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For those of you who haven’t heard of the term Pavlov’s dog, here is a brief explanation. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was a Russian scientist who did an experiment on his dog’s. He would ring a bell just before feeding them, and after doing this several times he noted that just by ringing the bell his dog’s would start to salivate, even if there was no food. He called this a conditioned response, or stimulus-response.

So what does this have to do with us? Well, if you think about it carefully that’s exactly how us humans live our lives. We let external conditions determine how we live. According to Stephen R. Covey there are three theories of determinism.

  • Genetic determinism – our behaviour is genetic and has been passed on to us by our grandparents.
  • Psychic determinism – we behave the way we do because of the way our parents raised us.
  • Environmental determinism – someone or something in our environment is responsible for our behaviour or situation. It could be our boss or the current economic situation.

An everyday example of stimulus-response is road rage. When someone cuts in front of you in traffic, do you automatically hit the hooter and start cursing and letting your emotions take over? Ever asked yourself why you respond that way? We can actually apply the stimulus-response theory to almost everything we do and say.

But we don’t have to be like Pavlov’s dog, we are humans, not animals. Our ability to choose how we respond to situations is what separates us from all the other living creatures on our planet. Animals can be trained to be responsible but they can’t take responsibility for the training. Look at the word responsibility – ‘response-ability’, the ability to choose our response.

When I first read about stimulus-response it made me feel very uneasy because I realised I was a reactive person. I blamed circumstances for my current situation, and I still do. But after thinking it through carefully I am where I am in life because of all the decisions I have made in the past. So I am now training myself to be a proactive person…

“Proactivity – As human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.” – taken from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

…it’s quite a paradigm shift and I have a feeling there will be some difficult times ahead. But I believe I’m worth the effort.

I’ll try to share as much of the journey as I can…

I thought I would share something that was sent to me a few weeks ago…

Thoughts are Like Drops of Water

What is your attitude when you wake up in the morning? Is it one of hope, faith, and love? Then the day will bring you what you need. Sit quietly for a few moments and notice your train of thoughts. Did you really want to have the sort of life that these thoughts will produce?

Thoughts are like drops of water. When you think the same thoughts over and over again, you are creating this incredible body of water. First, you have a little puddle, then you may get a pond, and as you continue to think the same thoughts over and over again, you have a lake, and finally an ocean. If my thoughts are negative, I can drown in a sea of my own negativity.

If my thoughts are positive, I can float on the ocean of life! And so it is!

– Louise L. Hay

I have been contemplating writing this article for a few months now, but due to its sensitive nature it needed a bit more research. A few months ago it dawned on me that love is not a feeling! A few of you might know this already, but I have only just figured it out and I thought I would share my thoughts.

A while back my wife asked me why I don’t treat her the same way I did when we first met, was it because I didn’t love her anymore? Rather than give an off the cuff answer I decided to ponder it for a few days.

What happened to us happens to most couples. We met, we were attracted to each other and in order to ‘convince’ each other that we were meant to be together we sent each other loving messages, took each other out for dinner, bought each other gifts, basically we tried to make each other feel special. Once we had ‘convinced’ each other, we got married… and it all stopped! Why? Well, the ‘convincing’ was done, we had made the decision we were meant to be together so now we had to accept each other the way we ‘really’ are.

We had both fallen for the ‘Happily Ever After’ myth portrayed in books and movies. Why do I call it a myth? Because that’s exactly what it is, my apologies to all the romantics out there, but please read further. The ‘Happily Ever After’ myth, or myth of ‘Romantic Love’ tells us there is one person out there who we are destined to be with and when we meet that one person we will fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Here are some statistics for you to ponder. At the time of writing this article there are about 6 859 341 813 people on our planet. You are one of them, and if you believe there is one other person out there you are destined to be with, you have 0,00000002916% chance of meeting them. Not odds I would bet ANYTHING on.

Another thing that led me to the discovery that love is not a feeling is our relationship with our careers and our material possessions. We often say things like, ‘I love my job.’, ‘I love my car.’ or ‘I love my house.’ And yet they can’t love us back…. So if love isn’t a feeling, then what is it? I believe it is a decision and an action. In the beginning of a relationship it is an unconscious decision, when we have all those warm fuzzy feelings we think are love, but as time goes by it needs to become a conscious decision backed by continuous actions.

When you love someone, you want what is best for that person, even if it is something not best for you. And if that person disagrees with what you think is best for them, you respect their decision. You want that person to feel special, safe and secure. You’ll do things for that person and expect nothing in return, and if you do expect something in return it is no longer love, it is bribery.
The most accurate explanation of what love is comes from the bible:
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13

It’s a bit of a cliché, but this verse describes what love really is, whether you choose to believe it or not.
To live with and love your partner as described in Corinthians is not easy. Us humans are selfish creatures. Just look at what we are doing to our planet for our own selfish needs. But like any other habit, it can be developed. It takes a lot of effort, but your partner is worth it, and if you don’t believe they are, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror, because most of the time if you don’t believe someone is worth the  effort then neither are you.

