The thing called work…

At the beginning of the year I had one of the best jobs that I had in my career, at least from the point of view of having had a great work life balance, control over what I needed to do and liking the people that I worked with. Then something inside me compelled me to change roles and fast forward 6 months and I am in a job that is really busy, I have lost a lot of my autonomy and I don’t feel like I am in control of my own work. One of the first initial thoughts was ‘have I made a mistake? Should have I stuck to the role I knew and I was comfortable with?’ However, the part that compelled me to move, deep down knew that not only this is a good learning experience, but vital for me to move forward and that this will contribute to who I want to be, even if I fully don’t understand what it is at the moment.

When I joined the team, some of my colleagues were putting in 45-50 hours a week and this was considered a norm in this particular team. For me, someone with a young child, differing home priories and charity commitments (and not to mention blogging commitments!), this certainly wasn’t the norm, but also near impossible. The old me would have given up before I even started soon as I saw the hours the others put in, or at the very least I would not have been motivated to perform at my best as I would have assumed I am on a downward slope anyway.

However, with my new found wisdom though law of attraction, setting positive intensions and using mindfulness, I decided to give my new work role a full-hearted go, which is a real test of my beliefs as well as my ability. My overall goal for this role was that I will not only survive this role, but I will thrive in this role, while also maintaining my work life balance no matter what and not compromising on the quality & quantity of time I spend with my daughter.

My morning routine for work consists of setting my intensions in the morning just as I am waking up and then doing a quick meditation session on my commute to work. Sometimes, I listen to audio books by great self-help teachers such as Dr Wayne Dyer and Abraham Hicks, while also listening to upbeat music before I walk into work. On the way back, I also tend to write down all the things I was grateful for the day and sometimes when I do have a bad day, writing it down also helped me to get perspective on the issue.

Here are some of the main intensions I have been setting myself every morning:

  • I felt good at work today
  • I had a relaxing day at work and I come home energized
  • I had a sense of achievement today, completing all the tasks that I wanted to
  • I have built some of the best working relationships that I can
  • I helped someone at work today
  • I finished my work at 5.30 today
  • I had learned something new at work
  • I had a wonderful day at filled with fun and laughter at work

All my intensions are usually in past tense and there is a good reason for it; I will say it to myself in past tense and then I will close my eyes and visualise how I would feel at the end of the day when I have achieved these intensions and try and hold on to that feeling as much as I can.

One of the other techniques that have helped me is mindfulness towards my tasks and towards my feelings while I am work. In the past, not only my mind will wonder during mundane tasks, but also I will move from one task to another without completing it and getting distracted. When I have a lot of work to do, I try and prioritise as much as I can and I stick to one task at a time while being mindful when my attention waivers. This way, I can concentrate on the most value add tasks and go home when I need to. One of the other sides to mindfulness is compassion; I think this is one of the most important tools in the modern work place. By practicing more compassion and less judgement, I started seeing even the most difficult people as not difficult, but as individuals who are having a difficult time themselves and need my kindness, not anger or frustration.

Looking back at the past few months, all of these tools and techniques have helped me to make my work life not just bearable, but really enjoyable. Some of my colleagues have commented on my positive attitude and my ‘bounce-back-ability’ even during turbulent times. I know this is not my long term future, but it the short term it is serving my purpose of giving opportunities to test out my beliefs while building up skills and knowledge on a professional and personal basis. Ultimately, I know this is all part of my happiness journey though the thing called life….

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Practical Mind Tools: Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness has taken off in a big way in recent years from medical psychology field as part of mental wellbeing therapies including mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to the corporate world, where numerous mindfulness based courses are popping up to improve productivity and enhance business success. What is mindfulness and how can it be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to wellness and success?

For me the elegance of mindfulness is the simplicity of the concept; paying attention to the current moment.  That means switching off from your ‘auto-pilot’ mode and paying attention to your current thoughts, feelings, or the world around you without judgement. Although mindfulness goes in hand in hand with meditation, unlike meditation, the beauty of mindfulness is that it can be practiced at any time by anyone and without any prior knowledge or skill set.

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Mindfulness example: Mindful showering

Next time you take a shower, pay full attention to taking a shower and try and use all your senses to pay attention; feel the water on your skin; sense the temperature of the water; smell the soap or shampoo; hear the water trickle down and watch the lather of the soap. Whatever you do, pay full attention to having the shower. Chances are half way though your mind will start to wonder and think about plans for the rest of the day or the chores that you need to get done still, but try to gently bring it back to the present moment and focus once again on your senses and paying attention to what you are doing.

