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Tag: Paulo Coelho

My internal GPS uses faith, intuition and discipline every day to calculate my position

Saying of the daywhat a mess by leanulfean via Flickr

Paulo Coelho tweeted today (and he does many time a day)

My internal GPS uses faith, intuition and discipline every day to calculate my position

It’s presumptious to re-phrase his words but I know a lot of people who are bothered by poetic language and who might find “faith, intuition and discipline” so “unscientific” and “contradictory” that they tune-out.

Let me provide some behavioural examples


Imagine that I am doing a piece of work that I dislike. It doesn’t engage my attention.  It is unchallenging.  It’s not sociable.  I learn little.  I don’t think it adds value to the world.  These conditions seriously challenge my ‘faith’ and fill me with ‘despair’.

In “History of the World in 100 things” running on BBC Radio 4 at the moment,  I heard instructions given to icon-makers.  Say a prayer.   Forgive your enemies and remember God is watching you at work . . .

This is apt when we have a dreary task, not so?  Clear my mind of other grievances (my lousy work is grievance enough).  And then start my work imaging that “my god”,  or my destiny, is watching me.

Feeling “my god” watching me do whatever it is that I do, will bring all that I value to that work, however awful or even terrible that it is.  Thinking that “my god” is watching, having a conversation with “my god”, helps  me concentrate and shape the work more in the image I believe appropriate.

If you scientific in your thinking, then test  the idea. Try it. Do you not have a mental image, however abstract of what is right about the world?  Doesn’t bring that image into the room with you help you find value, not matter how dreary the circumstances?


I understand intuition to mean very simply that our brain processes information at many different levels.  Much of our processing is unconscious and much is actually . . . inaccurate.  It helps to take a moment to let the whirring of my brain catch up with itself and to determine what I think and why.

If I don’t make time,  I am likely to be confused (not become confused, be confused) and take wrong turns.

I need to slow down.  I need to take time to close my eyes and listen for the furthest sound.  I need to label your emotions an let it all come together. What is the rush anyway?  Ah the clock, the boss!  Funny how we always have time to do things twice but never have time to get it right the first time.  I tested what I am saying by staring at those old ropes,  Instead of feeling mild irritation, I became clear about what I would do and why.

Slow down and get sorted.  And don’t forget to close my eyes and incorporate the most distant sounds.


I am not to sure what Paulo Coelho meant by discipline and I deeply suspect that the meaning I learned in childhood is wrong.  I’ll take a stab at it and  put it this way.

Most of the time, when we are out of sorts, we think the world is not being kind to us.  The secret is this.  The world is not about us.  The mountain is there whether we are here or not.  The mountain doesn’t care so much about us.

Discipline, possibly, means mindfulness and being in touch with what is happening around us.  It helps to feel the carpet beneath our feet and the keyboard below our fingers.  What is happening around us?  Then we know what we need to do.

I’ve always regarded myself as disciplined.  I keep my promises.  I do my share of unpleasant tasks.  I put in extra work.  But goal orientation and conscientiousness isn’t discipline, I think.  Respecting the right of everything to have its own existence, independent of mine.  Respecting everything around me rather than ignoring what does not serve my goal – that is possibly the discipline of which Paolo Coelho speaks.

What do you think?

My internal GPS uses faith, intuition and discipline every day to calculate my position.

I am here.  It is right that I am here.  All the things I perceive make sense, if only I take time to sort them out.  And everything else has a right to be here too.

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Courage and mindfulness

Fragilite by alibaba0 via FlickrToday, Paolo Coelho, as ever, said something both wise and challenging.

“Creativity is a courageous act.  Avoid opinions.”

It was certainly challenging to me.  I use this blog as a filing cabinet to keep my notes as I think out the connections between the things I am reading, thinking and doing.

It is a rag bag, yet it has worked out well. A few loyal readers make it sociable too.

