A revolutionary brain-based approach to creating the life you want.

cropped-new-logo.jpgMy mission is to foment a conspiracy of happiness across our planet. It will happen.

But happiness doesn’t just “happen.” It is created, just as unhappiness is created. Once the underlying conditions and necessary skills are in place, the resulting quality of life – happiness or unhappiness – starts to spread like a contagion.

As individuals catch it from each other, entire communities become infected. The conspiracy, once begun, is doggedly persistent and nearly impossible to resist.

We are familiar enough with the viral strain of unhappiness, as it is present all around us in the world. You may be a victim yourself. The conspicuous symptoms of unhappiness are (1) a tendency to worry and panic, (2) a tendency to blame and rage, and (3) a tendency to regret and despair.

Actually these symptom-clusters are more like types (or styles) of unhappiness, which go by the common names of anxiety, frustration and disappointment. If you should get caught inside one of these negative spirals, the likely outcome is depression – chronic fatigue, lack of interest in life, deep discouragement and a feeling of general hopelessness.

One of the necessary preconditions of unhappiness, of whatever variety, is the certainty that you are caught in something outside your control. Unhappy people see themselves as victims. Their anxiety or frustration or disappointment is not chosen – who would want to feel that way? Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? Of course they do.

In their desperate attempt to get out of unhappiness, many unhappy people seek out the help of a professional. Counselors, or “talk therapists,” guide them through a process of examining their core beliefs, testing them against reality, and updating or modifying these beliefs to be more user-friendly.

Talk therapy spends most of its time in the mind of the unhappy person – in what I name the “Storyteller” – and the course of successful therapy can take many months or even years.

Another class of mental health professionals, the psychiatrists or “drug therapists,” take the patient through a battery of medical assessments. Less time is spent on the mind and the stories that frame the patient’s view of reality, than on the body – what I name the “Alchemist.”

Each type of unhappiness, along with the paralyzing depression that commonly ensues, has its own chemical profile in the body. Elevated stress hormones or insufficient neurotransmitters require a re-balancing of the body’s internal chemistry. Drug therapy can also take a long time, and it comes with side-effects that are still not fully understood.

In the end – if there is an end – both talk therapy and drug therapy are statistically not very successful. Probably fewer than one-half of talk therapy clients and drug therapy patients achieve a positive and lasting outcome. Add to this rather mediocre success-rate the increasing cost of therapy, the time it takes, and the collateral side-effects of treatment, and you should agree that these conventional approaches are fairly risky ventures.

One major problem with conventional therapies is their tendency to endorse the unhappy person’s view of him- or herself as a passive victim. Whether it’s looking into the client’s early childhood or into the patient’s brain chemistry for the cause of unhappiness, both of these approaches basically remove responsibility from the individual.

This is probably to absolve the individual from any guilt for their unhappy state, since feeling doubly bad will only make things worse. But by removing responsibility from the client or patient, these conventional therapies also take away – by allowing the individual to keep blaming something else for his or her unhappiness – the one key that can unlock the prison of their suffering: Control.

Now I’m not saying that simply “taking control” is the solution. Unhappiness is also the consequence of taking – or trying to take – control of what is not within the individual’s freedom or power to control.

You can’t control the future, and if you try you’ll become anxious. You can’t control other people, and if you try you’ll become frustrated. You can’t make things turn out exactly as you planned or dreamed, and if you try you’ll become disappointed. Clearly, unhappiness (as anxiety, frustration or disappointment) results from trying to take the wrong kind of control. But there is another kind.

Brain WindowMentallurgy is my method for taking creative control in your life. This creativity begins in your brain, in what I call the “Mental Theater” of experience. Whereas talk therapy seeks to change your mind (the Storyteller) and drug therapy seeks to change your body (the Alchemist), Mentallurgy shows you how to change your brain and the dynamic stream of conscious attention. Very simply stated, happiness or unhappiness is what follows the focus of your attention and the particular way you represent experience on the projection screen inside your Mental Theater (i.e., your brain).

No long-term therapy is needed, only some very basic re-training of mental skills. There are no side-effects, only transformative results. And the benefits are not only permanent, they are guaranteed.

We don’t need to dig up your past or dink around with your hormones. Your story will change when you change focus or the thing you’re focusing on (called the Mental Object). The same is true of your internal state, or how experience feels in your organs, glands and muscles. This is because both of these loops (“up” into your mind, “down” into your body) are anchored in your Mental Object.

I call these loops “braintracts.”

The work of Mentallurgy begins by showing you how you are creating happiness or unhappiness, as the case may be. If you are chronically unhappy (anxious, frustrated, disappointed) and struggle to keep yourself from sliding into depression, it’s only because you have become especially skillful at making yourself that way.

Mentallurgy says: Take responsibility for the meaning and feeling of your experience. Step into your Mental Theater and start making creative changes there. Your life will be transformed.

From that critical point, everything else changes. You will be happier because you understand that happiness and unhappiness are not determined by what’s going on around you. Even more importantly, you will be happier because you know how to create happiness. Pretty soon your relationships will be transformed. Your view of life and your way of being in the world will be transformed.

The planet itself will change as the people you touch catch on. They will want what you have.

You see? It’s a conspiracy. Join me.

Check out this short video: The Quick Rip on Mentallurgy

 

The Secret Door to Happiness

Let’s say you suffer from chronic anxiety. What do you know is real?

Certainly your anxiety is real, isn’t it? The muscle tension, jittery nerves, headache, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, GI upset – all of that is not merely “in your head.” Basic medical instruments would be able to measure and verify these symptoms as real events occurring in your body.

So your anxiety is real. But consider what you are anxious about: Is that real?

We know that anxiety isn’t only a syndrome of physical events in the body. You also need to be telling yourself a story. Typically this is a story about something you can’t control (or believe you can’t), but which you are convinced will adversely impact your life.

In Mentallurgy LifeChange we call such lines of thinking “worry stories.” In most cases what you are anxious about is not real, but mostly (or maybe entirely) imaginary.

Many people have little awareness of how their body and mind interact. In your anxious state, it may be difficult to distinguish symptoms in your body and stories in your mind, tangled as they are in the stream of experience.

Our modern Western preference for rationalism (clear and logical distinctions) favors mind over body, since that’s where our ego is centered. Consequently Western therapies have leaned more into cognition (thinking) than emotion (feeling) for solutions to anxiety and other forms of mental suffering.

