Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lessons from goldfish

When I was young we talked about conditioning, I learned about Pavlov and his experiments with animals, and I marvelled at stories of animals such as elephants that had been conditioned to not break their chains and run away. I never believed that people could be conditioned as well, but we can, and we condition ourselves every day. Did you know that if you move a goldfish from a small fishbowl in your home and take it to a lake - he will continue to swim in the same small circle? Why? Because he has accepted the belief that if he swims farther, he's going to bump his nose. He's always done it this way. Any other way is "impossible."

I read once that goldfish can only remember for three seconds.  I thought this was an interesting fact.
Afterall, this logic makes perfect sense as to why some fish want to eat all the time. But I was not convinced so I looked it up to see if this was really true. And here's what I learned.

Goldfish, previously believed to have a memory of just a few seconds, can distinguish between different times of day and can also be taught to follow a routine, according to research. Scientists have claimed not only that Goldfish have a memory span of up to three months, but that they can also tell the time. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that fish are much more intelligent than had generally been assumed. And I know this is true for you too. I know you've got the ability be better then you are now.
Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do in the way you do them, maybe its because you have stopped questioning your beliefs.  When you question your beliefs - you question your limitations. If  your beliefs serve you - they can withstand the scrutiny. If they don't survive the questioning - it is time to drop them and replace them with beliefs that serve you.

Easier said then done, our beliefs have done us well for many years, that is how we became conditioned, it is scary to think differently, but in order to grow we have to challenge ourselves and take risks.
Examples: You may have the belief that you need money to make money. It's hard to succeed in a recession. That you will never get out of debt. That there are too many obstacles in your way to succeed at...(you fill in the blank)
Like the goldfish that has been freed to swim in the lake, you still think you are limited. Your limitation is set by your beliefs. We know know that goldfish can learn and recondition themselves, so why can't you?

The question people ask is "How can I tell for sure what I believe is true or not?" This is actually quite easy. The question to ask is simply...

"Does this belief serve me?"

It doesn't matter whether your beliefs are "true" or "false". What matters is, are they moving you TOWARD or AWAY from what you want?  If they don't serve you, now is the time to replace them with beliefs that do.

There are many people who will lead you to believe that they have the one and only answer to "how to do this". They don't have the answer as there is no one right way to do this. So the question that haunts us is how do we replace belief systems that do not serve you with belief systems that do not. I think the first step is to know yourself, love yourself and learn to trust yourself.  There are many definitions of love here are some to consider.

In the Christian faith, Saint Paul glorified love as the most important virtue of all. Describing love in the famous poem in 1 Corinthians he wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres." - 1 Cor. 13:4-7 (NIV)

In the Buddist faith, Adveṣa and maitrī are benevolent love. This love is unconditional and requires considerable self-acceptance. This is quite different from the ordinary love, which is usually about attachment and sex, which rarely occur without self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to detachment and unselfish interest in others' welfare.

In the Islamic faith, Ishq, or divine love, is the emphasis of Sufism. Sufis believe that love is a projection of the essence of God to the universe. God desires to recognize beauty, and as if one looks at a mirror to see oneself, God "looks" at itself within the dynamics of nature. Since everything is a reflection of God, the school of Sufism practices to see the beauty inside the apparently ugly. Sufism is often referred to as the religion of Love. God in Sufism is referred to in three main terms which are the Lover, Loved, and Beloved with the last of these terms being often seen in Sufi poetry. A common viewpoint of Sufism is that through Love humankind can get back to its inherent purity and grace.

In the Jewish faith, The 20th century Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler is frequently quoted as defining love from the Jewish point-of-view as "giving without expecting to take" (from his Michtav me-Eliyahu, vol. 1).

In Matthew 22:36-40  Jesus gives two great commandments: (1) Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; (2) Love your neighbor as yourself
There is no third command to love yourself. Jesus is saying, "as you already love yourself"  indicating a state of current existence, not a command. Jesus knows we already love ourselves and thereby commands us to love others with this same commitment. Many of us have move from this state of current existence, which we had when we were young to a state of current existence that precludes the idea that we already love ourselves, so we have to take small, sometimes painful steps to regain that state of existence so we can find ourselves and move ahead in life.

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