. The point from which we start anything is the down point and the goal that we are aiming for is the up point. When we look up to where we want to be we are setting our goal. Achieving our goal is our success and this is often tied up with our self esteem just as not achieving our goal is our failure and leads to a loss of our self esteem.

Learning from our failures

My experience, both personally and working with others, is that that the pain of failure is the spur that creates the energy that drives us towards success. A business person can learn from a bankruptcy so that it never happens again, we come out of a failed relationship with the knowledge that allows us to succeed next time, the injuries that we experience in training enable us to adapt to succeed in our sport.

When failures become learning points we learn and grow

So, I want to challenge the concept failure and the idea of success. In this world of twinned opposites we need to continually learn from one to achieve the other. So, I prefer to think of “failure” as an opportunity. We don’t have failures we have learning points that, if used consciously and creatively, enable us to move towards our success. In that sense there are never problems only opportunities.

Planning our success

Ok, so if we have a starting point and we have a goal we need to make the journey from one to the other. Most people set the goal too high and then don’t reach it. This is then allows them to label themselves self as a failure. To make the journey it needs to be broken down into achievable steps that create the path to success. 

Forward Base you success

Forward basing is an exercise that I use with individuals, couples and teams who need to achieve a goal. You can do this right now in your kitchen, If it is a team I am using a gym hall. On one wall I stick a big sheet of flip chart paper. On this I write where we are up to in the NOW. On the opposite wall I put another sheet of paper. On this I write where we want to get to, this is the GOAL. The next job is to put sheets of paper on the floor that become the stepping stones from where we are now to the goal we want to get to. This is the plan. Each step is set at an achievable distance so that with each step there is the feeling of ongoing success. Once the steps have been set out we then can create a timeline along the wall so that we have the steps that we need to take set in a time frame. This is a plan.

None of this is set in stone. The time frame can vary and the steps can move. If one step is not completed we go back to the previous step and either try again or adapt or change it. The point of forward basing is to create a flow of continued success that builds self esteem and drives us on to our desired goal. When we forward base we are able to use success rather than failure as the drive towards our goal.

1: What do you consider to be your failures?

2: How can you turn these into useful learning points?

3: If you were to forward base what would you write on the NOW sheet and what would be on the GOAL sheet?

4: From this you can create your steps and your timeline.

Failure, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder only you can define your failures and acknowledge your successes. In my own life I have had many learning points. The only failures that I would Identify have been when I didn’t attend to the learning points and then needed to repeat the lesson. I also acknowledge that I have had many, many successes and that makes me a happy person who feels successful.

Take care, be happy and successful 

Sean x 

Do you feel like an imposter?

Self doubt seems to be the new lockdown lurgy. 

I have working with so many people who over lockdown that have lost their self confidence. The fear of going back to the workplace can make people feel vulnerable. Their role and the position they have held in the organisation, often for many years, seems daunting to the point where they feel like they are an imposter or a fraudster. For some this has not only been about doing their job but now simply living their life. This is the seed of anxiety that can lead to them becoming over alert and vigilant leading to feelings of anxiety. When we develop anxiety it can get us to the point where are now beginning to make the mistakes we were fearing we would make in the first place. It is that age old principle that ‘thoughts become things’.

What we think about we bring about

The feeling of being a fraudster or an imposter is much more common than we realise. I deal with it all the time as people feel that they are living and unreal or dishonest lives. Right now as we are trying to come out of lockdown it is on the increase. I have seen GPs, consultants, surgeons, directors, chief execs, actors, performers and worriers in a variety of industries feeling that they cannot do whatever it is that they have been doing for many years. There is an internal conflict and inner doubt. It is as though logically they know they are okay at their job but emotionally they feel that they just can’t do it any more.

Self doubt can be destructive and is often intimidated by other people or circumstances as we have seen from the effects of online trolling and domestic abuse. It can happen after redundancy, divorce or even retirement. The prolong absence from the workplace in lockdown has, for some, had a similar affect. However it is not all bad.

Some self doubt may be a good thing

I believe that a healthy level of self doubt is not only a common thing but, I would maintain, is a positive things. It is powerfully useful to question what we do so that we can review and improve ourselves. It is that mindful magic of being able to observe ourselves positively, not critically, and respond and change as is appropriate to be a better version of who we are.

Arrogance is not confidence

We can mistake the ‘knobby know it all’ for someone who lacks self doubt. However, when someone feels that we are always right some people can then see this as confidence. Sadly, those that need to be always right usually lack the confidence to be questioned or to question themselves. It can be short journey of confidence to arrogance. Once we feel that we know it all we have no where to go and nothing to learn. At that point we become emotionally and mentally stunted and tend to disconnect from those around us. If I believe that I know everything then you have nothing that you can tell me or show me therefore whatever you say is really meaningless.

Of course there are people who are genuinely confident and people who do genuinely know a lot of things. The truly confident person is secure enough to question themselves and to allow other to question them without feeling insecure or reacting emotionally.

Are you confident?

Where does your confidence come from? Or where does you lack of confidence come from? For me, I think that in the first instance it is down to the parents and our upbringing in the early time of life. This is when we establish the foundation of who we are. Unless something happens to make us review and reprogram then we just carry on the same story line for the rest of our life.

