The Emotionally Intelligent person

Release your inner self“So what exactly is emotional intelligence?” This is usually the question I face when I mention emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) and, to be honest, I’m always a little surprised that people find the term so foreign.  It was because of this, I decided to write this blog post and share some inspiration with all of you and while surprise is usually my reaction, I am also most grateful that EI elicits such a strong degree of curiosity.  Why?  Well, recent studies have shown that it is the most important factor in defining success in the workplace and happiness at home.  More and more companies are starting to hire people based on emotional competencies and this trend is starting to prove highly successful, with well recognised companies (like L’Oreal) focusing on hiring emotionally skilled people.

And thankfully, unlike IQ, which is inherently difficult to change, you can ‘up-skill your Emotional Intelligence’ with deliberate practice and training.  I will explore some themes and exercises with you later in this article.

So back to the opening question – “what exactly is emotional intelligence?”  Let’s begin by finding a suitable definition.  In its most basic translation, EI refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.  Not only one’s own emotions and feelings but, equally importantly, the emotions and feelings of the people around you.  The way we interact with and regulate our emotions has repercussions in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Carolyn Gregoire wrote in an article for the Huffington Post: “to put it in colloquial terms, emotional intelligence is like ‘street smarts’ as opposed to ‘book smarts’ and it’s what accounts for a great deal of one’s ability to navigate life effectively.”  Personally, I couldn’t agree more and to such an extent that Emotional Intelligence is an integral part of my course, The 5 steps to Clarity.  In fact, it’s the first step in the program.

RelationshipsDr Daniel Goleman, an influential psychologist and behavioural science journalist, who popularised this theory in the late eighties, describes EI as “managing feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals.”

According to Goleman, there are four major skills that make up emotional intelligence.  I refer to them as the as the 4 Cores of EQ.  I have listed them below with a few exercises and tips to help develop your EI.

Self-Awareness:  Recognise the self by becoming more aware of your emotions and how they affect your moods.  A great exercise to help with this, is to keep a ‘mood diary’ – you’d be surprised how often we are in a bad mood or are feeling low but have no idea why.  Identifying the cause of your mood and writing it down with the corresponding emotion is a great way of becoming more self-aware, with the added benefit of being a good de-stressing exercise.

Self-Management: Next, learn to manage your moods and emotions.  It’s all well and good saying I’m angry because Bob (no offense to the Bobs of the world) said something mean, but real emotional intelligence is taking responsibility for one’s own emotional state and learning to deal with it promptly and effectively.  Remember, sometimes life events just happen.  No reason, no justification, they just happen.  But it’s our emotional reaction to these events that set us apart.  A good exercise for this Core is to write down a life event followed by your reaction to it and the outcome.  Example:  A flat tyre in the rain and you are late for work + frustration and anger = rude to taxi driver who over charges you or you are snappy with your work colleagues who complain and you are called in.  By writing this down you get to visually see how important your emotional reactions are.  And by changing your reaction, you learn to affect the outcome more positively.

The last conversationSocial Awareness:  Recognise how other people are feeling. This is referred to as being empathetic.  Stephen Covey, highly successful author (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) writes “seek first to understand and then be understood…” and this is especially true when you are learning empathy.  The key is to give the person you’re talking to your undivided attention.  Listening is the first step, but the real trick is trying to recreate the feeling they are feeling.  A good tip in this Core is to read up about body language and facial expressions.  You don’t have to be an expert, but understanding people’s postures and expressions go a long way in helping you to understand what others are feeling.

me-and-you-and-everyone-we-knowRelationship Management: Lastly, the human experience is built on relationships.  It’s well documented how the lack of affection and adequate socialising has hugely damaging effects on people; it seems we were designed to be around people.  By using the points above, you should be in an excellent position to start building effective and, most importantly, appropriate relationships with people.  By being genuinely interested in people, that curiosity combined with shared experiences through empathy and story-telling, will help to forge amazing relationships both in the work place and in your personal life.  These rich relationships will serve as great foundations for personal happiness and success.

To summarise:

  1. Recognise the self (Self Awareness) – Exercise:  Mood Diary
  2. Manage the self (Self Management) – Exercise:  Visualise your emotional reaction to a life event by writing it out
  3. Recognise others (Social Awareness) – Tip:  Read up on body language.  Listen to the person.  Try to feel what they feel.
  4. Build appropriate relationships (Relationship Management) – Tip:  Be genuinely interested in people, everyone can enrich your life with their story.

Okay, so there you have it.  I sincerely hope that this inspires you to go out there and start to improve your EI because I have no doubt that it will improve the quality of your life almost instantly.  As usual, if you need some help or know someone who does or if you’d like to ask me a question, please use the Contact Me button on the top right hand side of the screen.  I’m always happy to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this article please share on your favourite social media platform.  You never know who might see it, or who might need it.

What do you believe?

