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Lifeshifting came out of an article I wrote for Esquire in 1996 when I interviewed 6 people who had made radical career shifts. I spoke to a lawyer who had become a worker on London Underground, a physiotherapist who became a dive instructor, a criminal who became a disc jockey, a footballer who became an artist and an IT specialist who became a hard access war cameraman. I realised that UPSHIFTING ie. the career, was dead, or at least dying. I knew from my own time living on peanuts that DOWNSHIFTING ie. dropping out was pretty miserable around Christmas, especially with kiddies. So that left this new kind of living where you found exactly what you wanted to do by LIFESHIFTING ie. changing your life so that it centres around what you want to do rather than around a way to make money. The idea is you do YOUR THING during your primetime and earn money at other times, or from your chosen interest. But what really appealed to me, and still does, is that multiple lifeshifting offers a practical application, or one of them, of POLYMATHY. Call it really practical polymathy.We are lead to believe that all 'top jobs' are occupied by smart people. But really smart people don't have jobs.I mean- why would they? Of course at times they (ah the mythical 'they') work very hard. But this work is like the work you do on a hobby that really absorbs you.

And those 'really smart' people don't often seem so very smart when you meet them, rather they appear enthusiastic.

I've also worked away at an idea I call TIMESHIFTING. This is very exciting as an idea but a little slippery to grasp but really it is changing your subjective perception of time passing by increasing the amount of learning in your life. It also includes making better use of that time by organising it around ways that suit your life pattern rather than a 'one size suits all' time of time management system.

There is material on LIFESHIFTING and TIMESHIFTING posted below.


Introduction to lifeshifting

In a career we pursue, or pursued, something that is a close enough match to what we really want to do. The reward is a salary and benefits and a decent pension. And spare time. And the freedom to act conscientiously. Unfortunately none of these things really apply now. Jobs are no longer for life. Benefits are often nugatory. Average salaries, relative to inflation have gone down over the last ten years.   Increasingly we are asked by large institutions to do things that are amoral if not immoral.  We suspect every corporation of being a potential Enron.

But let’s say you bite the bullet and decide to tough it out. Someone has to be the CEO so why not you? But as you get higher up the career ladder you begin to notice something worrying. There are costs involved in being promoted. The institution feels it can make greater and greater demands. They make you travel, they ask you to move. Every two years your children get to know a new set of friends. Or not, as the case may be. You see that the only people really enjoying themselves in this kind of work culture are the robotic and the truly obsessive. The robotic cleave to ultra-conformity in everything. They make no waves but then they have no fun either. Besides you’re not a robot. The obsessive can be great people. Often they make things work, are inspiring, the very backbone of a successful enterprise. But you know they go home at nine and crash out on front of the TV with a double vodka, that they long ago gave up trying to manage children or marriage, that their idea of a holiday is a period of uninterrupted time to catch up on work.

The sane often end up compromising. To save their marriage, soul, sense of dignity they cease being as ambitious as they once were. They stop seeking promotion. And start looking forward to early retirement.

Many people figured this out in about 1960. Hence Downshifting. Living simply. Back to nature. Dropping out.

Downshifting seems like the perfect solution. You just absent yourself from all the nasty stuff in life and accept you have to take a pay cut. But you’re moving away from something, not towards something. Meaning is discovered by moving towards things, activities, people. Moving away may be the start. But it is not sustainable. Look at how many people who dropped out in the 60s and 70s and actually stayed out.

Actually, dropping out is a form of greed. You want better than the community you were born into can provide so you isolate yourself and hoard for yourself. Human beings are sociable animals. They live in communities- whether those communities are physically close or not. To drop out and isolate yourself from all others is a little like dropping out from being human.

Besides, it never really works. Downshifting puts the cart before the horse. The horse is work, the cart is a satisfying life. If you create a picture of what a satisfying life should be and then work to maintain that picture things are the wrong way round. Your work has to have meaning in itself.

Downshifting is trying to solve a problem by simply doing the opposite of what appears to be the problem. It’s a kneejerk reaction not a considered solution.