But I’ve begun to tire of having opinions partly because I live and work in worlds where opinions are ten a penny (and that is saying something as it is very difficult to buy any thing in UK for less than very many pennies).  Like a toddler grabbing at an animal, we voice our opinions for the pleasure of feeling powerful and with reckless disregard of any damage we might do to anyone else or ourselves.

Courage comes from anticipating consequences.  Courage comes from understanding that to do right we might also do wrong, at least in some parts of our lives and the lives of others.  Courage comes from seeing through whatever we start and working through what we start to its natural end.  And sometimes courage leads us not to start at all, not out of cowardice, but because it is clear our act is just a worthless opinion and as self-indulgent as  a a small child handling an animal roughly.

It’s perhaps a feature of ‘mindfulness’ to be aware of the impact we have on the world and to act connectedly, and sometimes not to act because we realize our act is disconnected and minimally noise and potentially destructive.

Mindfulness and courage.  Do they go together?


When fear and desire are in residence, we are self-exiled from our immortality

Happiness is a choice

With apologies to Joseph Campbell:

When you are in a place

Defined by fear or desire

Then you are self-exiled from your own immortality.

Entertain fear or ambition, and you have exiled yourself from your own immortality.

Is it possible to escape fear and desire?

If you were brought up in the west, you probably think my assertion is absurd.  So I’ll break it down logically.   The statement seems to have 3 logical parts.

  • We do this to ourselves
  • There is something called our own immortality
  • Fear and ambition have the same effect

Our own immortality

Let’s define immortality simply.  When you are exiled from your own immortality, you feel a sense of not belonging and being uncomfortable “in your own skin” and “in this world”.    You feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected.   Of course, that does not mean there is anything called your own immortality, but that is enough for now.  You would simply prefer not to feel restless, dissatisfied and disrespected!

We do this to ourselves

Yup, fear is real.  Desire is quite fun when we don’t over do it.  Ambition is cool.  We can imagine relinquishing ambition, but relinquishing desire and fear?  The big test is to prove to you that fear is a choice.

Fear and desire have the same effect.

I need to show you that they both have the same effect.  Let’s see if I can!

#1  Fear and desire are both about what is not rather than what is

With fear, we fear not being in some way. We don’t fear being.  We fear not being.  Isn’t ambition exactly the same?  We want to be what we are not? Desire is similar.  We want what is not.

Fear, ambition and desire are essentially about nothing.  They are about absence.  We are focusing all our attention on what is not.

#2  We do this to ourselves

Why are we thinking about nothing?  Why not think about who we are and what is?

#3  Can we think about who we are when we are frighten or driven?

Yes, we can.  Indeed it is the only way to stop thinking about what we are not. Forsake fear, ambition and desire and we have time for ourselves. (TG for our small minds; we think of one thing at a time.)

Being present

It’s an odd idea, or so it seems to us in the west.  But it is a long standing idea in east.  We can call it mindfulness.  Pay attention to what is here, now.   Other religions call it giving up attachments.

In the secular world, we help ourselves move from agitation to calm thinking by making checklists and keeping gratitude diaries.  Other people meditate.  Take your pick!  If you pray or balk at prayer, try a gratitude diary on for size.

Is being present selfish and irresponsible?

The curious thing about stopping and focusing on what is closely around us is that there is an immediate effect of connecting us more fully to the world.

Paulo Coelho suggests a simple exercise of stopping to listen.  Close your eyes and listen for the furthest sound.  You thought your fear and ambition came from paying attention to the world.  Now you feel your horizon of attention recede a little and the world seems more alive, more interesting.   There is more space for you.  You come back from your self-imposed exile.  You can breathe.  Try it. It is amazing!

Yes, it seems as if our fear and restlessness came from shutting the world out, rather than letting it in. We are scared and dissatisfied because we are not paying attention.  Or rather we were attending to what is not there rather than to what is.  We drove ourselves into exile by worrying about what is not.  Nuts.

Interestingly, you can call back the fear and ambition any time you want it.  But why replace the exciting world around you with nothing?

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Don’t spend a day without having noticed a miraculous moment when the universe converges and you were there

Positive psychology in poetry

When it comes to understanding positive psychology, there really is no competition between prose and poetry.

