Friday, March 30, 2007

In The House of The Mind

Last Friday night, I was getting dinner for my wife.  Her store was short-handed, and she was working a 60-hour week, so I'd offered to pick something up.

I called the sushi restaurant to place an order, but something funny happened when I told them the first thing on my wife's list.  My wife had asked for an "adventure roll", but the lady on the phone had never heard of such a thing.  She asked if I meant a "ninja roll", but I said, no, it's an "adventure roll".

"Well, we don't have that.  You must be calling the wrong place."

Now, if you're a business owner, you're probably cringing right now, wondering how well your own staff would handle a situation like that.  Here, the person answering the phone is telling a customer (i.e., me) that they called the wrong restaurant.

Talk about forgetting your purpose!

Of course, it's easy for us to see and judge this poor woman in retrospect; to know she should've asked me what was in the roll and tried to see if the chef could make it anyway.  But hey, let's have some sympathy, too.  It was a Friday night, and from the background noise I could tell the restaurant was busy as all heck.

The real point of this story is that it's very easy for all of us to forget our true purpose, when we get caught up in the details of the moment.

And that's because...

Our brains are NOT designed to do things "on purpose"!

Remember, our brains evolved to react to our environment.  Not to keep constant track of our life purposes!  We evolved from animals whose ability to influence their environment was strictly limited, so it was not in their interest to harbor delusions of change.

Therefore, the key to their survival was to make whatever was outside of them, more important than any whims or wishes inside of them.  And our brains do the same thing.  No matter how much we might wish or want it to be otherwise, our brains simply don't care about our self-improvement plans, half as much as they care what's going on in the cubicle next to you or whatever's on TV this minute.

So it's no wonder we become frustrated when we try to improve our lives, to change our habits, and do almost anything else "on purpose".  Our brains are simply not built for the task!

As a result, most self-help techniques are workarounds for the brain's limitations.  The Six Master Keys, for example, are a catalog of the most useful workarounds:

  • Picking a single primary purpose (so it's easy to remember, and conflicts between goals are minimized
  • Having a motivating vision (so the mind's goal-seeking centers are engaged)
  • Making a tangible, external commitment (to leverage the mind's natural tendency to make what's outside us more important than what's inside us)
  • Creating a concrete, specific action plan (to engage the brain's "now/not now" response mechanism to actually do something at the appropriate time(s))
  • Pre-visualizing the conflicts that might come up (so that the brain's tendency to select the most familiar path is neutralized by making the right choice more familiar)
  • Setting up a structure to provide repetition (to offset the brain's tendency to be distracted by new things, while forgetting about older ones -- like your plans to change!)

(For a free copy of the full Six Master Keys document, sign up as a "Guest of the Circle" at http://theownerscircle.com/.)

But what if it were possible to actually improve your brain in some fashion?  What if you could "re-program" yourself in some way so that some or all of these things became automatic?

Why Don't We Remember?

So often, people write to me that they have trouble being consistent about doing the things they intend to do.  They intend to exercise.  They intend to lose weight.  They intend to get things done.

But for some reason, good intentions just aren't enough.  What we intend is not remembered -- or at least, it's not remembered in a way that actually makes a difference.

The fundamental problem is this: our brains store memories according to context.  The decision that you make one night in bed to really "change your life", is unlikely to be remembered anywhere else, for one thing.  For another, that decision is not necessarily connected to doing anything in particular.  It's just an idea.

See, your idea is like a new room you added on to your house... only you didn't include a door to the rest of the house!

So whenever you think of your idea, it's like you're coming home and seeing that beautiful new room from the outside, and you say, "gosh, this is really great.  I really need to have more of that in my life."  And then you go in the house and you...

Forget it was ever there!

But the problem is actually much, much worse than that.  The truth of the matter is, your mental "house" isn't much like a real house at all.

If you could take the way your brain is really mapped out, and convert it into a real house, there would be lots of one-way trapdoors and crawlspaces, and bizarre arrangements whereby you can get from room A to B easily, but to get back from B to A you have to crawl through the attic and circle 'round the house three times!

Now I don't mean this is how your memory for facts and information works.  People vary quite a bit in how organized their factual memory is, but it's not really that important one way or another.

