The I-T-I-A Formula

I-T-I-A stands for:

Intention

Thought

Imagination

Action

The I-T-I-A Formula takes into account everything known about how mind processes information and brings about change. But you must do all four; otherwise the effects won’t be permanent.

Intention

Personal change starts with a decision – to learn a new skill, to develop a new personal quality and so on. For example, you could decide that from now on you’re always going to treat yourself with love and respect and behave confidently. It’s as simple as that.

Ask yourself:

What do you want out of life?

  • What kind of person would you like to be?
  • What changes would you like to make?
  • What are your goals? Are you prepared to commit to them?

Remember, the clearer your goals and the stronger your intentions, the more likely they are to be realised.

Thought

Step back and observe your self-talk (your thoughts). Are they generally positive or negative? What questions do you ask yourself? What are you trying to achieve by thinking that way?

Examine your attitudes and beliefs. Are they true? Do they serve you well? Where have they brought you so far?

The more positive your thinking, the happier you are and the more likely to succeed at whatever you set your mind to.

Imagination

Learn to use your creative imagination and intuition. They are the key to a successful future.

Imagine achieving your goals. What will they look like when brought to fruition? What will they sound like? Feel like? Do this often, especially when you are physically and mentally relaxed.

The imagination is the fast track to your unconscious mind. You can imprint your desires – and the belief that they will be met – on your unconscious using your imaginative faculties.

Action

Take small steps in the right direction – towards your goals – every day. You may feel uncomfortable, but ignore your discomfort, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Monitor your progress and make adjustments if necessary. Do more of what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Change never feels right, but when you act ‘as if’, eventually the uncomfortable feelings fade.

Keep going until success becomes a habit – every step reinforces your progress. And don’t be put off by others.

The process is a little like the old domino trick where the performer pushes over one domino and all the others fall over in sequence. Every change you make influences the next step, which in turn affects the step after that, and so on. The important thing is to begin. Go on – push over that first domino now. Promise yourself that you’ll give it your best and never give up!

©David Lawrence Preston, 2018

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A Good Night’s Sleep

Everyone knows what a struggle the day can be if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Our energy and performance levels suffer, and so do our stress levels and our mood. Yet we can’t ‘make’ ourselves go to sleep and more than we can make ourselves remember things.

More than a third of adults have problems sleeping. If you’re one of them, you don’t have to suffer. There are many things you can do to help yourself without resorting to drastic measures like sleeping pills.

  1. First of all, try to maintain regular bed times and wake times, including weekends.
  2. Eat early – at least two hours before you go to bed. It takes this long to digest a meal. Late eating can cause indigestion, which disturbs sleep. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and helps with getting to sleep at night.
  3. Drinking close to bedtime can also disturb your sleep, so avoid drinking within two hours of bedtime and don’t drink stimulants (such as tea and coffee) after 6pm. An early evening drink such as chamomile tea can be helpful. Avoid alcohol – it may help you fall asleep but will dehydrate you, causing you to wake early with a dry mouth and throat.
  4. Exercise regularly, but don’t do anything strenuous within three hours of bedtime. Late afternoon is the best time. Regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and helps you sleep more deeply, but exercising close to bedtime makes falling asleep more difficult. It makes you more alert and raises body temperature (a cooler body temperature facilitates sleep).
  5. A very pleasant way to drift off to sleep is to practise physical and mental relaxation. Use a relaxation CD or DVD if it helps. Practise during the day so that when you need it the skill is easily used.
  6. Deep, rhythmic breathing helps enormously if you want to get to sleep. Combine it with visualising a peaceful scene.
  7. Clear your mind. An active mind interferes with sleep. If your mind is over active as bedtime approaches, write down whatever you are thinking about. Listing things you have to do tomorrow helps prevent worrying. Keep work-related things out of the bedroom – these may trigger anxious thoughts.
  8. Nightly rituals can send a strong message to the unconscious that it is time for sleep, for example, a warm bath, listening to soothing music or reading something calming in bed.
  9. Remember, we all need different amounts of sleep. Try out a few things, find what works for you, and don’t worry if you’re not sleeping as much as other family members. They may need more than you.

Ironically, the thing that prevents people sleeping the most is worrying that they won’t be able to sleep, so practise relaxation, and if you fancy it take up meditation.

