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Photo by BBH Singapore on Unsplash

#1 Are my actions guided by love or fear?

I’ve been looking for answers my entire life. Whether I was seeking to improve my emotional health, my spiritual world, my relationships, or my career, I was always looking for answers.

I read hundreds of books, thousands of blogs, and completed many courses. I’m also in the final year of a PhD in psychology and I teach neuroscience at the top two universities in Ireland. I’ve found lots of valuable information on my journey, but I never found what I was looking for, especially when I tried to apply it to my own daily life.

It wasn’t until I began exploring the power of questions that I realised my mistake. To get the right answers, I first had to ask the right questions. With that, I flipped my search on its head and began looking for the best questions I could find. …

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A guide to dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions

Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now, widely regarded as one of the most influential spiritual books of our time. At the age of 29, he experienced a profound inner transformation that radically changed the course of his life.

One night, not long after his 29th birthday, he woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. He had previously battled with anxiety and suicidal depression, but it was more intense than ever before, and he began to question his reason for living. …

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Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Because the best things in life are often on the other side of fear

Someone once told me the definition of hell: “On your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became.”

When I first heard this line, it sent shivers down my spine. Why? Because by the time I was 35, I had lost my entire adult life through fear: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of risk, fear of change, and most of all, fear of anxiety, which I medicated with heroin for 15 years.

This might sound like a sad story, but I was lucky. Pummelled into submission by the most painful night of my life, I received a gift. Call it what you will — a perspective shift, an awakening, or simply dumb luck — it doesn’t matter. …

#2 Turn your problems upside down.

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“We control our actions, but the consequences that flow from those actions are controlled by principles” Stephen Covey

Self-made billionaire, Ray Dalio, attributes his success to a core set of principles, which he says, “serve as the foundations for behaviour that get you what you want out of life.”

Principles, however, are not just for the ‘Ray Dalio’s’ of the world. On the 8th of October 2013, I experienced my first day clean after 15 years of heroin addiction. Since then, I’ve become a PhD student, an author with a mainstream publishing house, a radio presenter, a keynote speaker, and a lecturer at the top two universities in Ireland. So what changed? …

#3: They negotiate with their own minds.

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Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

As a brain scientist studying addiction and mindfulness, I’ve been exploring habit formation for the past 6 years. What I’ve found is that old habits are hard to break, and new habits are hard to implement.

This simple metaphor explains how this works in your brain. A field full of long, spindly grass blocks your path. You could force your way through, but it’s a big field, and the grass is over six feet high. You’re keen to get to the other side, however, so you give it a go.

Twenty minutes pass, but it’s hard work, and you don’t make much progress. You push for another twenty minutes before giving up, blaming your lack of motivation, and your inability to see things through to the end. …

Powerful scientific evidence from an addict turned neuroscientist.

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Source: Unprocessed scans of my brain taken in 2013 and 2018. These scans contain the slice showing the anterior commissure, the standard anatomical structure used to compare brain scans.

Ever since I was a child, I was consumed by anxiety and tormented by my mind. As I got older, my anxiety got worse, and so did my urge to escape it.

I began using drugs when I was 14 years old, and by the time I was 20, I was a heroin addict. I spent the next 15 years destroying my body and mind. But I was lucky. Pummelled into submission by the most painful night of my life, I was forced to look at the world from a completely new perspective.

Life gave me a second chance, and I devoured every second of it. Some might say that I switched addictions. But I like to call it intense curiosity, as I was bitten by the bug of life. …

Eye-opening messages in case you need a push right now.

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Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

Seven years ago, my life was in the gutter. But after 15 years of addiction, a near-death experience finally gave me the wakeup call I needed. After several months in detox and treatment, I began reading about personal growth, and one line, in particular, hit me square in the face:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” — Thomas Jefferson

Having lost my entire adult life to addiction, mostly through inaction, it felt like I’d nothing to lose by going in the opposite direction. So instead of sitting at home and pitying myself about lost years, I followed the advice of Mr. …

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Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher on Unsplash

Use the ‘Circle of Concern’ to help you to focus on what you can control

In his classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey introduced a tool that’s stuck with me — one that I now use regularly to reframe my fears, especially ones that are outside of my control.

Every situation, he writes, can be divided into two circles: the circle of concern, which consists of factors we have little or no influence over, and the circle of influence, which is made up of things we can control.

To see how it works, let’s apply these two circles to the thing that’s dominating our worries right now: the ongoing pandemic. …

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Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

And turn darkness into light

I was only a few weeks old and I was already in a fight for my life. I had a condition known as intestinal malrotation. In layman's terms, this meant my guts were twisted, gifting me with an ability to projectile vomit several feet — pretty impressive for a newborn.

With my body starved of nutrients, I wouldn’t stop crying, but the doctors told my mother there was nothing to be concerned about. Apparently, they didn’t believe her vomiting story.

On my final visit to the hospital, my mother told the nurses that my nappy (i.e. diaper) had been bone dry for several days. That’s when alarms bells went off. The nurses snatched me from my mother’s arms and weighed me immediately. I was less than four pounds — half my birth weight — and the soft spot on my head had sunk deep into my skull. …

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Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

If you want to follow your dreams, you have to step into the arena

Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy is built on hard work, tenacity, and a willingness to put himself in the middle of the battle. In one of his most memorable speeches, Roosevelt captured his philosophy on life in just a few sentences.

The Man in the Arena demonstrates how we should praise the person who’s fighting the big battles, taking the big risks, and putting themselves in harm’s way for a worthy cause, even if those actions don’t pay off.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” …


Brian Pennie

Change is possible. I write to show that. Author | Recovered addict | Speaker | PhD candidate.

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