Sort Your Self Out
People are seeking help for mental health problems at an unprecedented rate. In the UK, one in four report experiencing mental health issues and one in eight are receiving some form of prescribed ‘treatment’. Life should be better than ever, but we describe ourselves as being more messed up than ever, and it’s a worldwide problem.
According to the World Health Organisation there is a suicide every 40 seconds. In the UK alone, 16 people choose to end their lives every day, and tragically this is the biggest cause of death for under 35s. We have a chronic mental health problem. Medication and therapy, the conventional default solutions, are expensive and don’t seem to be working. Antidepressant sales are running at $15 billion a year, yet some studies suggest people taking antidepressants are 2.5 times more likely to kill themselves. In the UK 1.4 million people were ‘prescribed’ therapy on the NHS last year and a lot more are waiting on long lists for appointments. The costs are escalating, yet our mental wellbeing is worse than ever.
Drugs and talking are not the answers; having a clear, easy-to-follow system to sort your shit out, and taking action, is. You don’t need therapy; you can sort your self out when you know how.
A huge number of people are reaching out for help with their mental health but there are also many who want help but don’t feel comfortable asking, or who find it confusing or overwhelming to know where to start and what to do. The resources available are plentiful but can be hard to access, seem gim- micky, or the solutions are simply ineffective. There are over 160 recognised types of psychotherapy, and endless counselling styles, coaching methods, healing techniques, retreats, seminars and book offerings. The language used can be daunting and jargonistic, but people don’t care about the labels and terminology, they just want solutions and results. They aren’t broken, they don’t need ‘treatment’, they just need an easy-to-follow system to sort them- selves out and they need to take action. Clarity and taking effective action are the keys to making your life better, whereas talking therapies and medication can keep people in their problems longer than necessary.
Change can happen quickly when you know how, and if you follow the principles of the 7-Step Sort Your Self Out (SYSO) System, you’ll change how you think, which will change how you feel, which will change what you do, all as quickly as you choose. Changing your life isn’t that complicated when you know how, and when you know how, you don’t need therapy.
The SYSO System is a practical 7-Step system that anyone can apply to change their life. The system cuts through the deep forest of existing self- help material by distilling into a universal solution, 7 principles which can be applied wherever you are on your journey. Self-help and self-development material is often unnecessarily overcomplicated and heavy, but the SYSO System is a straightforward, action-based approach to changing your life, and this book is filled with exercises so you can DO the changing, rather than just read about it. The system challenges conventional wisdom in areas like mind management, emotions and purpose, and introduces – amongst many other ideas – a new concept, ‘usefulment’ – the feeling of being fulfilled by being useful.
As chronic as our mental health issues are, with effective solutions changes can happen quickly and we will come to realise that most of the crap we feel in our lives is of our own making. We’re increasingly understanding that we have perhaps been looking in the wrong places and in the wrong ways in our pursuit of happiness, and encouragingly more and more people are ques- tioning their lives and instead seeking wisdom, authenticity, simplicity and spiritual awakening as they strive for a more fulfilling experience.
“If you want things to change, you have to change.” – Jim Rohn
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” – Jim Carrey
As I waited for my client to arrive, I looked out over the London skyline from the panoramic windows of the unnecessarily fancy meeting room. The city appeared full with so many buildings, old and new, packed in tightly, with many more pushing upwards in various stages of construction. I wondered if the city would have also seemed full back in 1311 when St Paul’s Cathedral was the tallest building in the world or in 1895 when London was the largest city?
Half a century ago there were only two cities in the world with more than 10 million people. Today there are almost 50, with London now considered relatively small as megacities have developed with populations of over 30 million. Throughout the world, humans are choosing to live closer to each other than ever before. Three hundred years ago, 2% of the world’s popula- tion lived in urban areas; now that figure is over 50%. Innovation in engi- neering, construction and technology are making this possible, as we build higher and deeper, creating denser urban environments to call home.
Down at ground level, people the size of ants were moving through the labyrinth of streets overshadowed by enormous buildings. It is remarkable that humans, so physically small in comparison to their environment, could collectively build such giant and complex urban areas with all the logistical, engineering, building and management challenges. One person on their own can only do so much but as a race we have made phenomenal advancements and created so much that was previously unthinkable, by working together.
