Take the first step, don’t look back, and the universe will conspire to help you

On Commitment

Goethe

Until one is committed there is always hesitancy,

the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness,

there is one elementary truth,

the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.

A whole stream of events issues from the decision,

Raising to one’s favor all manner of unforeseen accidents and meetings

And material assistance which no man could have dreamed

Would come his way.

3 quotations on mindfulness and action

A good year ago I jotted down these three quotations.  Then I abandoned the draft. Now I am tidying up my blog, I wonder, what was going through my mind that day.

David Whyte on the willfulness of the world

And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love, this is the black day someone close to you could die.

~ David Whyte from The House of Belonging in River Flow, p. 7.

Was I thinking about the essential unknow-ability of the world and importance of living in the world as it unfolds and both tempts us and taunts us?

Goethe on the universe conspiring to help us

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

~ Goethe

Was I thinking about the need to be active and the magic that happens when we cross the Rubicon and move towards irrevocably towards what we want?

Isaac Newton on following our dreams in the large world around us

I don’t know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

~ Isaac Newton

Was I thinking about the impossibility of understanding the universe yet finding a corner within it where we live our lives heroically and magnificently?

What sense was I making about mindfulness and action?

Did I come to the conclusion that world likes us to engage quite forthrightly following our interests yet understanding that others will be doing so too? Did I come to the conclusion that life promises us nothing yet demands our full attention?  Did I come to the conclusion that we will always be significant yet what we do is important?

Did I come to the conclusion that is OK to ask and the world loves us for it? Did I come to the conclusion that it is OK to be small ~ we all are?

What was I thinking that day?

Crossing the Rubicon – when vague wish becomes determined intent

Some days we wake up determined

Today, I woke up with things to do – all the things that somehow never made it on to today’s to do list.  Do you ever have one of those days?

Crossing the Rubicon

In psychology, we call it “crossing the Rubicon”.  The Rubicon is a river in north Italy.  Ceasar sat the wrong side of it with his troops and knew that the day he crossed over, he would be declaring war on Rome and that there would be no going back.

Rubicons in our lives

We have many Rubicons in our lives.  Going to university, getting married, buying a house.  We have many “once only actions” through which we are changed forever.

The public and the personal

Some of these are obvious and we often mark them with a public celebration. Some are personal.  We know that we personally have crossed a Rubicon.

The everyday

And some are just everyday ~ we go from wish to intent and get on with action.

Crossing the Rubicon is not all good

We can be a little bit of a menace in the “crossing the Rubicon” mood ~ because we are so determined to get something done.  We might also be short-tempered and impatient with others.

But get things done, we do!

Crossing the Rubicon – that moment when vague wish becomes determined intent.

The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

This strange expression has been made popular by poet, David Whyte, who heard it first from a monk, counselling him during a bad bout of professional burnout.

It seems cruel, doesn’t it, to be told to put some elbow-grease into it, at a time we are so tired, we literally can’t think straight?

How does wholeheartedness cure exhaustion?

We feel exhausted, we become exhausted, when we pursue conflicted goals.  We become like the mouse in a maze with cheese to the left and cheese to the right. Deary me – which way to go?   It is the dithering that is exhausting.  Or being greedy and trying to get both lots of cheese at the same time.

We feel relaxed and at ease when we make up our minds about what we want to do

We have a heap of expressions for the sensation of getting moving.

  • We cross the Rubicon (from which there was no turning back as Ceasar and his troops marched on Rome).
  • The universe conspires to help us (Who said that?   It means that suddenly it is easy to do what seemed hard only moments ago.  And that people seem to go out of their way to help you.)
  • Our path opens up as we take the first step (Paulo Coelho tweeting on Saturday).  The path only becomes possible when we are totally committed to moving forward. Totally committed – with no reservations.

Clarity of goals generates energy – moving toward a goal multiplies energy

Action becomes so easy and so natural. ‘Getting things done’ is not the issue – it is never the issue.

Setting goals is the issue. Making up our minds is the hard part.

Do you know what you want?

Until we can distill our goals to a set that our smallish inefficient memories can remember (3 and at the most 5), we dither, and we wear ourselves out.

But is what you want, right?

You do know, I hope, that we become impossible when we pursue goals.  The dithering mouse turns into a juggernaut trampling over everyone and everything.

We must make sure that our goals are the right goals.

More this evening . . .

