Time Travel

Time passing

Every morning, I travel back in time. I go back to the exact same day the year before, and the year before that. And the year before that. I live it like I was there again, in that time and space and circumstance.

I relive the emotions, the hopes, the anxieties and the dreams. I examine the minutia of my thoughts as they play out in the complex arena of what we call real life.

I can time travel because I keep a journal – a page of thoughts and emotions as I start each and every day. What surprises me is how similar my thoughts are over the years, and how much energy I waste on the trivia of things that only matter in that moment. A minor altercation at work. Whether the subway will be running on time. Gaining a pound from eating too much ice cream. Fretting about the repetitive issues of life that never really change and in the long run don’t mean a thing.

How much time do we waste every day on needless worry and anxiety? How much of the thinking power of our amazing brains do we spend on the detritus of life that is ultimately meaningless?

Anyone can time travel. Just write your world down. I don’t try to manipulate my thoughts. I just say how I feel, the things I am thinking. So make a start and soon you will be traveling back to the week before, the month before, the year before. And then to a decade ago.

Eventually, something even more incredible happened to me. l was able to travel into the future.

With the realization that so many of my thoughts were wasted, I could begin to change the way I was actually thinking. I could stop obsessing over life’s noise and begin to focus my thoughts on things that make a difference to my quality of life.

In the end, it means nothing that someone bumped into us on the street. It’s unimportant that the weather is grim. It’s irrelevant that our Facebook posts were ignored. The energy of thought should not be wasted on any of this nonsense. So what should we be thinking about? The things that do matter. Health, friendship, loved ones, freedom. A dream.

And then we will find that by traveling back in time, we can travel into a better future.

The Future is Ours

Crane DawnI was on a flight from Hong Kong to New York recently when I realized something that could change my life forever. How little time we spend actually thinking. I don’t mean worrying about the trivia that fills our minds with useless thoughts every moment of the day. I mean stopping for a considered time to clear our minds of meaningless nonsense and to think about something different, something perhaps bigger than who we are today or the contribution we could make to this life.

And it started me thinking about the ambition of my youth and for a moment I was sad and lost and then I simply thought of something that filled me with an overwhelming sense of exhilaration. The thought that ambition is not over until we choose to give it up. And it is our choice whether we live this life with the thoughts of something bigger or lose ourselves in the everyday minutiae of nothing at all.

By thinking about something – writing a novel, starting a business, a charitable cause or whatever it may be – we have a proven chance of achieving it. But all the time we have meaningless arguments inside our heads, reliving the past or worrying about things we cannot change, we are wasting something vital that could change our lives forever – using our minds to create a beautiful and more enriched future.

So now, I am banishing any thought that has no purpose, the internal nonsense that goes around and around and burns up the most important development of evolution, the ability to think for ourselves.

It has taken six billion years to evolve us to where we are today, with the most developed brain of any species. The limbic brain and the neocortex, 3 lbs of jelly that represents the absolute pinnacle of evolution. We can use it to play Candy Crush all day or change the world we live in. In the end it is down to thought and motivation – and the other great gift we have. The gift of freedom of choice.

Don’t waste it.

I have been writing again after many months of absence and I feel thrilled that once challenged, our minds come forward with a mass of creativity, of invention, of wonder. I’m now half way through writing a new book and I feel more excited than at any time in my life.

Be excited for all that can be rather than worried about all that may be or all that was. We have been gifted the greatest thinking machine of evolution, the human mind. And we need to use it.

The future is waiting to be created. And it is all ours.

A Crying Shame

Rainbow LighteningOn our first day at grammar school, each of us had to state out loud our name and address while the teacher wrote down our individual details. Around the class the roll-call went until it came to me. When I said my address, the teacher looked up from her register.

“Oh! I didn’t know we allowed anyone from that place to come to this school,” she said.

My cheeks blushed and I cast my eyes down at the desk while the whole class looked down on me and sniggered. The emotion I felt, most powerfully, was that of shame. I was ashamed that I had been allowed to attend grammar school when it was clearly against the rules of their society. The teacher had given her humiliating judgment and the class agreed.

It was clear that the emotions those class members felt were a mixture of judgment and pleasure. The pleasure of shaming a poor boy from state housing coming to a wealthy grammar school.

There is a huge difference between embarrassment and shame. Embarrassment is a sense of being exposed without having violated some personal or social norm. On the other hand, shame is a painful feeling about oneself, often as a result of being judged in a social context for being sinful.