Many people have overcome sleeping problems using the above techniques. I hope they work for you.

©David Lawrence Preston, 22.5.2019

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A Good Night’s Sleep

Everyone knows what a struggle the day can be if they haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Our energy and performance levels suffer, and so do our stress levels and our mood. Yet we can’t ‘make’ ourselves go to sleep and more than we can make ourselves remember things.

More than a third of adults have problems sleeping. If you’re one of them, you don’t have to suffer. There are many things you can do to help yourself without resorting to drastic and potentially risky measures like sleeping pills:

  1. First of all, try to maintain regular bed times and wake times, including weekends.
  2. Eat early – at least two hours before you go to bed. It takes this long to digest a meal. Late eating can cause indigestion, which disturbs sleep. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and helps with getting to sleep at night.
  3. Drinking close to bedtime can also disturb your sleep, so avoid drinking within two hours of bedtime and don’t drink stimulants (such as tea and coffee) after 6pm. An early evening drink such as chamomile tea can be helpful. Avoid alcohol – it may help you fall asleep but will dehydrate you, causing you to wake early with a dry mouth and throat.
  4. Exercise regularly, but don’t do anything strenuous within three hours of bedtime. Late afternoon is the best time. Regular exercise makes it easier to fall asleep and helps you sleep more deeply, but exercising close to bedtime makes falling asleep more difficult. It makes you more alert and raises body temperature (a cooler body temperature facilitates sleep).
  5. A very pleasant way to drift off to sleep is to practise physical and mental relaxation. Use a relaxation CD or DVD if it helps. Practise during the day so that when you need it the skill is easily used.
  6. Deep, rhythmic breathing helps enormously if you want to get to sleep. Combine it with visualising a peaceful scene.
  7. Clear your mind. An active mind interferes with sleep. If your mind is over active as bedtime approaches, write down whatever you are thinking about. Listing things you have to do tomorrow helps prevent worrying. Keep work-related things out of the bedroom – these may trigger anxious thoughts.
  8. Nightly rituals can send a strong message to the unconscious that it is time for sleep, for example, a warm bath, listening to soothing music or reading something calming in bed.
  9. Remember, we all need different amounts of sleep. Try out a few things, find what works for you, and don’t worry if you’re not sleeping as much as other family members. They may need more than you.

Ironically, the thing that prevents people sleeping the most is worrying that they won’t be able to sleep, so practise relaxation, and if you fancy it take up meditation.

Many people have overcome sleeping problems using the above techniques.

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.5.2019

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The Power of Suggestion

Suggestions have a big influence over our lives. Tell anyone something convincingly enough and they’ll accept what you say. Tell them over and over again and sooner or later they’ll start to believe you.

Unfortunately it’s often the suggestions of others that we allow to control us. For instance:

  • Advertisers use them to persuade us to buy their products. Promotional suggestions are often recalled years after they ceased to be used.
  • Politicians use them too with catchy phrases (whether or not they’re true) as we’ve recently seen with the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum.
  • Parents use them all the time. Young children tend to believe everything their parents say. E.g. when a young child gets hurt and Mum ‘kisses it better’ it does feel better, even though there’s no logical reason why it should.
  • Placebos – pills and potions with no active ingredients – can cure illnesses for no other reason than the patient believes they can. Placebos were once treated as a bit of a joke – as if the patient were ‘fooled’ into getting well -but now they’re taken very seriously indeed.
  • Suggestions don’t necessarily have to be direct: parents who receive a letter from school about head lice in their child’s class often feel itchy!
  • Nor do suggestions have to be verbal. Non-verbals (gestures, facial expressions and so on) can be even more powerful, and verbal suggestions backed up by visual, taste, tactile or olfactory stimuli can be extremely compelling.
  • Some hospital radio stations do not play certain records because of the effect they could have on patient recovery. For example, ‘My Way’ (‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain’), ’ ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’,  ‘I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ contain some unhelpful suggestions!

You’ve used suggestion many times, and it has also been used on you. You can learn to make good use of this vital tool to:

  • help internalise your goals.
  • replace negative attitudes and beliefs with positive ones.
  • relax and combat stress.
  • cultivate better relationships with yourself and others.
  • change unwanted habits and personality traits.
  • build confidence in yourself and your abilities.