New Years ResolutionHave you ever wondered how some people do it?  How do some people actually make a real change in their lives? What exactly did they do and why do the rest of us stutter and stumble back into what we’ve always done?  As an example, let’s use an old favourite:  Going to the gym.  It’s New Year’s resolution time and quite commonly, especially after an indulgent festive season, most people set out to make going to the gym a part of their lives.  But it rarely lasts more than a few weeks and without even realising it they return to a more familiar ‘modus operandi’.  So why is their change only temporary?

The answer to this question is found in the understanding of how behaviour is affected by our beliefs.   Our belief systems are embedded within our unconscious mind (meaning they are largely autonomic and pre-programmed).  It is these systems of belief that ultimately govern and affect our lives.

Take our resolute new year’s gym goer who automatically reverts back to their accustomed way of behaving after a few weeks.  Given that going to the gym does not become a lifestyle change, but rather just a quick, dirty affair, it’s safe to conclude that their decision to go was a product of the conscious mind (meaning it was a specific, deliberate response or a superficial thought process).

However, in order for someone to make the change a permanent part of their life, they would need to address their existing limiting belief and replace it with a new, more empowering one.  In other words they would need to make a change to their belief system rather than just effecting a superficial change.  And that in a nutshell, is the nuts and bolts of this diagnostic.  Some people are able to make lasting changes in their lives (perhaps unknowingly) by changing what they believe.

Let’s take a closer look at this.  You may have heard of the Iceberg Paradigm.  It’s a useful metaphor to understand theThe Iceberg Paradigm unconscious mind, its relationship to the conscious mind and how the two parts of our mind can better work together.  Think of the mind as an iceberg.  It floats in the water with the biggest part of it below the surface.  Only a small part is visible above the surface.  In our paradigm the small amount of iceberg above the surface represents the conscious mind; the large part below the surface is our powerful unconscious (or subconscious) mind.

Okay, so now we know that our belief systems reside in our unconscious mind and that we need to change what we believe in if we are to make a lasting change in our lives, but let’s take a moment to ponder the following:  what exactly is a belief?

Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought.  The dictionary defines belief as:  “an acceptance that something is real”.

As for me, I resonate with the definition “a belief is an assumed truth”.  I find it particularly apt because it gives me the power to assume any truth I choose!  “We are what we believe we are.” – C.S. Lewis.  A simple but powerful quote if you truly understand just how powerful your belief systems are.

Here is another example.  Take a young child who wets the bed in fear and trepidation of the monster under their bed!  Shadows are the beast come alive and the tiniest creak or croak from outside are the monster’s footstep at the edge of the bed.  Their belief is so strong that it actually manifests a physiological reaction such as heart palpitations, sweating and even bed wetting through heightened anxiety.

Monsters IncAs the child matures, they reach a rational understanding that monsters do not exist.  However, just because there is no longer evidence to support the belief, does not mean the belief will just disappear or automatically be replaced by a more empowering or positive one.  The unconscious mind does not work like that.  You see, when we believe in something we tend to find evidence to support it.  This is how it becomes a belief (and a reality).

Since the monsters are no longer rational or the evidence for the assumed truth (i.e. monsters exist) has been disproved, a new belief system must replace the old one. The belief of monsters is replaced by a fear of the dark or perhaps a fear of being alone.  When a belief is changed, it will always be replaced by another.  And further to the point is when we believe something; we WILL find evidence to support it – even if it’s not healthy for us and even if it means adopting a new set of beliefs.

Does the following sound familiar:  “but it’s just the way I am”?  This is a simple example of finding evidence to support your assumed truth.  And once we find evidence (even though it may be assumed) it reinforces our belief and this in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy or a causality of reality. Our beliefs define our reality.  If you believe yourself to be an unfortunate soul, cursed by the gods for whatever reason and that all your pockets have eternal holes – then this unfortunately (pardon the pun) will be your reality.

But the beauty of belief is that it is an ASSUMED truth.  And so our ‘woe is me’ belief system can be replaced by something healthier.

The first step in any process of transformation is identification or awareness.  You will need to first identify what your limiting belief is.Neural Network  Once you know what it is, then you can confront it, challenge it and replace it.  Please bear in mind that some beliefs are deeply ingrained and coupled with the galvanised shackle of time and habit, it can be extremely challenging to replace it.  Note – not impossible because it is an ‘assumed truth’, but challenging, because the assumption is so deeply believed.  It will require time, patience and tenacity.

You will notice that the moment you attempt to change a belief, your unconscious mind will flood with reasons and excuses as to why it won’t work.  This is the nature of self-preservation for the belief – because it wouldn’t be a belief if you didn’t have evidence to support.  The trick here is to logically challenge it and ask yourself honestly; what are the consequences of this belief?  While the unconscious will kick back quite strongly at first, keep at it.  Try writing it down.  The physical act of writing it down and actually seeing it on paper will help the unconscious to start accepting that a new belief is needed.

Remember – once you challenge the old belief have a new empowering one to take its place.  And be sure to tell people about it.  Proclaiming a belief is important, because if the people around you believe it, you will have more evidence to support your truth.  The more evidence you have, the easier it is for the belief to take root and grow.

