Towards a fearless life

Very few people live a fearless life.

In fact, I only know of a tiny number of people who live truly fearlessly.

Byron Katie is one of them.

I’ve never met her personally, but I have read her books and been to see her speak in London.

At one time she suffered from depression, agoraphobia, overeating, and addiction.

Then she experienced an awakening at the age of 43. She said:

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.”

Just recently I’ve been reading a book by Melissa Ford called ‘Living Service – the journey of a prosperous coach.

She had an awakening too when her coach asked her:

When are you going to stop living like you’re never going to die?

Isn’t this a powerful question to ask yourself?

When am I going to stop living like I’m never going to die?

As we come to the close of a year and the beginning of a fresh new one, what are you going to do?

Repeat the year you’ve just had or evolve?

Most people are sleepwalking through life with the same beliefs, habits, and insecurities they have always had.

They never question them.

They just accept them as though “This is just who I am?”

But is this true?

Are we the thoughts we have about ourselves? Or are we something else?

After all, we didn’t arrive with a self-image. New-born babies don’t arrive with a mind full of insecure thoughts.

We arrive as pure love.

The self-image comes later and it’s the source of virtually all our fears.

Taking on the feeling

When I go into my ego-based, fearful thinking (which still happens often) my coach showed me how to ‘take on the feeling’.

Byron Katie does the same thing with ‘The work’ (I highly recommend her book ‘Loving what is’).

When you feel discouraged, down, worried, anxious, not enough (or whatever ways you have of taking yourself down), take it on…

Make the enquiry:

Am I feeling what is real?

Or am I feeling my thought in the moment?

There can only be one answer.

We feel our thinking in the moment. And it’s not real. We don’t have to believe what we think.

A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It is not our thoughts, but the attachment to thoughts, that causes suffering.” Byron Katie

Learning to laugh at our foibles

Just how much success, money, fame, material goods, power, etc. would you need to eradicate your insecurities?

I recently read an article about the actor Brad Pitt and it was interesting to read how he is still beset by self-doubt.

He said:

‘It’s a constant battle. You gain wisdom as you get older, so self-doubt gets less, hopefully. But it’s universal, that battle in the mind between beating yourself up and finding a place of peace.’

Let’s reflect here for a moment.

Brad Pitt is one of Hollywood’s most successful actors. He is not a bad looking bloke either (twice voted sexiest man alive) and he is reportedly worth £240m.

But he still feels self-doubt from time to time.

One of my favourite authors is the late Dr. David Hawkins and I read in one of his books a suggestion that you should write down your foibles.

So, I began to make a list. It is still growing but here is some of what I wrote:

I can sometimes feel low and negative. I can feel insecure about the future. I can take life too seriously at times. I have some insecure thinking around money. I experience self-doubt. I worry sometimes. I can fear rejection.

How it seems to me is that people can spend a lifetime, as Brad Pitt alluded to, having this battle in their mind between their insecurities and a place of peace.

But here is the thing…

This internal battle, if you make it a battle, is one that you can never win.

The fact is that, as a human being, you will experience insecure thinking, low moods and negative thinking. We have very little control over our thinking. We get what thinking we get.

This may seem somewhat defeatist, but we have something huge going for us too.

The capacity to understand what is happening in a completely new way.

Our insecurities and uncomfortable feelings are not caused by our circumstances. They are thought in the moment. They have no meaning unless we make meaning out of them.

No matter how bad you feel, you can only ever feel your thinking.

The only reason we hang on to insecure thinking and create a battle in our mind is because it does not look like thought.

I had someone say to me only last week, ‘I know we feel our thinking and all that, but this time it’s real. I’m really feeling what’s happening to me!’

When it seems as though there is real substance to what we are thinking it unsettles us and it leads to even more errant thinking.

But battling with our errant thinking does not make it go away.

The ego is reinforced by condemnation – beating yourself up with criticism or punishing yourself for your own thinking does not bring peace of mind.

It just adds fuel to the fire.

Real progress is when we see thought for what it really is. We can laugh at our foibles because we are seeing our humanness rather than getting caught up in the illusion.

The power behind the throne

The world we live in consists of the visible and the invisible. The form and the formless. The finite and the infinite.

The business world focuses almost exclusively on the form and what is visible.

If you want to improve results in any area – marketing, sales, leadership, management, communications or the game of life – there is a huge amount of help on offer.

How to think. How to behave. What to say. Strategy. Tactics. The 10 steps to… . The 7 habits of… .

A lot of fascinating material but how much does all this information help people?

