I have just finished working in Koh Samui and during my stay there, caught up with a friend I had met in Greece a couple of years ago.
She is an interesting lady, a psychologist and Buddhist meditation instructor amongst many other things and has spent most of the last 10 years living in Bhutan. I have never met anyone quite like her and during our time together, I learnt a lot, particularly about my ego.
Yes, the good old ego. Probably about the most destructive force on the planet and yet most of the time we are completely unaware that it is there. I thought I was fairly egoless until this lady reminded me of its presence and how very much alive it is!
The ego is who we think we are. It is made up from our beliefs about the world which we have gathered by our own personal experiences and is influenced by our language, culture, family, friends, country, religion and beliefs. It is almost like a set of rules by which we unconsciously live by and will die in order to protect it. When someone challenges our ego, the first feeling we tend to experience is anger because we defend our ego in exactly the same way we would fight to protect our body, family, friends or country.
During our conversations, she would often challenge me on things that I said or believed and although I didn’t show it, I would often feel my anger rising within. I could easily have defended what I had said but instead, chose to keep my mouth closed and listen to her thoughts and comments. I am not saying that I passively agreed with everything she said, God no! But put my ego aside, listened to what she was saying and then questioned whether or not I believed it was true.
One thing she commented on was how many generalizations I used when talking about topics as though the things were accepted by everyone in the world as true, when in fact, they were merely facts that I believed were true. I am a hypnotherapist, a life coach and a meditation instructor, I know these things and I often point them out to my clients and then completely forget that I am doing the same thing!!
Isn’t it so much easier to notice other people’s faults rather than our own?
The reason it is important to question our beliefs is that if we are not happy, then there is something at fault in the way we percive the external world.
The world is the world. If we are not accepting the way it is, it means that we have a misconception about it. It is not the world that is at fault, it is our ego’s perception of it.
But in order for us to change our perception about it, it means that we have to accept that we have been wrong for so many years.
This is a painful process when it is pointed out to us, because this ego, this way of thinking is almost a part of our very personality.
I mean, let’s be honest now. Who likes to be criticized or told that they are wrong?
Nobody! It almost feels like a personal attack. Part of our brain can often feels like we are being belittled or that the person criticizing us feels they are better than us. As a result, anger kicks in.
Anger is the emotion that we experience when we need to defend ourselves. It produces a host of fight or flight responses in the body and we start to think with the irrational, animalistic part of our brain that is called the limbic system. This is activated when we feel threatened and as a result we act without thinking. It is a very important we use this part of the brain when we are feeling physically threatened, but we must become aware of its presence and only use it when we need to.
When the ego defends itself, a big problem that we experience is that we do not listen to what the other person is telling us. The result is WE DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING NEW.
If we wish to develop ourselves, we must learn to listen and become impartial to what other people say. This is the only way you will begin to notice the faults in your personality or ways of thinking and start to change.
We must learn to listen openly to what people say and trust our own judgement on matters. Thinks, question and analyze what people are saying to us and rather than becoming angry or upset by their comments, listen and ask yourself if what they are saying is really true.
If it is, great, accept it and use the new information in your life to make permanent and positive change.
If you listen to the facts, scrutinize them and find them not to be true then reject them. But do not reject ideas before you have carefully and impartially listened to them first. Otherwise you will never change.
The Ego is a powerful force. Although it is suppose to be there to protect us, it also responsible for all the pain and anger we experience in life. Knowledge is power. Learn to understand your ego and the beliefs that are holding you back in life. Listen to what others are saying and question your beliefs. It is painful but it is the only way you will successfully develop yourself and change for the better.
Most of today’s stresses and strains in life boil down to one thing: the inability to trust oneself.
When we are young, we automatically learn to imitate others. It is a natural instinct we and every animal on the planet have to rely on in order to survive.
But there comes a point in our lives, when we are adults or once we have mastered a skill, that we need to drop the tools we have and learn to think for ourselves. This is where many people struggle because we have spent so much time imitating others in order to fit in, that we are fearful of diverting from what we have learnt and experimenting with something new.
I have found when I have stepped out and done my own thing, the most amazing things have happened.
Many people thought I was mad when at the age of 27 I decided to leave what many thought of as a “successful” career and move to Thailand to study meditation and Thai boxing. I say ‘successful ’ because although I was very good at what I did, I hated it. I had no idea where my new path was going to take me, but something inside told me to trust myself, not to worry and everything would be OK.
