''The days that make us happy make us wise.'' John Masefield
You can recycle, clone or transplant your most successful, your happiest moments, to be enjoyed again and again. You can duplicate those good feelings of fun, warmth, achievement, delight, flow and confidence the way you can turn out dozens of cookies using the same cookie cutter. And you can learn from one good experience how to turn on similar feelings in another. The problem is, too many of us forget to use the emotional and mental skills we already have-- the wisdom our Positive experience days have taught us. For example, we start on a project or a trip and gather all the props--pens and paper, tools, skis and poles, or shampoo and suitcases--but we forget to unpack valuable recollections and the winning behaviors we used in related situations, behaviors we could use again. These were the times when we wrote the perfect report, skied the ideal run, beheld the most beautiful sunset. We can learn how to resurrect and apply our recollections of the feelings and behaviors we used in those peak times to inspire enthusiasm or echo even greater successes in new, different situations too.
Each time we achieve such a rare state of satisfaction or pleasure, it is a freshly minted coin we can spend over and over, without making all the effort it took initially. I call the mind/body strategy used to re-activate these feelings a ''macro.''
A macro is like an elevator in your mind. It zooms you to the peak of your potential when you push just one simple memory button, rather than require you to take a hundred single steps to get there. A macro is a simple, abbreviated command that causes a long sequence of commands to be completed. It works like a conditioned reflex. For example, a virtuoso violinist can play notes faster than his mind can actually direct his fingers to the proper positions. He has developed a kind of macro reflex so he merely thinks '' note sequence X Y Z,'' and his muscles go to work automatically to reflexively perform that sequence.
Computer software works like a macro. It allows you to give a name or letter or some other code to groups of words or a long sequence of commands, so the whole sequence doesn't have to be typed-in each time it's used. For example, with the macro I created for ''The Happiness Response,'' I enter only five keystrokes rather than the 27 keystrokes it would normally take to produce the complete phrase and underline it. Why waste all that time and energy re-creating the wheel?
The macro concept has exciting potential when applied to human behaviors, thinking, reflexes, performance, habits, skill development, creativity, stress, coping responses, self esteem, competition, learning, attention, motivation, social interaction and the like.
The Macro Is Like Magic
When I first realized the power of the macro, it astounded me. I just sat silently, enjoying a heartwarming feeling, grinning and glowing, as though I had just stolen fire from Mount Olympus. It means that you don't have to start from scratch, emotionally and mentally, each time you experience a new event. You can take your best past moments that apply, plus your best past response patterns that fit, and process the new experience through those recalled mental/physical/emotional states. Your positive experience memories act as template software.
For example, you have to speak before a group of 200 strangers. You are nervous. It's natural, even though you've been looking forward to the presentation. To relax, you refer to your positive experience memory bank and recall teaching checkers to your six-year-old, or explaining to an elder family member how to operate a microwave oven or VCR. You remember their fascination and enthusiasm at the time. As you prepare to walk before this dignified group of 200, you relive the comfortable, nurturing feelings of fun you had together, how appreciated you felt. By the time you reach the podium, you feel comfortable, warm, caring, open--a very good way for a speaker to come across.
You used your positive experience memories as mental-emotional template software, and processed your new ongoing experience of public speaking through it, just as you would use spread-sheet software to process data in a computer. You didn't have to start at ground zero to turn on the right feelings. You had a target, an emotional filter pattern and a road map of neural circuitry already in place. You merely set the wheels in motion and plugged the old positive experience memories into the new context. It's a kind of mental/emotional transplant.
This is not a new concept. Duplication of this sort harks back to the earliest life forms. DNA, the double helix molecule that constitutes the alphabet of genetic structure for all living things, creates new cells and new life using the same template principle.
You can widen the scope of your macros by blending several positive experience memories together. Or add positive experiences you've observed in others, watched on TV, or fantasized for yourself. Then the mix is yours to use for easier, more rewarding days.
IN 1978, I invented a ski biofeedback device that used the performance patterns of experts to teach beginners how to ski more skillfully. I concentrated on the key to easy skiing, which is learning where and when to shift your weight. An experienced skier glides almost effortlessly down an intermediate slope, enjoying taking advantage of fine-tuned, automatically coordinated reflexes. A beginner expends at least ten times the effort, un-necessarily positioning hips and toes, working and sweating all the way down, staying rigid as a stick figure, taking five to twenty times as long, repeatedly finding themselves falling on their faces or behinds.
The ski biofeedback device I developed senses pressure changes from weight shifts and translates them into sounds. I recorded the sounds of expert skiers to use as a movement feedback audio template. Then I had beginners listen to them, and practice mimicking the same sounds as they learned the proper skiing movements indoors. They weren't told how to move their hips or knees or legs. The students were shown the total movement and told to match the sound template. Then they went out to the slopes.
The training worked. Once the beginners relaxed, they were able to use the weight shifting pattern they got from the audio feedback to ski effectively much sooner than average beginners. Even the instructors at the slope wanted the prototype devices for themselves; they said the instrumentation would prevent their falling into bad habits.
