How Wearing Weird Clothes Will Help You Develop Courage and Make You More Grateful

As I walk out my apartment, I text her:

I hope I don’t end up in jail.

I step into my car and begin driving to a nearby Whole Foods in a posh area of town.  I can feel my heart beating faster the closer I get to Whole Foods.   As I pull into the parking lot my mind starts to make up worst case scenarios and my cortisol shoots through the roof.  This is going to be fun.There I am in the parking lot of Whole Food, wearing my pajamas, with basketball shorts over them and a dress shirt to top it off. I feel the wind in my hair, and I walk into Whole Foods – expecting the worst:)

As I walk in I notice a couple of dirty looks, but only a few.  I guess this attire I’m wearing is a lot more normal than I thought.  Maybe people will be wearing this next fall.  I begin to realize that this is not such a big deal.  It’s actually fun.  And that’s the beauty of our thinking; as humans we have a god given gift to make stupid stories in our heads to scare ourselves.  Most of the time these stories just aren’t true.

My mind switches, and I begin to think about my friend reading this text and wondering:

What the hell is Martin up to?

I’m doing my latest experiment.  It’s called Practicing Misfortune, an old Stoic exercise.  The premise is twofold:

1) spend time without what you love and you’ll grow to value it more and

2) spend time with your biggest fear and you’ll become immune to it.

Seneca, the old Stoic Philosopher describes Practicing Misfortune:

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content  with the scantest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I so feared?… Let the pallet be a real one, and the cloak coarse.  Let the bread be hard and grimy.  Endure all this for three or four days at a time, sometimes for more, so that it may be a test of yourself instead of a mere hobby.  Then, I assure you… you will leap for joy when filled with a penny worth of food, and you will understand that a man’s peace of mind does not depend upon fortune, for, even when angry, she grants enough for our needs”

In essence by Practicing Misfortune one develops a visceral understanding that we don’t NEED what we value most nor do we NEED to avoid what we fear most. This opens us up to great personal freedom.

The exercise works like this:

1) Think about what you value most or fear most.

2) Set up a time to practice not having what you value most or exposing yourself to what you fear most.

3) While you do the exercise ask yourself: Is this what I feared most?

I love this exercise.  I find it extremely effective, but it ONLY works if you do it. This is key.  Nothing works if you don’t do it.

The question I ask myself as a people helper is: how can I structure information so that it is actionable  and so that people actually follow through with it?

The answer comes from BJ Fogg’s Persuasion Lab in Stanford University:

Simple and easy changes behavior.

To qualify what’s considered to be simple and easy:

1) It takes less than 30 seconds to do.

2) It takes minimal effort to do.

The number one reason people fail at implementing a new habit is because they rely on motivation instead of making the new habit simple and easy.

The odds are NOBODY is going to consistently do the Stoic exercise above, because it takes more than 30 seconds and it takes a bunch of effort.

With that in mind, I’ve developed a modern rendition that takes the essence of Practicing Misfortune.

1) Find a habit that you already do every day; that you do without any effort at all. Examples: brushing your teeth, combing your hair, etc.

2) Find something that you over-value.  Examples: success, attention, avoiding failure, etc

3) Ask the following question: Do I really need X?  (X is whatever you are over-valuing)

4) Commit to asking the question from step 3 every time you do the habit from step 1.

This exercise is deceptively simple, BUT again:

SIMPLICITY CHANGES BEHAVIOR

It’s taken me 10 years to find that out.

Uptime Trance: An Interview with Tamás Szigeti NLP Master Practitioner

Today I have the opportunity to chat with a good friend of mine.  He is one of those rare individuals actively experimenting with the nlp patterning and testing it’s limits.  He always has some awesome insights to share.  I am honored and humbled to introduce my friend and colleague Tamás Szigeti aka Xigi.

Martin: Hi dude…how are you?

Xigi: I’m pimping man…how are you?

M: For the people who don’t know you, and they should be embarrassed for not knowing you, who is Xigi?

X:  I’m an NLP Master Practitioner from Hungary, Europe.  I’ve been studying NLP for 3 years now, and I’m transiting to a new career in NLP therapy/coaching.

M: How did you get involved in brainwashing people?  Was there a defining moment?

X:  It all started in the last months of 2005. I had a profound experience, a kind of revelation. My perception shifted somehow, and I became more conscious of myself, my life.  I had started to read and try a lot of self-help junk before finding NLP, the technology that really works. I’ve been studying and applying NLP ever since.  I have used NLP in my own life to successfully deal with a bunch of limiting problems, strong anxieties, perhaps depression too, huge problems with socializing, work life etc. Of course I still have things to work on, but I have changed my life profoundly using NLP.

M: What are you most passionate about?

X: I’m really passionate about the human mind and its possibilities to change a person’s subjective reality.  I love playing with minds – my own and other’s. As Richard Bandler puts it so well, it’s all about freedom, the freedom to choose your own experiences, to enjoy the world and your life the way you want to.  That’s my number one passion.

M: Awesome.  One of my favorite states is called uptime.  It’s bad ass and full of wonderful things.  What is uptime?

X:  Uptime is a mental state in which our attention is keenly directed away from inside us and more to our surroundings.