Are we like robots who can simply follow the instructions of other people and get similar results?

Or does the invisible have far more to do with it than we may ever imagine?

What about…

Presence? Charisma? Timing? State of mind? Inspiration? Grace? Momentum? Creativity? Confidence? Resilience?

These and many other things are in the realm of the formless and yet are they any less real? Are they not the real power behind the throne?

People talk about the invisible dimension but the words can only point.

The business world likes what is concrete because the intellectual, conceptual mind loves form. It likes content, processes, steps and formulas.

To the intellect (and boy do we live from our intellects!) it is highly attractive to discover that to get what we want there is a process, a formula or some steps to follow.

Even though life does not lend itself to this approach.

The business world tends to struggle with the invisible, formless dimension.

I often hear people talk about mind-set, for example, but the talk is almost always about form.

People offer prescriptions – change your words, choose the mind-set you need, surround yourself with the right people, create a new set of habits, take a small step each day – the list must be endless!

Back in 2004, when I began coaching people, I focused on the form too. I thought that people just needed to know what to do. They needed a technique, strategy or instruction.

But I began to see inconsistencies.

For instance, with exactly the same information or technique, why did some people get great results whilst some got dismal results?

Why did people’s performance seem to randomly fluctuate (my own included)?

Why did some people change but others not?

I did not know the answer but when you sit with enquiry things show up. Often in unexpected ways.

A series of seemingly chance conversations lead me to the inside-out understanding and I had a huge ‘Ah-ha!, so this is what is going on!’

For the past seven years I have been pointing people towards this understanding and how it creates our moment to moment experience of life.

Has it all been plain sailing?


I stumbled around in the beginning. When sharing it with people you must be patient and stay present because the formless is difficult to grasp; the intellect is of no use whatsoever.

And some people do not hear beyond the words because the illusion they live in is precious to them.

But this is all fine with me.

Everything comes back to the understanding in the end because our experience of life is thought created – every problem or challenge we can ever face exists only in our thinking.

This is not to say there are not things in life we need to deal with or get through because, of course, there are. But if we see ourselves as victims of circumstance, being bullied or pushed around by our circumstances, then we lose our spark.

The world of form is limited whilst the world of the formless is limitless.

The clearer and deeper you see the mechanics behind how we perceive life the more you live with presence, intelligence and free from struggle.

Instant freedom from limiting beliefs

A client and I were in a coaching session and he had been sharing how he seemed to run into the same problem in his life, again and again.

The subject of beliefs and how pervasive they can be came up.

Beliefs are just thoughts yet when something looks true to us we live through those eyes. In fact, when we believe something to be true we are constantly gathering evidence to support it.

I shared the story of Ellie, a lady I met several years previously. She was beautiful, intelligent and talented. This is what I and others could see.

Yet Ellie could only see what she thought was wrong – with everything!

In other people she could only see their mistakes. In situations she could only see problems. In herself she only saw defects.

I remember, at a training event one time, Ellie was asked to evaluate the work of a colleague and the instruction was to begin with what she saw was good.

But what happened next was not what people were expecting at all!

The first words of her evaluation were, ‘Well, what I think is wrong with this is…’

She was stopped, reminded to begin with what she saw was good, and given another chance.

Her next words were, ‘Where I can see this is just not right is…’

Once again she was immediately stopped. The atmosphere got a little tense. We were all wondering what was going to happen next.

Ellie was asked if she understood the instructions. She said ‘Yes!’ She was asked if she could manage to carry them out, by starting with praise and she said ‘Yes!’

So, she was given another chance.

The next thing that came out of her mouth about her colleagues work was, ‘What I can see is wrong here…!’

Some people gasped. Others were open mouthed. I remember being fascinated.

What was going on?

The trainer was brilliant. He saw an opportunity and asked Ellie’s permission to explore why she responded in the way she did.

She agreed and we all sat in silence as the trainer skillfully asked questions and listened.

It turned out that when Ellie was a little girl her mother had entered her into lots of beauty contests and being as beautiful as she was, she had won many of them.

However, her mother had always been quick to point out what she thought was wrong with her. Ellie’s attention had repeatedly been drawn to looking for her (in her mothers opinion) imperfections.

Innocently, she had begun to look at everything through these eyes and yet, until now, this thinking had been invisible to her.

In our own individual way we all get caught up in illusory thinking.

We think we are living in ‘reality’, forgetting that our thinking is made up and that our ‘reality’ is just one version of an infinite number of possibilities.

Our mind is not like a camera, taking in an objective reality that exists independently of us.

