“If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.”
“For everyone of us that succeeds, it's because there's somebody there to show you the way out.”
One of the coolest things online this spring was the webinars with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle. Each week during 10 weeks they discussed the ego, the present, consciousness and other ideas from Tolle's book A New Earth.
Today I'd like to focus a bit on Oprah. So here are a few of her tips and reminders that resonate with me right now.
1. Keep your focus in the right place.
“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.”
This is a pretty clever tip that can have a larger influence on your life than you may imagine. Within your mind there is something called Reticular Activation System (or RAS). It can help you because what you focus your thoughts on this system will start to try to find evidence of in your surroundings.
Since you can only take in a small part of all impressions what you focus on becomes very important.
In fact, changing what you focus on can seem to change your world radically.
When you focus on what you have and appreciate it or focus on what you want a lot of things will start to “pop up” in your reality. It was actually there all along.
But you can only see it when you shift your focus. If you focus on what you don't have your RAS will only help you to find evidence of that.
By being thankful and making appreciating a regular habit you cannot only quickly change a sour mood into a positive one. You can also have more of what you want and kinda automatically find solutions and useful information that can help you to achieve what you are focused on. An external reminder or two – for instance post-it notes on your fridge – can be helpful to keep your focus in the right place in your day to day life.
2. Redefine failure.
“I do not believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.”
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.”
“I believe that one of life's greatest risks is never daring to risk.”
One of the big things holding people back from getting what they want is the fear of failure. But as written many times before, failure can be a very helpful learning experience. In fact, without failure you'll probably never learn the things you need to achieve the success you dream of. So, instead of seeing failure as something big and scary, redefine it in your mind as a learning experience. Two more tips for dealing with failure in a useful way are:
- Create an abundance mentality. A scarcity mentality tells you that there is always a lack. An abundance mentality tells you that there is always an abundance. That there are always more goals that you can score, business opportunities to find and dates to be had. If you miss one, then learn what you can from it. But don't let it drag you down. Use the first tip in this article and bring your focus back to what you want once again. Focus on the abundance. This will not only make it easier to take a chance on something but is also a good thing to focus on to reduce those negative feelings, those fears of failure that to a large degree is created within your mind because of a perceived lack.
- Focus on the process. What this means is that you just focus on what you are doing. You don't think about the possible outcomes of what you are doing when you are doing what you do. You detach from that. You just keep your mind focused on doing the work. You don't think about how you may fail, disappoint yourself or have great success. You don't think about how you may disappoint, amuse or in some other way be seen through the eyes of others. You just focus on what you do. And so what you do becomes enjoyable even though it may contain some stumbling or failures. You can read more about focusing on the process and detaching from the outcome in The Relaxifying Secret to Success.
3. You are fueling your own fear.
“Whatever you fear most has no power – it is your fear that has the power.”
Fear is mostly just a loop of thoughts that you are feeding with new energy. When you accept what is and face your fear then you stop feeding it and it dissipates.
So the key is to accept. Accepting what is stops the flow of energy back into the fear. One way to do this is by surrendering to the emotion. And then to take the action that you fear. By surrendering you remove or at least weaken the negative emotion that is holding you back. By taking the action your mind gets the proof that whatever you feared wasn't really that scary.
Here's one way to surrender to your emotion:
When you feel a negative feeling then accept that feeling. Don't try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life). Say yes to it.
Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labeling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just weakens and sometimes vanishes completely.
4. Do the right thing.
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody's going to know whether you did it or not.”
This is a real interesting one. But how do you do it? How do you keep doing the right thing when nobody's looking and checking up on you? I certainly don't have a complete answer for that but two useful things I've found are these:
- Make your own rules. It seems to me that if you are to stick to doing the right thing then you need to take your eyes from the rules and values set by people around you. You need to define yourself and what you're about. If you play by other people's rules then you'll be answering to those people. And it will be pretty easy to slip up or cheat when no-one is watching. But if you make your own rules then you answer to yourself. When you are accountable to yourself instead of the world around you it will be easier to do what you feel is right more consistently.
