Richard G. Petty, MD

Self-help and Reality

I’ve spent my professional life trying to empower people, to give them the tools to help them cope with illness or adversity and to help them see that conquering a problem is only the half way stage. We have to try to understand the meaning and purpose of an accident, illness or sudden death.

One of the things that has dismayed me is the way in which so much self-help advice is grounded in nonsense. Pop psychology that is flatly contradicted by empirical data; misunderstandings about basic science and misquotations of elements of the Ageless Wisdom.

When people are only given bits of a story they cannot use the information: they can only follow a set of formulae. The direct result is that a lot of what passes for self-help does not help free people and make them independent of the opinions of others. Instead it makes them into followers who hope that the next book, CD or seminar will reveal the missing pieces of the puzzle.

The trouble is that many of the most charismatic self-help gurus don’t have those missing pieces themselves.

I was thinking about this after reading a nice article by Dudley Lynch whose blog I have recommended before. Dudley instroduces a dose of reality into some of the statements made by guests on a recent Larry King interview. He also recommends some books, to which I would add Steve Salerno’s book SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless.

There is an antidote to all of this. Earlier this year I wrote about what I call the "Changing Landscape of Self-help."

We are now in a fourth age of self-help in which the recommendations of self-help are firmly rooted in empirical research. We also need to recognize a constant danger of all the exhortations to be happy and creative. I read an article the other day by someone whom I like very much. But it was the usual fare: a story about the Wright brothers, another about Bill Gates, and then on to a rousing, "If they could do it so can you." But these people have a unique grouping of talents. Not everyone can be a creative powerhouse anymore than everyone can sing. That’s just fine: everybody has some gift and purpose in life. But I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to pick up the pieces because some self-help speaker has told people that they would be able to achieve something. The person couldn’t and was left feeling flat, inadequate and depressed. The speaker was long gone, and had no idea of what he had done.

Before following some self-help, health or wellness program, I would suggest that you ask ten questions:

  1. Who is promoting the program and why?
  2. What are his or her qualifications for producing and teaching this program?
  3. How is he or she going to benefit: are they just doing it for the money?
  4. Is the program specific to my needs?
  5. What is the evidence for claims made for the program?
  6. Have independent people critically evauated the material?
  7. Have other people been helped by the program?
  8. Is the material updated regularly?
  9. Is there some system for providing ongoing support?
  10. How will I be better able to serve others once I have done the program?

If you spend a couple of minutes looking at the items on this blog and in my books and articles, I think that you’ll see for yourself that it’s absolutely feasible to ask and give positive answers to all ten question.


The Sanskrit word karma has been part of our vocabulary since the late 1960s. Over thirty years ago I was speaking to one of George Harrison’s lawyers in London, who had followed in the footsteps of the Beatles and flirted with Transcendental Meditation. He told me that karma just meant “fate,” which was not at all what I’d been taught.

I’ve just seen a number of articles that have used the term very loosely. What is even more perplexing is that often the same writer will talk about karma as a causal law, and then immediately start talking about quantum mechanics, in which many actions are not causal at all. Some even start dabbling in synchronicity, forgetting, perhaps, that the subtitle of the original paper by Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli was “An Acausal Connecting Principle.”

It’s important to get it right: if we misunderstand a law or principle of life, it’s difficult to stay on track. And we have to realize that although there are plenty of opinions about karma, synchronicity, quantum mechanics and the rest, there are also some real objective facts to guide us.

Let me give you an example of one of these articles: “Karma deals with the law of cause and effect. Everything that happens to us (effect) has had a previous cause. The evolution of karmic law means that we can be master of our own destiny. Your karmic lessons in life reflect the qualities that you either lack, or are weak in, and are those hindering your success…” This is so contradictory. There is no place for chance, yet you can master your destiny, despite the fact that your behavior must have a previous cause. This isn’t just circular reasoning; it’s more like pretzel logic!

So is karma complicated? Is there a simple way to understand it and work with it?

Karma means “action,” and it refers to the intentional acts of conscious beings. These acts may be physical, or they may be thoughts or feelings. Intentions results in acts that cause effects in the mind, the body, the subtle systems, our relationships and our spirituality. This way of looking at karma links inextricably with the evidence being generated by the Global Consciousness Project.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his book The Universe in a Single Atom makes a clear distinction between the operation of the natural law of causality, in which some action will have a certain set of effects, and the law of karma, in which an intentional act will reap certain results. He uses a good example: if a campfire gets out of control in a forest, the resulting fire, smoke and charcoal are simple, natural and expected results. By contrast if you light a fire and forget to put it out, which then causes the chain of events: that’s karmic causation.