Today, Paulo Coelho quoted a passage from his book By The River Piedra I sat Down and Wept, the first in the triology about a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens.  You must read it for yourself.

Positive psychology in prose

In prose, which is no substitute, this is what he said.

Every day there is a moment when a miracle is possible.  It doesn’t announce itself.  It is easily missed.  And it is likely to present itself in the most unlikeliest ways.  In a humdrum guise, or as to lowly that it is not worth earthly notice.

When we look back on our day or our year or our life, we want to look back on those miraculous moments when we were fully attentive and our understanding changed in a flash and our lives changed too.

Because these moments are easy to miss, it is very easy to spend a whole day attending only to what we know.  To make sure we never miss those glancing moments, we have to pay attention, expectantly to everything around us.

So we slow down and live a less cluttered life.  To be sure, the more we pack in, the more we are likely not pay attention to anything.

And even when life is slow, when our company is dull, when we yearn to be elsewhere, we can still pay attention to the moment, and look out for a miracle.  It may not come in that hour.   There are no promises.  But it might.

Be mindful

Don’t miss it.

Don’t spend a day without having noticed a miraculous moment when the universe converges and you were there.

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Relieve your stress. Live outside your tunnel vision

Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Motion

David Bohm‘s concept of “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Motion.” is so hard to understand for we western-raised psychologists.

David Bohm was a American quantum physicist who got himself into trouble by refusing to testify to the Non-American Activities (McCarthy) hearings.  After that he came to live and work in London.

Implicate Order

Bohm emphasized that nothing exists in this world except when we pay attention to it.

Did you get that? Touch your computer screen. It doesn’t exist unless you see it and touch it.

No, that’s not what it means, though that’s often what people say it means. He doesn’t mean that it is “all in our mind”. He doesn’t mean that what is in our mind is selective either.

Think of the thought as real. And then think that we are its host, so to speak. The thought is not ours. Nor is it make believe. Nor are things make believe.

But we only see, or perceive the thoughts that arrive, and not everything arrives.

Everything is connected

When a thought arrives, it is not us. Yet is in us. The world has arrived in us. The thought and the world are not separate. And nor are we separate from the world!

We are all interconnected and nothing, not any one of us, or anything, can be interpreted out of its context. Every thing is as much part of is context as it is apart.

Separating the whole into the parts is not universal

Other cultures get this. We are very proud that we don’t. Our science is based on separating things from their context.

Listen outside your tunnel vision

But I want you to try it.

When you are feeling stressed, which is right now, close your eyes and think outside the tunnel vision of your will. Listen. Listen for the furthest sound that you can hear.

I did that this morning for the first time in long time. I heard the birds. I heard the industrial din of the telephone exchange two houses away.

And I felt relaxed.

Imagine as David Bohm the physicist says. Imagine as Alan Watts the philosopher said. Imagine that you are one with the world.

Does the world suddenly seem more possible because you are working with the implicate order rather than against it?

Try it. Try the physical exercise (from author Paolo Coelho btw who is on Twitter with the same name).

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Reject your applicants? Why not invite them to something else?

HR standard letters are **** [fill in the word]

I am sure that some time in your life, you have received one of those “potted” rejection letters from an HR department.  Years ago, they said, “we regret to inform you . . .”  These days they say something like “the applications were of very high quality but on this occasion  .  .  .”  Somehow they always manage to be rude.

Do we have to act as if we hate the applicants?

Years ago, when a recruitment department came under my division at Coopers & Lybrand Associates, I would ask our consultants: what has this person done to offend you?  And as this is a smallish town, shouldn’t we at least take into account that the people we reject today may be our clients tomorrow?

Shouldn’t we take the trouble to say why we have rejected someone?

I insisted that every letter, every letter, include a least one phrase that gave the specific reason that we had rejected them.

Couldn’t we give people access to reports about them?

