Paul McKenna’s techniques to ‘bounce back stronger’

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The more flexible you are when you hit a challenge, the more likely it is that you will control your life and get what you want. In other words, it’s a good strategy to generate more choices in any given situation. We can think about this another way: The only way you can control your destiny is to be more flexible than your environment.

As a hypnotist, if a patient has seven ways of resisting my attempts to help them change, I need eight ways to convince them. The metaphor I often use is when a reed is blowing in the wind, if it’s too stiff, it will snap, but if it’s flexible, then it survives by adapting to the environment.

One of the most important distinctions human beings have over animals is our imagination. All the great creative geniuses throughout history made use of their imaginations in ways that others didn’t, combined with perseverance.

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything”. He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive”. Edison made more than 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. But when a reporter asked: “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

In other words, in Edison’s mind each “failure” was a step in the direction of success. Remember, many of history’s great successes failed or were continually rejected. The difference between the successes and the failures was the winners just kept going until they succeeded. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates’ first business failed.

Actor Jim Carrey used to be homeless. Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times. Jay-Z couldn’t get signed to any record labels.The Beatles were turned down by every major record company. J K Rowling was rejected by publishers over and over again. Colonel Sanders’ chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before he sold it to his first restaurant.

One of the best techniques that has helped me solve problems over the years is a set of questions that come from the field of decision theory.These six questions are brilliant at helping you to think outside the box when solving problems.

Problem-solving questions in order to get these questions to work for you, simply choose a problem, concern or worry and answer each question as honestly as you can. The first question is sometimes a challenge for people because they are in the mindset of the problem and the questions are designed to help you step out of that mindset.

So, for example, if your problem is, “I can’t lose weight,” asking yourself what’s positive about the problem, often brings up nothing at all, at first.

However, when you start thinking outside of the problem, the potential answer could be perhaps that you are not undernourished. Remember, the idea is not necessarily to solve the problem immediately but to get yourself thinking about it differently.

  • What are three positive things about this problem?
  • What’s not yet the way you want it?
  • What are you willing to do to get the result you want?
  • What are you willing to stop doing to get the result you want?
  • How can you motivate yourself and even take pleasure in doing what needs to be done to get the result you want?
  • What’s something you can do today to get things moving in the right direction?

Role model step-in hypnosis is often described as a “state of deep focus” and I find that a helpful way to think about it. I often ask people to relax and focus, or imagine things going the way they want them to – for example, giving a great presentation, or living life free of the craving for cigarettes.

Sometimes, when I work with corporations, they are concerned about me doing hypnosis, because they have preconceived ideas that it’s some kind of mind control. Personally, I believe anything that gives you more control over your mind is a good thing.

However, when there is any concern about hypnosis, I simply remind people that there are many different processes in which a form of hypnosis is present.

Any time you focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others, it is a form of hypnosis – when you’re watching TV, you forget about the carpet, the curtains and the rest of the room. In meditation, you’re focusing on a mantra or your breathing, and you forget about the room you are in or the people that may be around you.

Here’s all you need to do to give yourself a whole new insight into your problems and begin generating positive solutions:

Think of somebody who is good at solving problems and sorting things out. The person you choose can be real, or a character from a story. Over the years, I’ve seen people choose everyone from Sherlock Holmes to Elon Musk – from Bill Gates to their Aunt Gladys.

2 Imagine stepping into your role model and take a few moments to imagine yourself seeing the world through your problem-solver’s eyes.

3 While still looking through their eyes, think about a problem you have and consider it from this point of view. How would they handle it? What advice would they give you about it? What do they think is the best course of action?

4 Now act on any insights that this has given you!

As a therapist, I’m reluctant to label people. There is an emphasis these days on giving people a label at school or by the psychological or psychiatric community.

Some people are told they are “not artistic”. Other people are told that they are “depressive” or “compulsive”.

The obsession with labelling people is partly down to the culture of the psychiatric community: if they can describe a disorder, then it’s possible to prescribe a drug for it.

The problem is that depression is now one of the fastest-growing diseases in the world, partly because there are plenty of medications to “treat” it.

But one of my issues is that it often sounds permanent and can flexible become a person’s identity, so they believe that they are broken and that they have no choice but to live with it.

However, just because someone once told you that you are “something” doesn’t mean you can’t change it.

I’m now going to show you how to let go, stage by stage, of any old stories you may be telling yourself so that your natural emotional equilibrium can return to balance.

We are going to take the major unhappy memories out of your mind and put them on an imaginary wall of very small black and white pictures and just before they disappear, see them for what they are now – just thoughts.

1 Think about a situation you have been stressing and/or worrying about.

2 Begin to notice what you’ve been telling yourself about that situation: “There’s nothing I can do to change this”; “I was just born this way”; “I’ve been told by an ‘expert’ I can’t change.”

3 Really hear that inner voice and notice where it is coming from. Is it the front, side or back of your head?

4 Imagine floating those words out of your head and imagine hearing those words coming from somewhere about 12 feet away from you. Hear it as if they are coming from over there now.

5 As you hear it telling you that old story from 12 feet away, notice how different it feels to hear it like that.

6 This simple difference allows your mind to recalibrate and frees you from identifying with that story. Hearing that voice over there means that there is now room for a different story over here.

7 As gradually as you like, turn down the volume of that story over there.

8 You are now free to tell yourself a new story – a story of possibility, hope, and power.You may want to write down your new story or even speak it out loud.The more you repeat your new story, the more real it will start to become for you.

  • Adapted by Matt Nixson from Positivity: Confidence, Resilience, Motivation by Paul McKenna (Welbeck, £14,99). For free UK P&P on orders over £20, call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832 or visit

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