More recently we have discovered how intricately involved mind and body are with each other. There seems to be a reciprocal relationship between them, where events in the body communicate with thoughts in the mind. From this perspective, your chronic anxiety is a mind-body (or psychosomatic) experience generated out of the looping feedback from mind to body, and from body to mind.

The Western division of mind and body has continued to shape our theories and therapies, however. Now, in addition to a variety of rational “talk” therapies – where therapists talk with clients to help straighten out their thinking and clarify or correct erroneous beliefs – there have developed countless more “drug” therapies to address the symptoms of suffering in the body.

At the moment, you have numerous options of talk therapy or drug therapy, or some combination of both. The mental health industry is currently moving away from rational (talk) treatment protocols, to prescribing medications that purport to supplement or re-balance the biochemistry of your body and brain.

It’s moving this way largely because drugs are plentiful – with new ones being invented (or existing ones relabeled and pushed back to market) all the time.

Drugs are also quicker and more convenient than sitting in talk therapy, and prescribing doctors can simply adjust the dosage or add new drugs as they deem necessary. Insurance companies are more likely to cover prescription medications over talk therapy since labels, dosages, and symptoms are easier to measure than subjective reports of “feeling better” after talking with a counselor.

But whether it’s by talk therapy, drug therapy, or some combination that you’re seeking relief, the success rate across the board is dismal (less than 50 percent). Besides that, it’s costly and time-intensive (for talk therapy especially) and comes with side-effects that can sometimes be worse than the suffering it’s intended to alleviate (for drug therapy).

Mentallurgy LifeChange offers a better way.

It keeps mind and body in the picture, but not as divisions or parts of you that might be treated separately. Your mind (called the Storyteller) and your body (the Alchemist) are indeed in a reciprocal psychosomatic relationship, but your “door to happiness” and out of chronic anxiety will not be found in either one.

When your mind tells a worry story and trips your body into a panic state – or vice versa, when your body experiences the symptoms of panic and trips your mind into a worry story – everything is working by design.

The cognitive process (in your mind) is how you determine, discover, or invent what something means, while the emotional process (in your body) is how it feels. You are constantly checking in with what it means and how it feels.

But what exactly is “it”?

Your mind doesn’t tell just any story, and neither are the  symptoms in your body merely random events. Mentallurgy names “it” your mental object, as what presently occupies the focus of your attention. Your brain is the mental theater where this mental object is being projected, and the screen inside your mental theater is another name for present attention.

You can’t spin a worry story or fall into a panic state unless you are focusing on a mental object that feeds your mind and body the information such a story and state requires.

Information in the form of your mental object gets to the screen by one or more of three possible channels, which we can summarize with the terms perceive, retrieve, and conceive.

What you perceive with your senses is in the present and may be external or internal to your body. What you retrieve by memory presumably happened in the past. And what you conceive by your imagination might eventually be realized in the near or distant future, or it might be utterly unrealistic – even impossible.

The important thing to understand is that, by whatever single or combination of channels your mental object arrives on the screen of attention, your brain will faithfully send the information to your mind and body for processing into meaning and feeling, respectively.

So, how does that help you?

Well, good news up front is that you don’t have to take a lot of time analyzing the story you’re telling yourself, about how awful things are or what catastrophe is about to befall you. Nor is it necessary to pop pills in order to stabilize or elevate your mood.

Since your worry story and panic state are tied to and fed by what you’re focusing on, all you need to do is change your focus or its mental object.

Mentallurgy LifeChange offers four simple techniques that, with consistent practice, will help you begin living the life you really want.

  • SWAP your mental object for another one in the same channel. Look at something else, recall a different memory, imagine a more positive outcome. The future is an open field of possibilities. If fantasy is your thing, why not create a picture of things going well?
  • SWITCH the channel to a different one. If you’re dreading something that isn’t even real (conceive), turn your attention to something in your immediate environment (perceive). “Noticing Green” is one easy MLC switching skill: just look for anything colored green in your vicinity and you’ll notice the anxiety starting to dissipate.
  • SHIFT attention from what you can’t control to something you can. By definition anxiety is the dread of being held accountable or negatively impacted by something outside your control. Instead of casting your focus far away or into the unknown future, SHIFT your attention to what you can do about it right now.
  • Imagine a control panel (or mixing board) inside the projection room of your mental theater where you can change the attributes of your mental object. Simply SLIDE a setting to change the color or make it black and white. Make it blurry or more distinct. Increase the volume or drop it down; mute it if you want. Use a SLIDE to rotate your mental object and change its orientation. Move it from the center of your screen to the periphery, into a corner, or far into the background. Each seemingly minor change alters the information sent to your mind and body, changing also what it means and how it feels.

Mentallurgy LifeChange is about making choices and taking control where you can, in order to start living the life you really want. Obviously chronic anxiety is not the life you really want. Understand what you are doing to create the anxiety, then simply use a different “recipe” to produce a more desirable outcome.

You already know that you’re capable of creating an experience you don’t want. Now use that power for good!

NOTE: The prologue of this post (in orange text) is the same in all three posts under the general title “Managing Your 3 Resource Systems.” Topic-specific content is below that.

A lot of people are looking for the magic key that will open a door to the meaning and joy of life. Unhappy people are convinced they will find this key one day, which is why happiness eludes them. It’s not actually something you can find, and there is no magic key or secret door. Looking for happiness assumes that you do not presently know where it is, when in fact it’s not anywhere at all.

Happiness arises as you learn how to master the three resource systems of your life: Time, Money, and Health. Again, you won’t find happiness some day in the future, and neither can it be purchased or achieved. When we talk about mastering these three resource systems, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this, finally! is your magic key.

Happiness is a measure of the flow, quality, and connection of your life to what really matters. It’s not that getting rich will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the flow of wealth in their lives. It’s not that being in perfect health will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the quality of health known as vigor, which enables them to enjoy more of what life has to offer.

And it’s not that you need more time to get happy – and believing so is a sure-fire setup for disappointment, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the connections over time to what supports the life they really want.

After we take a look at the separate elements in the mastery of each of the three resource systems of Time, Money, and Health we will step up a level to talk about the meta-skill of managing your life across all three. Mentallurgy LifeChange teaches that Time, Money, and Health are really just different transformations of the energy known as consciousness. By managing your balance across the three systems, you will be cultivating the conditions that allow happiness to arise.

