Chimps, chewing, creativity & contentment

Posted on March 9, 2013


preview_minI had planned to be in Nepal this weekend, my intention to run a race in Annapurna … but various obstacles got in the way, for the most part, the fast approach of one too many deadlines. As anyone who knows me will testify, nothing comes between me and my mac when it comes to my work!

But as luck would have it, the cancellation meant I was here for the Emirates Lit Fest, the best event in the Dubai calendar hands down. I booked what I could, albeit at late notice … and spent yesterday, absorbing words from brilliant people then rushing home to put a few hours into my own book in progress.

But back to yesterday … what I learnt was this …

Talk number one was Success, Cycling & Managing your Chimp with Dr Steven Peters.

Dr Peters is the genius behind the book, The Chimp Paradox and the man responsible for the sporting success of many of Britain’s star athletes in the 2012 Olympics. In the space of an hour, Dr Peters taught us how our brains work and how the different components of our minds often work against each other.  In our sporting, business and personal lives, if we learn how to prevent our emotional side, our ‘chimp’ from sabotaging our success, we can optimise our performance. Our ‘chimp’ is the irrational side of our minds and works entirely independently from our rational side.

Next up with the utterly charming Helena Frith Powell, author of some fab books, celebrated Sunday Times columnist and one of those women you’d love to hate thanks to her insight, humour, beauty and demeanour … except you can’t because she just seems so damn likeable.

We talked about her experience at the Vivr Mayr Clinic, the world-famous clinic in Austria run by Dr Stossier.  I met Stossier in Dubai a couple of years ago and his methods are fascinating. Other than his insistence on eating Spelt Bread and sipping on Epsom Salts (neither btw are remotely pleasant), his approach is pretty balanced and his greatest recommendation is just to chew, chew, chew … 40 times, he says, to really break down our food, assist in digestion and be better alerted to when we’re full.

I then attended  a talk by Tony Buzan called Mind, Maps & Unlocking Creativity.

Buzan is the author of 120 books (yes, 120!) and is the creator of the mind map, a brilliant tool to chart your thoughts, plans and goals through the use of images and colour. He believes mind maps are the universal key to unlocking the potential of the mind making them a brilliant technique to enhance learning and enable clearer thinking. We did a series of exercises to unleash our creativity and prove that ‘semper solutio’ … there is always a solution. It was an interactive session and I looked around at one point and saw around 500 faces, hailing from perhaps 30-40 countries, all in discussion with their neighbours re the infinite uses of a paper clip.

I finished the day with a panel talk on Happiness.

Four brilliant authors and inspiring thinkers discussing the importance of being happy, the definition of happiness, the difference between happiness, contentment, peace and joy and how to best achieve them. One lady on the panel was a well-known Scottish author from Shetland in the far north of Scotland.  She played us some tunes on her fiddle and talked of how a recent report showed that those in Shetland are happier than anyone else in Scotland.  Is this down to their inherent focus on community, she wondered?  On time with friends and family and not chasing wealth, things or status?

All round a great day with some thought-provoking moments that resulted in me hitting the trails this morning with renewed vigour and a recharged passion for the things that make me most happy … 

Emirates Lit Fest, I look forward to your return in 2014.


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