Now there is Lifeshifting.  Lifeshifting means making a quantum leap of a career change to put the work that means most to you at the center of your life.

The work.

Humans love work, they need work, but not boring work and certainly not meaningless work. Humans are workers. But their work. Not someone else’s.

What is work? It is making something. It is making something happen. It is making the world a better place. It is making yourself a better person. It is solving problems. To argue that humans don’t need work is profoundly unnatural. Without meaningful work the human spirit perishes. To argue that all work is a kind of play is false. Play stops when you cease being amused. Being amused is not the reward of work. You can work with a playful attitude and enjoy your work more, but the playfulness is a tool to make your work better. Work is its own reward. The fruits of work (money, satisfaction, respect from others) are secondary. If we don’t do meaningful work we feel bad.

The work that means most to you.

Humans are meaning centred beings. Our motivation is a complex dynamic thing, more complex than Maslow’s ladder of selves would have us believe[…].  Underpinning all motivation is meaning. The woman who lifts a saloon car off her infant cannot do the same thing when the car is parked on her own foot. She means less to herself than her child does. That’s how complicated it gets. Meaning is tricky, but it is meaning that motivates us not money, sex, food, big houses, fast cars. In the absence of meaning we may pursue these things, but they cannot supply meaning.

Meaning is tricky. One person may find raising racing pigeons the most meaningful thing in life. For someone else racing pigeons are about as meaningless as it gets. Meaning is diverse. There’s no one great meaning that fits all. We have to find our own. Or build it up by amalgamating things, which by experience we know we like doing.

What do you want to have said about you at the end of your life? That you had a fast car and a big house? Or that you left this world a better place? That people were grateful to have known you? Our own small world is a better place when we do work we find meaningful. The big world is just a lot of little worlds joined together. We leave this world a better place by finding and doing work that we ourselves find meaningful.

This has to emphasized. Just because our culture depicts certain jobs as more meaningful than others (doctor beats poker player, policeman beats builder, teacher beats just about everyone) it doesn’t mean that they are more meaningful to you. In fact I have met and interviewed at length a physiotherapist who only found meaningful work when he lifeshifted to become a diving instructor. One of the con-tricks of received opinion is that some work is a priori more meaningful than other work. NOT TRUE. It is we who give meaning to our work, not the other way around. You have to find your own meaning in this world- otherwise life would be just too damn easy.

Paradoxically, by doing work that is meaningful to ourselves we imbue it with passion, love and sincerity- all of which may bring substantial financial and material rewards. Success, huge success, very often follows meaningful work. But success is like the shadow- move towards it and it moves away. The sun is work that is meaningful. Move towards that and the shadow follows.

Work that means most to you at the center of your life.

If you allocate only your spare time to doing work you find meaningful it may never flourish. When I worked as a teacher (a job I found meaningless by the way) and did aikido, the Japanese martial art, in my spare time I knew deep down I would never be any good, I would never reach my goal of a blackbelt and my desire to do martial arts was always compromised by having to give it so little time. I should also add that a lot of the time I didn’t particularly enjoy aikido but at the time it was the most meaningful thing for me. I was disgusted by my lack of physical fitness, my inability to fight, to be tough as I perceived former generations as having been. But it wasn’t at the center of my life.

The single most important change I have ever made was putting work that had meaning for me at the center, not the edge, of my life. In this case it was doing a full time course for a year with the Tokyo Riot Police and becoming not just a blackbelt but also gaining an instructor's license at Yoshinkan aikido. After that writing books did not seem such a big thing after all.



lifeshifting #1 - meaning mountain

We go to meaning mountain to find out the most meaningful work for us to do. I think of it like a mountain peak sticking out of the mist somewhere ahead of me. You can’t see the base, just the summit glittering in the sun.

How do we get there? How do you find Meaning Mountain?

Viktor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning and survivor of five years in nazi concentration camps, wrote: “Life asks us a question. Every moment you are alive you could say you are being asked a question- how you live is the answer.”

