“Several years back I started my own company in Cambridge. Capitalising on the areas’ status as Europe’s “top tech’ hub” and the availability of local talent and business expertise, things have gone from strength to strength. I have financial backing and a full order book. I also have a great family, good friends and colleagues. I earn well and am respected by my peers.  I’m ‘living the dream’.  So why do I feel unfulfilled?”

As a Cambridge-based business consultancy focused on supporting local growth, we’ve heard the above comment (or a variation thereof) on many occasions. Indeed, many of us will have been through the same ‘navel-gazing’ exercise ourselves. 

As a confirmed cynic / realist (delete as appropriate), my default position is that ‘that’s just how things are…who am I to expect such a level of personal satisfaction… etc.’

However, a project recently undertaken for one of ourclients provided the impetus and time to seriously consider what’s may bepreventing people from feeling truly happy. 

In doing some reading around the subject, I came across ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. Tolle is known as a ‘bestselling author and renowned spiritual guide’.  Whereas the latter descriptor jars somewhat with my own views and beliefs (see above: cynic/ realist), I found his hypotheses interesting and began to put some of his ideas into action. I can’t claim a ‘Road to Damascus’ type epiphany as a result but I am seeing some positive signs in my self-management and ability to detach myself from negative and (essentially non-productive) thinking.  My take on and understanding of Tolle’s approach follows – for your consideration, comment and critique: 

Contrary to the image, the general consensus is that we wantbetter lives, inner peace and ‘enlightenment’. Tolle’s conjecture is that all of this is available to us if we ‘live inthe present’, thereby limiting / avoiding “pain”. In order to achieve this, weneed to look at how we control our minds. 

We spend most of our time living in the past or thinking about the future.  We’re either reminiscing / regretting past actions or planning for actions to come (often with a degree of trepidation). We spend most of our time living in the past or thinking about the future.  We’re either reminiscing / regretting past actions or planning for actions to come (often with a degree of trepidation). 

Ever put off a major work task – it’s too big, too complex,it requires too much time….? Did you worry about the amount of work you’d need to do orthe fact that you’d already missed opportunities to make a start? The resultantparalysis is a common outcome. Living in the NOW though, you can break the task down into aseries of (manageable) current issues that you can focus on and resolve. 

Tolle definespain as the mind’s inner resistance to external factors beyond its control.This resistance drives a negative emotion (pain). 

Have you ever become really angry in a disagreement?  What was the real impact of that anger? Were you thinking clearly / acting rationally? The likely answer is No! In fact, your anger almost certainly added to yourfrustration and increased your pain.  But, the pain is real – so what can we do about it?

The ego (or “Happiness Police”) is the auto pilot thatexercises control over your thoughts and actions – without your knowledge. Think of a discussion / argument where (with the benefit of hindsight) you mayhave overreacted. (Go on – try…)

Your ego had taken control – this is its “raison d’être”.   If you’ve ever fallen out with your partnerover something essentially trivial (and who hasn’t?), it’s likely to have beenyour ego asserting itself to ensure it remains the most dominant and importantpart of your mind.

The mind is responsible for pain – it constantly brings upthe past (regrets) and plans for the future (anxiety). You can’t actually affect either of these so you’re experiencing pain for pain’s sake.

Tolle suggests that we need to reduce the power / impact ofthe mind and proposes that to achieve this we develop a greater awareness ofand focus on, the body.  My next blogwill continue this theme and explore further tactics, issues and implicationsof “living in the present…”

Chris Taylor