Humans go to great lengths to avoid pain and feel pleasure. The fear of pain is the strongest emotion. Anyone who learns to use this instinctive reaction to his or her advantage will have a tool for taking control over one’s life. When life is structured in such a way that our happiness depends on something we cannot control – the pain will always be present. This is a +500-page book by the self-help guru Tony Robbins written in 1991.
“It’s not actual pain that drives us, but our fear that something will lead to pain. And it’s not actual pleasure that drives us, but our belief – our sense of certainty – that somehow taking a certain action will lead to pleasure”.
REPETITION CREATES PATHWAYS. People who dislike to exercise can, after enough repetitions, begin to feel the pleasure of doing so. The easiest way to condition something is to repeat a behavior until a neurological pathway is created. According to brain researchers, neuro-association occurs when neurons are sent as electronic messages back and forth through “neural pathways”. This is likened to a busy road, “a neutral super-highway”. As John Dryden has said: “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us”.
CONDITION PROVIDES SUSTAINABLE CHANGE. Tony Robbins mentions a few steps to condition something: (1) decide what you really want and what prevents you from having it now, (2) get leverage by associating massive pain with not changing now and massive pleasure to the experience of to change now, (3) cancel the restriction pattern, (4) create a new authorization option, and (5) condition the new pattern until it is consistent. Develop a sense of security that you will succeed. The best strategy is to find a role model who does what we want to do.
“LIFE IS EITHER A DARING ADVENTURE, OR NOTHING”. It is common to be paralyzed for fear that there is some uncertainty on exactly how dreams will be turned into reality. Robbins refers to the rally driver’s basic rule: focus on where you want to be, not on what you’re afraid of. Most things can be achieved if you (1) are clearly dedicated, (2) are willing to make a massive effort, (3) think about what works and what does not, and (4) continue to change your approach until you achieve what you want. The tools are what life gives you.
CONTROL WHAT CAN BE CONTROLLED. It is not true that events control our lives, and that our environment has shaped who we are today. It is our belief in what these events mean that shapes us. Generalizations of complex parts of life can simplify and create a limited perception – where “beliefs” have the power to create and the power to destroy. The philosopher Marcus Aurelius has said: “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it, and this you have to power to revoke at any moment”.
GLOBAL BELIEFS. “Do-ers” rarely see problems as permanent, as compared to those who often fail. Global perceptions are the great beliefs we have about everything in our lives: belief in our identities, people, work, time, money and life itself. These giant generalizations are often phrased as “is”: “life is … I am… people are”. Beliefs can shape and color all aspects of our lives. Well accepted, our beliefs become indisputable commands to our nervous system, and they have the power to expand or destroy opportunities.
“The global beliefs you have about the concepts of scarcity and abundance, for example, will determine your stress level and your generosity of time, money, energy and spirit. More powerful than any of these, though, is the core belief that is the ultimate filter to all of our perceptions. This belief directly controls the consistency of your life’s decisions. These are the beliefs you have about your identity”
THE POWER OF LIFE METAPHORS. Jim Rohn has said that one should look at life as seasons. If it is tough, you can think that after winter comes spring. All great teachers – Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Lao Tzu – have used metaphors to convey their message to the common man. Metaphors and symbols can create emotional intensity faster and more comprehensively than traditional words. Metaphors can transform perceptions directly. Learning is making new associations in our heads, creating new meanings and metaphors are as made for this.
CONTROL THE METAPHORS. Most people never actively choose the metaphors that govern their lives. They are picked up from parents or others around – from teachers, managers, colleagues and friends. Suddenly they have become a habit. The metaphors that fit into the job sometimes create challenges in home life. The metaphors we adopt culturally can shape perception and action – or lack of action. With a metaphor, we also get with us the many limiting perceptions that come with it.