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Rewire Your Brain for Success

Posted on: June 24th, 2020 by Domante No Comments

Would you like your life to be defined by the vision of your future or by your past?

We are creatures of habit. Whether we realise it or not, we have the same thoughts every day. Those thoughts lead us to feel a certain way and our feelings inspire action. The results we get reaffirm the beliefs we have about ourselves and the world. It is a cycle.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Neuroscientifically speaking, our brain always takes the path of least resistance – it uses the most established neural pathways. Majority of them were formed in our childhood. Through repetition they became so ingrained in our brain that we are no longer aware of the process. It is like driving on autopilot, having our past in charge of the destination. Little children do not have the ability to apply logic. If mummy or daddy are screaming their lungs out, kids won’t think that mummy or daddy is in a bad mood, they’d think “I’m not good enough”. Thirty years later each time somebody is upset with us, we still think we are not good enough. It is not because we are still incapable of applying any logic to the situation. At this point it is so much a part of “who and how we are” that we don’t even question it. The reason brain takes the path of least resistance is because it is preserving the energy. It takes a lot of energy to build a new neural pathway – to start firing different neurons in our brain and go down the non-habitual thinking-feeling-acting route. Something that happens in a split second needs to be brought into conscious awareness, dismantled and reassembled – that is an enormous task. Here is why we need an average of 66 days to form a new habit.

In other words, our brain is designed to go back to what is familiar. If we stumble on success that is completely unfamiliar to us, our brain will do anything to get us back to where we are comfortable. That is why we jeopardise our own success, relationship, health, etc.

How can we get out of the loop?

Studies have shown that human brain cannot discriminate between a memory and a vision of the future. Athletes employ this knowledge to improve their performance. They practice that golf swing, that basketball shot, that football goal in their mind – they visualise themselves to succeed before they even step on a pitch.

We start rewiring our brain by visualising, by making our brain familiar with what it is that we desire. Our brain has no idea whether we actually made that shot or we just imagined it. It is enough to visualise yourself running fast in order to raise your heart rate (just try it!). That’s the beauty of human mind.

How can we use all this scientific knowledge available to us to create the life we want? We begin by making a decision that our past won’t equal our future. We decide to be led by the vision of our future rather than by the ghosts of our past. Then we build it into our day:

That vision accompanied by incredible feeling will stay available to us throughout the day, it will re-emerge each time we are about to make a decision, each time we are about to react in an old way, each time we start feeling down. When it re-emerges, we need to allow ourselves to go back there at least for few minutes. In the words of Michael Jordan, “Every time I feel tired while exercising and training, I close my eyes to see that picture, to see that list with my name. This usually motivates me to work again.” That’s what being led by the vision of our future looks like.

Play the Appreciation Game

Posted on: June 19th, 2020 by Domante No Comments

“Play the appreciation game” – I was suggested once. I thought about many things I am grateful for in that moment. However, at the time I didn’t understand how fundamental this “game” is in our lives. It is very well to say that you are lucky to be who you are, to have amazing relationships and delightful children… However, we usually say it as a fact – provide ourselves or others with a statement knowing that on this planet there are thousands of people living far worse than us. Realisation that other people are worse off than us is not gratitude. The magic happens when we start feeling appreciation for the positive aspects of our lives, when we charge our words of gratitude with a true emotion.

According to the research conducted by Berkeley University, gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions. We cannot feel appreciative and fearful, angry, resentful or lacking at the same time. When we shift our focus from what is wrong in our lives to what we can appreciate, the way we feel changes instantaneously. Furthermore, the studies have shown that long-term playing the appreciation game increases our determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy levels.

The long-term benefits of the “game” might take time to kick in but don’t let it discourage you. It is like building a muscle. We exercise several times a week in order to get fit. Of course, we feel great after each work-out, but more obvious results are visible in time.

When you feel frustrated, angry, jealous, lacking, can you make good decisions, can you come up with creative ideas? How would your relationship change if you traded your expectations for appreciation? Gratitude is a short-cut to feeling good, it is an antidote for any negative emotion. Whilst in the beginning feeling appreciative rather than resentful might be an effort, with practice it becomes natural.

Many studies have shown that gratitude makes us happier, more content, more efficient in our lives. It doesn’t mean that we stop striving to improve our living conditions, that we bury our career goals or stay in an unfulfilling relationship. Instead, we are reaching towards our dreams from a place of happiness and contentment – we make better decisions, we enjoy the ride, we have insights that guide us, we experience coincidences that help us get to where we want to go much quicker.