Health

Like the other resource systems, Health is something many of us take for granted – as long as it’s allowing us to do what we want. When we run out of time or money, or when the quality of our health is compromised somehow, that’s when we pay attention. Unhappy people commonly suffer from health challenges, which only supplies them with something else to complain about.

Mentallurgy LifeChange makes a critical distinction between health and fitness, even though these are used interchangeably in popular culture. But the difference is significant! Fitness is a function of how “fit” you are physically with respect to a specific challenge level of strength, agility, flexibility, speed or stamina. You can be in great health but not fit to run a 5K race. It will take conditioning, practice, and time to rise to that challenge.

Health, on the other hand, is less about challenge levels than your chronic physical and mental well-being. Your body, its organ systems and the cells supporting your life are working efficiently and productively. The energy your body needs to restore itself, build immunity, eliminate toxins, and engage your daily tasks with vigor (what we might think of as the measure of health) is being managed well.

The resource system of Health also has a set of four actions to keep in balance. Optimizing health means that you give each one the attention it needs, and that you maintain a regimen that will support a healthy life.

Diet

Unhappy (and unhealthy) people are typically not very mindful or disciplined when it comes to what they put into their bodies. Their diet is filled with junk food, processed sugar and flour, saturated fats, artificial sweeteners, high sodium, and regular doses of caffeine or energy drinks to get them through the inevitable energy slumps.

Your diet, referring to the nutritional value of what you eat and drink, is what delivers to your cells the energy they require. If you take in junk, toxins, and artificial food substitutes, your cells succumb to oxidation and inflammation, which can lead to them becoming abnormal and reproducing uncontrollably as cancer. Inflamed cells also mean a fat body, as it tries to remove and lock away the xenobiotics (strange or ‘alien’ substances) that would otherwise cause damage and additional health complications.

People who struggle with obesity – the drain of health and longevity – aren’t always (or only) guilty of excessive calories. Their fat is also the body’s (ultimately futile) strategy for stashing toxins into quarantine.

Instead of “going on a diet,” it is much better to take in a well-balanced variety of foods that are fresh (not packaged), whole (not processed), and organic (not genetically modified, boosted with fertilizers, or treated with herbicides and hormones). 

Exercise

We’ve already made a distinction between (core) health and (adaptive) fitness, but something also needs to be said for regular movement and aerobic activity. As a rule, unhappy people don’t get off the sofa unless they have to, and only rarely do they go outside for a brisk walk or run. Exercise doesn’t have to take hours out of your day, and it isn’t even necessary to engage in it as a ‘special project’ apart from your daily life.

In addition to keeping your muscles toned and bones strong, regular activity will flush toxins, charge your immune system, keep your arteries and heart flexible and strong, and invigorate your brain so it can function optimally as well.

Rest

Unhappy (and unhealthy) people crowd both ends of the bell curve when it comes to getting sufficient rest. They either don’t sleep well because of obesity-related issues (e.g., sleep apnea and midnight cravings), or they sleep too much (but not well) because they lack the energy and motivation to get “up and at it.”

As a rule you need 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night, preferably between the hours of 9PM and 6AM. Humans evolved as a daytime-active, nighttime-dormant species, which is why your body and brain benefit most from restful sleep in that time zone.

Meditation

Although this word can mean many things, in Mentallurgy LifeChange it refers to any practice that serves to focus the mind, calm the body, and center the self. A lot of people (not only, but unhappy people especially) have difficulty with this because once the body starts to calm down, it’s hard to keep it from sliding further into sleep. They “gave it a try” but it “didn’t work” for them.

Cultivating a state of focused calm, where you are simultaneously relaxed and alert, takes time and consistent practice. But once you have achieved it, the benefits are both numerous and significant! Everything functions better and you feel more present to your life. This one action, consistently practiced, will elevate the quality of your life in remarkable ways. For a simple breathing meditation, click here.

NOTE: The prologue of this post (in orange text) is the same in all three posts under the general title “Managing Your 3 Resource Systems.” Topic-specific content is below that.

A lot of people are looking for the magic key that will open a door to the meaning and joy of life. Unhappy people are convinced they will find this key one day, which is why happiness eludes them. It’s not actually something you can find, and there is no magic key or secret door. Looking for happiness assumes that you do not presently know where it is, when in fact it’s not anywhere at all.

Happiness arises as you learn how to master the three resource systems of your life: Time, Money, and Health. Again, you won’t find happiness some day in the future, and neither can it be purchased or achieved. When we talk about mastering these three resource systems, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this, finally! is your magic key.

Happiness is a measure of the flow, quality, and connection of your life to what really matters. It’s not that getting rich will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the flow of wealth in their lives. It’s not that being in perfect health will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the quality of health known as vigor, which enables them to enjoy more of what life has to offer.

And it’s not that you need more time to get happy – and believing so is a sure-fire setup for disappointment, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the connections over time to what supports the life they really want.

After we take a look at the separate elements in the mastery of each of the three resource systems of Time, Money, and Health we will step up a level to talk about the meta-skill of managing your life across all three. Mentallurgy LifeChange teaches that Time, Money, and Health are really just different transformations of the energy known as consciousness. By managing your balance across the three systems, you will be cultivating the conditions that allow happiness to arise.

Money

Unhappy people frequently complain about not having enough money. They complain about what they have to do to get it, how hard it is to hang on to it, and how fast it seems to leak away – usually before the month is up and bills are coming due!

What they don’t understand is that the problem they’re complaining about – always falling short on money – is really only a symptom of the REAL issue. And what is that? They don’t understand that money is something that flows (as currency). They’re trying to “get” something and “hang on” to something that is essentially immaterial – a little like filling a bucket with river water and thinking you can walk off with the river itself.

When you think of money, don’t reduce it to dollars and cents, to how much you have or lack. Think of it rather as a stream of energy – a transformation of consciousness – that flows very much like a river of water. There are four principal actions related to this energy stream called money, and if you can manage them together as a system, money will flow to your values and dreams instead of eroding your happiness and peace of mind.

