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« The "Feeling Good" Experiment | Main | "Standing Out" »
Tuesday
Jul252017

The Most Important Thing I've Ever Written?

I published this in this blog in 2006, though I’d written it years before. Of all the things I’ve written this is the one that has had, and continues to have, the biggest influence on my own life.

Feeling Good

One way to improve your general ability to work and keep going is to monitor how good you are feeling. Procrastination, stress, overwhelm, burn out are all very closely linked and it is difficult to be feeling good when one is suffering from any or all of these! However the reverse applies too. It is difficult to be suffering from stress, overwhelm, burn out and procrastination when you are feeling good. So monitoring your overall state of mind can have a very beneficial result.

It’s very easy to do this. Let’s try it now. Stop reading for a second and ask yourself “How good am I feeling now?” Answer by giving a mark out of 10. If you are feeling tense and upset you might answer “3”. If you are feeling on top of the world you might answer “8” or even higher. Try it now. What was your answer? Write it down on a piece of paper.

If you did this in the way I just suggested, a couple of questions may have occurred to you. One might be what I mean by “good”. I quite deliberately didn’t give you any definition of what “good” meant. The reason is that you will discover what “good” means for you by the act of asking “How good do I feel?” The more you ask the question the more you will begin to realise what your mind is looking for when it provides your answer. You will also notice which things in your life tend to affect the score. So don’t worry about the definition of “good”. You will find the right definition for you by practising the exercise.

Another question you may have asked yourself is how much you should think about the answer. Should you spend some time deliberating it? No, the best answer is the one you give straight off the top of your head. You may find it easier to give the answer as “4 or 5” rather than as a single figure.

Now, this is important: once you have given your answer do not try to make yourself feel better. Just carry on observing your feelings by regularly asking yourself “How good do I feel?” This will make you more aware of your state of mind and that in itself will tend to have the effect of increasing the score.

Ask yourself the question again now. Write the answer down again. Is it the same as the first time or has it changed? You may find that your score has increased already. If it has, that is simply because you have become more aware. Don’t worry if it hasn’t!

This technique is a very subtle one, but also very powerful. It takes time but you will find if you keep using it your score will slowly rise. If you started out feeling 3 or 4 most of the time, you may find that it rises within a few weeks until you are feeling 6 or 7 most of the time. Bear in mind that when this happens you have altered your entire mental sense of well-being. This will inevitably affect many areas of your life. I cured myself of a fear of flying (caused by being in a helicopter crash) by using this technique. During my first flight for over eight years I was able to maintain a score of 10 throughout the entire flight, including take-off and landing. Since then I’ve flown all over the place. 

Reader Comments (17)

That is fascinating. I am extremely well-read in the field of, for example, academic and clinical hypnosis (even if I say so myself), and I have never heard of anything quite like this. It's reminiscent of the mental-noting technique in the Sayadaw tradition of vipassana meditation, but even there there is no notion, as far as I know, of a spontaneous improvement in mood from this kind of thing.

I will genuinely be trying this tonight.

May I ask you how specifically it helped you overcome your fear of helicopter flying?
July 25, 2017 at 22:49 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Williams
Interesting, when you said to use a scale out of 10, I immediately thought of the Comparative Pain Scale http://www.pinterest.com/pin/132574782753082689/

After many years of using this scale to assess migraine pain, the numbers are very definite things for me, they each have a very clear meaning. There is a very clear difference (for me at least) between a 4 and a 5, or between a 7 and an 8, for example.

I could immediately see how this would translate into an assessment of stress / overwhelm / etc., and a number popped into my head that just felt right.

So, to that point, the idea here made a lot of sense.

But then the idea of assessing this every day, and watching the number get better over time, just didn't seem to resonate with me. The idea of getting the pain down to zero didn't seem like the right approach. The idea of your post is not to reduce or eliminate pain, but to establish a stronger sense of well-being, which is not the same thing.