… and for many other purposes.

Suggestion, Affirmations and the Law of Attraction

Affirmations are simply suggestions made to ourselves – statements that represent how we are or how we want our lives to be. They help bring into effect the great Universal Law of Attraction:

Whatever your mind dwells upon, with feeling, you attract into your life.

Think about it – do you know anyone who is always talking about their illnesses and who is always ill? Or anyone who is always running themselves down, and who consequently never achieves very much?

Affirmations are powerful tools that use the power of structured repetition. One of the best known was formulated by Emil Coué in the 1920’s: ‘Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.’ He helped many people to heal themselves using this simple phrase. Try it for yourself!

Properly phrased affirmations make a big impact on your unconscious, but be aware you must observe certain rules, otherwise they may backfire.

The following rules apply to affirmations. They’re even more effective when used in conjunction with deep relaxation (this is called ‘autosuggestion’) – but slightly different rules apply.

Personalise your affirmations

Affirmations which attempt to change other people are totally ineffective. Repeating ‘Jim loves me’ does not work, because only Jim can make this choices. But you can affirm ‘I am attracting a wonderful person into my life who has… (all the qualities you’re looking for)’ You may not win Jim over, but you will find someone to your liking.

A simple way to personalise your affirmations is to use the first person pronoun, ‘I’. For example:

  • I accept, love and approve of myself.
  • Every day, I am becoming more calm, peaceful and relaxed.
  • I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, peaceful and happy.
  • I am a positive person. I think, act and talk positively at all times.

Another way to personalise – and strengthen – your affirmations – is to use the ‘first, second and third person’ technique. Let’s suppose you want to be a calmer and more confident person. Add your first name and affirm:

  • I, Chris, am a calm and confident person.
  • You, Chris, are a calm and confident person.
  • Chris is a calm and confident person.

Use positive words and phrases

It’s important to always use words and phrases that express what you want, not what you don’t want. Otherwise you might inadvertently end up with the opposite of what you intended.

The unconscious often overlooks a negation if it occurs in the middle of a sentence. If you affirm, ‘I will not fail’, only the word ‘fail’ registers. It’s far better to affirm, ‘I am a success’.

I recently heard a woman telling how she stuck little notices all over her house one morning reminding her not to forget her son’s team’s football kit for the match that afternoon. The notes said, ‘Don’t forget the kit’. Guess what happened!

Make your affirmations credible

This is one of the biggest secrets for using self-suggestion. The purpose of self-suggestion is to impress your unconscious with empowering beliefs which reflect the way you want to be. This is why some writers recommend stating all your affirmations in the present tense, i.e. beginning your affirmations with ‘I am’, ‘I can’, ‘I have’, ‘I do’ etc.

The problem, though, is that an affirmation which totally contradicts your current belief system alerts a mechanism in the brain known as the Reticular Activating System (or ‘Critical Censor’). It can assert itself in many ways, such as an uncomfortable feeling in the chest or solar plexus or a quiet but persistent voice in your head saying, ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ This is your old programming and conditioning trying to reassert itself.

How do you get round this?

Firstly, consider affirmations as a tool for change rather than statements of absolute truth. Think of them as planting seeds. You won’t see the results immediately, but have faith in the technique, and you will.

Another way is to choose your wording carefully so the suggestion will bypass the Critical Censor. This is how:

  • Put all weaknesses and limitations in the past tense.
  • Affirm your willingness to change.
  • Affirm that you are making good progress towards your goal, and this continue.
  • Affirm your determination to do whatever you can to improve.

A useful form of wording is:

‘I used to be… but all that is changing. Now I am becoming more and more… ‘

For example, if you’re shy, affirm: ‘I used to be shy, but all that is changing. I am becoming more assertive every day. I know I can and I will continue to improve.’

More examples:

  • I used to believe that I was weak, but all that is changing, and I am now becoming stronger and stronger each day.
  • I used to be negative, but that attitude is now behind me. Nowadays I think, talk and act positively at all times.
  • I used to be judgemental, but that is now changing. Every day, I am becoming more open and accepting of myself and others.

