Once upon a time my marketing coach Dan Kennedy challenged me to write a “sex” ad for the industry that I served.
Let me describe the risk. I was the founding CEO of a well regarded high-tech manufacturing firm in biotechnology – an extremely conservative industry. We had a hard-earned reputation to protect.
So it was a definite challenge. I created the ad and after several go-rounds with my marketing people, this was what we issued. It was placed in the directory of the most important trade show in our industry.
We took a full page.
I had to argue with the trade show people to get the ad printed, even though the copy was fairly innocent.
First the marketing results — We drew a larger crowd and got more leads than ever before. It made us famous. Or maybe a little infamous. And we only got 4 complaints.
Second, we proved that “sex” can be used successfully in an ad, but ONLY if the word is justified appropriately in the copy.
Otherwise people will either think you are sleazy or manipulative. And that’s not a good impression to create.
Here’s the ad:
Here’s a tip you can learn from a client of mine without going through his pain.
Let’s call him “Mike”.
Mike had a deal go sour and it ended up in arbitration. They came up with a settlement that they both signed but the other guy wasn’t keeping up his side.
Mike and the other guy had been old friends.
Their kids went to school together and their wives were on the same charities.
So they saw each other regularly at charity events and school functions. Mike was pretty ticked off, and wanted to blast his former friend at one of these gatherings.
And that reminded me of an experience I had back when I was running a manufacturing plant. Well, actually it was a hassle but now that I look back on it I can see it as a useful lesson.
And maybe it’ll be useful to you also.
It can show you a way to deal with difficult people, and a way not to.
Back to the time when I ran a small high tech company.
A man contacted us and said he had a new idea for a product that we might be interested in making. He wanted to meet me to discuss it.
I agreed to the meeting.
Since we would be discussing his idea and perhaps some of our trade secrets in manufacturing, I sent him our standard non-disclosure agreement.
This agreement allows two people to share secrets, but prevents either side from using them apart from the other party. It’s to stop one side from “going around” the other.
He refused our form and sent us his form instead.
Our attorneys took a look at his form and wouldn’t let me sign it.
They warned me that it contained so many “bear traps” and setups for penalty that it would be dangerous to even talk with this guy if I signed his form.
I wrote to him explaining this. I said that I would be happy to meet with him under reasonable protections, but that his form would penalize me even for using information after the meeting that was common knowledge.
So we didn’t have the meeting. I wished him well and forgot about him.
Later at a trade show, while I was discussing our products with a customer, this guy showed up and made a nuisance of himself. He claimed — loudly — that we tried to rip him off for his idea.
I got hot under the collar, told him in front of my customer that he was “full of it,” and sent him away.
Although I was in the right, my hot reaction chilled my customer. It probably cost me much of the business I might have done with this guy.
I warned my client Mike about my experience.
I told Mike that even though the guy told lies about me at that trade show, my hot-tempered response when I blasted him back had turned off the customer who witnessed my outburst and it had probably damaged a profitable relationship.
What I wished I had said at that trade show was this:
“Hey, I’m sorry you’re disappointed that we didn’t do business – so am I. My lawyers wouldn’t let me sign the agreement that you sent me, and you didn’t want to sign the more conventional agreement that we sent you. So we didn’t meet and no one got hurt. I know that you and I had a disagreement and I apologize for my part in it. I respect you, and would like it if we can part as friends so maybe we’ll get a chance to work together in the future.”
That would have worked out a lot better than my blast did.
And the customer that I had been talking to might have thought, “Wow, Tom’s a reasonable guy even when there’s a disagreement. Sounds like I could work with him.”
In any event, I’ve learned that a sincere “I’m sorry things didn’t work out” isn’t the same as taking the blame for something. It shows respect for the other person’s discomfort and it’s not focused on conflict or making someone wrong.
So I told Mike this story from my own past and he did what I wished I had done.
The next time Mike saw his old friend he took this attitude. He told him that he was sorry they were in disagreement. He said he would like to work things out to both of their satisfaction, since they had been friends and were in the same community.
Mike concluded with, “Just because we can’t do business together doesn’t mean we can’t be good friends and neighbors, does it?”
A friend of mine who was at the charity lunch where this took place told me what happened next.
“The other guy’s face got red,” he told me. “He shook Mike’s hand and thanked him for his courtesy, and said that his wife and Mike’s wife had wanted them to get together before this, and that now he would do so gladly.”
