Monday, June 10, 2013

Mental Scripts and Free Will

Mental Scripts and Free Will
The common story is that we have free will, we can be anything we want to be, and we can choose our destiny.  While I do not think that is impossible, the real story is more like this:  The story of our destiny is formed by our experiences and other people around us.  From day one, as we grow, we are taught what we are supposed to be, and despite ourselves, we grow to fit into this idea that was handed to us.   No matter who you are, you cannot claim you got there through hard work and personal responsibility.  While you may have worked hard and been responsible, you did so because you were growing into the role that was shaped for you by others.  Genetics further plays a role in this as you are programmed by your genes to react to your environment in very specific ways.  While we do not yet fully understand the complexities of this, the concept of free will and and choice begins to dwindle.  Not only are you biologically predisposed to act to your environment in a certain, you have no control over your environment until you are already conditioned to it in a specific way.  How you  are supposed to act and the choices you are supposed to make have been shaped by your parents, community, television, and experiences.  You have built a mental script in your head about the way things are supposed to be, and you are living to fulfill that script as much as possible.  You may make choices, but your ability to make choices are limited by these things, and while everybody wants more, and we think there is the possibility that things could have been different, it is simply not true. We grow into the mental script that has been drilled into us without exception and where we are in life reflects the way we think reality ought to be despite our other potential desires.

Unless of course you begin to take control of your mental scripts, deconstruct years of conditioning, and change the external environment in such a way that your genes express themselves more favorably.  By reading this article, your mental script has already begun to change as you digest this information, or any information for that matter.  First you need to identify all of your personal scripts, deepest held beliefs, and then deconstruct them.  Throw them away.  Once you have as clean of a slate as you possibly can, the effort to rebuild them begins by exposing yourself to the influences you desire instead of the influences you come across by chance.  Think about what you read and watch.  Think about how the news stream you turn to influences you.   You have block and prevent the influences that may impede your goals and allow you to sell yourself short. 

How you reconstruct your mental scripts is vital to your success.  Your deepest thoughts can be reprogrammed by restructuring your language to be clear, positive, and directive, and incorporate this into your subconscious information stream.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Live in 4 dimensions

Einstein was a genius because he thought in 4 dimensions.  Everybody knew that time existed, but they had no idea what it really was or how it worked, and Einstein figured it out.  That is amazing!  And what is also amazing that he left his knowledge behind for the rest of us to consider, and use it to get the most out of our lives.

See, most people live their lives in 3D.  They understand that they fill this space and they can make choices that change or manipulate this space.  They have learned the rules to do this and understand that they can manipulate space any way they want as long as they follow these rules (also known as physics).  But, very few people live in 4D, which includes time.  This changes the rules under which one operates.  Einstein created a whole new physics.  While most understand how to impact space, and we realize that time exists, few people know how to impact time, let alone understand that as an option.

So how does one use his or her life to change and impact not only space, but also time.  To do this, simply shape your actions so that they have a ripple effect and continue to have an impact over time.  For example, somebody who builds their house out of brick has a longer lasting impact than one who builds his house out of straw.  The brick house will continue on for a longer period of time, therefore the act of building has had a greater influence.  More people will live in it, more people will see it on the road, and it will have a different impact on nature, lasting longer and touching more through time.  Everything you do should design to have an optimum impact on time.  Perhaps that's why mankind has always tried to build a legacy.  The legacy continues to live on long after you have passed, and you have created a larger impact in 4D.  You have then truly lived a great life.  Its time to start thinking of how your actions will live on for 2000 years or more and continue to influence reality.  What are you doing to be great?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Social Scripts

Mental scripts are the ideas and language that run through your head on a constant basis and shape your attitudes and behavior.  Individual mental scripts can be very powerful and it is very useful to identify the scripts that you have.  Beyond your individual mental scripts however, are social scripts which are reflected in the culture and civilization you live in.  It is the story of the people.  Of course social scripts have a huge influence on your individual mental scripts, but they act more as a collective mental script which outlines the values of societies.  It is the narrative by which a society churns.

While there are many social scripts, Charles Eisenstein discusses societies narrative around money and has an interesting perspective on how that script is evolving.  According to Mr. Eisenstein, this social narrative defines the values of what is possible, what is real, what is valuable, and good.  He states that our current story of money is the old story.