In my program, The 5 Steps to Clarity, I used the Albert Ellis rational-emotive modal to help people reform a limiting belief.  It’s as simple as ABCDE.  We learn to identify the belief by understanding its emotional impact and what consequences it may have.  We then go onto use language effectively to ensure that we are affirming our new belief and like I said above, I show you how to “proclaim” your new belief and how to deal with the feedback your receive.

If you feel you need some guidance with this, please don’t hesitate to use the ‘Contact Me’ button at the top right of this page.

Good luck and remember – “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right!”

Meaning and Happiness

BuddahIs happiness a component that leads to fulfilment or is it a product of being fulfilled?  Before I get lost in translation, let me simplify:  “should we strive for happiness in our lives or will happiness inevitably manifest when we become fulfilled?”

What got me thinking about this was an article I read recently called “Meaning is healthier than happiness”.   Let me explain.  The premise of the article was based on an old saying “healthy body, healthy mind”.  However, new studies indicate that just being happy may actually be detrimental to the physical body if it is not accompanied by meaning (which ultimately provides a person with fulfilment).

If we pursue the concept of fulfilment and contentment down the proverbial rabbit hole, we are obligied to examine the concept of happiness and the role it plays.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, a psychological researcher who specializes in positive emotions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Steve Cole, a genetics and psychiatric researcher at UCLA, the human body has a ‘forward planning’ immune system.  It’s hard coded to our genetics that certain emotions will prompt the body to prepare itself for specific and predicted threats.

Put simply, loneliness and adversity puts the body into a state where it is primed to fight bacterial infections. Why?  Well they surmise that our ancestors would often spend long days and nights alone whilst hunting and this often resulted in serious infections because of deep scratches and wounds from predators and the actual act of stalking and hunting.  The flip side of this is when we are doing well and engaged in healthy social interactions, the body shifts and prepares us for viral threats, which is an element of being around other humans.

neuroscience-and-enlightenmentLike me, I bet you’re wondering what the *bleep* this has to do with happiness or meaning for that matter?  Well, like neuroscientists who use MRI scanning to determine how regions in the brain respond to different stimuli, Cole and Fredrickson wanted to see how the body, at a genetic level, responds to feelings of happiness and meaning.

Here are their findings, which I will paraphrase:  if you are happy but without meaning in your life, your body goes into the genetic expression akin to that of the loneliness and chronic adversity mode (the body goes into an inflammatory state producing an excess of what it needs in preparation for the stress it anticipates)!

Simply put: just being happy places the body under the same negative stressors that being unhappy does!  SO – are they saying we shouldn’t be happy?!   No, not at all!  It’s a complicated study but very interesting to read and has certainly shifted some of my preconceived notions of what it really means to be happy and fulfilled.

In a world dominated by books on happiness and personal wellness, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of having meaning in your life as opposed to simply seeking ‘happiness’.

Their study further reveals that the inflammatory state is offset by having ‘meaning’ or purpose.  In other words, people who derive happiness from their purpose or meaning gain a sense of fulfilment and do not create those inflammatory stressors in their bodies.  This is in stark opposition to happiness derived from purely hedonistic pursuits.

What is happiness?  The obvious answer, given to me by my four year old niece was simply – “it’s a good feeling”.  Ah, the genius of a young mind, never a truer word spoken, don’t you think?  It strikes me as almost philosophical.

happinessHowever, ‘a good feeling’ devoid of meaning can be defined as: “an empty positive emotion” and is similar in nature to a manufactured high from narcotics. This is but a chemical illusion that fools the body and mind and quite frankly can be as devastating to your well-being as chronic depression and adversity.  So, yes it is a good feeling, but the body cannot sustain it constantly, unless ‘the good feeling’ is born from fulfilment.  In other words happiness obtained through being fulfilled is actually healthier for the body.  Could fulfilment be the mind-body connector?

Meaning, incidentally, is described as finding a connection to something greater than the self or in a word to be ‘selfless’.

Okay – so enough with the crazy science speak, let us revisit my initial question and a draw conclusion:  “should we strive for happiness in our lives or will happiness inevitably manifest when we are fulfilled?”

In my humble opinion:  Meaning will provide fulfilment and fulfilment provides a healthier happiness.

If we live a life without meaning, our life simply becomes a patchwork quilt of moments in time matted together, and I can almost guarantee that upon reflection, you will find that it will lack purpose and by association it will be void of fulfilment too.  Thus by proxy your happiness will not be as satisfying as it could be.

DNAHelixThe human spirit is hard coded to survive – but our survival has always been dependant on meaning and purpose.   Finding purpose is part of who we are as a species.  It drives progress and evolution, and it is this that is ultimately what separates us from animals as we are able to function beyond base instinct.

If you want to see a real change in your life, give it meaning.  Find a meaning rather than a logical reason and you will naturally be driven to success.  The application of meaning to any part of our lives will result in a change.  How great and successful is dependent on your meaning.  If you struggle to find real meaning, start by becoming more purposeful.  Set goals and targets to achieve.  This will lend direction to your life and with direction comes meaning.

