It’s A Confidence Thing

(Originally published 18th April, 2007)

Have you ever watched someone who’s really good at something do whatever it is that they do? It doesn’t matter what it is that they do, they all have something in common with one another: they all believe that they can do whatever it is that they’re trying to do.

Confidence is something that’s been on my mind a fair bit of late. I’ve been examining my own life and trying to improve on some of the things that I’ve done in the past. Basically, I want to increase the good stuff in my life and reduce the things that haven’t been so successful for me.

One thing that I’ve realised is that things go better when I believe that I can do whatever it is that I’m attempting. If I’m plagued with doubts and fears, then I become self conscious, I over-compensate and end up making more mistakes. Either that, or I’m so paralysed by fears that I don’t even know how to start tackling the problem. But once I start to believe that I can actually do something and internalise that belief, that’s when things start to go right and I begin to make progress on my goals.

It’s the belief thing that’s caught my attention recently. The more I believe that I can do something, the easier it is for me to achieve. Basically, it’s a matter of confidence.

There’s that old saying that practice makes perfect. Sometimes you’ll find that people can pick up something naturally and start to excel at it without much practice at all. Other times, you’ll see people practicing for years and eventually mastering whatever it is their doing. What’s the difference between these sorts of people? Basically, I think it’s just a matter of how fast the person starts to believe that they can do it.

Perhaps a common mistake is that we set our sights too high to start with, and then give up too quickly when we fail. Not everyone’s going to be able to smash a world record on their first attempt. Even those people who end up smashing the world records have to start with a much smaller goal in mind.

And that’s the trick, people: don’t try to achieve everything, all at once. Start with a much smaller goal and use it to build up some confidence in what you’re trying to do. Once you’ve mastered the small stuff, you can then work on trusting yourself with something bigger. Push your boundaries out a little further each time you try something, and over time, you’ll end up being able to handle a lot more than you ever thought possible. If you try to take on too much too early, all you’ll end up doing is overwhelming yourself.

Now, I realise that this is probably self-obvious, but there are times — especially when you’re struggling to achieve something huge — when this really isn’t that obvious at all. All you can see is this huge mountain that you need to climb and it’s too big. But if once you grok that you only need to climb it one step at a time, it gets a whole lot easier to deal with.

Marcus Garvey once said, “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” Wise words. Master the small things and soon you’ll find that the big things are just a collection of small things to conquer.

So, when you set out to achieve something, just believe enough to get you one step closer to the goal. Do that enough times, and you’ll already have developed enough confidence to finish.

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Round And Round The Mountain

(Originally published 11th April, 2007)

Ever wondered why you seem to keep on experiencing the same sorts of events over and over? Or when you get out of one relationship with someone, you end up back in a relationship with someone just like the one you had trouble with last time?

It’s often struck me as kinda funny the way life works. Just when you think you’re finally over the pain of the last mistake you made, something happens which triggers off a massive explosion of emotion that brings all that old pain right back to the surface, as though it never left. I’ve done it, and I’ve been on the receiving end of someone else’s explosion. Believe me, that’s not much fun either.

So, why does it happen? Why do we torture ourselves with hanging onto this old baggage, only to have to come up at the worst possible time and screw things up for us when things are starting to look good?

Basically, it’s because we haven’t managed to learn the lesson that we were supposed to learn the last time. In our lives, we make certain decisions along the way that might not be beneficial to us. Sure, they might work out OK in the short term, but they might not be any good for us in the bigger scheme of things. We make our decisions based on thoughts and feelings that we have, ones that we hold to be true.

But sometimes, those thoughts might not be true at all. They might fit the facts as we know them, but often we’re filling in the blanks with stuff that we just make up. A lot of the time, it may not have any basis in reality at all. Because of that, we can end up making bad decisions and that can have a negative impact on our lives. If we continue to hold those same thoughts as the truth, then we’ll continue to make the same basic decisions over and over again, often with the same bad results.