When you earn money, its currency flows toward you. Don’t grasp at it; just let it come. Most people earn money by working in a job or professional career, and a lot of them make the mistake of seeing their work as just a means to get money: work = paycheck. No higher purpose, no deeper passion; just the paycheck. As you might guess, they don’t really enjoy their work and try to get by doing as little as they have to in order to stay employed.

In Mentallurgy LifeChange, work without purpose is one of the “Three Hells.” Love without freedom and life without meaning are the other two.

But let’s stay focused on the flow of money for now. When you earn it, money flows toward you. Then what? Well, one subsequent action might be that you spend it, which is when money flows away from you in exchange for things you need or want. It is common sense that you can’t spend money you don’t already have, but our credit economy has made it possible for people to do just that. Spending more than you earn is how you create the drain of debt, which will pull down the quality of your life faster than you expect.

Another action in the resource system of Money is to put it aside for later. This is when you save money, typically with the objective of having a reservoir available for emergencies (repairing and replacing things; unplanned out-of-pocket expenses) or for something you really want in the future.

By the way, all the financial gurus out there will advise that you keep an “emergency fund” stocked and protected for things you can’t plan for or predict. Not having one is another reason unhappy people often find themselves drowning in debt.

Let’s pause to say something quickly about debt, since you’ll sometimes hear a distinction made between “good” and “bad” debt. Examples of the first (good) type of debt are a home mortgage or education loans – but you need to be careful! These are regarded “good” because owning a home and getting a degree are also investments, where taking on debt makes it possible for you to increase your net worth or earning potential over time. But even these can take you down the drain if you don’t manage them well.

“Bad” debt goes by the name of consumer debt and includes things like credit cards and emergency (e.g., “payday”) loans. If you’re not paying off a credit card at the end of the month, the compounding monthly interest will soon enough make you a slave to the creditor.

Responsibly managing a credit card does have the benefit of building your credit score over time, but all the benefits and bonuses they attach to becoming a credit slave need to be seen as the lures they are. One impulsive “bite” will have you hooked.

So, in its flow as currency money comes to you as you earn it, goes away from you as you spend it, and is channeled into a protected reservoir when you save it. A fourth and final action inside the resource system of Money is that you can also invest it.

Investing money is similar to saving it, in that it is set aside and at least temporarily out of your pocket. But whereas saving money could be simply sticking it a sock drawer, investing your money is a way it can earn more money for you, in the form of interest or dividends, for example. When you invest money, you willingly accept a level of risk associated with that particular investment vehicle. A bank account pays very little interest because it’s more secure; a venture fund will pay you much more – but there’s also a greater risk of losing money in the deal.

The balance of actions inside the resource system of Money – earning it, spending it, saving it, and investing it – needs (first of all) to keep you out of debt, since that’s a drain on your wealth, freedom, and joy in life. You really don’t want to be spending your money on servicing debt!

But exactly how these four actions are balanced will be determined by your short- and long-term goals. (Click here for more about these and other actions inside the resource system of Time.)

What do you need today? What will you need in three months? Where do you want to be in five years? How about ten years from now? Are you planning NOW for retirement?

How can you increase your earning power? Where can you control or cut back on spending? What do you need to start saving so that you can make progress into the life you really want? Some of what you save might be invested in order to grow your wealth even faster, which could then be used to invest in the lives of others as well.

NOTE: The prologue of this post (in orange text) is the same in all three posts under the general title “Managing Your 3 Resource Systems.” Topic-specific content is below that.

A lot of people are looking for the magic key that will open a door to the meaning and joy of life. Unhappy people are convinced they will find this key one day, which is why happiness eludes them. It’s not actually something you can find, and there is no magic key or secret door. Looking for happiness assumes that you do not presently know where it is, when in fact it’s not anywhere at all.

Happiness arises as you learn how to master the three resource systems of your life: Time, Money, and Health. Again, you won’t find happiness some day in the future, and neither can it be purchased or achieved. When we talk about mastering these three resource systems, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this, finally! is your magic key.

Happiness is a measure of the flow, quality, and connection of your life to what really matters. It’s not that getting rich will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the flow of wealth in their lives. It’s not that being in perfect health will make you happy, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the quality of health known as vigor, which enables them to enjoy more of what life has to offer.

And it’s not that you need more time to get happy – and believing so is a sure-fire setup for disappointment, but it is true that happy people are better at mastering the connections over time to what supports the life they really want.

After we take a look at the separate elements in the mastery of each of the three resource systems of Time, Money, and Health we will step up a level to talk about the meta-skill of managing your life across all three. Mentallurgy LifeChange teaches that Time, Money, and Health are really just different transformations of the energy known as consciousness. By managing your balance across the three systems, you will be cultivating the conditions that allow happiness to arise.

Time

Let’s begin by making some critical distinctions inside the resource system called Time. Whenever we speak of “time management” we are not really presuming to manage time itself, but rather the amount and quality of time we give to things. We can’t define time in the abstract since it’s always contained inside event-cycles, referring to how long something takes from start to finish, from beginning to end. The largest event-cycle we know of is called the Universe, and the smallest is the half-life of subatomic particles. Somewhere in between is your lifetime, and inside that are many countless smaller event-cycles such as friendships, careers, household projects, the laundry, a video game, and the time it takes for you to read this blog post.

So when you “manage time” you are really managing the many event-cycles that connect your life to the reality around you, and to possible futures ahead of you.

We can further distinguish among these connections by seeing how some things come upon you suddenly and demand your attention. Their urgency grabs your focus and won’t let go until you’re worn out, make a decision to disengage, or get past the last-minute deadline with success or failure. Your house on fire is urgent, but so is the due date of that assignment you procrastinated on or the text message of a friend who needs a response now. Just because it’s urgent doesn’t make it bad or unworthy of your attention.

In contrast to these urgent demands on your time are such eternal values as peace, love, beauty, and truth. Eternal here is not a reference to the otherworldly and everlasting objects of religious interest. At its root it simply means timeless, abiding, and essential. The eternal value of beauty, for example, is timeless as an ideal and recognized only in its embodiment or temporal expressions. By giving time to the cultivation of harmony, proportion, grace, and elegance in your life, you are connecting to the eternal value of beauty.

What needs your attention isn’t all right now in this moment, in these urgent demands or eternal ideals. Your life is an unfolding event-cycle opening into any number of possible futures. How things end up going depends a lot on your aims, decisions, choices, and actions. As a resource system, then, Time requires that you look ahead to your preferred future, to the scenario you really want.