Reactive anxiety

We may lose confidence in who we are or what we do at any time in life. This is often a reaction to an event. It could simply be that after a car accident we now question our ability to drive, or for a surgeon following a patient death, an actor who get bad reviews, a sales person who fails to hit their target, a mother who can’t stop her baby crying, the list is endless. The stimulus will vary but it happens when what we thought could always do, or when the things that we did without even thinking are called into question or simply no longer work.

This sense of failure happens to most of us at sometime and then we question our own ability and that is when we can then feel like an imposter. Everybody else sees us and the situation as business as usual and they do not see what is going inside us. If we dare to share with other people what we are actually feeling we often get a ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘don’t be so stupid’ message. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you’. This does change how we are feeling.

Emotion and mind

A developing sense of imposter syndrome can develop from a conflict between our thinking and feeling. The thinking self knows that we are qualified, experienced and capable but the emotional self adds in just that little pinch of doubt. It is then that we can begin to feel like a fraud, that we stupid, incapable.

Mindfulness

I am in danger of sounding like ‘mindfulness fixes all’ though it is usually true. When we have imposter syndrome it is an anxiety and we know that anxieties are learned behaviours which if left alone become our habits. We may begin to learn the concept that we are a failure or that we got it wrong through direct experience or from other people that are influential in our life such as parents, partners, bosses and so on. When we engage in mindfulness we can observe what we are thinking, feeling or doing and we can decide whether or not we want to feed this idea with our attention or starve it by letting it go. 

‘What you feed grows and what you starve dies’.

Perhaps most importantly in mindfulness our observer self can observe our thinking self and our feeling self. Also it can observe what other people are saying to us and how we react to it. It is this observer self that gives us the ability to choose to respond rather than to react. We can then decide whether or not we want to own the feedback that other people are giving to us. Most importantly we have choice.  It is when we have choice that we have the potential to change. If we cannot see the choice then there will not be any change.

In the extreme when we feel unable to shift the negative feelings that make us feel like a failure or an imposter we may need to see a therapist or do a mindfulness or self development course. Most importantly we do not have to put up with it we can change it.

If you are going back into the workplace try and go in with an open mind and pre-empt what might happen. Remember that most of the workforce will be feeling exactly the same things and may need our support to get back into it.

If we all look after each other we will al be okay!

Take care, be happy and be yourself.

Sean x

Retail Therapy After Lockdown

After we did the podcast on smell several people have spoken to me about the idea and other ideas around it. Most seem to agree with me that the constructed world that we live in is no longer natural and rather than smelling like us it smells like a chemist pallet of poisons. Someone said to me that they started thinking about when they were a kid and the phrase ‘someone who has a nose for business’. They payed out to me the tapping of their nose with the first finger of their right hand which, when I was kid translated as ‘good deal’ or ‘a word to the wise’. Anyway the conversation continued to the idea of being  able to smell a rat, a fiddle or a bad deal. Then, we talked about the variety of scams that are now hitting us from the internet. That took us back to another podcast when we had spoken about one of the main deficits in online video calls is the complete lack of smell. The comment was ‘online it is harder to smell a rat’. Interesting comment especially as a we all, apparently, are cash rich from the savings that we have made in lockdown.

Money, Money, Money

Money makes the world go round!  Or so they say. In lockdown the world of retail has, in many ways, ground to a halt. At the same time savings have grown. Now the shops are opening up again and they want our money.

Is it time to send, spend, spend ?

Money is a fantasy. It doesn’t actually exists. The piece of paper, the token, that we call a note, is just that. It is a piece of paper. Every bank note, in every country, has some kind of statement that implies that it is a token that has a value, “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…” yet if you were to go to the bank of England and ask for your pounds they will probably think that you are mad. The basis of money is that we, as society, agree that the token, the note, has a value that we all agree to maintain.

The need to use money tokens to get beyond the problems of barter became an essential. After all if I am buying your chicken and I want to trade my cow how will give me my change? Anyway, we all use money, often in the form of credit, to create a pool of energy that we can exchange for goods and services, and Christmas means spend, spend, spend. 

If you follow our blogs and the podcasts you will realise the importance of the relationship between various addictive issues/substances and the production of dopamine in the brain and, guess what, money is the same. The need to spend money can spike our dopamine levels. the need to continually spend is a dopamine addiction. Dopamine is known as ‘the love drug’. It is produced by the pleasures centres in the brain and creates feelings of happiness and euphoria. It is these feelings that we crave and become addicted to.

When we crave a ‘love object’ that we just need to buy, our brain is telling us that it needs a squirt of dopamine. But dopamine is a fickle friend. As soon as we achieve our love object, as soon as we buy what we were craving, the drive for dopamine ceases and the love object becomes yesterdays news.  

Lockdown lust

Have you been craving to buy something, perhaps spending many weeks or months saving the money. Now at last you can buy it. It may be your flavour of the month for a little while but soon these feelings will wear off. The problems is that because of your addictive habits your brain will now crave more dopamine. So now you will need a new love object to get it going again. More spend, spend, spend.