So, what’s the answer? I guess it’s to become aware of when you’re going around the mountain again. If you find that you’re trapped in what looks like your own personal version of Groundhog Day, then it’s basically the universe smacking you upside the head and trying to get you to change your mind about something. The best thing to do in situations like that to take a long hard look at what you’re thinking and feeling and start looking for alternatives.

Often there’s going to be one. Sometimes you’ll see the alternative straight away and you’ll be able to make a better decision and get past the problem quickly. Other times, you’re going to need to have the universe clobber you a few more times before things become clear. Every time we fail and make the same mistakes that we made last time, it’s an opportunity to learn a new way to approach the problem. Make some new, more beneficial decisions and you’re life will change for the better.

We often find that we attract the same sorts of people into our lives, so that we can get another opportunity to learn the right way to do something. Sometimes we attract the people who can show us where we’re going wrong, so that we can make better choices and get rid of some of the emotional baggage that we’ve been carrying around for years that’s been – deep down – making us miserable. Once we finally jettison that baggage, we experience real freedom and life becomes a lot easier all round.

So, the next time you find yourself going around the mountain again, sit down and take a look at the scenery. Maybe you’ll spot a new trail to take that will lead you down in the valley.

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Strengthening Connections

(Originally posted 4th April, 2007)

My writing last week about the global consciousness got me thinking. If we run with the idea that we do form part of a giant, worldwide neural network, then what part do each of us play in the global net?

The purpose of each node in an artificial neural network is to process the information coming in, and then pass the results onto another node further down the line. Now, each node has a bunch of different input values, and part of the way that the network works is that different weights are given to each of the inputs, meaning that some sources of information are given more credence in the calculations than others.

It’s the same for us humans. Each of us puts different amount of weight on what comes into our minds, depending on the source of the information. We’re more likely to take something more seriously if it comes from a friend or a trusted teacher than if it comes from someone we’ve never met.

Credibility is an important thing in the modern world; if you can prove your worth to other people, they’re more likely to take you seriously and use the things you say and do more often in whatever it is that they’re doing. In some respects, it’s a measure of our worth to the network as a whole. The more people who take notice of what you do and benefit from it, the more credibility you have.

So, how do we go about getting more credibility? Well, it’s pretty simple really. Just do whatever it is that you want to do, simply because you enjoy doing it. It doesn’t really matter what you do – whether it be writing, fishing, darning socks, painting pictures, telling stories or whatever – so long as you put your heart into it and continue to try to improve the quality of your work, your credibility in that field is going to go up.

Now, that takes courage in some cases. Most of us are plagued by doubts and fears that somehow we’re not good enough, or even as good as the people who are already working in that particular field. Thing is though, most people are plagued with the same doubts when they start out, and it’s only through continued practice that they come to believe that they’re actually any good at whatever it is that they’re doing.

This doesn’t mean that if you’re good at some really obscure area or thing, you’re going to become a household name. But there will always be people who will come to admire whatever it is that you’re doing, provided that you just keep on doing it and trying to get better at it. Eventually, people may even start paying you for whatever it is that you’re doing, which gives you even more credibility, because now you’re a “professional”.

Most of us don’t put our hearts into what we’re doing. It’s kind of bizarre, but continuing on working on improving the quality of what we’re doing takes time and effort and often can be a whole lot of hard work. There are plenty of times when we begin to wonder if it’s actually worthwhile putting in the effort, especially when we don’t seem to be getting anywhere with it. But if we keep our eyes on whatever it is we’re trying to achieve in the long run, we’ll find that other people will start to take more notice of us, and our level of influence in the global consciousness will continue to rise. Eventually, if we get good enough, we may even become a household name after all.

It’s like Robin Williams said in Dead Poet’s Society, “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make you lives extraordinary.” Put the effort into whatever it is you love doing and find a way to pass that information on to other people and you’ll find that your level of satisfaction in life will automatically start to increase. Other people will start to take you more seriously and you’ll find that you’ll be contributing more to the global neural network in no time.