Say your self-suggestions as if you really mean them

The Law of Attraction is widely misunderstood. Just wishing or hoping – even believing – are not enough. You must invest some energy into the conditions you wish to create. In other words, you must do something.

As a first step, invest some emotional energy into the affirmations themselves. Say them out loud, enthusiastically. Mean what you say. A thought alone has little power, but when expressed with genuine feeling, it has real impact. Emphasise your words with passion, a strong tone of voice, movement and firm intent.

For maximum impact, also:

  • Write them out every day – this reinforces them in your unconscious.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror as you speak them.
  • Jot them down in your diary, list them on cards, programme them into your mobile phone, carry them with you and read throughout the day.
  • Record them onto a recording device and listen frequently.
  • Write them on sticky labels and place them anywhere you routinely look.
  • If your goal is something tangible, carry a reminder of it with you and affirm that it is yours every time you look at it.
  • You can increase the effectiveness of your affirmations by adding, ‘This, or something better, I accept for myself, for my greatest good and the greatest good of all’.

Keep at it

The unconscious loves repetition. The more you use self-suggestion, the more effective it is.

It takes about a month to change an old thinking pattern, so don’t give up. Affirm whenever you can, wherever you are, especially during those times when the mind is naturally most receptive. Last thing at night is a good time – give it something uplifting to work on while you are asleep. Another good time is first thing in the morning. If you can find a few moments during the day to relax and unwind – terrific!

 

© David Lawrence Preston, 23.11.2018

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Taking Charge of Your Life

Before we can take charge of our lives, we must acknowledge some basic truths:

Everything we are is the result of ‘causes’ laid down in the past; what we will become will result from what we are now and from ‘causes’ still to be laid down. This is the universal Law of Cause and Effect.

These ‘causes’ are primarily our own thoughts, imaginings, words and actions. If we ‘sow’ the right ‘seeds’ from now on, we change, and consequently our life circumstances change too, irrespective of what has gone before.

We are in charge of what we think, believe, imagine, feel, say and do. Once we acknowledge this, we know we always have choices, and we can use this power once we know how to use certain life transforming tools and techniques.

  •  It’s not what happens out there in the world that shapes our lives, but what happens in here between our ears! This is not what most of us were taught as children, but it’s true. We cannot alter our genetic make up, nor can we go back and change out early programming and conditioning. But for most of us of sound mind, our thinking is within our control.

We can choose what we think about.
We can choose where we allow our imagination to go.
We can choose what we think, say and do in response to what happens around us.

In other words, we can consciously lay down the ‘causes’ that create our future lives and then watch and enjoy the results unfold. Indeed, we are doing it all the time whether we are aware of it or not. So learn to become aware of what you think, say and do in every moment and how it impacts on your circumstances.

Since your thoughts are the prime causes, take responsibility for your thoughts, and you literally take charge of your life.

Once you know this, the door to the best possible future is wide open. Only an idiot believes that thinking, feeling and doing what you’ve always done will bring different results!

That’s why Dr Napolean Hill, author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, the most influential book on happiness and success ever written, said:

‘The vast majority of people are born, grow up, struggle, and go through life in misery and failure, not recognising that it would be just as easy to switch over and get out of life exactly what they want, not recognising that the mind attracts the thing it dwells upon.’

From the time you reach adulthood, nobody else can make your life happen for you. Blaming circumstances (however unfortunate) and other people (however unpleasant) won’t change anything; in fact, it makes things worse – you become a victim.

See whatever happens in your life as the world’s response to your state of mind

Here’s an illuminating exercise. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Relax your body and let go of all tension. In this relaxed state, reflect on the events and circumstances of your life. Don’t judge. Don’t blame. Just reflect on how your thoughts, beliefs, imaginings and actions have created your life and how past decisions have affected you.

As I said,you’ll find this very illuminating!

Copyright David Lawrence Preston 22.9.2018

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The Law of Cause and Effect

The Law of Cause and Effect (sometimes known as Karma) is fundamental to the universe. It is probably most closely associated with the physical sciences, for example, when a snooker cue strikes a ball, the ball moves, and when one ball hits another, the impact made by the first causes the second to move. Their speed and direction can be predicted accurately by applying precise scientific measurements and principles.