- Get off dependence on external validation. If you are dependent on external validation – people telling you that you are doing a good job etc. – then it will be hard to play by your own rules. You'll constantly be looking outward to see how you are doing and adapt to what people are telling you. And if you're hooked on such validation then it will be tempting to just cheat or skip doing the right thing when nobody is watching, because there is no-one there to praise you anyway. You can read more about external validation – and about replacing it with internal validation – in 9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Absolutely Miserable.
5. You get what you give. In more than one way.
“What I know for sure is that what you give comes back to you.”
This is of course a classic piece of advice. And I believe it's pretty accurate. People tend to adapt and reciprocate. They treat you as you treat them. But lately I've also been thinking about how this seems to work in another way.
It seems to me that what you do to others you also directly do to yourself. If you pour out a lot of negativity out into the world then you also pour that energy into yourself. For the moment, it may feel good to gossip about your boss. But I believe that much of the negativity that you find in your life is caused by this behavior. It may not be directly tied to what you said or did. But it seems to me like you cannot hurt someone without, in some way, hurting yourself too.
The more negativity you dole out the worse you tend to feel in your everyday life. The more problems you find and cause. The more you overreact and feel a sad funk arising from nowhere in particular. Maybe it's because giving out much negativity causes you to focus your RAS more on the negative things in your life.
6. Let go of the past. Live in the present.
“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”
One of the best things you can do to improve your life and feeling of well-being is to let go of what has happened. To not be dwelling on whatever negative things that happened in the past for too long. But how do actually you do it?
I have found a few good tips so far. They work well, and will probably work even better as time passes and I get better at using them.
The first one is to ask yourself throughout the day or when you feel like you're spiraling down into negative thoughts: what's in it for me? What is in for me by thinking about these thoughts?
I often realize that there is very little in it for me. Negative thoughts or replaying a negative memory over and over in my mind isn't helping that much. Sure, you can derive a sort of pleasure – a sort of importance – by feeling like a victim or by hating someone and secretly plotting for some kind of revenge. But really what you are doing is wasting your time and energy.
That's what's in it for you. For instance, someone who is hated might not feel good about it. Or s/he may on the other hand not even notice it. It is always the hater that suffers the worst, that carries around the self-imposed curse. S/he spends hours, days or months in a cloud of negative thoughts that spill over into the rest of his/her life too.
You have already read about the second tip: focus on what you want. And focus on the abundance instead of the scarcity.
The third tip is to learning to spend more and more time in the present rather than the past or a projected future. And the best practical way I have found so far to do that is ties back to the beginning of this article. Pick up a copy of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and if you like, start watching/listening to the webinars.
7. It's up to you what happens.
“We are each responsible for our own life – no other person is or even can be.”
When we are young other people are responsible for our lives. I think that one sign of a mature person would be that he or she takes 100% responsibility for his/her own life. Still, there is often a lingering feeling that we may want someone else to still be responsible for our lives.
One way that this manifests is in how people go looking for magic pills. Instead of buckling down, taking responsibility for their own life and working step by step towards a goal there is a need for a book, a program, a pill or something we can buy that will make our problem go away. Like how mom or dad used to fix your problems and make them go away.
Now I'm not saying that I haven't been looking for magic pills. Maybe everyone needs to go through such phases. But I think that when you can let go of such searching then you are probably on a road that will bring you better results than your search for magic pills did.
Why? Well, you realize that you need to be behind the wheel and in control. And when you stop spending time looking for the next magic pill you become focused. You realize that no book can give you more than the knowledge. You realize that you need to take action in your life and create your life in the way you want it.
And now all those books you bought may become more useful. Because you are no longer looking at them as a magic pills that will “fix you”. You see them as road maps that can guide you along your path.