In the sky, I could see the flight path of just a few of the thousands of planes that are in the airspace above London every day. Humans have designed ways not only to fly like birds but to do so in such comfort. Flying through the sky to faraway lands would have likely seemed unimaginable to our not too distant relatives, yet here we are on the verge of commercial space travel and heading towards what Elon Musk describes as becoming a “spacefaring civil- isation and multiplanetary species.” We really have achieved things that are literally out of this world already, and this may just be the beginning.
Innovation continues apace. The inventor and futurist Raymond Kurzweil describes The Law of Accelerating Returns, where the rate of change in a wide variety of technologies tends to increase exponentially. Because of these accelerating returns of converging technologies, Kurzweil, using mathemat- ical modelling, predicts we’re going to experience the equivalent of 20,000 years of technological innovation over the next 100 years. Already things that seemed just fantasy are very real such as driverless cars, robots, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and planning is well under way for superfast transportation using magnetic levitation. It’s only 50 years since the internet was created, and more recently mobile phones, yet we take these technolo- gies for granted already. What will we take for granted in another 50 years? It certainly seems likely that “The future is faster than you think” as Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler outline in their great book of that name.
Congratulations to humans! If we were receiving our latest school report, it might suggest we’re doing brilliantly:
“Well done humans. Innovating and achieving to the highest standard. Great progress. A fantastic performance and a very exciting future ahead.”
But this isn’t the whole story, is it? There’s much more to our overall schooling and human experience than all these fantastic achievements. How well have we been looking after our home, Planet Earth? How are we doing looking after ourselves, physically and emotionally? Are we living happily together with love and understanding? Are the lives we have full of joy, and rich in meaning? Are we clear in our belief about why we are here? Are we taking responsibility for our experience of living?
If our school report was issued for our performance in these areas,
unfortunately it would be very disappointing; the school would be calling in our parents!
“Damaging their home. Needs urgent attention. Mostly in a very poor general physical state. Often unable to get on well with others who have different views. Failing to take responsibility for how they feel and not realising their human potential. Overall most seem a little lost and somewhat self-obsessed. Significant work to be done. Big concerns about the future of these students and those that follow.”
With all the innovation and achievements we have made, the core measure for the quality of our human experience is really how fulfilled we feel, and in that we are falling short. We have achieved so much that is remarkable but we seem perhaps to have lost our way a little, as if we have been miss- ing the important goals while chasing those we thought would bring untold happiness. There are many studies that show in spite of all the progress we are making in the developed world, the bottom line is that we are unhappier than ever, and alarmingly it is often especially our children who are reporting the most unhappiness despite living at a time when there is more opportu- nity than ever. Of course we want to experience and push for all the exciting innovations humans are capable of, but we need to ensure we are happy, fulfilled, and getting along with each other or all the amazing technological advancement will seem inconsequential.
We haven’t looked after the place we live very well and the damage to our home, Planet Earth, is now revealing itself beyond doubt. Our destruction of biodiversity and the ecosystem has reached levels that threaten our wellbe- ing. We see climate change in weather patterns, across farmland, throughout plant and animal habitats. We are using up finite natural resources at an alarming rate, and we are destroying our water supply with toxic chemicals, damaging the most valuable resource our planet has to offer. We even have a garbage island floating in our ocean, mostly comprised of plastics, the size of India, Europe and Mexico combined.
Most people are also trashing their bodies, the vehicle in which they jour- ney through life. According to the World Health Organization, around 31% of adults aged 15 and over are too inactive with approximately 3.2 million deaths each year attributable to insufficient physical activity. Read that again – 3.2 million people dying each year because they don’t move enough! This is insanity! I used to work as a marketing executive at Nike where we ran the very successful and simple call to action marketing slogan, Just Do It! When I read the statistics on how people are deciding to be inactive I felt like the government should start a Just Fucking Move! campaign.