I this view, the large-scale universe evolves according to causal laws. When it has evolved to the stage of supporting sentient life, now the fate of the universe becomes entangled with the karma of the sentient beings that now inhabit it. But there’s something more to it.

Matter in its most subtle form is Qi or Prana, a vital field energy that is inseparable from consciousness. The Qi or Prana provides dynamic movement and cohesion, while consciousness provides awareness, cognition and self-reflection. This indivisible pair produces our bodies and the universe as a whole. Every particle in the universe possesses conscious awareness, but it is not until sentience arises that the law of karma comes into play.

In Kriya Yoga there has been the development of many complex ideas about karma, subdividing it into multiple types, and with advice on how to attract good karma and dispel the bad. For students who would like to go into these distinctions in more detail, there a very nice short book entitled The Laws of Karma.

Because karma implies that the universe is lawful and moral, it has often been misinterpreted as fatalism. But that s not correct: every decision is a product of free will. To be sure, it is a free will that is tempered by the causal forces of our genetic makeup and environment. One of the major goals of self-development is to free yourself from the restrictions imposed upon you by your genes and your environment, so that you can make decisions that will generate the greatest good for the largest number of people.

What we must not do is to use karma as an excuse. If you are playing a game of cards, you play the hand that you are given. There’s no point in complaining about your bad luck: your learn how to make the best play wit the cards that you have in your hand.

“Knowing that his past actions may try to overwhelm him, the devotee must be prepared to combat them. God will give him the strength: His Name will be an impenetrable armor. It will save him from all the consequences.”
–Swami Brahmananda (Indian Religious Figure, 1854-1922)

“It is horrible to see everything that one detested in the past coming back wearing the colors of the future.”
–Jean Rostand (French Biologist and Historian, 1894-1977)

Learning from a Master

I’ve collected hundreds of teaching stories from all over the world.

Here is a delightful tale that appears in many forms in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and Sufi teachings.


Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted to change his life, to understand the nature of things and to learn all there was to know. And so he sold all his worldly possessions and went far away to a distant land to study in a secluded monastery.

After traveling for days and nights, he came to an ancient stone building at the edge of a rocky cliff that was jutting out of a steep mountainside.

He went up to the heavy wooden door and knocked.

The door creaked open and an old man appeared wearing a long robe and holding a wooden staff.

"What do you want?" asked the old Master of the monastery.

"I want to know everything there is to know." Said the man.

"Everything?" said the Master.

"Everything." Said the man.

The old monk looked hard at the man and said, "Come in."

He entered the monastery and the old monk lead him down a narrow stone hallway to a small door on the right side. He entered the room.

Inside the room there was a stone bed, an old wooden table with a huge wax candle, and all around were stacks and stacks of books piled from floor to ceiling, filling the entire room.

The man happily began to read the books. He read from early morning until late into the night. Whenever he was not attending to his tasks at the monastery, he read.

After a few weeks had passed, one day there was a knock on his door, and the old Master with the staff entered his room.

"Well,?" said the Master. "Have you learned everything there is to know?"

"No, Master, I have not." Said the man. At which point, the Master took up his wooden staff and began beating the man about the head and shoulders…and then he left.

The man was stunned…and then he got down to studying even harder. He studied long into the wee small hours of the morning, before his duties began. He barely took time to eat or sleep. He read and read and read.

After a few weeks had passed, again there was a knock on his door, and the old master with the staff entered his room.

"Well,?" said the Master. "Now, have you learned everything there is to know?"

"No, Master, I have not." Said the man. At which point the Master took up his staff and began to beat the man about the head and shoulders…and then he left.

Time went by, and every few weeks, the Master would come to the mans room and ask him the same question. And the man would give the same answer, and receive the same beating about the head and shoulders.

Many wearisome months went by like this, again one day, there was a knock on his door, and the old Master with the staff entered his room.

"Now,” said the Master, "Today, do you know everything there is to know?"

"No" said the man, "I  do not.” At which point, the Master took up his staff and lifted it high in the air… but this time, the man put out his hand and stopped the staff in mid-air.

Suddenly, the Master burst out laughing.

"Master" said the man, "Why are you laughing? I have failed miserably. It is impossible. I will never know everything there is to know." 

