Mark Harrison

This blog post was written by Mark Harrison.

How to Change Your Life

how to change your life

We are often told that change is uncomfortable and difficult, that it inevitably involves pain, and that to change your life is to struggle and fight against the status quo. But there is another way. Change can be gentle, spontaneous and natural – effortless, even. With the right approach, big changes can occur without the upheavals we might normally associate with such shifts.

You create your own experience of life

It seems to be a rule of nature that similar things conglomerate. People from a similar social or cultural background are drawn together by a shared worldview; the rich and famous socialize within their own circle; similar scientific ideas which seem to arise at around the same time. The familiar saying, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ arises from this observation.

Why You Need Direction in Life

direction in life

“Do not suffer life to stagnate; it will grow muddy for want of motion: commit yourself again to the current of the world.” – Samuel Johnson

Motion, or change, is the one constant in life.

We are always moving, whether it be forwards, backwards or in circles. Most of us would, I imagine, want to be moving forward – achieving something, becoming fitter, stronger, wealthier, more skillful, happier. Yet so many of us get stuck in a rut, going over the same ground like a mouse in a wheel.

On Taking Risks and Gambling

taking risks

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the races with some friends. I’m not a huge fan of horse racing, but someone was kind enough to invite me and so I went along for some food, some company and to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon. As always, people had various tips and ‘sure things’ and so, just for fun, I placed three bets. Not knowing much about horses, I tend not to follow the races very closely, but placing the bets made watching the races a bit more exciting. The first horse I bet on came fifth, and the second one didn’t seem to be doing very well either for most of the race, but with half a lap to go, the horse shot to the front of the pack and won by a nose. For a short while I was getting excited and started thinking of the money I could win if the third horse came in. I watched the third race with bated breath and, lo and behold, the nag came in well behind. So I went home with nothing, and that, of course, is the nature of gambling.

Some years ago, I made another gamble. I moved to a new country and walked away from my old life – I left behind my job, my friends, my house and my parents. I started again. People have sometimes asked me why I took the risk – wasn’t it too much of a gamble? I have often thought about this, and it seems to me that there is an essential difference between taking a risk and gambling.

How to Gain Clarity in Your Life

gain clarity

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that most people (‘the mass of men’) live lives of quiet desperation. Most of us probably wouldn’t describe our daily experience as ‘desperation,’ but there may be an uncomfortable feeling that we are drifting along, not having a clear aim, not having achieved what we dreamed about in the past and yet not knowing quite why.

Usually, this feeling is not painful enough to drive us into making any real changes, so the danger is that we can drift along like this indefinitely. Many people who have made significant advances in life have had periods of intense discomfort which have forced them to go inside, reflect and become more aware.

Five Myths About Change

change myths

Change is so ubiquitous and pervasive that we ought to be familiar with it, and yet we continually fail to respond well to change. Often, this is a result of our not having thought carefully about the nature of change, and our tendency to accept common beliefs about it.

Myth #1: You can change other people, given time.

Reality: Other people cannot be forced to change under any circumstances. To try to change another person by force is a waste of time and energy. A wise man once observed that you shouldn’t try to teach a pig how to sing: it doesn’t get you anywhere and it annoys the pig.

Taking Inspired Action

inspired action

Never confuse motion with action. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Have you watched a cat who is trying to catch something tasty for dinner? As a kid, I often used to watch our cat in the garden. She would find a spot on the ground where she could lie hidden under some foliage and would sit there, motionless, for a very long time. She was clearly very alert, however, and the slightest sound or movement would elicit a slight but sharp turn of the head. As soon as she saw something which she thought might make a tasty snack, she would lock onto it, wait until it came close enough, and then – at just the right moment – suddenly pounce. She usually got her prey, and I don’t think the bird or mouse ever saw what was coming.

We have been taught, for the most part, that we need to work hard to get anywhere in life. Nothing comes easy, right? Success comes from persistence, determination, blood, sweat and tears. Part of this may well be true – clarity about where we are heading and persistence are important. But I don’t believe that a great deal of effort is needed to get where we want to be. It’s more about the kind of action we take. Call it ‘working smart.’ Our cat knew all about it. I like the phrase ‘inspired action’ since this really gets to the heart of the matter. We need do something: it’s no use sitting around and expecting results to just happen. But we need to do the right thing. When we take just the right action at just the right time, amazing things can happen. We can learn a lot from the way our cat went about things.

The Subconscious Mind: Insights from Viktor Frankl

subconscious mind

Viktor Frankl’s short book, Man’s Search for Meaning, has been described as ‘among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud.’ He begins with an account of his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and then develops the insights from these experiences into a remarkable synthesis.

The book has been the inspiration for many other works, including Stephen Covey’s famous ‘Seven Habits.’ Frankl’s work has a great deal to say about many aspects of life. His insights on the role of the subconscious are particularly interesting.

Staying Motivated: The Watercourse Way

staying motivated

‘Giving up smoking is easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times’ ~ Mark Twain

So your goal is to get up at 4am every morning, go for a 5km run and take a cold shower before meditating and writing a chapter of your new novel? I can’t say I’ve ever tried to do anything like this, but I imagine it must be hard to stay motivated.

For me, sticking to a routine like this would involve brute force – a never-ending battle of willpower over the desire to stay in bed. But this would go against my fundamental belief that life is not a battle. To me, life is not like climbing a mountain – it’s more of a downhill thing. Alan Watts, a great proponent of a Taoist view of life, called it ‘the watercourse way.’ Water will always flow downhill, of course, and yet its power is undeniable. So how can we apply the watercourse way to getting things done?

How to Build the Confidence Habit

build confidence habit

“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

We are all beset with doubts sometimes. Even the most self-assured and successful people can be unsure of themselves. Some people are clearly more confident than others, though. To what extent this is ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ is unclear, though I suspect that ‘nurture’ has a lot to do with it. I’ve seen my own confidence wax and wane over the years, and external factors have certainly played a part. Some signs that you might be lacking somewhat in confidence are:

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