Advertisers know this and, like Apple, will change their designs and specifications to keep the dopamine needs of their followers flowing. No one really needs to continually update devices at the rate that the market dictates and yet we all buy into it. Sales people and teams understand this and their sales techniques are designed to get our juices flowing, to increase the flow of dopamine.

In big stores the lighting, the music and the displays all are designed to create more dopamine and, to create the need to have, to own and, to buy. 

When your expenditure exceeds your income, on a regular basis, and you are not living in poverty, then you are probably addicted to retail therapy. What that means is, that like all addicts, you have trained your brain to connect an activity, in this case spending money, to the production of dopamine in your brain’s pleasure centres.

Just as there is nothing wrong with having the occasional blowout on booze there is also nothing wrong with having the occasional spend fest. It is all a matter of proportion. It is when it is out of proportion that it becomes a problems and that means therapy. As with everything in life when you have a problem do something about it, see someone, talk, seek help.

So what cravings have you developed in lock down? What are your love objects?

Holiday? Meal out? New car?

Our drive for retail therapy can leave us open to be scammed. Right now there are lot of scammers who know that we are craving a money dopamine hit and they are after us. Watch your texts and emails. Question before you respond. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

My resource for this week is to download the app for your bank and use the facilities and advise that they offer. They all have information about how to avoid being scammed.

Overall when it comes to money the deal is…

love people and use money, do not, love money and use people…

Be happy and spend responsibly enjoy

Sean x

Time to rebuild community

During the epidemic our ability to meet and interact with each has been severely diminished. I attended an online funeral on Monday and it really brought home to me just meaningless an online experience could be and feel compared with the actual smell, touch experience of actually being there. It was as though I was watching a film or a news report. It got me thinking about although technology is very clever and allows us to do so much it can leave us socially and emotionally impoverished. Then I was reading about the is growing evidence that the past year of lockdowns has had an impact on young children’s language skills leaving an increased number of four and five year olds needing help with language.

While the government is putting money into supporting these children there are many areas of their development that will be lost to them. Well, if not lost they will need to do some serious catching up. Alongside reading ability and language we have to add social skills. There has been less or no contact with grandparents, social distancing from friends and family, no play dates. Plus, the wearing of face coverings in public have left children less exposed to conversations and everyday experiences and facial body language. Children will need a lot of support from us all if they are to avoid the deficits that could well be affecting them right now and in their future development.

So, if that is true for the kids what about the rest of us. Many of our relationships will have become changed and some may be broken or fractured by the lack of nurturing that is required to maintain normal relationships. Some of us have felt completely isolated, some have become reclusive. Others have felt abandoned. As one client put it, ‘I now see my true value to people. Those that have cared have kept in touch and to others I have been completely forgotten. How am I supposed to go back to work with these people and pretend that we do have a relationship?’

This might be a good time to begin to rebuild relationships. Perhaps we need to catch up with friends and colleagues, check out how they have been doing and share our own experiences. These relationships have been and are the basis of our community and sense of being together. It can odd going back into the office after a two week holiday and that feeling of needing to catch up and get back in the groove. After months of lockdown and furlough it is likely to feel very strange.

It is good to remember that the key to rebuilding a relationship is listening. People need to talk and share as much as we do. Giving them the space to say what they need to draws them in and recreates their sense of value. In most cases they will then give you the value and ask, ‘what’s about you?’.

In the lane that I live there is an unused plot of land. Some of the neighbours have started a type of community allotment and suggested that I should come on over and bring a spade. This seems like the sort of project that will help rebuild the community around us after all being isolated and locked down in our bubbles.

So my resource for the week is to get out your address book, though these days it would be open your contacts, and decide who you need to contact. This might begin with a message or a call and perhaps a meet up. How much better will your working relationships be if you do a bit of rebuilding before you get back into the workplace?

Take care and start or keep talking
Sean x

Why do we no longer trust our sense of smell?

Our sense of smell evolved to tell us about the world around us. We could tell if something had gone off, was dangerous or poisonous. It told us about other people and about ourselves. Most of all our sense of smell evolved to keep us safe.

Where has our smell gone?
For millions of years people smelled like people and no one thought that it was odd. People like other animal washed on a regular basis, perhaps not as often as we do now, but that was seen and experienced as normal and just as it should be. The ability to smell someone else was a valued and real part of communication. Smell is an emotional marker. We can smell fear, unhappiness, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, illness and disease. Smell has been a vital part of evolution in all species since time began.

I was moved to think about this when researchers began to recognise that one significant sense missing from our online communication during Covid 19 was that we could not smell the person that we were talking with. Many animals have a highly developed sense of smell, dogs being the greatest example. We now have diagnosis dogs that can smell cancers and even covid. But something happened when we humans were taught that smelling like the real world and like real people was bad. We have chosen to suppress our natural scents with artificial chemicals. Sadly we now know that many of these chemicals are damaging our bodies, endocrine systems and some are even carcinogenic. Yet these false scents are pushed at us by clever media manipulators, big pharma and advertising capitalists.