“It’s funny,” my friend said to me. “Mike was the one who apologized, but he seemed to come out of it as the winner to those of us who saw it.”
So consider expressing your regrets sometimes, NOT because you were at fault, but just to recognize that the other party may have some regrets also.
By being honest about your regrets you may open up space for another relationship, if not with that person then perhaps with someone else who sees how generous you can be.
Here’s the big lesson. There are three phrases that only confident people will use freely.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out”
Consider where these expressions of respect for others would be appropriate for you. They soften relationships.
When I was a teenager I wanted to be a cowboy instead of finishing high school. I was sent to work for a friend of my father who owned a ranch up in the mountains. I had no idea that the work I was about to begin would be so close to the job of CEO I had forty years later.
In the early summer we rounded up cattle who had foraged in the high meadows throughout the spring, fattening up and having their calves.
Every day we’d go out and gather the cattle in small groups, collecting them in corrals a couple of hours’ ride from the ranch.
When we’d gathered around a hundred cows and calves, several of us would be detailed to drive the herd back to the central pens at ranch headquarters for branding.
Because I was the youngest, I had to ride “drag”, which meant that I rode behind the herd, making sure that we didn’t lose any of the valuable livestock.
Now you might want to picture this — a hundred head of cattle means that four hundred hooves were trampling the ground directly in front of me.
It was summer. It was dry. And very dusty.
I had to tie my bandana around my mouth and nose so I could breathe.
And visibility was about ten feet. And if we got back to the ranch and the count showed that we were missing any animals, guess who got sent back with a flashlight to find them, instead of having dinner?
So it was VERY important to me that I not let any stragglers get past me .My job was reduced to staring into a dust cloud, watching for a twitching tail to appear.
When I spotted one, I would spur my horse towards the straggler and drive it back into the rear of the herd.
I’ve found much of life (and particularly management) is like that job of riding drag at the rear of a herd of cattle, not being able to see or breathe very well, but focused on seeing my target (goal) as soon as it becomes visible, and pursuing it in the right direction.
I found this to be true of my work as a CEO. In fact, there seem to be many situations in life like this. If you keep your attention focused on the blank future in front, you will be the first to notice your target when it comes into view.
This has proved true whether the blank wall was a sales objective, a lab experiment during product development, as a parent trying to figure out what my teenaged son was up to next, and even when I’m shopping for my wife.
Keeping your vision focused on a target that’s not visible, even when you can’t see clearly means that – when it becomes visible – you’re prepared to go after it.
Sometimes, that’s all the edge you need.
Okay, I’m thinking “What can I possibly say about a New Year? Something that hasn’t already been done by some professional columnist or talented blogger or — Shakespeare?”
Then I remind myself that I’ve seen a LOT of New Years, and have messed up at least as many resolutions as the next guy, have made many “new starts” that chugged to a halt by March or so.
So I’m an expert on what doesn’t work.
As I looked back, I started filtering through all those New Years to find what resolutions stuck out as good ideas with some durability to them.
I have a confession to make. There weren’t many.
What Didn’t Work
A lot of that probably has to do with me. I’m a well-seasoned romantic, which means that I’ve had more than my share of quick enthusiasms followed by embarrassing disillusionment.
So as I enter the “mid-summer” of my life I look back and see that I am sorta lazy and inclined to slip back into old comfortable patterns of behavior.
There are loads of people that I’ve met and admire who are much more disciplined than me. I’ve met people who’re able to get up at six and go running, or write in their journals before dawn, or drink a magic blender shake with seaweed and amino acids before they have their coffee, etc. You get my point.
Not me. The only things that worked with me long-term had to be so easy and slippery that they could make a place in my life without any stretch marks.
What Did Work
And the only way I’ve ever gotten better is to either find a comfortable way to change, or find a way to make something that’s a little uncomfortable so habitual that it eventually becomes easy and comfortable and second nature. Remember, I’m talking about me, a person who is very difficult to change. Your mileage may vary.
I found that little changes just before my day officially began carried the biggest payoffs — followed by little changes in my routine just before going to sleep.
I think it’s because what you do first thing in the morning has the potential to affect your whole day, and what you do just before going to sleep has some impact on your subconscious during the night.