"I am laughing " said the Master, "because I am happy for you. For today, you have learned two things, my son.  One, that you will never know everything there is to know. And two, how to stop the pain."

Miracles and Expectations

“I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are impossible.”
–William James (American Psychologist and Philosopher, 1842-1910)

There was a very interesting article published in the British Medical Journal in 1983. My old friend Peter Fenwick wrote a very interesting paper on prayer that cited this story.

Christian missionaries had gone to Ethiopia, but were required to leave by the Government in power at the time. They left behind some Gospels. When they returned some years later, they found not only a flourishing church, but also a community of believers amongst whom miracles like those mentioned in the New Testament happened every day. There had been no missionaries to teach them that such things were not supposed to be taken literally. They created miracles because they had never been told that they could not. There were no scientifically trained missionaries to tell them that miracles only occurred in the first century of the Church’s existence, or in special circumstances if a highly trained priest is present.

This sort of case – and there are many others – gets straight to the heart of the role of belief and expectation in our lives. Is there one fixed external reality, and we are no more than puppets dancing on cosmic strings? I’ve heard many people say that. Just recently the Editor of Psychology Today said that he felt that everything in human behavior could be reduced to genes, learning and reflexes. I must respectfully disagree. Free will is not an illusion, and our hopes and expectations have a massive impact on the structure of our lives and our reactions to the events that will come our way.

How many things are you failing to achieve because of fears or negative expectations?

Some people might describe the Ethiopians as unsophisticated. I would not: these good people can teach us something that many of us have forgotten.

Clean up and focus your expectations, ensure the purity of your intentions and see what happens in your life.

I’ve put just a few quotations below. I selected them for this reason: as you look at them, see how many are directly relevant to your life.

Do any of them give you ideas about managing your own life? If not, you may like to have a look at/listen to Healing, Meaning and Purpose or the articles and podcasts that I shall be posting this month.

“Men are probably nearer the central truth in their superstitions than in their science.”
–Henry David Thoreau (American Essayist and Philosopher, 1817-1862)

“Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.”
–Willis Harman (American Scientist and Late President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences; 1920-1997)

“It is one of the most common of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive.”
C.W. Leadbeater (English Clergyman and Theosophical Writer, 1854-1934)

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
–Arthur C. Clarke (English-born Writer, 1917-)

“Only if you reach the boundary will the boundary recede before you. And if you don’t, if you confine your efforts, the boundary will shrink to accommodate itself to your efforts. And you can only expand your capacities by working to the very limit.”
–Hugh Nibley (American Scholar in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1910-2005)

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you 
came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”
–James Baldwin (African-American Writer, 1924-1987)

“Give yourself the freedom to explore the possibility of life without limits. Goals are dreams with deadlines, a means to an end but not the ultimate purpose of life.”
–Glynis Nunn (Australian Heptathlete, 1960-)

“Imposing limitations on yourself is cowardly because it protects you from having to try, and perhaps failing.”
–Vladimir Zworykin (Russian-born American Physicist and, in 1923, the inventor of the “Iconoscope:” the first television camera, 1889-1982)

“Divine wisdom is inexhaustible; the limitation is only in the receptive faculty of the form.”
–Henricus Madathanus (German Philosopher, Alchemist and Co-Founder of the Fraternity Rosae Crucis, 1575-1639)

Re-Writing Our Life Stories and Developing Resilience

“Every man’s story is important, eternal and sacred.”

–Herman Hesse (German-born Swiss Novelist, Poet and, in 1946, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1877-1962)

In Healing, Meaning and Purpose, I spend a lot of time discussing the nature of memory – that it does not work like a video recorder, but is a dynamic process – and the value of re-writing your life story. This is a remarkably powerful technique.

What is particularly interesting and useful is to uncover events in our lives that have had two characteristics. First, is that they had a strong subjective impact. And second, that they generated meaning. Breaking up with a partner might generate a lot of emotion and lead you to believe that you are not good in relationships or it could make you think that the other person didn’t appreciate you. Losing a game of football may be painful, but will likely not generate much meaning. Unless your team is on a thirty game losing streak….

A recent study from Quebec published in the Journal of Personality, studied events that we use to define ourselves. Researchers looked at the subjective impact and the meaning-making effect of these self-defining events. This is what they found. When we remember events in our lives that we feel had a major impact on our life story or on our sense of identity, we tend to downplay the negative and emphasize the positive.