As a result, the most amazing things happened. It is almost as though I unleashed a power from within. My life went from being dull to the most exhilarating adventure ever. Ever since that decision to change, to follow my heart and live life by my own rules, every single day I have woken up in the morning excited and looking forward to what life has to offer.
Another thing that has taken me a long time to trust myself with is the treatments that I do.
I have been working as a massage therapist and acupuncturist for many years.
When you learn these skills, there are a specific set of protocols that you learn and stick by. And this is what I have done. But in the last 12 months or so, despite years of training, I have branched out on my own and started incorporating what I feel is the best way to heal. I have incorporated new ideas into my treatments, experimented and bought new, modern equipment to complement and improve on the structured teaching I had previously stuck to.
The results have been amazing and I have noticed far better result than ever before. Dropping the protocol and trusting my own instincts has really taken my treatments to a new level.
And I think this is what in Zen is often referred to as mastery. Dropping the teachings and learning to trust yourself and your own instincts. Learning to let go of what you believe you should be doing and going on your own personal journey. Because that is what makes us unique.
It is often a hard thing to do. Why? Because we are often programmed in life to follow a set of rules and regulations unconsciously and dare not divert from them.
We try so hard a lot of the time to fit in when in fact we were born to stand out.
Standing out means criticism. Standing out means not worrying about failure but embracing it as a part of success. Standing out means having the strength to trust yourself and not just blindly following others.
It is important to learn a set of skills from a teacher or instructor, but remember that they are are also just following a set of rules that they have been instructed to live by too. And the person that taught them probably did the same.
But I have found the most joy in life has come from learning to think independently and trusting my instincts.
Because at the end of the day, the only person in the world that knows what is right for me is me. Nobody else.
The people all around us like to think that they know what is right for us, but a lot of the time they tell us just so we will fit into their plans.
So play around, experiment with life. Try new things and see what works for you. Try and let go of the protocols and trust yourself.
Maybe you will notice the same magic that I have.
How often do you have to deal with people who are angry?
It could be a partner, your children, friends, work colleagues or your superiors at work.
One of the most important lessons I have learnt in life is too simply be kind, to everybody, all of the time, no matter how upset or angry the people around you are.
Why? Because life is so much less stressful that way.
When you remain calm and kind to others, you can quell small fires and prevent them from getting out of control.
You may think that is an obvious thing to say and you probably think you are kind.
But being kind is not easy. Being kind takes great strength of character. Being kind means learning to control your thoughts and emotions and being as solid as a rock no matter what people do or say to you.
When someone upsets us or makes us angry, we naturally become angry ourselves. When this happens, do not retaliate.
When you feel the anger rising within you, keep your mouth closed and say nothing.
For to speak hastily and angrily will only make the problem worse.
Never show your anger towards anyone, ever…..unless your life is seriously at risk.
Under any other circumstance, anger will always be your downfall.
When someone is angry with you and you react with anger yourself, you are only adding fuel to the fire.
You cannot fight fire with fire, otherwise, you create an inferno. Infernos are very hard to put out and can last a very long time.
You can only fight fire with water or as the Taoist say, “The soft always overcomes the strong”.
What is meant by that? Does it mean you cower in fear and let the other person walk all over you?
Absolutely not. The complete opposite in fact.
You stand your ground emotionally. You take control of the situation by acting calmly and cultivating the opposite. It means cultivating internal strength and great self-control within, rather than losing control of your temper and letting your emotions out.
When you remain calm and in control, you do not become a victim to your emotions. You simply observe the anger inside of you, relax into it, let it go and speak calmly, confidently and clearly back to the person you are conversing with.
Reacting without thinking is easy to do. Anyone can do that, but only the wise know and understand that this will only cause you more problems in the long run. Better to keep your mouth closed. That way you will be able to listen to what is being said and then make your own decision as to whether you believe the facts to be true or not.
Wise people understand that knowledge comes from listening, not speaking.
It takes great strength to remain calm and be kind to those who are angry or criticize you. It means dropping your ego and being unaffected by the opinions of others. It means that inside, you are so strong and confident of yourself that anger and insults from others fly off you without affecting your calm, inner nature. It also means that you are open to criticism and change if you think that what is said will make you a better person.