Here are some of the things that have become part of my life, and I believe that they nourish me in ways I can’t even begin to calculate. These patterns just seem to make things better over the long run, over the years.
In The Morning
I’ve found that first thing in the morning I can remember to do a few extra things that I didn’t do before I made a resolution. These are the patterns that have stayed with me for years because they were easy to do and they gave me an all-day payoff:
1. Drink a full glass of water immediately upon rising, and another glass soon after that. You’ve just spent 7 to 9 hours with no water. There’s a big reason to do this simple thing. First, your brain uses a disproportionate percentage of your oxygen and energy. And, while you were asleep your brain was still working and using up energy. This first drink of water re-hydrates your brain after a night’s activity, and the second drink hydrates your body. It helps to remove toxins and aids in digestion. You will find your energy and spirits stay more “up” during the day, your skin improving, and many experience some weight loss.
2. Stretch. You’ve just spent hours with no activity. After you’ve hydrated yourself, a gentle stretch from head to toes will wake your body and your internal organs. You don’t have to do an hour of yoga to get the main benefits — just a few minutes gently stretching your body to it’s limits will do wonders.
3. Be grateful. While you’re brushing your teeth or stretching or in the shower or even making breakfast, think with gratitude about 3 things in your life that give you pleasure or make you proud. That’s it. Just 3 things that you’re glad about in your life. If you do this, it will give you more joy and energy throughout the day.
Many of my coaching clients used to have old patterns of waking to the same old worries. This is a bad habit without any redeeming qualities, and they’ve reported that this simple “do three things differently” process has changed that pattern. The proper time to address worries is after you’ve taken care of yourself.
You’ll bring a lot more to the party when you’ve started the day well. You’ll have more energy, resilience and you will actually enter your day with more intelligence. If you do just these three things every morning you’ll be astonished at the results within a week. Give it a try — I think you’ll like it.
There are a couple more things that make the day start right, but if you’re anything like me, doing these three new things will be a handful. And if you stick with it, you’ll be having better days than you had before, and that’s the purpose of New Year’s resolutions, isn’t it?
Happy New Year,
What Einstein forgot…
When Einstein’s Relativity papers were published, the world got a new concept.
Time and space are actually interchangeable!
There is relativity in the way we live our daily lives, too.
I’ve learned that in business, the way that people manage their time and their space seems to go with how much money they make.
Managing Time: Are they punctual? Can they keep a commitment on a deadline? Most successful people that I’ve met and worked with are very dependable. If they say that they will do something, they do it when promised. If I arrange to meet a successful person at a particular time and place, they manage to be there. On time.
Managing Space: Are they organized? Are their important papers and reports available when they want them? Successful people manage to get themselves organized so that they have the time to function. They’re not always looking for something or making apologies because they weren’t able to find something. In general, the successful people I’ve worked with do not have occasion to make may apologies – or excuses.
And now I’ve learned that another element needs to be added to the “Relativity” mix.
I learned this as a result of the experience we’ve just had in moving to a new home.
Our closets were like the clown’s car at the circus – stuff just kept coming and coming out of the shelves, drawers, and corners of our house and garage.
Stuff I thought I’d lost. Things I haven’t had a use for in decades. And we were storing all of these things.
I had to keep going out and buying more packing boxes and tape.
As we got ready for the move and the packing intensified, Vikki’s garage sales and my trips to make donations of our unwanted but useful stuff whittled down the load.
But it still took three trucks to move what was left. I’m really tired of moving boxes of stuff that I don’t really use.
I’ve discovered that stuff owns me – it takes time and space to deal with, and that cuts into my life and work.
It also costs us money. Too many unused things means too much looking for the things that we DO need and use.
I’ll tell you something. It isn’t all gonna find a new home here. We’re going through each box with a very suspicious eye. We’re looking at every sock and tee shirt and book and CD.
We’re asking ourselves, “Do we need this?”
I’m not asking, “Will I need it someday?” because the answer will always be “Yes”.
I’m asking, “Am I willing to store this again in some closet or box or garage, so that I forget I even have it until the next time we move?”
Then, seven times out of ten, that item goes into a box for one of my kids or grandkids, or charity.
We have empty space in our cupboards and closets. We have ready access to the things we need.
And we do not have closets and drawers full of stuff that we don’t use.
It’s a delightful experience.
It really feels lighter. Like we’ve lost weight.