When we are asked to think back to those events, we tend to report less sadness and more pride than we actually felt at the time. For positive memories, people reported equally intense positive emotions – for example love – and less negative emotions – such as fear – compared with how they recalled feeling at the time.

What this means is that in the face of change, adversity and opportunity, we are always trying to maintain a positive and coherent sense of self. This is a component of psychological resilience. Someone with clinical depression loses the ability to maintain this positive and coherent sense of self.

This work is also important for people trying to fashion a more positive view of him or herself. While it is usually a good idea to cultivate a positive mental attitude, there are some people for whom such an approach can be disastrous: they are the ones who thrive on negativity. Which one are you?

Simply deciding to change your view of yourself will likely have only a very short-term effect unless you identify and work with cardinal life events. Some forms of psychotherapy revolve around trying to identify the key events that have fashioned our sense of self and that have contributed to our identity. You can begin that process for yourself.

But that is only one part of the equation.

Any long-term change will also involve the attitudes and expectations of other people: none of us lives in a vacuum. I have known countless supremely self-confident musicians, artists and even scientists, whose careers have never got started, because nobody agreed with their evaluation of themselves.

There are a number of ways of presenting yourself in a way that will inspire confidence in other people, and I shall discuss some of those in one of my future programs.

“Every story can be told in different ways.”

–Greek Proverb

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One of the many things differentiating complementary and alternative medicine from the more conventional type, is that complementary practitioners are not much interested in a pathological diagnosis, and instead focus far more on the whole person. There are more than 500 types of complementary and alternative medicine, and virtually all work on the principle that they want to stimulate the body to heal itself.

It is not so well-known that in recent years some of the most cutting edge academic research in medicine has been breaking down artificial organs-based barriers, and focusing instead on the whole person, and look at research in a more holistic way. So a cardiologist and liver expert may be working together on the same problem.

Someone was asking me why this blog has so many categories? The reasons is that artificial barriers between illnesses, health, wellness, consciousness and spirituality are breaking down, and this blog reflects that. I was asked, “So are you interested in self-help or health and wellness?” the answer to that one is “Yes.” All of these are inextricably linked.

A second conceptual change, that is not much known outside of research centers, is that much of the current thrust in pharmacology is based on modulating the body’s responses, rather than simply blocking diseases processes.

Despite this apparent convergence, there are still some enormous differences in approach:
1.    The medical research enterprise remains profoundly reductionist, and so it tends to ignore some key aspects of what it is to be human: we are a great deal more than sets of biochemical reactions.
2.    Dismissing the social and psychological aspects of health and illness remains an Achilles’ heel of most academic research. When I was working in academia, a distinguished colleague came over form the England to give a lecture. An expert in brain imaging, he spoke a lot about consciousness and free will. As one of my American friends said afterward: he sound just like you in our research meetings!
3.    Complementary, alterative and now integrated medicine remains firmly focused on relationships as a key to healing. Not just the relationship of a client and their family, but the relationship between client and therapist. And there is a third arm to this. When, in the mind-1980s, we first started putting together the principles of this new Information Medicine known as Integrated Medicine in the United Kingdom or Integrative or Integral Medicine in the United States, a key component of it was the insistence that the therapeutic encounter would require the therapist to do more than just show up and do something technical. But that the therapist would also be aware of the impact of the encounter on them, and the importance for the therapist to be involved in growth work themselves. There was a time when psychotherapists would remain in therapy throughout their careers. That may not now be feasible. But it is entirely feasible for a therapist to take a bit of time each day to calm themselves; to reflect on what is going on inside them and in the subtle currents of the interactions between them, the person who has come to them for help and guidance, and all the other people involved in the situation. This is the way in which medicine is going to develop in the future.

The extraordinary advances of biomedical research can be an incredible boon to humanity, but they need to be leavened by an understanding of the context within which they are developing.

“A physicist who rejects the testimony of saints and mystics is no better than a tone-deaf man deriding the power of music.”

–Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (Indian Philosopher and, from 1962-67 President of India, 1888-1975)

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Creativity and the Brain

In 1826, the great German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz proposed that there are four stages to creativity: incubation, illumination, preparation and verification. There have been many attempts to modify this four-stage model, and we now think that the ability to make new connections is a key factor in creative innovation – a composite of incubation and illumination that can be best defined as an ability to understand and express new order and inter-relationships. As the South African Poet, Novelist and Editor, William Plomer put it, “Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” Professor Kenneth Heilman from the University of Florida has presented some very interesting ideas about the mechanisms of creativity. He points out that creative innovation requires intelligence, specific knowledge and special skills and an ability to develop alternative solutions: what we call “divergent thinking,” the ability to break away from received wisdom. Each of these four factors will not be enough on their own. I have known many people who have announced that they have developed a new theory of the universe, but who did not have the knowledge or skills to be able to do anything with the idea, and to test whether it was sound.

There has recently been further analysis of a region of the brain of Albert Einstein. This region is of particular interest because Einstein is known to have had a form of dyslexia and this area is involved in language. In Chapter One of my most recent book, I pointed out that there is a great deal of interest in “glial cells” that were long thought to be no more than supporting cells, but have now been discovered to have key roles in some neuronal activity. Einstein had a significantly higher number of glial cells than controls, and it may be these cells that were responsible for his ability to make connections and to excel in spatial rather than linguistic reasoning.

The other point that I would like to make is this: there is a stereotype that creative people are undisciplined rebels. In fact nothing could be further form the truth: what they are actually doing is creating more order in the universe, by making new connections and creating new structures.

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Human Evolution

For more than a century, the received wisdom has been that humans finished their physical evolution between one hundred thousand and fifty thousand years ago, and that there have been only minor changes in cognitive abilities over most of that time.

I have always found those assertions to be fundamentally flawed. Our bodies have changed beyond all recognition in the last few hundred years, as I’ve pointed out in my last book and CD series Healing Meaning and Purpose. Even more than that we have changed and are changing mentally. If we were to go back in time ten thousand or even one thousand years, we would find that people were cognitively, emotionally and morally quite different from modern humans. Not simply because of technology and the explosion of knowledge about the external universe, but because there is a dynamic relationship between our development as a species and our creations, with each feeding off the other.

It is only recently that a number of theoreticians, philosophers and psychologists have begun to look at the ways in which we are continuing to develop and what it means for all of us.

The German psychiatrist and philosopher Karl Jaspers first pointed out the great moral leap forward in what he called the Axial Period, between about 700-200B.C.E., during which the foundations of many of the world’s great religions first appeared, probably in response to the prevailing violence and unpleasantness of the time. More recently the Polish-born Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser started developing intriguing models of the transformations of human consciousness. In the United States, the psychologist Clare Graves developed a revolutionary concept of developing levels of development of the personality, that has evolved into Spiral Dynamics. (You may be interested to look at a review that I have just written about an excellent CD program detailing the latest developments in this field.)

And then there is Ken Wilber whose work in this field is remarkable, and whose creation of the Integral Institute promises great things. To these luminaries I now add Dudley Lynch a writer whose work I have only recently discovered.

Dudley recently wrote a very sensitive blog item about the efforts of a person with a mental illness trying to keep himself integrated in a sea of psychic chaos. He was kind enough to publish my brief response, which needs a little more detail.

The reasons for raising these points about continuing human development are these:

1.The manifest physical changes in people over the last few hundred years have enormous – and largely neglected – implications for clinical medicine.

2. It is likely not just peoples’ physical bodies that have changed, but also their subtle systems. I pointed out in my last book and CD series that the chakra system has developed to its current point only within the last few thousand years. This continuing development is also one of the reasons why some therapies that once only worked occasionally are now becoming more stable and predictable, and why some new forms of therapy – like the tapping therapies – are now being discovered.

3. It is because of these profound changes that new forms of therapy are now being developed. Not just using a supplement here, or a breathing exercise there, but precise combinations that help guide the healing of every aspect of an individual and his or her relationships and spiritual connections.

4. Some people who appear to have psychotic illnesses are moving into new developmental stages without having passed through the necessary intermediate stages. I have just read a first person account of an English journalist who could easily have been diagnosed with a manic illness, but was almost certainly undergoing a spiritual emergence.

5. Major emotional, cognitive, moral, conscious and spiritual shifts can be profoundly frightening to many people, and are doubtless one of the reasons for the profound feelings of social dislocation and violent reactions that we are observing throughout the world.

6. It is no surprise that new spiritual pathways are now emerging. Many will doubtless be very helpful to many of the thirty million Americans who count themselves as spiritual seekers, but have not yet found what they are looking for.

7. Taken together, these new understanding about the longitudinal development of people, relationships and whole societies are already having extraordinary effects on our ability to guide them all in more healthy and integrated pathways.

