Common Sense vs. Common Practice

I recently came across the concept of Common Sense vs Common Practice by the brilliant Andy Cope & Andy Whittaker (Be Brilliant Everyday) in the context of pursuit of happiness. Often most of us are clued on enough to know what will make us happy in the long run; eating healthy; exercising regularly; give up smoking; give up drinking excessively; spending money within our budget; spending time with our loved ones etc. This list can go on forever, but essentially most of what we need to do is common sense, but why do many of us struggle to put it into practice?! Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest things to do.

Even from a law of attraction point of view, we know that we must be in happy place in order to attract more of the things we want and less likely to think and feel all the negative things we don’t want. So question is if lot of things we need to do are essentially common sense, why are they not common practice? It seems for most of us, even for the seasoned self-help junkie like me, knowing is not the same as doing!

Let’s look at this biologically; our emotional centres in the brain are one of the oldest parts of the brain in evolutionary terms and emotions hard wired within us and therefore thinking differently does not necessarily mean that we will behave differently, especially if those behaviours are emotionally driven. Let’s take exercising as an example. I know I want to exercise more often that I am doing right now which is currently closer to zero times in a week! I know exercising will add to my happiness not just by improving my health, but also will improve my flagging self-esteem especially when I find my clothes are becoming a tad bit tighter than usual. I know exactly what needs to be done, but at the given times when I could exercise, I rather sit and watch TV and go for a run. I know at this point my emotions are driving me; my feeling of inertia is far more powerful than my thoughts around the benefits of exercise.

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Psychologist may describe this as a ‘cognitive bias’; a term that describes many of the human irrationality in making judgement or decisions. Although most of us will think of ourselves as rational and logical creatures, there is a part of us that are influenced by wide variety of biases, including emotionally driven biases leading to errors in judgement. In the example above, I have a ‘current moment’ bias; i.e. I am choosing to experience pleasure in the current moment, while leaving the pain for later.

So are we always destined to make irrational choices to the detriment to our long term happiness? Perhaps the only way for common sense to prevail is to make changes to our habits. Habits are things we do often and changes to our habits over time can have a big impact on our happiness.  The key is perhaps making small positive changes starting now and putting those changes into practice more often. So for me in the example above I should start with walking up the stairs or walk to the shops and do this as often as possible rather than embarking on a gruelling exercise regime in my first attempt. Chances are small changes are likely to lead to habit formation than big changes which are often more difficult to maintain in the long run.

We may struggle to overcome our irrational judgements all of the time, but building positive habits will increase the sense of ‘doing the right thing most of the time’ we can reach a happiness-medium and being in a ‘happiness-medium’ place is a great place to start when you want to use the law of attraction to attract the life you want.

“Happiness is a habit – cultivate it” – Elbert Hubbard

CHANGE AHEAD

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Practice makes Perfect…Should I say practice makes profound changes….

Since I have started writing this blog, I have noticed quite profound changes in my life. Yet if you ask those around me what has changed for me, well, answer is likely to be Nothing! At least nothing physically profound anyway. My changes have been more internal, I am happier and more than that I know that being happy inside comes first, and external happiness such as wealth, relationships, successes are BY-PRODUCTS of my inner happiness!

So what has bought about this change for me? For a start, there is the concept of practicing what you preach! By writing down these positive psychology and law of attraction principles, I am putting more of the theories into practice than I have done so. In the past, all the self-help theories and ideas I have read has remained as theories and ideas in MY HEAD!

The thing about self-help and all of those self-improvement theories is that the most effective ones are the most simplest and often nothing new, just a bit of a common sense! In most cases, its something we were aware of, but being put to us in a slightly different context. For example, I always knew having a positive attitude equates to being more happier (pre-LOA belief!) and I think most of you guys would agree with that. Yet, knowing the theory does not mean that we always carry a positive attitude with us, in most cases, we park the theory somewhere in the back of our mind and just get on with it! Fall back to our fail-safe attitude, our set-point, whatever that may be.

