Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why try? Just do it...

Dr. Tad James, Master Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the creator of the Time Line Therapy (TM) was the first to bring this to my conscious attention. "When people say they will try, it is tantamount to them saying they won't do it", he said. Then recently, while reading Dr. Deepak Chopra, this very same message came to me again. Dr. Chopra makes an interesting point when he says that fish don't try to swim - they just swim. The sun does not try to rise each morning. It just does!

That got me thinking. What did I mean when I said I'd try to do something? I tried an experiment by consciously keeping tabs of the times I used the word "try" and you know what? 10 times out of 10, when I did not want to do something, I ended up saying, "Let me try". On the other hand, there was no hesitation in committing to doing something I wanted to do. 

"Trying" implies inaction. It implies a doubt, a message that communicates a reluctance to do something without actually saying the word "no". "I will try to get up early tomorrow morning and go for a run" never translates into actually going on that run. "I will try to reach the meeting on time" is a guarantee - you will be late for the meeting.

Trying is not a natural state of mind - it is something that we are trained to do as we grow up. Guess who the trainers are? Our parents and our teachers! Observe children around you. See how many times they use the word "try". Dare them to do something and they either pick up the dare or they say, "I can't do that". Children are direct in their responses and that is why one knows exactly where one stands with them. As the journey to adulthood progresses, children are programmed by their adults to become more sensitive to the feelings and sensitivities of others. That is when "try" becomes an integral part of one's vocabulary. 

We "try" because we don't want to hurt the sentiments of others. We "try" because we don't know how to say "NO" positively and politely. We "try" because we don't trust others to understand our position and our reasons.

So how do we stop "trying"?

1. Start to recognise consciously when you use the word "try". When you hear the word coming into your brain, put on the brakes mentally just before you utter it. 

2. State whatever you wish to say positively. The other day an acquaintance invited me for coffee. I began by saying,  "I will try". The minute I felt the dreaded 3-letter word come, I put on the brakes mentally. Over the screech of the brakes, I heard myself say, "I'd love to have a coffee with you. I just can't do it today, I am sorry".

3. Build the knowledge within yourself about the reasons why you don't want to do something. Facing up to an issue is the first step to resolving it. I was contracted by an organisation recently to design, develop and facilitate a leadership workshop. I heard myself say, "I will try to accomplish this...". All the way home, I asked myself exactly what it was that was causing me discomfort with the plan. I realised that I was not sure of my capability to deliver all the modules they wanted. When I presented my proposal to them, I used this learning and informed them clearly about the modules I was competent to deliver and those that I had not delivered before. I left the decision to them and told them that I'd consider bringing in another facilitator if they so wished. I got the contract and I was told that my being honest about what I would do, turned the deal in my favour. 

What's in it for you to stop trying?

1. When you stop trying, you start driving the vehicle of your life even more strongly. How empowering is that! Think about it for a minute - when you say, "I will try", you communicate to your unconscious mind an intent of having to do something, that you don't really want to do. If you later decide not to do what you had promised to try, you end up feeling guilty. On the other hand, if you do go out of your way to actually do it, a remnant of resentment could linger - because you HAD to do something you DID NOT WANT to do. When you stop trying, your decision is very clear and simple. You have already made your choice and you will abide by it. 

2. When you stop trying, you unconsciously communicate a message to others to stop trying with you. You will notice that the communication you receive also becomes more positive and action driven. There will be less ambiguity in your life as a result. "Jane said she will try... does that mean a yes or a no?" ceases to be. On the occasions when you do come across somebody saying "I will try", you are in a better position to actually ask for a decision and say, "Could you be more specific please?"

So how about it? Stop trying and start doing from today. Take your first step on this journey and see how you feel! And oh yes! Start doing it - don't try

Good luck and have a happy journey!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Learning from the Guru - Deepak Chopra

I was in the book store the other day and picked up Deepak Chopra's "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success". It is a fantastic book - easy to read and filled with great insights. For this post, I have decided to take out portions of the book that made me go, "W.O.W...". I hope I have not infringed on any copyrights  by doing this. My intention is pure - to spread the idea of self and awareness of self amongst more people and to share my feelings and thoughts about this book. 

