What Are You Running Away From?

In a podcast interview I did last year, I shared my opinion that motivation is overrated. In the modern western world we live in, we overemphasize the importance of willpower and feeling ‘motivated’ in order to achieve our goals.

In truth, as I wrote in a recent blog, we constantly do things without feeling motivated to do them. We get up to go to work, we fill out quarterly accounts, we meet with friends without feeling like it (regardless of whether we start enjoying ourselves once we are in their company). We get up early to take our children to school, cook food even if we are tired after work, attend work events in the evenings while we would rather be at home and so on.

We often get angry with ourselves when we are not able to motivate ourselves to do the things that are good for us:

“Why I am not going to the gym, even though I am paying membership?”

“I know that eating healthy will make me fitter, happier and healthier. Why then do I continue eating junk food?’

I know what I need to do in order to succeed financially in my business. Why then am I not doing it?”

The answer to these questions, often lies in the fact that we lack awareness of the things we are running away from. Human motivation is slightly more complex than the popular idea that either we are motivated or not, and that when we are not we just have to make up for that lack of motivation with a strong dose of willpower.

When we have clarity about what we want and how to go about getting it, and we still don’t take action to achieve our goals, this often points to a ‘disagreement’ on an unconscious level. Somehow we haven’t convinced our unconscious mind yet that achieving this goal will solve our problems. There is still a part of us which lives in doubt.

Contrary to common belief, motivation is not always a magnetic force. We are not just motivated to achieve the things we really want. We are also motivated to run away from the things we don’t want. And these two forces often clash.

Money is a good example of an emotive topic which evokes strong emotions, whether they are towards attracting it, or away from its lack. If you find yourself not able to do the things you need to do in order to achieve your financial goals, ask yourself whether you are running away from poverty and lack instead of being motivated to achieve wealth.

If the avoidance of anything that can vaguely be related to an experience of poverty drives you forward, then you might self-sabotage when you will be called to do the very things you will have to do in order to succeed. You will avoid taking any risks, even those risks every business owner will need to take at some point; your mind will be set on protecting and preserving the status quo of your current life, rather than looking for opportunities for growth.

Such ‘away from’ emotions are often related to past experiences which are colouring and influencing our lives on an unconscious level. Like a sponge, they have absorbed experiences of a similar emotional content which confirm our early adopted bias. While this is largely unhelpful on the longer term, they have served a purpose in helping us, like an internal compass, navigate a complex and often confusing word.

So next time you feel you should be motivated to achieve something, but don’t seem to put the effort in order to do it, ask yourself what it is you are running away from. Becoming aware of the things we are often running away from, is key to our self-sabotaging behaviour, imposter syndrome and ultimately, our success.

Who Do You Need to Be in Order to Be Happy?

There is perhaps no other topic in the world about which more volumes have been written than the pursuit of happiness. In a world where it becomes increasingly clear that we need to create our own purpose and destiny rather than relying on some metaphysical system to introduce meaning to our lives, shaping our own happiness becomes our duty and responsibility.

I have advocated through my weekly blogs my belief that this happiness, at least in the 21st century western world, is often the result of a number of focused activities:

  • pursuing our passions
  • aligning our purpose and vision with our identity, goals, actions and habits
  • creating a sense of freedom by painting our ideal balance between personal and professional life.

Another useful way to track whether our daily actions to pursue happiness are aligned to the outcomes we expect, is the Be-Do-Have model. Steven Covey introduced this model in his seminal book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The model is based on the idea that after establishing a desired goal, we successfully achieve it by asking three questions in a specific sequence:

  • Who do I need to be in order to accomplish this goal?
  • What do I need to do in order to accomplish this goal?
  • What do I need to have in order to accomplish this goal?

According to the sequence used in this model, the Be question must be asked first because it determines your state of being.  It is who you are, not what you have or what you do, that drives influence; it is your identity.

