Psychotherapy or Evolution Mentoring:
Receiving Psychological Treatment vs. Learning and Adopting a Different Way of Life
I’ve had several conversations with people recently trying to better understand the distinctions in the “Mentoring in A Way Of Life” that I offer versus the Treatment for Mental Illness that psychotherapists and doctors offer.
I thought I’d write a little more about this as I haven’t updated it in print in several years (though I wrote a whole book about it which I published in 2016).
Something Broken OR A Lot To Learn?
The fundamental premise I start with is 180 degrees in contrast to the medical clinical model.
The Medical model begins with the premise that there is something wrong that needs to be treated/fixed/healed using techniques, clinical treatment plans and interventions which sometimes includes medication.
In the Evolution Mentoring Model, I believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the people I work with, but there is a lot wrong with the system we are raising them in. I believe they have limited knowledge and a very narrow, often highly skewed life/worldview that causes them to get limited results, depend to heavily on the approval of others and often leads to them over-reacting to things that don’t warrant it.
The people they work with become their patient.
The people I work with become my client.
When my clients integrate enough of the character traits that become a Way of Life that I describe below, they are no longer inhibited by the issues that led them to reach out in the first place, and instead are leading confident, secure, deeply connected, satisfying adventurous lives.
Over the years, more than half of the people who contact me, do so after they have tried the conventional routes and not gotten the results they wanted, or felt they reached the limits of what that could offer and are seeking more or different.
Though I am quite learned about the various clinical models out there and find them effective in certain cases for sure (and regularly work in conjunction with people who are on medication that seems to help them stabilize), I will write here only about mine.
A Different Way Of Life
Everything I teach my clients stems from a combination of personal life experience, professional training and professional life experience. Some of this I figured out on my own. Some of this I was explicitly taught by others. Some of it comes from things non-professionals have said in random moments that offered profound clarity. The stories are too many to recount in a single blog.
It comes from a 30 year long fascination I have had with people who seem to lead the most magical lives… people who have “That Thing” that seems to enable them to stay positive, upbeat and adventurously alive, regardless of what obstacles they have… People whose charisma regularly lights up a room or whose joy and presence lights up the lives of the people they are with… people who make the world feel bigger and better for those who get the chance to know them… people who accomplish amazing things in spite of everything life throws at them…
Mentoring offers an opportunity for an apprentice to learn, grow, evolve, adopt and integrate a new skill set, mindset and lifestyle that has been extrapolated from what I have learned and gained from these people.
When what is being offered is the right match, it empowers them to “cross the threshold” and launch into their own autonomous life. They take with them what they gained from the Mentor, add in their own learning and make their own life.
The goal isn’t to make the apprentice a carbon copy of the Mentor, rather it is to equip the apprentice to the live the quality and caliber of life that becomes available when they integrate the value they gain.
Unlike “Life Coaches” whose role is to help their client set goals and think clearly and perform better but who can be an asshole outside of it, who the Mentor is, how the Mentor lives and what the Mentor offers as a model, all matters. In some ways, it’s the greatest leverage of this model and the greatest challenge.
The famous parable about Ghandi and the mother who wanted him to tell her son to stop being addicted to chocolate illustrates this.
Ghandi sends her away and tells her to come back in a few weeks. When she does he turns to the boy and says “Young man, STOP eating so much chocolate!” The woman asks “If that is all you are going to say, why didn’t you just say that two weeks ago?” To which Ghandi famously replied “Because two weeks ago, I was addicted to chocolate!”
Relationship vs Technique
Because who the Mentor is and internal congruence matters so much, the most effective work of Mentoring is often conveyed and leveraged through the relationship. This is one of the reasons that my Clients often so value the relationship we form because it feels “so real” to them… because it is. It’s not just because they can call or text any time, though that helps.
While I have select boundaries at all times, when they ask me “How are you?” I actually tell them… even if I am having a shitty day and going through a challenging time.
What follows then is also demonstrating, discussing or modeling how to be going through a lot of external challenges, but doing it in a way where I don’t become the victim, where I stay composed under pressure and learn how to get through things even when it isn’t easy or pleasant.
This self-honesty and sharing may sound insignificant, but it is actually profound.There is no pretense towards a false image of perfection, rather an embracing of what it is to be human but handled in a different more empowering way.
It was these interactions I had in the world that helped me to design this model and develop this lifestyle. Often these things I learned from these people I’ve modeled my life after, came from observations of how they lived, not through conversation… just by noticing and modeling people who engaged in the world in a way that I admired, envied and wanted to adopt.
