One degree of change

Years and years ago I had it my head that I wanted to sail a passage…
Not that I could sail, but I was determined not to let that get in my way… Anyhow, long story short I ended up being ‘the crew’ on a 39 foot yacht and sailed from Tonga to Fiji.
I’ll always remember those endless night watches, staring at the amazing starlit sky and the dark ocean, fighting off sleep… Being more exhausted than I ever was… Watching for ships or drifting containers and making sure we stayed on course.
I aways remembered the “just one degree - rule”: “When you set out from a harbour and you change course by just one degree it is barely noticeable at first. But in the long run it makes a HUGE difference of where you end up…” One night I woke up the skipper because I noticed some strange lights… Needless to say it was the shoreline and clearly not were we wanted to be. Even though according to the compass I kept us spot on, Iad not factored in the ocean currents. Sigh.

The one degree rule is true for any change and also for bad habits. If you change by just one degree, it’ll make a huge difference to where you end up. Change habits by one degree. For example: I help a lot of people lose weight or quit smoking. People don’t need to be Non Smokers by the time they leave my office. They can reduce, regard that as a success, then reduce again give oneself credit and reduce again and before they know it, they’ve done it… Same with weight loss. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be sustainable! No perfect diets… Just fix one meal… Or get rid of dead carbs or…. Just one degree at a time. And next week another degree, and the week after another degree…

Learning something new is the same thing. It is so easy to get overwhelmed because there is so much to learn. And then people want to learn it all at the same time. But what ends up happening is that they stall. So they end up not doing anything. Not moving forward at all. A lot of my Supervisees do that, they stall. Because there is so much to learn: all the different language patterns, the questions, picking up on all the different subconscious patterns, just to mention a very few… And I get it, they love it and they just want to be good at it. So my recommendation always is: Pick one category. And then out of that pick one subcategory and out of that: pick one thing and focus on that for a week. Next week pick a new one… Before you know it, you’ll be outstanding at 52 different things that are all part of the whole… Follow this and you will get pretty good, pretty quickly.

More limitations of the conscious mind 7+-2

Here is another quirky difference between your conscious and your unconscious mind. At any given moment in time your conscious mind can only be aware of between 5 and 9 pieces of information. It’s also called the 7 plus / minus 2 rule. Anything more than that overwhelms your conscious mind. However, you always have a vast amount of information streaming in through your five senses.

If you were consciously aware of all that data you’d be in constant overwhelm. To stop that from happening you automatically block out certain bits of data. You do it unconsciously which is why you are not aware of it.

While you have been reading this... You may have completely forgotten to notice what your hand feels like…. Or you may have completely forgotten to notice what your feet feel like….

Now that I mentioned it, part of your conscious awareness switched. And you are now consciously aware of it again.

That information has always been available to you. It just wasn’t deemed to be important at this moment and hence you filtered iy out.

To make this super clear. Your unconscious mind is aware of everything that is happening around you. At any given moment in time.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed certain sounds around you…

And now once again your attention has switched to those and you are now aware of them…

Why is this important for you? Firstly, so called reality.... It’s always useful to know that we are very limited in our ability to perceive and interpret so called reality. Be aware that lots of information always gets filtered out. Hence what gets through into our conscious awareness is a tiny slither. What gets through depends on the values, beliefs and other unconscious rules of the individual.

When seven different people watch the same accident you get seven different explanations about what happened. Conversation along the lines of: “I was there, that is not at all what happened” are utterly pointless. Because as humans, the best we can do is try and create a big picture out of our 5 to 9 pieces of the puzzle.

Assume you have team meeting and someone doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It could well be that their conscious mind is overloaded with thoughts. On the inside they are too busy doing: “What if they ask me something and I don’t know the answer?” “If they ask this… I’ll say that… but what if they ask me that…? Oh, my heart is pounding…”. That person can not pay attention to you anymore. Because their conscious mind is already busy tracking 5 to 9 bits of data. You know those meetings where everyone has to stand up and introduce themselves and what they do? Newest research shows that up to 75% of the population have a fear of public speaking! This means: three quarters of the people are paying ZERO attention to what is being said by the others!