Many people quietly assume that happiness will be the result of pursuing certain activities (‘doing’), or acquiring material wealth (‘having’). However, your answer to the first question of the Be-Do-Have model is the key to your happiness. Who do you need to be to accomplish the goals that will enhance your wellbeing and bring you happiness?

Will you be the hardworking entrepreneur who leaves nothing to chance and takes massive action to accomplish her goals? Would you rather be the solopreneur who works smart to avoid long working hours and spend more time pursuing the lifestyle she wants? Maybe you will be the artist who finds a creative solution to every aspect of his life to tailor it to his satisfaction? Or would you rather be the specialist go-to therapist solving problems for other people you have struggled with before yourself?

Whatever your answer is to that first ‘Be-Do-Have’ question, it should give you a clue about who you need to be in order to ‘be’ happy. Reminding yourself on a daily basis of who you are, will ensure that your daily actions will be based on habits that lead you to exercising your passion and fulfilling your values and purpose in life.

Why You Need a Bucket List

One of the most important insights on my journey towards becoming an NLP Master Coach, was the concept of Motivation Direction. We live in a society where the idea of being motivated by things pulling us towards them is not only encouraged, but anticipated. We are expected to be motivated toward health, wealth, happiness and everything positive and meaningful in our lives.

There is so much emphasis given on these scenarios by our media that we make the quiet assumption that everything people do, is aimed at achieving goods and rewards. Hereby we conveniently overlook the fact that many people around us act in ways that are difficult to explain within this paradigm. If everyone in our world is motivated to get rich, healthy and successful then why are there so many people around us that are neither and yet somehow at peace with their condition?

The answer is given by the aforementioned concept of motivation direction. Many people are not motivated towards things that are pulling them in their direction. They are motivated away from things that are pushing them in the opposite direction. As you can guess, these things are the opposite of the positive things that are pulling people toward them; people are pushed away from poverty, illness, unhappiness etc. They only get truly motivated to take action when one or more of these things appears in their lives.

I am one of these motivated away people. I have difficulty to step into gear when a carrot is dangled in front of me promising riches, success and a long, happy life. What helps me to get motivated toward things, is when I make a conscious effort to connect these things to a higher purpose. When I establish a connection between e.g. wealth and my own purpose and values, then I can motivate myself to pursue wealth. However, I need to keep reminding myself of this connection so that my daily actions and habits become aligned with creating purpose through those goals that will increase my wealth.

Recently, I found another useful tool I can add to my arsenal of things that change my motivation direction: the creation of a bucket list. Simply put, a bucket list is a compilation of the things you want to have experienced and completed before you die. Imagine yourself sitting on a comfortable rocking chair at a very advanced age. You are looking back with contentment and satisfaction on all the wonderful things you have experienced and achieved. What are these things?

Grab pen and paper and write them down. Remember, this is your list. So don’t be limited by lack of money, what other people will say or the impracticalities of the endeavor. The only question you need to ask yourself is when I will be looking back upon my life at an advanced age, is this something I would regret not having done?

Give yourself at least 20 minutes to write down all the things that come to mind. Once you finished, read through your list. Does everything in there fire you up, fill you with passion and enthusiasm? Remember, these are all specific experiences and achievements, so it’s important to be clear on what it is you want to have completed. It could be things like getting a degree in philosophy, travelling to Japan and getting accustomed with local traditions, having a memorable meal with friends or relatives at The Shard in London, attending Glastonbury festival with friends, attending a concert of Metallica or Ed Sheeran, learning to speak Spanish at proficiency level so that you can have a basic conversation with locals in Mallorca, backpacking through South East Asia etc.

I find that writing down my bucket list items fills me with enthusiasm and reminds me of the things in my life that are worth pursuing. It’s certainly exciting to remind myself that I want to record an album with choir and orchestra, organize a gig in a castle, attend a rave in Samothraki (Greece) with my spouse, take a month’s break to tour the Greek islands etc. Once I put a date to them, they become real and my unconscious starts working overtime devising strategies to achieve them.