These people shared a number of qualities in common…Here are 22 of the most essential and universal:
- Excitatory Possibilities Bias: They always prioritize finding solutions and staying positively oriented. They avoid getting negative, dwelling in cynicism and feeling hopeless – including not engaging in conversations with people who want to do this. Misery loves company. People who subscribe to the Way of Life I am teaching, don’t want that company.
- Never a Victim: They always take responsibility for their role in what has happened in their life…they own the decisions they made that allowed for things to happen. This gives them personal power and also the possibility to learn and to minimize or eliminate the chances of these things happening to them again. Even if their role was only 5% of what happened, they own it. Just yesterday I walked a 17 year old through this mindset regarding an accident he was in which he claimed was not at all his fault… by the end of the talk he could see how there were things he could do differently going forward that would minimize the risk of this kind of thing happening again… things he never saw when he felt he had no responsibility in what happened. It will make him a better safer driver… more importantly it will make him a more powerful human being.
- Life is an Adventure: Many many people, especially Get Z’s who I work with now (22 and under) approach the future with fear or hesitation. They choose career paths that are “safer” even though the work involved holds no personal interest to them … they choose to move where they already know people, instead of go out there and meet the friends they haven’t made yet… they only go to an event if someone they know is going, rather then go on their own and have the experience, etc etc etc. (“I’m not being cynical” they argue, “I am just being realistic!”) The Way Of Life I teach instead embraces a mindset that Life is an Adventure, and an adventure Always demands at points, the Courage to go into the unknown. So they must embrace the Adventure and build their capacity to live with the experience and feeling of “not knowing”… and develop the ability to have the “5 seconds of Courage” they will need to get what they most want in life.
- True Respect & Humility & Gratitude. The people I modeled this work after treat everyone in their world with Respect. They have a genuine Humility that stems from knowing that their experience and their kids may matter immeasurably to themselves, but it doesn’t mean that they are any more special or important in the world than anyone else. Thus they are gracious, kind and polite towards everyone, until there becomes a reason not to be. So often people in the service industry or blue collar workers get used to being treated as disposable, and the difference it makes when they are treated as humans who matter is profound. Kids who get set aside at the kids table light up when an adult engages them and treats them like their opinions matter, etc etc etc… This attitude also better prepares them for the realities of the world when they find that their membership in an elite school means nothing to their bosses who want them to be able to actually produce results in the real world. Better to get that” you may be talented but you aren’t special” now, then to be destroyed later when you learn you sense of specialness was built on flawed narrow thinking.
- Make their own rules: They do things their way and are not restricted in their actions and choices by all the rules of social norms that most people subscribe to out of ignorance, naivety or fear. From making bold choices to start businesses without degrees to talking their way into amazing opportunities (I have one colleague who got into a PhD program without ever having earned a BA) to things as simple as breaking all the standard dating rules (like “I can’t open his message yet or I will seem desperate” or “she’s out of my league”), the examples are endless as are the possibilities that open up when a person decides to stop being inhibited by arbitrary social rules disguised as truths.
- Playfulness and healthy positive sense of humor: I often tell my clients that I believe I would go insane in this current world if I didn’t have a sense of humor and I have often been ribbed because of my propensity to “laugh at your own jokes”… But I don’t do this by default, rather by design. I wasn’t born this way!
Too many things happen that can lead to overwhelm of stress, rage at the system or become justification for cynicism, and being able to laugh at things or at the absurdity in life or even at one’s self, is a game changer, maybe even a life saver. It is a quality I find consistent in everyone I encounter who leads the kind of extraordinary lives that I built this model to emulate.
It takes some getting used to – especially for clients I work with who have been heavily therapized and taught to take identify by their issues, but if they stick around this work long enough, sooner or later they come to appreciate the ability to find some lightness even amidst very real challenges and hard times. One of my favorite examples of this was a guy who came to one of our programs in England and when asked what he wanted replied “To laugh!” His was the best answer of all and his story from who he was then to who he is now, is an amazing one. I spoke about him in my TED Talk.
- Commitment To Self-Education and Life Long Learning: They read and invest in learning, often a lot. They take in multiple perspectives and are open to opinions and world views that differ from their own. Its not that there isn’t a time to unwind with mindless entertainment media, it’s that learning, being knowledgeable and intellectually engaged is an ongoing priority. “I never let school get in the way of my education” Samual Clemons…and I would add in “never let the responsibilities of life or the temptations of instant gratification get in the way of staying awake, current and knowledgeable” and never let the lack of easy access to information become an excuse to not go out there and get it anyway.
