Tag Archives: flow

Beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect – a positive perspective!

Crisis is all Around

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A week or so ago I read an interesting article on treehugger.com regarding the  floods in Colorado. Unfortunately this type of article, which tells the story of heart ache and devastation for fellow human beings is now all too common. In reading the article I was drawn to concept that as a society we’ve become immune to crisis.

Everyday, driven primarily by the mainstream media we are bombarded with an overwhelming number of stories and images that explain in detail, the negative things that are happening all around us. In fact, so prevalent has this focus become that it is almost impossible to escape. These stories and images extend from examples relating to single individuals through to the mass destruction of civil wars and environmental catastrophe.

Negativity Bias – a perpetual state of fear

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What many of us don’t realise is that as human beings we have an inherent bias towards the negative. That is, embedded deep within the reptilian parts of our brains, is our primary desire for safety and survival. From the very start of our evolution to become ‘modern man’ we have relied on this brain function to help our species survive and thrive.

Today, how this primary desire for safety and survival manifests is through an unconscious bias towards the negative; our negativity bias. That is, no matter how positive a person you claim to be, as a human being we are each  inherently more aware (at least at an unconscious level) of the dangers around us. It is true that some people are better able to deal with this than others, but this awareness of the negative is still the same. In fact, the theory of negativity bias suggests that we are five times more conscious of negative events than we are positive.  Hence, it requires five positives events to compensate for every negative one!

Restoring the balance – beyond the fluffy kitten effect

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It is a reasonable assumption that the focus of the mainstream media on the negative, is merely a collective unconscious reaction to our negativity bias. That is, because this bias exists within each of us, it is not unsurprising that we all are drawn to the negative stories, which drives up ratings and creates a perpetual cycle of fear. And, I’m sure it could be argued that this perpetual cycle of fear is what creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of threat-fear-reaction-threat, at the micro (individual) and macro (country) level. (The need for increased military spending and a nuclear deterrent is one such self-fulfilling prophecy that comes to mind!)

Whether this is true or not, is up to the audience to decide. And this does not mean that bad things are not happening constantly around us. But, what the Fluffy Kitten Effect tells is that the desire for positivity still exists. The Fluffy Kitten Effect is revealed by that single article in the news about the kitten being saved from the tree, or the dog that can ride the skateboard, or the birth of new Panda cubs etc etc, which is intended to restore our faith in the world we live within. It is the one glimmer of ‘goodness’ in an otherwise stream of negatativity.

For the average person living in modern society, the influenceable danger that may threaten our safety and survival is no longer as common as it was during our early evolution as primitive man. That is, today we are less likely to die from eating poisonous berries or be killed by a savage animals than we were back then. Yet the parts of our brain that are wired to be aware of potential threats are as strong as ever.

To overcome this we need to restore the balance and go beyond the Fluffy Kitten Effect. We need to find ways to increase the positivity, whilst decreasing the negativity we observe in every day life. A useful start of this for many of my friends has been to no longer watch the TV news or read news papers. Instead they are focusing on using this time for that which brings them greater positivity, meaning and purpose.

The Choice is Yours…

Ultimately once we become aware of our negativity bias we are given a choice. We can continue living a life where we allow the negativity that surrounds us every day to keep us in a unconscious (or even conscious) perpetual state of fear. Or, we can change our perspective and focus our attention on the richness and beauty of life and humanity!

Stuck – focus on the process, not the solution

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Stuck in the Paradox of Choice

Over the last month I’ve had several conversations with people who are just stuck; their unhappy with their current place and want to do or be something different, but they don’t know what.

When talking to each of these people it became obvious that they were stuck in the paradox of choice. That is, in front of them they each had a variety of choices as to what job they could do, where they could live, and how they could choose to live their life. And while being in the position of having so many choices was great, they found themselves unsure of which of their choices to pursue, or even whether they should pursue any of them at all.

In all essence they were stalled by the number of possibilities in front of them.

Why before What

In each of the conversations with those people who where were stuck, I couldn’t help but challenge them on whether they really knew what they wanted to achieve in the first place. That is, when we know the destination, assessing which path to take becomes easier.