Keep a Good Thing Going
"Consciousness of our powers augments them." Vauvenargues,
Wouldn't it be nice if we had an emotional counterpart that could remind us to stay in a good mood, to stay in the groove and keep the right patterns of emotional activity going? An important goal of this book is to teach you to automatically monitor and optimize your emotional, mental and physical states--in effect to make more use of your ''emotional-mental macro software'' inner resources-- your emotional intelligence.
Dan was a corporate executive supervising 30 people. He suffered from free floating hostility, in certain situations, ready to explode at any moment an excuse came along. He was also very much afflicted with time urgency, always in a hurry to finish what he was doing so he could move on to the next task he could hurry through.
This added up to a big problem going to department stores and using credit cards. It takes a few minutes more to pay with plastic. He was so impatient himself, he assumed that if he took the time in a line to pay with a card, or even if he didn't have the exact change ready, the people behind him and the cashier at the cash register would become angry, since that's what he thought he'd do. His problem had worsened to the point where he'd developed agoraphobic, panic disorder symptoms.
Yet Dan was a wonderful manager at work-- firm, confident, running a smooth but happy ship. He was fully capable of giving instructions to all 30 of his subordinates, including reprimands and terminations. I suggested he try "cloning" his state of mind-- his self confidence and assertiveness-- when he was at the department store. The strategy worked, and his emotional transplant helped him reach the point where he now enjoys going shopping.... with plastic.
Emerson said, "So much of our time is preparation, so much is routine, that the pith of each man's genius contracts itself to a very few hours." We must make the most of our own best hours, our own best experiences by using those moments as tools for rising to new challenges. Of course, we think of using these templates in competition or creativity or in anxiety situations, but we can also use them to grow, to have fun, or repeat pleasures. Every time we have a hearty laugh, we draw on our wealth of humor experiences--the muscles and reflexes we use, the pacing and intonation of our heartiest laughs.
Comedians Eddie Murphy, Carol Burnett, and Phyllis Diller all have trademark laughs, and so do you. Pay attention to the ingredients of your laughter when you feel funniest, happiest, when you feel delighted, cheerful. or when you playfully let down your hair. Try to repeat them. Modulate different parts of them. Experiment with the components of your laugh to boost its effectiveness in new situations. It's another tool you can use to magnify good moments.
Good habits can be derived from macros. Seize the opportunities as they speed by. For example, if you wake up one morning feeling particularly energetic and cheerful, take a moment to review the sequence of actions and feelings of that morning. Try to clone the key ingredients of that happy time and adopt them as habits for waking up every morning.
You can use emotional positive experience macros as replacements for negative reactions. Keep a ready library of strong positive experience macros at your emotional fingertips, ready to be activated as needed. We all have them, waiting to be recognized and used.
Learn where your strengths are and use them, putting your best assets forward, accepting that even the greatest people have average and weak aspects. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ''A man is like a bit of Labrador spar, which has no luster as you turn it in your hand, until you come to a particular angle; then it shows deep and beautiful colors. Each man has his special Talent, and the mastery of Successful men consists in adroitly keeping themselves where and when that turn shall be oftenest to be practiced...''
Visualization--Shortcut to Good Feelings
Denver sports psychologist and olympic coach Richard Suinn, shows athletes how to win their events by using visualization. They relax and mentally practice their routine, actually feeling all the sensations of their best performance. Jack Nicklaus, Chris Evert and Dwight Stones have used what Dr. Suinn calls VMBR (Visual Motor Behavior Rehearsal). You can use it to prepare for any goal you want to do well.
Prepare for your high performance, success visualization exercise by describing aloud and in every detail the scene you want to produce or reproduce. Next, combine the muscle tense-relax and deep breathing exercises described in chapter 6. Then switch on the scene in your mind, making it as realistic as possible. ''You feel you are actually re-living it, you are really there.'' After about a minute, turn off the scene and go back to the relaxation for a minute or two. Then return to the imagery scene again. Alternate between imagery and relaxation about four or five times. Alternate between images of successful or peak performance and images of simply going through the moves or stages comfortably, coping effectively.
Underline your positive experiences by anchoring them so you can call them up as macros quickly and easily. When you have an experience, or when you dig up a memory, develop a simple movement or muscle contraction. Do something specific, like touching your forefinger to your thumb, knee or nose, or repeat a special word silently to yourself. Repeat this simple action as an anchor to evoke a Positive experience macro reflex that helps you recall the winning or high performance feelings, images, sensations and thoughts.
Napoleon said, ''The reason I beat the Australians is they did not know the value of five minutes.'' Don't let that be said of you. Recognize that you constantly have opportunities for positive experiences, even ten second ones, that might reverberate throughout the rest of your life. Search your positive experience library and look at each new experience as a teacher and source of macros that allow you to be your own mentor. Take a tighter grip on your positive experiences.
We let so much of what we learn pass through our hands. Recycle your positive experiences as though they were a natural resource you can't afford to waste.
END CHAPTER 8
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