And that’s got to be a good thing, right?

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We’re All In This Together

(Originally posted 28th March, 2007)

The late Douglas Adams, in his classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, joked that the Earth was really just a giant computer that was crunching through the numbers to try to come up with the answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything.” Had it not been destroyed by the Vogons, it would have come up with it as well.

People have often talked about the “global consciousness”, as a sort of buzzword for a larger group mind. Some people – particularly the New Age types – have even talked about things like a planetary intelligence, something that links us all together.

Years ago, when I was taking a machine learning course as part of my Master’s degree, we were learning about artificial neural networks, computer programs modelled on the way the human brain works. Apparently they can be highly useful and adaptable little things, learning how to understand a particular problem space, and then being able to take a bunch of assorted inputs and make sense of them based on what they’ve learned in training. Don’t ask me how; while I understand the concepts behind them, I still don’t understand how they work.

The concept intrigued me. I started to wonder if someone could build different artificial neural networks to do different things and string them together. For example, build one to handle visual inputs, another to handle tactile inputs, a third to turn a bunch of tactile and visual cues into spatial information and so on. Then, once you’d trained each individual part successfully, I figured that if you connected up the outputs from one trained network to the inputs of another trained network, you could get it doing some seriously clever things.

So, one afternoon during the break in the lecture, I asked my lecturer if anyone had built a neural network of neural networks. He looked at me oddly for a second and said, “it’d just be a neural network.” That concept floored me, but I quickly realised he was right; a collection of joined neural nets is just a single, large neural net, one that has the ability to do a much cleverer job than each individual subnet. It’s a very fractal thing.

Recently, I got to thinking about the human brain and how it processes information. Data comes into the brain through the various sensory organs and is processed in a variety of different ways. Each person then converts that information into something that they share with other people in different ways. It can be as simple as having a conversation about the weather over coffee, or it might be as complicated as a Nobel Prize winning physics thesis or a United Nations declaration on something or other. Each of us has one of the best neural networks that have ever existed, and it sits right inside out heads.

That’s when the words of my old machine learning lecturer came back to me: a neural network of neural networks is just a neural network.

Suddenly, I realised that there was such a thing as a global consciousness. Every single one of us contributes daily to the world-wide intelligence. Each one of us takes in some information, processes it and then passes that information on to other people so that they can do things with it as well.

With the advent of things like the Internet, each individual person has the ability to influence a much larger number of other people, thereby allowing more information to pass quicker and be processed by a much larger portion of the population than was possible even fifteen or twenty years ago. We’re all part of a single, enormous neural network.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying that the global intelligence is a product of some divine being or anything like that. I’m not even saying that it exists for any particular reason other than it just evolved that way. I’m just pointing out that it actually does exist, at least from a particular point of view.

So, maybe old Doug wasn’t so far off the mark after all. Maybe the Earth is just some sort of giant computer, trying to work something out.

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A Star Fall, A Phone Call, It Joins All

(Originally posted 20th March, 2007)

Ever noticed those times when you’ve been thinking about something and not long afterwards you run across the very thing that you’ve been thinking about? Or perhaps you’ve been thinking about someone you haven’t spoken to for a while and all of a sudden, you either run into them or they phone you up?

Welcome to the wonderful world of synchronicity. Carl Jung described it as an “acausal connecting principle”. By acausal, he means there’s no direct cause-and-effect link between the two topics. And yet, to the subjective observer,there’s very much a connection between the two.

Is it just a coincidence? Well, perhaps, at least from a logical perspective. But human beings aren’t particularly logical creatures most of the time. We’re often ruled by our emotions and feelings, and its through the filter of our feelings and beliefs that we see the world around us. If we’re calm and relaxed, we’re more likely to see the beautiful things in the world around us. If we’re angry, we’re not going to notice things that are calming and beautiful as much, but we probably will notice things that are going to upset us even more.

