Mind Games

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One of the fundamental tools of achieving a joyful life is actually taking the decision to choose joy. In other words, managing our mindset. 

To do that we need to believe that we always have a choice in how we to respond to circumstances.

This is where it gets interesting. Our choices are often dictated by our beliefs and values – but what if our beliefs and values have been chosen for us by someone else?

Step 1 – Beliefs and Values
In fact, many of our B & Vs are actually remnants of what were told was true when we were children.
So, the first thing to do is work out what are actually your beliefs and values and which of them belong to your parents or other authority figures that have been important in our lives.
Then, question them. Do you actually believe them to be true? Or did you just take them on trust?
When I was young it was considered to be a ‘bad thing’ to marry outside your religion. It made some people very angry, and even broke families up. Most people now know that was a sign of the times and not a fundamental truth in itself, and we’ve changed our views and adapted our values accordingly. Now it’s more important to have a loving and supportive partner than insist they share the same beliefs.
It comes down to this; in order to live a more contented life with a good dose of joy, we need to have that joy as one of our highest values, and we need to believe that to be a good thing, an essential thing, a right thing and something that is of our highest priority.

Step 2 – Habits
How we habitually react and respond will change if our values change.

We all know of someone who is negative in their outlook. Nothing is good enough for them. Would it surprise you to know that they probably don’t actually know they’re doing that? Often, for whatever reason they have developed the habit of looking for the negative in life and that’s what they find and report, and call it realism.
In contrast, optimists have developed the habit of looking for the positives in life, and that is what they find and report. This is also realism.
The funny thing is that realism is subjective. One person’s reality is another’s fantasy. It’s actually simple neuroscience; you tell the brain to show you evidence for what you believe and it will do so. Neither the positive nor the negative outlook is any truer than the other, but one is definitely much more resourceful than the other.
Many of us will have grown up in families where it was considered bad form to express too much joy, or affection or even enthusiasm, and so we tempered our feelings to fit in with society.
The problem is, even as we grow into independent adults we may still temper those feelings unnecessarily, and even express disapproval of those around us who are in the habit of expressing happiness. I know that as a child I was often told to ‘calm down’ and that I would be seen as ‘soft’ or ‘simple’ if I expressed joy or enthusiasm.
Think of a time when something happened that made you feel very happy. Did you censor your physical and emotional reaction? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work in changing those habits.
If you’re a habitual grump and it’s not working for you, you can change. Rehearse how you would feel and how you will express it the next time something good happens. It needn’t be a leap in the air and a loud ‘Yeeha!’. It could just as easily be a smile and a word of praise, thanks or encouragement.

Step 3 – Be Kind to Yourself
When you choose to live a joyful life It’s the beginning of a long and winding road . 
Like any new skill we’re not going to get it right all of the time and that is just fine.
However, starting on this purposeful road will set you up with the ability to achieve and maintain a greater level of contentment, fulfilment, happiness and joy. In turn that will help safeguard your emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual health, and that is also something we could do with much more of.

Until next time, stay happy. It will intrigue some people, and totally infuriate others!
Maggie x

PS – if you would like a free daily dose of practical joy to kick off your day, follow me on Twitter @thejoyprotocol, or email me with ‘Daily Dose’ in the subject line . 

 

The Delicious Dram

whiskey-315178_1280

When it comes to whisky-making, the copper stills used to distill the spirit are often very very old, sometimes hundreds of years old.

Over time the stills get a bit bashed and each develops its unique pattern of bumps and dents. The wild thing is, this affects the taste of the whisky that particular still produces. Some whisky makers now depend on that unique taste as a mark of their brand and would never change the still, no matter how old or battered, as that would alter the taste.

Similarly, as human beings, if our efforts out in the world aren’t bringing the results we’re seeking, then it might be a useful time to regard our own ‘bumps and dents’.

Whatever is happening in our world is often a reflection of what’s going on inside us. The natural human reaction when the desired results aren’t happening is to push through, keep going. We believe more and more action needs to be taken.

This belief is a fallacy.

Action is actually the end point in the sequence, not the start point, not the catalyst.  A much more  useful strategy when, despite all good plans and action, progress is still not being made, is to delve inside and find out what’s going on in relation to that particular circumstance.

Our actions come from our thoughts; our thoughts come from our beliefs, and our beliefs come from the myriad experiences and teachings we’ve received throughout our lives – especially in childhood – that have combined to form our particular ‘map’ of the world. Tweak one thing and the belief changes, change the belief it changes the thoughts, change the thoughts it changes the action and change the action you change the results.

That tweak changes the taste of our particular whisky, and the more we work in a positive fashion on whom and what we want to become, the sweeter, more pungent and delicious the dram we produce.

Slainte!

What a Ride!

 

FF with FBOne of the things that you don’t expect when you give up the day job is the massive internal, personal changes that start to happen as you start out on your journey working full time in your own business.