Rules of the game:

  1. It has to be done in writing.
  2. You have to write a minimum of 1 page (A4 – no cheating!) per day.
  3. It is best to do it in the morning after your exercise or / and meditation routine. This way it will set tone for the rest of your day.
  4. Pay special attention to things you feel resentful about – try to see something about them to appreciate, i.e. if you really don’t like your tiny flat, remember all the beautiful, cosy, romantic moments you had in it; if your relationship is far from great, think about the qualities in your partner that you admire. Appreciation is an antidote to all the negative feelings.
  5. Tiniest things count – a smile from a stranger, orchid that blossomed in the living room, child’s hug, etc.
  6. Charge your words with emotion. Really feel the gratitude. Don’t just rush to complete the page – do it properly.
  7. If you are struggling, just ask yourself “If I really wanted to be grateful, what would be those things I could potentially be grateful for?”. Sometimes it may take some effort to break the negative thinking patterns.

Qu’est-ce que l’amour? …or A Tale About True Love

Posted on: June 3rd, 2020 by Domante No Comments

“To love pleasure takes little. To love truly takes a hero who can manage his own fear.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

We get scared in the presence of something bigger than ourselves, in the presence of something we cannot grasp the meaning or purpose of, something we can barely find words to describe. It manifests as a magical power pushing us forward, giving us divine courage and willingness to mend our souls. It never just swings by unnoticed… It shakes the ground underneath our feet, it makes us lose our focus and taps into something we didn’t know existed deep down inside. Your Person – true soul mate has arrived.

It is easy to love that very special another when his/her sudden presence seems to be so fragile, when passion is at its peak and two souls seem to be dancing together again after millions of years of being apart. How effortless it appears to be when the universe is laying roses under our feet. We shiver when another shivers, we shelter another from anything this mighty world can bring their way, we always approach with open heart and mind – no past conditioning, no comparisons, no opinions of others… We jump into unknown that is dazzling with the most pleasant emotions, magical sensations – something not from this world. We drink buckets of holly water heaven has landed on us thinking of its limitless resource. This shall last forever!

Then heaven claims its share, usually at the time when we already forgot the responsibility we once had taken. Suddenly we see the “ugly” in another that does not inflict passion, does not drive excitement – certain imperfection, perhaps a weakness or two, maybe neediness that once was so appealing because it made us feel desired and now simply stands for what it actually is. Here is when most of us shake off the responsibility – “This has never been mine”, “It was a mistake”, “He/she has changed”. Some of us get scared that the “beautiful” we fell in love with once is gone forever and run. The others mingle for a little bit longer hoping that the situation will resolve by itself (the “ugly” will be gone with no effort on our part, perhaps we could pay a little bit of ignorance in a meantime).

Once we fall in love we tend not to see the other person for who they are but rather project the qualities of our own anima (female aspect of the soul) or animus (male aspect of the soul) on to the newly met partner / love object. Here is why this phase is called “being in love” rather than “love” itself.

Love happens when we actually start seeing the person for who they are and accepting the existence of the two – the “beautiful” and the “ugly”.

Unfortunately, very few of us are capable of showing courage and commitment in the face of the “ugly” or something we perceive as such. Hardly anybody hugs the “ugly” with warmth and compassion, with the willingness to learn – it is a conscious choice that has to be made, an effort taken knowing deeply in our soul that the “beautiful” is now transformed, evolved, grown into something yet unknown is waiting just around the corner.

“Inability to face and untangle the Skeleton Woman [to meet Lady Death] is what causes many love relationships to fail. To love, one must not only be strong, but wise. Strength comes from the spirit. Wisdom comes from experience with Skeleton Woman. <…> If one wishes to be fed for life, one must face and develop a relationship with the Life/Death/Life nature. When we have that, we are no longer bumbling along fishing for fantasies, but are made wise about the necessary deaths and startling births that create true relationship. When we face Skeleton Woman, we learn that passion is not something to go ‘get’ but rather something generated in cycles and given out. It is Skeleton Woman who demonstrates that a shared living together through all increase and decrease, through all endings and beginnings, is what creates an unparalleled devotional love.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I hear you – “it all sounds lovely but what do you suggest I do!?

I read somewhere that relationship is a university of life. We have the greatest opportunity to grow out of our own fears and limitations through them. Use it wisely!

I really hope that when you encounter the treasure you will appreciate it, you will be willing to accept love in all its guises, you will nurture what has been brought your way. You will be wise and brave (because I know you are already!) and you will commit to stay in the presence of the “beautiful” and in the presence of the “ugly”.

Ps A very charming and funny Ted Talk on the subject: https://www.ted.com/talks/yann_dall_aglio_love_you_re_doing_it_wrong/transcript?language=en#t-4374