We’re going to keep this feeling. It saves us money and time.
So it looks like the Relativity of Success actually has FOUR elements:
And the Money you save, when you manage the first three elements.
I did a dumb thing the other day. That’s not all that unusual for me, but this one stayed with me for a while and I think something interesting came out of it.
Have you ever whipped out a quick answer to an email and hit the “send” button?
I mean, hit it too fast? And then thought of what you REALLY should have said?
That’s what I did, and it cost me a re-do and an explanation. Minor embarrassment. No biggy.
Here’s what happened. I was going through my emails, trying to answer as many as possible, and I wrote one to a colleague of mine to congratulate him on something he had written. Just a quick note of appreciation was all I intended.
Trouble is, I hit the “send” button just as I was thinking that I hadn’t said what I meant. Even worse, I HAD said stuff that I didn’t actually mean to say. The words just came out wrong.
I really respect this guy, and now I had to go back and say, “Never mind. This is what I was trying to say the first time.” I finished my explanation by saying, “Sometimes the ‘send’ button is just damn too easy!”
Later that night, as I was trying to go to sleep, there was this argument in my mind. I heard a little voice saying to me, “It’s not the ‘send’ button that’s the problem, Tom, the problem is you didn’t even stop to read your email and consider whether that’s what you intended to say. It’s not the “send” button that’s too damn easy, it’s you!”
I vowed that in the future I would reread my emails and consider what the other person reading them might make of what I wrote, before I actually send them.
I went to sleep thinking thoughts about how life is speeding up, there’s too much email in the world, and maybe I ought to reduce my number of email boxes or something.
Still thinking about it over coffee and melon the next morning.
Then I had a really nasty thought. It’s even easier to hit the “send” button when you’re talking! I mean, when you write an email there’s something you can read before you send it. All you have to do is to take the time to do it, and you can send out your best thinking.
It’s different when you’re talking. Once you open your mouth it’s out there, whatever you may have said.
I immediately remembered the last few times someone had misunderstood something I had said to them.
Like my wife Vikki. Or my grandchildren. Or a waiter, or someone on the phone.
You know what? It wasn’t them. I have to admit that when we got to the bottom of each of those misunderstandings, it turned out that they had gotten the wrong impression from something I had said to each of them.
I remember reading somewhere that God gave us two ears and only one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we talked.
Still, what got me into trouble wasn’t talking more than listening. It was talking without saying what I wanted to say.
“So,” went my thinking, “Suppose I treated my verbal communications just like the email. If I wanted to reread my verbal “emails” before I hit the ‘send’ button in my jaw, I would have to think more before I speak.”
I’d have to consider what I was going to say from the standpoint of the person I was talking to – and consider how it might strike them – instead of just saying whatever came into my mind.
Being more thoughtful about what I said didn’t mean I was going to become a stiff robot. It just meant that, before I said something I was going to try to hear it as if I was the other person.
I remember when I was a teenager; there was this old black lady who was a waitress in a coffee shop I used to hang out in when I was a kid.
Everybody in the place loved her and was always asking her advice. Whenever two people were discussing something important, the answer I heard over and over was, “Ask Hildy.”
I couldn’t figure out why she was so important to all of these people. She was just a waitress in a coffee shop, but businessmen and even the owner of the place would go “ask Hildy” what she thought — about a new menu, a new girlfriend or a new job.
I asked her one day why so many people liked to talk with her.
“Well, Tommy” she said. “Every time I start to say something, I just stop and taste the words before I let ’em out of my mouth.”
Hmmm. Forty years ago, before anyone had ever even heard of email, this wise woman knew about checking her messages before sending them out.
In the future, I think I’ll review more than just my emails before hitting the “send” button.
I guess I was in a bad mood to begin with. My wife and I had had a little misunderstanding in the morning just as I was leaving for my appointment and that never sits well with me.
So I was grumpy when I arrived in downtown San Jose, and then I saw there was no street parking in the area. Great, just great!
All the parking garages were not charging by the quarter hour like they do during the business week. On weekends, they were charging by the day.
So, although I was only going to be in the accountant’s office for thirty minutes, I had to pay the whole day’s fee to park my car. Six bucks!
I fished out the money and paid the Ethiopian guy wearing earphones at the gate to the garage, but I was boiling inside by the rip off of a system that forced me to pay so much for so little, in this deserted downtown on a Saturday morning.