It works the other way around, with no exception.

Our state of mind creates how we see the world. As Sydney Banks said, ‘Your thoughts are like the artist’s brush. They create a personal picture of the reality you live in.’

The clearer you see that you live in a thought created reality and that the mind will naturally provide new and fresh thinking with no effort, the more you live in the present.

Living in the present simply means being free from the past and the future. Instead of responding to life in habitual ways you are free to respond to how you see things in the moment.

How important is this?

All suffering and struggle is created through attachment to thoughts.

As old, habitual and unnecessary thinking drops away because we see no value in it, what we naturally experience instead is freedom, joy and clarity of mind.

The surprising truth about happiness

Although happiness is something that is hard to define it is something that we seem to want more of.

There are dozens of books written on it and the subject seems to pop up on a daily basis on social media.

I was reflecting on this and it seems to me that there is one single question, innocently asked, that is at the root of all this wanting…

What will make me happy?

And this is the problem because the answer is… nothing.

Nothing can make you happy and yet our entire society is built upon the belief that ‘things’ can make you happy.

The advertising business is built upon the idea that the lack of something is the cause of unhappiness and then the product rides in on a white horse and saves the day.

They even try to convince you that floor cleaner will make you happy!

Many people believe they need the right person or a relationship in order to be happy. Some have such stringent criteria about the required qualities of their perfect mate that this person may not even exist!

Thinking that happiness is a result of external circumstances leads to the most common trap of all…

‘I’ll be happy when.’

We create an imaginary list of what will make us happy and this is what we put our time into.

I used to be a regular meditator and my teacher made a point that I never forgot.

He said you will never experience a better meditation by really going for it. It just does not work that way.

Happiness is just the same. The harder you pursue it, the further away it gets.

The imaginary content of the ‘I’ll be happy when.’ list is the barrier.

Is there a secret to experiencing greater happiness?

The natural backdrop to the mind, beyond our intellectual thinking, is a space of inner peace, contentment, grace, resilience, engagement in life, perspective, love – there are a many words that point to what is available to every single one of us.

When we fall into this space it would not even occur to us to ask ourselves if we are happy or not.

So, there really is nothing to do.

The logic of the inside-out understanding is that the mind only works one way, no exception. The clearer we realise this truth the more happiness, contentment and peace of mind we experience.

One word, huge implications!

Have you ever stopped to consider how you view the world?

To get an idea of what I mean I will share an example. I was recently in a conversation with someone who was sent on a ‘goal setting day’ by her company.

She explained that one of the exercises they did was to have participants give their immediate answer to a set of questions. The idea being that your first response was likely to be your true reaction.

One of the questions was… ‘The world is…?’

And she responded with ‘Dangerous!’

I am not criticising her response but what is fascinating to me is how you might operate in the world if that was how you saw it.

How would this influence your choices, your behaviour and situations you found yourself in? What would you move towards and what would you avoid?

We all have our own view on how the world works and it is like a lens through which we see the world and it shapes our entire experience.

It is usually so deeply embedded in our thinking that we never question it and often, we do not know much about our habitual thinking until something wakes us up.

An awakening can be a significant life event like falling in love or a serious illness – we suddenly see the world without the filters of our made up thinking.

A great example of this is the basis of ‘Dying to be me’ by Anita Moorjani.

The book is about her upbringing, her life-threatening cancer and, ultimately, her miraculous and unexplainable healing. Since her recovery she now lives from joy instead of fear.

Although awakenings of the huge magnitude like Anita Moorjani, Sydney Banks or Byron Katie experienced are relatively rare, the inside-out understanding points us in the direction of where they come from.

I used to think that because we live in a thought created reality it meant that I had to try and control my thinking. There was right thinking and wrong thinking. Good thinking and bad thinking.

I thought you needed to get rid of one to get more of the other.

In fact, I went down this route with a lot of enthusiasm and for a long time, until I realised this was not helping me a great deal.

We do not need to try and exert control because insight, wisdom and common sense are built into the system. I found that taking on the job of control was a fool’s errand.

Knowing this has helped me a great deal. I still do find myself judging my thinking on occasion but I am much more awake than I was.

And this is very healthy and healing.

You no longer feel controlled or bullied by your circumstances and have a happier, fresher outlook on life.

And you are free to intuitively respond to the world as you see it in the moment rather than a fixed way based upon old assumptions that may be well past the sell by date.

The most effective sales programme of all

I recently met up for coffee with a friend who runs a business networking group.