Try it now.  Evaluate your life by asking one simple question:  am I fulfilled?  If the answer is no, check out my program – The 5 Steps to Clarity and lets get you on the right path.


Concrete BlocksGood old writer’s block – like a bad Mafioso movie, my inspiration to write has felt more like a pair of cold, heavy concrete boots (the ones that see you sink to the bottom of a murky river) rather than my usual exuberance.  Instead of wielding my pen like Zorro – fleet footed, elegant and full of pizazz, my pen has felt more like a butter knife in the hands of a lumber jack!  And it would seem this allegory was quite apt given the mounds of scribbled and scrawled paper around me.

So what brought me out of the dreary depths of fallen writers?  Well, inspiration it seems is often found when you are at the bottom of the lake looking up (proverbially of course).  And just like that, the weighty, grey cement blocks released me from their grim depths and I was back!  Ironically, I’ve been talking about the ‘Fog of Life’ recently and have even devised a program centred on this state of mental vagueness, so it came as no surprise that irony abounded when my inspiration returned.

Blurred LensesLet me explain.  My creative lenses were seriously blurry and my thought process was stagnant!  The irony was that I was making it worse by inadvertently creating a habit by mentally repeating the same negative thoughts: “I have writers block, I have no inspiration to write”.  What exactly is a habit?  It is the repeating of an action, emotion or thought until we believe it to be true.  It moves from our conscious mind into the unconscious and that’s when we stop “thinking” about it and instead it starts to happen automatically.

Once that happens, a habit has been formed.

An action, emotion or thought compounded by repetition will bury itself into your subconscious.  And so by repeating that negative phrase to myself consistently, I was starting to believe I had lost my mojo.  Extreme and dire I suspect, but the unconscious does what it must to make the conscious believe – think about that the next time you ‘argue’ with yourself.

One of the biggest repercussions of being stuck in ‘The Fog of Life’ is the very real possibility of your unconscious accepting this as your life’s status quo.  I call this ‘negative habitising’ (yes a made up word and hopefully a book waiting to happen).  I’ve said it before;  our reality is what we believe it to be.  The addendum to this is that we create our reality by repeating actions, thoughts, emotions or processes.

RepetitionThe good news is that ‘negative habitising’ is 100% reversible.  You can choose to habitise positively because the unconscious is totally reprogrammable.  Simply remember this:  habits are a symptom of repetition.  The more you do something, the more it becomes second nature. This is true for all things (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual).  So, why not choose to create more empowering habits instead of limiting ones?  I cover this as part of my course – The 5 steps to Clarity, so if you are in need of some help or know someone who is – please get hold of me by using the Contact Me tab at the top of right hand side of this page.

Below I have provided an introduction to the four principles of ‘positive habitising’ and here is a simple acronym to help you remember them: L.O.V.E


‘We are who we are because of what we say we are’ – a bit of mouthful but read it again slowly.  We define who we are by the language we use daily.  So a useful first checkpoint on your road map is to listen to what you are saying.  Self-awareness is perhaps the most fundamental aspect personal development.  Second is language.  They say the pen is mightier than the sword but then what of words and your voice? Be aware of what you say, not only to others, but also to yourself.

Once you have heard yourself, make the change to a more appropriate language set, I call this language optimisation.  An easy way of doing this is to make a list of all your negative words that you have been using and then flip them.  For example: “I can’t” becomes “I can” or “I will”.  Here’s a challenge for you – try not to use the word “don’t” for a whole week and instead find a positive substitute.  Change your actions, emotions and thoughts by optimising your language.

Listening to what we say is the first step.  And then changing what we hear is the second, the third one is obvious – say it.  Say it or vocalise it.  Affirmations are a wonderful way of training yourself to think ‘better’.  Write down a list of empowering statements. Make them relevant to what you want to change, and write them in both current and future tenses. Repeat out aloud daily. Remember step one – listen; you need to vocalise in order to listen.  Eventually you unconscious mind will begin to accept this as reality.  The real power comes from repetition so vocalise and repeat daily!

Lastly, when we are passionate about something or we have a goal that motivates us, the human conscious system accepts this much more readily and easily (and quicker) than repetition.  So find your empowering event or a purpose to drive you.  Purpose gives us direction, and when we know where we are going, it is easier to find enthusiasm to create interesting and positive habits.

As usual any questions or queries are welcome.  Happy habitising people.

The Philosophy of Happiness

SmileyfaceStanding in the queue with my grocery basket weighing heavily and my foot tapping impatiently, I sullenly gazed around waiting for my turn to burn some plastic.  I scanned about lazily, not really focusing on anything when suddenly my ears pricked up.  My head whipped round and my eyes trained in on an odd-looking couple.  A curious blend of an old, crazy scientist and a weather-beaten, hippy mum were casually discussing ‘the philosophy of happiness’ in what can only be describe to the world as ‘only in South Africa’ accent.  I was gobsmacked and did my best to scoop my agog tongue back into my mouth while I eavesdropped with shameless abandon.