I tossed my wallet, loose bills, sunglasses and parking ticket into the passenger seat and wheeled into a spot near the elevator in the almost empty garage.
I got out of my car and put my things in the proper pocket. Sunglasses in shirt pocket, wallet in hip pocket, bills in right front pocket and parking ticket…
Where was it? I remembered it was pink. I checked to make sure it wasn’t stuck in my wallet. No. Or in among the dollar bills in my front pocket. No. And not in any other pocket either.
Huh. Under the car? Nope. And when I stuck my head into the car and looked around I didn’t see it either. Must have slipped under the seat, where I couldn’t see or retrieve it.
No problem, I thought. I’ll just go back to the guy at the gate and tell him what happened, and get another ticket. I just paid him and I’m sure he’ll remember me.
No luck. I explained to him what happened, he remembered me, but said that he was helpless.
“The rules say you must find the ticket or buy another one”, he said. He seemed indifferent to the obvious unfairness of the situation.
I told him what I thought of his “rules” and left for my appointment.
Twenty five minutes later I was back. I had decided to tear my car apart and find the ticket. No way was I gonna pay another six bucks for a twenty minute appointment!
I took my time with the car. I moved both front seats all the way forward and all the way back. I got down on my knees on the concrete and took a flashlight to look in every crack and crevice. No dice.
I DID find a couple of pieces of gum, an ink pen and two of our grandchildrens’ toys. But no ticket.
“Okay, this is taking more time that it’s worth,” I told myself. “Just accept that maybe it blew out the window or turned invisible. Pay the money and go home.”
I sighed and let go of my frustration. I opened the door and put the flashlight away, then eased down into the driver’s seat and started the engine.
Something above me caught my eye. It was something pink, sticking out from the sun visor over my head. It was the ticket. I had stuck it up there when the guy gave it to me at the gate.
Boy. Dumb Tom. I wondered how much my irritated mood had poisoned my morning, in addition to maybe wiping out my short term memory of putting the ticket up in the visor. The whole episode probably consumed fifteen minutes of my time, and pumped me full of bile.
I drove back to the gate and handed my ticket to the guy. “I’m sorry, Man”, I said, “I feel so stupid. I put it right up here and didn’t see it until I got back into the car.”
“No problems, Mister, lots of peoples do that.” He smiled and said, “Have a good day.” Then he put his earphones back in.
I drove home and apologized to my wife, and told her how my short temper had lowered my I.Q. in the parking garage.
Then I decided to tell you about it.
Who knows? Maybe it’ll save you a similar “brain burp” sometime.
I’ve lived through eight recessions and run businesses during four of them. I’ve learned that some people thrive while the majority just panic. You don’t have to roll over for this recession; you can create your own “upturn during the downturn”. Then when the tough times are over, you’ll be stronger and more successful than before!
It’s just going to take more knowledge about human nature – both yours and the other guy’s. How you see the world and how he or she does. What words mean to different people can make thousand of dollars of difference to you.
Which brings us to my interest and expertise in NLP. Why did I take over three thousand hours of training in NLP during the last fifteen years? I did it because I’ve found NLP to be the most useful skill – outside of direct response marketing – that I have ever acquired.
I’ll be writing about Applied NLP (neuro linguistic programming) beginning in 2009. It deals with what really goes on inside our heads, and how we can influence that from outside. I’ll be covering everything from the difference between “this” and “that” (yeah, to your unconscious there REALLY is a difference between “this” and “that”). I’ll be teaching about body language, and about how our brains are at the center of it all.
I call it “Playing The Inner Game”. It’s an easily learned mindset that can change your entire business outlook. It’s especially useful for those who want to be more effective in self-management and in communicating with others.
Wait for it, wait for it…
I was working at home while recovering from pneumonia. I took a phone call from Vikki’s doctor. They asked me to have her call and make an appointment to “discuss her mammogram results”.
That led to a biopsy then another wait for results, and then another call like the first one.
“The doctor wants you to come in…”
The biopsy was malignant.
We spent our time in family phone calls and frantic online research for information about likely outcomes and odds of survival.
We were sent to an appointment with a cancer surgeon. The waiting rooms had people who were a lot sicker than Vikki. It was hard to keep the dread from seeping into our hearts.