In any situation there are choices. Some have more meaning than others. By making these microdecisions you will be lead towards Meaning Mountain.

Paths of Purpose

Sometimes we are burdened by the idea that if only we could find the one true purpose of our lives then we would be a torrent of energy and efficiency and ensuing satisfaction. People spend their lives searching for “their real purpose”. Others deride them and say there is no such thing.

Actually there are many Paths of Purpose up Meaning Mountain- if you can forgive the alliteration.

Imagine you were born in very different circumstances- say in a tribe of headhunters on the Amazon river- your path of purpose would include activities very different though meaning mountain would be the same. You would get meaning from experiencing loving others, from experiencing wonder, from creativity and from taking a choice in your attitude to adversity. Meaning Mountain is UNIVERSAL. Paths of purpose are LOCAL, relative to you and your current situation.

There are various methods touted for finding “your one true purpose”. Some involve listing activities until you find one that makes you cry. Try it if you like- but the best result you will get will be only one of several potential paths of purpose.

Often it is best to take the one nearest, the one you have been trained for, the one that suits your talents and then run with it.

A path of purpose is simply there to get us up meaning mountain. Frankl was an academic and a writer- so his path of purpose was to write a book. A filmmaker might make a film.

Getting up the Mountain

Progress along a Path of Purpose leads to choices. Each choice has either a higher or lower meaning content. For example I may be studying to get a new trade. I can either coast along consuming the energy of the teacher and my classmates until I am qualified, or do my level best to produce energy and enthusiasm and be the best in the class. Life asks you a question- are you a parasite or a provider? It is more meaningful to be a provider since the ultimate destination of parasitism is doing nothing, non-existence, death.

Meaningful means exactly what it says: not useless, justifiable. We may be unconventional or conventional in how we justify what is meaningful to us.

Making things is more meaningful than breaking things.

Creation is better than destruction.

Celebration is better than condemnation.

Flow activities are better than activities that make you watch the clock

Humour is better than sourness.

Follow your Path of Purpose. Go to meaning mountain and find your meanings. Find what you like doing, what you think is worth doing- trust yourself, trust your dreams.



lifeshifting #2 - grow your passion into a money making venture

Money can arrive, like Manna, directly from the clouds above.

Mostly however, it chooses these four channels.

It arrives through:



Passive Income Stream- You are the Employer

Passive Income Stream- Automated ie. From book royalties, internet advertising, referral sales, rent.

You can lifeshift into anyone of these financial styles, though the more radical the lifeshift the more you will tend towards self-employment and generating passive income streams.

Follow the dream or follow the money

Your dream work, the work that is most meaningful to you, might come with a wage attached. If you want to be a commercial diver, bush pilot, tour guide- you will find work that is reasonably, sometimes very well,paid.

But many people have dreams that at first sight seem deeply unremunerative.

Richard Noble was salesman for the steel company GKN. His dream was enormous- become the fastest man on earth. This was a dream that would cost millions, you would think, and certainly not earn him anything.

Noble pursued his lifeshift relentlessly. He knew that if he looked like a contender others would back him. So he spent $2000 on an old jet engine, bolted it to a homemade chassis, got permission to use an airfield for a day, crashed- but in the process established himself as being in the business of record breaking.

He then set about finding sponsors. Finally he built and drove the car that beat the world record.

After that he was assured of making money from books, talks, and consulting. Instead he went on to break his own record and be the first to smash the sound barrier on land- for a budget of 10% of the £25 Million budgeted by race car team Maclaren.

He used the experience gained in these high risk ventures to develop a new light aircraft and to lecture to companies on his methods and experiences.

Noble’s book ‘Thrust’ is a great inspirational read and full of great ideas for potential lifeshift money makers. Noble’s talent is to build a team of lifeshifters- who see the project as the meaningful  work in their lives. By harnessing the incredible power of lifeshifting he achieves wonders.

He is a great example of how money follows the dream.

Peter Canning is a paramedic who lifeshifted from being a speech writer on health matters. He went from talking to acting. But he is employed by a company- one that he doesn’t always see eye to eye with. However the rewards of saving people’s lives out there on the street outweighs the straitjacket of conventional employment.