So how does a theory or an idea become part of our lives? especially when we are talking about workings of the mind,  I really think a lot is to do with putting theory into practice and by practicing often, it becomes habitual, part of a routine. Classic example for me is the theory of mindfulness. I have been aware of people taking about mindfulness for a long time now, from psychology to spirituality, mindfulness seems to be everywhere. I still remember reading Paul McKenna’s ‘I can make you thin’ where he talks about mindful eating (and how that will make you thin!) and here we are 10 years down line, I still haven’t mastered mindful eating. Actually I think my mind is in a place where I see food, I sense a 5 minute timer where I need to scoffle down my food or I will die of starvation! ( okay slight exaggeration, but you get my point)

Mindfulness is probably the one of the most easiest theory to understand, it is simply being mindful or paying attention to your mind, yet it is one of the most difficult theory to put into practice! Try sitting quietly for 5 minutes and paying attention to thoughts and feelings, without judgement and accepting whatever sensation that comes to you. Chances are, unless of course, you are a master meditator, your attention will waver after the first 2 minutes. Afterall, according to Buddha, we all have monkey minds, untamed and running around wildly.

As time goes by and I do practice mindfulness more and more, it does get easier, I have my ‘off’ moments, but overall it is much easier than when I started. For me, rather than practice makes perfect, its more of a practice makes changes, SLOWLY. I think I am far from perfect  in terms of getting to grips with mindfulness, but I am better! Over the months, I have  come to pay  better attention to  what thoughts  my monkey mind is running away with! And this in turn has helped me to be a happier person and making law of attraction work in my favor by attracting the things I want.

In the ether of internet and social media and even in books, the law of attraction is sold as a magic formula, to fix everything in your life, almost in an instant, just by understanding the ‘secret’.  The reality is that understanding and believing in law of attraction is one thing, but controlling your mind is the real ‘secret’ and from my experience, controlling your mind comes with practice and changing your habits! And yes, I do believe in the magic of law of attraction, but it is a magic that only works when the main magician is working, your mind!

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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.

Practical Mind Tools: Create Box

I am a great believer in writing down your goals, whether they are career related or personal goals. By putting it in writing or representing it in other visual formats will help to clarify what you want in life and ultimately help you to achieve your goals. One of the tools I have used in recent years is a goal ‘Create Box’; a box which contains all my goals and visions for the future. I also have a gratitude stone in my box as part of my goal attainment and training my mind to practice gratitude.

So what is a create box? It’s a technique that I picked up from Susie Pearl’s ‘Instructions for Happiness and success’ book and it is a very simple idea; a bit like having a vision board in a box! Get a nice looking box (a gift box, small storage box etc.) and put your goals, wishes and visions in it so that you have everything you want in a box. Idea is that you regularly pick up the box and go through the contents on a weekly, monthly, whenever-you feel-like-it basis and remind yourself of the goals therefore keeping your thoughts focused on them. The point here is that when you do go through the items, visualise and feel as though you have already attained these goals so that in a ‘thought becomes things’ universe you will attract them into your life. Health warning here is that don’t think about NOT having the goal yet, as this would lead to the opposite effect of NOT attaining the goal!

Susie also suggests writing a label on the top that you read out every time before you open it and after you close it so that you asking the universe what you want. i.e.

 “Whatever is contained in this box I have already created in my mind and welcome into my life now. Everything in this box is already present. I receive all of this with abundance and flow. All for the best. Thank you. It’s done. Show me.”

My simpler version of the label as follows:

“Whatever is contained in this box I have already created in my mind and I welcome it into my life. Thank you and I am grateful for everything I have in my life”.

I am very much of visual person and truly believe pictures can speak a thousand words so my box contains a lot of magazine clippings, pictures, printouts of things that I really want in my life. For example, I have pictures of my ideal house, holidays, lifestyle and even my ideal job. It doesn’t have to exactly what you want, but a representation of what you want and something that resonates with you. For me, I always wanted to have an influential role in an animal charity or an animal related organisation, so I have a picture of Michaela Strachan (UK TV presenter who does a lot of animal shows) from a magazine article with the title “Women of Influence” above it. For me this is the perfect vision when it comes to my career goals, working with animals and having an influential role!

Along with this, I do have written goals and even memorabilia to remember good times like spending time with my husband, in form of souvenirs from a holiday or a photo of us having a good time, so that I am reminded of the good times we had and the good times we will have going forward. My gratitude stone (a stone I picked up on a beach in Maldives) is a stone which every time I pick up, I think of all the things I am grateful for in my life from my job to the people in my life and special events in my life (including my holiday to Maldives!).

You don’t have to be an avid believer in law of attraction to try this out; actually some of the tools and techniques I have come across as part of the law of attraction movement has been somewhat simple, practical and nothing new, and has been part of self-improvement techniques in one form or another.