Postscript: Tuesday 15 September 2009

@paulocoelho: Cloning Confucius: a bird sings because he has a song, not because he has an answer

Do have a look at the rhyme added by Whappen in the comments.

Law of attraction, positive thinking, and finding your dream job!

In the summer, many graduates are looking for the job of their dreams.  This post has been very popular and I thought it would be a good time to repost it.  I will be speaking at the University of Buckingham on the power  of positive psychology and our careers on Monday 28th July.   I would be happy to address other groups around the Milton Keynes/Bedford area or talk with you by email or by phone.

Here is this very popular post which may help you find the job of your dreams.

A long back story

I took out Goodbye Mr Chips from my local library thinking it would be nice to relax for a couple of hours with this gentle, slightly sentimental, very inspirational movie. For non-Brits, this is a classic pygmalion, teacher story with romance thrown in. Think To Sir With Love, History Boys and Freedom Writers. I think when Yanks write pygmalion stories they are typically about basketball coaches. Britain has teacher stories.

Goodbye Mr Chips is a double-pygmalion story. Mr Chipping is an awkward “Latin master” in a “public school”. If you are non-Brit, read exclusive private school (or prep school in Americanese – a prep school here preps you to go to public school which takes you to the army academy or university).

Mr Chipping has two mentors. A charming relaxed fellow teacher and his wife. They are the catalysts in allowing Mr Chipping, or Chips as he comes to be called, to incorporate the softer side of his nature in his teaching style, reform the rugged-masculine-bullying culture of the school, and to encourage boy-after-boy, and their sons after them, to blend the feminine sides of their nature with the masculine demands of their school and obligations to country.

I thought I was borrowing the musical version with Peter O’Toole from the library. When I got home, I discovered I a new version with Martin Clunes, the star of the TV show, Doc Martin. He makes a marvellous Mr Chips with the mixture of clumsiness and kindness that we also see in Doc Martin. (He doesn’t sing btw, and nor do we hear the boys singing which we did in the earlier version).

The story seems slightly different too – but so be it. After this long back story, this is the quote I wanted to give you.

“I found that when I stopped judging myself harshly, the world became kinder to me. Remember I told you once, go out, and look around the world. Do that now. Only this time, let the world look at you. And the difference, I assure you, the world will like what it sees.”

Positive psychology is more than positive thinking

This is the concept which takes positive psychology far beyond positive thinking. It has echoes of the pygmalion effect, popularized in the musical My Fair Lady in which a flower girl becomes a lady. It includes the Galatea effect, ably researched by Dov Eden, who also researches the pygmalion effect in work settings. Basically, the Pygmalion effect is the effect of other people’s expectations on us. So a teacher creates clever pupils by expecting more of them. A teacher creates dull pupils by expecting failure and subtly communicating doubts and restricting the resources and time we need to learn. The Galatea effect works the other way around. It is the effect of our own self-perception. It is not that seeing is believing. But that, believing is seeing.

Is this new?

George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion 100 years ago. 150 years ago Goethe wrote:

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Goethe

The idea that we shape the future is so new to us in the west. The idea that the universe comes to us sounds a little new age.

Of course, we cannot do anything. We don’t want to do anything.

But there are some things, we want to do. And if we can imagine those things, if we believe in them deeply without effort, if they make sense, if they seem right in themselves, if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

if we believe in them enough to take the first hesitant step,

then the universe conspires to help us.

Skeptical?

This is tautological, of course. It will work because it is right and it is right because it works.

Ask only whether what you want is right, and why you would want anything that doesn’t work!

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3 fresh ideas in management

1 Flow

I love flow.  I know some people who think it is great to be in flow, or in the zone, for half-an-hour a day.  I am a flow junkie.  I go for all 24 hours counting a good sleep as good flow.

2 Crossing the Rubicon

But there is something I love more.

That is the rush when you have a crystal clear idea that you know will work and that is, in that instant, so obvious.

What is the name for that?

I know Peter Gollwitzer, the psychologist calls it “crossing the rubicon” – moving from wish to intent.

3 Corporate anthropology

This corporate anthropologist, studies the use of mobile phones by poor people and travels around the world studying the way phones are used.

My questions to you?

Why don’t we study flow a lot more than we do?

Why don’t we study people at work they way this guy studies phones?

Why aren’t we interested in why and when work is blissful and  fun?

Why are aren’t we interested in making jobs as enjoyable as Nokia tries to make its phones?

I could do spend all day trying to make work fun and never get tired of it!!  Could you?  Do you?