In my psychology practice, I took a stronger stand.  I insisted that every report was copied to the candidate.  They saw exactly the same report as my client.  And I would sit down and go through it with them ~ several times if necessary.  I have even remarked tests by hand when a candidate disbelieved the results.

Can’t we resolve the worries that students have about our marking?

I have carried out exactly the same policy with first year students in a class of 850 students.  If they queried their results, I took themseriously.  There is always a first time for a computer to mess up.  Students appreciated it and I am sure that reputation for being reasonable reduced requests for manual re-markes.

Managing rejections graciously

Now I am no wordsmith and I am not great at writing charming letters.

If you are, you might like to look at writer, Paulo Coelho‘s method of inviting people to his birthday party.  He is able to offer 30 invitations or so to his 1  000 000 plus readers.  Look at his methods and his charming way of letting people down engagingly.  We can learn a lot!


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Languishing? Hire a psychologist

What to expect from your psychologist

If you make an appointment to see me, I am going to ask you the toughest questions of all time.  And I am not going to stop until you either run away, or, you tell me this

  • Which ring is you hat in?
  • Who is the critical mass of your believers?

The feisty & the “out-of-it”

In my work as a “work & organizational psychologist”, I work with basically two groups of people.

The feisty & decisive

The first group are feisty, decisive people who have a clear sense of where they’ve thrown their hat. They know what they are about and what they stand for.

People like their energy and gather around them. My job, in the busyness of it all, is to slow them down and get them to look after the critical mass of people around them – not all the time and not every day – but just from time to time.

The hatless, the ringless, the lost

The second group in the world are those who don’t know what they have done with their hat. They might have torn it up and put a little in several rings. They might have forgotten where they left it.

The hatless often masquerade as organized people. In fact, we may recognize them precisely because they accuse the feisty types of leaving their hats lying around!

The truth is they lost their own hat a long time back and they can’t commit to any ring until they remember where they left it! As Paolo Coelho said on Twitter the other day ~ Distrust people who like everything. Distrust people who like nothing.   Particularly distrust people who are indifferent to everything.

Their lives have become sad. They don’t trust themselves to choose a ring and throw in their hat. So no one trusts them. And because no one trusts them, they lose more faith in themselves.  If they know where they left their hat, they will not say.  They feel ashamed.

Trusting oneself, trusting others and being trusted, all three feed each other in a spiral that moves up and down quite quickly.

Tough-minded psychologists help you find your hat!

Tough words? Yes!  When we let people drift, we are not doing them any favours. This is where your tough-minded psychologist comes in.

We begin with you pitching up being prepared to work.  You signal your intent by paying. Nothing like some good money to focus your mind.

Then we get down to work.

Well what are you prepared to commit to? I want to see it.

I am your audience of 1 who won’t let you get away with 2nd best.

And that sets off a positive process. Fortunately, the whole process works as a spiral and it feeds off itself. Once you get going, you won’t need me for a long while.

You do it, not me

But I can’t do it for you. If I do it, you still haven’t committed to anything.  Until your hat, with your name on it, is in the ring for everyone to see, things won’t work for you.

I am your coach and cheer leader

My job is to get you going. To be your cheerleader as you pick a ring that you can cope with. To be there the first time you try. To celebrate with you and to cry with you. Just at the start.

We aren’t feisty or uncommitted in perpetuity

The two groups – the feisty and the uncommitted – don’t have permanent membership. If you have been in either too long, you probably need to get hold of your psychologist.

Just don’t choose a softy. Don’t chose someone who is themselves uncommitted to anything in particular.

Look for 100% commitment from your psychologist

The first thing you look for is whether the psychologist has thrown their hat in your ring. Are they behind you 100%?

If not, don’t waste a penny!  If their hat is not in your ring, nothing they do or say will work. That’s how it goes.

Start watching the hats and the rings. Be upfront and the world is upfront with you.

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Virgin, Martyr, Saint, Witch?

Boys can play too!

Who was it who said that there are no new stories in life, just stories retold in new circumstances?

Yet for each of us, our story is completely unique.  It is still unfolding and perpetually fascinating!

