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positive thinking

Carve A New Path In Your Mind!

by Robert McEntee on December 21, 2014

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Lloyd Jones “Spiritual Depression”

Much of what I have written so far centers around the idea that we serve ourselves best when we focus on what we want and minimize any negative mental energy. Self control of the mind is our greatest survival or transformational ability, yet is often much easier said than done. So now I will give you several easy, proven techniques that do just that when used consistenly and properly.

In Nightingale Conant’s Magical Concentration, author Ed Straacher offered some novel techniques for erasing unpleasant or distracting ideas from the mind. These are best employed as soon as you find yourself playing home movies on the movie screen in your head of say a poor performance. He suggests recreating the scene as a cartoon image in the minds eye, distorting the imaginary voices perhaps by greatly increasing or decreasing the pitch or whatever may seem funny to you.

The offending character can be pictured as a clown who gets hit with a pie or other such nonsense. The scene can be played forwards and backwards rapidly and soon any emotional attachment will diminish as you become desensitized to the previously bothersome recollection. As a side note, Mr. Straacher is obviously a smart guy and perhaps worth listening to; among many other things, he trained in chess under Russian pros who taught him to play blindfolded!

Dennis Tirch, Phd ., author of The Compassionate-Mind Guide: Using Compassion Focused Therapy to Calm Worry, Panic and Fear refers to a similar technique as Cognitive Diffusion, which is taught in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Since it’s hard to just stop rehashing an unpleasant event once it’s embedded in your consciousness, this technique can quickly stop the negative memory associations and remove the emotional weight. Simply repeating the offending words associated with the unpleasantness over and over for at least a minute, renders the unpleasant thought to just some sounds without the negative connotations. The words and associated images can then be reframed in a more positive context.

The increasingly popular Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping, also involves repeating fears or worries out loud while tapping on strategic points on the hands, head and chest. You can think of it as acupuncture combined with cognitive therapy. Once the intensity of the fear or worry lessons, the statements gradually transition to more positive ones and end with essentially opposite statements than were used at the commencement of the exercise.

This shares similarities to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy or flooding, frequently used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. An example of this would be a therapist gradually exposing a germaphobe to dirt, etc., while not allowing them to immediately wash as they would normally. Both the level of dirtiness and time before washing is increased as the anxiety decreases.

The commonality among all these techniques is that they counter-intuitively overwhelm the senses with the offending concept until the habitual response mitigates. Similar to how if you are told not to think about pink elephants to use a popular example, most will ironically find that they can’t keep that strange image out of their mind. So the opposite also appears true, when the mind is purposefully filled with a repetitive idea, eventually it will naturally seek to focus elsewhere.

Pattern interrupt is another term referring to bringing someone back to present moment awareness where they have more control over their reactions. Perhaps the simplest of these methods is to leave a rubber band around the wrist and snap it whenever the offending thought enters the mind. You can also have a stand by thought, perhaps of a great personal achievement, you always substitue for negative memories.

Other methods include writing a negative thought down and symbolically destroying it, often used when thinking about one’s limitations, or picturing yourself in a “safe room”  whose doorway blocks any negative thoughts from entering.

The trick is to utilize the favored technique at the first instance of the thought and then immediately focus on more harmonious ideas. It’s analogous to the way you would immediately change the radio or TV channel when unwanted programming is tuned in. In other words, don’t visit the bad neighborhoods of your mind!

A number of studies have shown that approximately 3 to 4 weeks of new behavior is required to replace a previously conditioned response or habit. Picture an old wagon wheel road, where creating a new path takes time for the  previous tracks to dissipate and the new impressions to deepen and last.  Since it’s impossible to think about nothing, these methods enable the mind to shift gears taking you to a better destination. I’d love to hear about any results you have with these or similar techniques!


Goal Getting Made Easy!

by Robert McEntee on August 10, 2011

“When you discover your mission you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.”                              W. Clement Stone

The problem with goal setting is people often aim to achieve something that is incongruent with more pressing desires. For example someone may want to lose weight and they realize they will need to start a regular exercise program. However long hours at work are keeping them away from their family and resolving this sense of deterioration in close personal relationships is of utmost concern. This leads to a vicious cycle as they then feel bad about not achieving their weight loss goal.