First there is the good stuff – the massive increase in passion and purpose. It’s perfectly normal to start working at 6am in your nightie in front of the computer because your brain is racing and you need to get it all downloaded and in print on the screen before it melts like the springtime snow.

As you ease out of your employee mindset (not easy when you’ve been one for thirty-something years) you gain a new sense of yourself, of the things you achieve, the things you create and the changes you make in peoples lives with the stuff you have to offer.

Then there’s the darker side; the self doubt, the financial insecurity, the worry of not knowing how this story ends. These thoughts are hard taskmasters but they are also a gift. They force you to develop resilience, to dig deep and really earn your stripes as someone who is bringing something new to the world that will benefit the world. This life game is not for wimps!

One of the mental tussles I’ve been going through is how to actually bring that stuff to the world in a way that makes sense for me and my clients. In other words – what’s my niche? I’ve been doing ok as a generalist coach and trainer but I knew my message and my vehicle for delivering all these goodies needed honing. My lovely coach Leonie explained that it was like giving birth and ideas, like babies, need an incubation period.

Well, just like an expectant mother – and just as wise Leonie had said – it has taken almost nine months before I got well and truly whacked on the head with the ‘obvious stick’! Let me explain; all my life I’ve been a Communication junkie. I worked in Corporate Communications for 25 years and carried on parallel careers in theatre and comedy as well as becoming a coach and an accredited NLP practitioner. After much reflection I realised that it was no different now, and my passion continues to be how we speak to ourselves, how we speak to the world and how we speak to each other.

So the upshot of it all is I’ll be channeling my coaching and training through the mediums (media!) that I know and love best:

  • More Than Words – Powerful presentation coaching.
  • The Funny Farm – Stand up Comedy for Beginners
  • The Joy Protocol – comedy shows
  • Personal and Business Coaching

It’s very exciting because as soon as I knew exactly how I wanted to do all these things, exactly the right people showed up in my life to make it all happen and it’s happening soon!

As Bill Hicks said, this life is just a ride, and what a crazy wonderful ride it is!

Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

Cutting Ties to the Past

sign-43984_1280Way back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs stalked the earth and the gods still supped with the mortals (so, somewhere around 1978) I used to be an apprentice hairdresser.

Yes, no shit. I spent four years shampooing, cutting, tinting and asking people where they were going for their holidays.

I loved the job. I loved the busy-ness, I loved the creativity and I loved helping people look absolutely smashing. I hated the usual things about being an apprentice – i.e. not having control of what I was doing (hell, I was 17 and like every other 17 year old I knew everything, didn’t I?). I hated drying the stinky perm towels in an ancient dryer because the boss was too mean to launder them more than once a week and I hated the worst job of all – picking the rollers and hairpins out of the piles of swept up hair cuttings at the end of the day. I would do this and dry retch the whole time. ‘Twas shit. I was also scared that one never saw an old hairdresser. Where did they go? I saw the 40 year old ones develop dowagers humps from bending over all the time (now being seen in younger techno geeks), but not older, retirement age ones. It remains a mystery to me.

It was at that time though that I was issued, through my college course (City & Guilds of London Hairdressing Apprenticeship), with my kit for the job. My own personal set of rollers, hairpins, pincurl pins combs brushes and scissors.

To this day I still cut hair. I’ve cut my son’s hair his whole life. He’s 19 now and he’s only been to a hairdresser once (when he was 15, they didn’t do it right, they didn’t understand his white afro like I do). I cut my dad’s hair from when I started til he died in 2008. I cut my mum’s hair till she went to the salon in the sky in ‘95 and I mostly cut my own hair because I cannot be arsed explaining to a hairdresser what I want when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. My husband struggles with this. I think he sees self-done haircuts as a signifier of poverty. Personally, I see them as soothing my need for control.

Anyway, the thing is, I lost my cutting comb.

I do not know what happened, but in the past couple of weeks the comb I use for cutting hair has disappeared. It’s the comb I’ve used since my apprenticeship and it works in perfect harmony with my scissors, which I’ve taken care of and I’ve had since that tender age as an apprentice.

Son needed a haircut but cutting comb is nowhere to be seen. I’m stumped. I cannot use a normal, mere mortal, civilian comb! That just wouldn’t be right. So I had to seek a new one out. EEEk!

In town today I walked into one of those hairdressing suppliers with a fabulously pun-y name like Hairhouse Warehouse or similar, and the chick in charge came up to me, fixed her mascara’ed, lined eyes upon me, and from underneath her product enhanced swept fringe asked if she could help me. I looked straight back and said ‘Yes, I need a cutting comb’. It was as if she’d been told I was the queen in disguise. Her back straightened, her eyes widened and a very respectful sales assistant showed me their range. She obviously recognised a veteran of the trade.