That’s one of the good things that synchronicity can do for us: it can act as a barometer for what we’re currently focused on. If you’re starting to notice things that are ticking you off all the time, then chances are that you’re holding a lot of anger or negative expectations. You’d be far better off if you found a way to relax. If nothing else, it’s better for your health and it makes your day a whole lot more pleasurable.

But there’s more to it than just that. Sometimes, when we’re embarking on a new stage of our personal journeys, synchronicity helps us out. We meet the right people who can help us with things we need. We might read something that gives us the answer to a problem we’ve been wrestling with for a while. It can bring old friends – and perhaps enemies – back into our lives to let us clear away some old baggage or to perhaps give us the opportunity to share what we know in order for us to help them through a rough spot in their lives.

How does it work? Honestly, I have no real idea. I believe that world is what we think it is, and that by focusing on something, we can bring that thing into our conscious reality. It might actually take a while if it’s something big that we’re focusing on, but the law of attraction does seem to work. The more you focus on something, the more you notice it around you. On the other hand, if you’re concentrating on something and it’s not starting to show up in your life, then that’s a sign as well that you could well have other issues that you need to deal with before you can manifest that reality.

Thing is, does it really matter how it works? I don’t think so. For me, it’s just a cool thing that happens. It’s like the universe is giving you a sign. If you listen carefully enough, you’ll hear the things that you need to hear and see the things that you need to see in order to get to your life’s goals. Sometimes the universe shouts pretty loudly – and sometimes it just whacks you upside the head with the cluestick if you’re really not getting it.

The other odd thing about synchronicity is that once you start to notice and go with the flow, it starts to happen more often. The more you concentrate on what you want, the more likely you are to notice things around you that will help. You may also find that things – like extra money – show up in your life right at the times when you need it the most.

So hey, if you’re starting to notice little coincidences around you, enjoy it. It’s a good thing.

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Life Moves Pretty Fast…

(Originally posted 13th March, 2007)

A wise man once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

It’s struck me this evening just how true those words really are, and it reminded me why Geoff In the Morning came into being. It was for me to stop, look around at what’s really going on around me and to find an outlet to express the appreciation I have for the small things in life.

But along the way, I forgot that. Life got in the way, as it has a habit of doing. It’s been over a year since I’ve been on the air here. I had all the stress of a separation and divorce to deal with, stuff with work and getting used to being on my own again. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worthwhile. Somewhere along the road I’ve walked, I’ve started to discover me again.

One thing I’ve learned from the photography I’ve done over the past couple of years is that we don’t often see the world as it truly is. We see what we think is there and that often blinds us to the reality. Robert Pirsig —in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — talks about how Phaedrus set a writing assignment for one of his students. He asked her to write a short essay about the United States. She found she didn’t know what to say. So he suggested that she write just about the town she was in, and she was still stuck. So he said, just write about the main street of the town. She went away, then came back in distress, saying she still couldn’t think of anything to say, so he said she wasn’t looking and that she should start looking at one building in the street and just write about it, starting from the top left hand brick. She went away and started writing and kept writing and was able to finish the essay. She couldn’t explain it, but it was a relief to her.

Phaedrus pondered this for a while and realised that until she wrote about the brick, she’d been trying to regurgitate all the things she’d been taught, because that’s what she thought he wanted to read. It wasn’t until she started writing about the individual brick that she had to look with her own eyes at what was really there and find a way to express her original thoughts on it.

That’s what it’s like for most of us too. We’ve been taught that the world is the way it is and we just go on regurgitating that day after day. And then we wonder why we get so bored and feel like we’re stuck in a huge rut. It’s because we’re seeing what we think is there, and not what’s really there at all.

When was the last time you went outside and just stared at the moon or the stars? When did you last go for a walk through the forest and enjoy the sounds, sights and smells of the bush? When was the last time you sat down and played the way you did when you were a kid?