What helps is to spell out the benefits to your subconscious mind and mentally resolve all internal conflicts before setting the goal. If the person above spends just a little time analyzing the situation, they will observe that if they lose weight they will feel better, and therefore be able to enjoy their time with family more and probably be around longer to do so as well! They also may come up with a compromise on the time factor; perhaps some of the family time could involve athletic activities.

Goals are best set in the positive rather than the negative tense. For example, regarding weight loss say, “By July 1st, I weigh X” (the desired weight) rather than “I’m losing weight” which draws focus back to the problem of excess weight. It’s difficult for the subconscious mind to distinguish a negative concept from a positive one. Notice the pattern of beginning with the end in mind, so the steps needed to work backwards to achieve it become apparent. Setting specific, measurable goals in the positive & present tense is the key.

The whys of goal setting are critical to achieving the whats. Once the mind has a clear vision of the desired outcome and resulting sense of well being, the hows become easier. We often need to sell ourselves on a course of action by clearly relating why it is important to an overall mission. It has often been said that people buy what they want and justify it by creating a sense of need. Similarly your goal needs to be something you really want. This is why people who haven’t really found a sense of purpose for their life, seem to find it harder to set and achieve goals. Just the act of setting your goals on paper forces a valuable review of where you are headed.

Once you know what lights your fire you will find it easier to gather kindling wood. The required work is then really play. Goal setting for creative types and entrepreneurs who love the work like play, can be more challenging since they are drawn to too many wonderful objectives, which all seem attainable. Yet in our brief span on Earth, “Every choice is a thousand relinquishments”, so one must consciously prioritize what they want to achieve in the available time.

The big goal is best broken down into smaller projects with timelines for completion set. This is disciplined fun, blending the radical with rational mind sets. Working from a list really helps clarify objectives. Creating a daily list is best, however I found too many days slipped away without my doing so. I probably would have stopped doing it all together as frustration increased, if I hadn’t switched to a weekly list. I typically create this on Sunday evenings as I briefly compare last week’s accomplishments to its list, transfer outstanding items and add new items, to create next week’s list. You’ll have to experiment to see what system you find most beneficial and then stick to it, even if you miss doing so occasionally.

If you’ve never used a set of written goals or desired outcomes, you probably don’t realize how it increases productivity. Perhaps before going on a trip you have written down what needs to get done before leaving, and saw how much you complete when deadlines are specified and tasks are organized. A short term to do list, and a longer term goal plan should be used as part of an overall system.

Just clearly establishing objectives by itself increases achievement and also activates the unconscious mind, resulting in further benefit as discussed in previous articles. You are now really involved or committed, having used three senses to write your objectives, sight, touch and sound. Most people don’t smell or taste the paper, but that’s up to you!

Interesting studies have been done on our visual-mental processing systems. If a person in a darkened room looks at a chart filled with words immediately after the lights are briefly turned on, typically they can’t make any out. However if the person is simply instructed to focus on one small section of the chart when the lights come on, they can comprehend some words. So too we must focus on particular tasks in our life by defining them clearly, best done by writing them out.

Consistently achieving goals is one of the biggest self esteem boosters around. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything you are not getting to. However once you know that you’re at least doing something about these uncompleted items you can rest easier, even if it’s just a small step. Studies show writing objectives down increases chances of attainment and I can personally say also frees the mind to contemplate more lofty ideals!

One last BIG tip: Do the most difficult or resisted thing FIRST each day! What we resist, persists as they say, and it’s usually what most needs doing. To paraphrase Brian Tracy, if you had to eat a live frog but did it first thing in the morning, the rest of the day would be like a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, be sure to reward yourself each time you do achieve a goal. So here’s to a piece of cake and achieving YOUR mission! I welcome your comments.

Here are a couple of great books/audios which more fully explain the above.

Goals (Brian Tracy

Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves (Robert Ringer)

Getting Things Done (David Allen)

Ready for Anything (David Allen)


Mental Rehearsal, A Shortcut to Success!

by Robert McEntee on April 23, 2011

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”  Lloyd Jones  Spiritual Depression

Our minds function much more efficiently when we frequently shift to what’s desired rather than focusing on what’s not, or just random thoughts. An analogy would be turning on the TV or radio and just watching or listening to whatever happens to be on, as opposed to directed absorption by learning what’s on and seeking beneficial information out. I say “information” rather than “programs” because who wants to be programmed anyway, unless your ideal self is the one doing the programming?!