In the world of human behaviour, causes and effects are not so easily measured and may not be predictable, but are no less real. With very few exceptions (e.g. purely reflex reactions), every action you ever took and every word you ever spoke began as a thought. Your present has been shaped by your actions, which were governed by your past thoughts and emotions; and your future will be shaped by the actions you take from now on, which will be shaped by your future thoughts and emotions.

The Law of Cause and Effect describes the relationship between what we think, feel and do and what we get out of life. It states that everything we are and everything we have has been shaped by ‘causes’ laid down in the past.

Every action has a cause.

Every cause produces an effect.

Thoughts are prime causes.

Speech, emotions and actions (and their results) are their effects.

Therefore constructive thoughts lead to positive emotions and constructive actions.

Negative thoughts lead to damaging emotions and destructive actions.

Therefore we constantly contribute to our circumstances – both present and future – by the way we think. And when we decide to change our way of thinking – including our beliefs, attitudes and prejudices – and sow different ‘seeds’, we change; and when we change, our circumstances change too, irrespective of what has gone before. The world responds to what we think, believe, imagine, feel, say and do.

Some consider this a frightening prospect, because it means taking responsibility for ourselves, but it’s actually one of the most hopeful things about being alive – the fact that we can turn our lives around by choosing to think differently. Only you decide what to think – if you don’t choose your thoughts, who does?

Some would say there’s little we can do, because our futures are laid out in our genes or by fate – but our genes only account for about a small part of our psychological make up. Others argue that we are merely the product of our programming and conditioning and we can do nothing to change this – but these are learned, and anything that has been learned can be reappraised, un-learned and re-learned.

The only question is – how?

It’s not as hard as you may think!

©David Lawrence Preston 28.2.2016

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Anger – hot coals and cool thoughts

‘Holding anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.’

 The Buddha

 

Anger has had a bad press. It’s generally thought to be a bad thing and, sure, it can be harmful when unjustified and badly handled. It raises our stress levels, and if it continues causes no end of physical and mental health problems..

However there’s another side to it:

Properly controlled and directed anger can be constructive if it generates creative energy

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion when managed well. Anger has driven countless individuals to struggle against slavery, poverty, apartheid and other injustices. A disgusted ‘I’ve had enough!’ can turn your life around if it spurs you to action.

Anger can also motivate others, for instance, the sports coach who gets the best out of his team because they are scared of his reaction if they play badly.

If you never responded with justified anger, you could storing up trouble. If you don’t let people know when you are upset with their behaviour, they’re likely to go on doing it. Then the feelings grow, gnawing away at your self respect.

But going to the other extreme is just as bad. If you are continually angry or every trivial event triggers angry feelings, there’s little chance of you being taken seriously and every chance you’ll make yourself ill. This is what the Buddha meant when he said, ‘You will not be punished for your anger, but by your anger.’ In other words, you are the one who has to live with it.

The trick is to know when and how to be angry. You always have the choice to respond with anger or not; no-one can force you to be angry unless you want to. This is not what most of us have been taught to believe – but it’s true.

What causes anger?

Anger has one source only: some expectation is not being met. Something in the environment is not to your liking.

Volcano

There are two sorts of anger:

  1. One is the quick outburst, which may be intense but is soon over and swiftly forgotten. This is usually harmless, and is an effective way of releasing pent-up emotions. Just make sure you get your feelings across without breaking anything, injuring another person or (if it’s important to you) damage your long-term relationship.
  1. The other is the slow burning type, which is not so easy to get over. The pressure builds up until one day it erupts, triggered by some trivial incident which isn’t itself the reason for the blow up – the real cause is the suppressed emotion. Try not to let this happen: it’s always better to express your feelings immediately, not wait until resentment has hardened.

How about you? How do you deal with anger. Do you try not to show it? Or let fly? Do you believe it’s better to express your anger or keep quiet? How did your family deal with anger when you were a child? Is there something in your background that makes you react the way you do?

Seven tips for coping with anger

I’ve gone through angry phases in my life and had to learn to deal with it. Here are seven steps that I’ve found helpful:

Take a deep breath and count to ten

If you feel anger coming on, before lashing out, stop, take a deep breath, count to ten and exhale slowly. It really does work.