At one point our conversation drifted on to some of her members and what business they were in. She was telling me about one particular member who had a business teaching people about how to sell.

The basis of the sales programme (which was a franchise) was that for every and any possible thing a prospective client could come up with, you would have a pre-prepared answer.

So, if the prospect said this, you’d say that. And so on…

The problem was, for this member, was that people didn’t really connect with her and she wasn’t getting any business. Which isn’t great when you’re teaching how to sell!

Here’s an observation.

The more we fill up our minds with thinking the less able we are to connect, in a meaningful way, with other people. To connect with others we need to be interested (in them), attentive, curious, willing to listen and unattached to the outcome.

This is impossible to do if we are listening to our own thinking at the same time – you cannot effectively be in two conversations at once.

This just isn’t possible.

Sales in an interesting activity. Although for many business people selling is an essential part of what they do, whether this is gaining new clients, continuing to add value to existing relationships or sharing ideas with co-workers, it’s an area that holds more than its fair share of challenges.

Just the idea of it can send many otherwise high-functioning, confident, personable and potentially great sellers onto an emotional roller coaster ride of negativity.

Why does this happen?

They create all this thinking around selling that makes them feel insecure – ‘I hate selling.’, ‘I’m just not cut out for this.’, ‘What if they say no?’, ‘I just need to convince them’, etc.

If it looks like the situation (i.e. selling) comes with all these feelings attached to it, then its avoided. People force themselves to cope under the circumstances or they go on a training programme (like the one mentioned) that fills their mind up with even more thinking.

None of these really help but, thankfully, there is another, better approach.

The most effective sales programme you could ever go on would have its foundation in just one fact –  there is no link between our inner experience and our outer circumstances. Selling cannot make us feel a certain way. Our experience comes from thought, not our external world.

It wouldn’t teach you mind management techniques, sales techniques or closing techniques because doing so would be adding thinking to your mind when it is having less on your mind that helps most of all.

Also, it actually doesn’t matter if we get negative thinking or nervous about selling. What matters is our understanding of what is really going on if we do.

When we see that our experience is coming from thought then the mind will self-correct back to clarity and presence. No techniques required.

With a quiet mind, selling becomes a joyful experience of simply giving time to another human being and seeing if we can be of help or not.

What’s the difficulty in that?

The problem with positive thinking

As is the way, the first few weeks of the New Year has seen papers, magazines and social media platforms brimming with articles, ideas and tips from the latest ‘Guru’ telling us how to be healthier, slimmer and happier.

We live in interesting times when it seems that all someone has to do is make enough noise on social media and they get accepted as some kind of expert as people hang on to their every word and give them ‘likes’.

The intention may be good but the problem I can see is that so much of what we hear and see is contradictory and it can easily send people in a direction that won’t help them.

This week I saw somebody had posted up the following quote on LinkedIn…

‘If you realised how powerful your thoughts are you’d never think a negative thought again.’

If powerful means that certain thoughts can be a very intense experience, then you’d have to agree with this.

The special effects department of the mind is far more powerful than anything you could ever experience at the movies.

But never think a negative thought again?

This seems to be suggesting that we get to choose our thoughts and in doing so we would only choose ‘positive’ ones.

The truth is that the human experience, the one each of us is having, encompasses the whole palette of what it’s possible for us to experience.

We don’t even get to choose our thoughts.

As I think of my own experience over the past week or so, I can see that I have felt a whole variety of feelings… happy, low, positive, negative, enthusiastic, discouraged, forgiving, irritated… and lots more.

What so many of the ‘Gurus’ are telling us is not actually possible. Being positive all the time is not a realistic goal.

If we think it is wrong to feel negative then we’ll spend an awful lot of time trying to not be negative, which is the very activity that creates even more negative thinking!

From my own experience, the clearer I get on the fact that my mind only works one way, the quicker my mind clears.

I still get moods, but they are just part of life. If I don’t get preoccupied or bothered with them then there’s no problem.

A healthy, high-functioning mind is what nature gave us and it is only when we try to intervene that we create problems for ourselves.

The biggest ‘Megatrend’ of our time

Scientists seem to generally agree that we humans are the most intelligent species on Earth.

You would think, therefore, that we would have this experience of life nailed down and in many ways, we have.

This intelligence has allowed us to do what no other creature has come close to. We have built civilisations, come up with literally millions of products and ways to make our lives richer and physically easier, and we continue to evolve at a breath-taking pace.

A few years ago, I read a book called ‘Megatrends 2010’ by Patricia Aburdene, best-selling author and renowned social forecaster.

