Month: November 2016

November 20, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

Manual or automatic? Through consistent decision we can create powerful automations - habits!

For a little child, being absolutely awestruck takes very little effort. With everything being new and astonishing, a healthy child is excitedly exploring the different avenues of life from inspiration to inspiration. Finding all the new wonderful things life has to offer creates a positive cycle for a child: the thrill and sheer wonder of the world around her fills her with energy enabling her to expand her borders; when she does, the cycle is ready to repeat itself. Again she’s filled with energy, and uses that energy to once again embark on a journey of expanding her world. The transmission seems to be on automatic! 
 
Falling when learning to walk? Not a problem.
Food all over her face, the table and the floor even? It’s as if it didn’t happen!
It’s almost scary how good a child’s attitude can be when it comes to taking new ground. Closely observing and enjoying the most mundane phenomena, they’re natural explorers and scientists!
 
Years pass by, and the result of this cycle is astonishing. Given a protected environment the child undergoes a transformation increasing her capacity so much that it can be hard for the parents to grasp. Slowly, almost candidly, a stage is reached when the growing person has seen enough to no longer be phased by the structures and phenomena around her. The effortless amazement and the refreshment of it all slowly fades as the bar keeps getting higher and higher.
 
This is when an ‘automatic’ starts becoming a ‘manual'. This is when a child bridges over to adulthood. It sounds classic doesn’t it: gone are the golden days of childhood, enter grayscale adulthood. 
 
Throughout our lives we find that many chapters can start with an ease and excitement, but suffer a decline later on. What started as an exciting opportunity can turn into a burden - we have a tendency to forget and to lose our focus. What if it didn’t have to go that way after all?
 
Similarly, the infatuation experienced during the first years of a relationship is made so effortless through the chemical cyclone that occurs in our brains. In this case the euphoria caused by chemicals such as norepinephrine enables us to feel the beautiful feelings of love, which makes us more inclined to act and behave accordingly. Soon, within a couple of years, the lovers will see a decline in the infatuation due to their brain chemistry changing back to normal. Again, reality hits hard, yet the story doesn’t quite end there.
 
Gary Chapman introduced a powerful thought in his book The five love languages.1 He ingeniously writes how there will be a day when the automatic, chemically induced feelings fade, but that is not the end. Rather, he goes as far as saying that that’s when ‘real love’ begins!
 
What is this real love? It’s the power of decision.
 
The nature of our human life is to eventually grow out of the season of 'easy amazement’. However, with the correct tools we’re able to develop what would otherwise be a passing season into a lifestyle. Now we may never escape the hardships of life, but we have control over what our points of focus are. 
 
The key to harnessing and maturing the uncontrollable amazement we once used to have is to develop an attitude of effort and gratitude. In the same way a car with manual transmission needs a hand to switch gears, so does a life of wonder require conscious effort. However, do it enough and changing gears becomes almost like an automation. Heck - many (like myself) even prefer manual!
 
When you gently direct your mind to focus on the good things in your life - even ones that seem like a given to you such as a roof over your head or food on your table - you’re retraining your mind to eventually default to that attitude of wonder you experienced as a child. Through the power of consistent conscious decision we are able to shift what has become manual to automatic once more. 
 
In order to get a deeper understanding of how consistent decision-making creates automations (habits), we need to look at how learning takes place in the brain. Keep in tune as next week we’ll take a peek inside of the mind!
 
 
1. Chapman, Gary, Dr. The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate. Chicago: Northfield Pub, 1995.
November 11, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

Cultivate your virtues through personal leadership and soar.

Aristotle argues that we are not simply born with all the virtues (positive character traits), we need to cultivate them through the training of our soul. In contemporary language, we need to be aware of the different characteristics we want to embody, and then actively pursue them in our everyday. On a lighter note, this brings a lot of excitement into otherwise menial social interactions (if you’re willing and enjoy the challenge that is).
 
We’re all meant to be leaders, although some of you might get their hackles raised because of that statement. However, we are all meant to lead; if not others, then ourselves. This is called personal leadership. When you cultivate your virtues through personal leadership, you grow in joy, drive and passion for life - it’s a simple, coherent and self-perpetuating concept. While we take responsibility for what’s happening on the inside, we develop in our overall discipline and equip ourselves to take life on better.
 
Albert Schweitzer brilliantly said: ‘Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will - his personal responsibility.’
Personal responsibility is at the very core of personal leadership. Taking responsibility means that you yourself are accountable for the results you see in life and thus, a new avenue of possibilities opens up in front of you. 
To exercise one’s will means to decide on a direction and to pursue it. Because you’re accountable for your results, you have no choice but to utilize all your resources and creativity to achieve your goals.
 
Now if you’re thinking that you’re not that creative, don’t, because you are. When your life’s focus grows beyond you, you’ll find gifts and talents within you never thought existed. I call them next-level people - the people who live in this way. We know who they are in our lives: the ones who don’t live according to others’ opinions but pursue dreams that are bigger than themselves. They believe in their dreams with everything they have. They inspire us, and we want what they’re having.
 