When I raised the question of ‘Why’ – what is the purpose you are trying to fulfil in considering any of these options – they each looked at me blankly.

“Surely it’s only when we understand why something is important to us in terms of contributing to our purpose, that we can understand what the best options could be for fulfilling it.” I stated.

In the face of Uncertainty – Focus on the Process!

The question of purpose is not always an easy one to solve. Often, when we haven’t properly considered this – what is the purpose of our lives – we sit faced with a blank field of uncertainty in front of us.

Unfortunately, as is wired into our physiology, uncertainty for most human beings breads anxiety and fear. And to resolve this, we rapidly fumble around trying find a solution, often unconsciously clasping onto the most convenient solution rather than that which will help us truly fulfil our potential and live our purpose.

To ease our anxiety and fear in the face of uncertainty however, we don’t need to jump straight to solution mode; we don’t need to ‘fix-it’ as quickly as possible. Instead, we can fill the space with a process that helps us on the journey to find the solution.

Process = Journey of Discovery

The recommendation I gave to each person I spoke with is to hold the tension of wanting to find an answer and use your energy to go on a journey of discovery. To guide them on this journey I encouraged them to consider a few simple questions:

– Who am I ? (who do you really want to live your life as?)

– Why am I here? (what contribution do you wish to make in this world?)

Through considering these questions I’ve already seen these people explore different alternatives, connect with different people who give them energy and most importantly, contribute more positively to those around them.

The answers in life are not always easy and obvious but embarking on a journey of discovery, where our focus is on fulfilling our potential and purpose, is what helps us live in a state of unconditional happiness.

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Self Importance – false or true?

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Where’s the spotlight

As I sit in the United Club in Chicago O’Hare Airport, it’s hard not to notice some of the people sitting around me. Almost everyone can hear their cell phone conversations as they try to close the last deal on a Friday. Or we are distracted by the guy at the bar who announces how this is his “last beer in the U.S.A. for three weeks” before he heads to China.

Unfortunately in such an environment, it’s hard not to get sucked into these valiant displays of importance. “Wow,’” is generally our initial reaction before we see the behavior for what it really is.

What really is important?

Often, because of the preconceptions of society, we allow ourselves to get sucked into definitions of who we should be, rather than who we really are and who we want to be. In doing this, we attach all sorts of symbols and meanings to our definitions of self. For example, when we are asked, “what do you do?” we respond with our job or title. In doing this we are in fact attempting to create a sense of self-importance, as aligned to what we believe society wants us to be. And in doing this, we unfortunately lose our true sense of self, instead trivializing it with a lesser definition.

Being an identity of true importance

As I watch the sales guy stand up, slipping on his Ray Bands in doors before puffing out his chest. And as I watch the guy heading to China who in fact appears beneath the surface to be quite a lonely individual, I can’t help but wonder: ‘What if, we each were able to distil what is truly important, not in terms of what we do, but instead of what impact we have?’ Surely then we begin to form an identity of true importance focused on how we contribute to society, rather than how we take from it, using the preconceptions to ‘prop-up’ the insecurities we have instead of being who we truly can be. Surely this is what we mean by living with purpose.

(Image care of 2magazineonline.com)

Creating a Movement

Having stumbled upon this clip a little while ago, I couldn’t help but marvel at the power of crowd and the message that was contained within.

Leadership is over-rated, the First Followers are the key!

It seems to me that within our society today is an environment where we are each told to be leaders – we are each told that we have the potential to achieve anything. This I believe, in many respects has a lot of merit. To reinforce and focus our ability to dream, to develop our aspirations, and then to seek to consciously unlock our true potential, is one of the most powerful gifts we have as human beings.

However, there is a second edge to this sword. Through reinforcing that we should each be leaders, we risk creating further divides within society. That is, through the perceptions we attach to what ‘being a leader’ means, we perpetuate a mindset of individualism, where we unconsciously believe that “I am, or I must be the leader”. Pardon the cliche, but although there is no ‘I’ in Leader, it is the premise that underpins the concept of leadership.

To my mind, the biggest implication of this unconscious belief is that we dissolve the power of the crowd and we fall into one of our greatest existential concerns; isolation!

