Monday, March 29, 2010

Freedom - part 1

"He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide."
Salvador de Madariaga

It is life denying to diminish your world through limited choice and flexibility.

Freedom and choice are important and life enhancing values and you want to hold on to them with all your heart.

This is the first of a multi-part focus on freedom in this blog. In it I'll introduce some of the key ideas and distinctions around freedom to get you attuned and thinking about the subject. We'll then follow this up in the next blog entry with an interview with Pulitzer prize nominated author Thomas Sullivan as he discusses and shares his insights on freedom, its importance and how to create more of it in your life.

For now, let's get started on our explorations into the ideas that underpin freedom.

Never give away choice

There is an old Estonian proverb, full of wisdom that says “never leave yourself with only one pair of shoes” because if they get too tight and start to hurt, your life can end a painful misery. This maxim or learning tool refers to the idea that if you give away choice and only allow yourself one option in life, and if that option becomes problematic, you’ll end up with a life of unhappiness.

Thinking Tool: Freedom and Choice

Never leave yourself with only one pair of shoes!

Requisite Variety

There is also a provable mathematical theorem from Systems Theory that supports this. Known as the ‘Law of Requisite Variety’ it suggests that in any system the element that has the most choice, flexibility or requisite variety will be the controlling element. The corollary to this is that to gain more freedom or control in any system, you need to give yourself more choice or flexibility.

NLP Success Formula

Remember the NLP Success Formula:
  1. Clearly know your outcome
  2. Take congruent action
  3. Learn from feedback
  4. Change and adjust your behaviour until you achieve your outcome
The fourth step is about flexibility and is supported by the ideas from the Law of Requisite Variety. A simple way to remember this law is ‘Choice = Control’. Always give yourself more choice and flexibility and never give away your control. As often as possible in life always give yourself more choice (within reason) rather than less.

The Bliss Point of choice

Of course, choice and the number of options needs to be balanced. Research in cognitive psychology has shown that too many choices can also lead to stress and decreased happiness. The optimal number of choices appears to be somewhere between 3 to 6. More or less than this can be problematic. I'll blog soon about the difference between choice and freedom and how they are related. For now, note that there is a 'bliss point' to choice and that if you need more freedom or control in a situation, then it's often because you have limited your choice, flexibility or requisite variety.

Thinking Tool: Choice and Control

Choice = Control

"If you don’t take control of your life, someone else will.”
Paul McKenna

The power of Generative Questions

One way to encourage yourself and directionalise your mind towards freedom and choice is to ask yourself generative questions - questions that open your mind to new possibilities and new directions. Questions have the power to shape your thoughts, your Reticular Activating System, your head, heart and gut brains and ultimately your life. Use the following example questions to increase awareness around freedom and flexibility in your life.

Awareness Questions:

Ask Yourself -
  • In what situations or contexts do I need more choice and control?
  • In what areas of my life do I lack flexibility?
  • How can I create more choice and freedom in my life?

"Between stimulus and response is the freedom to choose."
Viktor Frankl

Types of freedom

Note that freedom is not a single, unitary and amorphous entity. Freedom comes in a number of flavours -- there are many types and forms of freedom. For example:
  • Financial freedom
  • Relationship freedom
  • Intellectual freedom
  • Emotional freedom
  • Beliefs and Identity freedom
  • etc.
Every one of them is life enhancing and has skills and techniques for maintaining and maximising your choice and freedom in that domain. In up-coming blogs I'll explore these with you. We'll look at how dis-empowering and irrational beliefs rob you of freedom. We'll drill into the skills and insights needed for financial freedom. We'll play with ideas for intellectual freedom and the ability to question all the false assumptions that society swamps you with. Importantly, we'll also learn about how to do relationship freedom and how to create exquisite relatings in your life.

For now, during this following week, make some time to reflect on the various contexts of your life and whether you are truly free and have real choice. Or are you constrained by the expectations of others? Have you given away your choice and power to decide? Are you truly living the life enhancing destiny you desire? Are you dreaming BIG dreams and putting them into action? Or are you living a join the dots life of mundane mediocrity and following rules foist upon you by society and the ignorance of previous generations?

All big and life enhancing questions. Have a play with them. And look forward to some stimulating responses from author Thomas 'Sully' Sullivan in next week's interesting and inspiring installment, as Sully ponders upon these crucial questions on the life enhancing topic of freedom.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing great wishes

And if you are interested...

Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life - Judith Orloff M.D.

A superbly written series of psychological strategies for maximizing positive emotions and minimizing toxic ones. A practicing psychiatrist, the author straddles the worlds of mainstream medicine and alternative healing.

Beyond Freedom & Dignity - B. F. Skinner

In this profound and profoundly controversial work, a landmark of 20th-century thought originally published in 1971, B. F. Skinner makes his definitive statement about humankind and society. Insisting that the problems of the world today can be solved only by dealing much more effectively with human behavior, Skinner argues that our traditional concepts of freedom and dignity must be sharply revised. Beyond Freedom and Dignity urges us to reexamine the ideals we have taken for granted and to consider the possibility of a radically behaviorist approach to human problems. It is the environment rather than humankind itself that must be changed if the traditional goals of the struggle for freedom and dignity are to be reached.

A Theory of Freedom: From the Psychology to the Politics of Agency

In this short yet ambitious work, Philip Pettit offers a single, unified, and overarching theory of freedom. A puzzling topic, freedom extends from the individual and the metaphysical (i.e. free will) to the social and the political, yet a theory connecting these two realms has yet to be devised. In an elegant, accessible manner, Pettit presents a survey of available theories of freedom, then develops his own--one that manages to straddle the personal and political spheres. The view he develops--which includes the seemingly paradoxical notion that we are free to the extent that we are capable of being held responsible

Monday, March 22, 2010

Are there rocks on your beach?

In the various Personal Development workshops I run, I often tell the story of 'the rocks on the beach', as it's a great learning example about the power of beliefs and values to filter and constrain your reality. One of the workshop participants suggested they'd love to read it in my blog, so Jan, here's today's blog at your request :-)

No rocks on this beach

A couple of years ago I'd setup a 'Friends of the Park' volunteer group for our local National Park and as part of a working-bee we were refurbishing the lookout at the Surf beach in the Ninety Mile Beach Marine National Park. I was busily digging sand for a retaining wall with one of the other volunteers, when we came across a fairly large rock hidden deep in the sand. Now you have to understand that the Ninety Mile Beach is made up of over ninety miles of golden flowing sand, so it was with some surprise that I commented to my work partner "isn't it amazing how there are so many rocks on this beach, given it is such a large body of uninterrupted sand". My partner stopped digging, looked at me with confusion and exclaimed "What rocks? There are no rocks on the Ninety Mile Beach!"

Well, apart from the very obvious rock at our feet, I replied to her, "What are you talking about? There are rocks all over this beach. Just take a look. There's thousands of rocks amongst the shells and sea-wrack." We were constructing the new lookout quite some way from the water-line, up on the back dunes, high above the beach, so it wasn't easy to see just how many rocks were down on the beach. So I suggested she take a short walk and confirm the facts... there are lots of rocks on the Ninety Mile Beach.

She took a few small steps towards the beach and returned almost immediately. "No" she reiterated, "there are definitely no rocks on that beach. It's just shells and sand." No matter what I said, I could not convince her of the existence of any rocks. She was adamant and certain. It felt like something out of the Twilight Zone. And this woman was an intelligent, reasonable and educated person. But for her, the rocks were invisible. There were no rocks on her beach! Apparently, we didn't share the same beach, because wherever I looked, I could see rocks sitting amongst the shells. Hard rocks. Solid rocks. But there were no rocks on 'her' beach.

Next day I took a camera down to the same beach and recorded the existence of these 'invisible' rocks. You can see the image here:

Mapping our Reality Tunnel

Now I tell this story, as a real and graphic example of how people's beliefs and values filter their reality. As I'm sure you've read many times in this blog, we don't ever operate off the world, but instead our unconscious mind and neural circuitry creates a deleted, generalised and distorted map of reality -- our version of reality, or as Robert Anton Wilson, in his brilliant book 'Prometheus Rising' explains it, we live in our own Reality Tunnel.

This woman had taken early retirement from a Middle Management position in a large Organisation to make a 'sea-change' in her life. She was competent and capable. Yet, because she had a model of the Ninety Mile Beach that saw it as miles and miles of unbroken golden sands, she was unable to see the rocks. Thousands of rocks. Sure they were mixed amongst shells, drift wood and sea wrack. But nevertheless, there were rocks on that beach in 'reality', but just not in her 'reality'.