Much to my disappointment they turned down the condiments aisle and the conversation faded from earshot almost instantly.  I must be honest the thought of aisle stalking did occur to me as I was genuinely interested in what they had to say, but as fate would have it, it was my turn next at the checkout counter.

Over the next few days I pondered over my experience and tried to imagine what the rest of their conversation would have entailed, maybe they were discussing happiness as a form of religious contentment or perhaps something simple like the difference between pleasure and happiness?  My mind meandered and my thoughts tumbled and tripped as I metaphorically stumbled about trying to figure out what exactly is happiness and is there a philosophy to it?

HappinessIn an effort to find some clarity I decided to do some research on the topic of happiness and so I read and researched and scoured the internet for an answer.  However I just could not find anything that sated that lingering, unformed, yet definitive question bouncing about in my head.  It wasn’t until a few days later when I was helping someone understand how our emotional response to an event can shape or influence our outcome that it dawned on me.  The answer I was seeking was right in front of me!

Like the proverbial genie jumping out of a lamp, a wave of clarity came crashing through my battered brain.  We are responsible for our emotions!  The philosophy of happiness is one of choice. We have the choice to be happy.  What a simple revelation.

However, an obvious question arises from this revelation: “if it’s as easy as making a choice, why do so many of us ‘choose’ not to be happy?”  It’s a fair point.  And further to this point, when talking to my sister about this, she uttered in frustration “WHY is being happy such hard work?” another fair question in the context of things.

The Unconscious MindA past employer often used a phrase that I have now adopted as my own.  We often discussed ‘why’ people wouldn’t do something and he always summarily stated: ‘Human beings seek the path of least resistance’. This is so accurate. In ignorance we choose a path that initially brings us some form of satisfaction and we adopt this as a belief.  However once it ceases to provide us with any further satisfaction, we choose to do nothing about it because it’s ‘comfortable’.  If you do anything for long enough, it becomes autonomic.  The unconscious mind accepts it to be a reality.  We create excuses to justify why our choice is valid. That is the way the unconscious mind works.  Once a belief is created here, it will always provide the conscious mind with ‘answers or reasons’ as to why choosing something else is perhaps not viable.  This is what is referred to as the ‘comfort zone’.

We are so comfortable in our misery and shackles of daily life, that seeking out true happiness is often difficult and scary.  The unknown evokes a sense of discomfort and even though happiness is always a choice, fear and doubt are powerful motivators.  If you’ve watched Star Wars, you’ll know how powerful the dark side is…

ballandchainTo walk in the light and find the resolve to make the choice is always going to be a challenge.  But here is an obvious truth and a reality you will need to accept:  “Nothing comes from nothing” (Shakespeare’s King Lear).  Ponder on those words – they are immensely powerful if you apply them to your current situation. As I said previously, the more you do something, the more your unconscious mind accepts it to be a reality.  To help you get started here are three things that can help you foster more happiness in your life.

Smile.  No, I really mean it, smile.  And if you really don’t feel like it – fake it!  Force yourself to fake a smile!  Why?  Because the mind cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined, and if you force yourself to smile, in time your unconscious mind will accept this as a reality. So smile, even if you don’t feel like it right that minute. The more you do it, the more natural it will become and besides, everyone is prettier when they smile.

Surround yourself with happy people and stay away from the happiness vampires that lurk about. You know who they are, always moaning and complaining, finding fault and blaming the world for everything.  Those people who bring you down.  And if you are a happiness vampire, make a conscious effort to stop, immediately.  Self-awareness is such a powerful tool.  Remember, making the choice is easy – it’s having the resolve to work at it daily that makes the real difference.

And lastly, find a sense of purpose.  People who know who they are and where they are going are always happier people.  Whatever it might be, define your life.  They say life is a journey, not a destination, but that makes no sense.  If life is journey without an end, you are a nomad, a wondering gypsy that cannot settle and will be eternally restless.  If you undertake a journey, there must a reason for the journey and once you know where you want to go, then you can truly start to enjoy your journey.

Make the choice.  Be happy.

A theory of luck

Chinese symbol for good luckThis week has been filled with wishes of good luck as I went off to an important interview.  Everyone one I told about it was very forthcoming with this thing called luck. In fact I was told off by someone close because I had only told them about the interview afterwards, and their response was: ‘I didn’t even get a chance to wish you good luck’.    The interview went really well and I have been quietly sitting with my thoughts basking in the knowledge that it was a success.  The next natural and almost instinctual step was to tell everyone who wished me luck, and to express my gratitude for this ‘good luck’.

Since the dawn of time man has been obsessed with the idea of luck and good fortune.  Human culture is littered with examples of talismanic charms and symbols that have come to represent luck.  A rabbit’s foot, a four leafed clover, double egg yolk, an up turned horseshoe, ladybirds, scarab beetles, actors told to ‘break a leg’ and even numbers have all been assigned as purveyors fortune and good luck.