M: What is uptime used for?

X: The way I see it, uptime is the foundation of the most successfully mental states in several contexts. For example when making a sale, teaching people, being in a job interview, in most sports, and even in video games it’s much more useful to focus on the surroundings, on the other people rather than focusing inside.

I will note that  there are contexts where focusing inside (downtime state) is more useful, writing a book can be a good example.

M: Yeah, I like to think of this stuff in terms of usefulness.  That is, downtime has its place and uptime does as well.

X: It’s been proven through NLP modeling that high performing individuals are really good at being in an uptime state when they do what they are best in.  The use of uptime is important for those who want to be successful in doing what they love to do. And who doesn’t? We need to be in uptime to react and adapt to our surroundings, to other people’s responses. Without that we can only react to our inner thoughts, feelings, and those are already filtered by our inner world, our previous experiences, beliefs etc, and it’s far from what goes on in the real world. To achieve better results, we have to ‘come to our senses’ (uptime).

M: How can my beloved and awesome readers benefit from using uptime?

X: We all participate in different forms of communications every day.  The mere act of stepping into an uptime state when communicating, can itself make our life better. Being in uptime facilitates better understanding of each other, which can decrease interpersonal conflicts. Uptime also allows for more efficient ways to get through our intentions, etc. And it simply feels good to be in uptime.

M: What is the best strategy people can use to get into uptime?

X: There’s a concept and technique in NLP called anchoring. Without further explanation, you can associate states to any sensory experience. In this excercise, I will tell you to squeeze your thumb and middle finger on your right hand when the (uptime) state peaks (when the experience of the outward focus is the strongest). It’s important not to make any judgements when you focus on your surroundings. Just take in everything through your senses without naming or judging anything. You can do each part of the excercise as many times as you want, going inside and outside with your awareness will make the state stronger each time.

Here it is:

1. Find a quiet place where you can safely relax. Set aside some time when you can comfortably do the excercise. Once there, sit down, relax, and enjoy the world
2. Notice what you feel externally. Feel the temperature of the air on your skin. Feel the touch of the things you touch. Direct your awareness to everything that you feel, Feel the textures, edges, hardness of the objects around you. When the experience is the strongest, anchor it by squeezing your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
3. Become aware of what you see around you. Do not make any internal pictures, if you see anything internally, just move away the pictures into the distance until they disappear. Become aware of the shapes, colors around you, notice any movements or stillness, distances, light patterns. Spread out your awareness into the peripheral so you can take in everything you see, and when your attention is really directed outwards, anchor it by squeezing your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
4. Notice what you hear. Listen for the tones, pitches, the location of the sounds. If you hear other people talking, notice the tempo and pitch of their voice. Listen to the sound of your breath coming in and going out. When the experience is the strongest, anchor it by squeezing your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
5. Notice what you smell. Pay attention to what you smell and anchor it to the squeeze of your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
6. Do the same with any tastes. Direct your attention to any tastes and changes in your mouth. Anchor it to the squeeze of your thumb and middle finger on your right hand.
7. Break your state. Move around a bit, change your position, think about what you had for breakfast, and what are your plans for tonight.
8. Test it. Squeeze your thumb and middle finger on your right hand and notice how those internal pictures and sounds disappear while you become fully aware of your surroundings.
9. If it’s necessary, you can go back to step 2, making your uptime anchor stronger.

By using your uptime anchor frequently, you can make the process automatic.  Use it each time you find yourself in a situation when it’s appropriate and useful to be in uptime.  Take a walk in uptime. Talk to your children in uptime. Call your mother in uptime.

Enjoy!

(Credits: Michael L Hall & Bob Bodenheimer: The User’s Manual for the Brain)

M: How can people get better at this state?

X: There are various ways:
1) by simply practicing it, one will get better with each uptime experience.
2) if a situation triggers a strong (negative) feeling (like anxiety, fear, anger), it can be difficult to reach a proper uptime state. Clearing out those feelings will make it easier.
3) The uptime state is a great foundation, but the experience can get better. For example, if you are really interested in the people you talk to, or curious about what they say, it will be easier to maintain a good uptime state. If you do something you love, it is easier to be in uptime – to be present. If you have confidence in what you do – same thing applies. The possibilities are endless.
4) The speed to switch between uptime and downtime can get better with practice too. Imagine a situation when somebody asks you a question, and you don’t have an answer ready. You might go inside for a second, and get back into uptime when you have put the pieces together.

M: How do you use uptime in your daily life?

X: I’ve built uptime states for communication so I use it every time I meet people. My favorite uptime state is when working with clients. Sometimes I just use it for fun, like walking in nature in uptime, or watching the people on the street. Cycling between lines of cars in Budapest downtown also requires a heightened awareness to my surroundings.

M: What are the pitfalls to avoid?

X:  Be patient with yourself. It might take some practice, but you will get good at this really soon. It’s useful to have your intentions aligned with your attention. When talking to someone you’d like to run away from, it’s pretty hard to stay in uptime.

M: I would like to thank you for taking the time for this interview. I really appreciate it and hope that my readers get some good value from it. I sure have.