Monday, September 20, 2010

Principles of Success

Based on principles and beliefs of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and from work of The Tad James Co.

I have been studying hard to be certified as a trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming. NLP, my dear readers, is the study of how we interpret our world around us and communicate internally, thus creating our reality. NLP practitioners have a strong belief: "everyone has all the resources they need to be successful. There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states".

Isn't that true? Reflect upon yourself. What makes you successful in some things and unsuccessful in other things? Okay, before we go on, let us define the term "Success". My trusty Pocket Oxford defines Success as "the accomplishment of an aim or purpose". Carrying on with this definition, what is it that enables you to accomplish something and not accomplish certain other things? You have the resources at your disposal. You have your intelligence, your resources to gain knowledge / information, you have your diligence and hard work... why then do you succeed so well at some things and not so well at certain other things? 

The difference is in your state of mind. I realised this very clearly when as a little girl, I learnt both classical dance and music. I loved music and singing - I was able to make an internal picture of myself singing - and learnt that quicker. It became a fun exercise for me, while dance became a chore - something that had to be endured - a punishment even. I went for my singing lessons with a light step and a highly motivated state of mind and that told on my success in accomplishing that task. I went to dance lessons with a heavy heart and dragging feet. I was bored and did not pay attention to the lesson. The end result? Rudolph Nureyev can rest easy. No competition to him from yours truly :-)

We can be successful at anything we set our minds to. It is simple to do: all it requires is for us to do it! 

The theory:

=> We create an internal representation of events around us; or even of future events. This internal representation is made up of visuals, sounds, feelings, tastes and sounds. All of this is then bound together quite firmly with our self talk. I had written about self talk in an earlier blog post of mine called "Living with our inner voice". 

=> This internal representation is intimately coupled to our state of mind. That is why, images of certain future events bring us to a happy state and certain images make us sad or depressed or even angry or frustrated.

=> Our physiology is linked with our state of mind and this in turn gives rise to our behaviours. Think about it for a moment - reflect on how you behave when you are happy versus when you are frustrated or demotivated.

=> Our behaviours drive our results and results determine whether we have been successful or not.

So in short, work on your internal representation and the rest falls into place! 

Easy, isn't it? Now here are 5 principles that you can study, reflect and choose to act upon.

1. Know your outcome. Ask yourself, "what is it specifically that I want"? When your conscious mind responds with something you don't want, replace that with a picture of what you want. Your unconscious mind, which is your strongest ally in this task, is best at processing positives. Always picture your outcomes in the positive. I have coached people who when I ask for their goal, start to tell me what they don't like or want from their current life. I always tell them, "Don't tell me what you don't want. Tell me what you want".

Imbue the picture with bright and vibrant colours, soothing and motivating sounds and strong, positive feelings. Smell and taste the feelings of success. Bind all of these together with strong internal speak.

2. Take action. Once you know what you want, start actioning it. It is not enough to want something, it is equally - if not more - important to start actioning it. For an imagined future to become the present reality, it is important to take action towards it. 

3. Develop sensory insights into others. People make minute changes from moment to moment. These changes have meaning only when we are able to observe them with enough sensory insights. Since none of us is an island, our success depends on the people around us. By developing sensory insights, we will be able to observe the impact we have on our surroundings with our behaviours. Our observations will also tell us what we need to carry on doing and what we need to change in order to be more successful.

4. Develop behavioural flexibility. It is a well-known fact that flexibility is a strength, isn't it? Adapting to changing situations, keeping the end result in mind is one of the strongest principles of success. Think of a long distance runner who has a goal to complete the marathon within a specified time limit.  The runner never loses track of the outcome and at the same time is flexible enough to change his running patterns depending on the terrain, the opposition and other factors. Similarly, once you develop a keen sensory insight and are able to observe the impact of your actions, you then need to develop the flexibility to modify state of mind and behaviours, so alternative action can be taken if needed.

5. Operate from a physiology and psychology of excellence. Pay attention to what is going on inside your head and ask yourself if this is the psychology of excellence. Match your physiology to the excellent psychology and see where that gets you. Remember what they say, "it is all in your head". That is so true! Watch and pay attention to your body language - your posture, your tone, pitch and timbre of your voice, your eyes... your physiology must be strong and positive. It ought to reflect the success you have pictured in your head.