Frank Nasre started his carpet business as a self-employed salesman and shop manager. He was good- and innovative- the first to realize that under appreciated Afghan carpets suited the wood floors many Australians have. His breakthrough was when he realized “There are better salesmen out there than me.” He employed them and was able to devote his time to searching out locations for a new shop. He had gone from self-employed to employer.

Pablo lifeshifted from being a hedgefund manager to being an artist living in Ibiza. His art makes very little money- right now- so he lives by doing translation of business documents for one company. The work is easy and he can do it when he wants. His primetime is occupied by painting and employment serves this.

Peter Nelson does what he did as a child- build treehouses. He lifeshifted into his dream profession twenty years ago and now is both self-employed, is an employer as well as enjoying passive income streams from books and videos. Nelson has commandeered the niche (invented it you might say) of master treehouse builder. It sounds crazy- but last year Alnwick Castle- where the Harry Potter films are shot- paid $7million to build a huge treehouse that is also a 120 person restaurant. With lifeshifting anything can happen!

There are several basic principles involved with solving the money question. One is: what you may hate, others may pay to do.

Mike Treibold lifeshifted from an office worker to professional dinosaur hunter. Much of fossil preparation involves meticulous work chipping away the substrate of residual stone. He nearly exhausted himself doing this alone until he realized people were only too keen to volunteer just to be near anything to do with dinosaurs and to learn the trade. And then he found some were better at preparing dinosaur bones than he was.

No Money on the Horizon

At first your lifeshift may look like a non-starter when it comes to making money. Top aikido teacher Robert Mustard spent years in Japan learning his skills. He had no idea that he would one day do it for a living- for him it was just what he loved to do. He returned to Canada with a 6th Dan and a towering reputation. Over time he built a good living  from teaching at his own dojo and at seminars.

One of my favourite lifeshifters is Peter Vido, the obsessive scythe enthusiast and co-author of “The Scythe Book” that has run to several editions and is still very much in print twenty years after being published. It would be hard to find a more obscure lifeshift  niche than scything (for those in the dark it’s a long handled sickle for cutting grass and corn) but Vido’s fascination comes over both in his book, website and instructional videos. He also runs seminars to teach scything (it’s all in the sharpness of the blade).

Long Tail Lifeshifters

The scythe man illustrates the so called Long Tail phenomenon where obscure subjects can be remunerative through the internet’s ability to link up enthusiasts from all over the world. The long tail can be put to work by lifeshifters worldwide.

There may be nobody in your town interested in finding new rock art in the Libyan desert. But Hungarian Lifeshifter Andras Zboray has built a business, FJ expeditions that links everyone in the world interested in Saharan rock art. Through his extensive website, CDs and translations Zboray attracts clients for his expeditions to search for new art- mining the long tail to make a good living in his chosen work.

By harnessing the power of the long tail almost any lifeshift can be made remunerative.

The stages of making money from an interest are:

1)Build your competence in your chosen lifeshift- not difficult because it’s your dream work, what you find most meaningful.

2) Establish a website with an information heavy content. Providing real value with updates in the form of news, reviews and useful blog material.

3) Publish a book on publicized through the website. Produce dvds, courses, talks etc.

4) organize events that combine travel with teaching people your lifeshift skill.

5)Combine travel or tourism with your interest- courses in exotic locations that trade on the value added of being a holiday as well as a course.

I have followed this method with the successful Explorer School where my Lifeshift interest in exploration has been built into a business providing courses where people can learn exploration skills.

Enjoy MINTS- Money Is Not The Solution

Except it’s hard to because it very often is. You want to do a course, it costs money. If you had money you could lifeshift couldn’t you? You want to write a book, if you had a nest egg you could take time off and concentrate and write that book. But you don’t have money. So you can’t lifeshift.

Don’t get me wrong. Money is the ultimate supertool, one of the best combination spanners in the workchest. With money you achieve so much, so quickly. Everyone needs money.