Once you have written your list (and remember, if it’s not on paper, then it doesn’t exist!) then keep it at an easy to find location, or stick it on your wall. You can even incorporate your bucket list in a vision board. Revisiting your bucket list at regular intervals, will remind you of the ‘highlights’ you want to create in your life for that time in a remote future when you will be sitting on your rocking chair, reminiscing about all the lovely memories you are now creating.

Build Your System on Evidence, Not on Dogma 

How can we know what’s true? This is one of the big philosophical questions of our era. Philosopher Ken Wilber states that we currently live in a postmodern era conscious of the failure of the rational insights of modernism to solve the world’s problems. As a result of this, we have come to give an emphasis on feelings and things that come ‘from the heart’ rather than those coming ‘from the head’.

Science merely gives us a method of knowing and questioning, but no final judgement on what is true, good or right. Knowledge and expertise are perpetual work in progress and unable to reassure those seeking universal truths and straightforward solutions to complex problems.

This uncertainty is not comfortable and therefore the reason that many of us are turning to irrational, yet sure-of-themselves gurus who claim to have access to the ultimate truth. With unwavering confidence they will tell you what is true and what is good. This confidence is partly the result of the Dunning-Kruger effect: people with limited knowledge or competence in a given topic overestimate their own knowledge or competence in that domain, because they don’t know what they don’t know.

If questioned, such gurus will claim that science hasn’t caught up with them yet. They might state that scientists are merely mouthpieces for establishment interests and therefore not to be trusted. Either way, their message is that they are partial to some universal truths, and that you’d better join them if you don’t want to remain ignorant and unenlightened. And when this message is repeated consistently and unrelentingly over a long period of time, people start buying into it and these gurus are building their own tribe of fanatic followers.

How can you ensure that you -an evidence-based practitioner as well as marketing savvy person- beat the gurus at their own game? To start with, you need to discover your irresistible marketing message, the line which you will be repeating to your ideal audience until they turn into ‘followers’. People are looking to turn to someone who is confident and knowledgeable about their subject matter. As an ethical professional, it is your responsibility to seek an evidence-based approach in your area of expertise and to be honest and open about both the benefits and limitations of your offer:

  • Your system is not ‘bulletproof’ with ‘guaranteed results’ if your client is not encouraged to take responsibility and shown the right strategies to get results
  • Be clear about the particular problem you are solving and concentrate on helping those who suffer from it, rather than claiming to solve everyone’s problems
  • Explain your solution in simple layman’s terms rather than using jargon which repeals and alienates your audience

If your method is beyond rational questioning because it was conceived ‘in a dream’ or ‘through a spirit’, or when you shrug off any criticism as ‘jealously of the establishment’ then you don’t have a system to help people, but a dogma. Be honest to yourself and gracious about your system’s limitations. If you do this with confidence and openness, people will appreciate you all the more for it.

Heal Your Inner Patriarchy with Maira Danni

Do you suffer from the effects of internalized capitalism, patriarchy and violence? Gestalt Therapist and Sexologist Maira Danni reckons that you do.

According to her, patriarchy has been installed in human society about five thousand years ago, and has been with us since then, causing trauma and damage to both men and women.

The good news is that you can heal your internal patriarchy; all you need is to apply the healing forces of love and freedom in your life and respect the boundaries of the people around you. Maira explains in detail how you can do this.

I am of course delighted to hear this, as a big advocate of exercising personal freedom and responsibility, in order to take our personal and professional lives where we want them to be!

Join us in the latest episode of my podcast “How Did They Do It” to find out more about the anarchistic origins of Gestalt, the genesis of patriarchy, Maira’s views on healing from domestic violence, why people don’t like to talk about sex, why anger management is not a great term to use and so much more!

Heal Your Inner Patriarchy- Interview with Maira Danni

7 Lessons from Self-Releasing My Music

I am an amateur musician. I love creating and performing original music, but I have never found the nomadic lifestyle of the touring musician attractive and therefore I have never pursued a professional career as an artist.