I got the new comb. I regarded it suspiciously. It’s a different shape from the 35 year old one that’s gone missing, but nevertheless I used it this afternoon to cut son’s hair. And oh boy!

This comb with its new shape but still fabulous cutting comb qualities had me cutting faster and more accurately than I have in years. It’s easier to hold and easier to work with the scissors. I finished the cut in record time and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Which is all a long winded way to say, don’t do what I did. I feared having to use a new comb and I mourned the loss of the old one, when in reality the old one’s just a comb and only has the meaning I give it, and the new comb is a boon to my speed and accuracy.

I had attributed too much of what I did to the old comb. Yes we’ve been through a lot that comb and I, but let’s face it, it’s just a piece of plastic with no feelings and it wouldn’t be very resourceful of me to mourn it, would it?

So, what I say is welcome change, expect things to get even better than before, and as for the past, the good memories (and people) will stay, no matter what. Here’s to another 35 years of cutting!

The Leonies in Your Life

wisdom-92901_640  In the rush of the week the lesson became clear. As the days clicked by towards the weekend the drama stepped up a notch and I had a choice; observe it and sail above it, or be caught up within it and feel it deplete my inner resources.

Hey, I’m not perfect so of course I reacted at first, instead of responding, and spent some time swimming in those metaphorical shark infested waters until my fabulous coach reached out to me from the ether.

Leonie Lomax is remarkably intuitive with her clients. She seems to take a snapshot of your energy and then can tell, whether by what you do or what you say, even if it’s just a status on Facebook, when things are getting out of balance.

It was a one line pm that just said “How are you, Maggie? Xx”

Yet again Leonie’s intuition had kicked in when I needed her most. It’s happened before on quite a few occasions where the archly placed seemingly casual enquiry hits the bullseye and the words and feelings tumble out of my mouth or from my fingers onto the keyboard.

Leonie came into my life only a few months ago after I’d put out a call for some coaching, but her support on a practical and spiritual level has helped support me through some of the toughest periods and biggest changes I’ve seen in recent years. She’s a true coach; she never tells me what to do but her questions are keys that unlock the answers I have within. She truly cares for her clients and the difference that she can make to people’s lives.

As I said, it was an interesting week. I was reminded of the value of not being caught up in drama, I was reminded of the value of my wonderful coach Leonie, and while I no longer practice Christianity exclusively (I’ll take wisdom from wherever I can find it) I was reminded of a phrase from the gospels my mum used to quote: “Be in the world but not of the world.” I can see the value in that now, from this viewpoint.

My wishes for you this week; sail above the drama, expect wisdom in the most surprising and delightfully unexpected places, and give thanks and gratitude for all of the Leonies in your life.

What Looks Like the End is Actually the Beginning

adelaide sunsetLast week I had a rare privilege. I got to see what it could be like if my life was coming to a close.

It was all a bit dramatic – I wasn’t feeling good after a bout of pneumonia and my GP took one look at me, slapped me on the surgery’s ECG machine and called an ambulance.

They strapped me to a gurney, wheeled me out into the car park and into the ambulance, hooked me up to oxygen and a machine that went ‘beep’.

I felt like a right pillock.

The emergency department was an education. Busy as hell, the guy two cubicles down was telling a mental health worker very eloquently and very graphically about how he was tired of his psychoses and how he would just like to kill everyone please. Shortly afterward he tried to ‘go out for a walk’. It took six security guys with ropes and chains (I kid you not) to haul him back and restrain him. They’d worked up a fair sweat by the time they were finished.

The man across the way was on the gurney because his hip had dislocated. His wife came in to see him. He sounded like a real gentleman until the doctors left and the good natured charmer turned into quite something else. If he had spoken to me the way he conversationally abused his wife it would have been his jaw that was dislocated. Just like Big Ben he had a face for every direction.

Who needs a telly when you have live drama happening all around?

Anyway, I digress.

There I was, now hooked up to another machine that went ‘beep’ and with a cannula in my arm for easy extraction of blood and the process of waiting began.  I had plenty of time to think. What if it was a heart attack, the thing they were testing me for? I had a family history of heart disease so I am in the risk zone. What if I had come close to it being the last day I saw?  I tell you, it fair pulls your life into focus and the things that matter most become very, very clear.

All of a sudden I saw the folly of my hesitation over certain things, the short-sightedness of my tolerance of other things and the stupidity of trading in dreams for security. When you’re at that threshold (or you think you might be in the hallway that leads to the threshold), here’s what mattered most:

  • The people I love
  • The dreams and plans I want to realise
  • The hope that I’d made some contribution to make the world a better place for my presence (which is really a combination of the first two)

That was it. Nothing more mattered except love, connection and contribution. Outside of the context of these three things money meant nothing – everyone looks the same in a hospital gown.

Love, connection, contribution.

Message received.

Nuff sed.