They are too busy trying to mange their internal state in the only way they know how to, at this moment in time. Obviously everyone can learn to be calm and at ease in those situations.

When I hear the neighbours dog barking its poor neglected little head off, I have a choice. For one I have already reframed it, because I am sorry for him.

And the rest is: 5-9 bits of data. As soon as I start to focus, really focus on 5 - 9 other bits of data I can no longer pay any attention to him. So I focus on my writing and what I am wanting to say. ..

There is always more to learn

It is what you learn after you know it all, that counts - Coach John Wooden

I remember that crystal clear sunny morning, about 10 years ago, as if it was yesterday. I hopped on my Vespa to attend my first ever Master course in Hypnosis and NLP. I was so excited because 'I knew' over the next days and weeks I was finally going to get the keys, the last missing pieces of the puzzle, and then I'd be ready.
Funny enough I never asked myself what I'd be ready for... Or what ready meant...

There were some new and some familiar faces amongst the intentionally small group. The room was buzzing with a cocktail of ten mental states, ranging from 'almost well hidden slightly terrified' to 'slightly over the top excited'. 

Without any introduction we were told a story:  
A few weeks after the young apprentice received his certificate he started pestering his Master to start his own Master training. "You're not ready yet, go back to work"
Over the following months the former apprentice applied himself to his work, observed and learned. The next year he asked his Master again, only to receive the same response: "You're not ready yet, go back to work" 
Again the former apprentice did as he was told and a year later he realised how much he yet again had learned. He had learned so much and now he knew he was ready. Surely the Master would now agree to start his training! 
This time he received a different answer: "You're not ready. Take your tools, travel, go and offer your services to the world." 

Begrudgingly the former apprentice did as he was told. He travelled. He met people. He used his tools and trade in unforeseen circumstances and often he didn't have what he needed so he improvised. When got stuck he though of his old master and wondered "what would the Master do now...?" Often he found an answer that way and sometimes it even worked. When it didn't, he asked the question again and did it in a different way.

After many years on the road he returned to his village to celebrate his sister wedding.
There he apologised to his old Master: "I am sorry for all the times I asked you to start making me a Master, for pestering you and thinking I knew it all. I now know that I have so much more to learn, there will always be more to learn for me and I don't think I will ever be ready to become a true Master"
The Master smiled and said: "That's right. True Mastery is knowing that there is always more to learn. Welcome to the start of your Mastery training."

Struggle & Progress

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. - Frederick Douglass

Mr Douglas, I disagree. It may have very much seemed so in the specific situation and in the times your quote comes from. But is it far to take it out of context and make it a universal truth? 

Action, yes action is needed for progress. But struggle...?
See struggle is a subjective label, isn't it? 

Have you ever met two people who go through a similar experience and one is upbeat, radiant and has a zest for life despite all that and the other one (who might objectively even be in the better position) is morose, desperate and glum? 

An athlete training for a dream... A mother... An Executive dashing in and out of meetings and planes... A landscape gardener... A fisherman... A surgeon in theatre for 9 hours straight... 
They all seem to have very different ideas what they consider routine, fun or a struggle... 

Occasionally things that used to be fun and exciting have turned into a struggle. Beware... Pay attention... 

The secret lies in the state of mind, the perception, the beliefs, values and in the resources the person can bring to the situation. 

How you perceive taking action, the breakthroughs and set backs is up to you. Let it be easy or let it be hard. That is just a state of mind and states of mind can change. Easily.
In actual fact easier and faster than you may have thought or given yourself credit for.

Sometimes you can even change your mind yourself. And if not, then it might just be a signal to let you know it's time to ask for assistance, so you can move forward with ease again. 

Procrastination or what stops you from taking action...?

There actually are only three (3!) things which stop people from taking action towards their goals. Yes, only three.... And guess...? I'll even tell you what those three things are. 

Identifying which of those three is the one that keeps you from taking action is important. Once you know which one it is, you also know what you need to do to move forward or take action again. 

  1. Not knowing what to do or how to do it

  2. The reasons for doing what you need to do are simply not important enough. Also know as there simply is not enough motivation, yet... 