Success in life can be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realisation of worthy goals. There are many aspects to success, material wealth is only one of them. Moreover, success is a journey, it is not a destination. Success includes good health, energy and enthusiasm for life, fulfilling relationships, creative freedom and a sense of well being.
- Deepak Chopra

This definition of success just makes so much more sense to me. Just reflect on this: anything that is important to the self is a journey, isn't it? Learning is important to me and I always consider it to be ever flowing. Similarly, success, happiness, a quest for truth or even exploration - these all are journeys. Journeys to an unmanifest destination...

We define success based on our wants, interests and needs. Therefore, the constitution of success differs from person to person. Watching my daughter write the letter 'A', travelling overseas for the first time, watching a friend get over a personal loss and build her life... all these have been moments of success for me. This might sound funny to some, but when I filed my income tax returns for the first time in my life, I felt a sense of success. I had arrived - my salary was now high enough to merit paying tax!  

At the same time, not for one moment do I feel that I am a 100% success. There are still unchartered areas for me to go on... more things to do, to see and to experience.


The first spiritual law of success says that our essential state is one of pure consciousness: the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. Our physical body, the physical universe come from the same place: a field of silent, unmoving awareness from which anything is possible. This field is our own Self. Knowing who we really are gives us the ability to fulfill any dream we have. Anything is possible in the field of pure potentiality because this field is the source of all power, all intelligence and infinite organising ability.
- Deepak Chopra 

While reading this, an interesting anecdote came to mind: at the turn of the 19th century, a conversation was taking place amongst some people somewhere in the United States. Talk turned to the possibility of inventing a machine that could help people to fly. One of the guests took great umbrage and said this was not possible. "It is against the laws of God and nature", he boomed. A few decades later, man took wing and the Wright brothers invented the flying machine. The 20th century was redefined by this one single invention. Guess who the irate guest was! He was the man who fathered the Wright brothers. Irony or myopia, call it whatever you wish. The reality is that Orville and Wilbur Wright refused to be told what was possible and what was not. They set out to prove that anything is possible. 

Knowing ourself - what does that mean? We communicate with ourselves constantly - telling ourselves what we can and cannot do. What makes us look good, what is right, what is wrong... these conversations colour the way we perceive the outside world and actually, they also colour the way the outer world perceives us. Knowing myself therefore means knowing consciously what beliefs and values I hold dear. What are those beliefs that hold me back (self limiting beliefs) and that stop me from interacting directly with my self? What are those beliefs that act as fodder to my ego? A very powerful question I ask myself when I recognise such a belief is, "When did I choose to adopt this belief?" Believe me, the belief falls off like a snake's discarded skin when I pose this question to myself.

Deepak Chopra recommends the following actions in order to practice the 'Law of Pure Potentiality':

Take time each day to be silent, to connect with your spirit, to just Be.
 Practice non-judgement. Begin each day with the statement, "Today I shall judge nothing that occurs," and throughout the day remind yourself of that statement each time you catch yourself judging.
 Commune with nature. Silently observe the intelligence within everything. Watch a sunset, listen to the sound of the ocean or simply smell the scent of a flower.

I have already been practicing the 2nd suggestion and it has worked wonders for me. I now intend to start practicing the 1st and 3rd actions. How about you? Let me know how it goes...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Looking back with satisfaction - no regrets and if onlys...

An important belief we adopt as NLP practitioners is that 'people have all the resources they need in order to be successful'. Sounds great, huh? What does it mean on a daily basis? It means that at any given point in time, we have access to all the resources we need in order to be successful at what we do. One may choose not to employ all those resources, but that does not take away from the fact that they have resources at their disposal. I believe that I am at my best at every given moment of my life. 

So where is the point in having regrets and indulging in a pointless 'if only...' exercise? Granted, "if only..." is a very interesting game and helps in passing time and fantasising about what could have been. "If only I had been more serious about my studies in college", "if only I had gone ahead and pursued my interest in becoming an archaeologist", "if only I had taken the turn off at the previous signal...".  Can any amount of pondering and fantasising change the current reality? No! If you could go back to that point of time, would you do things differently? The answer is "NO". 

