Create your own future
The goal of Mental Training is to increase your quality of life, where an important part is to learn
how to live in the present moment. What we call concentration, engagement, focusing, flow etc.
are different terms for this.
I have at times asked people to which extent they really live. Most of them arrive at numbers
below 10 percent. What stops us from living in the present moment is of course thoughts which
either are about the past or about the future. If you divide your life into the present, the future
and the past, most of us agree upon that the present moment is the most important and that
the past is the least important.
Why do we then think more about the past that about the future?
Well, you say, the past has happened, while the future we know nothing about.
It is a fact that there are researchers specializing in trend analysis and in creating prognosis
statements about the future using extrapolations of past events, but the rate of change in our
society is so high that any monkey very well could be better qualified in foreseeing stock
exchange rates than the so-called experts.
We all want to be efficient, but the negative side of this is that efficiency is still associated with
hard work and spending a lot of energy. 20 some years ago I got the following comment just
before holding a seminar:
- You have come here to tell us how to become more efficient. I can tell you that we are really
fatigued when we come home from our work, so we don't need anybody coming here
demanding us to even more efficient!
This attitude is still held by many of us, despite the fact that the term efficiency officially has
been changed from quantity to quality, from "doing as much as possible" to "doing the right
I will in this section give a couple of examples on how you through Mental Training can learn
how to "work less but smarter" and how to becoming more efficient at the same time using
less energy than before.
Make your own energy budget
Let me introduce the term "Energy Budget", a term we will return to in the section below about
"positive stress". You can make your own energy budget by reflection on your:
1. energy assets - do you have more energy than you spend?
2. energy liabilities - do you lack sufficient energy?
3. energy incomes - what gives you new energy?
4. energy spending - what implies spending of energy?
Energy assets /-liabilities are connected with your personality type whilst energy incomes/-
spending are connected to situations and context. All parts of the energy budget are connected
to each other in that with good energy assets you can more easily handle energy demanding
tasks, problems and difficulties without getting shortage of inner resources that can lead to
different stress reactions and psychosomatic problems.
Mental Training can be used both for increasing your energy assets and incomes and to decrease
energy liabilities and spending. Here follows some examples:
1. Muscular relaxation
The first four weeks of mental training is for learning muscular relaxation. Though this your
general level of tension is lowered, that is the tension we all have day and night and that is
present in all our muscles. It is completely unnecessary, as it both consumes energy and
makes us less efficient. Research in the area of sports has shown that a high general level
of tension reduce the ability for good results, due to the fact that antagonist muscles are
activated all the time, i.e. the muscles normally used to when needed slow down certain
2. Using inner images
In Mental Training you will also learn how to control your body with inner images instead of just
"making an effort". When we do this excessively the result will often be the opposite of what we
desire. If you make an effort to fall asleep you stay awake, making an effort to become calm
makes you more anxious. Making an effort to run faster slows you down, etc. By establishing
positive inner images, and then just letting your body take control, just letting your mind take
subconscious control , you will save a lot of energy.
3. Prioritize in your work and in your life
Above you got the task to decide on your goals in important areas like work, family, health, etc.
Now it is time to clear out less important things from your daily life, in order to be able to
concentrate on what is meaningful and important for you, i.e. concentrate on what will bring you
nearer the goals you have decided upon. One simple exercise is this one:
Goal area: Work, family, health, joy, etc.
Activity: Here you write down as many different things you do during a typical day.
Then you assign points from 1 to 7, where 7 means "very important for helping me towards my
goal", 6-5 "less important", 3 "not important" and 2-1 for things that actually make come farther
from reaching your goal. After this you do two things:
- Try to find ways of getting rid of activities and things having 3 to 1 points.
- Retain and increase the activities that have high points in all of your life areas.
4. The Inner Mental Room
After the four weeks of training muscular relaxation, you continue with mental relaxation, during
which you will be asked to create an inner working space called "the Inner Mental Room" (MR).
MR implies a self-hypnotic state of mind where you will be able to learn how to relax, how to
regain energy after hard work and how to rebuild your energy assets. The Mental Room is also
the base you will be using in work with your self-image, which I will describe in the next section.
You are more competent than (if) you believe you are
A person's self-image constitutes a base blocking or creating success in life. The notion of self-image is a combination of self-esteem, self-confidence, respect for oneself and self-assurance.
Numerous research reports have shown the importance of the self-image for performance levels
in areas like sports, education and professional life. Edgar Borgenhammar and others have also
pointed out the importance of self-assurance and self-confidence in the area of health.
Most of us have resources we never use. Seligman's research about "learned helplessness" has
shown that this is often a result of limitations in our self-image, built up early in our lives. Measurements of the level of self-assurance in pre-school children have shown higher levels than
measurements after a couple of years in school.
We often hear how people regard themselves in negative
- I am no good in maths, or
- I can't handle that
The back side of this coin is that this type of comment often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This leads to negative goal images and negative expectations, which influence the end results.
One gets "proof" of one's insufficiency, and as a consequence one becomes more and more
uncertain whether one really has what it takes to cope with the situations in life. In this way
many of us go through life believing things about our-selves that really are completely untrue.
Therefore, an important question you should ask yourself is:
- What kind of inner resources do I have, that I have not yet discovered?