As the sphere of your life grows, you understand that you no longer have time to waste energy on small quarrels, negative thoughts and offenses. You can no longer stand the thought of carrying the burden of that excess negativity: it’s like renting your head out for weighty entities, but for free! Although the challenge of living on another level is exciting, it’s hard work: you step into taking responsibility for your life, including your attitudes and direction. This means that whatever comes your way, you choose to respond carefully instead of reacting out of impulse
 
Cultivate personal leadership. It can be challenging to cultivate - heavy even -, but the one who toils away, ultimately reaps away.
November 3, 2016 Oliver Briny No comments exist

You show me your friends, you show me your future.


Life has a tendency of trying to tell you who you are. If you haven't done the necessary mileage to purposefully seek out who you are, the world has no problem in persuading you. Unfortunately, forming your self-image by only listening to outside sources is like legitimizing a system that renders you passive.
Getting your course right towards living an active life with a purpose requires brainwork to determine who you want to be and what direction you want to start heading. This may sound like a vague idea when starting from zero, or after deciding to start over, but let’s begin breaking down some of the practical thinking steps you can take to kick-start the journey of becoming who you want to be.

 
I feel like friendship, as common of a word as it is, needs to be re-examined.
 
The reason for this is that many people - myself included - live a big slice of their lives not understanding the meaning of true friendship. I always knew that friendship was important, but to be completely honest, I didn’t understand its deeper dimension until I was met face to face with a different culture.
 
See, without giving friendship any further thought, it can easily be limited to something we desire only to escape loneliness or to have fun. That was my model until I met people who believed friendship to be more than that. People who saw potential in me and, regardless of my boundaries and fences, believed in me relentlessly.
 
Love, in this framework, has three essential ingredients: it has to be unconditional, it needs to include comfort, and it has to involve friendship. A friendship deeper than just the cosmetics holds within it shared experiences, joy, grief, encouragement, empathy and devotion. It is the bridge on which counsel can travel without fear of collapse. This is why we’re usually more inclined to listen to those who we know are for us; the relationship is what carries the information over safely.
 
Friendship, at its best, is seeing the gold in someone, and doing the forward-oriented journey together with them through the good and the bad. It’s more than just avoiding loneliness: it’s the hearth of growth, accountability and mutual belief in each other’s dreams.
 
There’s no escaping the fact that we are shaped by our surroundings. The people around us influence our thinking, our opinions and our wellbeing - to the point where we might feel like a victim and a sum of all the input we receive from the world. Through this lens, we can understand the importance of good people around us. The good news is, you get to decide who you surround yourself with.
 
Zig Ziglar, an influential author, salesman and public speaker wrote ‘I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination’.1 Often times behind many of these ordinary people are supportive friends and family as well.
The thought of having to change the environment you’re in or possibly ending friendships sounds very drastic, but you can apply the principle of investment: you get to decide the amount of time you invest in people. Your dreams, some of which are yet to even be realized, are way too valuable to compromise with toxic company.
 
In order for you to plant a seed and grow it into full maturity, you need to understand what kind of a plant it is and what kind of an environment supports the growth of this specific plant. Similarly, the direction you want to head towards needs to be coupled with an environment that supports its growth. Do you feel inspired and ready to take on the world after spending time with your inner circle, or do you feel tired, weighed down and negative? This can be a great indicator of whether or not your environment is nourishing.
 
Now there are settings where you can’t help who you spend your time around, such as school or the workplace, but even there we get to determine the amount of weight we place on the prevailing attitudes and opinions.
 
The way you can do this is by creating an anchor point. The anchor point defines your standard of good influence. This point of reference should be a good community of friends and family - people who encourage you, inspire you and help keep your life aligned with the direction you want to go. When you have your solid community that has your back, you’re better able to stand strong in who you are in places where people aren’t as supportive.
 
A hospital is a place where patients are kept safe from the outside world for the period they are most vulnerable. The patients that are nurtured to health are then released to the world, ready to take on its dangers and imperfections. A loving community is a similar place of healing and restoration. I encourage you to think about your situation and the community of friends and family you’re around. Do they carry the morals and goodwill you want to surround yourself with?
 
The only time to look down on someone is when you’re reaching down to help them up. Coffees can be had even with people who you don’t particularly like, but the truest of friendships are the ones in which you walk the journey together in a forward-moving direction, becoming better and better with each passing day.
 
Now you might understand all of the above, but you’re missing the answer to the most important part: how can I get such friendships?! The question is way too difficult for me to answer simply, but I’ll leave you with a thought that’s helped me along the way.
 
 'If you go out looking for friends, you're going to find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you'll find them everywhere.'
 
1. Ziglar, Zig. Steps to the Top. Gretna: Pelican Pub., 1985