In the 1950s of my childhood, in post Second World War of deprivation, it was normal for most people in the UK to have a bath once a week. There were no central heating systems and hot water was created through a coal fired boiler or an immersion heater. This did not stop them having a daily strip wash with water from the kettle. Some better off people had a wall heater such as an Ascot that could give you instant hot water. These were gas fed devices. The same was true with hair washing that for most was also once a week. Some clever wag invented the dry shampoo which was like talcum powder put on the hair and combed out. Useful for those of us with greasy hair. However, there were no anti deodorants and perfumes or the ability to have a daily shower.

Now, normal smelling people, that is people who actually smell like people and not like chemicals, are nolonger the normal everyday occurrence. Consider that when you can smell people who smell like people your level of communication and understanding is enhanced. When people are eroticised they give off the pheromones of arousal that means we know they are sexually attracted to us. In the modern chemical world perfumes are used to create an attractive smell. Many perfumes carry hormone taken from the sex glands of animals that can now communicate with another person that we are aroused when we are not and then we can’t understand why they wont take no for an answer.

Back to the 1950s and 60,s someone realised that making people not smell like people was big business. The first were the adverts where someone walked into a room funk of people and one person whispered to another ‘B.O’. B.O. stood for body odour. Within months people where rushing to buy the new deodorants. Next came the bad breath campaign. This culminated into the drive to obtain the ‘Colgate ring of confidence’.

As deodorants grew in popularity there developed a drive to tel women that to smell like a woman was a bad thing. Bring on the ‘Fem Fresh’. Now we were told that a vagina should not smell like a vagina but like a bunch of flowers. At the same time boxer Henry Cooper appeared on adverts for the perfume Brut ‘splash it on all over’ then we had ‘Blue Stratos’. The clever adverts now tell us that we have gone ‘Nose blind’ and that our house should not smell like us or like our houses but of chemicals that are now seen as acceptable. The thing that no one seems to have taken into account is how much our loss of natural smell would our could effect our normal everyday communication and understanding prof other people.

Back along in the 1960s we all burned incense sticks and cones until it was discovered that they were carcinogenic. Then we had candles followed by various oils burners and diffusers pumping pour chemical into our home environments. Oh, I should also mention the mass of smells added to polished and soaps and other chemicals that we use in our houses.

You may never have heard of Phthalates. These are really nasty chemicals that are included in most of the chemical smells that we experience every day. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopment issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. (The Guardian)

Health Effects of Phthalates
There is evidence that Phthalates cause s loss of fertility and prostate issues and cancers. When combined at low levels, some phthalates can act together to cause similar harm as seen with exposure to just one phthalate at high levels. Phthalate exposures in humans has been linked to changes in sex hormone levels, altered development of genitals, and low sperm count and quality.

How does phthalates affect the environment?
Some phthalates are bioaccumulative and have been detected in aquatic organisms. For example, BBP (Phthalates) has been shown to be toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments. Studies suggest BBP may have endocrine disrupting effects in fish worldwide.

I guess that what I am saying is that it is okay to smell like you and not like a phthalate. You don’t see chimpanzees rushing around in states of stress because they smell like chimpanzees. I am not suggesting that we stop washing. It is okay to be clean but not chemically drowned.

Take care and enjoy your armpits

Sean x

Coming Out Of Hibernation

Watching those crowds of queuing for shops, pubs and food outlets and then listening to the interviews its was as though we are coming out of a long dark winter into a new spring. That made me think about the normal winter blues and how happy we all are to see the sun again. So the question is, is hibernation normal for Hunan’s? Well, the answer is yes, but not sleeping like a bear. More like slowing down and losing some energy that we would normally get from the sun light. But, this years has been winter with knobs on as Covid has forced us to change our normal behaviours. WE have discovered that a Covid winter is is much worse than a normal winter.

So, the Covid winter is over. It seems to have been a long time coming as the warm weather stretches out before us. The clocks have gone forward and we need to enjoy this summer as never before. We have until the clocks go back in October to enjoy it. What wil you do with it? 

Getting your mood up

The effect of the lack of light has led to the inevitable drop in our level of Vitamin D, and a subsequent drop in our level of serotonin. This in a normal winter leads to feelings of down-ness often described as SAD syndrome. Sometimes I wonder why we bothered to move away from the equator where the levels of vitamin D are naturally high and SAD syndrome has never been heard of. This year Covid had added an extra layer and had an extra effect. Many people are more down they they would normally be at this time of year.

Cutting the carbs

In the cold, damp and dark of winter we seek comfort that through evolution has been given to us by eating carbohydrates. In winter most diets become more stodgy as our level of carbs increases. The common access carbs is in cake, bread, pastas, puddings, biscuits, and so on. The magic is that carbs kick your brain into producing endorphins and serotonin that make you feel good which is why they are called comfort food.

Carbs = comfort

Now, lots of us have been doing then Covid 5k. That is not a run it is the amount of weight that we have put on during covid lockdown. Now we need to get moving, adjust the diet and get rid of it. The magic is that if you exercise out of door not only will you be burning off those calories but you will be building you vitamin D stores as well.

Just twenty minutes of raised heart rate will make your brain secrete happy hormone and endorphins that will make you feel happier. The drive from the health authorities is to get everyone walking for at least half an hour a day. If we all did this we reduce our levels of illness, improve our mental health, loose some weight and get happier. Of course it goes without saying that it would also save the NHS time and money.