In the West, we often regard anger as a sign of strength and a good way to get things done. In the East, it is regarded as a weakness.
Sometimes, we believe that getting angry instils fear into people and they will do as we say. But the truth is, you may get things done in the short term, but you also run the risk of people digging in their heels and doing the opposite. Even if they do comply to what you say, they will resent you and do whatever they can to make you slip and fall in the future.
You will also find yourself feeling uncomfortable in front of that person whenever you see them and that causes YOU stress!
If you remain calm, polite and show no fear, you will gain respect from others. When people respect and like you, they will go out of their way to help and support you.
I challenge you to be nice to every single person you meet for a week and see how much your life changes. Do not get angry with anyone. Be strong internally.
Be kind, to everyone, all of the time.
What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
When I was about 4 years old, I remember sitting around the breakfast table with my older sister and two older brothers.
My mum was telling us that we could be anything we wanted to be when we grew up and asked us what we dreamt of becoming.
My oldest brother wanted to be a soldier and my other brother a pilot. My sister said she wanted to be a nurse and when they turned around and asked me, I replied;
“I want to be a dolphin”.
They howled with laughter and even today, they still remind me of it from time to time, but at that age, I didn’t understand what the joke was! Mum said I could be whatever I wanted, and that’s what I wanted to be! The dream of being a dolphin made me happy. And so for a while after I kept on dreaming about it ……
In this modern day and age, most of us are too busy to take time out to dream anymore.
There is always too much to do and too much entertainment around for us to have happy thoughts and dreams. No wonder so many people suffer from anxiety these days and worry so much about the future.
And as a result, one beautiful and simple tool we can use to manage stress anytime, anywhere has been forgotten about…. DREAMING.
Taking some time out every day to daydream is good for you for so many reasons.
Firstly, it releases stress. When you start to have happy and positive daydreams, your body automatically starts to relax. Your breathing slows down and as a result, so does your heart rate which reduces your blood pressure. Your muscles also relax and your hormonal system returns to its natural state which calms the mind and strengthens the immune system.
In other words, happy daydreaming is very good for your physical health.
Now, when you are not paying attention to your thoughts, any memories or thoughts that contain strong emotions will surface in your mind automatically.
So the more time you spend dreaming happy thoughts, the more positive thoughts naturally arise in your mind when you are not really thinking of anything. As a result, you will find yourself in a good mood most of the time.
And when you are in a positive mood, you not only deal with difficulties and challenges far more easily, you may even find that you actually enjoy them.
But if you are in a negative frame of mind, any difficulties will be met with resistance, worry and irritability.
Not only that but dreaming about your perfect life starts to give you a clearer picture of what it is that you want to achieve during your short stay on this planet. This then allows you to make better decisions and choices today to take you to where you want to go in the future.
Daydreaming also gives us greater focus so we can more easily seek out the things we need to make our dreams come true.
It also makes us more creative and better at problem-solving.
The best thing about dreaming is that you don’t need any instructions to do it, you can do it anytime, anywhere and it will make you feel good.
So, daydream more!
One last thing about dreaming…
I am working in the Maldives at the moment and on my day off went on a snorkelling trip.
The boat stopped in the middle of the ocean and I couldn’t believe it.
We were surrounded by about 100 dolphins!!!
I jumped into the water and for the next hour saw dolphins swim below me, next to me and at one point even above me.
One slow pod of about 8 dolphins swam so slowly, I actually swam with them for about 4 minutes.
For those four minutes, my dream finally came true. I completely lost myself with them. For a brief period of time, I was no longer Toby the Man, I really was Toby the Dolphin.
Even your wildest dreams will come true if you focus hard enough.
Who are you?
Ever asked yourself this question?
Have you ever contemplated the fact that you are a different person to different people?
You may be a husband or wife to your partner, a brother or sister to your siblings.
You may be a mother, a father and at the same time a son or daughter.
You could be a neighbour, an acquaintance, a work colleague or a best friend, depending on your relationship to the other people around you.
You may even find yourself being a teacher in the daytime and a student in the evenings.
Which brings us back to the question of, “Who are you?”
We play many different roles in life for different people. If you don’t think this is true, ask yourself if you would talk to a 5-year old in the same way you speak to your boss.
So when someone says to you, “Just be yourself”, well which one of these “selves” do they mean?
William Shakespeare once said in one of his plays,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts”.
