Three Ways To Change Your Life

There are three broad ways that people try to change their lives. The first is hard, the second is popular, the third gives you your best chance of happiness.

1. Change The Universe

A small part of the universe
Image courtesy of xamad

If we could only change the world to fit in with our expectations. Make it sunny for the picnic on Sunday, make the person you fancy feel the same way about you, get the right car, live in a perfect house and so on, and so on.

Unfortunately this is the hardest trick to pull off, the universe is a big place and very difficult to organise. Yet many people still want the world to come into line with their desires and get very upset when it doesn’t.

2. Change Yourself

Exercise is good for you
Image courtesy of kevindooley

The next way is to change ourselves to measure up to the standards of the day. This approach often gets called self help.

On the face of it this seems like the right thing to do. If only I get thinner, richer, more confident, have a better speaking voice, more ambitious then I will be happy and everyone will like me. Perhaps we need to get rid of the things we don’t like or think other people wont like. If only we can get rid of the smelly, gangrenous bits of our personality then we will be more likeable and happier.

Unfortunately this can be a never-ending treadmill. You will always be able to find something else to improve, something else that needs fixing. Just one more thing then I’ll be fixed.

It’s perfectly understandable that we want to be better people, to develop or enhance our skills. The question is what is motivating that drive, is it an innate desire to be the most that we can be or is it to escape the worm in the apple that tells us that there is something wrong with us, something deeply flawed that we need to escape from.

3. Accept Yourself (then change if you need to).

At first glance this appears to be going in the wrong direction. Shouldn’t I be working to fix all the things that are wrong with me? If you have the idea that you are broken then that is the real problem, the itch that can’t be scratched by one more diet, a different supplement or inspirational book.

Alice tells you she is fat and is disgusted with herself. George tells you he is very critical and ashamed of himself. Sally tells you she is lazy and will never amount to anything. Being a good friend you might listen to these declarations of failure and think that the problem is all about fat, criticism and laziness.

In fact the real problem with these sentiments, the glue that holds them in place against all efforts is the judgement that follows. A better place to start is with disgust, shame and self-criticism.

The first parts of those declarations could be called problems but they are also being used as a stick for each friend to beat themselves up with.

The real problem is the idea that you are broken, bad, defective, evil or a failure. If you come from this point of view then you will have a huge amount of resistance to overcome and even if you lost the weight, became less critical, or more energetic you would still have the self-aversion waiting in the wings to find another stick to beat you with.

Everything is fine
Image courtesy of anindo ghosh

If you come from the point of view that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you then you can make whatever changes you need to make because each problem is just a problem. There is no evil identity to support, no problem personality to maintain. Change, if it is necessary, becomes much simpler because the problem is not an opportunity to give yourself a hard time.

Basically there really is nothing wrong with you. If you think that there is, it is because you have been taught that there is. No one is born with self-aversion or shame you need to be taught, by life or, more likely, other people.

If you looked on yourself as someone to be helped rather than blamed or punished, who would you see? How would you feel about them? What would be different?

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Just listening

A friend of mine, who I was trying to help, remarked that I wasn’t taking her difficulty seriously because I was trying to fix it rather than acknowledge it. On reflection I think she was right.

Just to emphasize the point the universe, in the shape of Bill O’Hanlon, sent me this:

DEEP LISTENING: How to connect with and take seriously people who are suffering
Bill O’Hanlon, Bill@billohanlon.com, http://www.billohanlon.com

* Sit with the person’s pain and suffering with compassion instead of offering positive stories or trying to fix, give advice or suggestions. Be willing to do nothing, just be with, acknowledge and honor the person, their pain and their suffering. Just having told one’s story can often be powerfully therapeutic.

* Attend to the person’s story and experience rather than your own idea.

* Be aware of the bias many of us have and our culture has toward redemptive stories. Do not try to change, rewrite, reframe or invalidate the person’s non-redemptive, non-happy ending stories.

* Give credit for small or large efforts, endurance or strength in facing challenges without being patronizing.

* Keep one foot in acknowledgment and one in possibilities, but do not insist on always speaking the possibilities.

* Avoid platitudes:
Everything will work out.
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
You are going to be all right.

* Avoid glib explanations:
Why did you create this?
I wonder what you are meant to learn from this?
What part of you needs or benefits from this pain?

* Speak to the complexity of the situation by including seeming contradictions:
You can’t go on suffering like this and you don’t want to die.
You want to give up and you don’t want to give up.

Frank, Arthur. (1998) “Just Listening: Narrative and Deep Illness,” Families, Systems and Health, 16(3): 197-212.
Kleinman, A. (1988) The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing and The Human Condition. NY: Basic Books.
Kushner, Harold S. (1981) When Bad Things Happen to Good People. NY: Avon.

Bill O’Hanlon is presenting his Geography Of Possibilities Workshop in Newcastle on September 11th and 12th.

How To Release Identity Beliefs

I think, therefore I am” – Descartes
“I am what I am!” – Popeye

Updating our identity
Image courtesy of fotologic

When we grow up we sort through masses of experience to come up with an understanding of the world and ourselves. Part of this understanding is of the aspects of our experience we label ‘I’, ‘myself’, ‘me’ – names for parts of the person we are.

As we grow up and have experiences we begin to give ourselves, or accept them from others, qualities and capabilities. I am a good boy, I am helpful, I can’t do that, I am lazy and so on. These beliefs about ourselves, our identity beliefs, can be helpful or hindering.

  • ‘Helpful’ beliefs: I am confident, I am a good person, I can cope …
  • ‘Unhelpful’ beliefs: I am lazy, I am bad, I am tired, I am scared …

Notice that saying ‘I am tired’ is quite different from ‘I feel tired’, a feeling will pass and change into something else, an identity belief will stay with you through time and affect all your experience.

Most people don’t have any difficulty living with helpful identity beliefs they find them supportive and agreeable. The unhelpful identity beliefs are much less appealing. They feel uncomfortable and they limit our ability to act and change.

Beliefs are compulsive, they guide our perceptions and actions to reinforce themselves.
For example: if you have the belief ‘I am tired’ it functions as a description of your state and organises your actions and perceptions to focus attention on developing and noticing the tiredness it describes. It is a description and a mantra rolled into one, acting as a small scale, self fulfilling prophecy.

Identity Relief Process

This process uses a blend of EFT and NLP to release the identity beliefs. It is divided into two parts, a set-up process and the belief releasing part.

Read more

An Unexpected Gift

We (IntegrityNLP) have just finished our ten month NLP Practitioner training, which we started way back in September last year.

As part of the celebration weekend we normally exchange feedback and hand out the well earned NLP Practitioner Certificates to the trainees. Before we were able to do that our trainees handed Nigel, Harry, Shirley and myself our certificates. You can see mine here.

This has never happened before and I am very touched by the gesture. I can’t think of many trainings where the trainees give certificates to the trainers.

Thank you Felicity, Mike, Karen, Christine, John, Billy, Keith, Lesley for making my day. It’s been a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to seeing you again

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