Mindfulness is not actually a new concept; along with meditation practices it is rooted in two and half thousand year old eastern traditions. The reason for recent popularity is perhaps due to numerous medical and psychology studies into the practice which has shown benefits for those suffering with mental ailments including stress, anxiety, depression and medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic pain. By practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, you can improve your stress levels (mindfulness has shown to decrease the levels of the stress hormone cortisol), improve attention span, memory, mental reliance and much more as it has even proven to change the actual structure of your brain.

Mindfulness example: Mindful eating

By far this is one of my favourite mindfulness exercises and this is to eat a chocolate mindfully! Pick your favourite bar of chocolate and aim is to savour it and eat it mindfully as you can. Look very closely at the wrapper in your hand as you open it; smell the chocolate; feel the texture of the chocolate in your hand; feel the texture as it melts; take a small bite and savour it in your mouth; try and taste all the subtle notes of the chocolate from the sweetness to the slight bitterness of the chocolate. The more time you take to eat the chocolate, the better.

Of course, one of the most popular methods of practicing mindfulness is mindful-meditation and there are loads of good books, websites, blogs,  and even mediation apps that take you through this practice. Some of my favourite are:

  • BOOK: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world – by Prof Mark Williams (Author) and Dr Danny Penman (Author)
  • APP: Headspace Meditation App

Having read about mindfulness and meditation about 10 years or so ago, I have only been getting to grips with mindfulness in the last few years. One of the reasons for my slow uptake is the fact that even though mindfulness is the easiest concept to understand, it is the hardest concept to put in practice, but like anything in life, it becomes easier with practice and the more you practice the better you will become to paying attention to your life. After all practice makes ‘profound changes’! (see previous post!)

“You learn something every day if you pay attention” Ray LeBlond

Practical Mind Tools: Vision Board

So what is a vision board, I hear you ask. Well, perhaps not those of you who are well versed in the law of attraction and the techniques that goes with it. Perhaps there are some of you guys out there who are experts at this and I would love to hear from you on how you create your vision boards.

For the novices, vision board is simply a board where you capture your visions for your future, aspirations and desires all in one place.  This is perhaps one of the most basic and effective way of putting law of attraction into practice. After all, we are all visual creatures and what we see is more likely to affect us than having just abstract pictures in our head.

Creating a vision board is really easy:

  1. Find a suitable board, whatever size you require. I always find the blank art canvases are great for my vision board purposes, but you can use anything from cardboard to plywood.
  2. Find suitable images to fill your board with. You can use magazine clippings, writings, quotes, print outs from the internet, whatever works for you and whatever that captures your vision. It doesn’t have to be an exact match of your vision, it can be abstract or represent you vision indirectly, but as long as you can relate to it, that is the main thing. I tend to use words and pictures in my vision boards and I often like quotes that resonate with me.
  3. Then use the visions to fill the board up and stick them on securely.
  4. Main thing is put the vision board somewhere where you will look at it regularly, perhaps on your bedroom wall.

The more you look at your vision board, the more your brain gets reminded of what you want. The more you are reminded, the more you think about it. But like any law of attraction tool, you need to frame your thoughts and feelings positively. You may subconsciously create resistance by looking at it and thinking ‘oh I am never going to achieve that!’ Instead, every time you see your vision, imagine you have achieved it and how would it feel like? Bring that feeling into the present and close your eyes and feel it for few minutes.

Nowadays there is a wealth of online tools available to create vision boards; there are even apps for vision boards. So you can go crazy and go overboard with the whole thing! So my suggestion is focus on one board at a time. If your vision changes, then change the board or change the images, after all our visions are rather fluid and that is a good thing as that how we move forward and evolve.

History and Law of Attraction

Law of Attraction is the belief that you will attract into your life whatever you think about and focus on and this has been popularised by the book ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne (2006). Whether you are a fan of the book or not, The Secret has been responsible for popularising the law of attraction and bringing this concept to the attention of the world. One of the claims of the book is that Law of Attraction has been around for a long time and that it can be traced back though history to 3000 BC, where ‘The Secret’ which the Law of Attraction was recorded in stone. According to the book, the law, in one form or another, has appeared in Babylonian times to religions such as Hinduism, Hermetic traditions, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. So did us humans have this knowledge as far as that or is this something recent, a new age science?! How far back can you really trace it back to history?

Beginnings…

Of course for many believers, there is only one beginning for Law of Attraction and that is when the universe came into existence. Even if we accept that the Law of Attraction existed at the beginning of universe, we must also accept the fact that Human awareness of the law is perhaps a crucial point in its existence. According to theoretical physicist John Wheeler, colleague of Albert Einstein, we live in a participatory universe and that our observations might actually contribute to the creation of physical reality. In other words we are not simply bystanders in the physical universe but we are shapers and creators living in a participatory universe.