Some of it will break down to short-term goals – things to accomplish in a few hours, a few days, or a few months from now. But other aspects of your preferred future are more long-term – a few years or even decades from now. It’s important to keep the frame large enough and the view long enough so that the things which develop slowly, or only come about through consistent effort and patient attention, are not neglected.

Think of each of these elements in the resource system of time as an “action.” With each action you are connecting your life to a type of value – immediate and pressing (urgent), timeless and inspirational (eternal), those on the near horizon (short-term), as well as values that clarify the general direction you want your life to go (long-term).

Managing your life well in time requires an ability to distinguish between urgent and eternal, so that what is time-critical doesn’t absorb all your time and keep you from cultivating the timeless values that make life truly meaningful. You shouldn’t try to eliminate urgency entirely, as some of it contributes to the spontaneity, unpredictability, and surprise of life.

As unhappy people will teach us, however, urgent values are more likely to crowd out eternal values than the other way around.

The reason for this has a lot to do with the way unhappy people create their own urgency. By failing to lengthen their view of life so as to chart a course into a preferred future, unhappy people are constantly surprised: by sudden deadlines, last-minute demands, an avalanche of unforeseen consequences, the whirlwind of details impossible to sort out and nail down.

This is not the sort of surprise that adds positive excitement to life! The chronic urgency of putting out fires or frantically looking for their keys takes up precious time which could be given to creating the life they really want. In managing life in the resource system of time, not giving attention to the values and connections that truly matter will only generate stress, which eventually translates into distress, exhaustion, and depression.

Stress is one of the drains down which unhappy people lose the quality and joy of life.

Your brain has evolved for learning. Its principal product is a mental model that matches your body’s internal state and your mind’s story of what’s going on around you. When this match is adaptive, your body and mind work together in ways that serve your physical needs, personal aspirations, and human potential. And when it’s not, you become anxious, frustrated, or disappointed – in a word, unhappy.

A lot of people, especially those who are chronically unhappy, don’t realize that learning, and therefore happiness itself, is their individual responsibility. They get trapped in myths (stories) and stuck in moods (states) that are not current with what’s really going on. A past failure, a future threat, or a present obstacle in the way pulls their focus from the opportunity at hand. They stop taking in new information and just keep pushing on the same problem, in the same way. And very little changes, except for the worse.

An opportunity is where your brain is most adaptive – and creative. But in case you’re thinking that opportunities open if you’re lucky and close when you’re not, Mentallurgy LifeChange is based on a very different assumption. An opportunity is really another name for that sweet spot in time when your brain is fully engaged with what’s going on. It is where optimal learning occurs: connections are made, solutions are found, meaning is constructed, and possibilities emerge.

Once again, this is not because you happened to stumble upon this opportunity or Lady Luck brought it to you. It happened because your brain was in its ‘sweet spot’, which is when you are confident, curious, and creative. Let’s look at each of these factors individually.

Confidence

In Mentallurgy, confidence is deeply correlated with happiness: happy people possess confidence in themselves, in others, and in reality as a whole. Literally ‘to have faith with’, confidence has roots in the state of your nervous system where you are secure in yourself and able to trust that even lemons can be made into lemonade. A confident attitude keeps you open, engaged, and hopeful that things will get better if they’re not so great right now.

Beyond having roots in your nervous system, confidence is also sustained in positive and empowering self-talk. You tell yourself things like, “This is doable. I’ve got what it takes, or at least I can find the resources and help I need. I will figure it out.” In the field of education such student self-confidence, along with his or her confidence in teachers and in the education system as a whole, is absolutely essential to academic success. Without it, students quickly succumb to anxiety and discouragement.

Curiosity

A curious brain is busy asking questions and making those connections that serve to construct meaning. The opposite of curiosity is boredom, disinterest, ‘zoning out’. When you are disengaged in this sense, the door of opportunity is closed and locked. Since the brain abhors boredom, it tends to set off in search of something more interesting. And since distractibility was an adaptive trait for millions of years when vigilance meant survival (but much less so in an age of classrooms and office workstations), it will take the lure of anything that promises relief from the hum-drum.

Opportunities abound when you can approach situations with an inquisitive mind. Merely asking the question of What, Why, When, Where, or How compels your brain to find answers. Good teachers ask lots of questions, which can be the most effective way of helping students come to the right or best answers. And of course, getting the answer right is not nearly as valuable to education as framing a thoughtful and provocative question. Asking questions initiates a search for answers, and it is to the searching mind that opportunity presents itself.

Creativity

Almost by definition an opportunity represents a possible change (preferably for the better) in the way things are. It isn’t merely a synonym for change, however, since life is always changing. To be more precise, an opportunity is where your given situation opens up a path to the solution, goal, option, or exit you’re looking for. You need to have confidence that you’ll find it, and you need to stay curious so you’ll see it when it presents itself.

Creativity is about imagining possibilities, playing with different scenarios, experimenting with conditions, clarifying your desired outcome, envisioning the process, and taking action at the right moment. Each of those verbs – imagining, playing, experimenting, clarifying, envisioning and taking action – names an essential part of the creative process. If you lack confidence and have no interest in what’s going on, you are about as far away from creativity as you can get. The door of opportunity is not only closed and locked, it doesn’t even exist!

Where Is The Brain In Our Education System?

As odd as it sounds, education today has only recently started reinventing itself in light of what science is learning about the brain. The classical method of students sitting in straight rows facing the front of a classroom, where an expert talking-head chants facts and formulas which the audience is supposed to memorize, never has been effective.

We have also discovered the critical contribution of emotional intelligence (EQ) in academic performance. Students who are not in their sweet spot at the time teaching occurs or when they are being assessed on what they can recall are certain to miss key information and “underrepresent” themselves with the outcome. Far too many students are trapped under a diagnosis (called grades) that becomes an unshakable prophecy of what they can achieve.

Inside Job

Mentallurgy LifeChange is a brain-based approach to understanding yourself and creating the life you really want. Generally speaking, people who are chronically unhappy (i.e., anxious, frustrated, or disappointed for prolonged periods) don’t know how to be happy – at least that’s what they tell themselves. In fact, they do know how to create unhappiness (although they won’t admit that they’re doing it to themselves), and happiness follows the exact same recipe but with different ingredients.