But a solution is never universal. First you need to define the problem. When you know the problem you can address it. Perhaps you will need money, but perhaps not.

You want to go rock climbing- you could pay a lot of money for an adventure holiday or you could join a club and pay virtually nothing to learn.

You want to get the spare time to write- if you only you could afford a two week break at a special hotel you know you could do it. Quit the demanding job and get all the spare time you need working evenings to support yourself. Clive Cussler quit his high power advertising job to work in a divestore while he wrote Raise the Titanic.

You need a top camera to be a professional- if only you had the money to buy it you could make that lifeshift. Again you can always find a group, club or institution that owns such equipment, you can also meet people who can loan you their gear through such an institution, you can even offer to review such equipment and then use it while you have the chance. When I worked as a professional photographer I identified the cheapest pro-camera and borrowed it from a friend. The solution wasn’t money- it was people.

Money can be a snake, a motivator. The story goes: a man was dying of thirst in the desert. He collapsed and was about to expire when he saw a snake. full of fear he ran and ran...until he reached a well and his life was saved. After he had drunk his fill he saw the snake again and began to curse it. But the snake reminded him that he had saved his life...Money is needed to do certain things like travel and live. But it can get you to some interesting places and doing interesting things. Alright, get a job, earn that money, quit the job, use it for what you need it for. It’s that easy.

No question crops up more often than “so how do you pay the bills?” When you are doing, full time, what you want to do you have no status riding on your job. You couldn’t care less if you’re a dustbin man or a doctor. Ranulph Fiennes, the world famous explorer, was once seriously considering becoming a waiter at Claridges Hotel- the tips were so big he’d be able to take enough time off to make expeditions for half the year.

So the short answer to the money question is that you make a bare living in the time left over from doing your passionate interest. You can save money and live off that, or you can work odd hours- any hours as long as they do not infringe on your primetime.

The longer answer has to address how you make your lifeshift into your breadwinner. There are many ways to do this and we've examined some here. But first its important to think about money in a different way.

What usually happens is that people don’t really know how to make money from their passion so they restrain themselves from going full blown obsess ional which is sometimes all that you need to do before you start making money from it.

There are also transferable jobs which prey on any interest and make it a commercial viability. These are writing, video making both entertainment and instructional, sponsorship, equipment sales, photography, courses and seminars, lectures, tourism and hospitality.

When people want to change their lives they are usually looking for a way to also make a living. This is, in 90% of cases, what derails a lifeshift. In the beginning you cannot hope, expect or need to make your living from what you love. It’s the first commandment of lifeshifting. If you try to make money too soon from what you love then you run the risk of poisoning your interest. Yet at the same time, I believe it is possible to make money out of any interest given enough time and energy spent really mastering that interest. With Lifeshifting to make money you have to locate your interest in as high an earning a market as possible. For example, I once tried to make money selling a homebrew product I had invented. But the homebrew market as a whole, in the UK, is only worth about £2 million. The chance of making a good living is limited. You can therefore relocate your interest to either the teaching and educational market or the entertainment market. Remember if you can’t sell candles, sell candle making kits. Once you have a business that sells information and learning you can then piggyback product sales onto that. Ray Mears, as well as making TV shows, runs survival courses. After the course is over you have the chance to buy some of the excellent gear you have used. The sales of equipment naturally complement the courses.


lifeshifting #3 - you are a multiple self

The study of clinical cases of multiple personality gives a fascinating insight into our own minds. In some cases one ‘personality’ actually has a different eyesight prescription than another- yet both inhabit the same body! Our bodies follow our minds in the case of identity it seems.

 An actor employs the tricks of multiple personality as his trade. Using a few words that have meaning for him, maybe an image or two, a few mannerisms- he is able to create a whole character- and, most importantly, know how that character should act at any moment.

Character is rather more malleable than we might suspect. Only because the word is associated with its other meaning ‘to be reliable and steadfast’ do we assume it is something that is deep and inalienable.

Life teaches us what roles or characters work or not. These become our stock in trade- but we don’t notice because most of the time we are not observing ourselves.