This learning was facilitated for me by my friend and business partner, Charlie Lang. Charlie writes a wonderful blog called 'What's up with Charlie Lang?'. You can find him at Anyway, Charlie and I were having a conversation in Hong Kong a few years ago about a certain decision I was regretting and he was the one who first pointed out the futility of this exercise to me. The learning has been reinforced by my other life experiences as well as my work in NLP.

Let's try out something:

Can you remember a time when you took a decision; a decision that you regret today? If yes, can you go back to that moment? If you are confident you can, then:
  • Find a quite room or corner and sit with your eyes closed.
  • Now go back to that point in time when you took that decision. Take on the persona of the individual you were then. Bring back to mind your knowledge at that point in time, all your life experiences till then... remember the beliefs you had at that point in time - what did you consider important...
  • Once you are at that crossroad, ask yourself, "What is my decision? Is it going to be different to what I had taken then?"
Mark my words: 10 times out of 10, you will do the very same thing you did at that time. Remember, when indulging in a "if only..." exercise today, we are using the extra knowledge and experience that time has given us. This extra knowledge and experience has had a significant impact on our beliefs and our attitudes and what we consider important in life. This gives us hindsight, which as well know is quite an exact science.

Employ the following beliefs:
  • Believe in yourself! 
  • Believe in what you are doing - remember you have all the resources to be at your very best at any given moment. Believe that you are employing all the resources you need at any given moment. 
  • Believe that every decision you are taking is for a purpose that makes absolute sense to you at that point of time in your life
Adopt these beliefs and bring them to consciousness each time you find yourself indulging in an "if only..." exercise. It will save you a lot of regrets.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Life - the menu card

    My personal opinion is that increasingly we have started to find justifications for our actions. We attempt to find causes for behaviours that conveniently transfer accountability from to doer to an external influence. The actions of a serial killer, rapist or a brother who kills his sister over family honour are all attributed to causes such as parental neglect, childhood abuse or religious beliefs. Ask yourselves this question: "does every abused child grow up to be an abuser? Or does every neglected child grow up to do drugs or turn out to be a negative influence on society?" The answer is "no". The reality that most of us tend to overlook is: "there is always a choice".

    I like to equate life with a menu card. A menu card of a very high-end restaurant that offers a multitude of choices. How much we pay and the length of time we have to wait to be served at a restaurant depends on what we choose from the menu card. Similarly, our lives offer us a whole host of choices at every stage. What we choose to go with decides the next events. I refer to an example I had used in an earlier post: Mahatma Gandhi choosing to stand up to racism in South Africa. He had a choice in that matter, didn't he? He could have opted to quietly leave the train and sit in the compartment for non-whites. When he returned to India and saw how the common man lived, he forsook his expensive tailored suits for khadi. He again had a choice, didn't he? He could have opted to continue wearing his suits and practicing law. The choices he made gave him the title Mahatma and gave every self respecting city in India a road named after him. The choices he made also got him assassinated. Obviously, his assassin also made similar choices that led him to commit that action. 

    It seriously bewilders me when people talk about not having a choice in the matter. "How is that possible", I wonder! Even when a gun is placed at somebody's head and they are told to do something, they have a choice - they can choose to believe that the holder of the gun means business and follow his orders, or they can choose to resist. I know somebody who fought back cancer at a very advanced stage successfully and is living a full life today. She decided she wanted to live and that choice gave her life.

    All readers of this post, here is my request to you - sit back and reflect. Ask yourself, "was there ever a time in my life when I did not have the choice to be what I wanted to be, to do what I wanted to do". Answer the question honestly and objectively to yourself and you will come to the realisation that I have reached: "There had always been a choice and I HAD MADE ALL THE CHOICES". I know now that I have caused everything that has ever happened to me. There is no scope for remorse or recriminations now in my life. After all, who do I pose my recriminations to? My image in the mirror? 

    This simple realisation empowers you - it puts you in control and gives you charge of your life. Isn't this an important thing? To be in charge of one's life? This is the only life I am going to get as me and I'd like to know that I lived it my way. 