Take a holiday

That is easy to say but harder to do. Our summer holiday give most of us the opportunity to reset our system and replenish our emotions. We could go away to the sun and get our endorphin hit that way though this year it may be all in the UK. For some it may even be a staycation at home. It might work better for us if this year we take our main holiday in the winter. Would it not make more sense to enjoy the British summer at home, even if it is a bit wet it still has long days of sunlight. Then next when it is dark and cold and the world has opened up again we could jump onto a plane and go somewhere hot and sunny. If we did that we would boost our Vitamin D in the winter, increase our serotonin production and keep our mood raised.

Time to get social

Many of us, either individually or as families, have been living like hermits. Now is the time to get out and meet people or invite people in. It would be garden first and then indoor meals and parties. We need to. Socialise, have parties, cook meals and enjoy the company of others. Being with others, sharing the feeling of belonging and sharing fun and laughter all increase our levels of happiness which also affects our brain chemistry and mood. They call it Hyyge in Sweden.

Make love

Did you know that normally when we have particularly dark and cold winter that birth rates can rise by up to 18%. We do know that good positive love making does raise the endorphins and increases happiness. It also helps us to keep warm on a cold night. However, the enforced lockdown of covid has led, in the USA, to the lowest conception rate for over one hundred years. Perhaps, after lockdown, with rising rates of serotonin people’s mood will rise and we may even see a post covid baby boom.

Speed up

Most of nature takes a break in the winter.  The one species that does not slow down, that carries on in a mad dash, is us human beings. Well not this year. I have watched so many people almost grind to a halt, doing less and less as the months have gone by. This has often been the symptoms of depression. Now we need to get going again. We need to do all those things that we have been putting off. Get out in the garden, cut the grass, paint those window frames. Strangely though many people now need to go and see relatives and friends some are scared and have developed a social phobia. We may still need to take precautions and be Covid safe b it we need to get a move on and re-establish our communities and society.

A normal winter could be our chance to rest and relax looking forward to the hoy of Christmas and the New Year. A time to gather around log fires and get Hyyge. A time enjoy the joy of story telling, socialisation, and developing family relationships and friendships. A time to play games and chat about life and sharing our experiences. The time to enjoy winter foods, puddings custard and cake. For many Covid a nonsense of all that.

It is time to step out of those winter clothes and as the last frosts of winter come to an end get outside, socialise, build vitamin D and have some fun.

Be happy and do what you need to ensure you enjoy your summer so that next winter you can enjoy the winter wonderland.

Take care

Sean x

A Path Travelled

This week in the podcast we had another guest, Alison Blackler a Transformational Mind Coach and founder of 2-minds who has just published her first book’, A Path Travelled. She has a very varied practice that spans from one to one coaching, corporate management coaching and working with offenders in prisons plus writing articles for the local press. 

Her book is written from her own experience of life and her experience of working with her many clients. A Path Travelled gives the reader an opportunity to review, question and adjust their life experience, through insights and exercises so that they can move towards their own fulfilment.

In every life, each person is on their own path. It is the path of life that goes from birth to death. The nature of the path, the route, and the terrain is, in many ways dictated and created by us the individual traveller. Most people never realise this and often remain on the path that they inherited from their the parents, class, nationality, ethnicity, orientation and so on. Much unhappiness in the world is the result of individuals trying to stay on paths that they do not really belong on. They may never realise or understand why they are unhappy. The current epidemic of anxiety and depression that swamps humanity is often the result of people attempting to live lives and stay in paths that are not good for them.

When people say things like ‘life is a bitch and then you die’ they describe exactly people being on the wrong path. The positive alternative might be ‘life is a joy and eventually and naturally you come to the joyful end of your path’. This can only happen when you are on the right path for you.

Throughout time there have been guides that we meet on our path that attempt to show us, the travellers, which way to go.  To suggests ways in which we might improve or develop our path. When we get it right we can follow a path, live a life, that is self fulfilling that makes us happy. Informally these guides have been the wise ones, who had insight and empathy, knowledge and wisdom. They were the shaman, guru, religious leader, scientists, philosophers, psychotherapists, coaches and so on. 

A guide is anyone who can see a bit further up the path than we can. Someone who can explain the likely consequence of our actions as individuals, as a society or as a race. Good guides and teacher encourage us to face up to problems and dilemmas. They ask us questions such as…

What has your path been like? Have you enjoyed it? Where did it begin? Why has it followed the course that it has? If you started out again on a path would you follow the same route? If ‘yes’, then, good luck enjoy it and do more of it? If ‘no’ then, how can you change it and ensure that the remainder of your journey is on a path that you might actually like and enjoy? 

The current iteration of the guide is the coach’. It is a growing trend in therapy. Good coaches enable us to reflect, question, enquire, resolve and move towards getting our lives right for us.

As long as we enjoy our path it is the right one to be on. When we wake in the morning with apprehension of the day ahead our path is probably not the right one. Perhaps time to go and see a coach.

Take care, be happy and follow your path.

Sean x

Breaking out – What have we learned from Covid-19 and lockdown?

Are we out of jail? 