Having said that, I have been taking the business side of music more and more seriously in recent times, and I have been self-releasing my music since 2016. One could describe me as a semi-professional musician nowadays, even though the income I get from music generally serves to sustain and fund future musical activities and promotion, rather than funding my lifestyle.

As I have found out over the years, releasing your own music as an independent artist is not any different than marketing your service or product as a solopreneur, small business owner or therapist. In order to be successful, you need to do the things successful business owners do.

This year I released two albums of bands I am a member of. I did this through my own label, which is but an alias I use to separate the promotional activities surrounding the albums from my own artistic name (hey, no one likes a bragging musician constantly talking about the great music they make!) Doing so I learned some important lessons, which I am sharing below:

  1. Your Story is What Connects Your Art to Your Business  

Similarly to how you can not apply your therapist or cake baking skills to how you run your business, it is not possible to apply your skills or craft as a performer or music creator to how you market, sell and promote your musical activities. In order to get people to buy your stuff or service you need to get into their minds. What makes them tick, what is it about your offer that is different and unique and why is it something they need in their lives? Create a consistent story about your art and the process that led to its creation, and use that story to connect with your audience.

2. Separate Emotion From Financial Transactions

Artists are generous people. In their avid enthusiasm about their music, they tend to give away their merch for free to friends and family, or, after a certain amount of intoxication at a live gig, to pretty much everyone (as I have witnessed on several occasions).

Generousness is without a doubt a positive trait that helps your audience to know, like and trust you (especially in the early days when you are building your name as an artist). However, it can be a detrimental and wasteful trait if you don’t have a clear strategy as an artist in order to sustain yourself financially. Figure out what you need to do to sustain your musical career, and act accordingly. Only give away what you can afford to give away.

When you have decided on your pricing, stick to it and don’t cut any corners when it’s time for the payment to be made in order to please people. True fans will happily pay the actual value of an item when they know that it will support and sustain you as an artist to keep making music. After all, wouldn’t it be a shame if you were to give up because of running out of funds, and deprive your keen followers of your unique artistic talent?

3. Set Your Pricing Right

I am at the risk of becoming Captain Obvious here, but I think the obvious is often overlooked by artists: you can not know whether you are making a profit from your music if you don’t understand what your overheads are. Your overheads are the total sum of all your costs, many of which are often overlooked.

How much did it cost you to record, mix and master your music? What was the cost of printing your CDs/vinyls/merch? How much did you spend in magazine adverts, promotion, Facebook ads, videoclips? What recurrent costs do you have (e.g. monthly Bandcamp, Hypeddit and annual Tunecore subscriptions in my case). What transaction costs do you need to take into account? E.g. Bandcamp charges you 10-15% per sale, and Paypal charges about 6% in merchant fees per transaction (for a professional Paypal account).

Knowing your one-off, monthly and annual fees, will help you understand how much money you need to earn on an ongoing basis in order to cover your costs. Knowing your individual sales and transactional costs, will help you monitor how much progress you are making towards your overall financial goals.

4. Set Goals and Plan in Advance  

Following from the previous point, you now hopefully understand the importance of setting yourself clear financial goals rather than going where the wind blows. It is simply not possible to run the business side of your artistic career if you are not able to set yourself daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals (and beyond).

How much do you want to be earning from your music on an annual basis? What will you do with any profit you make? Knowing this figure, you can then work out how much you need to be earning on a monthly, weekly and daily basis. Breaking down annual goals into daily goals is very helpful, as it makes the task look less daunting and gives you a clear action plan on a daily basis. Once you know what you need to do on a daily basis, you can then work on developing good daily habits which will lead to sustainable, long-term results.

5. Hype Always Works

In the musical underground circles where I frequent, there is a lot of talk and bravado about how individual, sophisticated and unique everyone’s musical taste is. Listeners of less visible musical genres tend to define themselves as different from the rest and see their musical taste as something that has grown spontaneously, as a result of their own research and individual journey.

