‘It’s all in the Mind’
‘It’s all in the mind’ – how many times has someone said that to you? Usually when they don’t understand, or even want to dismiss, something which is very real to you. But I want to offer that statement to you in a different context. I want to propose to you that your experience of life, and ultimately your happiness, is all in your mind. Consider this; often we attribute our thoughts, feelings and even our behaviour to what is going on in the external world; circumstances, other people, even the weather. And yet in every circumstance there will be people who have different thoughts, feelings and behaviours in response to those circumstances. Your adventure might be another person’s biggest fear. Your belligerent boss may be someone else’s sweetheart. And even the rain, which you think is putting a dampener on your day will be a blessing to someone somewhere.
So I want to suggest to you, and you probably, somewhere deep down already know this, that it is in fact you generating your experience of life, it is you determining your happiness, or lack of it. Now I am not in any way suggesting that if you are suffering from a mental health disorder that it is of your own making; that is a different situation altogether and not what I am speaking about here. I am referring to the times in life when things are reasonably normal, ticking along, business as usual, whatever that might be for you. What is it, at those times, that makes life for one person a dream, and for the next a nightmare. Well I think the difference lies in the mind, and more importantly what we do with it. How do I know this? Well I have spent the last fifteen years studying people, including myself, and what makes them tick. Working as a Counsellor and Personal Development Coach I have had the privilege of being invited into the private, internal world of many wonderful folk. Combining insight from this work with formal and informal study, and my own personal experience I think I have developed a fairly good idea of what makes effective ‘ticking’ for people and what does not.
Let me share a personal example. In 2014 I got to do what many people dream of doing, I gave up my job, sold all my possessions and set off to travel the world. I did this slightly later than most people who take a gap year but then I am a bit of a late starter! I found myself in the enviable position of having complete time and financial freedom, I was with the man I love most in the world, in a beautiful environment, and the sun was continually shining. Everything was, as they say, lined up for happiness. And was I happy? Well surprisingly no, I wasn’t, or not for the first six months at least. All the ingredients were there – all the ‘when I have…’ had come to pass. And I found myself waking up miserable, struggling to put some structure and meaning into each day. What was going on? I was determined to find out. Because of my background in personal development it wasn’t hard for me to find the answer, although it did seem a bit ironic that me of all people should be having this problem, it had been my job to help people deal with life’s issues, and I was very good at my job. And yet here I was, struggling in what I had expected to be paradise, having it all and yet miserable. Aaarggh!
But, as is often the case, it turned out to be a perfect lesson for what was to come next. For that experience ignited in me a new passion; to gain a deeper understanding of the power of the mind to create both heaven and hell, depending on how we use it. For the reality is that each person experiences life inside their own mind. Every situation, every person we meet is experienced first through the senses, before being filtered through our beliefs, judgements, assumptions and labelling processes. And whether we are aware of it or not we add our own interpretation and meaning to every moment of our life, and that is what really determines whether something ‘makes’ us happy or not. But this is actually really good news, because if life is experienced in the mind then we have control of it. It is, after all, our mind. But to take control of our mind, and create the experiences we want, we have to first understand how it works and then learn to use it effectively. So how can we do this?
Well, on a very basic level, if you imagine the mind like a computer then it has two operating systems, the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, and both operate in very different ways. Given the right task each operating system can do amazing things and when combined effectively life can flow with ease. However, most of us don’t use our minds effectively the majority of the time. Instead of using our conscious mind to process the reality of each moment and make wise choices in response we hand over day to day control to our ‘automatic pilot’, which resides in the subconscious mind and is often operating on out of date beliefs and unhelpful habits. And the result? Nothing much changes in our life or in us. Our ‘automatic pilot’ will keep giving us more of the same, it can’t do anything else, that is why it is called automatic. So if you want change, if you want more happiness, peace and prosperity, if you want to make change to yourself or how you experience life then you have to take responsibility for how you use your most valuable asset, your own mind.
I discovered during my travels that I was just as capable of creating miserable feelings in paradise as I had been in a stressful job. Changing all of my circumstances did not result in guaranteed happiness because my happiness was being determined in my mind. But once I understood that my mind was under my control, and I worked out the operating instructions, then the happiness I had been seeking started to become a reality. Even after I returned from travelling, when faced with some pretty difficult circumstances, I maintained peace and equanimity without denying the reality of each moment, I truly was experiencing life in all its fullness. And in December this year, when I return to paradise for a couple of months of travel and sunshine, I will not be searching for happiness. This time I will be taking it with me. For ‘it’s all in the mind’.
To read more about the changing moods of my travels download my free e-book,
‘Around the World…… and back’ from my website
If you would like to understand more about your own mind and how to use it effectively then sign up for Take2 – Directing your Best Life a fun and inspirational two-day personal development programme.
For more details contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org