People tell me that being in lockdown has been like being in jail. Well, having worked in the prison service it has not really been like being an inmate more that some of out basic freedoms have been lessened. For about the last eighteen months we have been locked down, that is isolated, restricted and confined due to and because of the infective nature of the Covid-19 virus. This process of feeling trapped and having little control and then finding the sensation of freedom as lockdown is lifted is very much like the process we have been going through over the last ten podcasts. The Ten Steps of the Live In The Present book and course are all about letting go of negative past, establishing positive experience in the present and then creating what it is that we really truly do want in the future. 

Positive: The one thing that lockdown has given us has been the time to reflect an review where we are up to and what it is that we might like to do next. For so many people this has been a ,I’ve changing experience.

Why did this happen in the first place?

People have differing ideas as to what this virus has been about. Some people tell me that the lockdown has been a genuine effort by the authorities to limit the spread of a deadly disease and save as many lives as possible. Reducing the pressure on the NHS and other support services to ensure that those in the most serious need are attended to.

Others tell me that we have all been duped by an attempt to control ‘us’ by ‘them’. Who the ‘them’ is seems to vary depending on who I talk to. It is either a bid for global domination by forces that are sinister but hidden. A plan by the Chinese, the Russian or whoever to dominate the world.  A plot by big pharma to control us and them make even more money. A bid to take control of the planet and enslave us all. There are those that believe that the vaccines are seeded with micro chips that will lead to our brains being controlled by whoever, that varies as well. It goes on…

I have my own ideas as to how the virus started and also why we have responded in the way that we have. But, however and whatever we think about Covid-19 it is here. It is a pandemic that is mutating, it does kill people and it is very infectious. The world is full of viruses there have been the many millions that have gone before and millions that will come in the future. In my own lifetime I have seen the devastation of small pox and polio. As children we queued on the council estate to get inoculated. 

Positive: We have an amazing medical system. We have amazing scientists and unless this is all one big plot they are here to help us all at this time of crisis. 

At the moment we are looking at the freedom of leaving the jail of lockdown and moving back into a world of normal behaviour. I guess the world that we are coming out to is quite different to the one that we left behind when we went in. Businesses and jobs have gone, shops have closed and the way that we shop, interact and live will probably never be the same again. At the moment we don’t know how it will go, when it will be really safe to go on foreign holidays, cuddle people and party with friends. We have yet to learn about this new world and how we will interact with it. Some people will rush to social venues and party like crazy while some will sit back observing with fear and trepidation and may not socialise gain for years if ever.

Positive: The pandemic has made us review our relationships and the importance of community. Families have reconnected and communities come together. The incidence of people showing that they care bay raising money and sim pole acts of kindness and caring have been everywhere – amazing!

I am not sure that anything that happens in life is accidental and suspect that the universe works with intelligence. I would suggest that the things that happen in life are, to the awake mind, learning opportunities that we can benefit from. To the asleep mind they are just problems. When we encounter problems or obstacles in our path the awake mind finds solutions, learns, grows and moves on. The asleep mind seeks to find something or someone to blame, holds grudges, protests and embeds their minds in bitterness and seeks retribution.

This all leads me to ask a few questions. These questions have been the subject of much of my therapy work undertaken over these last 18 months. This has been a process of people needing face themselves and their relationships including their relationship with themselves and how they will deal with their future. Some people have, in response to the pandemic, contracted and drawn into themselves or into groups of nationalism  or even smaller groups of identities of colour, race, creed, belief and so on. This attitude only serves to create mindsets of ‘us’ and ‘them’ leading to further antagonism, unhappiness and the continued fracturing of humanity. On the other hand others have chosen to expand their attitudes and horizons and move outwards. They have found ways to support and help others, ensuring that people’s needs have been met. People have been fed and looked after.  Ultimately these people are ensuring that those who need and desire the vaccine have access to it wherever they are in the world rich or poor.

If we all look after each other we will all be okay

Q 1) What was your Jail?

The jail of lockdown never really existed it was and is in our heads. Thoughts become things. I get it that some people have had, what I call, Covid burn out but over all kit has been an easy ride for most people. We have been housed, fed, been warm and flooded with entertainment. Unlike previous generations who during pandemic and wars were totally confined with no resources and no ability to communicate or to know what is going on we have been able to keep in touch with loved ones friends and family and the world at large through our amazing technology.

Positive: Our technology is amazing. I am writing this on an iPad. I don’t know how it works and in many ways I am in awe of it and it’s abilities. On this eleven inch screen I can watch films and TV, listen to the radios, music, audio books and podcasts, I can play games, talk to friends anywhere in the world. I can work, see clients anywhere in the world. I can find new recipes and even plan what I will do when this is all over. 

I know that many people will now say. ‘Well what if we didn’t have technology or were too old to understand it and use it?’. I get that. I was so happy to see people repurposing their unused tech for families that did not have devices allowing kids to attend school online and the families to get connected. Perhaps our learning in this might be that we should ensure, where possible, that older people do have the opportunity to become tech savvy. One interesting idea that this realises is should the internet be treated as an essential service just as we do with electricity and water?

Q2) What does it mean to you to be out of jail?

What will you do now? Will you return to your work place? Will you rich to the restaurants and pubs, head for a holiday, meet with family and friends?