- Decisive – Wise Decision Makers: Being a person who can make decisions based on quick calculations and appropriate assessments of contextually relevant criteria is a vital skill to get results in life. Being a person who can recognize when they don’t know enough and can assertively seek out relevant information to enable them to responsibly make decisions is an equally important one.
- Don’t Take Things Personally That Aren’t: The ability to mentally separate what’s about self and what’s about other is requisite for maturity. Few people do it well which makes them far too susceptible to being impacted by the opinions of others and dependent upon approval from the world around them for their own sense of self-worth and well-being. One of the benchmarks of success in my model is when a client goes from calling me in tears about the comments or actions some classmate did towards them to calling me laughing saying “You are not going to believe what they did today…!! “ and then we share a laugh over the pettiness that consumes so many people’s lives.
- Have Uncompromising Boundaries: To become abundantly clear about where people fit in their lives and haveappropriate boundaries based on what relationship they have. This way they do not overshare or place trust in people they shouldn’t be sharing things with or trusting so much. It also means they become the kind of person who can truly be trusted.
One of the exercises I do with every client is “Circles of Relationship” where I help them visualize the different types of relationships they have in life and clarify for themselves what boundaries to have based on these. This includes becoming clear what signs and evidence needs to be present to inform them when to move someone into a different circle. Many adolescents suck at this and surprisingly a number adults still do as well.
- Minimize Self-Medicating Mind Altering Substances: Alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, LSD, etc are all substances that make you less present, more impaired and in most cases, are bad for your health. While there exists the outlier cases of people who use these to excess regularly and still function at their peak, for most people it has the opposite effect – especially marijuana. Moderation is often the excuse that leads to mediocrity. Almost everyone I know who leads the calibre of life that I built this model on, reaches a point where they either quit these all together, or use them scarcely. Living in a “bottle of wine a night”culture may be the norm, but is not indicative of a healthy life affirming life style.
- Make and Keep Commitments: In a culture that has become more and more “out of sight out of mind” people who keep their commitments stand out. They send a signal to the world that they are trustworthy, they respect others and are reliable. I urge my clients to be people who avoid making excuses and deal with the inconveniences to always show up for others regardless of other factors. No one believes that you “aren’t feeling well”… so don’t be another one of the untrustworthy unreliable masses.
- Fight Like Hell When Needed: Don’t be a pushover. Stand up for yourself and the people and issues that matter to you. Learn how to ensure people receive and respect the Message, without dismissing it because of the messenger. Be physical when necessity demands it. Own your space in the world. Don’t play it small when playing it small will keep you from having have your life.You must master the art of keeping your focus and poise, even when you are surrounded by those who have mastered the art of intimidation and persuasion.
- Manage Your State – Emotionally Regulate: Build the capacity to stay composed under pressure to perform under pressure… to stay calm in crisis and compartmentalize distractions to focus on the urgency of the task at hand. This is living from the inside out. “My boyfriend just broke up with me” is not an excuse to do poorly on an exam.
- Surround Yourself With Vibrant, Healthy, Life-Affirming People: We are deeply impacted by the people we surround ourselves with. Their attitudes, energy, beliefs and lifestyle influences us. Surround yourself with people who are thoughtful, moral, loyal, lively, positive, engaged… Better to be home with a good book than spending your time dwelling with people who suck the air out of the room.
- Develop Mature, Sophisticated Communication and Relationship Skills: Of all the skills that matter most in life success, nothing comes close to financial, communication and relationship skills.. and yet these subjects are three of the least attended to in our schooling. The vast majority of what I do with my clients includes teaching them everything I possibly can about relationship and communication. It is not uncommon for me to even include others in these discussions… many of my clients have sat with me while I put the phone on speaker and call someone with more knowledge than me on a relationship or communication issue relating to their age group to get additional opinions and options. It’s learning and modeling for them how to learn.
- Master The Skills To Navigate and Manage Bureaucracies From banking to registering for classes to airlines to the DMV… to cyber security to getting a plumber to fix a toilet in the middle the night, our lives are filled with needing to navigate systems and bureaucracies. The more skilled and adept we become at knowing how things work and working the system, the more likely we are to get results in life. I often espouse “You can’t beat the system. But you can be smarter than it.”
- Embrace Asking For Help: Never be too proud or too weak in character to ask for help. I had a colleague once who said “A great teacher can offer you more in an hour than you would figure out in 20 on your own.” This attitude of “I just need to figure this out on my own” is fine in some circumstances, but often in life when it is done out of foolish pride, it is just that: Foolish and a waste of time. Learn to be bold enough to ask questions in a crowd, pursue experts to get their opinions and to appear foolish long enough to stop being a fool.