In the case of rocks on a beach, it's not too important one way or the other if you see them or not, though you wouldn't want to stub your toes on them. However, what happens when this same process occurs in other more critical areas of life. As a Middle Manager, with the working lives of many people under your command, not seeing the metaphorical 'rocks' in your environment could be very detrimental to success.

Why don't we see the rocks?

One of the key reasons that we don't see situations as they are, but instead confirm our biases by seeing them as we believe them to be, is because of the effects of beliefs and values on our Reticular Activating Systems (RAS). I've mentioned the RAS in previous blog entries. Let's drill into what it is and how it works a little more in this blog entry. By understanding how your brain and mind works, you empower yourself to be able to control and direct it and overcome its evolved and inbuilt propensities.

How the Reticular Activating System works

The RAS sits near the core of your brainstem and acts like a filter or way station for almost all the information that feeds into your brain from the outlying sensory nerves. It is responsible for ensuring that your brain isn’t swamped by useless and unimportant data and signals. The RAS only let’s through to the frontal lobes and higher centres of your brain the information that is deemed as important and salient.

For example, your RAS is involved in what is known in psychology as the ‘Cocktail Party Effect’. This is the effect you’ll have experienced when at a club, restaurant, party or bar; a noisy environment where it’s difficult to hear conversations. In order to pick out just the voice of one of your companions, your RAS manages to filter out that auditory signal from the blooming confusion of noise and voices around you. Whilst doing an excellent job of this, and without any conscious awareness on your part, your RAS also monitors other conversations for anything of importance or salience.

That's why, if someone three tables over, mentions your name, or starts speaking about something that is of significance to you, their voice or conversation will somehow jump out and come to your awareness. This is the cocktail party effect. Your RAS manages to filter out noise and bring to your conscious awareness anything important. An amazing and necessary feat.

The key to the RAS and its operation is salience and values. Your values, goals, fears, desires and beliefs direct and guide your RAS. If there’s something you strongly desire or value highly, either positively or negatively, then your RAS will notice examples of it and highlight it in your environment. These will then be incorporated into and magnified in your ongoing map of the world.

A Life Enhancing insight

The life enhancing insight here is that the more specifically you delineate and define your values, goals and dreams, the more your RAS will assist you in achieving them. It works like magic and is the basis for so called esoteric goal achievement techniques like ‘the secret’. The real secret is to focus and direct your powerful RAS by using the skills and techniques highlighted in the many entries of this blog.

The other important thing to note is the power of negative beliefs, values and fears to generate self-fulfilling prophecies. Remember that FEAR can often be seen as False Evidence Appearing Real. You need to beware the generalisations you've made about life and see the world as it currently stands and not from a biased model you formed in the past.

A sad and graphic example

Here's a sad and much more impactful example of what happens when your map of the world gets so distorted that you end up creating the very experience you fear. I came across this example in the news as I was thinking about this blog entry.

A migrant from a war-torn country collapsed after her life savings of up to $125,000 in cash were stolen with her handbag at her local supermarket in country Victoria. The 34-year-old woman was shopping in Mildura about 2pm (AEDT) on Sunday when her handbag was stolen from her trolley, police said.

Inspector Simon Clemence said there was $100,000 to $125,000 in the handbag, which the woman had been carrying with her "for quite some time". The woman has lived in Mildura since coming to Australia nine years ago and had been saving the money to buy a house, said Insp Clemence.

"She comes from a war-torn country where the banking system collapsed during a recent war." The woman had to be treated in hospital for shock after the theft.

"While police were questioning her she quite literally collapsed and had to be taken to hospital. She's effectively lost her life savings and she's totally devastated," Insp Clemence said.

This poor woman so feared losing her money that she carried it around, leaving herself vulnerable to theft and loss of the very money she feared losing. It's a sad story. From her experience in her country of origin, she had built a belief that banks could not be trusted. Coming to a country like Australia, where our banks are so much safer, and certainly safer than a handbag in a shopping trolley, she could not see the rocks on her new beach. She was still operating from a belief that 'all banks are high risk'. Her belief led her to create a self-fulfilling prophecy and bought about the very risk and reality she feared.

