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Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.

Earl Wilson

Life Coaching

Building Focus, Energy & Courage - to Make a Better Life for You

Fluid Thinking
- The Wisdom of Ignorance


Rigid Thinking

Changing your life requires changing what you do, and that requires changing what you think. The necessary leap is often one we won't make, and so we're stranded on the stiff side. RIGIDITY is the enemy of change, and since change is essential for improvement...


This is a challenge I address with my clients daily. They want change, but they resist because they are trapped by their rigid thinking.

Here's a fantastic quote, which I think about a lot - for my clients and for myself:

When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be.

Lao Tzu

This is a profound insight into the nature of identity; into what it means to be you, and it works on many levels.

Is Rigid Always Wrong?

As we grow up, we learn about the world, and we are molded by our experiences - good and bad. As the years role by, our sense of self - of who and what we are - solidifies; we "set" and are less malleable in the face of external influences.

This isn't all bad of course, strength of character is often admired and some of societies' greatest contributors have held strong in the face of massive pressure to submit. These people have changed our world for the better.

But we tend to stiffen up as a whole being - we don't do it selectively or even consciously. This un-conscious and non-selective stiffening is where we lose our opportunities to "become what we might be". And it's pernicious. We can't see ourselves stiffening, and we don't understand how it limits us, but it's happening almost every waking moment, and it limits us in every part of our lives.

Growing Up, Growing Stiff

Children aspire to adulthood. They want to know as much as adults - and they want to look as if they do even more. So uncertain seems like the wrong thing to be. Saying I don't know seems like the wrong thing to say, and it seems uncomfortable to contemplate. We want to understand everything - we think that's the path to happiness.

Adults do this too. Doctors, politicians and parents all feel the need to look like they know stuff, even when the don't.

So we form opinions, then defend them. Opinions harden into beliefs, which are seldom re-examined - they are just accepted as truth. Now we are blind. We're all grown up, and appearing confident, but we're blind never-the-less, seeing only shadows of reality, distorted to fit our beliefs.

To a greater or lesser extent, this is where most adults find themselves, and it causes all kinds of misery and creates pointlessly smaller lives. For example, at the heart of low self esteem or low confidence is over-learning.

Look at this:

Learning Status
A girl looks away from me

No lessons learned
on this so far in life

Mild curiosity.
Is she sad? Nervous twitch? Mosquitto bite?
A girl looks away from me
Entrenched Belief:

Obviously (because I am ugly) she looked away in revulsion of me.

Hurt, pain, sadness, anger.

This also confirms my belief that I am ugly, further crushing my low self-esteem.

The external event is the same, but the conclusions are radically different in light of the learning status. But there's a double-whammy working here.

WHAMMY ONE - You concluded something sad about yourself and the girl and the world you both live in. It's a place where the trivialities of physical appearance rule; where there are HAVEs and HAVE NOTs. It's a cruel world, and you are one of its have-nots.

WHAMMY TWO - This sad experience CONSOLIDATES the destructive belief, digging a deeper hole - Jeez, I'm so UGLY - I just saw even more evidence of it.

If you could un-learn that you are ugly - if you could delete that belief, then you'd be free to interpret the world more clearly. The fact is, there are many reasons why the girl might look away, and, surely, you cannot know which one applies.

So - drawing reasonably firm conclusions from RELIABLE and RECENT information is fine - we call it learning. But drawing cast iron beliefs to live a life by, from unreliable data, absorbed through the eyes of a child twenty years ago? That's over-learning.

Ignorance Is Bliss

So now you can see the merit of staying unsure. If you don't have a firm belief with which to interpret (and distort) your world, then you'll need to rely more on your observational skills and your naked intellect, and these are far more reliable.

How can you stay in blissful ignorance How can you have more bliss?

Well, listen to your self-talk carefully. Spot your beliefs at work, and challenge them in some way. You'll need to maintain an awareness of your mental processes which is easier, if you are a regular meditator.

Here are some examples for you, but don't let them constrain your thinking. I guarantee - you're riddled with this stuff!:

  1. You find yourself commenting (perhaps to yourself) on someone's "stupid" haircut or hat or make-up or piercings or tattoos. Recognise that there is literally no such thing. Haircuts, and in fact, the entire world of fashion and grooming is all entirely arbitrary - with no intrinsic worth beyond that of conforming with a shifting societal norms. When you see that, you can let the anger go, and find affection for the person who was, moments ago, offending you.
  2. You don't like guacamole. Are you sure? When did you last try it? I caught myself out with this one very recently. I tried it more than a decade ago, and then it was prepared under very dubious conditions. Practicing what I preach, I tried it again. My life is now larger to the tune of ... well.. guacamole! And I love that I love something I thought I hated!
  3. You can't dance and anyway that's not your thing. Or is it that you tried dancing once, a long time ago, and getting it wrong in public felt excruciatingly embarrassing? Did you over-learn some things then - that you still "know" now? Anyone can dance, given good instruction and enough time. Is it time to re-think you and dancing? Who would you be if you went dancing every Friday night?
  4. A girl brings your tea in a cafe. She doesn't enter your consciousness really, because she is "un-interesting". You may have made assumptions about why she's there and who she is (which, by the way - is one poor belief system stacked on another). Un-make those assumptions. Give her attention, and see what is actually out there in front of your eyes, rather than what you confidently expect to be there..
  5. You see a "cheap and 'orrible" coffee mug in Tesco, and lament other people's poor taste. BUY IT! (it is, at least, cheap). Recognise that much of aesthetics is another cauldron of crud. Live with the new mug for a while. Feel the resonances in your mind when you look at it. Smile at yourself whenever you use it. Look on it fondly. Let your negative feelings for it go. You are un-learning some stuff and you'll be the better for it. I recently bought their "butterfly" mug, for, I think, £1.89. It gives me a tickle in the ribs every time I see it - and it gives me a big fat SNOG - every time i use it - not bad for £1.89! And when I drop it (it won't take long [or is that another belief..]) I'll get me another, different cheapo mug :o)
  6. Some cricket begins on the TV. You feel the rise of anger. You've always hated cricket. Recognise some over-learning at work and the belief it put in your head, long ago. Is it time to see if you can find out why so many people love it? Who would you be if you found you loved cricket? Whether you love it or not, hating it evidences a strong - and unhelpfully strong - emotional response, which you might be happier removing from inside your skull. Next time you find yourself doing the hate cricket thing - try to modify your self talk, perhaps to cricket isn't of much interest to me. Or, maybe, trying watching some.

Why not drop me a line with your comments and personal experiences of this? I'll add them here to help others see how this stuff works.

Listen to your thinking and challenge what you hear being said - in a friendly way. Most of all - enjoy it all.

PS: Click here if you're thinking of cosmetic surgery.


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