The secret to flourishing from dawn until dusk
There is a reasonably well known experiment that many schools do to demonstrate to their students how unkind words can have a huge impact on someone, even if they don’t appear to be outwardly damaged by them. The children are shown two identical apples. They are invited to say kind words to just one of them. They tell the apple how beautiful and juicy it looks, how it must taste delicious and that they are lucky indeed to have the chance to talk to it and show it love. At the same time, they are told to be unkind to the other apple. They shun it and tell it how horrible it is and how no-one would want to eat it or be anywhere near it. How it is worthless and stupid.
A few days later, the teacher cuts into both apples. Lo, and behold! The apple shown kindness is juicy and green inside with no blemishes or darker areas. The one that was told it was worthless is covered in bruises and discoloured areas. It looks damaged and ready for the compost heap.
So what has happened? Was it the impact of all those mean words that has caused the second apple to become so damaged? Food for thought indeed. In reality, the teacher has secretly and deliberately dropped the ‘worthless’ apple several times ahead of the initial class and the insides have slowly become discoloured as a result. However, the lesson is a highly visible and sobering one that teaches young people about the value of kind words and compassion.
I believe I can fly
Loving Your Life, by Grant Soosalu, examines this exact area, although he applies it to loving and valuing yourself. Just like the poor, bullied apple, the more you tell yourself you’re worthless, useless or whatever accusations you see fit to throw out there, the more damaged you will become inside. Henry Ford once said, “whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, either way you’re right.” Doubting yourself and your skills will undermine your chances to succeed and flourish.
Becoming your own loudest cheerleader has many other benefits besides self -confidence. You don’t need to go over the top and become arrogant, but a quiet, solid belief in yourself will allow you to create more freely and enjoy exploring what you have to offer the world. Having this self-belief often leads to increased levels of achievement and competencies, as you have freed yourself up to ‘have a go’ at something that’s maybe new to you or outside of your comfort zone.
In what is known as the ‘NLP Success Spiral’, these types of strong connections help you to make the links between believing you can do something, actually managing to do it well and then using the associated feelings of pride in your accomplishment to feed back into your self-confidence and belief so that you can do something else, just as successfully.
By recognising and using this process to take on challenging activities, you can build up the part of your mind that automatically generates positive belief in your own abilities and the combination of characteristics that make you uniquely you.
I am what I am
There is a reason why so many popular songs contain self-affirming messages as ‘I am what I am’ from the glorious Broadway musical, La Cage aux Folles. Diva queens including Shirley Bassey and Gloria Gaynor have released versions of this powerful song to public acclaim and we all know how to sing along to at least the opening line with appropriate jazz hands and theatrical panache.
Exploration 21 embraces this exciting message too, as it delves into what it means to accept yourself. For many, true self-acceptance is considered to be the pinnacle of complete happiness and the basis for excellent emotional wellbeing. Yet, so many of us stumble at this crucial point in our journey and become far too eager to point out our flaws than enjoy our talents and strengths. Perhaps this is because we don’t really know what accepting ourselves actually means, right at its core.
Self-acceptance is not akin to showing off about how awesome you are to all and sundry. In fact, many who do this can have the lowest self-acceptance levels of anyone, which they try to hide underneath public declarations of their so-called brilliance. Genuinely accepting who you are, warts and all, is not an easy or rapid process. It takes a lot of courage and careful thought to face up to who you are and to decide that it’s not so bad after all.
There are many ways to do this, but Soosalu suggests starting with the following in his Loving Your Life book:
- Celebrate your strengths and what you do well
- Stop judging yourself and instead nurture yourself
- Feel happiness in your heart for who you are
- Accept that you have done the best you can so far
- Make peace with all parts of yourself
- Become curious about any compulsions or negative aspects of yourself that you have had challenges with accepting in the past
- Focus on learning and enjoying the journey of increasing your knowledge and skills.
From start to finish
Every new day that you open your eyes to discover is a gift and a chance to start afresh and see what you can accomplish. As you emerge from sleep, your mind is as open as it can be and early morning is the perfect time to direct your mood and your behaviour patterns to map out how the rest of the day will go. Even before you get out of bed, talk to yourself in the way that you would like other people to talk, repeating positive messages of self-belief and hope.
One effective technique to direct your thoughts in the right direction at the start of the day is building the arts of savouring and appreciation into your morning routine. Think of three things that you are grateful for in your life right now. These could be the people you love, the goals you are working towards or the things that you have around you to make you happy and fulfilled. Start by holding the three things in your heart to remember how much you love them.
Next, move to your gut ‘brain’ and shift your thinking towards how much you enjoy the physical sensations of holding, seeing and experiencing each thing. Finally, use your head brain to think logically about what it is that makes each thing so important to you. Going through this routine will make you use each ‘brain’ to think positively before you start considering how to approach the rest of your agenda. It sets you off on the right footing for a positive 24 hours ahead.
Later on, as you prepare to go to bed at the end of the day, look back at what you have achieved and how it has helped you flourish and grow as a person. Gather together everything that you have learned and, once again, go through it all using your three ‘brains’ in turn to consider them from the three different points of view: head, heart and gut. Making sense of your day like this will also help your body to let go of any unresolved questions or tension and so result in a better quality of sleep. All excellent ways to help support you in your quest to flourish and thrive.
Go forth and flourish!
Flourishing is something that every living being has in common as the ultimate point in staying alive. However, it is not always something that ends up at the top of our priority list as we end up having to face the challenges that life throws at us first. Learning how to actively ‘flourish’ will really help you understand what it means to truly love your life.
 Source: https://smallactbigimpact.com/for-educators/elementary-school-resources-k-5/the-bruised-apple-lesson-k-12/. Accessed 28 February 2021
 Source: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/978-whether-you-think-you-can-or-you-think-you-can-t–you-re. Accessed 28 February 2021
 Source: ‘Loving Your Life’, by Grant Soosalu, 2015, p134
 Source: ‘Loving Your Life’, by Grant Soosalu, 2015, p152
 Source: ‘Loving Your Life’, by Grant Soosalu, 2015, p164