“Be the change you want to see in the world”… (Gandhi – one of my favourite happiness quotes)
If you look at your life, your relationships, your work, your home, your finances, the world, are there things you want to change?
Do you catch yourself thinking – or even saying out loud – “I’ll be happy when…”?
If you do, this means you’re spending your time and energy focusing on what you don’t want – what’s missing, what’s wrong, what’s not working for you. Why is that a problem? After all, identifying what you don’t want or like is an important step in changing things, isn’t it?
If you spend all your time focusing on what you don’t want, that’s what you’ll get more of.
Humour me for a moment. Whatever you do for the next 15 seconds don’t think about a blue elephant in a pink tree. And don’t hear a purple dog at the bottom of the tree barking at the elephant. What happened…?
Because the unconscious mind – the part of you that operates most of the stuff you’re not consciously aware of, including (in my case) hiding the car keys in the fridge – the unconscious mind doesn’t process words like “don’t”. Instead it receives the message this way:
Instead of “don’t fall over”, it hears “fall over. don’t”. By the time it gets the “don’t”, it’s too late. It’s already created the impression of falling over and the accident’s much more likely to happen.
There was a famous story about fighter pilots who were trained for months in accident avoidance techniques. They spent hundreds of hours in flight simulators, learning how to get out of every conceivable sticky situation. The aim of the training was, obviously, to reduce the number of crashes. Yet the outcome was in fact a dramatic increase in the number of accidents. Why? Because the pilots had spent so long focusing on the negatives, they had literally taught their brains how to crash.
The same thing happens if you spend all your time thinking about what’s wrong and what you don’t want. You’ll just get more of it.
The solution to all this is just to quit thinking and get “being”. Instead of thinking about the changes you want to make, just act “as if” they’ve already happened and “be” the change.
How does this work?
When you change, all those around you are impacted. And, in some cases, you’ll even find that miracles can happen. People pick up on the vibes you’re giving out, without even realising, and this can change the way they behave. It’s like a dance – you do, say or think something. They process it and respond. You process it and respond. You can’t change what they’re thinking, feeling or doing, but by changing what you’re up to, you can influence the dance and change the outcome because, even if the other person doesn’t change, your reaction to it will so it won’t bother you as much – you’ll feel happier!
Let’s take an example of this: a teacher was working in a school where morale was low. The students were playing up and the staff were generally fed up and grumbling about the kids in the staff room. She had really had enough and was about to quit. She dreaded going into the staff room, but had nowhere else to go during break times. Then one day she decided to try something radically different – as a last attempt to “fix” things. Instead of joining in with the usual complaining and back-biting, she decided she would consistently respond with the positive side of the situation and would put up a mental protective layer, to shield her from the negativity.
The first day she tried this, no one noticed, they carried on moaning as usual, but she felt better because she hadn’t allowed herself to get dragged into it. Undeterred, she kept “being” the calm, happy, positive staff room she wanted to see. And, over the course of the first week, a couple of her closer colleagues started to gently shift their focus, occasionally talking about more positive things. By the end of a month, only a few truly hardcore grumblers were left and the atmosphere had completely changed. Someone brought flowers into the staff room. People started clearing up after themselves and taking better care of the place. It had become a place to relax and recharge after lessons and the staff were starting to support each other. You an imagine the impact this had on the students.
So how about picking one thing today that you want to change in your life and “being” that change, acting “as if” it’s already happened. Just try on the idea for a day and notice what happens. Please do share via the comments!