As I buzzed my way through texts and emails thanking people, a thought manifested itself and in a flurry of curiosity, questions came tumbling out:  what is luck and why are we as humans so compelled with the notion of giving it away freely and so earnestly?  Does it actually have a sphere of influence on the outcome?  Did all these people who sincerely wished me ‘luck’ actually affect the outcome?

Upon reflection these questions are somewhat weighty subjects and have been discussed at length all over the internet. You only need to delve a little deeper and you will find a wealth of information on the ideology of luck and concept of good fortune.  Philosophers have applied their logic to it, religion has wrapped its crooked fingers around it and scientists sneer at it because it is intangible and unprovable.

Me – I’m not about to delve into the genome of luck…  But rather I wish to share an intriguing thought I had as clamoured about with my questions.

Firstly what is luck?  Luck, as it is defined, is the fortunate or unfortunate outcome of an event without one’s own intention or will, and beyond control.  Success or failure apparently brought on by chance rather than through one’s own actions.  And so the cynic in logic and rationality simply says:  “this means nobody has any control of luck and therefore luck can’t really be given it away. And if it’s chance that alters my fate, then what have your wishes of luck accomplished?  They are merely kind and thoughtful words.”

If you’ve read my past posts, you will see that I often talk about something called ‘focussed intentions’. The idea behind this is simple – what you focus on, is what your reality will be.  There is nothing religious or scientific about this statement, it’s more an accepted truth if you understand the concept. The key is to know what you are focussing on and to correct your thoughts and words if you are focussing on the wrong things.   And this brings me to the last sentence of the cynical logistist: “They are merely kind and thoughtful words.”   People’s intentions are focussed through their thoughts and their words.  And if done with sincerity and honesty – they have the power to influence a desired outcome.  So I genuinely say thank you to all those who put their intentions into words and focused on me and my interview, even if it was just for a split second.  I am truly gratefully and blessed to have people that care about me so much.

The secret to success is not really a secret.  It’s about knowing one’s self and understanding how our self-beliefs work. Our limitations are a result of a poorly programmed unconscious mind and if one learns to reprogramme the unconscious, you begin to remove your limitations and unlock your true potential as a human being.

LanuageWhen we verbalise a thought, it becomes tangible and we can actually begin to analyse it – if you are analysing your thoughts you are mastering the art of being self-aware.  The key is not to question yourself and create self-doubt, but rather to find a way to positively rephrase your thoughts.  For example in preparation for my interview I repeated the following statement to myself every morning:  “I am confident, knowledgeable and successful” – instead of saying:  “I hope I get do well”.   I chose to say this phrase it in the mornings because according to research the mind is at its most receptive.  I did this to ensure that I was reprogramming my unconscious mind. I wanted those words to be a belief , a part of me and not just a statement I spoke.

If you wish to affect a real change in your life, start by your aligning your intentions with your words. Language is perhaps the most important of all your personal transformation tools because when you become self-aware and emotionally balanced, your language patterns will naturally change, but the catch is to use language patterns to become self-aware in the first place and it is also the way to focus your intentions.

As always, practise makes perfect so go out there and start to think about your daily words. Ask yourself:  “are my language patterns positive or negative?”  This simple and powerful statement is the first step to changing your language patterns.  If you need any help or advice, or just some guidance on how to do this more effectively, please use the ‘contact me’ tab.  I would be more than happy to help.

It would be remiss of me not to say ‘good luck’.

The Emotional Harness

Table MountainCape Town.  Land of the long, flat mountain and gratefully a place I get to call home.  I had forgotten just how beautiful this city is.  You can smell the fresh, crisp sea air while you drive yourself around in the warm embrace of the mighty African sun and you are never lost because the gentle behemoth stands tall and is always there to guide you. I’ve been out of touch with Afrika (deliberately spelt with a K) for quite some time now.  I chose to distance myself from her complicated development and instead invest in an old, established order.  Upon my return to the motherland, I ponder was it worth it?

The United Kingdom is the epicentre of modern development.  The engine room of Europe, she stands regal, proud, and defiant as ever acting as a colander of culture.  The world passes through and inevitably stains her, but what is truly palatable is that the flavour you get (and believe me, it’s not something you will forget in a hurry).

Perhaps the latter is a fickle anecdote, but the point is that anyone who lives in London will leave a changed person.  There is an energy about London that is difficult to verbalise.   It’s fluid and modern yet stoic and rich in tradition.  This paradox continues as the Union Jack stands as a bastion of cultural freedom and yet the royal monarch resides over the country with such grace and charm that you are blissfully unaware of how contradictory it all is.

London Skyline

Love it or hate it – London is marmite. It’s certainly not for the foolhardy, because it is a real city that will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t adapt and play properly.  But on the flipside, if you do play properly and you will be rewarded with more than you can imagine.