Interrogate yourself

Ask yourself:

  • Is my anger justified?
  • Have I got my facts straight?
  • Did the other person mean any harm?
  • Am I reacting like this because I’m over-tired, stressed or just fed up?
  • Am I taking it out on an innocent person?
  • Am I likely to do something I’ll later regret?
  • Will it get the outcomes I want?

Examine your motives

Behind a great deal of anger is an attempt to make someone feel guilty, or manipulate them into doing what you want. Ask yourself if you are being reasonable. Would it be OK for others to demand that you always comply with their expectations? So why should you they fall in line with yours? Isn’t it better to become more tolerant and accepting?

Become more assertive

Find a way to release your anger by becoming more assertive. Say how you feel appropriately and immediately, not some time later when memories have faded and resentment has built up. If you feel things are getting too heated, walk away. Go for a stroll to cool down.

Mentally rehearse

If you anticipate an angry confrontation, think it through and mentally rehearse. Decide what you want to achieve and write down the points you want to make.

Don’t stew

Once you’ve had your say, forget it. Don’t stew over what you could have said. There’s no point.

Own your anger – and let others own theirs

Finally, if someone is angry with you, remember, it’s not your anger – it’s theirs, and you don’t have to match it if you don’t want to.

©David Lawrence Preston 19.9.2018

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Nature or Nurture: Why You Are The Way You Are

Nature or nurture?

One of the questions that has occupied psychologists for years is ‘Are we a result of ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’?’ To what extent are we shaped by childhood experiences, parenting, schooling and environment? What part does our genetic inheritance play? What really determines the sort of people we are and who we become?

Some believe that where we grow up, our parents treatment of us and the experiences we had as children are largely responsible for who we become. They’re right to some extent, these are important – but it doesn’t explain how people from similar backgrounds with comparable levels of ability – even twins – end up leading very different lives.

Ability and hard work don’t account for all of it either it – it takes just as much effort to empty dustbins or work long hours in a shop as it does to be a company chairman.

The answer is, whatever our origins, the world – which includes other people – responds to what we think, believe, imagine, say and do. So to harness our inner resources we must be self-aware. We must know ourselves before we can truly know anything else.  The key is understanding the workings of your mind.

Is the ‘brain’ the same as the ‘mind’?

Let’s imagine you bought a new computer. What’s the first thing you would do, once you’ve unpacked it and plugged it in? Surely you would consult the operating manual. But you’re not provided with one for the ‘computer’ between your ears! You need an instruction manual for the mind.

The brain, unlike the mind, is a physical thing. It’s a small organ weighing about 1½ Kg., housed in the space between the ears. It’s the physical vehicle through which the mind operates. It’s often compared to a computer, and in some ways it does resemble one, but it is far superior.

It is an astonishing fact that most people use less than 5% of their brain’s capacity – if that!

If the brain is the hardware, the mind is the software. The mind is an activity. It is a mass of accumulated thought-forms – ideas, beliefs, memories, attitudes, habits, prejudices and so on. It can’t be seen or weighed, but like electricity, we know it’s there and can monitor its workings.

Programming and Conditioning

In the first few years of life, our adult caretakers teach us what they think we should be. Most of us accept this programming and carry it into adulthood.

Conditioning is the way one person uses reward and punishment to shape the behaviour of another. It is how circus animals are trained and military officer enforce discipline. It’s the chief way in which we learn to relate to the world when we are young. It plays a big part in shaping our behaviour, our attitudes and our beliefs.

This is how it works: if a young boy (or girl) pleases his/her adult caretakers, they respond favourably. This is extremely pleasurable for the child and encourages a repetition of the behaviour (i.e. reinforces it). But if the adult caretakers disapprove, s/he will be told off, punished or have privileges withdrawn, which discourages a repeat of the behaviour.

Conditioning can be beneficial when administered by caring parents who believe in empowering their children. But many parents are ill informed, critical of themselves and their children. Children are quick learners and great imitators: their parents’ and teachers’ habits are soon passed on, and of course, once they reach the teenage years, the peer group and media influences come into play too.

Much of the damage is done in run-of-the-mill remarks which adults regard as insignificant – ‘Don’t…’. ‘Stop it or else…’ ‘You can’t…’  ‘Who do you think you are?’ Young children often take such comments to heart or interpret them in ways which weren’t intended, e.g.

