The road less travelled

Just recently I went to an evening hosted by One Thought and the lovely Susan Marmot, who said something that really resonated with me.

The subject was relationships and we talked about how our feelings about other people come from our thinking about the other person and not the other person directly. The implications of this fact are far reaching and highly significant, in every aspect of our lives.

For instance, when we realise that our experience is being generated from the ‘inside-out’ then it completely changes how we might approach any kind of conflict or difficulty we perceive we are having with another person.

Traditional approaches in therapy and mediation encourage people to air their grievances and, in some cases, even in the presence of the other person too. As Syd Banks once said, this is like burning your hand and then sticking back in the fire to make it better!

Life is difficult… is this really true?

Many years ago I read a book called ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by Dr.M.Scott Peck. I loved the book at the time and it contains a line which has become particularly famous:

‘Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.’

So, what is it that makes life difficult? 

How it looks to me is that bad feelings that we attribute to circumstances are what make life seem difficult. After all, in good feelings we tend to transcend our ‘problems’ because our thinking is so much more generative.

The thing is that what we tend to label ‘bad’ feelings are as normal, natural and to be expected as much as good feelings. You can’t have only good feelings, we just don’t work that way. I have never meet anyone who only gets good feelings and no bad ones, have you? (even though advertisers, certain sections of the media and other vested interests would love us to think that it’s true).

What does happen though is that people can have a lot of thinking about their bad feelings. They think it is wrong to have them, they fight them, try and make them go away and yet this only makes them worse.

The most intense examples of this are addictions. People feel bad and then try to get rid of the feeling by numbing themselves with substances or distracting themselves with certain (often destructive) behaviours.

A fundamental truth about life

At one point during the evening Susan said ‘There’s an easier way to do life.’ and I thought this brilliantly captured the essence of the three principles understanding.

The inside-out understanding tells us that our feelings are coming from our thought in the moment, not our circumstances. And the nature of thought is that it is transient – a thought comes, we experience the feeling of it and then we get another thought.

We live in a flow of thought, some we label ‘good’ and some we label ‘bad’ but, in reality, thought is neutral and the more we see this fact the less we are bothered by our experience, whatever it may be.

The biggest mistake that we can make is to try to manage our thinking and control our experience. We have about as much chance of doing this as we do of controlling the weather.

Our thinking changes all the time – in this respect it IS just like the weather (especially in the UK!). But, if we believe that our thinking is a representation of our life then we are going to be for a very, very bumpy ride.

The principles never change – they are 100% reliable, all of the time with no exception and whatever our experience is.

There is a life force, we think and we are aware of our thinking. These three spiritual facts are providing our experience of life, constantly, reliably and perfectly. This is all we need to realise to move through life with ease, gracefully and more enjoyably.

The invisible variable

Life is full of variables. In business there are many variables that we have no control over whatsoever, for example, the economy, legislation and the markets we operate in.

Then we have the internal variables of our business, our product or service, pricing, how we choose to deliver it, who we do business with. These are things we can determine and have control over.

When we want improvement we invariably focus upon the variables we can control and that are visible to us. Behaviour being one of these.

But what about what is not so visible?

Just recently, a company I came into contact with had committed to spending a significant amount of money on external sales training because their team were not performing as well as they wanted.

I had a couple of conversations with members of the sales team and what was immediately apparent to me was that they were being put under pressure to meet their targets. The way this was playing out was that in client meetings, instead of being totally focused upon the client and helping them get what they want, they were more concerned with making their numbers.

When we feel under pressure, tense, and self-orientated it is like having a stone in our shoe. It is uncomfortable, aggravating and affects our performance. Our human interactions, especially, are compromised and it creates a feeling of separation, not collaboration.

Buying in sales training, in this situation, is like trying to make someone run faster with the stone still in their shoe. Maybe there will a spike in performance but such a situation cannot continue.

State of mind is a critical variable and yet it is invisible and, therefore, not considered as a relevant factor. It simply does not occur to people that they could simply remove the stone and by doing so performance would go up.

The mind only works one way – from the inside-out. External factors cannot make us feel a certain way – it just looks this way through our innocent misunderstanding.

The sales people were feeling under pressure because of their thinking abouttheir targets. The targets are completely neutral. If they could realise this truth then it would set them free.

When we realise we live in a thought created world we drop a great deal of the unnecessary thinking that we are doing. 

When this happens we feel increasingly good. The stone is no longer in our shoe. This will have a hugely more significant impact upon performance and results compared to giving people some extra behavioural tips and techniques.

Do you want more clients?

An area that many people seem to find challenging is finding and engaging enough of the right clients. Naturally, there is a great deal of information and advice available in this area, however, if you feel you have diligently tried to find out what to do and yet continue to struggle then this article will help you unlock the key to better results.

Rather than looking at client new engagement as simply a function of what strategy, tactics or know-how to employ, the real secret of consistent success has far more to do with mindset. With a new understanding client acquisition can become one of the most enjoyable parts of your business instead of something that can feel like a chore.

There is no magic bullet

The most common conclusion that people come to, if they are struggling with client acquisition, is that they just need to know what to do. This often sends people on a continual search for the ‘magic bullet’ that will be the breakthrough they are looking for and yet, as far as I can tell, there is no magic bullet. It seems to me, based on twenty five years of owning my own consultancies, that consistently engaging enough of the right clients takes commitment, time, effort, risk and a willingness to continually up your game.

Just the acceptance if this fact alone is often a major leap forward for people because one of the principle reasons that people struggle is that they continually avoid doing what it really takes to get the results they want.

Once we begin to realise that the barriers are in our own minds then we start to get out of our own way and become free to take real action, which is what produces results. I saw a wonderful example of this of few years ago whilst participating in a six-month training programme for coaches.

It was a certification programme and a condition of the certification was that you had to engage a certain number of paying clients during the programme. For people like myself who already had an established business this was straight-forward but there were a significant number of people on the programme who had no experience whatsoever of engaging new clients. Some of these people were really worried about this part of the programme and who can blame them? There are plenty of people who have been in business for years and still worry about it!

Despite the concerns that people had about their ability to engage new clients the rule was crystal clear – if you wanted the certification (and people did) then you had to find a way to get over, past, or through whatever unhelpful thinking you have about getting clients.

There is only one barrier

What was fascinating to me was that people did get over their thinking and got paying clients. As soon as they stopped engaging with their insecure, unproductive thinking their minds were free to get creative and clearly focused upon achieving the outcome they wanted.

They realised that the ONLY barrier to their goal was their own thinking AND that they could stop engaging with this thinking immediately.

It can be quite astonishing what we can accomplish when we understand the relationship between state of mind and performance. In the sports world, as we know, psychologists are commonplace and routinely hired by individuals and teams. Although the business world has been slower to catch on I am noticing that more and more business people are realising that state of mind is a huge, and still relatively untapped, resource for creating step-change results.

The best activities for you and your business

You can take any business generating tactic – seminars, referrals, social media, third-party introducers, networking – and there will be people who get great results and, conversely, people who cannot make it work at all.

What you will find is that when people make something work it is because of the quality of mind they bring to it but this fact is missed by most people. They see someone doing really well with something and they think it is the activity that is successful when, in fact, what makes it successful is what you don’t see.

The secret to success is not in searching for the activities that will motivate you because this is a total misunderstanding of the source of our feelings. Something external to you cannot give you a feeling, which is why searching for the ‘magic bullet’ is futile. The magic bullet, rather than being something outside and independent of you, is in the understanding the link between thought and feeling. As we realise this link we naturally drop unhelpful thinking and get the kind of thinking that is really going to help us get the results we want.