While I don’t dispute the value of personal research and recommendations (streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music have developed sophisticated algorithms that are very helpful in discovering artists similar to your musical taste), I think people strongly underestimate the importance of hype in the success of a musical release. Labels that are good at hyping their artists, create an impenetrable veil of positivity around their releases. This positive PR creates in turn an expectation in the listener’s mind that the album in question is going to blow them away, and that this is the music they need in their lives.

Music appreciation remains an abstract and subjective process, and hype helps to create an air of ‘objective’ approval around a new release, pre-framing the idea in the listener’s mind that this album will be better than other similar releases of ‘lesser gods’ (read: less hyped artists). And once the listener’s social circle has invested in the idea that this is a worthwhile release, it will be difficult to disagree and lose face in your ‘tribe’.

6. It’s Always About the Long Game

I remember about ten years ago, talking to people in the musical scene (including labels of smaller labels) who would orate convincingly about the importance of the first month after release. Apparently it’s make-or-break time, because once the initial hype has evaporated, everyone turns their attention to another new release and that’s it. The opportunity to promote your new work has expired! You will now have to wait another three years or so in order to release and promote a new work in order to create interest around your studio output.

I can confidently say, having been playing this game for over two decades now, that this is nonsense. Yes, the initial period after release is important as it sets the tone for the response to your release and you need to take advantage of the momentum created in that period. But at the same time, you also need to draw a long-term strategy for evergreen promotion. I can guarantee that the majority of people who potentially appreciate your music is still out there! With thousands of new albums released every year, it is just not possible for everyone to hear every album that would potentially appeal to them.

So keep promoting your music, set up some ongoing Facebook/Instagram/YouTube ads and keep telling the story of your record to new audiences. You will continue creating new fans and once they get to know you, it won’t matter whether you released an album a year or ten years ago. They will want it all the same.

7. You Can’t Do It All On Your Own

I have been guilty of this myself in the past. I believed that I could and should do everything by myself, because somehow ‘I knew better’. This belief is the result of a fixed mindset, and there is research showing that this mindset seldom leads to sustainable success. It stems from the idea that in order to be good in something you need to be somehow a ‘natural genius’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Long-term success is mostly derived by experience and hard work. The more time you spend improving your skills in something, the more successful you are likely to be.

This means that in a complex and time consuming activity as that of creating and releasing music, you are simply not good enough to do everything by yourself, as you haven’t spent enough time to be good at everything, including writing, arranging, producing and mastering music, creating the artwork, maintaining the website and your social media, writing compelling promo copy, building up good distribution channels, marketing your art etc.

Humbleness leads to the best long-term results, so stick to what you do best and get others to help in the areas you are lacking because you haven’t invested enough time in mastering them.

Don’t Let Semantics Get in the Way of Action

I used to have a client who hated the word ‘goals’. In every conversation we had, we were going into painstaking efforts to avoid it, using terms such as ‘flow’ and ‘process’ instead, which suggested a more organic and fluid approach to goal setting.

Other people I have worked with recently, got stressed by the use of the term ‘to-do-list’. It implies a chore, something that will require effort, energy and the dreaded feeling of obligation or ‘must’. Instead, they suggested using terms such as ‘achievement list’, which imbues a sense of positivity and satisfactory action.

I’m recently hearing calls to abolish the term ‘failure’ altogether, as people fear it has a negative connotation. Instead, it is suggested that words such as ‘feedback’ or ‘failing forward’ are used to reframe it into something much more positive.

People often have very good reasons why they like or dislike certain terms. Historically, they may have associated them with unhelpful mental images or with trauma’s. It’s up to them whether they feel these associations are harmful enough to be tackled head on, or instead they would rather avoid them altogether.

However the danger with focusing too much on the ‘harmful’ effect of words, is that this can often distract from the positive action that needs to be taken. If where you currently are causes you pain and discomfort, then you need action to effect change, whether this action is pursued through setting ‘goals’, plotting the ‘process’ or actioning ‘achievement lists’.