  3. Fear of making a mistake or a 'wrong decision' or rejection or or or...Simply put it's: fear

Let's check everyone of these out in a bit more detail:


1. What to do or how to do it

I know this sound pretty obvious. Still not knowing what specifically we need to do, is one of the key reasons why we don't take action.
It can be due to being unsure what to do (next or first or now) or not knowing the exact steps we need to follow to get the job done. I know it sounds ridiculous but skill and knowledge are important factors in order to achieve anything.
It's difficult to drive when you get in a car and don't know how to release the brakes.... Or how to and what fuel to put in the tank, you'll only get that far before you  run out... You need knowledge and skill to release the brakes and put fuel in the tank...
It can be incredibly useful to ask yourself: "Do I actually know what specifically I need to do and how to do every step of this process?" I simply assume, all my readers are wiling to admit it to themselves should that be the case and are willing to find someone who has experience and competence in that area... 
Time to upgrade the data or software...

2. It's not important enough:

In order to produce any action we need motivation. Without motivation there is nothing...
Often it's obvious in the language we use: "I should do that..." or "I really should...". 
No movement, no action, no reason to release the brakes or put fuel in the tank... The easiest way to motivate ourselves is by one of two things: Pain or pleasure... Stick or carrot... Loaded gun to the head or millions of $$$... You name it, whatever motivates you... 
Depending on how you motivate yourself, you either take action when the possible pain of not doing it becomes too much... Which means the stick of not taking action has become big and real enough to really hurt...
Or you launch into action when the golden carrot associated with the results from your actions becomes golden and big enough.
If you find yourself not taking action towards your goal it can help to ask yourself:
"What will happen if I don't do this...?", "What will be the negative consequences of not taking action...?" => Find the stick!
"What will be the benefit from taking action?", "What am I most likely to get out of having done it...?", "How will getting this done get me closer to my goal, closer to what I actually want?" => Make the carrot golden and big... 
By doing this you find out one of two things. 
a) Is doing this really worth your time, money and/or energy...? Is there really any intrinsic motivation? 
If it still is just a "should" your best bet is to let it go / forget about it and come back to it when you "really want to", "have to"... When you worked out why and how doing this is important...
b) What type of carrot and stick do you personally need to propel you into action? Then you can use these for leverage and do what it takes.

3. Fear:

Fear is a natural, non-personal response of the brain to a real or perceived threat.
Given the distinct lack of sable tooth tigers these days, most situations we find ourselves in are actually not a life or death situation anymore.....perceived.... I know...! 
Fear mostly is a misuse of our creativity and imagination.... That probably means that you have more creativity and better imagination then you ever gave yourself credit for! No, no, no... Seriously... In my world that's a result Maybe not the one you were after but still it's a result!
With our creative minds we are very good at imagining worst case scenarios or terrible outcomes when in reality, those things would actually be very unlikely. One way to counteract that type of "catastrophic" thinking is by using realistic and common sense thinking. You have two options to deal with this:

A) Ask yourself three simple questions, or write these down: 

  • "Am I creating possibilities that are actually highly unrealistic and probably (a bit) too dramatic...?"
  • "Am I creating consequences  that are actually highly unrealistic and probably (a bit) too dramatic...?"
  • "What would someone who is absolutely logical and realistic say when asked: What is actually most likely to happen when I take this action...?"  

B) Create three columns. I prefer putting pen to paper for this but you might prefer electronics. Either way is fine.

  • First column: make a list of all the things that could potentially go wrong by doing what you want to do. Feel free to let your imagination run, if that makes you feel good... 
  • Second column: Come up with equally creative steps to take to mitigate the possibility of each of those possibilities or consequences from happening
  • Third column: Think forward till you have found the resolution, till you reached the point where you look back and realise: "yep, that wasn't great but hey, I survived". That may be 2 days or 5 years down the track, it doesn't matter. Then write down what steps you'd take to recover from each of the scenarios you imagined in the first column.

There you go. When you find yourself not taking action, find out which one of the three it is and you'll soon get yourself taking action again! 
Stay tuned for more....