The term Law of Attraction seems to have made an appearance in the late 19th century books including Isis Unveiled by Helen Blatvatsky (1887) and Prentice Mulford’s essays in 1891. One of the strong influencers of the New Thought Movement, Thomas Troward claimed in 1904 :

the action of Mind plants that nucleus which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward visible form’.

Of course one of the other famous books on the subject is the ‘The Science of Getting Rich’ by Wallace D Wattles (1910), the inspiration for the book ‘The Secret’, which also has similar principles, of objects you desire and focus on will lead to that object or goal being realized in the material plane.

So is late 19th century is the real beginning of awareness of Law of Attraction? Well it depends on your view point and your interpretation.

Ancient connections…

The stone tablet that is referred in The secret is based on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes which is said to have existed in 3000 BC although it is first mentioned in Arabic texts in 6th and 8th centuries and there has been many translations of it including one by Issac Newton which states:

‘That which is above is from that which is below, and that which is below is from that which is above, working the miracles of one’

Again depending on your view point, you can interpret this as saying that universe (above) and us (below) are connected and us and universe can work as one to achieve miracles.

Law of attraction can also be loosely supported by Hindu philosophy, based on the belief that there is a supreme universal force (Brahman) and that each soul (athma) is connected to this one ultimate reality.

Personally having come from a Hindu background, it has been ingrained in me from childhood that there is such things as a soul, our consciousness, and this is connected to the universe. So the concept of Law of Attraction, where we live in a universe that is affected by our thoughts, feelings and actions doesn’t seem so strange of a concept. In actual fact, it makes me believe more in the power of prayer! After all, isn’t praying to god or Supreme Being just like stating your intensions to the universe?! Or perhaps it really does depend on your view point.

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Psychology and Law of Attraction

 Visualisation & Law of Attraction

A true believer of Law of Attraction believes that the universe can help you to attract what you desire in your life. However, many believers still struggle to receive their desired outcome and this is often down to that fact that there are too many thoughts and emotions happening to us at a subconscious level, which is often difficult to control.  To influence this, one of the main techniques used is ‘visualisation’. Creating images in your brain of what it would be like to have achieved your goal or your desired outcome. Using your imagination to create vivid, colourful pictures and imagining what success looks like and feels like, you bring the future into the present moment. This creates more of a powerful magnet than just intending though thought processes.

This type of visualisation should help to bring thoughts, feelings, words and emotions and actions in line with your outcome. In the ASK, BELIEVE, RECEIVE 3 step process, visualisation helps with the BELIEVE step, by giving a tool that tune your thoughts to think what it would be like when you have received it. By imagining you have achieved your outcome, you are removing doubt and negativity and attracting the outcome into your life.

For psychologists, visualisation is nothing new. Visualisation is used for goal setting in the corporate world, in treatment of patients in behavioural therapies, visualisation is used as a means of control in an uncontrollable situation and even in world of sports visualisation plays a big part in outcomes. Great sports personalities such as Andy Murray, Wayne Rooney and Jessica Ennis-Hill regularly performs visualisation sessions before games to achieve their goals. For example, when Jonny Wilkinson (one of England’s best rugby union players), is required to kick for goal, he uses a visualisation routine to help him put the ball between the posts: “I visualise the ball travelling along that path and imagine the sensation of how the ball is going to feel when it hits my foot for the perfect strike.”(The Telegraph, UK) Psychology and Law of Attraction are not mutually exclusive; there are a lot of synergies between Law of Attraction and Psychology, particularly in relation to Positive Psychology (see below). Positive psychology and law of attraction are like the two sides of the same coin, a coin that has been placed on table, with one side up and other side hidden. It is easier to work with Positive Psychology as it’s the known, proven side, while with Law of Attraction, is like the hidden side of the coin, you know it exists, but you just cannot see it!

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Is Law of Attraction a version of Positive Psychology?

What is Positive Psychology? A rather newish area of scientific study of Psychology, developed in the 1990’s, focused on the belief that ‘people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play’(from Positive Psychology Center, Penn). Positive psychologists are concerned with four topics: (1) positive experiences, (2) enduring psychological traits, (3) positive relationships and (4) positive institutions.

From socio-psychological point of view, focus on Positive Psychology is often beneficial, given that as humans we have something called a ‘negative bias’; a negative thought or emotion will have much more of an impact on a person’s behaviour and cognition, compared to something equally positive. This is an evolutionary trait which has helped our ancestors to survive their harsh environment by helping them to be more tuned into the dangers and pitfalls that surrounded them, rather be concerned with more positive emotions such as happiness and joy. This isn’t to say that our ancestors were very unhappy people, but more to the fact that given their fight for survival, they were less focused on pursuit of happiness.