The circumstances of our busy lives of 2008 are different from the lives of our great-grand parents 100 years ago.  Our lives are less scripted.  We can shape them much as we please.

In large part, we write our stories, or at least our treatment of the circumstances that we can come across along the way.


The common stories of the central characters of a story, that is you and I, are called archetypes, I understand.

Woman often rail about the common stories in which we are cast.

One of my pleasures of the last year was discovering the works of Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian writer.   Last week I read The Witch of Portobello.  One of the supporting characters introduces her acquaintance with Athena, the main character, with these words.

We women, when we’re searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge, always identify with one of four classic archetypes.

The Virgin (and I’m not speaking here of a sexual virgin) is the one whose search springs from her complete independence, and everything she learns is the fruit of her ability to face challenges alone.

The Martyr finds her way to self-knowledge through pain, surrender and suffering.

The Saint finds her true reason for living in unconditional love and in her ability to give without asking anything in return.

Finally, the Witch justifies her existence by going in search of complete and limitless pleasure.

Normally, a woman has to choose from one of these traditional feminine archetypes, but Athena was all four at once.

Which storyline resonates with you?

Are you torn between two story lines?  Which makes you feel relaxed?  Does knowing the four common story lines help resolve choices?



Aloha coaching: 3 points for conversations

I have just rediscovered Aloha Coaching and found their post on conversations:

Bronze is earned from listening to our own voice.

Silver is earned from incomplete conversations.

Gold is earned from voices that are struggling to be heard.

And how do we do this?

In addition to aiming for gold: to hear the voice struggling to be heard,

2.  Be patient with silence.

1.  Still our own inner voice

Have you seen Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED lecture on her “stroke of insight”?

Jill is a brain scientist who had a stroke quite young.  She describes what it felt like to lose the left side of her brain which governs our serial processing – our inner voice.  She cries when describes what it was like to be fully aware of the world via the right parallel processing side of her brain.  I think they were tears of wonder (though I am sure it was pretty scary too).

I think implicitly she was advocating the idea that we put far too much emphasis on our left brain, serial processing, “I”, “to do” list brain, and not enough attention to what is happening almost imperceptibly around us.

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho advocates similar idea.  I have found the idea of looking towards the horizon quite useful and particularly of listening to sounds as far as I can hear.

Galba Bright of TuneupyourEQ has been talking about reflection.

In my experience, some people who are very in tune with the world don’t reflect much.  I think that those of us who are have strong serial processors need to make time to relax, reflect and recreate.  In the hurly-burly of the world, we can become increasingly inefficient otherwise.

Does stilling our inner voice reduce our own motivation?

I don’t think so.  Indeed the opposite.  It allows us to hear ourselves too.

Our serial ‘doing’ brain is important.  It is what we use during “flow”, I think.  Maybe a neuro-scientist could comment on that.  When we are in the flow of action, we aren’t listening to anything outside that activity

We need both – action and stillness.

The big dilemma is when we get caught in one or the other!

I am just finishing a sabbatical and have the most awful resistance to getting going again.  I know from experience that the adrenaline high of action will take me away from the peace of reflection, and when I am in that place, I will resist coming down.

Have you experienced anything like that?


Distance lends enchantment to the view

Burning out?

Advice from an ‘old hand’ to a ‘new teacher’ whose class got the better of him: in Goodbye Mr Chips, which I watched over the weekend.

“You have some hours before prep starts. Go out. Out there under the sky. Look around. What is the saying? Distance lends enchantment to the view. Go out. Come back refreshed.”

Paulo Coelho offers the same advice. Don’t spend the day looking down. Look to the horizon.

David Whyte has the same advice. Sometimes the answer depends upon a walk around the lake.

Then go out, look out, reach out

Whenever life is bad, look to the horizon. Close your eyes and listen to the furthest sounds that you can hear.

And if you can, do it when you first awake in the morning.  Do it in short 1 minute break at work.  Do it commuting on the way home.

Is that why you pay so much for a house or office with a view?

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