I cannot emphasise enough times that all of this - like the rest of my posts - are practical, doable tips. I never write anything out here that I have not used myself. I'd like to repeat one thing - it is easy, you just need to do it!

As always, I want you to comment and give me feedback. Please, please do share your learnings. Sharing is the best way to learn and grow. Thank you for reading my blog.

Other posts on related topics:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 3 Cs – Competition, Comparison, Creativity

It never ceases to amaze me how much the advent of the PC (and I don't mean Politically Correct) has changed our lives. By the 90s, email had made it so much easier to reach out to friends that lived around the world and today, it is equally easy - if not easier - to reach out to people we have never met in the "real" world. I hear a lot of talk about the dangers of social networking and the dangers that the internet technology bring with it. Sure, it is a double edged sword and sure it can cause as much harm as it does good. At the same time, I am very gung-ho about it and I have good reasons. I have re-bonded with old friends and made some excellent new acquaintances, Varsha being a prime example. 

Varsha and I neither live in the same city nor did study at the same universities and we don't work together. We met on the internet through a common friend. We share some common interests in blogging, poetry and music. Varsha, like myself, Ranjani and Geetali signed up enthusiastically to the idea of guest blogging for each other and today's post is her contribution to our humble enterprise. 

I am sure you will all enjoy reading Varsha's insights into how she got out of the self-defeating cycle of competition and comparison. Varsha is the author of a superb blog on wellness called Wholesome Options. Do take a look!

Well done, Varsha...

The best self development strategy that I have internalized over time is to let go of the need to fit in and the need to compete.

From the time we are children, we are taught to blend in – to be the permission-seeking, obedient, studious type that our teachers want us to be. Anybody who broke the mold was considered rebellious and immediately labeled “TROUBLE”.

So somehow or the other I ended up being unhappy with my inability to fit in with the dominant crowd and felt quite inadequate and if not incompetent, less supremely competent by comparison.

Some time in early adulthood I met Ruchi – who sadly I have lost touch with. Ruchi, like me, did not fit in at all. In the coiffured, made-up, ultra-feminine, Chandigarh University crowd of the early nineties, she stood out with her dark, athletic, brash “can-do-ness”. A North Indian by birth but a South Indian by upbringing, she defied definitions as a matter of course. The relish with which she questioned things and scoffed at all the dos wowed me.

With her I learnt – for the first time – to celebrate being myself.

In most workplaces (and mine is no exception), the default mode is to constantly look over the shoulder and check out stuff. What is the other office doing? What is the precedent about this? What will that person wear in the Big Meeting? The pattern observed is “Score but also fit in” or maybe it is a case of “the more you score- the better you fit in?”

Over a period of time, I have come to realize that this behaviour of competing and comparing is fuelled by fear - the fear of not winning or the fear of looking silly or stupid or incompetent. I realized that operating out of fear made me unhappy. It dulled any feelings of “can-do” I had. What brought back that “can-do” attitude was connecting with my core values and devoting time and energy to things I cared for deeply.

Let me take an example: at work, I have started to nurture little ‘Bursts of Happiness” that come from doing things that fulfill me in some way. What happens then is there is a dramatic spin-off on the regulated, responsibility bound, official part of me. Instead of looking for precedents, I am able to make small creative dents in the hide-bound carapace that I function in.

To get out of the comparison and competition cycle, the 3rd C has been extremely helpful – Creativity. Thinking creatively and outside the box helps with – as mentioned before – nurturing the little burst of happiness. It is a strange paradox, but sometimes the ability to throw logic out, actually makes logical thinking easier.

Moving out of the comparison / competition trap in two small steps:

1.       Identify what really matters to you. What makes you happy and satisfied and why?

2.      Make time and space in your life for the things that really matter.

Just do this consistently and notice how it makes you feel. You will see that:

ð     You start to feel happier and more at peace

ð     Your mind becomes fertile and creative because you are happy

ð     Paradoxically, this makes you more sensible, willing to learn and less egoistic 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Learnings from opportunities

Dear readers,

A few of us friends decided to write a guest post on each other's blog. We all have blogs on different topics and we felt that this way, we would broaden our own horizons and learn to write about something that is out of our comfort zones.

This post has been penned by one of my oldest friends. Geetali writes a wonderful blog called on a variety of things primarily around Shimla, poetry, photography and anything else that catches her fancy. I have known Geetali now for over 25 years and she has been with me through thick and thin. She has been the best friend anybody could have asked for - helping me laugh, cry, vent my frustrations, introspect, reflect... 