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Presence and Charisma

I was reading a heart-warming story reported by the BBC of a unique case of a young woman who had a heart transplant at the age of two, and when, ten years later, her adolescent body began to reject the heart, the transplant was removed, and her original heart, which had been resting for ten years, was able to take over. A medical first, but that was not what attracted my attention. Neither was it the lymphoma that she developed several years ago, perhaps because of the original illness that damaged her heart, or perhaps because of the anti-rejection medicines that she has had to take all these years.

It was instead the smiling face of Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub (I just love the pictures of him here.) who did the original operation and who consulted on this new operation. He recently turned 70 and no longer operates himself. I cast my mind back almost 25 years, when I was working at the National Heart Hospital in London and first met him. There are two things that I remember about him. The first is that he was the person who allowed me to show the successful use of acupuncture to treat people who had gone through open-heart surgery, and still had pain in their chests. And the second is the reason for today’s item: Magdi had the most extraordinary personal “Presence.” When he walked in a room, everyone would notice him. Most had no idea who he was, or his extraordinary achievements; they were just drawn to him.

I have met many people who have this “presence” or “aura.” In the Eastern world it is often thought of as another manifestation of “Qi.” Closely related to “presence” is charisma: a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. In the ancient world charisma was thought to be a divine power or talent, and the word comes from the Greek word kharis meaning “grace” or “favor.” There is a small scientific literature on this phenomenon of charisma, which often flows from having a strong presence. Some of the research is summarized here.

There are clearly many types of charisma: Political, sports, performance, business, spiritual, literary. scientific and so on. The only two people whom I’ve met who knew Einstein told me that people would usually all stand up when he entered the room. Charisma is more than just a personal characteristic; it can also be conceptualized as the way in which certain groups interact with each other. There is a fascinating book entitled Charisma and Social Structure by Raymond Trevor Bradley, that has a fascinating discussion of the transformative and transcendent power of charisma. It must also not be forgotten that there are those who have used charisma for evil ends: three of the most wicked people of the last century were also possessed of extraordinary personal charisma.

Clearly some people have presence and charisma. The question is whether theses characteristics can also be developed. The answer is yes, they can be. Presence is created by an overall impression constituted of posture, eye contact, stillness, silence, self-confidence, competence and serenity. People with a strong presence are often a little mysterious, in the sense that they tend not to reveal much about themselves or their accomplishments. I have also felt if very strongly in people who have worked to develop the subtle systems of their bodies. One of the most potent examples was a Korean Ki-Master who spoke not a word of English, but whose presence could be felt the moment he entered a packed room. Work on your subtle systems will likely cause you to be more still and serene and to have a better posture and that’s a great start.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve your own charisma:

  1. Create a strong first impression by developing your presence
  2. Develop a good impression when you speak
  3. Be a good active empathic listener who connects with other people and asks pertinent questions
  4. Be supportive of other people and their aspirations
  5. Be persuasive
  6. Be resilient and adaptable
  7. Expand your vision of what is possible
  8. Practice thinking creatively
  9. Use humor
  10. Be committed and courageous
  11. Initiate persistent action
  12. Instill hope in the people around you

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Using your Core Values for Rapid Stress Management

“The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.” — Norman Vincent Peale (American Cleric, Writer and Self-Help Expert, 1898-1993)

As a professional speaker, I often forget that glossophobia – fear of public speaking – is the most common phobia in America today. I have a whole toolkit of techniques that I use for helping people with this problem, but I am always interested in new methods that can work quickly.

A study of 80 UCLA undergraduates published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that taking a few minutes to contemplate your personal values (Click here to take an online assessment of your personal values) in the moments before a tense situation, like making a speech, an examination or a visit to the dentist, can keep stress levels low.

People in the study who affirmed their values before delivering a speech had significantly lower levels of one of the stress hormones – cortisol – than did the control group, and psychological measures also indicated that they were less stressed.

“People can’t live with change if there’s not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.” –Steven R. Covey (American Author and Businessman, 1932-)

Reaffirming your core values is one of the keys to the development of resilience, and that is what was happening in this study. For anyone who is interested in dealing with fear of public speaking or in developing personal resilience, we shall be putting new articles on my website in the next few days.

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.” –Paramahansa Yogananda (Indian Spiritual Teacher and, in 1920, Founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship, 1893-1952)

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