Observe the next time you emerge from a bad mood. One minute the world looks grey, the next you find it inconceivable you could have thought such a thing. And it IS inconceivable because now you inhabit a different self for whom the negative mood doesn’t exist.

When people consume alcohol their inhibitory processes are subdued. Very often a suppressed ‘self’ comes to the fore- someone more aggressive or more friendly- who rarely sees the light of day due to the need to conform socially. Indeed the pressure to get drunk may be driven by the need of this self to get some ‘air-time’.

I went for several years in my 20s achieving very few of my goals. In fact the only success I had was to complete a long mountain walk of 700km. I now know I was at the mercy of my different selves- what one started another would gleefully abandon. The advice of many self-help books to write and review goals, repeat goals, say prayers asking for a certain result are all attempts to keep the ‘self’ that wants success in the driving seat.

Instead of these methods, which may repel more practical people, a more substantial way to stay in the right ‘self’ is to construct an external reality that keeps you on track. It is a more elaborate version of persuading someone to lock your study door for a set period to force yourself to revise for an exam.


Observe your many selves.

Observe yourself as you do different activities. Observe the kind of likes and dislikes that seem to crop up while doing that thing. Different selves have different likes. I have a self I rather ambitiously call ‘the moneymaker’ who likes nothing better than mixing with all kinds of people picking up new ideas for businesses. Another, who surfaces after a few hours of fiction writing is ‘recluse’ who doesn’t even want to leave the apartment, is almost fearful of what is out on the street. If ‘recluse’ is forced outside and made to do heavy exercise- like running up a hillside- he can flip into ‘mountain man’ a self who likes nothing better than grueling physical exertion.

All change begins with observation. Observe your different selves without judging them. You may find odd things- for example I discovered that when I was in 'the moneymaker’ self I made fast instant decisions about my writing that ‘recluse’ took ages and ages over. So a different self than usual actually helped the process.

Another self I have ‘dreamer’- who likes nothing better than to stretch out on a couch and daydream or lucid dream- is very good at solving difficult problems that ‘the moneymaker’ might try to bulldoze his way through.

We’ve all made the complaint, “I’m both extravert and introvert. It depends who I’m with.” Psychology tests try and get around this by positing a gradated scale of extroversion. But this misses the real point. Sometimes, in some situations, you are a real extrovert. At other times a shrinking violet. The answer is that different selves are in control at different times.

Controlling these selves starts with observation, rather than a desire ‘to change’. Only through observation do we learn what are effective triggers for flipping from one self to another. When we manage to flip into the best self for the job we find tasks become so much easier. For example, because I was overawed by the martial arts environment in Japan I was in ‘student’ mode a lot of the time. But actually to do something physical it was far better to be ‘mountain man’- but I didn’t really realize that until nearly the end of my year of intensive training.

In accelerated learning programs people are tested to find their preferred ‘learning style’- but each self has a different style. One may learn best from books, another from being shown and another from audio materials. But if you are ‘tested’ you may find yourself stuck with a learning style that suits only one self. The key is to focus more on which self will be doing the learning- when that is settled the preferred learning style will be obvious.

In lifeshifting you devise external means to keep you in the right self until the job you want to do is finished. From multiple personality studies we can benefit from looking at the case of Sue and Anne, two personalities who co-existed in one woman. Sue was outgoing and energetic and naughty. Anne was quite, shy and lacked stamina. Sue’s favourite game was going on hugely long walks and then deserting Anne halfway- leaving the poor, shy and exhausted girl to make her way home.

How many of us are enthused by one self into signing up, for, say a language course, only to be deserted for a more mundane self who can’t be bothered?

Only with an external structure that prevents the departure of the necessary self (using a uniform, codes of behaviour, timetables, keeping your schedule clear) or by physically restraining that self (Victor Hugo used to instruct his servant to lock him in naked until he had finished his day’s writing) can you ensure that you actually make progress.