That itself is a very interesting observation! It gives me the idea of looking for a Comparative Wellness Scale -- I wonder if anyone pain doctors / therapists have thought to use such a thing, instead of a Pain Scale. Might turn the whole practice of pain management on its head!
July 26, 2017 at 4:11 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
Martin Williams:

<< May I ask you how specifically it helped you overcome your fear of helicopter flying? >>

It was a helicopter crash that caused it but the result was a generalised fear of flying - and of heights too.

The important thing is that one does NOT target any specific complaint. The technique is applied to one's life as a whole as described in the article. Everything that causes one to feel less than good will get swept up by this. It's also very important not to make any attempt to make oneself feel good. The best technique when feeling stressed is just to ask oneself the question more often.
July 26, 2017 at 10:52 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Seraphim:

<< The idea of your post is not to reduce or eliminate pain, but to establish a stronger sense of well-being, which is not the same thing. >>

I prefer "feeling good" to "feeling well". It's perfectly possible not to be feeling well but still to be feeling good. In fact it's perfectly possible to be feeling a considerable amount of pain and still be feeling good. I've had plenty of practice in the difference between well and good recently!

There's also a strong moral component to this. If one has had a blazing row with someone, It's literally impossible to feel good. All sots of defence mechanisms come into play which often make things worse. This technique is the fastest way I know of getting the situation back to normal with all fences mended.
July 26, 2017 at 11:05 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
How often do you recommend doing this daily?
July 26, 2017 at 20:33 | Unregistered CommenterYoyorast
Yoyorast:

<< How often do you recommend doing this daily? >>

There's no set interval. As a general rule the more stressed you feel the more often you need to do it.
July 26, 2017 at 21:31 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Mark, may I ask how you think this process works to improve mood, and how you came upon it?

I have been using it spasmodically since last night, and it's interesting, though I'm not sure yet what effect it's had.
July 27, 2017 at 0:42 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Williams
Martin Williams:

<< May I ask how you think this process works to improve mood >>

It places one's awareness on how one is feeling. It's pretty well established that awareness leads to improvement. In other words if you become aware that your score is a 3, there is a natural tendency for the score to rise. If you do this often your mind becomes more and more aware of the factors that lead to a low or a high score, and again there is a natural tendency to seek out the good.

<< and how you came upon it? >>

Sometime in the 80s or 90s I read about the use of scoring in relaxing strained muscles in sports therapy and had the idea of applying it to psychological states as well.

<< I have been using it spasmodically since last night, and it's interesting, though I'm not sure yet what effect it's had. >>

I can't stress enough that this is not just a short-term pick-me-up. When I started working with this seriously I was usually around a 3 or a 4. That is to say that I was in the sort of mildly depressive state that a large section of the population is in. It took me several months before I hit a 10, and quite a while beyond that before 10 became my normal state. As you can imagine that represented a major revolution in my life.

It gets better than that though because when you reach a steady 10 your mind's concept of what a 10 means starts to expand.
July 27, 2017 at 11:13 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
"If you do this often your mind becomes more and more aware of the factors that lead to a low or a high score"

Ever since trying this, this has happened to me, I just instantly become aware of things that are troubling me and need attention. If I fix them, the score will probably rise and rise.
July 27, 2017 at 11:20 | Unregistered CommenterYoyorast
Yoyorast:

<< If I fix them, the score will probably rise and rise.>>

"Now, this is important: once you have given your answer do not try to make yourself feel better. Just carry on observing your feelings by regularly asking yourself “How good do I feel?” This will make you more aware of your state of mind and that in itself will tend to have the effect of increasing the score."
July 27, 2017 at 11:53 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I like this post!
Interesting my feeling good scale is directly linked to the number of works task on the todo list.
<100 - great
100 - 150 not so great
150 - 200 worried
200 + headless chicken.
300 = happened once, lets not go there.
Rest of life all good, so this tells me work was the first think that popped into my head when thinking about the 1-10 scale.
July 27, 2017 at 14:02 | Unregistered CommenterMrBacklog
Great article, Mark! This reminds me of a similar thing which I used to do. Whenever I had trouble focusing or getting started at work, I would ask myself how I was feeling on a scale of 1-10, and then I would resolve to focus completely on work for twice as many minutes.