So, what is meant by “Just be yourself?”
I think what is meant is just learn to relax into whatever role you are playing and feel comfortable with it. Understand that we are always playing roles and learn to play new ones whenever you have to.
The reason I point this out is that sometimes, certain roles in life which we play do not create the outcomes that we desire.
Being overly kind to people in the hope they will like us or buy our product.
Being the victim of an abusive relationship.
Trying to please people all of the time rather than standing up and clearly stating what we want.
Allowing managers or work colleagues to bully or patronize us.
During these times, we must learn to take on a new role so that we stand up for ourselves and take what is rightfully ours.
Sometimes we need to be a leader, to stand up and give the impression we are strong.
Sometimes there is a time we need to feel and look confident, even though we aren’t.
When you see sportsman and women before a big game or a race, they may look confident and relaxed on the outside, but believe me, they are nervous as hell on the inside. But do they show it?
No. Because they are actors and actresses, just playing a role. The role of a winner.
There are times in our lives that we need to let go of the old roles that we used to play and take on the role of stronger people. For if we don’t, we will always find ourselves playing the victim.
To do this, we need to change our personality.
It is awkward and uncomfortable at first, but just remember this.
Life is nothing more than a game, a stage show. Perform the role you have to and when the times comes, just leave the stage without any fuss.
In order for us to change, it is important to observe the personalities of the people we would like to become. Watch how they stand, how they walk and observe how they act. Notice their voice, their calmness and confidence and mimic these personality traits. Imagine yourselves in their shoes and having their confidence and before you know it, it will become a part of your new personality.
Only then will people who once took advantage of you start to pay you respect. Only then can you become the person that you wish to be.
The expression “To be authentic, to be yourself” actually means nothing at all.
What we need to do is play a role and learn to feel comfortable with it. That is what is meant by “being yourself”.
So take a long hard look at your life and ask yourself whether or not your current personality is taking you to where you want to go in life or if it is holding you back.
If it is holding you back, then maybe it’s time to take on a new role.
When I fly back to the UK having been away for a few months, I often find myself being more observant than usual of the things around me.
On my last visit, I found myself on the London underground during rush hour where most people were heading off to work.
In the carriage, I could see 27 people around me. 22 of those were either staring into or listening to music on their mobile phones, 2 of them were reading newspapers, one was reading a book, one was sleeping and there was one other person, like me, just doing nothing.
Doing nothing is a lost art these days. People simply do not know how to switch off, yet these moments of switching off are very important to the brain.
Because it is in these moments of “doing nothing” that our brains manage to reflect on life and give us greater clarity of thought.
When we are busying ourselves, we are just taking in information but have no time to reflect on it. This also actually means that most of what we are reading is not being absorbed into the brain but just giving us temporary relief from boredom.
When I recommend books to people, I tell them not to just read the book, but to study and reflect on the teachings. This way, your mind can really understand the information rather than just experiencing momentary pleasure from it.
Only by reflecting on knowledge and putting into practice can we experience true wisdom.
But if we spend our lives with our heads in our mobile phones only reading about knowledge, we are not really assimilating that knowledge into our daily living.
‘Doing nothing’ is often recognized by many people as being a waste of time, but in fact, just like exercise, our bodies need this down-time to recover from ‘information overload’. This information overload means our brain has little or no recovery time which in the long term can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
In addition, when you take on knowledge without reflecting on it, you are merely following the opinions of other people. But taking the information and reflecting upon it will give you a greater personal understanding of the problem and what action you need to take.
Inner reflection also allows time for personal growth too. It is very important that we have some self-awareness and this can only come through periods of ‘downtime’ when we spend some time just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.
When we have more self-awareness, we also have a greater understanding of other people too. As a result, our empathy increases towards other humans as we begin to realise that they experience life in the same way that we do. This, in turn, improves our communication skills on both a personal and professional level.
Another thing about learning to do nothing is that it helps reduce anxiety especially if we can combine it with a walk in the park or sitting outside on a sunny day. Just observing the world around us or even taking our focus of awareness into our bodies will help us to reflect on our lives internally.
This, by the way, is different from conscious thinking. Conscious thinking can do the opposite, for example, sitting in silence but spending that time churning a problem over and over again in your head. This can exasperate the problem.
What I mean by doing nothing is just relaxing the body and noticing what is going on around you, now, in the present moment.