Before long there was an operation. The surgeon came to me in the waiting room and reassured me like they always do.
“She did great.” As if my wife had done anything other than lay there drugged unconscious and continue breathing.
“I think she’ll be fine, but we need to see the lab results from the tissue I removed.”
Yet another wait for the results – and this time they were good ones.
Then we had follow-up meetings with radiation and chemotherapy doctors. They both said that as long as she had mammograms every six months and an MRI once a year, she could get along without further treatment.
Now it’s over and we can get on with our lives. But we’ve been changed by this experience. And by the memories of not-so-lucky people in those waiting rooms.
An older man with his wife clutching his arm, making explanations to the nurses about how his week had gone while he held a handkerchief to his mouth and stared at nothing.
A middle-aged woman with a scarf covering her baldness, accompanied by a teenaged daughter who was texting on her cell phone while they waited.
A little boy in a wheel chair being loved and coddled by the nurses while his mother looked on, smiling through teary eyes.
We’ve had to consider what we might do if this had been really bad news and how our lives would change if that were so. And how one of us will one day have to go on alone.
Life is different for us now. We are even more appreciative of each other than before (if that were possible). And we are more respectful of our bodies and our health and spiritual habits.
We’re paying a lot more attention to prayer and meditation, and are re-thinking our diets and life-styles. We went on a 5-day cleansing fast to mark the change in our way of living.
Vikki has begun training for a 60 mile Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk For The Cure, and has raised several thousand dollars in pledges.
I’ve begun to reflect on some of the larger issues of life. Being in my late sixties, I’ve had to take a good look at aging and mortality, whatever became of my hair, and what happened to my smoothly moving knee and hip joints?
Vikki and I have talked about this and I want to share our thinking with you. The twin message of my pneumonia and then Vikki’s cancer has helped us to focus our thinking about how to live this phase of life.
Yeah, we call them “messages”. It doesn’t seem very smart to call these events “bad luck”.
We believe that it’s a good idea to take WHATEVER comes at you in this life, and treat it as some sort of scripture in code. It’s up to each of us to figure out what there is to be learned, and how it can be made to benefit us and to enrich our lives and the lives around us.
I’m beginning to think that the advantage of age over youth is hidden in that thought. The offset for the losses of youthfulness is the grace and wisdom of age.
But it MUST BE EARNED. Youth is a gift, designed primarily to encourage reproduction. But the advantages of aging are not a gift.
The benefits are there but we must work for them. We must be constantly asking ourselves, “What’s the meaning of this? How can this be useful and uplifting?”
Those of us who accept the job of earning the power and resilience of the knowledge of our lives get to reproduce even in old age.
We can create offspring in a larger sense than just biological. We can provoke and inspire others who follow us in life’s path, sharing our insights and reassuring them that life CAN get better as we get age. We can be examples.
We can demonstrate our courage and generosity, patience and humor, faith — and always, our growing ability to love.
It’s the only way that getting older is any more rewarding than just beating the grim reaper for another day. And I personally think that life is designed to get better and better until our time is over.
How about you?
Here’s a way you can win your own personal “revolution”.
I had a client recently who complained about not feeling like he was “his own person.”
“It’s like I live my whole life for others, and I never really feel worthy.”
Pretty funny, since he an attorney, partner in a large firm employing a couple hundred lawyers.
“So how do you act at work?” I asked.
“Oh, then I’m being the Guy in Charge, so that’s a no-brainer,” he answered. “It’s when I stop to think about where my life is going that I come up blank.”
I realized that I had heard this story dozens of times in the years I’ve been working with high-powered clients. Most of them were so busy getting through school and being “super-stars” that they never really found out what it was like to just be themselves.
Then again, I’ve also heard the same thing from working moms, cab drivers and waitresses, and unemployed veterans.
Hmmm. Something important here.
All of these good people, no matter what walk of life they were in, have come up missing in the “independence”
Forty years ago there was an amazing British television series, called “The Prisoner.” It was about a man, a former secret agent, who was imprisoned in a resort village by an anonymous government that wanted him to become a number.
“I am not a number,” he would shout in the opening of each episode, “I am a Free Man!” It was an interesting series, exploring the mindset of a person who, although his body was imprisoned, remained free in his mind.
And now today, even in a relatively free country, there seem to be a lot of people who don’t feel particularly “free”.