I believe my wife is worth the effort so I am going to try really hard to develop the habit of loving her the way God intended, I will slip up, I am human But I will keep trying.

I really recommend watching the movie  Fireproof and then reading the book The Love Dare. The movie put a lot of things into perspective for me and the book is guiding me to becoming the husband I believe my wife deserves.

Ps. A little something for all the hard-working folk to ponder. If we put as much effort into our relationships as we do into our career, what would our relationships be like???

Mind mapping

I have been quiet, my reason… I have been re-evaluating why I write my almost-weekly articles. And after much pondering, the reason is still the same, I like to help people. My dilemma was, ‘What qualification do I have in the field of helping people?’ Well, none. My formal training is that of an engineer, not a life-coach or psychologist. So, while I have no formal training, I do a lot of reading in the field of personal development, because I realized a few years ago that personal growth was my responsibility and I really do believe I can be a better person. If you would like to see what I am currently reading I have listed the books to the right of this article. I also had to realize that not everyone would like what I am sharing, but the positive feedback I do get encourages me to carry on. Hopefully you will find this weeks article useful….

This week I’d like to share a tool I was introduced to a few weeks ago, mind mapping. Some of you may have heard of it, some not….

So what is mind mapping?

When at school, most of us are taught to take notes in a linear way, below is an example:

1.  Key point

  • supporting point.
  • supporting point.
  • supporting point.

But our mind doesn’t work this way, it works in an associative way, it remembers key words and images, not sentences. Mind mapping uses the concept of “radiant thinking” – that is, thoughts radiate out from a single idea, often expressed as an image. Branches flow backwards and forwards from and to the central idea. Below is an example of a sketched mind map and next to it is a graphical representation of our brains neural network, see the similarity….

© Graham Burnett

What are the benefits and applications of mind mapping?

If like me you feel swamped by information, suffer from the “too much to read, too little time to read it” syndrome, find it hard to organize your thoughts into a logical flow, forget important facts, figures, dates or events and find it hard to keep up when making notes in meetings then mind mapping might just be the solution. Mind mapping can be used for accessing memories, brainstorming, decision-making, problem solving, planning ,learning faster, preparing and delivering presentations and speeches and writing letters & reports. I even used it to prepare this article.

Below are a few mind mapping guidelines.

  • Start in the center with an image of the topic, using at least 3 colors.
  • Use images, symbols, codes, and dimensions throughout your mind map.
  • Select key words and print using upper or lower case letters.
  • Each word/image is best alone and sitting on its own line.
  • The lines should be connected, starting from the central image. The central lines are thicker, organic and flowing, becoming thinner as they radiate out from the centre.
  • Make the lines the same length as the word/image they support.
  • Use multiple colors throughout the mind map, for visual stimulation and also to encode or group.
  • Develop your own personal style of mind mapping.
  • Use emphasis and show associations in your mind map.
  • Keep the mind map clear by using radial hierarchy, numerical order or outlines to embrace your branches.

You can brainstorm on a piece of paper or use one of the many software applications available. I use Freeplane, because it’s free and easy to learn and I have had a look at mindmeister because it’s free and fun.

Like any new technique, it takes a bit of time to learn, but it is worth the effort. I recommend having fun learning it, my first mind map was one of my life up until now…. quite interesting…..

If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, leave them here please.

Until next time, keep smiling.

Opinions

After much contemplation I have decided to write a bit about how I feel the world sees me. And knowing that every human has the right to their own opinion, a lot of people will have theirs.

When I was younger it was extremely important that people liked me, and because of this I tended to avoid conflict and if I disagreed with someone I didn’t let them know. For this same reason I never really spoke much, for fear of upsetting someone. I tended to sit in the group and listen and only really said anything when asked to. I had a problem meeting new people, I would never know what to say to them or what to talk about. Basically, I was very shy.

Then I was introduced to alcohol.

Suddenly I could cure my shyness with a good few drinks, but this always came at a cost. Being young and irresponsible we like to test our limits, and the more one drinks the more we think we can drink. So it goes without saying, I had a good few hangovers in my youth. I recently found out that because of my shyness I was labelled a snob, and I’m glad I only found this out recently, because if I had found it out back then I would have been devastated. It saddens me a bit that people labelled me without really getting to know me, but we all do it, all the time.

As I grew older I started asking a lot of questions, mainly when I prayed at night. Thankfully a lot of the answers have come to me through the books I read, some are still to be answered. I am still a shy person, I guess that’s just my nature, but I no longer obsess over what other people think of me, and if someone doesn’t like me, well that’s okay, they are entitled to their own opinion. What is important is that I like myself, which doesn’t happen all the time. It’s all part of growing up, which in my opinion never stops.

So, I am now a bit older and I no longer drink to overcome my shyness. I have become more of a social drinker, and every now and then I socialize a bit too much. Yes, I’m still growing up.