By all means, use the terminology that inspires and motivates you to achieve what you want in life. But don’t let semantics get in the way of what you need to do right now in order to get results.

Set your Intentions Now To Achieve Your 2022 Goals

One of the genuinely positive effects of social media, is the fact that it allows you to build a digital footprint of your goals, intentions and actions. Back in December 2020, I wrote in my music artist Facebook page that my intention for 2021 is to make a number of musical collaborations happen.

Just like in my coaching work, I do not believe in seeing colleagues as a threat, or ‘competition’. Many people in my field talk about a mindset of abundance, but when it comes to it, it’s only practiced by a few. If you truly believe that the universe will and can provide for everyone, then it’s only natural that you will consider your work as a coach, business owner, therapist or musician as part of a bigger mosaic, in which you are but a piece.

Collaborations not only help you grow and learn as an artist or business person; they give you the opportunity to offer to your followers a full package of support (or enjoyment); they also give you the opportunity to be introduced to the contacts or followers of the person you are collaborating with. In that sense, it is a win-win situation.

So this year, I set out to do the following things in my coaching business and musical activities:

  • I ran my first group coaching program and collaborated with a hypnotherapist coach who used abundant mindset hypnosis to help change the limiting beliefs of my participants
  • I started a podcast where I delve into the world of people who have found their freedom by doing what they love doing. This has allowed me not only to learn, but to also get to know better a number of people who inspire me and whose service my clients and I can use in the future (and of course vice versa)
  • I participated in a heavy metal charity single in memory of a young musician who sadly departed because of cancer. This gave me the opportunity to work with high profile musicians in my scene I have never worked with before
  • I collaborated with a fellow coach and a friendly singer-songwriter to create a Christmas charity single in a genre I wasn’t familiar with before (pop ballad). This is helping me to stretch my comfort zone and potentially get in the radar of a completely new audience

It’s doubtful that these collaborations would have happened had I not set my intentions a year ago. They helped me to set clear goals, as well as keeping my mind focused on opportunities coming my way. I would likely not have spotted these opportunities had I not been explicitly looking for them.

Setting your intentions means that you start from a place of clarity of purpose. Once you are clear on what you want to achieve, and you have checked that these intentions are aligned to your values, it’s a matter of planning ahead and setting measurable goals in order to track your progress. The compound effect of your daily actions and habits will determine your future success.

What about you? What intentions are you setting yourself for 2022?

Confidence is Built On Knowledge, Not Feelings

As the United Kingdom is once again entering Covid Level 4 Alert, we are confronted with the ever changing nature of the reality we live in. A reality which is shaped by as many external factors beyond our control, as it is from factors we can control and influence.

After almost two years of restrictions due to the global pandemic, I sense a growing impatience with many of the people around me. Increased parts of the population feel disenchanted with government communications, expressing confusion at what they perceive as often vague and contradictory messaging.

While most governments claim they are following the science, the constantly changing picture of the discovery of new virus strains and the ebb and flow in the numbers of worldwide infection, often give the impression that the truth is ‘work in progress’ which governments and scientists make up as they go along.

As a result of this, there is a growing feeling among people that governments don’t act in good faith, and that all they desire is controlling us. It is healthy to acknowledge this feeling among ourselves, and listen to our emotions as we are trying to cope with a unfamiliar and rather unusual phase of our existence. But this is all it is: a feeling, not knowledge. And it is not a sound foundation for the truth.

Why are conspiracy theories so effective? because they are based on a ‘feeling’. The feeling that something is not right, that there is a small elite of people who are actively plotting against us; the feeling that we are in the possession of some hidden truth to which the majority of the population don’t (yet) have access. The truth is relative and often based on what ‘feels good’; therefore by asserting it often and loudly, we are providing evidence to ourselves that it is superior to that of others.