How about you? Do you feel like you need to be more “your own person?”
A feeling of independence is an attitude, and attitudes are a matter of choice.
The choice may be unconscious like most of our choices. But if you find an attitude may be important it can be created. When you want to do that, all you need is a method.
Here are a couple of small thought processes that will make a quick difference in your degree of personal independence:
1) Your self-image — building one that strengthens you
Find some time when you can be undisturbed. Relax. Look inside yourself to see what comes up when you consider yourself.
Is it a picture? Is it realistic? Is it flattering or negative? What do you see in your mind’s eye? Is there any
kind of commentary running in the background, whispering into your ear? Is it flattering or a teardown?
If you become aware of any negative commentary about yourself, why don’t you consider changing it? I mean, how much fun do you have if you are allowing some old tape in your head to brainwash you and make you feel bad about yourself? So argue with it, and in your own voice make a commentary about your good points. By the way, whose voice is it??
When you think of your visual image, consider this — what image of you would a person that loved you see when thinking of you? How would that picture differ from the one you’re seeing now? If a person that loved you sees you as a better self than you do, how about adopting their picture? It would be an inspiration to be better, and what harm could that do?
When you get a picture of yourself that makes you feel good, enrich the image, make the colors brighter, and perhaps turn it into a 3-D movie.
2) Your “other-image” — creating one that frees you from over-concern with the opinions of other people
Your “other-image” is what I call the image you have inside your head whenever you think of someone else. When you think of someone else, someone who has an influence with you, what kind of image do you see?
I know it’ll be different, from person to person. Whether you’re talking about a lover, parent, friend, or child the image will be different.
If you look at the images of two or three people whose opinion you value — whose opinion might even change a decision of yours — if you look at their images you will probably find some visual quality that’s common. The images might all have the same expression, or give you the same feeling, or be equally bright or in the same location (where you look to see the imaginary image in your mind).
Anyway, make up a sample of a typical other-image (sort of an average of all the people whose opinion might influence you.) Notice the character of these “other-images,” and see if they make you feel too dependent or smaller than you really are.
Then switch to your “adjusted” self-image, which you fine-tuned in exercise number one. Adjust it a little further if you need to strengthen the loving kindness that is the way you want to look at your self-image.
Then switch back to your “other-image”, and make sure it is smaller and further away than your self-image.
Switch back and forth, making the adjustments in each image till they both feel fine and comfortable to you. You need to keep checking the feelings triggered in you by each image. Keep switching until the images don’t need any more changes made.
SECRET OF SUCCESS
The way to make this work is to allow your imagination time to really SEE these images. That’s how the effect will take place. It’s not enough to say to yourself, “Oh, I see what he’s talking about.” Actually DOING it is the only way to make these kinds of changes. If you take a few minutes you’ll see for yourself.
Take your time. Get it right.
And when you’re done, you might be surprised to find yourself feeling less concerned about opinions others might have regarding your choices and decisions.
3) Dealing with boundaries — expanding your sense of personal freedom
While sitting still, close your eyes and feel the space around you. Notice how much space you enclose in your personal boundary. It may be very close to your clothing, or it may be a few inches to a few feet beyond the boundaries of your physical body. Just notice where the edge is at the moment.
Now, just for fun, change it so that your “personal space” includes the entire room you are sitting in. Notice any changes in your feeling that may follow. Take your time.
Now enlarge it, so that you include the entire building you are sitting in. Of course, your point of view enlarges with it — so now you know what to do when I ask that you see what it feels like to enlarge your space again, so that you encompass the entire block where you are sitting. If you are in the country, imagine that your personal space includes the entire parcel of land you are on.
Once again enlarge your boundaries, so that you include the whole county, then the whole state or province you are in, with all the birds, animals, people and everything in it.
Now enlarge your personal space so that you encompass the entire planet Earth. Again, notice how it feels to have the whole planet within your personal space.
Okay, now gradually shrink it back down, stopping whenever you wish, until the edge of your personal bubble is now somewhere more comfortable and natural feeling.
Interesting feeling, isn’t it? Now, just for curiosity, check how your adjusted self-image looks. Does it feel any different than it did before the boundary experiment? And your other-image. Are the people in the image perhaps smaller or farther away?
Enjoy these, and feel free to teach them to others if you like. We can’t have too much independence.