  • ‘Let me do it.’ (You’re not capable.)
  • ‘You’re just as stupid as your father.’ (You’re not OK and neither is he.)
  • ‘Can’t you see I’m busy?’ (You’re not a priority.)

Beliefs about life in general are also handed down, e.g.

  • ‘You can’t trust anyone these days.’ (Don’t be too open with people.)
  • ‘All successful people lie and cheat to get to the top.’ (So you must too.)
  • ‘There’s no point in going to college. It doesn’t get you anywhere.’ (Success is a matter of privilege or luck.)
  • I’m damaged by my childhood and I can’t change. It’s just the way I am.

Research shows that as much as fifty percent of our programming is in place by the age of six; eighty percent by the age of twelve.

Psychologists used to argue that our conditioning is virtually impossible to change, but we now know that this is not true. If it were, then most psychotherapy would be ineffective.

Acknowledge the importance of your conditioning on your thinking and behaviour, then take responsibility for how you handle it.

See your programming and conditioning for what it is – simply part of your learning, some of it very valuable, and some if it worthless or unhelpful. Anything learned can be unlearned and relearned. It’s just a matter of understanding a few basic principles and using some simple techniques. Whatever has gone before can only affect the future if you let it. In a psychological sense, what matters is not where you’re from, but where you’re at. To believe otherwise is tacitly allowing yourself to be controlled by the thoughts and feelings of a young child – the child you once were. That wouldn’t make sense, would it?

Your genetic inheritance

A hundred years ago it was common for behavioural psychologists to argue that only a small proportion of our characteristics comes from our genes. Then later, largely thanks to studies of identical twins, some scientists argued that half or more of our character is genetic.

Increasingly, the role of our biochemistry is also being recognised. We know, for example, that the levels of certain hormones at pivotal phases of our development  controls our level of ‘maleness’ or ‘femaleness’, our sexual orientation, predisposition to aggression, anxiety and depression, and a range of abilities including mathematical reasoning, spatial awareness and emotional skills.

Furthermore, in the past few years, scientists have discovered that our genes do not control anything, they merely create potential which can be switched on or off by environmental and psychological influences. For example, a genetic predisposition to certain health issues can be ameliorated by a good living environment and a healthy lifestyle. So it’s not the genes themselves that make us the way we are, but how our life circumstances and psychological factors such as attitude allow genetic factors to express.

The debate is far from settled, but it is clear that only a small part- perhaps 25-35% – of our adult character comes to us with our genetic and biochemical make-up, but consider this: if even a third of your characteristics are fixed, two thirds are not! That gives you a great deal of scope to make the best of who you are!

 

Copyright David Lawrence Preston 2018, All Rights Reserved

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How To Books, 2010

 

Guilt – A Useless Emotion

Mae West: ‘For a long time I was ashamed of the way I lived.’

 Interviewer: ‘Did you reform?’

 Mae West: ‘No, I’m not ashamed any more.’

Guilt is anger turned in on yourself. It is one of the most common emotions, and one of the most disabling. It is also one of the most useless.

Many people fret needlessly over things which they could have done little to change. Others feel guilty even when they know they’ve done nothing wrong. And others spend their whole lives punishing themselves for not being the person they (or their parents) think they should be.

Guilt looks to the past which is, of course, impossible to change. But we can change what we think about it. Dwelling on something that can’t be changed is energy consuming and self-esteem destroying. Everything that happened happened for a reason. Look for the lesson. Don’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

However, a twinge of guilt can trigger a positive response if it’s handled well. It can motivate you to put things right.

If you feel guilty about something:

  1. Reflect on the situation. What message is the guilt trying to convey? Why are you punishing yourself in this way? Did you really err? Is someone else trying to manipulate you into feeling guilty? What are you trying to achieve? You may find you had no reason to feel as guilty in the first place.
  2. If your guilt is not justified because you have done nothing wrong, or couldn’t have prevented what happened, let it go.
  3. If you genuinely did make a mistake or could have done better, let the other person know  and apologise. Then do what you can to put it right and make a commitment not to do it again in the future.
  4. Then forget it at move on. If you can do nothing more about it – either because events have moved on or you’ve lost touch with the other person – you’ve nothing to gain by dwelling on it, and neither have they.