Chances are, if you’re like most of us, then the answer’s probably going to be “years ago.” And when you think about it, that’s really a crying shame.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to stop regurgitating what we’ve been taught about the way the world runs and found the time to actually take a long, close look at the world and to come up with some original thoughts about the things around us, and about our own lives. Start with the top left hand brick in your own life and take a long hard loook at it. If you closely examine the rut you’re in, you’ll start to see the footholes you need to climb up out of it.

So, do like young Ferris said. Stop and look around once in a while. Life really is too good to miss.

And while you’re out there, say “hi” to the Moon for me…

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On Friendship…

(Originally posted 13th November, 2005)

A friend of mine commented earlier today that he knew that people liked him, but he couldn’t figure out why.  So, I responded to my friend and said that the reason I like him is because he cares; he’s one of the people who really has genuine concern for the emotions that I’m feeling, even if he doesn’t quite grok where I’m at at any given moment. He just accepts me for who I am and where I’m at and to me, that’s something damn important.

My friend’s conundrum is one that I guess we’ve all struggled with at some point in our lives. I know I certainly have. I’m my own worst critic, because I know all my faults only too well and, to me, those things stand out above all the positive qualities that others might see in me. But I know there are people out there who do like me, despite my faults, even if I don’t understand why sometimes.

It’s all too easy these days to go through life thinking that there isn’t anyone out there who cares about us. Life’s become so superficial and shallow and the solid relationships between people aren’t as solid as they used to be.

But I think if you stop and think about all the people who you consider to be your closest friends, they’re the ones who care the most about you, and they’re the ones who you can count on to support you when life starts to get a little – or a lot – tough. They’re the one’s who won’t try to nullify what you’re feeling, but they will give you a shoulder to lean on and offer counsel to help you see things from another perspective, hopefully one that will let you see the way out of whatever mess you happen to be in at the moment. They don’t judge, they don’t criticise, they just offer their support and their sympathy and offer to do whatever they can to help you get through whatever pain you’re going through.

To me, that’s what real friendship is all about. I’ve written before about the spirit of Aloha – to love is to be happy with. A real friend is one that is happy with you and loves you right where you’re at. Sure, they may think that you could be doing things better than the way you’re handling things at the moment, but they’re the ones who don’t make a big deal out of pointing out how wrong you are. A real friend’s love is non-judgmental. They see past the mistakes that you make and appreciating the good things that you do.

If you stop and think about it, I’d bet there’s a good chance the people you consider to be your closest friends are the ones you can see the good in as well. They’re the ones you just accept, despite the flaws and despite whatever mistakes they happen to make. They’re the ones you’re prepared to help out when they call on you. And chances are, deep down, they love you for that, even if they can’t articulate it that way.

So, friends, I guess the moral of the story is that if you want to make some more friends, go find people to care about. If you want to be a better friend to someone, accept them where they are at and let them know that you care. If you’ve got friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, give them a call and let them know you’ve been thinking of them; I’m sure they’ll be grateful for it and you might be calling at the precise moment that they need someone’s shoulder to lean on for a while.

But if you can’t just call them, for whatever reason, bring them to your mind and let them know there that you care and that you’re thinking about them. Somewhere, somehow, on some level, they’ll feel it and be grateful that you’re on their side.

And you know what? It’ll make you feel good too.

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The Ruins Of Babel

(Originally posted 21st April, 2005)

I should start by saying it feels good to be back on the air again. It’s been a very long time since I sat down to write one of these, or even felt like sitting down to write one. Please accept my apologies for that; sometimes life just gets in the way of thinking.

But hey, sometimes life has to get in the way, just to give you some more stuff to think about. Maybe that’s a column in itself for another day.

But not today. Today I want to talk about something that’s been lurking in the back of my mind for a very long time indeed.

I’m sure all of us have heard the tale of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis in the Bible. It’s the story that’s always quoted as to why there’s so many languages on Earth.