In our modern society, we are bombarded by our social scripts non-stop.  We are barraged by the TV, the internet, social media, and more.  It is worthwhile to detach yourself from that narrative and listen to the narrative of silence to clear that story out of your mind for a minute.  Instead, work to create your own story, listen to alternative stories, and question where that narrative comes from.  Take a minute to decide if that social script is correct or if it needs revising or editing.  It is vital to question the narrative and find that which is pure and good.  Charles Eisenstein does exactly this.  I want you to pay close attention to the source of the social scripts and work be the source of a contribution to that script.  Make the collective script an original, unique, and good one.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Six Methods to Identify Your Mental Scripts

Previously, I have discussed why mental scripts are powerful, and more specifically defined what a mental script is.  But before you can use mental scripts to your advantage, or work on changing them to something effective and positive, you have to be able to identify what your mental scripts are.  For some people this is easy, but for others it is not so intuitive.  Below are six methods to identify your mental scripts:

1.  Sit Quietly and Listen
This is the most basic method and is actually my favorite, but there are a few tricks to it.  First, you must have the intent of identifying your scripts while you are taking time sit quietly.  Simply sitting there and letting your mind wander will not work.  You have to think about what memes are running through your head.  Further, you must be honest with yourself.  Its no good to listen to what your mind is telling you if you are going to lie to yourself.  There may be some uncomfortable things that are hard to face, but resist the temptation to lie about it.  Listening only works if you are willing to be honest so that you can eventually take your scripts and construct them into what you want.  Lastly, you must write them down.  This is the step that everybody skips because its more work and they think they can away without doing it.  You must write them down.  You will forget everything you worked on in less than an hour if you do not.

2.  Meditate
Meditating is similar to the first one, but goes beyond sitting quietly and listening.  It involves focusing on your breathing, being aware of the body, relaxing, and letting go of your thoughts.  After enough practice you can use this to have a better understanding of yourself and your mental scripts.  By silencing your thoughts, you are better able to identify them when they come back.  Often meditation can lead to certain epiphanies.  Prayer can work in a similar way if one is so inclined.

3.  Free Flow Writing
Take the following words and put them each on a separate word document or piece of paper:  Self Image, Job, Family, Goals, Strengths, Weaknesses.  You can add any other words you want too that you think are relevant on separate sheets.  With each word printed on the top of the page, take one document, and without thinking, write continuously for 5 minutes.  It does not matter what you write, but its important that you just begin, and don't think too much.  Just go.   What will emerge is general themes that correspond with your mental scripts. For practice one this with unrelated words, is a useful tool to get you started.

4.  Talk to Your Future Self
This method is the most interesting of the six.  Again, get in a quiet place and relax.  Close your eyes and imagine meeting your future self.  This is whatever you want it to be or think it should be, maybe 1 year in the future, or 30 years.  Picture yourself exactly as you would like to be and have a conversation.  Ask your future self how it is you can get to that point, and what is holding you back.  Ask him or her to help you identify your mental scripts.  You will be surprised at the results.  Be sure to write them down. 

5.  Ask Others
If you are having difficulties identifying your scripts on your own, ask someone you trust and are close with you help you out.  This is likely to be a frank and honest discussion, so be sure to find somebody that will accommodate those conditions.  Ask them what scripts they have noticed you portray, what your attitudes are, and what thoughts are holding you back in life.  If there is truly nobody you can talk to, it might be worthwhile to hire a professional.  Life coaches, career counselors, and therapists would be able to help.

6.  Write a Fictional Story
This method is a bit more intensive than the others, but it works well.  Write a fictional story about a character in a situation that you have been in before.  Be sure to elaborate the characters self-image, family attitudes, goals, strengths, and weaknesses.  Look for themes in the story.  These themes may lead you to some of your mental scripts, but they may also reflect what you want your mental scripts to be rather than what they are.  This method requires more careful analyses than the others.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Are Mental Scripts?

