Sunday, August 06, 2006

Day 3 - CHANGE

A person can change his own attitudes

"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way... you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions." - Aristotle

This idea Aristotle refers to shows up preeminently in Dale Carnegie's book, How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking. He mentions here that confidence as a speaker can be achieved by simply changing the actions one does and the emotion will follow. He quotes William James (from his work “The Gospel of Relaxation”):

“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

“Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can.

“So, to feel brave, act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.”

James himself refers to contemporary scientists who had studied this phenomenon. More recently many studies have been reported3 which have verified this to be correct in clinical studies and applied uses. People who before were not even able to experience many emotions were able to start relaxing once they practiced smiling.

Norman Cousins, in his book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” describes using humor as a means to overcome a degenerative disease which had left him all but paralyzed and with only a few months to live. Not only did he live, but recovered full use of his body and returned to work for a major New York magazine.

My own experience with this was in using this datum of smiling daily, whether I felt like it or not, for over a year. This was as part of a test of this datum, as well as finding out that it was a great deal more fun at my job when I smiled and tried to cheer people up regardless of how I or they felt that day or at the time. At the end of that year, I compared notes and found that I was more routinely cheerful and optimistic than I had felt the year before. It had become a habit of mine to be cheerful, optimistic and more outgoing. Where before this test started,I was still a bit shy, reserved and sometimes moody. I had participated in no training or counseling during that period, so the results were simply as a result of my self-enforced and practiced “smiling routine.”

This single point is one of the few key building blocks of any self-help. It is a method where you can prove to yourself that any emotion you are experiencing can be brought under control and changed at will. We'll try it as part of our exercises today, later, so you can prove this to yourself.

The mental state of a person will affect the decisions he/she makes in life. Feelings of hopelessness will result in apathetic decisions to do nothing about it and be a victim. Fear will prompt a person to simply retreat from doing anything, or take the easiest, less painful way out. Anger might make a person decide to attack or criticize, saying things one might regret later on. The interested, even enthusiastic person will decide in terms of the best solution that benefits the majority concerned – he/she might even work out how to make a profit off the deal!

Many people have regretted some major decision in life and have had this worry them from that point on. Norman Vincent Peale, in his best seller The Power of Positive Thinking has many chapters on how to improve one's outlook on life. In his chapter called “How to Break the Worry Habit,” he suggests just before going to sleep at night to envision the mind as a basin and draining all worries by removing the stopper. He recommends going through this process five times at night to improve sleep.

As well, he says to do this several times in the middle of the day. His book is an excellent one in this particular area of positive thinking and I recommend it highly.

Another book which has been found by many to be very effective in this area is by Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People. While he has many, many points to cover, he begins the book by telling his readers that one of the most effective way to study is by doing, not simply being taught or reading. Doing is the way to really learn something well. In one of his chapters, he relates the value of a smile:

“Charles Schwab told me his smile had been worth a million dollars. And he was probably understating the truth. For Schwab's personality, his charm, his ability to make people like him, were almost wholly responsible for his extraordinary success; and one of the most delightful factors in his personality was his captivating smile.”

Wouldn't you like to have such a financially rewarding smile? People that are friendly toward you certainly are more favorable in signing business deals.

But life in general can be much more delightful if it is actively lead into a pleasant routine of smiling, cheerfulness, and delight in life itself.

If you find that you can change your attitude, you will see that you can change your own mind whichever way you want to. This will become more important later on when we bring in more advanced drills and techniques.

Day 3 Exercises

Try this –

1.Smile. Walk around your home and simply smile at everything. It won't be long before you start noticing nice things about everything and everyone you smile at. Probably you'll quickly find yourself having a more cheerful attitude towards everything around you, that the problems you may have don't seem so pressing. Perhaps you might find better solutions than those you have thought up so far. Practice smiling first thing in the morning and after every meal. See how it makes you feel.

2.In your that room with the chair you've been using, sit and relax physically as you did in Day one. Now just as you let go physically, let go mentally of adverse mental conditions such as hatred, anger, worry, jealousy, envy, sorrow, trouble or disappointment. You can use Peale's solution above. Imagine that your mind is a big basin with a rubber stopper at the bottom. In your imagination, remove the stopper and see the thoughts, worries and troubles drain down until the basin is empty. Then start is all over and repeat this four more times.

3.During the following day, find a quiet moment at work or during the lunch hour where you can do the above exercise. Practice will make this easier and quicker to do. Try to do this several times each day, until it becomes a simple habit of choice to rid troublesome thoughts from your attitudes and to control your attitude to a more positive outlook.

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