It’s ironic that society mostly looks down on people who have very little and looks up to people who have everything. Should judgment really be so shallow that I should look with disdain at a hungry child but look with admiration at someone who has a sprawling estate and a personal cinema room?

Frank McCourt, the sadly deceased author of Angela’s Ashes, said he could not watch an appeal for hungry children on TV without weeping. He wept because he knew the gnawing pain of hunger. He also knew the absurd sense of shame that society can make you feel for being impoverished. The same feelings I had in that grammar school classroom.

If we look at the other end of society’s measure of wealth, we see that the richest 85 people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion. Yes, billion. Is that a shame? It depends what they do with their wealth and whether the contest to see who has the biggest super-yacht is more fulfilling than giving a destitute child a glass of milk each day. It’s not for me to judge.

Regardless of wealth, we can all live in a state of constant poverty. A poverty of compassion, a poverty of humanity, a poverty of true happiness.

But I do want to thank my teacher for something. She taught me that it’s a crying shame to judge people by their possessions or by where they live.

Yes You Can

Sleeping MonkeyI’m realizing now, after all these years, that almost all self-discovery is worthless. Don’t get me wrong: I think it is incredibly important to know yourself, perhaps the most important thing that you will ever do. But the process of knowing yourself through self-discovery – or “introspection” – is completely flawed.

We need to see ourselves from the outside-in.

Left entirely to our own analysis and self-discovery, it is impossible to see ourselves as we truly are. It is through the “Introspection Illusion” that we believe we are all better car drivers than the average (statistically impossible) but more ominously, that we are incapable of achieving our greatest dreams because of our lack of talent, our flaws, our weaknesses.

The single greatest obstacle to achieving our goals and dreams is embodied in the sincere belief that we will fail. And we all do it – fail before we even begin.

You see, when we look inside ourselves, we find fear and doubt more often than we may find courage and belief. And such is the power of fear and doubt that it crushes our ambitions. The dreamer that you were when you were seventeen becomes the disillusioned, boxed-in adult, fearful of failure

But success finds itself through a determined belief that you can achieve something.

So, rather than believing that you are an above average driver but could never play the piano, start talking to those who are closest to you, those you trust, those whose opinions you value. Ask them what strengths – and only strengths – they see in you. You may be amazed. And list the things you have done that you never thought you could, however small. Keep the list going and add to it every day. Then take just one thing you never thought you could do and start the journey towards achieving it.

Stop looking inside yourself and finding failure – an excuse to never start. Don’t fall for the Introspection Illusion.

Build a view of your amazing self from the outside-in. You are so much more than you know.

Rejecting Paradise

200456192-001Sometimes we just want to feel alone, to feel sad, to feel failure. It’s not that we enjoy self-pity. It’s just that loneliness, sadness and failure are what we think we deserve.

Growing up with poverty and abuse creates a powerful sense of where you belong and what you are worth. In its most destructive form, it gives you an overwhelming belief in your own worthlessness.

As I distanced myself from poverty, I eventually realized that not once did I feel that I deserved what I had achieved. And as I formed loving and caring relationships, I looked for ways in which those relationships would be used to inflict emotional harm on me. The more my life became ideal, the more I seemed to want to reject it.

I was not worthy of love or success in any of its forms.

Sometimes it is a parent who infuses in you a belief that you must, “Never forget your roots,” or, “Don’t get ideas above your station.”

Other times, it is the bullying of a sibling who constantly tells you the world would be a better place if you had never been born.

And so, when life gives you good things, you work hard at pushing them away, at not being happy.

A friend of mine sold his company and overnight he became extremely wealthy. I asked him how it felt and he said, “I’m worried and I’m fearful. I’m afraid that I will lose it all.” As the conversation continued, it became apparent that he had grown up poor and didn’t think he deserved to ever have more than his parents had.

In the end, for me, it took one loving, beautiful person to come into my life and explain to me my destructive behaviors. To show me how powerfully I was rejecting paradise because of a deep-rooted belief that I was not worthy of it.

Some people may think this is utterly ridiculous. But to someone who has experienced the self-destructive behaviors that reject love, happiness and material rewards, it is all too real. For some, rejection is a way of life – so much so, that paradise is always just out of reach and therefore not even available to be rejected.

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