Your map becomes your territory

This is part of what makes beliefs, attitudes and values so powerful. They orient your unconscious mind, your experience, decisions, behaviours and ultimately your reality. I’m sure you’ll have had an experience of your RAS doing this. Beliefs and values are powerful. Learn to notice, control and design them so that they are life enhancing rather than life denying. Make sure your beliefs and generalisations are as accurate and useful as possible.

Most importantly... make sure you see the rocks on your beach! They're quite delightful and can be very life enhancing when you learn from them.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing wishes,

Here's another life enhancing and fascinating book I recommend on the power of beliefs:

Quantum Psychology: How Brain Software Programs You and Your World

Monday, March 15, 2010

Set high minimum standards

"Life gives you the minimum you are prepared to accept... so set high minimum standards!"
Grant Soosalu

Here's something I'd like to share with you. It's an insight that has made an enormous difference to my life over the years. And whilst it may appear to be a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) I do think it's worth bringing to conscious awareness and using as a life enhancing thinking tool.

Dreams vs Minimum Standards

You know, it's vital for success to have dreams, goals and outcomes. I've blogged before on the power of dreams and outcomes here. If you want a great life, you absolutely have to aim for the stars and dream BIG dreams. These things are important!

And... there's something that I've discovered in life, and it's encapsulated in the aphorism I coined and shared above. In the everyday cut and thrust of our busy lives, in the paying of the bills, working full time jobs, running a house and family, getting the car, the dog and the mortgage serviced... life tends to give you the minimum you are prepared to accept. If you are willing to work for $10 per hour, guess what... you'll end up earning around $10 per hour. If you are prepared to let people push you around, guess what... you'll end up being stood over and pushed around. It's inevitable.

On the other hand, if you are truly prepared to only accept $200 per hour, to never be pushed around, to really set high minimum standards, then life falls into line and delivers on that. At least, that is my experience and it's backed up by the experience of those I've shared this rule and philosophy with. Every time I've decided that regardless of the outcome, I'm only prepared to accept a certain specific level of income, or particular behaviour or results, then I've amazingly gotten what I've expected and demanded. It almost seems like magic. It isn't of course, there is science and logic to why this works.

Most importantly, the take home message is...
Set high minimum standards in every area of your life!

Why does this work?

I think the reason that this insight is true is due to a number of factors. A key one is the self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Your beliefs and attitudes are expressed non-verbally in your behaviours and communications and picked up by other people who then act in ways that fulfill your unconscious expectations. There is a ton of research from the fields of cognitive and social psychology to back this up.

In one classic experiment, known as 'the late bloomers study', researchers Dr. Robert Rosenthal and Dr. Lenore Jacobson, gave children in an elementary class an intelligence test and told teachers that a small group of these children were unusually clever 'late bloomers', though in reality they were average. The researchers then returned at the end of the school year and tested the same class again, and not surprisingly, the children singled out as intelligent 'late bloomers' had improved their intelligence scores far more than the other children, showing that they had responded positively to the teachers unconscious beliefs and expectations.

"Psychological research shows that beliefs and expectations
are the strongest predictor of the future"

In a more recent example, a group of researchers from Iowa State University examined whether mothers’ and fathers’ beliefs about their children’s alcohol use had cumulative self-fulfilling effects on their children’s future drinking behavior. Analyses of longitudinal data showed consistent synergistic cumulative effects of parent's negative beliefs and these beliefs predicted the greatest degree of confirmatory behavior from children when both mothers and fathers overestimated their children’s alcohol use. The results show that beliefs and expectations really are powerful and send out unconscious messages that have real effects on peoples behaviours over time.

Another factor for why the rule works is that much of life involves negotiation, and people and society tend to be good at working out your bottom line and offering that to you. If you are time pressured or feeling a bit insecure or distracted by all the other things going on in your busy life, then you'll tend to accept the initial offer, or at least, not hold out to get your ideal result. Thus over time you tend to end up accepting and receiving the minimum you are prepared to accept, rather than your ideal outcomes and dreams.

Living an enhanced life

The way I see it, to live an enhanced life, you need to design your life by creating clear and well-formed outcomes, that link to big dreams and inspiring purposes. You motivate yourself by having meaningful outcomes and goals and filling your life with intentions and behaviours that link to your highest values. You also absolutely need to work out what your minimum standards are in every key area of life and hold firm to those. Set in concrete, in your mind, what the minimum standards are that you are prepared to accept in yourself and others. Then stick to them.