I have written about the power of mental scripts in a previous post, and I've received questions asking for more clarification about what a mental script is.  I recently complimented a friend of mine on his positive outlook for the new year.  He mentioned that success is all about positive thought and that thought influences your attitude, attitude influences your actions, and your actions influence your character.  This is all true and easy to agree with.  He wanted to start at the core of success by shaping his thoughts to be positive and optimistic.  While he didn't realize it at the time, my friend was using mental scripts to lead to a new reality for himself.

Humans process reality through language.  We take information from the world which we acquire through our senses, and through learning, and we encode this information in the form of language.  All of our conscious thoughts occur through language, and once those thoughts and beliefs are encoded, they are played over and over to ourselves in a constant unconscious loop until new information is incorporated to change them.  When people ask, "What is a mental script?", this is what they are referring to.  It is the linguistic representations of reality that we have encoded in our minds.

Another way to describe mental scripts is to consider them our internal dialog, both conscious and unconscious.  Everything we do has language associated with it.  Even as I pick up this coffee cup, I think, "I want some coffee, I am going to reach out and bring this cup up to my mouth" before I actually drink.  I may not exactly say this, but the thoughts are running through my head.  Beyond our everyday actions however, we have ingrained representations of ourselves and the way the world is.  Some of these are positive, such as "life is great" and some are negative such as "nobody likes me".  All of our thoughts, beliefs and opinions are reflected in our mental scripts, and thus our realities are shaped by these scripts.

Knowing that these scripts vastly influence reality and your life, it is worthwhile to understand how to control these scripts.  They are built up over time and reinforced through repetition, and are shaped by many different sources.  They usually take time to change.  For example, as a young person you might have the mental script of "I am a boy".  This is repeated and reinforced for most of your life and is a strong script that runs unconsciously through your mind.  As you get older, that script begins to change with some realizations that you are changing, and you receive inputs of "I am a man".  The man script competes with the boy script, but the boy script remains dominant.  Eventually, enough inputs of "I am a man" are experienced so that it becomes the dominant script, though "I am a boy" still lingers as a small percentage of your beliefs (which is partially why even as adults we sometimes feel like children).  As enough time passes, the boy script fades and you are left with the belief/reality that you are a man, and act accordingly.  While this change is usually gradual, there are some things that may accelerate the change, such as a right of passage ceremony, or the death of a parent.

These scripts exist for everything from what you think is healthy, what your values are, who you like/dislike, your politics, your religion, and everything else.  I will continue to write more about mental scripts, but for now I leave you with this exercise:

Write down all of your beliefs that comes to mind about yourself, and be completely honest.  Seriously, take 5 minutes to do this and you will be amazed.  Write down what you think you are good at, what you are bad at, what your self image is, what you like, dont like, etc.  Some of this will be true, and some will not, but you have begun a vital exercise of identifying your own mental scripts.  The next step is change them or erase them and construct new ones based on your own will and intentions. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Developing Will Power

In a previous post I defined success as mastering your own will, and I further state that, " I'm willing to operate under the assumption that we do have the capability for [free will].  That capability however needs to be exercised just like any other mental capacity in order to be effective."  But what does it mean to develop the will?  Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., a psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, explores this question in her research, and offers some suggestions in a talk at Google.  The video is long, but I suggest you take the time to watch it, even if it means watching it in parts.  I discuss a brief summary here and give my own insights to her talk.  Dr. McGonigal discusses research about willpower and the physiological mechanisms that regulate it.  She suggests that getting enough sleep, meditating, doing physical exercise, and having a healthy plant-based diet improves your ability to master your own will by giving you the physiological tools needed to accomplish your goals.  Further, based on research in the field, she suggests the following tools for developing willpower:
  1. Being too hard on yourself for failure of your goals will lead to further relapses.  Instead, it is better to forgive yourself and realize it is part of the process of change. 
  2. Writing a lettter from your future self to your current self gives you the ability to strengthen your willpower as your future self is no longer a stranger and can be something to strive for.
  3. Instead of focusing on success, it is more important to ask "when will I fail and what will I do about it?".  While it is importatnt to be optimistic, being naively positive will dissapoint you whereas focusing on potential failures and their solutions allows you to overcome obstacles.
  4. Surfing the urge can give you the strength to do something difficult. This is framed in the context of quitting smoking, or eating healthier.  Taking a moment to recognize an urge and letting it pass while breathing allows you to let the urge go.
Its a great talk that brings science into the realm of philosophy.  She has several books which I look forward to reading, and her work has provided a breadth of resources in scientific literature to explore.  While I do not disagree with anything Dr. McGonigal says, I have a few issues with her presentation.