Thank you, Geetali - for everything. 

All of us have had that one year which we look at as our special Annus Horribilis. I had two: 2007 and 2008. This post is about lessons learnt from them.

Human beings are like animals in certain aspects. When hurt, we too like to crawl into a dark space to lick our wounds. When hurt beyond measure by other people, a normal reaction is to reject all humanity, to sweep off all relationships out from our lives, at least temporarily. That is what happened to me too. Every interface became a punishment. Every call for a coffee, a silent chastisement of a less-than-perfect life. Every invitation to a party, a sentence to be somehow endured.

However, with the passage of time, I discovered two things. One, you cannot mourn forever. Two, lock yourself up at home, and you will find yourself less and less inclined to step out. Then, the less you step out, the less inclined will your friends be to call you out, because they are sensitive to your situation. I was rapidly getting trapped in my ability to say ‘’no’’. This ability, which stood me in great stead most times, now stood between me, the human race and new learning.

A friend asked me if I’d join him for dinner. He said it would be just a few people, but the highlight would be a talk over dinner by a well-known poet. “I don’t think I can make it”, I answered. “Why? Are you busy that evening?” “Well...”, I hesitated. I couldn’t trip off an easy lie and the truth was too hard to tell. The truth was that I planned to spend the evening alternatively hidden behind a book and the laptop screen. Both realities I felt I could control. People, on the other hand, were a different story. “So”, my friend persisted “You’d rather be in your cocoon forever?” Oh, fine. I’ll come, I said in exasperation.

And so began 2009: my year of saying yes. I decided that I would keep myself busy while my grief played itself out. I would agree to every invitation, every challenge that came my way. At that time, it seemed like a good panacea to the gutting loneliness which surrounded me.

That evening at Peter’s turned out to be a lively one, filled with poetry, laughter and insights. I didn’t know a soul there, except my host, yet I came away with a pleasant glow of having heard a few new ideas that night.

Next came an invitation to do a piece of work: something I’ve long been interested in. My current work role was not connected with it, but I agreed to being in the project anyway. Being an “outsider” helped me be more objective. It showed me how to give my all to an assignment just for its own sake. It also gained me a close friend in a colleague who had been a stranger so far.

Another opportunity landed at my feet. My friend Billy, a painter and scholar, shuns modern technology. One day he asked me to type, proof-read and if necessary, edit, a piece he had written about the temple architecture of Himachal Pradesh. I did the needful. In the process, many unknown facts  unravelled before my eyes. By the end of the week, my curiosity had been piqued enough for me to read up more on this unique style of architecture. By the end of the year, I had gained numerous insights into the history and culture of the state.

We were a small group of professionals, burning midnight oil on a tough assignment. Les had caught my attention with his dry one-liners, his refusal to take no for an answer and his single-minded dedication to our task. One late evening, he asked me if I’d like to have coffee with him. I panicked. I hadn’t been single for a decade and a half and had forgotten the rules of dating. But I went. No, Les and I did not meet, fall in love, or get married. But we became friends and each other’s cheerleaders!

During 2009, I would be a prompter in a play put up by friends, act as a guide for out-of-town visitors and develop a 365-photos-a-year project and judge a debating competition. I would teach a small module of poetry to a group of bright teenagers. I would gain a working knowledge of Punjabi.

I said “yes” to everything and I am happy I did. Had I said “no” I would have missed out on so much fun, so much knowledge, so many interesting people and experiences.  Cocooned in my home, I would have remained numb and static, deprived of all that I saw, heard, learned that year.

For sure, I have not become a brilliant photographer (yet!). I am yet to pen an award-winning play, or write a learned book. But at least I have let go of the layers of despair. Beyond that, I have learnt to see life as an exercise of leaping onto a boat and sailing off into the horizon, with all its enchanting possibilities. Life is about opening up and allowing possibilities to come to us. They may not bring dazzling success with them. They may not change things for us drastically. Every action does not have to be seen in the light of triumph or failure. But at the very least, we are the better as humans for having performed our little role in the unfolding drama of life.  

By saying "yes", I have had a host of experiences and challenges, all of which have helped me to:

-          Evaluate my current situation and accept it
-          Make friends with people I might otherwise have never met
-          Gain insights into what brings excitement and energy
-          Weed out those activities I did not enjoy without guilt
-          Discover new talents and skills within myself