I no longer let my shyness concern me, but something else replaced it for a while. I kept asking myself, ‘Where do I fit in?’. For a while I felt so alone, I couldn’t participate in conversations, people started calling me a know-it-all because I tried to share my new-found passion before I really understood it properly. I started to dread socializing and probably would’ve stopped altogether if it hadn’t been for my wife. I really had to change my outlook, which took a while, but I persevered. Every day I’m learning when to speak and when to listen, I slip up a few times, and upset a few people, but I have learnt, you can’t please all the people all the time.

At the end of it all I have realized that the way the world sees me and the way I see myself will never be the same, and if someone has an opinion about me, and they haven’t taken the time and effort to really get to know me, then their opinion doesn’t have much substance.

I consider this article a huge leap forward in my personal development, a few months ago I would never have shared this with anyone. So why not leap with me , and share a bit about yourself here.

Have a great week and keep smiling.

World Cup fever is here, and I am really proud to be South African, and the Springboks stuck it to France, so it was a really good weekend. Hope yours was too.

Every now and then one of my readers sends me a mail thanking me for my writing, which makes all of this worthwhile. Last week I got one and my reader mentioned how they had been going through a tough time having lost a lot of people close to them in a short space of time. It reminded me of a funeral I went to a few months ago. The message was in my opinion, brilliant, and I have been meaning to write about it ever since then, then life got in the way…

I will try to convey the message as best I can, but I doubt I’ll be able to do it as well as the minister did, and I know how important your time is, so I’ll shorten it a bit to. Nothing but time can take away the pain of losing a loved one, but this message will hopefully open our minds to a different way of looking at death.

Dying to be born…

I’m going to ask you to use your imagination here and do a bit of visualizing. Think of a baby, nestled safely in its mothers womb, and if you are a mother this should be a bit easier for you. It has been there for all of its life, floating in a nice warm environment, being cared for and unaware of another world outside of the womb. And then all of a sudden things start happening, the birthing process begins….

Now we come to our life. We have been on this planet for all of our life, living in an environment we feel safe in, (most of the time), our Father caring for us, (if we let Him), aware of our mortality but denying it most of the time, basically we are comfortable, and then things start happening, the dying process begins…

The birthing process can be quick, or it can take hours. The dying process can be quick, or it can take years. The end results are always the same, we are born and we die.

I imagine the birthing process must be quite traumatic for a baby, going from a world it knows to a world it has no concept of, just like the process of dying. We are going to a place we have no concept of, so naturally we are scared.

But when being born and when dying, we are taken out of a world we know, we enter the unknown and we are immediately comforted by our loving Mother / Father. It doesn’t matter what the environment is like, the fact that we are being held and comforted by someone who loves us unconditionally is all that matters.

So when a loved one passes from our world to the next, to continue their journey, know that our loving Father is waiting with open arms, to comfort them, welcome them and introduce them to a new life.

Have a great week, and remember, happiness is an attitude!

Our whole world operates on a rewards and punishment system, and we learn it from a very young age. If we are naughty we are punished and if we are good we are rewarded, sometimes we are even bribed…

It happens throughout our school career, we are given black marks or gold stars, we fail or we pass. In sport we are either relegated or promoted. At work we are either fired or we get a bonus, (and in my humble opinion bonus’ are handed out far to freely these days. Most employees get a bonus for doing what they are paid to do, whereas I feel a bonus should only be given if you have they have done their job exceptionally well.) In life, if we commit a crime, we are punished, (if we get caught), ‘freedom’ is our reward for being good…? (quite a strange concept if you really think about it).

This rewards and punishment system has its place in life, but there is one place it doesn’t belong, in a relationship or marriage.

And yet we all do it. If our partner does or says something we don’t approve of, well, they are punished. And the punishment is usually dependant on the crime. If it was something small we might get scolded at and a bit of silent treatment, if it was something big we could get screamed at and sometimes the silent treatment goes on for days, (remember small or big, it’s all relative), our partner might even become just plain nasty…(and sadly there are those few who are actually physically and emotionally abused), it’s all dependant on the relationship and the people involved.

But how do we change something we’ve been doing all of our life? Unfortunately I don’t have the answers, only a few suggestions…

  • Don’t get angry with someone for having a difference of opinion, it’s their God-given right.
  • Don’t get angry with someone for doing something differently to the way you would have done it, we are all creative beings.
  • No one on this planet is responsible for your happiness except you, so don’t punish someone for not making you happy.
  • If you have upset someone, apologize. It doesn’t matter if you think they are over reacting, it might be a big deal to them. Respect that. (And never think you are above an apology!)
  • Forgive, forgive, forgive.  Even if your partner hasn’t apologized. Forgive. (And if you can’t forgive, sadly it’s time to consider moving on…..) Forgiveness releases ALL bad feelings and will set you free! Failure to forgive will turn to resentment which will quite literally eat away at you. It’s your choice, so choose wisely.

We are all on this planet for a very short time, and one thing I have learnt is that you CANNOT change the past, what has happened has happened, accept it and move on. (changing a street name does not change the past….) So why don’t we enjoy this short time on planet earth and try to live in harmony with each other and our planet?

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