No, the kind of memory I'm talking about is your active memory.  The kind of memory that contains "rooms" for each of your mental states: your moods, your habits, and other learned patterns of behavior.

In The House Of Your Mind, There Are Many Rooms

For example, let's say that there's a person at work who really annoys you.  Whenever you interact with him, you might go into your "being annoyed by an annoying pest" room.  And in that room are all of your little tics, grunts, and stifled screams about having to deal with that person.  The way you roll your eyes when he leaves, and the way you can't seem to concentrate on anything else after he's gone.

And maybe, in this "annoyed" room, the exit is only in the ceiling, and you have to first bang on the wall in three different places before the ceiling trapdoor will open.  So, whenever you end up in the "annoyed" room, it might take you half the day before you can get out and back to your "productive and creative" room again!

So why does your mental "house" get this way?  Well, it's pretty simple, actually.

Imagine, if you will, an empty brain.  A blank slate.

A foundation with no walls, if you will.

Over time, it learns to respond to particular circumstances.  To link certain inputs, with certain desirable outputs.  So, we learn that input "A" means we should give response "A", and input "B" means we should give response "B".

Meanwhile, beneath our conscious awareness, our mind is grouping and matching our experience, looking for commonalities based on distinct physical and emotional states.  Like say, being "annoyed".  Or "creative".  Or "sad".  Or "lonely".

And these states essentially become the rooms of our mental "house".

And if we were designing a house intentionally, we would make it really easy to get from one room to another.  That's because we think the rooms are there for our benefit, to use as we see fit.

But our brains have a different perspective!

See, our brains are storing all this stuff so we can respond to outside circumstances.  Our brains don't really care what we want.

They don't care if we can get from room A to room B whenever we want.  No, that's not the plan at all.

Our brains just want us to go to whatever room matches our current input.

So, if an "annoying person" bothers us at work, our brain wants us to go to the "annoyed" room.  And until something else comes along that puts us in a different room, it doesn't care if we just stay there, in the "being annoyed" room.

You could almost say our brains want every room in the house to have a door that only opens from the outside!

So how do we end up with any doors or hallways at all, then?

Well, here's the trick.  Any time you repeatedly get moved from one room to another, your brain decides that it's faster to just knock a hole in the wall so you can get there quickly.

So, if every time you sit down to concentrate on your project, that annoying guy shows up, pretty soon you'll have a new "hole" in the mental wall between "concentrating" and "being annoyed".

And unfortunately, these are one-way holes, like a trap door.  Once you get from the concentrating room to the "annoyed" room, there's no going back by the way you came, unless you (figuratively speaking):

Leave the house and come back in!

Remember: every room in your mental "house" has an outside door.  These doors are your senses.  Whatever you experience as coming "in" from the outside world, has the power to lift you out of one room and transport you to another!

And, if you can do this quickly enough, often enough, you will create a new doorway.

A new path from where you are, to where you want to be.

So how do you do it?

Begin With Your Senses

The first and most important thing to realize is this: ideas are not enough.  Words are not enough.  You must use your senses.

In other words, it is not enough to say or hear the name of what you want. You must picture what you want.  Hear the sounds of what you want.  Feel the feelings of what you want.

You don't even have to have this input come from the outside, although it certainly helps.  (Which is why many self-help teachers advise clipping magazine pictures and making collages from images that inspire or attract you.)

But even this is not enough.  In addition to sensing what you want, you must also be able to:

Sense where you are!

For example, the feeling elimination technique I teach requires that you sense the physical tension in your body that defines the feeling you want to get rid of.  Unless you can accept and feel that feeling, you will not be able to get rid of it.  In a sense, it's like you're sticking your head into another room in the house, while keeping your body penned up where it is!

And it's our bodies that determine what "room" we're really in.  That's why actors "shake it out" when they change from playing one scene to another: to clear their body of any residue tensions from portraying one set of emotions, so they can more easily express another.

Of course, actors can easily let go of the emotions they're portraying, because they don't "own" those emotions.  They don't have any attachment to what they're feeling, because what they "feel" for a scene is not serving some inner purpose.

For us, however, our emotions are serving a purpose.

Our Emotions Tell Us What Really Matters!

When we feel sad, the feeling tells us that we have lost something important.

When we feel angry, the feeling tells us that we need to take action to change.

When we feel afraid, the feeling tells us that something important to us may be in danger.