When we enter the sea on a windy day, it is often difficult to see more than a few feet in front of us as all the sand gets churned up with the water.
However, after a day or two, when the sea has settled, all the sand sinks down to the bottom of the ocean and it is possible for us to see clearly for 20 or 30 metres.
The mind works in the same way. When we allow it to settle by doing nothing, the thoughts of the past and future start to settle and we can see things much more clearly because our ideas are not clouded by our previous experiences from the past or worries about what might happen in the future.
Even Albert Einstein said that many of his greatest ideas came not whilst focusing on a problem, but after he had stopped thinking and was going about his day to day tasks.
And I am sure you have experienced a time when you are trying to remember someone’s name and the harder you think, the more it alludes you. But go about your daily tasks and all of a sudden the name pops straight into your head!
So take some time out now and again from your mobile phone, TV, iPod, book or whatever you use to distract your mind and spend some time, each day, allowing your mind to do nothing.
You will find greater peace of mind, clarity of thought and new ideas revealing themselves faster than ever before.
I went to a friend’s party last week where I caught up with a lot of people who I hadn’t seen for about 10 years.
A lot has happened in that time and obviously the old, “So what are you up to now?” question was thrown about several times during the evening.
When I talk about my job, I often get a lot of “Wow, what a great job to have. You really are living a dream life”, kind of response.
And when I talk about it, yes, to some people it may sound amazing.
BUT I know that in reality, if they lived my life very few of them would actually enjoy it.
I travel and work all over the world, live in some of the best 5 Star hotels for free and work 3-5 hours a day doing a job that I absolutely love.
And yes, for me, it’s perfect and I absolutely love it!
But this is what people don’t realize about my life.
I have always been a nomad. I live out of a suitcase and I don’t have a base or anywhere that I call home. Although I am in the process of buying an apartment back in the UK, it is purely for investment purposes and I have no intention of ever living in it.
Every month I live in a different hotel room, which again, I love. But many people find it difficult to sleep in any other bed but their own. I change my room so often that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I don’t know where I am. This amuses me, but I can imagine it could freak some people out a bit.
Also, I never cook and I am not really into cooking. I either eat in the hotel restaurants or I order room service. But I know many people love to cook and would hate the thought of eating off the same hotel menu for a whole month at a time.
In addition, I am single as it is very difficult to have a long-term relationship when I am living in a different country every month. But I don’t’ mind. Every day I get to meet new people and go to new places, so it really doesn’t bother me. I very rarely feel lonely and enjoy my own company.
Also, I have very few possessions, one suitcase and my hand luggage to be precise. But I am happy with what I have. “Things” don’t excite me. In fact, they get in the way. The less I have, the less I have to worry about.
As I am restricted with the amount of luggage that I can conveniently take with me, I only buy clothes in 3 different colours; black, white and navy blue. This way, I can always match the few clothes that I do have and don’t have to take too many clothes away with me.
It also means that I only buy new clothes when I am ready to throw something else out. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to fit it in.
I rarely take a holiday as my life feels like it is one. When I do take some time out from work, there is only one place I want to go…. back to England to spend time with my family. Most of all in the winter months when I can escape the heat and experience some freezing cold weather. I LOVE THE COLD!!!
So, does my life still sound appealing now? Could you imagine yourself this kind of life?
You see, this is the side to my life that people don’t always ask about or see.
For me, it is my dream life and I absolutely love it!! I WOULDN’T SWAP IT FOR ANYTHING!!
But I can’t imagine many people actually enjoying living the way I do.
Most people need a familiar home to go back to at the end of every day and love “things”, such as a nice car, a nice house, a big flat screen TV, their box sets, gadgets and a regular routine.
Most people like to have a wardrobe full of clothes, always be near their friends and family, have a steady job, sleep in the same bed every night and spend their vacation in a nice hot country abroad somewhere with a partner or family.
And if you do want most of these things, then that is great. But it is not what I want.
And so here lies the moral of the story.
Never compare yourself to other people as we are all very different and we all want different things out of life.
Also, the way we perceive other people’s lives may not actually be the way they are.
If you look closely at someone who seems to ‘have it all’, you will probably discover that actually, their life wouldn’t suit you at all.
We all like and want different things out of life and one size does not fit all.
So rather than measuring success by comparing ourselves to other people, we should really just have a good, long hard think about what it is that we want and measure our success by how happy we are.