Your goals, dreams and outcomes will set the direction for your life. They'll inspire you. Your minimum standards act like a platform and springboard. They'll be the base from which you support yourself to live a wonderful life and achieve your dreams and outcomes.

Your turn

Get specifically clear about what your minimum standards are for:
  • how much money you will work for
  • what sort of loving behaviour you want from yourself and your beloved
  • how fit you'll be, how much exercise you'll do
  • what sort of language you'll use both externally and in your internal dialogue
  • how you'll spend/invest your time
  • how much stress you'll put up with
  • how much pampering you want in your life
  • how much learning you'll do
  • what you'll eat and what body mass index you are happy with
  • how healthy you are
  • how successful you'll be, by your own definition of success
  • how you'll treat your friends and how they'll treat you

The more specifcally you can define what you'll accept and what you definitely won't accept, the more you'll find your life magically improving. You won't even have to negotiate about these things. People will read the messages in your life language and your unconscious responses. Life starts to get better and better as it delivers to your expectations and high minimum standards. And stick to those standards. Don't accept anything less!

"Life gives you the minimum you are prepared to accept... so set high minimum standards!"
Grant Soosalu

Yes, definitely dream BIG dreams and set lofty goals and outcomes; but truly, take the time to clearly and firmly set high minimum standards in your life, you'll find that they are incredibly life enhancing and will support your ongoing happiness and success.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing wishes

PS Please note that setting high minimum standards is not a recommendation to indulge in perfectionism or to focus on unreasonable expectations and unobtainable standards. Research in Cognitive Psychology has shown that setting unrealistic goals can contribute to depression. So set achievable and obtainable outcomes and high realistic standards.

And here's the inspiring story of Sabriye Tenberken and how she set high minimum standards and goals to achieve her dreams:

My Path Leads to Tibet

The true and very inspiring story of how one young blind woman bought hope to the blind children of Tibet. As Sabriye says in the book "That day was the first of many where I simply refused to take no for an answer. I decided to find some way - there had to be one., I was sure - to help the blind in Tibet. On my own. And today, several years later, thanks to my persistence - or my obsession, you might say - i have developed techniques and methods that facilitate those very studies in Tibetan." Sabriye is a glowing example of someone who refuses to give in and who sets high minimum standards and then sticks to them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Heavening \Heav'en'ing\, v.

To place in happiness or bliss, as if in heaven; to beatify.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

A good friend, who is both a psychotherapist and life counselor, recently sent me an email that prompted this current blog entry. In it, he said:
"I trust you did not place a patent on your 'Heavening and Helling' concept as I have used this as a tool with a couple of clients with good effect."

And of course... no, I don't have a patent on the concept of heavening :-) It's freely available for anyone and everyone to share and use, and yes it really does work to enhance life, so I thought I'd share it in some detail in today's blog entry.

So what is heavening?

I originally came up with the concept of 'heaven-ing' one night a few years ago, when I was laying in bed attempting to sleep through the loud noise of a raucous party the neighbors across the road were throwing. Rather than lay there, tossing and turning and focusing on the noise, getting myself more and more angry with fantasies of going across the road and shutting them up with a baseball bat, I decided instead to focus on something more positive in order to distract myself. I thought it would be fun to explore the idea of heaven and to design what heaven would be like if I were its creator. So rather than 'hell-ing' - creating hell in my own life, by focusing on the negativity of the noise and lack of sleep, I decided to do 'heaven-ing' - enjoying the creative fun of playing with the details and fantasy of heaven.

As I lay there, exploring heaven, thinking through how it would work, what it would contain, who would populate it, what rules it would run by, what magic it might provide... I found myself drifting off in a very pleasant state of happiness and joy. Heavening was fun and it worked it's positive magic in my body and mind. I gently drifted off to a very peaceful sleep and awoke refreshed next day, with the noisy party a distant and trivial memory.

The experience of heavening was so enjoyable and delightful that I decided to continue playing with it each night before sleep and at other times when I had some spare moments to fill. I did heavening when standing in lines and queues. I did heavening when sitting in traffic or waiting for the traffic lights to change. I did heavening in the shower and while doing the dishes and chores. Heavening became an integral, ongoing and life enhancing part of my life.