It starts out saying that at one time, there was only one language and everyone could understand everyone else. That’s when some people decided that they wanted to build a tower to the heavens, so they could reach God. Now, God wasn’t really fussed with this idea, so he apparently struck down the tower and caused everyone to speak in different tongues so they couldn’t understand each other.

Now, naturally, because it says it was a tower, people have traditionally got to think that the building physically existed at some point and so people have been running around the Middle East for centuries, looking for the ruins of this once mighty tower.

Thing is though, I don’t think that is a story about a physical tower at all. I think the story of the Tower of Babel is really a metaphor for human understanding.

Several hundred years before Christ was born, a Chinese sage named Lao Tzu penned the now famous Tao Te Ching, which went on to become the basis for Taoism and probably a bunch of other things besides.

Now, the Tao Te Ching is a collection of poems, containing some amazing wisdom. But it has always been the very first line that piques my interest: The Tao that can be written down is not the true Tao. To me, that always says that as soon as you try to describe something, you automatically miss parts of it. You can explain most of it, but if someone just read what you had written, they wouldn’t have a full understanding of whatever it was you were writing about. It wouldn’t be until they had experienced it for themselves that they would have a real chance of understanding, and they might not even understand it then.
Robert Anton Wilson, in his book Quantum Psychology, talks about the danger of saying something “is” something else. As soon as you put a label on something, it automatically narrows people’s thinking about the thing in question and they can end up missing the point of whatever it is that you’re talking about. They stop looking at it is it really is, and only look at it in terms of the label that you’ve stuck on it.

That’s another problem with human understanding: no two people can understand exactly the same thing. They’re both going to be filtering it through their own knowledge and understanding, which is automatically going to remove some or all of the nuances of what they actually talking about. If the subject is only small and they both have a good understanding of what it’s about, then the differences aren’t going to be big factor.

The problem comes when you’re dealing with a complex and enormous problem. Like life, or even a subset of it, like religion or politics. People aren’t going to be understand a sizeable portion of the subject matter and because of the reality of human nature, that’s going to lead to differences of opinion, which can lead to ideology clashes – or worse.

That bring us back to the story of the Tower of Babel. Like I said, I don’t think they were trying to build a physical tower at all. Instead, I believe it much more likely that they were trying to define and codify what God is. They wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page, so to speak. But remember what good old Lao Tzu said about the written Tao: it’s not the real thing. Even worse than that, people are going to have differences of opinion about such weighty matters and sooner or later, they’re going to dig their heels in and not budge on a particular topic. Once that happens, it’s game over, kids. Whatever thought structures you’ve created to help define your topic are going to come crashing down like a house of cards – or the Tower of Babel.

To me, that’s why we have so many religions on Earth. If you can set aside your prejudices and look honestly at several of them, you’ll actually find a large overlap in what they believe. There’s a certain subset of beliefs that’s common to just about all faiths across the world. They just differ in what you do with them, or the precise nature of what a worshipper is supposed to do. With humans being what we are, we get all caught up in the differences and miss the underlying commonalities. As soon as that happens, you get religious wars.

Go to any big meeting in a corporate environment where issues are being discussed. Or go visit any level of government or the United Nations. As soon as people start arguing over details, they’re picking through the ruins of Babel again.

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Expectations

(Originally posted 12th September, 2004)

You know, it’s funny what people think sometimes. They have all these high expectations about how things are going to happen and how other people around them are going to act and all sorts of stuff like that. Thing is, life often doesn’t turn out the way that we planned it, folks. Call it fate; call it God’s sense of humour. Things just happen that throw a spanner in the works of whatever carefully laid out plans we have.

A few years ago, I was doing some meditating on the nature of anger. Back in those days, I was a seething cauldron of emotion, bubbling away under the surface, just waiting for the trigger that was going to cause me to explode. They were tense times. Even little things used to upset me, stuff that should have really bounced off had I had my screwed on right.