Understanding yourself as a creator is the singular achievement of Mentallurgy LifeChange. Your experience at any moment is not being caused by evil agencies outside yourself, and despite the marketing message of biological neuroscience, neither is it reducible to the physical phenomena in your brain and body.

You are doing it, but perhaps you are not fully aware of what you are doing. So let’s take a quick tour through the elements of Mentallurgy.

Inside the attentional space of your brain you are almost always focusing on something, which Mentallurgy calls your mental object, or cue. Your cue might be an internal representation of something you are picking up through sense experience. The thing out there is not really what you are seeing. Your brain is interpreting sense-data into a mental representation in your visual cortex – and that’s your cue.

It’s also possible that your cue is something you are recalling from a previous experience. Or you just might be imagining it; in that case your cue has no anchor in external reality whatsoever, except that your invention might borrow traits and features of real facts archived in memory, retrieved and cobbled together right now.

However it gets into the attentional space of your mental theater – whether by the channel of perception, recollection, or imagination (more likely through some combination of these) – your cue is the first ingredient in the recipe of experience. At this point it is merely information on the screen.

Inside your brain, your cue is translated along two distinct paths, which in Mentallurgy are called “braintracts.” A lower braintract translates the information of your cue into energy, the currency of your body. We analyze this currency in terms of feeling and action, the latter referring not only to the gross behavior of your body (e.g., jumping, running, hiding) but to the action of cells, glands, organs, and organ systems in your body. The feeling you are having right now is actually the product of a syndrome of many such actions going on simultaneously inside your body.

An upper braintract translates the information of your cue into meaning, the currency of your mind. This currency is analyzed into the thought and belief which assign significance to your mental object – what it is, what it means, and its web of associations. Just as the actions inside your body conspire in a syndrome that generates how you feel, so the many thoughts in your mind connect and fuse into beliefs.

Both braintracts get busy with the information of your cue, translating it into energy (in the body) or meaning (in the mind). These loops continually circle back around to your cue for a fresh reboot. In the above window (our name for a Mentallurgy diagram) you should notice that the lower and upper braintracts link together in a larger figure ‘8’, with energy feeding into meaning, and meaning feeding into energy – all of it tied to whatever you have right now on your mental screen.

Your cue (or mental object), along with the feelings, actions, thoughts and beliefs that it triggers, comprise what we call an attitude. In common usage an attitude can denote either a mood of the body or a perspective of the mind, since these are simply two “sides” (body and mind) of the same experience. Attitude may not be everything, but you will probably agree that a strong attitude leaves nothing untouched.

Given this simple schematic of how you create your experience from moment to moment, we can return to that unhappy person who is sure that all of this is happening to him or her. He can’t help it; she doesn’t have a choice – or so they assume. Because unhappy people hold fast to the fallacy of their own powerlessness and innocence when it comes to their unhappiness, they are quick to turn to outside interventions like talk therapy or drug therapy for salvation.

If they truly understood themselves, they would realize that chronic unhappiness is an inside job. Change your cue, change your experience. Focus on what you want and pretty soon you will be living the life you want.

Is It Worth It?

motivation-calculusAre you wondering why you haven’t been able to get going on something that you know needs to be done? Accomplishing the task would no doubt build your confidence and make life easier, but you’re not doing anything about it and you can’t figure out why.

Because I know you so well, let me answer the question.

Goal

Let’s first take a look at your target. Have you taken time to clarify exactly what you want? Is your goal Specific, Measurable, Assigned (to you), Realistic, and Time-framed? If it lacks any of these five attributes of a SMART goal, then your solution is simple. For some help with your goal statement and constructing a strategy for its achievement, check out this video on Time Management.

Maybe your goal is SMART, but you’re stuck anyway. What’s up with that?

Cost

Think of your goal as part of a larger calculus where other factors play against your anticipated reward. What does that mean? Well, one factor working against the value of your goal is how much it will cost. This could be a question of monetary cost, but more often an overlooked cost is in how much time it takes to accomplish your goal.

If the cost factor outweighs the value you’ve attached to your goal, your brain will put on the brakes. Cost is about loss, about trading value away or leaving it behind for the sake of something else (your goal). If you have to give up (or pay) a lot, the value of your goal might not match – preferably it will exceed – how much it costs you. No deal! says your brain.

Risk

Another factor in this calculus is risk, which we can define as the probability of failure. If the risk is too high, which really means way out of proportion to the anticipated value of your goal, your brain will once again shut down the engines. Remember, your brain has the job of keeping you alive by adapting successfully to the challenges and opportunities in your environment. If there’s a good chance that your pursuit of something will fail and end up costing you more than it’s worth, your survival IQ will pull back.

But don’t forget, failure is a valuable teacher. As feedback on your efforts (or lack thereof) it provides important information for adjusting your strategy.

Work

A third and final factor playing against the positive value of your goal is the amount of work or effort it takes to get there. Energy is life, and once again your brain will start to shut down production if your efforts are being thrown into something that’s not worth it. This factor is especially critical in the early stages of learning a new skill, since more work (concentrated focus and persistent practice) is needed to master the how-to mechanics before the benefits of proficiency can be enjoyed.


Here’s an interesting thing about this motivation calculus: While you might think that turning down the three counter-factors (cost, risk, and work) to ‘0’ would result in a passionate commitment to your desired outcome (goal), the complete opposite happens. Research bears this out, but you have only to consult your personal experience to understand that anything which is effortless, risk-free, and no cost to you will hold near-zero motivational value for you as well.

It simply would not be worth much, so why bother?

Your commitment to that thing you know needs to be done, then, has to be measured with more in mind than just the goal itself. How much (time, money, etc.) will it cost? What’s the probability of falling short of the target? And how much work is involved? These counter-values need to be calculated relative to the anticipated value of accomplishment. Not too high, but not too low either.

The key to motivation, reaching your goals, and living the life you really want is in keeping the torsion force among these factors in favor of your preferred outcome. Minimize your cost, manage the risk, make your work as efficient and productive as possible – but never lose your ‘why’.

Keep leaning into green!