And if we are happy, then why stress and strain chasing after more?
I’ve given up alcohol.
It is something I have thought about doing for a long time and although it has only been 5 months, I feel great!
Will I ever drink alcohol again?
Who knows? Maybe.
I haven’t resigned myself to never having a drink again, but at the moment I have no desire to drink, but let’s see.
Why have I stopped?
Well, a few reasons really, but mainly because I have come to the conclusion that the advantages of NOT drinking far outweigh the advantages of drinking.
Firstly, alcohol ruins my sleep. A glass or two of wine makes me drowsy and although I go to sleep quickly, I then find myself waking up at about 3 am feeling really hot and uncomfortable and unable to get back to sleep. Research has shown that alcohol prevents you from reaching a deep state of sleep.
Not only that, but It also dries out my skin, making my face look red and blotchy. So from a physical perspective, it really doesn’t agree with me.
Another reason is that I don’t actually like to get drunk anymore. I rarely drink more than 2 glasses of wine in an evening quite simply because I am not ‘myself’ when I am drunk and like most people after one too many, may act in a way that I feel embarrassed about the following day.
And so for the last few years, I have often asked myself why I do it?
And the answer seems to have boiled down to one thing and one thing only.
The false belief I am alcohol dependent.
‘Alcohol dependent’ is not the same as an ‘alcoholic’. In fact, I would class almost every adult I know who drinks alcohol as ‘alcohol dependent’, but I know very few who I would class as ‘alcoholics’.
So what’s the difference?
To me, alcohol-dependent means that you find it difficult not to drink when you are at a social function where other people around you are drinking.
If you go to the pub, a party or a dinner for example and everyone is drinking, you would find it difficult not to drink too.
Also, if you like a glass of wine most or every evening after work you are also alcohol dependent. Almost as though you depend on it to feel calm or relaxed after a day at work.
An alcoholic is something completely different. This is someone who experiences withdrawal symptoms when they do not have alcohol and craves it from the minute they wake up until the minute they go to bed.
Now I am not a big drinker by any means. I only drink once or twice a month when I am abroad which is 90% of the time. But when I am in England which is about 6 weeks of the year, I might drink 2-3 times a week. Only 1-2 glasses per night, but that’s still too much for me.
For the last few years, I have often found myself drinking alcohol when a large part of me was wishing that I wasn’t, knowing that I wouldn’t sleep well and wouldn’t look or feel great the following day.
This is particularly true when I am out with close friends or family members.
And at such events, although a part of me doesn’t want to drink, I have a compulsive urge to join in as though I am ‘missing out’ on something if I don’t.
I have tried to control this urge, but I always seem to give in and so stopping completely seemed to be the next option WHICH I have found far easier.
Do I miss it?
Well, having thought that I would, the truth is that I don’t at all. And the only reason I didn’t quit before is that I thought it would be difficult. But a conversation I had with my sister in law 3 months ago changed all of that.
She was always quite a ‘heavy set’ woman should we say and looked much older than she really was. She had a very wrinkled face, took little care of her physical appearance and was always a party girl who liked to take things to the extreme should we say.
But when she turned up to my mum’s birthday BBQ in May, she looked amazing. She had lost weight, started going to the gym, the lines on her face had almost disappeared and she looked about 10 years younger.
When I asked her what had caused the big changes in her appearance, she told me that she had stopped drinking alcohol.
“Was it difficult?” I asked, believing that she would reply that it was.
“No, not really. In the first year, it felt a bit odd at social occasions, but it wasn’t difficult. In fact, I feel so good about it now that I don’t even think about it”.
All of a sudden, the one thing that was preventing me from quitting alcohol, the thought that it would be difficult, suddenly got overturned and I started thinking about how amazing it would be to stop completely, forever.
I thought if she can do it, then why can’t I?
That was the moment I decided to quit even though it was the day of my mum’s birthday BBQ and a big family occasion where everyone would be drinking.
I drank sparkling water and all day and one alcohol-free lager. And you know what?? I had a great day and had no desire to drink any alcohol whatsoever.
Since then I have been to several big social occasions with close friends and family where I have been the only one not drinking alcohol and have thoroughly enjoyed myself.
And rather than feeling as though I am missing out, my attitude has changed to one of feeling mentally strong and in control and it is a great feeling.