Problems of the many

The self that you engage for getting things done may be type a, aggressive and physical. What if the thing you want to get done requires a relaxed and calm attitude? I remember seeing a rugby player literally try and punch his way up a rock face- of course he fell off- rock climbing  requires a delicate measured approach not a bull-like energy. I found I could achieve physical things like walking a  700km long distance walk but kept failing with non-physical things like completing a book. Only through imitating the circumstances of a long walk – set time for walking so many hours a day- did I begin to make progress writing. I also wrote at high energy times- just like walking, rather than at low energy times- as I had done previously. This actually didn’t benefit the quality of my writing, but it did mean I got it done.

Lifeshifting is about welding those many selves into something usable, workable, even if it is not as smooth as you would have hoped.

As Mark Twain wrote, “There are many ways down a river- if you succeed, then it follows you took the right way- whatever your detractors might say later.”



lifeshifting #4 - smoking self

NLP is a popular self-help method that uses conditioning to achieve results. You are taught to associate pleasurable images with what you want and painful images with what you don’t want.

And this would work every time if we were unitary selves.

I know, because I tried to use it to cure myself of smoking. It worked for three months then I lapsed. Why, because the self that thought smoking was cool and indicative of a fully lived life, made an unwelcome reappearance. He did battle with the other self that had associated smoking with cancer, addiction and bad people. And after a few drinks, smoker won.

Think about it: you would never have even started smoking if there wasn’t one self in there that thought it was a cool idea.

Only when I at long last came to terms with the fact that I was many different selves, and that I would need a strategy that worked with all of them did I combat smoking and successfully quit.

Lifeshifting is about long term real change that works. NLP is a quick fix. If you haven’t identified your many selves and integrated them to some extent reprogramming yourself will fail. Why do you think people become addicted to self-help seminars and courses, sometimes spending thousands? Because those courses quieten and diminish the other ‘rebel’ selves. In the end they become addicted to that condition- but of course never actually achieve anything else.

You are your ‘rebel’ self, just as much as you are your ‘good’ self. In fact it makes more sense to say, “You are the self that observes all these disparate selves”.

To hear that observing self you have to stop identifying with your outer selves. You have to take a step back.

I quit smoking when this observing self realized ‘the smoker’ in me only appeared at certain times and places. Always the evening, always when there was alcohol and no food. So I avoided those situations as much as I could. This observing self also concluded that the reflection “You’re at risk now” served to flip me from ‘smoker’ to ‘mr sensible’. Screaming to yourself “don’t smoke- you’ll die”- doesn’t work because you know ONE cigarette won’t make you die- and of course you kid yourself you only want one. You need a ‘self-flipping’ reflection that engages your inner ‘non-smoker’ rather than fights your inner ‘smoker.’ Mr Sensible had strategies such as ordering chips and h’ors doevres so as to be able to eat rather than smoke.

If I started to think “just one cigarette won’t hurt” I knew this was only one of many selves talking. It was no more ‘the real me’ than Mr Sensible was. I could then take it less seriously and ignore the voice.

I had been hypnotized, tried patches, nicotine gum and scared myself silly talking to doctors. For fifteen years it never worked. When I worked out I was a multiple self, like a family with a black sheep, then I was on my way. As long as I didn’t pretend the black sheep didn’t exist I was fine. It has been two years now and, touchwood, so far it has worked.

One of the gravest falsehoods perpetrated by modern western culture is the myth of the single self. We have passports, id cards, driving licenses and bank accounts and they all have the same name on them. Unless you write under several pseudonyms or have several aliases you are doomed to be one person. Our whole culture underpins this notion yet it is blatantly untrue- we are not one we are many. The insights of multiple personality psychology provide a useful metaphor for us all. We house many different selves and a moment’s reflection will reveal it. One of our selves might like smoking, the rest hate it. You might have a self who is keen on sport and physical exertion, yet there is another who just loves to curl up with a book and abhors the idea of moving even to get a drink of water. One self might be interested in poetry and art another might revel in business and making money. And all this selves jostle and rapidly succeed one another throughout the day. I know from martial arts that if I’m in physical identity I will find it so much easier to do throws and falls than if I’m in withdrawn and feeling my bookish self.Sometime you can start in one self and be jerked into another- the following topic- and the results can be dramatic- suddenly you’re in the groove and really humming. Some of your selves may be good at driving and some not- it can be as simple as that when it comes to whether you have an accident or not.