Creators and Reactors

obligationsJust as the words “creator” and “reactor” consist of the same letters but in different arrangements, so the difference between happy people and unhappy people is not really about some added or missing secret ingredient. Mentallurgy LifeChange teaches that the real difference between creators, who are generally happier in life, and reactors, who are generally unhappier, is that one takes responsibility for the life he or she wants and the other doesn’t.

Both creators and reactors are faced with the exact same challenge in life, which has to do with what it takes to be effective and successful in the 5 Domains of Spirituality, Health, Relationships, Character, and Lifeplan. (The 5-D Tool in Mentallurgy LifeChange helps you get a sense of your overall life-balance, so you can then focus in on the specific domain(s) where you want to make a change.) Each of these life domains presents you with a set of OBLIGATIONS that must be effectively managed in order to optimize the quality of life in that domain.

When all 5 Domains are optimized and your life is in balance, you are enjoying wellbeing – that holy grail of the human experience.

If you’re not enjoying wellbeing at this moment, we simply have to work the sequence in reverse to find out why. Since wellbeing is a function of overall life-balance; and because overall life-balance is a function of optimization in all five life domains; and because life-domain optimization is the natural outcome of managing your obligations responsibly, then the reason you are not enjoying wellbeing at this moment is very likely centered there.

When your five life domains are optimized, the overall quality of your life (i.e., your wellbeing) can be understood as the synergy of peace (spirituality), vitality (health), love (relationships), virtue (character), and purpose (lifeplan). In the window above, a tree illustrates this synergy in a single image:

tree

Inner peace (roots) nourishes your

vital strength (trunk), which in turn supports

genuine love (branches), which opens out in

positive virtue (leaves), and ultimately produces

a life of creative purpose (fruit).

Wellbeing stands at one pole of a continuum, opposite to an overall very low quality of life called depression. The word depression refers to feeling “pressed down” and stuck in a hole where you lose perspective, feel hopeless, and are tempted to give up.

In fact, Mentallurgy LifeChange teaches that unhappy people find themselves in such a low point of depression because they have given up already.

And this brings us back to those obligations across the 5 Life Domains, to those basic “necessities, requirements, and expectations” (see the window above) that, when managed effectively, optimize the domain in question and contribute to the overall quality of your life.

Take your physical health as an example. You know that there are some basic obligations that you must ‘satisfy’, ‘complete’, ‘accomplish’, and ‘fulfill’ (cf. the window) in order to enjoy a healthy body. Adequate rest, a nutritious diet, aerobic activity, good hygiene, and deep-breathing exercises are among the things that you cannot ‘neglect’, ‘ignore’, ‘avoid’, or ‘put off’ (cf. the window) without suffering the consequences in compromised health (fatigue, dysfunction, illness, disease).

This helps to show that, as we are using the term, an ‘obligation’ is not something that is forced on you, as a heavy burden you must bear.

We could take a tour through all 5 Domains and identify those relatively few things – those investments of attention, action, and effort – that have the effect of elevating your quality of life (if you take care of them) or bringing it down (if you don’t). Where you are on the continuum between wellbeing and depression has everything to do with how you are managing your obligations across the 5 Domains of your life.

When you are taking responsibility for the life you really want, and you are following through consistently with the obligations of wellbeing, then a higher level of life experience opens up to you. The optimal functioning of a life domain provides you with options and possibilities that wouldn’t be available otherwise.

When you are strong and healthy, for instance, you have a lot more choices with regard to what you might physically attempt, experience, and achieve. When you have been neglecting, ignoring, avoiding, and putting off (aka procrastinating on) the basic obligations of physical health, more of your attention, time, and energy will be preoccupied with managing pain and illness.

This higher level of life where you can enjoy more options and possibilities is called OPPORTUNITY, the freedom (and responsibility) to choose the life you really want. As suggested in the window, opportunity and wellbeing are very tightly correlated. An overall high quality of life opens more opportunities to you, and more opportunities serve to enrich the overall quality of your life.

At the other end, we find what happens when you don’t take responsibility for those essential obligations. The downward spin in your quality of life generates a very unproductive effect called URGENCY, a deadly combination of external stress and internal distress that works you up and wears you down – on your way to depression if you’re not careful.

As another example, let’s take one of your important relationships. You have certain obligations in helping to make it function optimally, don’t you? Spending time together, sharing your thoughts and dreams, touching, smiling, and a few other simple investments make all the difference. If you should neglect, ignore, avoid, and put off such investments, what will happen is that your now-dysfunctional relationship demands more of your time, energy, and attention just to keep it from flat-lining.

The urgency of conflict management or of constantly having to seduce your partner back cannot go on for long before it finally breaks down.

In a state of urgency there are no choices, only what has to be done RIGHT NOW, in the final hour and at the last minute, before everything falls into the hole. Some people – and they tend to be the unhappy people mentioned at the beginning – wait for the urgency of their situation to move them to action. They are reactors, even though (ironically) they created the condition of urgency for themselves by refusing to take responsibility in the obligations of wellbeing.

So, which will it be?

A video version of this post is available here.


archery-imageWhether consciously or not, you are constantly checking in with your experience concerning how it makes you feel and what you think it means. How it makes you feel has to do with your nervous state, and therefore primarily with your body. What you think it means is about your narrative frame, and this is the special province of your mind.

You’ll notice that behind the explicit question in each case – of what it means or how it feels – is an implied object: the IT at the center of attention. Mentallurgy names this the cue and it very simply is what you are focusing on at the moment. It’s important to understand that we are not talking about the focus of your physical vision, but the focus of your mental attention – inside the mental theater of your brain.

So this constant checking-in with your experience involves two parallel processes, one translating the object of attention (or your cue) into meaning, and the other into feeling. Each of these distinct paths, upper and lower, has an interest in influencing your behavior by activating a drive to do something about it. Your nervous state generates an urgency to act and seems as if it’s pushing from behind, while your narrative frame clarifies a purpose that has the effect of pulling you toward a goal. A lot of the time these two signals work in cooperation, but sometimes urgency overrides purpose, or vice versa.

Both your body and mind conduct a quick appraisal of the mental object (or cue), concocting a mood and composing a story to match. They both seek agreement, even if one has to persuade the other, and this agreement between your mind and body has the ultimate aim of getting you to behave in a way that’s congruent with your cue. In Mentallurgy LifeChange four mind-body agreements are central to the work of creative change, and each is coded with a color.