What we put in our mouths is also making us seriously sick, and The Office for National Statistics reports 29% of adults in England are obese with a further 36% unhealthily overweight. Obesity in childhood is espe- cially alarming and is associated with a wide range of serious health com- plications. An estimated 2 million people in the UK are also living with a diagnosed food allergy and the UK has some of the highest rates of allergic conditions in the world. We urgently need to sort our bodies out and to do this we need to move more, eat more healthily and live in a less chemically polluted environment.
We’re also not in great shape mentally. We face an epidemic of addictions, and reports of unhappiness are off the scale. The number of people who self- harm or have suicidal thoughts is drastically increasing. Whether anxiety, depression, phobias, obsessive compulsions or the ridiculously labelled ‘low mood disorder’, our mental health needs urgent attention.
Humans have made incredible jaw-dropping buildings, aeroplanes and computers, we have sent people to space, made phenomenal advancements in medicine, technology, engineering, science and entertainment and created new ways of pleasuring ourselves, but we are trashing our planet, our bodies and our minds. Our school report in these areas is chronic and demands we make changes immediately.
The good news is that as students of life, we can. We just need to know what to do. Our brains are capable of creating the remarkable, there’s no doubt about that, but our brains operate by taking directions and it is time to check that the directions we’re giving are taking us to the outcomes we want, and to the lives full of joy and passion we are capable of experiencing. It all starts with our mind and our inner world and if we sort ourselves out on the inside first, we’ll make better choices, and make a better life for ourselves and future generations, while magnifying the enjoyment of all the technological advancements and converging technologies coming our way. It all starts with developing ourselves.
“Hi, I’m Alan, great to meet you,” I said, putting my hand out to greet Anne as I opened the meeting room door.
“I’m Anne. My life is a total mess,” she told me. “It’s going to take a lot of sessions to help me. I’m so broken I don’t know if you’ll be able fix me.”
As a coach, it is common to hear clients using language in this way, but Anne had delivered her self-diagnosis and conclusions before even sitting down. This was not the greeting and preamble that usually begins each coaching session. I asked Anne first to take a seat, suggested she have a drink of water, and do some simple deep breathing exercises until she felt relaxed and calmer, as much as someone who thinks their life is a total shambles can be!
“What makes your life a total mess?” I asked. “I’ve been through hell,” replied Anne. “I have had so much to deal with I don’t even know where to start. My life has been dreadful, nobody deserves what has happened to me. I often wonder if my life is worth living.”
Most problems of the mind, and our experience of life, are to do with how we look at things and how we talk to ourselves and Anne was giving an excellent example of how to look at things and talk to yourself in a way that is guaranteed to make you feel shit.
“So, what would you like your life to be like?” I asked, but Anne continued ranting and waffling on again about what was wrong. She was focusing on what she didn’t like, and was telling herself how bad her life was. This was making her feel even worse. She was feeding her mind programmes to feel bad, rather than focusing on what she did want and feeding her mind programmes to feel good. What we tell our brains is what they’ll believe. It isn’t that complicated.
“My life is broken. I have so much crap going on. I’m a total basket case,” Anne wailed, adding intense emotion to her already unhelpful thoughts. Anne was, of course, doing what many people who don’t feel great about their lives do. Life hadn’t worked out the way Anne had thought it should, so she was looking at things in an unhelpful way and telling herself she was a mess, and that she couldn’t change how she felt about her life.
She had assumed some form of therapy was the answer. Anne had defi- nitely felt pain, as we all do and will at times, and for this I felt sympathy, but what if Anne could see that everything in her life so far was preparing her with invaluable tools for the next part? What if Anne realised she had everything she needed inside her to make an outstanding life full of joy and fulfilment? What if she decided now, this moment, to take responsibility for her experience of life? What if she realised no matter what happened out- side which she couldn’t control, she could always control her feelings inside? What if she awoke to the realisation that deep in her soul she was an unlim- ited fountain of love and strength and that she just needed to uncover and unleash who she really was?
Without going into the specific detail of Anne’s particular case, and the outcome she achieved by following the simple and clear principles of the 7-Step SYSO System, it was this interaction with Anne that made me want to write this book. I actually worked with lots of Annes and saw clients from all walks of life who had sought help making changes. Sometimes they didn’t know what they wanted, or they were struggling with emotional pain, anx- iety and depressive thinking, or sometimes their life was going well in some areas but they wanted to grow and be more. The common denominator was that every person had contacted me believing they needed professional help and likely lots of it in the form of one-to-one sessions.