Unfortunately, equating truth with what feels right, doesn’t give us the desired peace of mind, even if we feel that our truth is superior to that of others. When events in reality don’t give us the feeling we expect, there is cognitive dissonance between what we feel as our truth and the information we receive. The feeling we get from cognitive dissonance is a negative one, leading to more far-fetched theories of reality in order to explain away the contradiction between our feelings and what our senses are telling us.

We live in a world where there is an increasing consensus that we need to take care of our mental health. Why then do so many of us spend our precious time engaging in energy sapping mental gymnastics in order to explain away what we don’t like? Aren’t we more likely to preserve our energies, as well as to maintain a positive feeling about reality, if we speak to an expert or become one in our field, rather than living with our ‘bad feelings’ as a result of incomplete knowledge?

Staying informed in our field of interest and remaining honest to ourselves about what our senses are really telling us, gives us a perception of control in our lives. If our theory of reality is the result of knowledge, rather than us trying to fit reality in some preconceived idea, we are more likely to find the peace of mind we are looking for. It is the right foundation of our sense of confidence and self-esteem, rather than theories designed to remove ‘bad feelings’.

Stop Overthinking to Find Your True Self

Being able to plan ahead using abstract thought, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the human race. It’s the main reason we have managed to conquer nature, go to space, dramatically improve our life spans and lay the foundations for our science and technology.

But as is often the case, our biggest weapon can easily turn into our greatest downfall. Thinking and planning ahead are useful tools, and essential in mastering our trade, profession or art, building our business and finding success in our lives. When used excessively or inappropriately however, they can quickly turn against us. They lead to anxiety, procrastination, self-doubt and negative thoughts.

I have two Birman cat pet companions, and what I admire most about them, is their ability to effortlessly connect with their authentic selves. Without this overthinking getting in their way, they exist in a state of pure being, and often one of flow. They eat and drink when they need to, visit the toilet when they have to, seek attention when in the mood for playing and sleep for the (considerable) rest of the day.

Overthinking is the enemy of being in the moment. It takes us away from an associated state to ‘looking at ourselves in the picture’ (to use Neuro Linguistic Programming terminology). Excessive self-awareness and self-criticism deny us the opportunity to connect with the moment, that condition where we just are, in a present state of focus and flow.

It is not always easy to beat overthinking, as many of us (and in this I include myself) have been conditioned by years of subjecting ourselves to it, and as a consequence have become expert overthinkers. One of the main reasons is the fact that we often grow up in environments where others are regularly triggering our feelings of guilt to manipulate our behaviour.

As children, we are constantly told what not to do out of fear that if we let our guard down, we will hurt ourselves. Later on in life, we are made to feel bad about the way we look ( I vividly recall a middle aged woman breaking down in tears on a training session as she remembered her mum exclaiming ‘who will look at you‘? when she, as a child, once wore a pretty new dress for a social occasion). We are also made to feel bad about our privilege (growing up in Greece, the biggest threat used against a child not eating their food, was: ‘Aren’t you ashamed? What about the children of Ethiopia, who have nothing to eat?’).

We are made to feel personally responsible for social problems such as homelessness, war and poverty. More recently, we are also made to feel guilty about climate change and environmental destruction (even though most of the change that is required will have to come from changes to government policies in order to regulate the companies that are the biggest polluters).

Overthinking is often the result of self-doubt and guilt. It is stopping us from existing in the moment, and that is exactly when we are connected to our true selves. If you are not able to banish it from your day-to-day life, promise yourself 15 minutes in the day when you allow yourself to indulge in that overthinking.

Every day you catch yourself doing it, remind yourself of that promise. Then come that time, decide whether you want to use it to overthink. You might find that you don’t feel the need to do it anyway. But doing this catastrophic thinking consciously and with self-awareness, almost in a mindful way, will mean that you will soon spot the exaggerations in your ruminating. Your thought processes will sound absurd and unlikely. Andin the vast majority of the cases, they are.