Through accurate and compelling research, she identified that the biggest ‘Megatrend’ of our time is that we seek more spirit (78% of people).

She realised that in a world that seems increasingly turbulent, unpredictable and uncertain, (and likely to remain this way) we naturally begin to look within.

And with good reason.

Anyone who has watched ‘The Blue Planet 2’ can see that we are destroying our world.

It is plainly obvious that far too many people are struggling with life.

A greater and greater number of us are realising that rampant materialism does not create lasting happiness and contentment.

So, what does looking within really mean? How do we do this?

To me, looking within means acknowledging, connecting with and nurturing our spiritual (non-physical) essence. It means seeing that we are an expression of something bigger than our individual selves and that we are all connected.

The more we are willing to see this truth, the more we open our hearts. As this happens we naturally live in greater harmony with ourselves, other people and the world.

On the question of ‘How?’, I think this is the wrong question.

I was out to dinner with a friend recently and we were talking about this very subject.

I shared that in 30 plus years of being a seeker of what looking within means I have come across two communities of people who experience evolving, improving and lasting levels of well-being and spiritual growth.

These two communities are the people who have learned to meditate (and practice daily) and the people who have learned the inside-out understanding.

I am not saying there aren’t others, but this is my own (and relatively limited) personal experience.

I was very committed to the practice of meditation for over 12 years and then I stopped (my blog about this is here if you want to know why).

The inside-out understanding is something that doesn’t require us to do anything at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is the realisation that we are part of this intelligence that is greater than our personal mind and, when we allow it to, it will beautifully and gracefully navigate us through life.

We don’t have to think about any of the trillions of processes that run our body from moment to moment, do we? You don’t have to think about taking your next breath, digesting your last meal, healing the cut to your hand, making your heart beat or walking without falling over (unless you’ve been on the sherry too much!).

The intelligence is built-in and does the work for us.

The mind is no different and yet we have taken on this idea that we need to try and control our lives.

It is the ego that wants to control and it can be an easy trap to fall into. Wayne Dyer used to say ‘ego’ is ‘Edging God Out’.

The result of this is a great deal of unnecessary inner conflict and, therefore, is at the root of all outer conflict – the greater mind is gently trying to point us in one direction and the little mind is trying to go in another.

If we truly want to thrive, experience our lives as meaningful and leave the world better for us having been here, it is so simple we can easily miss it.

The mind only works one way. From the inside-out. This truth is an utterly reliable constant.

The content of our thinking changes all the time and we have thousands of different thoughts every day. If we believe that the experience we are having has something to do with our circumstances then we’re immediately caught up in an illusion.

When we see ourselves as the thinker and that the nature of thought is that it is constantly changing, then we can be at peace with whatever experience we happen to be having.

We are then free to ‘be in the moment’ and enjoy life fully, even with all its ups and downs.

I have shared it before but as an end to this piece, this short video from Michael Neill is worth less than a couple of minutes of your time…

Your wisdom or other people’s wisdom?

For many years I was an almost obsessive consumer and user of self-help, psychology and business success material.

I was always looking for ideas. Ideas that could help me become a better person, get better results and live a good life.

What I was learning was helpful (kind of).

But why did I feel the need to keep devouring more and more of it? What was I really looking for?

After coming across the 3 Principles understanding it dawned on me that what I was doing was putting my time, money and energy into other people’s wisdom.

And I hadn’t realised how much all this consumption was stifling the flow of my own innate wisdom. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten to trust my own inner voice.

The 3 Principles points to the fact that we all have an infinite capacity for ideas, insights and new thinking. We all have access to a well that will never run dry.

We’re only ever stuck if we think we are.

When we over-think, get tense or anxious we can easily forget to look inside, not outside. We forget or don’t trust that the thinking we need will come to us.

The thing about other people’s wisdom is that it is what was right for them, in their life, at that particular time.

Why would it be right for us? How could it be?

A client recently shared with me a story about a close family member whose life seems to be a constant struggle, often lurching from one crisis to the next.

He said he could see exactly what their problem was and had often given them well-meaning advice.

I asked how long he’d been doing this and how many times his advice had been taken?

He said 17 years and never! We chuckled about that one.

Think of a challenge or area of your life that seems difficult. Something on which you’d like to get a new perspective, a better feeling or the perfect solution.

It seems so simple, but as soon as we see what we are experiencing is thought rather than circumstances then our mind will naturally clear.

We are then so much better placed to get the thinking that we need and allowing life to come to us rather than trying to chase it down.