Green represents the attitude (or mind-body agreement) of happiness; it brings together a story of hope and a state of desire. Green is ‘go’ and ‘growth’, and its drive moves you closer to what you want. Blue is the attitude of disappointment; it brings together a story of regret and a state of despair. Blue is sad and its drive moves you to let go and step back. Yellow represents the attitude of anxiety; it brings together a story of worry and a state of panic. Yellow is afraid and its drive moves you away from risk and out of danger. Finally, red represents the attitude of frustration; it brings together a story of blame and a state of rage. Red is angry, and its drive moves you against your opponent or the obstacle in your way. Each of these four primary attitudes comes in many shades or volumes, from mild to intense.

Whether your action is something you deliberately choose or seems to happen outside your control, consequences always follow. In rippling fashion, the outcome is not finished when the deed is done, but moves out in waves of influence, mostly undetectable, at least at first. To a degree you cannot fully appreciate, some of these waves crystallize into the shape of your new circumstances. Maybe your next cue will come from there, but it doesn’t have to. You can just as easily recall something from memory or make it up in your imagination. By whatever channel your mental object gets to the screen, the process just described will unfold as predicted.

If you wanted to change the process somehow, so as not to get stuck in disappointment, anxiety, or frustration, how could you do that? Talk therapy works on your frame and the story you’re telling yourself. Drug therapy works on your state and the chemical profile in how you are feeling. Both of these conventional therapies take time, cost money, and come with side-effects.

But you can change everything in an instant, by taking control inside your mental theater and changing the cue you’re focusing on.

Happy Brain

Happy Brain

Why aren’t all rich people happy? Why aren’t all poor people miserable? How can someone without the resources and opportunities at your disposal manage to create the life they really want, while you are waiting around for things to tip your way? We already know it’s not about how wealthy or educated or socially positioned you are. The happiness that supports success in life begins inside you.

Creating the life you want requires clear intention, and some equally clear objectives out in front of you. These two things together – intention and objectives – constitute what is meant by purpose. To live with purpose is to live intentionally moment-to-moment, living your life on purpose, as we say. But it’s more than that: you also need to have goals ahead of you, specific things you want to accomplish, experience, realize, or share.

We hear a lot of talk about having purpose or being ‘purpose driven’, but getting there involves more than completing an assignment or living by someone else’s agenda. Purpose comes from within, which is why it’s so closely connected to happiness. You can follow someone else’s plan, but if your actions don’t flow from your own intention and move you toward goals that you understand and believe in, you’re life isn’t really purposeful – and you can feel the difference!

Purpose isn’t merely a matter of getting something done, of completing a task or reaching your target. If it were only about that, then checking boxes on your to-do list might bring true and lasting fulfillment. But it doesn’t. What’s missing is something Mentallurgy calls creative transcendence, which refers to going beyond (transcending) yourself or the current condition of things, and bringing about (creating) a new reality.

Creative transcendence is perhaps our highest calling as human beings – so high, in fact, that it feels right to speak of it as a “calling,” as if god or destiny is enjoining us to become, achieve, and contribute to a new reality that’s just waiting to be born. When you are involved in something that draws on your deeper talent and potential, that cannot merely be done but must rather flow through you and carries you into an experience of higher truth, beauty, unity, and bliss – that’s what we mean by creative transcendence.

Such moments don’t simply happen to you; instead, they invite you to join up and step in. You need to be ready to release, willing to commit yourself to the creative process. This brings us to the second ingredient in happiness and creating the life you really want: freedom. It won’t be done to you or for you; you have to make a choice to give yourself to it. The life you really want can’t come about until you decide to make it a reality.

Freedom is that ‘open link’ in the chain of causality where you have an opportunity to act on or alter the course of things. It becomes available as you are able to detach yourself sufficiently from the unconscious drives of impulse and reflex which otherwise determine your behavior moment-to-moment. Unhappy people typically feel trapped in their circumstances, when in fact they are caught in this chain of impulse and reflex. They are convinced they have no choice over what’s going on; it would sound ridiculous (and callous) to suggest that they are actually choosing to let it take them. But they are.

What unhappy people often lack is the technical proficiency in skills that could support a freedom for creative transcendence. Think of all the skills you have learned over the years: using the toilet, tying your shoes, eating with utensils; riding a bicycle, operating a computer, driving a car; communicating with other people, cooperating on teams, living in society; making plans, setting goals, following strategies; learning a language, becoming knowledgeable in a variety of subjects, practicing a meditative discipline. The list is endless.

Each one of those skills serves as method and means for giving you a way of managing or accomplishing something. But if you lack the requisite proficiency with a skill, your freedom to be creative in what you do is limited. If you lack proficiency in relationship skills, for example, your time and energy will be consumed in emotional competition, misunderstandings, and breakups. Mentallurgy LifeChange helps you build proficiency in the essential life skills of the Five Domains (spirituality, health, relationships, character, and lifeplan).

The freedom that technical proficiency opens up for you isn’t possible, however, unless you are able to take effective control of those methods and means for getting things done. A fluent violinist enjoys the freedom to be creative only because he has mastered a technique for playing his instrument. Without that control, there would be no freedom. Instead of being free to create an inspiring piece of music, his mental focus and energy would be tied up with managing the mechanics of standing, holding, fingering, and bowing.

So far we have tracked backwards, so to speak, and downwards (as will be clear shortly) from purpose to freedom in creative transcendence, and from freedom to control in technical proficiency. One more step is necessary before the full picture of a happy brain is revealed. You won’t have the mental focus and consistent effort required in learning a skill and taking control unless you are in a state of internal composure.

The best way to understand what we mean is to remember a time when you were anxious, frustrated, or depressed. You likely had an impossible time keeping your focus on the creative opportunity before you; instead you were nervously distracted, fixated on something much less inspiring, or so mentally and physically exhausted that it took all you had merely to hold a thought. That is exactly the opposite of internal composure.

Such a calm presence and unperturbed awareness are the effortless outcome of being securely grounded in reality. There’s no need to hang on to anything (or anyone), no craving for what you may lack, no demand on the world to make you happy. Security in this sense – not the false security that rises and falls with external conditions – is the deepest foundation of a happy life. You might imagine that when you have it, you are rooted in an infinite supply of creative spirit. All that you really need is right here, right now.

You know what? This is a great time to start. The life you really want begins right now!

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