I believe in learning from experience and that is exactly what you will get when you accept London as part of your life.  “Experience is the greatest school master” – It’s an old phrase that I heard my dad use when I was younger and I never really took much stock of it until recently.  As many of you know, due to immigration laws and policies, I unfortunately had to leave London recently.  And typically, when your journey is suddenly diverted, one responds with a range of emotions that are both positive and negative, but ultimately you tend to reflect on your journey.  And suddenly my old man’s words came alive – experience is the greatest school master.

Leaving London was extremely difficult.  Much more than I had anticipated.  I looked forward to my new journey but upon departure I suddenly felt a torrent of overwhelming sadness.  It washed over me unexpectedly and it was debilitating. It felt like a harness that kept me bridled to something uncontrollable. And never mind the little voice in the back of your head, I had a choir of demons sing tunes of despair and folly. I didn’t enjoy that at all.  In fact I found myself sitting in the sterile cubicle of an airport toilet sobbing.  I felt like it was in slow motion as the tears fell from my eyes and splattered on the cold, hard tiles below, the world I knew for seven years had evaporated and now I was faced with the cold, hard unknown.

Tron Light CyclesAnd it was in this moment of pure melancholy that the words ‘emotional response and focus’ came slicing through my jagged emotions.  To paint an accurate picture imagine the light cycles from Tron.  Blue and yellow transparent walls of energy and light slicing through my dark mood. Introducing themselves with a stern, clean punch that caused me to catch my breath.  And with that, I dried my eyes, blew my nose and I took out my little red book of ideas and wrote down the following:  “to create an optimised outcome, I need to have an optimised emotional response”.

What is an ‘optimised emotional response’?  That sounds like a bit of psychobabble if you ask me!  Well that’s what I thought when I first heard it.  It’s crazy how conditioned we are not to accept something new or how autonomous our response is to something we know will change us or at least challenge us.  But all that it means is simply this:  by learning to control your emotions, you can get a more favourable outcome for yourself.  Think about it:  If you are angry and upset when dealing with a customer service person – what do you think the likelihood of resolving the issue quickly and pleasantly will be?  I’m going to say zero.  However, if you make a conscious effort to change your emotional response to the person, you will be able to influence a more positive outcome.  Being aware of your emotions is the first step in gaining emotional intelligence.  Here is an exercise that helped me when I first learnt about the power of emotions:  Try taking stock of your emotional responses to everyday events and people. Make a note of it, and I mean literally – write it down.  Capture the emotion that you felt.  Be specific with regards to the emotion and the event.  Also note down your outcome of the interaction.  The object of the exercise is simple; become aware of your emotions.  Once you are aware of your emotions, you can start to ‘optimise’ them so that you get an ‘optimised’ outcome.  Simples (for all my London readers).

Throat ChakraAnother good exercise is to try and verbalise your emotions.  Talk to someone you trust, be open and honest (I am always here if you need someone to talk to, just use the ‘Contact me’ tab at the top right of this page).  Find words that describe your emotions.  This can be extremely helpful in understanding yourself and understanding your emotional responses.  In Hinduism, it is said that talking stimulates the throat chakra and talking about emotions can help to bring balance.  Being in a state of balance is a wonderful way to focus on the ‘correct’ aspects of life because what we focus on is what we will get.  It is the manifesto of the universe – we attract what we focus on.  The problem however is not being aware of what we are focusing on.  We do it instinctually and most often without conscious direction.  If you consistently worry about money, you are in fact focusing on the negativity of the intention.  By being aware of what you are focusing on, making a conscious effort to redirect your thoughts and intentions to something more positive, you have the power to change your reality.  It’s not something that happens overnight and as with anything new it requires practice.   But with time and patience you will begin to transform your life.  It’s a secret that’s been with us throughout the ages. Except it’s not really a secret, it’s just common sense.

In transit

Thank you all for your patience (assumed anyhow).  As you all know, I’ve been ‘in transit’ moving from London to Cape Town – so apologies for the delay in articles.  My writing was seriously impeded when Sky cancelled my internet a week early and not to mention the burden of packing!  With every box I taped up, I felt the sting of nostalgia. Its truly amazing how many memories came flooding back.  I can’t lie, it’s been an seriously emotional life event.  And for all my preachings of optimism and positive thinking, the reality of it all is particularly intense.  It really does take a lot of self awareness  and patience to keep that ‘little voice’  quiet.  Self doubt is so powerful… Just one whisper and it spreads like wild fire!  It burns your confidence and all of a sudden you find yourself focusing on all the wrong things.  And as you know, the Universe will give you what you focus on…

Charlie Brown

Stay tuned, for in the week coming, I will be putting together a post that helps you with focus and emotional reactions.  For now, I just wanted to reassure you all that I haven’t forgotten about any of you and that The Striped Couch is here to stay.  They say music is the food of love or that music calms the savage beast, here is a track that on of my oldest and dearest friends shared with me.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I assure you it’s a happy tune!  So relax, take a load off… Put in your earphones, sit back and let the music move you…  I think of this as Sci Fi Funk (<—-click this link to open the track).