Will power in this talk is often described in terms desires and behaviors used to control those desires.  This makes sense as desires and behaviors are easily measured by science, and this seems to be an arm-chair use of the term will power.  To me however, while desires are related to will power, having control of your will is much more than having the ability to limit your desires.  I do not intend to give a comprehensive definition of will power as thousands of years of philosophy have already pondered this question.  Any schmoe however can learn to control desires and behavior, but the will is much more.  The will is using your conscious mind to shape and control reality to your liking, having a proactive and directed cause-effect relationship with the world rather than a reactionary one.  Note that this isn't necessarily mutually exclusive to Dr. McGonigal's talk, but it does have a different focus.  Instead of acheiving goals and having self control, I view the will as being about grabbing the reins of reality and steering it in a positive rather than negative manner.  Trying to break through to something new, positive and influential (changing lives for the better, mastering an art, tapping into wealth), as opposed to trying to avoid something (stopping smoking, eating healthier).  I breifly discuss this in my post about desire, which is highly influenced by some of Nietzche's writing.  The distinction is important.  Kelly's description of will power is probably the most pragmatic for people to use, but it is not likely to lead to greatness.  To get to greatness, you need to truly let your soul break free and shine, and while Kelly's techniques likely won't hurt, they will not lead to will power in this sense.

So what does lead to developing the will?  I have learned to control my desires and implement discipline in my life, but these things are not demonstrative of my will's power.  They are simply self control.  I have been working on my will for years and have made progress, but still have a long way to go.  I do not have all of the answers, and I have not scoured the scientific research to come up with a list of techniques (current science cannot give this answer, though it can lead down the right path).  What I discuss here is from my personal exploration in developing will power and from my observation of the few others I know who have mastered their will. 

One thing Dr. McGonigal discusses is meditation, and this above the other items  is vital for will power, but in a different way than I think she discusses it.  I do not mean simple mindfulness and breathing exercises.  Those are good techinques, but they are not meditation itself.  I mean deep, mind-cleansing meditation that takes years of study and practice to learn.  Related techniques include developing a strong sense of self awareness and training your attention (I will write a post about attention shortly).  By being aware of the self, you know what you are doing, what state of mind and body you are in, and what you are capable of in relation to your surroundings.  Attention adds to this awareness and allows you to process the necessary information to implement your will.  Further techinques include learning as much as possible, and mastering as many skills as possible so that you have the knowledge and ability to exercise your will.  Finally, two other items I have found are important for will power are to observe and understand nature, and to understand patterns/rhythms.  Nature is everywhere, in every city street and out in the great wilderness.  Understanding how it works unleashes secrets of life that can be utilized.  It connects our busy wired-in brains to our primitive selves and our intution.  Everything abides by a pattern or rhythm and understanding how your rhythms interact with the rest of the world allows you to control that rhthym. 

This is not an extensive list and I do not have all the answers, but they are useful tools.  Developing the will is and always will be a personal journey.  Let no one hold you back on your journey to success.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Advice for your 20 year old self

A while ago, I had the opportunity for a night on the town with a group of people who have had much more experience in life than I have, both in years and in business.  After a few drinks, the conversations turned to the best way to live one's life, and every person I talked to, while generally happy, hadn't figured out the answer for themselves.  So I proceeded to ask each person what advice they would give to their 20 year old self.  Most of them interpreted this as me asking them advice for myself (I was much older than 20 at the time) and made excuses highlighting the differences between themselves and me as to why their answer would not be pertinent.  Insisting that I was talking only about them, and what advice they would give to their 20 year old selves, most people were baffled, or gave vague financial advice.  Nobody knew the answer to this question, and had nothing substantial to offer their 20 year old selves.  To their credit, we were drunk and I threw this question at them out of the blue.  This is an important question to contemplate however as it allows one to look back on the past with 20/20 vision and think about how to improve, and to pinpoint what really matters.  What advice would you give to your 20 year old self? (note this applies even if you are younger than 20).  Leave a comment below so we can read an answer that will benefit us both.