Through Mental Training
you will embark on an exciting journey of discovery.
The self-image cannot be changed through logical reasoning, it has to be altered from the inside.
By receiving positive information whilst residing in your Inner Mental Room, an inner process will
start that slowly but surely will reconstruct your self-image.
Mental Training suits everybody, and this goes also for Self-image Training. To spend time
developing ones self-image is not egoistic, on the contrary - everyone else around you will
benefit from it. A poor self-image often leads to different forms of asserting oneself like
arrogance, boasting, etc. Trying to show, both oneself and others, how important, big and
clever one is. Another consequence of a poor self-image can be jealousy.
The positive stress
As stress is a normal reaction on being stimulated, stress really is an essential part of life.
Without stress - no life. Selye, the originator of the notion of stress, specifically pointed out
the difference between negative stress (distress) and positive stress (eustress). When we say
that one of the important tasks of Mental Training is to reduce stress, we mean the "negative
Reducing negative stress
Is it possible to reduce stress and how is it done? One way is reducing the experienced level of
stress and increasing the tolerance against stress. Research has repeatedly shown that already
after a couple of weeks of Mental Training this really occurs. This has been verified, among other
things, by observing a reduction of cortizole level (our most common stress hormone). This
reduction is partly caused by the Muscular Relaxation Training, which not only reduces the
general level of tension and the level of experienced stress, but also makes you calm and sure
of yourself. This makes you worry less about the future, at the same time making you perform
your tasks in a calmer and more relaxed way.
From negative to positive stress
What before was negative stress and a strain on body and mind, can by Attitude Training and
Mental Toughness Training be turned into something stimulating and motivating. Let me show
you some examples of this:
- Growth through problems
Most of us use a lot of energy worrying about different situations in the future. With another
attitude the problems of life we encounter would instead increase your energy level. A problem
is actually a job to be
done. Each time we successfully perform, solve a problem, we gain new
experience making us develop and grow. If the meaning of life is continual growing, we should
actually be grateful for the challenges of life.
I invite you to try to each night answer the question:
- Which of the things that have happened today has helped me grow as a person?
After a while you will probably be able to say to yourself - if what happened earlier this day had
happened a year ago, I would probably have felt completely stuck. At that time I was always
afraid that something like this would happen, but today I know I feel more secure and self-confident.
- Trial and error
Regarding future changes you can try to think like this:
- If I fix this I will grow.
You might even look forward to meeting a really challenging situation next week, which will
make you grow even more.
In addition to having such a positive attitude regarding the future, I invite you to afterwards
- What was the positive aspect of what happened?
Work satisfaction and zest for life
In the first section of this article I mentioned that the goal for the Mental Training is to increase
your quality of life, and in this delight and joy have a large part. In the beginning of the seventies
many, among these sportsmen, wanted to use Mental Training to gain success. It became
important for me at that time to look closer at the meaning of the word success.
I soon came to differ between outer and inner success, where the latter mainly was connected
with words like satisfaction, joy, happiness, feeling secure, balance, humor, delight and hope.
These were states of minds or emotional states that I later started to call "quality of life".
Quality of life cannot be purchased!
In the seventies many believed that inner success was a product of the outer. Many chased inner
satisfaction by means of career, money, fame and so on. Research, for example at Harvard's
University in the US, showed though that people who were outwardly successful often said that it
was not wealth and fame they would strive for if they were to relive their lives. Words like
loneliness and abuse were often used in their descriptions of the negative sides of their success.
At the same time there came reports about finding joy in the most unexpected contexts.
One report, which eventually became both a book and a film called "The Town of Joy", was about
the poorest in Calcutta and about the joy the author had experienced whilst living many years
among the citizens of Calcutta.
In summary, this points at the fact that quality of life is something we cannot purchase, it is
something we have to create ourselves.
Decide yourself what quality of life is for you
Despite all this, I still hear people say:"How is it possible for me to be happy, in my lousy financial
situation?" or "I hope something will happen in my life that will make me happy". Haven't you
sometimes said to yourself:"he really hurts me" or
"she really makes me feel bad". Really - no
one can make you feel bad, no one can hurt you, if you yourself do not allow this to happen.
You own your own emotions - no one else. There is accordingly an intermediate link between
what happens in your outer world and in you inner. This opens up infinite possibilities for
deciding yourself what quality of life is for you, and for creating it.
Learn from experience
As was mentioned in the first section, quality of life implies being able to live in the present and
to "let the process become the goal". In order to reach this point, we can get rid of what disturbs
the present by letting the past and the future become part of the process. By selecting earlier
experiences where you have performed well and felt good, and by coupling this to the present
moment, your personal development will be strengthened. You can grow by new experiences,
but you can also grow by using positive experiences you already have and to let yourself have
more of these.
In the film about the professional skater Thomas Gustavsson, Sweden, he shares about how he,
when relaxing in his Inner Mental Room, went back in time and "hooked up to" a positive feeling
from an earlier competition and then coupled it to coming challenges in the Sarajevo and Calgary
Olympic Games. The results of these exercises became three gold and one silver medal.
In the same way you can go back in time and find an experience of feeling happy, and then you
can couple this positive state of mind to your present situation, in the present moment.