Around the time I met Anne it was already becoming a challenge to fit in clients for repeat bookings or to accommodate recommendations, and I had already been wondering about other ways to help more people but in a more time-efficient way. I was also, in all honesty, getting frustrated listening all day to people talking about their problems! As much as I enjoyed helping people, it felt like the same old stuff over and over again, as most people’s problems arise from the same basic core issues.
I was also becoming more aware and somewhat surprised at just how many people considered their lives to be at least a bit fucked up and were struggling emotionally, and just how few people were really loving their lives! Of course, I was seeing the ones who considered themselves really messed up, but in my nonprofessional everyday life I was not seeing many people overflowing with joy, living authentically with an appreciation for the gift that is their life.
Anne, like all the clients I saw, was not seriously mentally unwell, but rather just needed to know what to do to change and then she needed to activate herself to do it. I knew that Anne didn’t need to spend lots of money on many sessions with me, or anyone else; the process I was going to run through with her was a series of 7 Steps which she could easily do on her own in her own time at her own pace. She just needed to know what to do and then have exercises to activate the doing.
After my meeting with Anne, I decided to put the 7-Step SYSO pro- gramme into a book, accessible to everyone for the price of a good pizza, rather than people thinking they needed to spend hundreds or thousands of pounds on therapy, retreats, gurus or seminars.
So here it is.
If you would like to make changes to your life, read the book, and do what it says. The system is simple. 7 chapters. 7 Steps. You will learn how to
expand your awareness, become a great manager of your mind, take charge of your emotions, meet your needs in healthy ways, have a crystal-clear phi- losophy for the purpose of your life, understand that everything is intercon- nected, and how to make your life more enjoyable by enhancing the lives of others. You will light up and lighten up, leading more from your heart than your ego, being focused on feeling fulfilled by being useful.
By following the Steps, you will change the filter through which you expe- rience life and by changing the filter, everything will look different. You will have a new perspective, clarity of purpose and your life should feel amazing and exciting. The sum of the steps is greater than the parts, each step ampli- fying the others, and you can revisit any part at any time to really engrain your learning.
The system includes lots of exercises to help you make the changes to your life, rather than just reading about them. They are simple and mostly quick to do, requiring little more than in some cases a pen and paper or note making on your phone or computer. Practise these exercises as often as you like. To have an excellent life, like training to be excellent at anything, involves regu- lar practise and developing helpful habits. Making an outstanding life isn’t a single event, it is an ongoing journey of growth and development.
You Don’t Need Therapy challenges people to think differently about how to change, and before I get criticised by many people who will have bene- fitted enormously by various types of therapy or coaching, to be clear I am absolutely not saying therapy is not useful in certain situations. I know there are many wonderful therapists, counsellors and coaches who work tirelessly to help others and who should be applauded. However, in my view, most people don’t need to spend lots of money to sit through lots of sessions in a strange meeting room talking over and over about their past and their prob- lems. They just need to know what to do to change and then they need to take action, and the SYSO System provides these tools and at a fraction of the price of even a single therapy session. Surely that’s at least worth a try if you are considering therapy, or are ‘in therapy’ and aren’t getting the results you want?
Often we know what to do, but we stumble with the doing, and the SYSO System covers how to unblock yourself if you’re stuck. Sometimes we feel lost and aren’t sure of our reasons, and the SYSO System will help you answer these and the bigger questions that lie behind how you live. And sometimes we can feel our life is on fire, that we are living from our hearts and everything is great. If that’s you, the SYSO System can help you keep growing, do more and share your gifts.
Constructing skyscrapers, sending people to space, and creating robots are difficult tasks, but changing how you look at things and what you say to yourself really isn’t. We just haven’t been taught how to do this very well. All the tools you need are distilled in this book and you now have the spring- board to change your life as much as you choose, and quickly. Wherever you are on your journey, your life can be more, and if you lead with heart, it really isn’t that complicated.
You don’t need therapy!