Just as animals come out of winter hibernation into the new days of spring we are coming out of the darkness of lockdown into the light of freedom, albeit in increments. What does this mean to you? What will you do next?

Many of us have being doing the Covid 10K. That is not the run it is the 10K that we have put on in weight by being inactive, eating/drinking too much and not moving enough. 

Positive: you do not have to recreate Groundhog Day, you have choice. Some choices you may not have realised before lockdown. Now is the time to start again and decide what you do next. If you go back to the Ten Steps Course the issues is what do you really, really, really want? That takes me to my last question…

3) What have you learned?

Learning is an ongoing process. So, even if you feel unsure of what lockdown has taught you now maybe the time to sit and review it. What has been good? What has been bad? What could you have done better?

Life is about learning. 

When we stop learning we die either actually or metaphorically. 

I have worked with many people who have used this time of lockdown to review and audit their lives. This has led to decisions to change their lives from finding a new job, selling a house, ending a relationship, starting a relationship, deciding to retrain or go back into education, taking on new interests and hobbies, exercise regimes, weight loss programmes and so on.

Positive: This is the most important part of human consciousness, we are learning machines, it is just that we don’t realise it. Through consistent and persistent behaviour we can become whoever and whatever we want to be. As you read this you are the sum total of all that you have learned since the moment of your birth. What you decide to learn now will create what you will become in the future. The only limit is your imagination.

The world is what you make it

So the world has changed and we can now choose to work together, support each other and create a better world to be in. Or, we can slip into recrimination and bitterness that has, too many times, driven the human race to wars, suffering and destruction. 

As you come out of lockdown we have choice. You can adhere to rules and limit infection or forget the rules and see how it goes. The choice is yours to make.

Whatever your choice be happy and smile and enjoy your freedom

Take care

Sean x

Living In The Present: Introduction

How to achieve what you really want from your life

Welcome to the Live one the present Ten Steps. This course carries a warning because it can change your life forever. Though it will only happen if you follow the program and complete the given exercises after each session. Your life will change, no matter what your goal is, by understanding and working with the natural laws that determine your experience and your ability to succeed in life, including the laws of:

Attraction – Forgiveness – Allowing – Intentional creation

Often, people ask, ‘How long will it take to achieve my goal?’ Well, I can’t answer that, but I can tell you some things that will help. These are things that I have found for myself not only through my own experience of life but also from working with thousands and thousands of clients and students:

The sooner you let go of any negative connections from the past 

that are holding you back the sooner you will get where you need to be going

The more you allow positive energy, thoughts and feelings to flow through your life in the present, the clearer that you focus on your goals the sooner you will achieve them.

Several times in my life, I have had to reset my own course as I experienced things to have gone badly wrong for me. I once saw myself as a victim of life and thought of the things that happened to me as chance or fate negative karma. It never occurred to me that I might actually have something to do with or even be responsible for the things that I experienced. I found it much easier to blame other people for my hurt and unhappiness and my failures, starting with my parents and moving on to siblings, partners, friends, employers and colleagues, and so on. It was only when my teacher said to me, 

What you hold in your bindi (third eye) will come to pass 

that I began to think, perhaps it was the images that I was holding in my mind that were having such a negative effect on my life and me experience. Could my negative feelings and thoughts of the past be having a negative effect on what I was experiencing now? The answer is yes they could and they do. The first step of our ten will be addressing this.

Since then, I have heard the same idea expressed in a variety of ways: ‘thoughts become things’, ‘what you think about, you bring about’, attention goes where energy flows’ and so on. We talk about optimism and pessimism and how full our cup is. Psychotherapists and counsellors talk about people writing their life script and then living out their own expectations. We are all the authors of our own experience of our own lives. We create and reinforce our life scripts through repeated behaviours and actions, ruminated thoughts and feelings and by what we say.

As a psychotherapist myself, I spend my life correcting people’s speech so that they do not use negative words to reinforce negative ideas. These words include, ought, should, must and can’t. What you say you hear and what you hear reinforces how you feel.  Just as these words are banned from the consulting room, if you want to change they are also now banned from your mouth and your thoughts from now on. From here onwards, you are only interested in the positive. So that from now on, you are only talking about what you can do, what you will do and what you are actually doing. You are only concerned with the positive and not the negative.

The transition from negative to positive thinking, feeling and talking may take you a little while to get your head around. It can be easy to slip back into old habits and you will need to be vigilant to stay positive. The daily practice, exercises and recordings are designed to help you to make this change and to make it permanent. But that means that you will benefit most if you practise everyday and this may mean that your day needs to be re- arranged so that you can create a new positive regime.

You might need support from your family and friends; you may need help with child care; or if you are a carer for an adult or elderly person, you may need some respite. Task number one is to clear enough space to complete the course tasks, practise them and then your life will change.

In a practical sense, the course requires that you reset the things that you do and the way that you do them. You will have heard that Einstein’s definition of insanity is 

doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

Well, if you want things to be different there are things that you will need to change. Basically these are the way that you think, the way that you feel and the way that you act. 