And you know what the funny thing is?
When people notice that I am not drinking, they ask me why and I just tell them I don’t enjoy it anymore so have decided to stop.
And it is amazing how many people have turned around to me and said, “I wish I was like you and could stop. The only reason I do it is that I don’t think I would enjoy social occasions without it”.
Well, now I can safely say that you absolutely can!
So if you are thinking about quitting, try it and see for yourself! It could be the best decision you ever made.
Once upon a time, there was a man. He was very successful and very happy. He had a lovely wife and children and lived in a nice big house. He was financially secure and very healthy.
Then there was another man. He was very depressed. He was struggling to cope with life. His alcohol addiction meant that he had lost his job, his wife and his children were embarrassed to have anything to do with him. His health was deteriorating and his doctors had given him six months to live.
And that’s how both stories began and ended.
“Wow, Toby…you should write a book. Your stories are fascinating!!!” I hear you say.
Well, just another one of my many talents…….. ???? ????
If I turned these two stories into films, I don’t think I would pick up any academy awards.
So, why is it that stories about people who have a great life or a very bad life simply don’t sell at the box office or go down well at dinner parties? After all, when we watch a movie or hear a story, we want the characters to be happy in the end, don’t we? So why don’t we just skip to the end?
And why are there never any movies about people who struggle with life and never find a solution to their problems?
Because good movies and stories need to have a ‘struggle’ bit in there somewhere and some kind of victory in the end.
Whenever you enjoy a movie or hear a good story, it usually involves the following scenario:
A situation where everything is fine.
Then a problem arises.
There is a struggle to overcome the problem.
The person is at the very end of their tether and about to give up.
Then there is a realization.
They then finally overcome the problem and live happily ever after….or so we are lead to believe.
The reason why I bring this to your attention is that recently I have come to the conclusion that in order to fully enjoy life, we need to follow the same scenario.
Now, self-help books and motivational speakers often go on about abundance and attracting that perfect life that you want. And it sounds great, but the other day I sat down and tried to imagine what life would be like if I really had everything that I wanted. I imagined what it would be like if everything in my life was perfect and I could do whatever I wanted. And the more I thought about it, the more I began to think how dull and boring life would be.
Think about it for a moment. Having everything you wanted. No struggle to get it, you just said the word and you could have it. Nothing would be too much.
Now at first, I think it would be amazing. A whole new life would open up to you. You could live your dreams and never have anything to worry about again….or so you would think.
But after a while, I think boredom and frustration would begin to sink in. You would have nothing to work towards, and you would lose your sense of purpose in life. Even if you bought the most expensive, luxurious yacht and travelled the world, I think it would just get boring after a while. Because I think that after seeing the umpteenth pyramid/temple/mountain/lake/beach or whatever, the excitement of seeing another one would disappear. You would start to compare them with the other amazing places you had visited and no longer appreciate their beauty.
Also, if you rented a comfortable, private jeep or helicopter to take you to these places, you would miss out on one of the highlights of any adventure; the struggle to get there.
I remember the trip I had Nepal to see the Himalayas. It wasn’t seeing the Himalayas that I have the best memories of, but the ups and downs of the whole experience; the amazing couple I trekked with, the cold nights huddled in a sleeping bag trying to stay warm, the freezing cold showers, the exhaustion, the blisters, the evening we got stranded on a mountain top and were taken in by a kind Nepalese family.
Yes, the morning I woke up and actually found myself staring up at the ‘roof of the world’ was spectacular, but it is only a small part of the beautiful memories I have of that trip. The struggles were a huge part of the whole experience.
I like the UNCERTAINTY of life. NOT knowing that everything will be fine makes life interesting and fun.
Although I am lucky that I enjoy the work that I do, I also enjoy the fact that I am not financially secure yet and need to work to put money away for my retirement. This gives me a reason to get up in the morning.
I think life without some sort of struggle is what drives a lot of very wealthy people to carry on working, even though they no longer have to.
And I think this carrot of ‘abundance’ that is dangled in front of us by motivational speakers and self-help books leads people to think they cannot be happy yet because they are still lacking something in life. Life is difficult and ‘wrong’ somehow because it should be perfect and it’s not!!! And as a result, they forget to enjoy the struggle and see themselves as not perfect, not happy with the way things are.