The first exercise of this step is simply to accept the idea you are many, not one. Then simply observe these different selves in action, how often they crop up and what they are good at and not good at. By recognizing your multiple selfhood you will understand why lifeshifting is so essential. Perhaps like me you’ll need to do several lifeshifts just to satisfy all those inner selves, or, if careful, you will find one activity that has something for all of your main selves. This is the important lesson- when you choose the thing you want to do understand there will be days when a rogue self will nag away and say ‘this just isn’t you’. You can ignore it as the main body of selves approved this lifeshift – otherwise it wouldn’t have occurred to you in the first place. These nagging doubts can be easily controlled when you know they are not ‘the real you’ but a minority self among many others.



lifeshifting #5 - niche world

We live in a world that rewards specialists and deplores generalists. This acts as a subtle message to avoid your mutiple self. “Jack of all trades and master of none.” Deep down, though, everyone is proud of multiple competence. No one really wants to be a nerdy rocket scientist who can’t change a car tyre. Richard Feynman, possibly the greatest physicist of the late 20thcentury (he revolutionised quantum electro dynamics (QED), got a nobel prize and found out why the space shuttle exploded) was also an expert drummer, prided himself on being both a dab hand at picking locks and picking up women, even developing his own pick-up method he tested in bars.(For the actual technique go to the blogroll list at the side and look for 'richard feynman's pick-up technique')

Feynman had a niche, a main job, physics- but he honoured his multiple nature with lots of other dissimilar activities. Lifeshifting aims to find you a niche, but not one that precludes other selves.

A friend of mine, Paul, is a highly placed executive in a multinational company based in Paris. He is also a keen martial artist and musician. But though he has told me about his interest in martial arts it’s a secret from those at work. He knows they will think he isn’t giving everything to the job- it pays to be thought a workaholic even if it isn’t true. Jobs suck in that way.





Lifeshifting #6 - what is your alienation level?

What’s your A level? How Alienated are you? The more alienated you are from the surroundings you live in the harder it will be to make a living in those surroundings. One solution is to move, or find a subculture to thrive in. Another is to just try and see the glass as half full rather than half empty.

If you want to make money it has been observed that the more alienated you are the harder it is to make money. This follows commonsense rules: the more you accept society and the world as it is, the bigger your potential market. If you refuse to deal with people who work for multinationals then your market is smaller. Which isn’t to say it is impossible to succeed- there are ‘cool’ subcultures that influence the mainstream- the thing is, you’ll feel like a sell out when you do make that cross-over. Or maybe you’ll be less alienated by then.

I know what I’m talking about because I’ve gone from a rather abiding alienation and rejection of most activity on this planet to a growing wonder and awe at the sheer diversity and energy of life manifested everywhere by human beings. That sheer abundance of activity and ingenuity I try to now make my reference point. It has, in the main, replaced my earlier dismay at all the ‘blunders’ mankind makes.

Rose tinted spectacles- not really. We all perceive reality through some kind of framework or lens if you prefer. You chose what kind of framework that is. Since life is dynamic and ongoing it is a matter of time frame for many judgements. A building site looks a mess if you have a time frame of a few weeks- it is simply part of a beautiful building if that time frame expands to a few years.

We don’t make the world with our thoughts. Rather we interpret what is there and base our action on that interpretation. And people react to us depending on how we see them and think about them.

By changing the way you see the world you can change how the world impacts on you and your influence on others- even if its just by being more cheerful and upbeat.

This is what happens when your A level is reduced. People want to spend more time with you, they trust you better and that makes doing business much much easier. Also you like them rather than resent them.

Of course having a high A level you'll feel a whole lot cooler hanging out with all the existentialists and grunge musicians etc. It wears off after a while though.