The Power of Aligned Purpose – The Power of the Movement

To live fulfilling your purpose in life, is what I call living on the path of Unconditional Happiness. And through the paradox of happiness, we can only achieve this if we recognise that our individual purpose in life is to make some form of positive contribution to others; we can only achieve true unconditional happiness through making a positive contribution to those around us. With this in mind, at the highest level, our purest purposes as individual human beings are aligned.

When we recognise this alignment of purposes we can begin to relax some of our preconceived ideas about being a leader; we can begin to let go of our belief that we need to be ‘the  leader’ and instead focus mobilising the crowd and building the power of the movement toward our aligned purpose.

Being the leader in any movement is a lonely place. Much like the penguin that finds themselves standing out of the edge of the colony, it is easy to feel isolated. However, by aligning with others who share our purpose and who seek to make the same contribution as us, we can build a movement. We can share our ideas and our energy and we can focus on working together as one to make a difference.

Examples of the  power of the crowd are all around us. Sometimes the crowd is mobilised for good and sometimes for bad. However, for each of us, focused on our purpose of making a positive contribution, we can be a leader by creating, or we can be a first followers helping to build or mobilise the crowd – either way, we can become a movement. And through becoming a movement, we can change the world!

Are you ready to create a movement? Are you ready to live fulfilling your purpose?

Artificial Fragmentation: Transcend to become Whole

Forced Fragmentation

With the pace of modern day life we all struggle to keep in flow. That is, we feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ‘things’ that bombard us in any moment. We struggle to keep our heads above the surface of the metaphorical flood of information, tasks and preconceptions that gush in around us.

To deal with this, we over-rely on on a single approach that we each have been taught by others who’ve also suffered through the same struggle before us; like cutting a picture into a pieces of a puzzle, we divide the components of our existence, artificially forcing the fragmentation of how we define our lives.

In taking this approach, searching for a way to stem the tide, we paradoxically reinforce the situation that got us there in the first place. As we divide and force fragmentation, much like cutting the pieces of the puzzle into even more pieces, we create even more ‘things’ for us to deal with in any moment. Furthermore, in a bid to manage and understand this greater list of ‘things’, we establish false dichotomies that reinforce the fragmentation – for example; Work and Life, Personal and Professional, etc. Then, with a seemingly even great number of individual ‘things’ to focus on, the feeling of drowning becomes stronger and stronger.

Our Desire for Wholeness 

Despite our well practice and deeply engrained pattern of behaviour of fragmenting our lives, deep within each of us as humans is the desire for wholeness – our desire to exist in a state of unbroken flow.

As individual humans, it is true that part of our time in any day consists of work and non-work (what people often refer to as ‘life’ in the work-life balance dichotomy).  However, what we often fail to realise is that despite these perceived fragments, what is common to each of us is ‘us’ – our purest human existence. Recognising this common factor in everyone of our fragments means that we can each forget those fragments and focus on what is common – us! With this focus – being conscious of the commonness of ourselves across each fragment – we can therefore stop worrying about ‘managing’ the fragments, and instead focus just on living as who we are and who we want to be.

Create, then Multiply to Transcend 

To achieve ‘wholeness’, or to become ‘whole’, requires practice. But this is not the usual practice that we are each taught – i.e. stop doing the bad things and do more of the good things. This practice is one of paradoxical intention. Because our desire to fragment our lives is so deeply engrained in our behaviour, we should not try to fight it. Instead we should continue the process. In fact, we should not only continue the process, but we should intensify it by multiplying our efforts and create even more fragments of fragments of fragments.

By creating fragments and then multiplying them further and further, we are able to consciously or semi-consciously approach an infinite number. That is, we are able to transcend our existing clutter of fragments by overwhelming ourselves to  the extent that all our fragments blend into one; one whole that is bound by the commonality of us!

You can become Whole

To overcome the artificial fragmentation that so heavily plagues our modern lives and prevents us from living in a state of flow, we should first focus on the commonality across all our fragments; we must recognise that despite the divisions we create in the definitions of our lives, we as individuals are the common factors across every aspect of our existence. Then, as we become comfortable with the commonality of our existence, we should avoid fighting the desire to fragment, and instead continue creating and multiplying our fragments to the point of of infinity, or wholeness!