Heavening as a skill and resource

I also realised that by doing heavening, by creating a place in my mind that was a wonder-filled and beautiful space, I was creating a skill and a resource that would stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. You see, no matter what happens to my life, no matter what happens to my body, as long as I am conscious and can think, I will always be able to go to the heaven I have created in my imagination. Even if I'm unwell, or locked away or end up paralysed and unable to communicate, no matter what happens, the more I develop, populate and envision my version of heaven in my mind, the greater the resource and skill I have for taking myself to a wonderful place. I am literally heavening my life. To me, that seems very very life enhancing.

The positive effects

I also noticed another interesting and positive effect from the process of heavening. The more I designed and detailed the concept of heaven in my mind, the more I started to notice and see the parts of the world that matched or echoed my heaven.

I remember the first time I noticed this effect, a week or two after I'd started doing heavening. My beloved and I were out kayaking on the lake that we live beside. It was a perfect blue-sky sunny day. Not a breeze in the air. Not a cloud in the sky. Just azure blue stretching across the horizon. The lake was a mirror. We were the only people there. Drifting across the lake in our kayaks, a pelican gliding past, barely skimming the water, floating on a cushion of air. Absolutely magical!

And I realised that this was just like heaven. Literally. This was something out of my dreams of what heaven would be like. The sun, the sky, the warmth of the air, the peace and tranquility, the freedom. This was heavening on earth. I shared my insight with my darling and we both celebrated and savoured just how heavenly our experience was right then. My process of heavening inside my mind overflowed out into my world. My Reticular Activating System - the central core of our nervous system that is responsible for filtering and directing our attention - became attuned to all that was heavenly in life, and now continues to mark out and highlight the positive and heavenly aspects of my day to day life. Heavening inside my head now spreads to amplifying heavening in my everyday life. It's wonderful and truly life enhancing.

Moving away from helling

From the process of heavening and it's effects in my mind and life, I also began to notice and see when other people are doing the converse. I've noticed how often people do helling in their lives - how they literally generate ongoing hell in their daily lives through self-fulfilling prophecies and negative beliefs and behaviours.

This has lead me to notice the seeds of helling in my own behaviours or thoughts, and to move away from those and replace them with their opposites. I can now avoid the enemies to happiness and enemies to heavening in my life and instead choose to amplify the processes of life enhancing and happinessing.

Choosing happiness

You see, heavening and helling are skills. You get to choose which skillset you want to practice and put into action in your life. And you cannot not choose - not choosing is a choice! - you are condemned to the freedom of choice, and I suggest you choose powerfully.

Choose to practice and do heavening in your own life. Doing it now will mean that you will have enhanced both your inner and outer worlds and produced ripples and echoes throughout your relationships and life. It's easy. It's fun. And it brings heaven onto earth. Right now, right here.

Fascinatingly, the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, writes in his book 'A New Earth' that:
"It is interesting to note that many biblical scholars suggest that the esoteric meaning of prophecies in both the Old and the New Testament that speak of the collapse of the existing world order and the arising of 'a new heaven and a new earth' are talking not about heaven as a physical location but instead as an inner realm of consciousness. Literally they are suggesting that 'A New Heaven' will arise on Earth as an emergence of heavening in human consciousness."

You know, you really do have a choice. In any situation in your life, you can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. You can choose to celebrate joy or failure, positivity or negativity. By doing heavening you direct your mind and consciousness towards joy and positivity and out of that emerges a new way of being that is truly life enhancing.

As my friend said in his email, heavening really can be used to good effect. It works and it helps. I've shared it with you, and I own no patent on the concept. So feel free to use it to enhance your life and the lives of those you care about.

Heavening \Heav'en'ing\, v.

To place in happiness or bliss, as if in heaven

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing wishes

Some highly recommended heavenly reading:

How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth

What would it take to make this world a paradise? Tackling the momentous question of how individuals can envision and enact positive change, this collection of 101 essays from some of today's most notable thinkers, leaders, artists, and writers focuses on how to achieve a Heaven on Earth.