It took me a while, but I came to what was for me a startling revelation: anger is nothing more than the reaction you have when something you had been expecting doesn’t come to fruition. I  mean, think about it. Something you really want to happen does come out the way you wanted. It doesn’t matter if that thing is wishing someone you care about would ring you, or something that you think is blindingly obvious that you think that the government should be doing. If it doesn’t happen, you get upset or ticked off, right?

Anger is a natural reaction, friends. It’s not a bad emotion, if you’re using it the right way. It’s there to make us aware that something we planned isn’t working out, and to spur us into action to take steps to do something about it. It’s an early warning system and when you use it like one, it’s a very effective tool.

Thing is, people don’t know how to use it that way. It’s not something that we’re taught how to do. Instead, when something doesn’t go the way we want it to, we get the angry signal from our subconscious that we need to do something about the situation. But instead of doing something about it, most of us look at the situation through the original expectation that we had – the one that wasn’t fulfilled. But as soon as we do that, we trip that emotional early warning system again, because our expectations aren’t being met, and the anger increases. So we go round again, and look at the situation the same way again. And guess what? You just get angrier and angrier.

That’s not how it’s supposed to work and that was something of a revelation for me. Anger, like I said, is the subconscious’ way of saying “hey, you need to do something about this situation, because it’s not going the way that you want.” At that point, there’s two things you can do. You can either change the way you’re approaching the problem, and activate some sort of contingency plan so that you can work your way around the issue, or you change the expectation you have of the desired outcome. The first case is what you need to do if you’re in a situation you can change; the latter is what you need to do if you’re in one that you can’t.

This is not to say that expectations are bad things. Quite the contrary. Unless we are able to believe that the choices we make are going to bring something to fruition, life becomes one great, depressing hopeless mess. If we the only expectations we have are negative ones, that something bad is going to happen to us, then that’s all that’s going to happen, and strangely enough, we’re never going to be let down.

But people have the wrong sorts of expectations. A good expectation is a positive one that gives you a good outcome to focus on and work towards. A bad one has the same outcome, but it specifies precisely how that outcome is going to come about and that’s where most people come unstuck. Like I said earlier, life has a habit of throwing obstacles in our paths when we’re in pursuit of our goals. If your expectation includes the details of how something is going to pass, then if it doesn’t happen that way, then you’re going to end up disappointed and bitter, even if you get the end result you’re looking for.

What you need to do is just keep your eyes on the end result and don’t let things stop you from getting there. If something comes up that blocks one approach, then back up a bit and find another way of getting there. That way, the journey to your end goal becomes an adventure and you’ll probably learn a lot more along the way.

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Under Cover Of Darkness

(Originally posted 30th August, 2004)

What is it about the night that makes people so nervous? You hear stories of people all the time who are afraid of the dark — or at least partially disturbed by it — and who have to have all the lights on all of the time.

Back in ages past, when life was much more of struggle for survival than it is now, being afraid of the dark makes a certain amount of sense. Human eyes are better suited to the ambient light levels during the day and at night we can only see in black and white. That makes it so much easier for predators to sneak in unobserved. When we lived closer to nature, this cautiousness was probably justified.

This evolutionary instinct isn’t so necessary any more. In most civilised countries, we can stay safely indoors at night, locked away from the predators in a place where no one’s going to disturb us. So why is it that so many people still can’t handle the nighttime and they become edgy as soon as the lights go out?

I love the dark; it’s my favourite part of the day and I look forward to sunset every night. For me, it is a time of introspection, when the inner world comes out to play. All of my best thinking happens at night. When I’m writing, I love to turn just about all of the lights out and just pace around the house in the dark, listening to music. Ideas just seem to flow better when there are less distractions around.

Night is also normally when people sleep and dreams are a usual part of the nightly sleep cycle. As Carl Jung postulates, dreams give the subconscious mind a chance to process repressed emotions and thoughts, and get them out into the open where they can have an effect on the person’s consciousness.

So if the nighttime is when our subconscious mind has greater power over us, are people just afraid of what’s going on inside?

Perhaps. It’s something to think about anyway.

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