So if I felt like a 4, I would set a timer for 8 minutes. Then when the timer goes off, I would ask myself again how I felt. If I felt like a 5, I would set the next timer for 10 minutes. I usually started at a 1 or a 2 at the beginning of the day, so i would only have to resolve to work for 2 or 4 minutes before checking in again.

The net effect was that when I was feeling like procrastinating, I checked in with myself more often, and I found that by checking in more often, I was effectively regulating my emotions more. After reading your article, I think I need to return to that system to get a little more focus at the beginning of my day. Thanks for the post!
July 27, 2017 at 16:04 | Unregistered Commenterjarlord
Both EFT-Tapping and EMDR-Eye Movement therapies use self-rating. You rate the strength of the emotion before the exercise, then again after. With EFT, I found focusing on the emotion enough to give it a number helped me focus on it for the exercise. I've only researched EMDR, not tried it.
July 27, 2017 at 18:31 | Registered CommenterCricket
I've benefitted from this variation: http://www.nowgetcreative.com/CJExercises/feelnow.htm
July 30, 2017 at 10:22 | Unregistered Commentermichael
michael:

<< I've benefitted from this variation: http://www.nowgetcreative.com/CJExercises/feelnow.htm >>

It sounds a very good exercise, but I wouldn't describe it as a variation of mine. For a start, you have to identify exactly what you are feeling and write down any significant results. Secondly it takes some time to do and requires a period of peace and quiet to do effectively.

None of that applies to mine. It can be done any time of the day or night and takes two seconds (I timed it!)
July 30, 2017 at 11:42 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
"This will make you more aware of your state of mind and that in itself will tend to have the effect of increasing the score"

Why is this?

Also, I've noticed that when I listen to music, it increases to really high levels. God bless music!
July 30, 2017 at 19:46 | Unregistered CommenterYoyorast
Late last year, I took a course that went very deeply into this idea. It was extremely valuable and profound, and I highly recommend it. It is called "Radical Self-Acceptance," offered by Joey Lott.

You might ask how it is possible to go "deeply" into something this simple. Mark gives a clue above when he writes, "This technique is a very subtle one, but also very powerful. It takes time but you will find if you keep using it your score will slowly rise."

The Radical Self-Acceptance course strips it down to an even more subtle level. Below "How good do I feel?" is "How do I feel?" Below that is "What am I experiencing?" and under that is "What am I doing to resist my experience?" If you ponder any of those for a minute or so, you will probably catch a glimpse of how much is going on down there and how subtly it is shifting and changing.

You could explore those things by yourself satisfactorily, but by following Joey Lott's course, you have the benefit of a seasoned guide who can show you things it might have taken you years to notice on your own. In particular, it is very, very tempting to try and fix what you are noticing, to make it a whole new thing to resist. But as Mark writes, "Now, this is important: once you have given your answer do not try to make yourself feel better. Just carry on observing your feelings..." Joey's course treads this very same path and relentlessly deconstructs layer upon layer of things that lead us to suffer and fight ourselves in all aspects of life. It is amazing how much can be unearthed through this simple inquiry. It will not fix you or your task list, but it will show you how much you are burning yourself up trying to fix things, and it will draw you in to where you just might not need to fix anything.

I don't have any affiliation with Joey or his course, and I won't receive any kind of payment if anyone here inquires or signs up. I am sharing this because it is one of the most valuable things I've ever done, and the segue Mark has created by writing this post is too fortuitous to ignore! If a few people benefit from this, then I will have given something back to this community that I've been visiting and learning from since (I think) 2011.

More information is available at http://joeylott.com/services/ under the heading "Radical Self-Acceptance Immersion Program." Don't worry about giving Joey your email address. He has had mine for a long time now and has never spammed me. I hope this provides some benefit to some of the readers here.
July 31, 2017 at 6:11 | Unregistered CommenterBernie

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