Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Best Kind Of Problem

Mostly, when people come to me with persistent personal problems, they think this is a bad thing.  Like the man I spoke with this week who felt like "life was over at 50", or the woman who experienced fear and anxiety every time she thought about picking up the phone to make a call.

They assumed that since these problems were things that happened to them every single time they tried to do something, it meant they'd be very difficult problems to change.

But they weren't.

See, my primary profession for the last 24 and a half years has been that of a computer programmer.  (Still is, in fact.)

And there is nothing that we computer programmers hate more...

Than an intermittent bug!

You know, the kind of problem that happens only on Tuesdays that are a full moon, and only when the programmer's not looking.  Those are the kinds of problems programmers absolutely despise.

Seriously, if you give a programmer a bug that happens every single time you do something, then by golly, you're going to have a (relatively) happy programmer.

See, the problem with randomly-occurring glitches is that you can never be 100% sure that the changes you made...

Actually got rid of the problem!

So when my clients come to me with personal issues that always happen to them, I get a big smile on my face, because I know my job is going to be easy.

See, if it always happens, that means that their brain knows how to recognize a certain situation... every single time.

And that means that all we have to do, is change what their brain does when it recognizes that situation!

Better still, once we've done that, we can immediately test to see if what we did actually worked.  So I can start by using my fastest and easiest tricks and techniques, and only pull out the more complex techniques if the simpler ones don't get the job done.

How To Debug Your Brain

See, some problems exist purely on an almost conditioned-reflex level, like "see work to do, then feel bad".  Others require multiple mental steps, like "see thing I want to do, think of something else I should be doing instead, and then feel bad."

Still other problems operate on the level of belief: "I shouldn't have to do this kind of work" -- or even all the way up to the level of identity: "I'm such a f***-up."

But the key to solving all of these problems is to keep a clear distinction between the "program" and the "data" in your brain.

See, when I begin a session with most people, they want to tell me the story of their problem.  They want to tell me about what they think it says about them, or why they think they might have gotten the problem, or all the bad things they believe about themselves.

Thing is, this is sort of like telling a computer programmer about the plot of the novel you were writing when you discovered...

Your "Word Processor" Is Broken!

The thing that makes it so difficult for most people to fix their own problems, then, is that they're too close to their story about the problem.  And the story is just data.  But the problem is really in the program.

What does that mean, exactly?  Well, it means you have to pay attention to how you think, not what you think.

Instead of paying attention to the idea of a belief like "after 50, it's over", pay attention to its structure.  How do you know that belief is true?

Now, I don't mean to look for evidence -- either for or against the belief.  I mean, how do you know that you believe it?  Is there a voice that comes to mind?  Images?  Feelings?

What is the sequence of your belief?  What comes first, the voice or the images?  Where are the images?  Whose voice(s) do you hear?  What angles are they coming from?  And...

What happens if you change some of these things?

Now, I'm not saying that if you do that, you'll suddenly be able to fix all your problems and live a happy life.  It takes some practice to do with other people, and even more practice to do on yourself.  I've spent years practicing this stuff, and I still feel like I do a better job of helping other people than I do of helping myself.

Still, experimenting with changing your thought processes -- not just the thoughts! -- can't hurt.  You can always put things back the way they were if you don't like something.  But it's surprising sometimes how easy and useful a simple intervention can be.

For example, this week I was working with an Owners' Circle member on a problem involving a feeling of anxiety that manifested as a kind of churning in her stomach.  After asking her to notice what direction the churning was rotating in, I had her simply reverse the direction, so it churned the other way...  which turned it from a feeling of "anxiety" into one of "anticipation"!

So simple changes can make a big difference to how you feel.  In fact, most of the time I can resolve an issue for my clients within 20 minutes to an hour of simple telephone conversation, asking them questions about what's happening in their mind, and suggesting things for them to try out, as we speak.  During the process, we repeatedly test our progress, by having them think about the situation that triggers the problem.  And I don't stop until they are 100% confident that they have...

A Brand New Attitude!

So persistence is key.  Pay attention to how you think, not what you think.  Practice tweaking and adjusting the way your brain works, like you'd tune up your car, piano, or even your computer!

And to get more ideas of ways you can keep your mind and life "in tune", you can sign up as a guest member of the Owners' Circle.  Not only will you get free access to material like The Six Master Keys and a recording of my "How To Make Yourself Do Anything" workshop from January, but I also send out articles by email on topics that I don't cover in this blog, and exclusive offers for products and workshops that you can't otherwise get.

So sign up today as a "Guest of the Circle".  It's free, there's no obligation, and you can unsubscribe any time you like.  You've got everything to gain, and nothing to lose but your problems.

Especially the ones that happen... every single time.