People who have to be truly “on” at certain times such as performers, athletes and I imagine surgeons and other tradesmen requiring complete attention and concentration, know how critical it is to get in the proper state of mind before commencing the task. As the saying goes, it’s ok to have butterflies as long as you get them to fly in formation!

Every distraction and useless worry imaginable presents themselves before performance time. So it’s critical to constantly switch back to the positive vision of what you want to create and be IN the moment. The famous magician Howard Thurston reportedly jumped up and down before the curtain opening saying, “I love my audience!” Even for more mundane tasks such as reading, a little time spent on clearing the mind and bringing to attention what you want to get out of the book before turning the first page, is more than offset by the resulting accelerated pace.

Olympic athletes use mental rehearsal to win races, because at that level, the fraction of a second difference among competitors in equal physical condition, appears to be mental. They are taught to use every sense in their visualization of the positive outcome. For basketball, they “feel” the ball leaving their fingers, “see” the ball going through the hoop and “hear” the crowd roar its approval over and over, long before the moment comes.

It’s a great way to “practice” a skill when you don’t have time to. I rehearse magic in my head on the way to shows etc. The more this is done the deeper the pattern is set in the mind and the easier it then runs when actually performing the task.

The whole concept of mental rehearsal was discovered through training astronauts with sophisticated equipmet to observe mind and body reactions to changing stimuli. They discovered that the astronauts’ brains produced  similar wave patterns when just imagining performing tasks, as they did when actually doing them! This insight was quickly transferred to the US Olympic training program and has been credited with many successes. Why not benefit from applying this same principle to to your own life?

The material covered in the following should help you learn or improve this technique.  Visualization: The Secret Key (Ross Craft)

The stories are legendary of POW’s in solitary confinement who frequently spent their time mentally playing games of golf, and after release and recovery, surprise everyone by playing a fantastic game after not playing for many years. However they are surprised they miss at all since they didn’t in their mental rehearsals!

For a final sports example, consider boxers who know they can’t afford to spend any time worrying about being hit, but instead must constantly imagine the opponent “going down”. In a sport where the wills of two opponents are perhaps most tested, the required internal verbal bragging is so intense it becomes externalized to convince not only the opponent but perhaps the bragger as well.

It’s impossible for our minds to be empty. Thus meditation techniques such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) teach one to quiet the mind by focusing on a mantra. Typically a mantra is a fundamental sound rather than an actual word which carries distracting connotations. The problem is one has to pay hundreds of dollars to learn a sound (plus pay “homage” to its founder in the training phase but that’s another story), when it can be just made up!

The technique though is still valid, as it leads the mind to a blissful state where creative thoughts and subconscious guidance often appear following a meditation session. This knowledge was already present but couldn’t get through all the mental static one’s mind typically conducts. It is an example of directed use of the mind, as is prayer, goal setting and the like.

This contrasts with just letting thoughts or more typically worries, constantly appear as one deals with every day situations. For example, shift focus from a concern over lack of money, to seeing ways to bring more of it into your life. Remember to involve your senses and create the feelings the end result brings. “Let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6).

Alcoholics and drug addicts are taught to focus on being sober rather than not drinking or drugging. This perspective is critical to maintaining sobriety, while the concept of paying attention to what one wants and eliminating needless worries about what MIGHT happen is essential for overall success in most any endeavor.

In summary, the goal is to use your mind rather than let it use you. Direct it to where you want to go, rather than filling free time with mindless radio/TV or whatever thoughts happen to show up. The real benefit comes when regular time is actually set aside for positive visualizations. You may feel you don’t have time for this, yet consider the bow which must be pulled back before the arrow can fly forward.

Mental rehearsal enables the subconscious mind to provide guidance to the conscious mind and body to achieve the desired result. Thinking is not easy work which is why so few people actually do it, to paraphrase Henry Ford. Filling your mind with more positive directed thoughts and visualizations will quickly inspire you to do so even more often, as the results are spectacular!

Here are a few good general resources to help you achieve more desired outcomes:

How to Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius (Scott Thorp)

Accelerated Learning Techniques (Brian Tracy & Colin Rose)

Brain’s Unlimited Power (Leon Edward)

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