This program runs over ten weeks/sessions. In reality it takes most people about two years to make a full transition to becoming what they really want to be. For some it is quicker though many of you will need to address deeply embedded attitudes and behaviours and that can take a little time. This is life work…

change is for life, not just a New Years resolution 

Change come about through persistent and consistent action moving towards what you want. Stagnation comes about through persistent and consistent repetition of the same old negative attitudes and behaviours.

After each session there will be a chapter from the book ‘Live In The Present’ as a free resource plus recordings and links to useful resources. I always suggest keeping a reflective journal. This enables you to track your progress and remind yourself of how far you have come and what you have achieved as well as revealing the patterns you have developed in you life to date.

If at any point you need to talk to me you can message or email sean@seanorford.com. With the wonders of modern science I am able to one to one sessions any where in the world on screen.

Take care, live in your present and be happy

Sean x

Happy New Year it’s 2021

Ok, so it is New Year!  

Standing at the beginning of 2021 you, and I, will be making choices about how and what this year will be. 2020 will certainly be a year to remember and for many perhaps a year to forget. People tell me that is is as though it never happened. Or that we should simply cancel it and call this new year 2020 and do it properly this time without the virus.

As we ride into 2021 we have the joint joys of Covid and Brexit and we do not know what will be the outcome of either. Perhaps the vaccines will kick the virus in the backside and hopefully be a sovereign state again will be good for us. Looking forward into 2021 will create feelings of hope, love, fear, anxiety, joy…whatever it is for you. The point is that what you see ahead, and how…

  you create what happens for you … 

… is all a matter of your choices. it may not feel like it but your world is full of choice. In your present moment in your ‘Now’ you are actively creating the world of your experience through the choices that you make…  

…thoughts becomes things…

all of us, individually and collectively, are choosing what will happen for us in 2021 and how we will respond to it and feel ab out it. We are all doing it though we may not realise it.

Focus for a moment on the choices before you in this coming year. Do you have any? What are they? Most importantly what is the basis of your choices? When deciding to do, or not to do, something It is important to own that deciding not to make a decision is actually a decision. The action of stillness is equally as powerful as the action of motion. However, when you choose to do nothing you are likely to be vulnerable to the choices that everyone else makes around you. In having your own clarity of purpose you are in the flow of your life and, as I said, stillness is a decision as much as an action.

Choice and fear

For many of us the choice for action this year will be limited by fear. Fear of disease, debt, pain, failure, fear itself, the fear of looking stupid, ridiculed, of loss, rejection, abandonment and so on. Fear is the biggest limiting factor for any of us. Fear and anxiety are the destroyers of our happiness and to create fulfilment – those who dare win – We all need to step beyond our fears, as Susan Jeffers put it – feel the fear and do it anyway – ( a book worth reading).

If you can get hold of that idea that your thoughts become your experience, you are becoming the author of your own life. It is then you will realise that fear is actually a choice. Once you understand that you will realise that the experience of joy is the same thing. Personal joy and duty are often at odds. Do you do what you want to do or what you think you should or ought to do?

Choice and duty

Generally in psychotherapy the words “ought, should, must and can’t” are banned. Each of these words are the limiters of self expression. The call of duty may be laid upon us by our culture, religion, beliefs, as parents, children, employees, employers and so on. The trick is that if in 2021 there are things that you feel you ‘must’ do then, – act with a smile on your face –  this is known as Bhakti or, to give service without expecting anything in return. We all need a bit of Bhakti in our lives but it is always damaging when we allow a sense of duty to stunt our own self development after all – we all deserve happiness –  well we do in my script. Yet many of us chose to create negative life scripts.

There are many reason that we can find to maintain and justify our own lack of development or fulfilment our feelings of victimisation or misery, unhappiness and moaning about our life and other people that we meet, though there are alternatives. The classic is that we blame other people for how we feel. Common targets are our parents, family, friends, and most commonly partners and so on.

There are alternatives…

Choice and joy

In making your decisions for 2021 you might chose to avoid the ought, should, must and can’t and, think about the lightness of joy in life – focus on what makes you feel happy – and do more of it. Doing things that make you feel good is never a difficulty and never feels like work. When you do things that make you feel good, in the end it is you that feels happiness. How many of the things that you do in your life lead to you feeling flat, bored or unhappy. If you do more of what makes you feel good in your life you will feel happier and get better and better – happiness is a learned response – sometime we have to practise being happy.

Choice and responsibility

The word responsibility comes from the word to respond “respond-ability”. By being responsible or “respond-able” for what you experience makes you the master of our own destiny. It does not matter from where you begin your journey, whatever your age or state of health. By being responsible for your life and taking ownership of yourself – responsibility is the key-. If I decide to be responsible for me no one else can ever be responsible for what I think or feel and, ultimately, what I do. There are many examples of people who, against the odds chose to respond to things positively.

This year some of you will be facing very difficult and tough stuff, emotionally, mentally, financially, physically, socially and so on. These may be things that you cannot avoid and you have no choice other than to face them and deal with them. However, you do have a choice as to how you respond to them…

 none of us are effected by events, 

we are effected by our response to those events…

living in the present and being positive about your future allows you to create a year in 2021 that you will look back on positively and perhaps with joy.

Decide to create your own experience this year. Treat your problems as challenges so whatever 2021 presents you with, smile be positive and enjoy it.

Take care

Sean x