- Be Spontaneous: One of the most universal qualities I have admired and teach to my clients, is the ability and willingness to be spontaneous. To just go for it… to go to a movie by yourself because you feel like it… to do a road trip just because… to be creative about how to spend your time or with what to do on a date.. Let your life be less scripted and leave more room for wonders that emerge when you blend openness, creativity and a willingness to just go with the flow in a moment. Decades ago the orange industry launched a campaign to try and get people to consume more oranges: “Orange juice… it isn’t just for breakfast anymore”… apply it to all aspects of life and live a much more joyful life.
- Live A Life That Is Rich, Where Enough Is Enough: Many people pursue money because of what they think it will bring them… it may or may not, and typically doesn’t because of the “Never Enough” pitfall. Instead seek to live a life that is rich in satisfaction and deep fulfillment.. pursue your interests… build careers doing things you actually want to wake up and do…surround yourself with people you actually want to be with because of how you feel when you are with them, not just because of how you look to others when they are with you…Go to a school that you feel is most compatible with you and your needs and lifestyle wants, not just because of the status of how it sounds to tell others you went there… Live a life that is intrinsically rich to you, and its okay to make a lot of money along the way!
- Don’t Seek To Feel Happy. Seek Instead To Live A Life You Can Be Happy To Have Lived: We are living in a happiness feel-good obsessed culture. It makes sense. People have become masters of making themselves feel like shit both because they endlessly compare themselves to others and because they are addicted to immediate gratification moments that offer no long term deep satisfaction and lead instead to addiction, depression, isolation and even despair. We get one life. Looking back we can either see a string of choices we made to pursue pleasure, or we can see a life that we are deeply fulfilled by that we accomplished because we were willing to take the hard steps, be bold, be courageous and even go it alone long enough to get the deeper rewards that only go to those who are willing to walk the walk, take the steps and earn their stripes. Much of that life path may be fun and enjoyable, but certainly much of won’t be. It’s a choice that determines everything. Choose wisely.
The Difference Between What and How
So those are the “Whats” that make up the fundamentals of this Way Of Life that I built Evolution Mentoring to teach to others and help them integrate and embody, and that I have spent decades training myself to live.
The big question that follows is “Okay, I get what you want to offer and why it would make a difference… but HOW do you do it?”
Of course no one asks a surgeon how they are going to do what they do… no one asks an elite athlete how they do it… but this question is common and it is typically not what they are really asking.
What they are really asking is “Will it work for me?”
My answer is “If you are a bright, thoughtful, sensitive more intense person who is prone to over-thinking and who feels things strongly, then most likely Yes!”…
I can say that because it worked for me and I have yet to meet anyone who was as big a pain in the ass self-protecting over-identified with inhibiting self narrative as I was when I launched on this journey…
What made the difference with my own journey were two things:
1) I was ready to have my entire life belief system be dismantled (My Mentor once said to me “You didn’t realize you hired an assassin!”) Thank G-d I did.
2) I was willing to put in the time and effort, and it takes time and often a lot of repetition.
How I do this has been developed and honed over 25 years and about 65,000 hours of experience… in with this is a ton of very highly specific training particularly in Somatics, Semantics and Mythology.
It takes whatever time it takes, but through repetition and intense desire and readiness on their part and a never ending pursuit to expand skills and learning on my part, the people I work with regularly get results.
Thats how I have been in business for 25 years and built an international practice almost entirely on word of mouth and typically with many people with whom conventional treatment oriented methodologies failed.
My clients regularly become more confident, secure and healthily connected. They stay far more composed under pressure and make high quality decisions… They build mature loving relationships, great careers and become the kind of charismatic positive people I think the world needs more of… And they regularly speak to me about how different aspects of learning this Way Of Life has benefited them on their journey to putting their own pieces together to make it their own.
The greatest obstacles many of my clients face are:
1: The overwhelming time they spend in their own heads
2: Unlearning behaviors that have become habituated and reinforced
3: Impatience with the process and with themselves
4: Clinging to the Secondary Gain they get from keeping their “issues”
5: The briefs they have adopted by submitting to a flawed education system and cultural values
But in spite of that, the greatest thing they have going for them:
Everyone has moments – albeit sometimes brief and few and far between, where without the aid of any substance, they feel liberated from their inhibitions, where they feel next to unstoppable, where they feel calm and quiet inside, and where this way of life I have described becomes not just possible, but deeply appealing. Everyone has them… even if just for a flicker of a second.
What they want is in them… what they want to know how to do can be learned… it’s a matter of getting out of their own way (which its my job to help them do) and them putting in the time and effort.
Wax on. Wax off.
All for now.