Positive psychology topics such as self-belief, enduring psychological traits such as resilience to adversity and how you manage your relationships, also play an important part in law of attraction. You cannot have persistence pessimistic thoughts and expect the law of attraction to work in your favour. Same goes for resilience, if visualisation and other techniques don’t work, then do you give up or do you persist? While Advocators of Law of Attraction may say visualisation and positive statements enable the universe to attract a solution into your life, while psychologist may describe visualisation and positive statements as a tool for the subconscious mind to focus and look for creative ways of problem solving. But in both cases, there are greater chances of success than when there is no pre-thought out goal or outcome. We are very social creatures and human interactions and relationships play a big part in our wellbeing, happiness and to enable us to live a fulfilling life.

One thing all psychologist and law of attraction believers will agree on is that you cannot change someone without them wanting to change themselves. So how you manage your relationships is quite important as the only person who you have control over is yourself. Law of attraction encourages filling your mind with positivity and love for yourself and well as those around you. Be grateful for everything you have and be thankful for all the love and connections you have in your life. I don’t think any psychologist, positive or otherwise, would disagree with that. Loving yourself is a really important step to building great relationships with others. After all, if you cannot love yourself, how can you expect others to do so?!

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Is Law of Attraction merely a result of focus?

The ability for us to pay particular attention to the task at hand, and ignore other distractions is what we describe as focus. It is generally accepted in the field of psychology that the more focused we are, the more successful we will be at reaching our goals. So I have to ask myself, is Law of Attraction merely a focus tool? The more we think about something, the more we visualise, the more attention we bring to something, therefore we succeed at it. Out prefrontal cortex, just behind our forehead is working hard on our behalf to manage behaviour, helping us to prioritise and focus. For example, I want to succeed in my exam, so I devote more and more time on it. I visualise myself achieving it and, I actually study, ignore any other distractions. My increased focus and attention on my exams meant that I actually pass the exams. Does that mean it was Law of Attraction that worked in this case or was it purely my ability to focus?!

I think the answer is bit more complex than saying it was the Law of Attraction or it was purely my focus and hard work. You cannot expect law of attraction to work, if you decided you will leave it up to the universe and not study! Your thoughts may be asking to pass the exams, but your conscious actions (which cannot happen without thought process), is doing the opposite. This is a bit like the story of the poor Italian man who prayed and prayed to win the lottery, but didn’t buy a lottery ticket (see ‘Science and Law of Attraction’ below).

Focus and hard work also has a role to play, but there is also something else at play.  For example, some people seem to  breeze through life, whether its exams, career, wealth, family etc., it comes quite naturally to them, while others, it doesn’t matter how hard they seem to study, focus on  career, try to attain wealth, its hard work. They do achieve their goals, but it really is an uphill battle. Think of all the high achievers you have come across. Not just those achieve successes in the work place or in a business, but those who really seem to succeed in life and seem genuinely happy. They may not have everything, but they are happy with what they have and they have an air of confidence about them. You often find that these individuals do not go after their goals; their goals follow them, like attracting circumstances and success. What do these individuals do that is different from the ‘battlers’?! Lot of it does come down to attitude, self-belief and clarity on what they actually want. It’s almost like the battlers expect a battle and it becomes a battle, often their goals changing part way though. While, the high achievers have a different attitude to life than most others and tend to view the bigger picture and a clear vision of what can be achieved and what they expect of themselves and others. At this point, sceptics would argue that of course it’s not focus alone, but also having the right attitude and have a clear goal is the key to success, not some unexplained universal force.

Coincidences vs. Purposeful attraction

One of the hard facts to ignore in the arguments for Law of Attraction is all the reported achievements and successes that focus, attitude and clear goal setting alone cannot explain. For example, people like Eddie Coronado (Manifest your Millions) and Cynthia Stafford (California Mega Millions), who claimed to have won millions on the lottery by using law of attraction. Although lottery winners are far and few in between, there are also other instances where people claim to attract the right person at the right time, attracting sequence of events, chance meeting that lead to successes, other words, increased coincidences which lead to a particular desired outcome.

I have personally also experienced this, coming across the right information or direction at the right time when I was intensely thinking about something. Great example for me is that, I always wanted to write; I have always written diaries which always help to clarify my thoughts, but I always wanted to publish something, hopefully something meaningful. And I have been thinking intensely about this recently. Then a random chance meeting with someone led me to start this blog. The conversation I had was just a 5 minute conversation, with a passing remark about blogs, but it gave me my ‘light-bulb’ moment. I may have started a blog further down the track by my own accord, but that meeting and that conversation gave me a feeling of ‘right’ action at the ‘right’ time. Other examples in my life include meeting people who I haven’t met in a while, but I would have thought about them not so long ago.  For me, it is harder for me to say these are mere coincidence and focus. Attitude, self-belief and goal setting certainly don’t explain it!

“Coincidences are not accidents but signals from the universe which can guide us toward our true destiny” Deepak Chopra