Give me the serenity to accept what I can’t change,

The courage to change what I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

©David Lawrence Preston, 3.7.2018

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How To Books, 2004

Your Inner Power

We all have a unique and wonderful power within us which holds the key to our ultimate happiness and fulfillment. It originates from the way we think, and what we imagine, say and do.

This inner power is non-physical. When we are attuned to it and allow it to guide and support us we are enriched in every way. We are happy, prosperous and at peace. We have the courage to follow our dreams.

There’s a Native American parable about an Indian brave who found an eagle’s egg when out hunting. He took it back to his village and placed it among some eggs being hatched by a hen. In due course, the eaglet was hatched along with the baby chicks. As it grew, it scratched the earth with its claws and pecked at worms on the ground. It learned how to flap its wings like the other baby chicks. It even clucked like a chicken.

Then one day when he was old, he looked up and saw a magnificent bird gliding across the clear blue sky. He was in awe. ‘What’s that?’ he asked the chicken next to him. ‘That’s the Golden Eagle, the king of the birds,’ came the reply, ‘but don’t you try that. We can’t fly. We are chickens.’ The old eagle never gave it another thought and died, as he had lived, thinking he was a chicken.

You are an ‘eagle’. But do you think, feel and act like one? Or do you think and behave more like a chicken?

Oprah Winfrey once said: ‘People do what they know how to do, and when they know better they do better.’ In other words, we all have the means to raise our consciousness, improve our lives, be happier and play our part in making the world a kinder, more loving place.

Some find this a rather frightening prospect. At the start of a recent seminar, I promised participants that they would feel happier, more fulfilled, less stressed and more at peace with themselves if they took on board the ideas presented that day. Immediately a smartly dressed lady rose from her seat and left. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ‘I’ve made a mistake. This isn’t for me.’

Down the years I have acquired a vast number of insights and shared them with thousands through my teaching, speaking and coaching. They have worked for everyone who applied them. But don’t take my word for it – find out for yourself. You will soon find out how powerful they are.

What Do You Really Want?

When it comes to deciding what we want out of life, most of us set our horizons low. Generally people want to be happy, healthy, prosperous and secure; to feel good about themselves, have a circle of friends, good family relationships, peace of mind, and work which is personally fulfilling and makes full use of their talents; a variety of social and leisure pursuits, happiness and fun. They also want to be respected by others, to love and be loved, and be free.

Does this ring true for you?

  • Do you love what you do?
  • When you feel frustrated, do you still maintain a deep feeling that what you’re doing is right for you?
  • Is there anything you’d rather be doing?
  • Do you cope easily with the stress in your life?
  • Do you have a positive attitude most days?
  • Are you prosperous?
  • Do you enjoy rewarding relationships with most of the people you meet?
  • Do you feel enthusiastic about life generally?

In the past, a sign of success was having time that wasn’t committed to earning a living. Do you find a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from your, or do you work mainly for the money?  If you work only to earn money, you will always feel poor! There are many unhappy millionaires, and many relatively poor people who enjoy contentment and peace of mind.

Imagine the kind of life you would like to lead. Think about this carefully. Be aware that one of the main reasons why people don’t get what they want out of life is that they’re not clear on what they want.

Which of these are these important to you?

  • Being able to live as you choose and do what you want, making your own choices, not beholden to others.
  • Being able to use your time as you wish.
  • Knowing that life has some meaning for you and that you feel good about what you do.
  • Health – being free from illness and having sufficient energy to carry you through each day.
  • Enjoying the people you live with, including your partner, your children and wider family.
  • The pleasure that comes from an active, varied and fulfilling social life.
  • Interests and pastimes that provide enjoyment and take your mind off the pressures of life.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that you have made a contribution to society. You don’t have to make a global impact –  helping those around you is just as important.
  • Enjoying life and trusting that things work out for the best.
  • Feeling good about yourself and growing as an individual.
  • Being comfortable with yourself as a spiritual being.
  • Have I missed any?

Many people have never given these questions much thought; but without clarity our inner power is stifled, like the eagle that thinks it’s a chicken!

©David Lawrence Preston, 6.5.18, all rights reserved.

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