33 days – The Striped Couch challenges you!

Oh dear too many distractions – finding it a challenge to write today.  The Buddhists call it ‘monkey mind‘ – sound familiar?  You start with a single thought and before you know it, that thought has climbed through your brain like a monkey on a mission!  One thought has become a thousand and all of a sudden I can’t construct a sentence, let alone a story…  Lucky inspiration has struck!  My ever present muse, the wonderfully sophisticated and Oracle of all knowledge – Google – has come to my rescue!  Thank you Larry and Sergey, I am grateful!

In a bid to get the creative juices flowing, I inadvertently found my next post – 33 ways to be creative (unfortunately my searching skills seem to be a bit off today and I am unable to find the author of the picture attached, if anyone knows, please contact me or if you are the author, please get in touch).  It’s an inspiring list, just take a look below.  It’s not only for the ‘creative type’ – it’s for everyone…  And to prove that, I’ve come up with a challenge for you:  print out  the picture below and stick it to your mirror.  There are 33 items on the list, commit to doing each one of them (one a day) for 33 days. Make it a competition with your other half/friends,  get your mum and dad involved, tell the children (you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how infectious the optimism of children is).  And at the end of each day, share with <insert whoever here> and find out how the task for the day went.  Challenge your Status Quo and see the difference it makes in your life.  My personal favourite on the list is number #25, I try to do this every day.  How about you?

Use the ‘Don’t be shy, say something‘ box to let me know if you’ve taken the up The Striped Couch’s 33 day challenge.  And as usual if you want any advice or guidance, just drop me a message and I’ll get back to you.

Go for it!

33 ways to stay creative


The power of imagination

emotion of apathyThis years traditional ‘spring clean’ is motivated not only by tradition, but also the fact that I am busy packing away my life here in the UK (15 days and counting…).  One of my tasks is to tidy up my computer at work and get it ready for a handover.  However, this is more a case of deleting all the rubbish I have accumulated over the past three years!  There is so much! I must be a ‘digital hoarder’ or ‘document pack rat’ because I seem to have kept everything!  None-the-less, my efforts for opening and checking hundreds of ‘Doc 1’ documents have been rewarded as I came across a poem I wrote about 3 years ago.  It’s a strange feeling reading old and forgotten poems again, not sure if any of you write, but they are wonderful vessels for storing emotions and life experiences.  My first reaction was to delete it, but as I read through it I realised it was a lesson waiting to be learnt.

“Delicious Apathy arrives on a silvery film of confusion, wrapping her lithe fingers tightly around your soul.  Her voice comes cloaked in a clandestine whisper tiptoeing into in your mind, while the mists of hope veil your vision. With her gentle, melancholic grip she seductively shawls your being, coaxing you effortlessly into a familiar haze of indifference and compounds your confusion.  Apathy seizes her opportunity to vaunt her chicanery and just like that emotional inertia is set in motion.  Those secretive whispers become jaunts of justification and the surreptitious Apathy smiles warmly as her mischievous words consume you. You smile unknowingly as the transition of your ordinary ‘black and white’ is replaced with a disingenuous grey. Oh dear Apathy, your work is done.  A finely crafted dystopia, bathed in bearable misery and I am none the wiser…”

Poetry is a personal experience and so I’d prefer not to share with you the motivation behind this poem, but rather I urge you to ‘experience’ the poem for yourself.  What I can share with you however, is how to combat the feeling of apathy.  Interestingly enough the dictionary definition of apathy reads as follows: “lack of interest or concern”, but reading a little further I found another great description and perhaps one better suited to the nature of my poem: “is a state of indifference, or lack of purpose…” and herein lies my prescription.

Apathy is a state of mind brought on by your perceived lack of purpose.  And if you’ve read my previous article (Status quo), you’ll remember that setting personal goals is simple way of creating a purpose for yourself.  However, I know it’s not that easy.  I can empathise with anyone who has experienced it.  So how does one change their state of mind?  The first point to memorise is the following:  the mind cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined.  Take a moment to reflect on this statement.  It’s incredibly powerful and is a scientific fact, not something I have made up.  When you are ready to accept this statement you can really use it to transform you life, but for now, I do believe I will need to convince the cynics, I was one after all.

Let’s look at the irrational fear of a young child.  They imagine that there is a monster hiding in the shadows or under the bed, the terrifying boogy man is coming to get them!  Their imagination is so powerful, that it will actually induce physical symptoms of fear: heart palpitations  sweating, tears, muscle tension and in some cases loss of bladder control.  The imagined fear is so real to the child that it manifests itself physically.  Think about this – we tend to find reasons to support our beliefs, regardless of what they are.  I know I do.  And so to the little child, every shifting shadow is the  terrible monster, every creak and crack in the house is amplified to threatening foots steps.

So the answer to my question, how does one change your state of mind?  Simple – use your imagination…  Goals can give you purpose, but it’s imagination that gives you your goals.  The only limit to your imagination is you.  So dream big and set your mind free. Try it.