I think struggling is all part of the fun of life. Struggling gives us something to work towards. Struggling gives life meaning and a huge sense of satisfaction when we overcome the challenges we face.
So, if you are struggling with something right now, don’t be dismayed. Don’t think to yourself, “oh this shouldn’t be happening’ or ‘life shouldn’t be this way’.
It should be this way. Life would be really boring without it.
And when you come to the end of the struggle, enjoy the taste of victory, because it will taste so much sweeter.
What do you think? Do you think that a certain amount of struggling is important in life?
I would love to know your thoughts.
I was watching a video on youtube a few weeks ago about two American virologists talking about Covid 19.
I find the human body fascinating and these two Doctors were explaining to people what a virus is and how our immune systems create natural immunity to viruses. They also discussed the dangers of keeping people locked inside their homes for too long such as mental health issues, an increase in domestic violence and how a lack of exposure to the natural environment resulted in a weakened immune system.
Interesting, informative and educational, I thought. So I shared it on Facebook.
A few hours later I got a very angry response from someone calling me naive and telling me that it was dangerous posting such rubbish and misinformation on Facebook.
Interesting response, I thought to myself. I wondered why he got so upset?
As you are now probably aware, I find the mind fascinating and I often wonder what lies at the root of people’s unhappiness. So whenever people get angry or upset and I always wonder what is going on in their heads. They kind of become like a case study for me, an intellectual challenge, a puzzle that I try and figure out.
And one thing that sprang to mind was this:
Everything we think we know is based on the opinions of other people.
Let me explain what I mean
My Facebook page has been inundated with conspiracy theories about Covid 19.
Anyone who believes in the conspiracy theories will search for any information they can find on the internet to validate their beliefs and ignore any information that says otherwise.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have people who believe that conspiracy theorists are a bunch of crackpots and whose opinions about the virus tend to be formed by what they read in the press or watch on news networks.
They believe that anything to do with 5G and an attempt by the elite to take over the world is ‘fake news’ and search for any information contrary to the conspiracy theorists. As a results, they push their articles and videos on people that back up their opinion on the matter.
The truth is, is that nobody knows what the truth is because all of our opinions are based on the opinions of others.
Even the governments with all their ‘facts’ keep admitting that their ‘facts’ may be completely wrong.
Which made me ask myself: How do we learn things?
Well, we learn things by being presented a ‘fact’ by someone we know, an authoritative figure or institution that we tend to trust.
This authority could be our parents, friends, teachers, a book, a newspaper, a magazine, social media or the news for example.
After we have listened to, read or watched the information our minds will form an opinion depending on how much we trust the source. If we trust the source, we will then believe what we have been told which will result in an opinion being formed.
Once an opinion has been formed our minds will then only search for information that will validate this belief.
Any information that goes against this newly formed belief will then be automatically dismissed and rejected.
And so what happens is that we develop a set of belief systems that we convince ourselves is real. We start to see anyone who disagrees with us as an idiot, someone who is stupid and misinformed and the more that such a person tries to validate their argument, the stronger our opposition towards that person becomes.
And if anyone attacks those beliefs we have, it can feel like a personal attack on us as we have identified those beliefs as ‘us’.
History has shown us that people will even sacrifice their lives by defending their beliefs, especially if they are religious, national or political and yet, the truth is that no one knows what the truth is.
Our opinions are based on the opinions of others.
You may laugh at conspiracy theorists and think their views are far fetched, but just look back at the mad and crazy leaders who have already sacrificed the lives of millions because of their beliefs; Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung.
And if you believe every word you read in the press, then remember the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ not so long ago that were never found but gave the Americans and British and excuse to invade Iraq?
I may have an opinion about why they invaded Iraq, but I DON’T KNOW if it’s true. My opinions have been formed by what articles I HAVE CHOSEN TO READ. I have never been to Iraq or spoken with any Iraqis about the war and neither have I ever met or discussed the issues with Tony Blair or George W Bush. And even if I did, then I would still be forming my opinions based on their opinions.
And if you did find out the reasons why these 2 political figures decided to invade Iraq, you would find that their decisions would have been based on the opinions of ‘government defence experts’ whose opinions also turned out to be wrong!!!
The truth is, is that nobody knows what the truth is.
Because almost everything that we have ever learned about anything in the world is based on the opinion of others.
So, what this message on Facebook has taught me is to question everything, other people’s opinions and particularly my own.