    As always, comments and feedback are welcome. Have a great day and listen to Frank Sinatra's "I did it my way".

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Living with our inner voice

    The interview was for the IT department of a posh 5-star hotel. The 22 year old woman sat nervously nibbling at her nails. She was new to town and felt completely out of her depth in these posh surroundings. She was simply dressed and was sure that the others were sniggering at how she was dressed. As time progressed, she became a mass of nerves and that is when she was called in for the interview. Did she get the job? No! Her nervousness shone through her answers and the interviewers felt that she was not the right choice - she would not fit their company culture.

    That 22 year old was me and that experience has remained with me all these years. Where did I go wrong? Firstly, I gave my inner voice a free rein to keep talking down to me. That affected my state of mind and made me nervous. From that nervousness, came my attitude - an attitude of failure and this in turn affected my behaviours. All my behaviours said to the interviewers, "I am not the right person for this job". Did I have the skills? Yes! Was I competent to do this job? Most definitely yes. What let me down? My self belief that I was not good enough because I was not dressed to the hilt.

    All of us possess this inner voice. It is this tiny voice inside us that gets louder when we are in an uncomfortable situation. "People must think I am completely stupid for doing this...", "If I say this, I'll look like a fool...", "Oh my God! I am wearing this particular outfit. I am never going to get noticed". All of these are examples of inner voice speak. What is this inner voice? It is nothing but our ego. Our ego which demands a constant pat on the back from ourself and from other people. 

    The bad news is that this inner voice is an integral part of us. The good news is that it is like a radio station - we can tune it to any station we wish to. We can programme it. 

    Facts about the inner voice:

    1. Our inner voice stems from two things - a fear and a deeply rooted belief. 

    2. The inner voice is irrational and is not rooted in logic. It is an emotional response to a situation that we are not comfortable with. The important thing to do is to recognise this fact and work around it.

    Steps in controlling our inner voice:

    1. Take 5 deep breaths, focusing on the process of inhaling and exhaling. While an emotional reaction is instantaneous, the logical brain takes less than 10 seconds to kick in. Taking 5 deep breaths serves the dual purpose of giving the brain time to kick in and putting aside negative emotions and allowing for some positive energy to flow in. 

    2. Ask yourself what specifically it is about the situation that is making you uncomfortable. Which belief / fear is it tapping into? 

    3. Ask yourself what purpose is this fear / belief serving you. This might sound funny but fear actually has a purpose in our lives. It drives a basic survival instinct. The emotions of anger and fear, while perceived largely as negative emotions actually drive our fight / flight instinct. So if something is causing you fear, it is probably something that you want to fly away from. Identifying that "something" is a good first step in tackling it. 

    4. Once you have identified how this fear / belief is serving you, identify how else you can derive the same benefits. 

    5. When you realise that there are other ways of getting the same benefits, you will find yourself automatically getting into a different state of mind.

    When I applied this 5 step process to my above experience, this is what I realised: I had a belief that my competence depended on my dressing. I believed that people would assess me based on how I looked rather than on what I knew and was capable of doing. This belief was being driven by the fear of failure. Panic set in the moment my inner voice told me that my dressing was not chic and that people would not consider me competent because of what I wore. That meant I would fail in my quest to get this job. Fear of failure!

    So what benefit was I getting out of this fear? The fear of failure drove me towards learning more, towards knowing more. Due to this fear I was constantly engaged in self improvement and that moment was my "AH-HA" moment. I now knew how else I could still keep getting the same benefits without the added baggage of being afraid.

    The fear of failure still exists in me - but of course. What I have managed to do successfully is to dumb down that inner voice, which once in a while still talks to me when I look in the mirror. My belief about competence and dressing going hand in hand is now replaced by a new belief: "If I fail to plan, I plan to fail". So I plan meticulously and I do everything that I can in order not to fail.

    Life is one giant learning curve and there is loads one can learn just by living. Thank you all for allowing me to share bits and pieces of my learning curve with you all. I hope it is of some use. I'd also appreciate a sharing from my readers - that would enable my learning as well. I would also appreciate your feedback on anything -the content, the writing style, the language... there is no criticism, only feedback.