But as we grow up, we learn to ignore and suppress these emotions.  Not by actually expressing or eliminating them, but by adding extra muscle tension, what some people refer to as "body armor".

This armor weighs you down and drains your energy to an amazing extent.  It prevents full breathing and blood circulation, while using up energy.

And when you use feeling elimination or transformation techniques to remove it, it feels like losing fifty pounds of deadweight, overnight.  It's literally a "weight off your chest" and a "load off your back".

Using Your Feelings To Pass Through The Walls

A long time ago, I wrote here about a mind hack for finding misplaced items.  In the year-and-a-half since, I've refined the technique a bit and use it so often that I don't think of it as weird or spooky any more.

What I do is this: I picture the thing I want, in as much detail and clarity as I can.  Then I hold out my hand, picture it in my hand, and feel myself holding it.  I get the feeling of grasping it in my hand, and then I attempt to walk to the place where the thing is and just pick it up.

It doesn't always work on the first shot, but I find it has dramatically reduced the amount of searching I do, compared to when I tried to use logic and my conscious mind to find things.  Sometimes, however, my conscious logic gets in the way and insists on checking some logical area before the area my body wanted to go to, and of course I never find anything that way.

But never mind all that.  The point here is, this is how command mode works.

First, you imagine (see and hear) and then you feel.  Feeling is the bridge to the body, where all action occurs.

How to Change Your State or Mood

So no matter what mental "room" you're currently in, you can actually "teleport" yourself to any other room, as long as you use this pattern:

First, determine where you want to be -- not where you don't.  Pick something specific, rather than thinking, "I'd rather feel anything else than this."

Second, imagine already being there.  See and hear yourself calm, or energetic, or creative, or confident, or whatever it is you want to be.  See and hear yourself with such clarity that you find your body responding to what you imagine.

Third, feel yourself being it.  Overlap your imagined self with your body, wherever you are now, and allow your body to shape itself accordingly.  Notice how your breathing, posture, and muscle tone change in response.

Finally, the more often you practice moving to specific states, the easier it will become.

Living On Purpose, and Creating Your Self

If you're an Owners' Circle member, you should be receiving a newsletter and CD in a few days.  The CD is called "The Secrets of Creating a Super-You", and it explains a lot more about how to unlock your hidden talents and abilities.  You'll learn how to design and activate your "super self"...  a personality that's just like you, but without all your hangups!

I first began using this technique myself in January, when I gave the "How To Make Yourself Do Anything" workshop -- re-creating myself as a fearless, passionate speaker.  I first taught this technique to Mike (a Circle member and one of my Ambition Ignition™ clients) who now frequently shares stories with the Circle about how calm, centered, and focused "Super Mike" has helped him become.

As for the newsletter, it reveals the most important things you need to know about choosing and living your true purpose.  How to reconnect with what truly matters to you, before you gave up on your dreams.  How to get out of the "problem-oriented" mindset so you can start creating your life.  And how to acheive true balance between all the things you want to do or have or be, including how to make a living doing what you love, without "selling out".

How To Get The Good Stuff

So if you're not a Circle member yet, head on over to http://theownerscircle.com/ now and sign up!  Level 1 membership is as little as $29.95  to get the monthly newsletter and CD (and it's even less if you pay annually).

Levels 2 and up include live monthly telephone/internet workshops, and access to the Pathfinders Forum, where Circle members share their stories and get their questions answered by myself and other members.  And full members at level 3 get direct access to me during workshops and in special monthly coaching sessions.

Even if you're not yet ready to make a commitment, you can join for free at level 0 as a "Guest of the Circle".  At this level, you get my weekly "Life In Every Moment" emails, which are a lot like my blog articles, except they're shorter and you get them more often.

For example, the article you're reading now is only the second one I've put out in March, but Guests of the Circle (and all the paying members, of course) received several articles by email, including "Books Don't Ring", "It's About Time", "You Can Handle The Truth", "No Problems, Only Choices", "Time For What Matters", and "What You Didn't Do Today".

So, lately I've been blogging less -- but writing more.  When an article could go either to my blog or the Circle I tend to give a bit more precedence to the Circle.  So if you don't want to miss out on all the cool stuff members are getting, head on over to http://theownerscircle.com/ now!