Life: Heaven on Earth: 100 Places to See in Your Lifetime

From the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx to the mysteries of Easter Island and Stonehenge, the editors of Life draw on the world's finest photography to reveal why you must include these truly special 100 places in your life's itinerary.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

A clever little book by a neuroscientist translates lofty concepts of heaven, infinity and death into accessible human terms. What happens after we die? Eagleman wonders in each of these brief, evocative segments. Are we consigned to replay a lifetime's worth of accumulated acts? Is heaven a bureaucracy, where God has lost control of the workload? Will we download our consciousnesses into a computer to live in a virtual world, where God exists after all and has gone through great trouble and expense to construct an afterlife for us? In bite-size vignettes, Sum explores deep human notions of heaven and provides engaging explorations into the human psyche. It is a well-executed and thought-provoking book.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Remember this!

I'm sure I don't have to convince anyone that memory and intelligence are life enhancing. It's obvious that the better your working memory and the greater your intelligence, the more you'll get out of life. By becoming smarter, you'll solve problems better, increase your chance of success and ultimately remember more of the wonderful experiences you have in life. Yes memory and intelligence are definitely life enhancing, and it's easy to see why.

Improving memory and intelligence

So I figure that if I could show you a scientifically proven method that is fun and freely available online to help increase both working memory and intelligence, you'd be interested? If so, read on...

Software that makes you smarter

Back in 2008, a group of Brain Researchers headed by Dr Susanne Jaeggi from the University of Michigan, found that both working memory and fluid intelligence - a measure of how people adapt to new situations and solve problems they've never seen before - could be markedly improved through regular training in a task called 'the Dual N-Back memory task'.

The Dual N-Back memory task involves two independent sequences that are presented simultaneously, typically using different sensory modalities, such as one auditory and one visual. Blocks are flashed on a grid, and letters are read out in sequence and you have to remember and indicate when a block location or letter is repeated. The N in 'N-Back' describes how many letters back in the sequence you need to remember. For 2-Back you need to remember two items back in the sequence. The higher the N-number the more challenging the game level.

Research results

The results from the various studies of the Dual N-Back task show a linear correlation between gain in measured fluid intelligence and the time spent practicing the task. In other words, the more you practice, the more your memory and intelligence will improve. The results suggest that approximately 20 - 25 minutes a day can lead to over 40% gain in measured fluid intelligence scores after only 19 days of daily practice. That's a huge intelligence and memory improvement in a short time.

Training intensively beyond the suggested daily 20 - 25 minutes is not recommended as the brain needs time to learn, adapt and reconfigure itself. It's also suggested that a training schedule of 4 - 5 days a week is optimal.

The idea is to keep pushing your limits by practicing the Dual N-Back task at the limit of your current ability. This is what increases fluid intelligence. The higher the N number, the more difficult and challenging the task.

Additional research

More recently, in an article published in 2009 in the prestigious journal Science, it was reported that 14 hours of training over a 5 week period led to measurable density changes for cortical dopamine neuroreceptors in the brain. So brain training really does modify the brain and increase your capacity for thinking and memory. The brain is like a muscle, if you want to strengthen it, you have to exercise it. And the more specifically you exercise it, the better it gets.

Enhancing your life

It's obvious, if you want to live an enhanced life, if you want to get and create more out of life, you need to take action and use every tool at your disposal to increase your skills and capacity for living. Brain training software, freely available online, will help increase your fluid intelligence and working memory. I really do think that is life enhancing!

Free brain training tools

Here's a free online version of the N-back game:

And here's a free downloadable software game and tutorial:

To read more:

best wishes,

Some worthwhile books on brain training:

Brain Training: Boost memory, maximize mental agility, & awaken your inner genius by Tony Buzan

For people of all ages who want to improve their memory, hone learning skills, and boost mental performance in their daily lives, Brain Training is a vibrant collection of visual puzzles and tips to help exercise the brain and keep the cognitive faculties razor-sharp. Covering the key areas of brain function, including memory, perception, problem-solving, verbal reasoning, and the body (such as diet, exercise, and meditation), Brain Training is a dynamic resource that will boost everyone's brain power.

The Brain Training Revolution: A Proven Workout for Healthy Brain Aging

Repair, Retrain, and Maintain Your Brain - The Brain Training Revolution offers readers a unique three-part prescription for brain and memory health based on the latest scientific research. By focusing on certain aspects of nutrition, physical fitness, and mental exercise, The Brain Training Revolution outlines a plan to maintain brain health.