Living Inside Out - On Purpose


Michael Mallows

I invite you to share what may well be the most profound journey that any of us can ever take – a journey into the deeper parts of our very being.

Such a journey can help us to discover, uncover and to rediscover our wonderful and mainly untapped resources. 

Often unfamiliar, sometimes even unacknowledged because they remain unused, these resources lie dormant, buried, repressed and denied, manifesting in the undercurrents of fear and frustration that permeate so much of our day-to-day lives. These feelings are often underpinned by a vague but pervasive sense of yearning for 'Something Other' (not here, not now, not me). We have more to give and to experience; there is so much more that we could tap into - if only! And yet, something holds us back. It may be an inner voice, unbidden images, created or recalled unwanted feelings of doubt, unexpected feelings of irrational anxiety, helplessness or futility. Or, pernicious and persistent, the bitter regret of, "If only…"

"If only yesterday had been otherwise how different today would be!"

Clinging to regrets for wrong turnings and errors of judgements, we feed the fires of resentment, guilt and blame by rehashing every long-remembered betrayal, abuse and loss.

At other times we may believe, and find others to agree, that it is the future not the past that prevents us becoming the best that we might be. Anxieties, fears, negative hallucinations and self-fulfilling prophecies limit the vision of future possibilities and impair our judgment in the here and now.

Exposing the teeth marks on our psyche to justify shying away from risks and responsibilities, we seek people to give us the sympathy we think we need and believe we deserve. Their good intentions reinforce our convictions and problems, which are neither the past nor the future, as such, but our thoughts and feelings about yesterday and tomorrow in the living breathing moment of the Now.

The philosophy of this journey is simple. Each moment, each heartbeat, happens in an instant of choice.

Each moment offers various options. We may not be aware of the options, let alone the possibility of choosing, but, between one heartbeat and the next we choose:

What we are going to focus attention on
What meaning we will give it
What action we will take

If you (like most people in the West), do not believe that this applies to you  then much of what follows will be, at best, of academic interest. We are always doing our best at any given moment as far as our beliefs, values, imagination and memories allow. A nanosecond later, we may feel both wiser and more foolish, wishing we had acted differently (“If only!”).

Repeating a mistake, repeating a mistake, taking another wrong turning, meeting another dead-end, is only lamentable if we choose not to seek the lesson available in every mistake.   

In the living breathing heartbeat, we can choose to look over the wall and imagine the possibilities, or we can choose to keep looking back over our shoulder and regretting our limitations.

I invite you to consider who and how you would like to be. How will you look? What will you say? How will you sound and feel when you are moving toward your full potential? What steps you are willing to take to fulfill that vision and inhabit your dream?

This article is intended to help you to reconsider the decisions you make, if you so desire, about who you are and where you are going. What you really want? How you will go about getting it? You know whether you are expressing the best of yourself in your relationships with other people because you feel good about asserting yourself, and you treat others with respect and generosity of spirit.

You will know that you are more fully connected to the world around you when you approach it with curiosity, interact with creativity and behave with responsibility, respect and dignity. How, in the ordinary moments of your day, can you nurture your extraordinary potential?

The invitation and the questions imply change, as does any experience of personal development.

If we develop our potential, by definition we change. If we build on that to develop yet more of our potential, we can influence the world around us. We may set an example, become role models, motivate, nurture and inspire others so that they feel encouraged to take risks and to develop or to change themselves. If the world and the people around us change, those changes will impact on us, and so on, and so on.

Take someone who, arriving home after an assertiveness course, finds that the people in hir life do not like the 'new' persona. They may even be rejecting or punitive. This may compel the person back into hir shell or, like countless real, imaginary and fictional heroes, to vast horizons and new visions.   

Many people want to change (although even more want to stay the same), but have not fully considered the 'ecology' of change and the impact on others. New responsibilities and challenges may be unexpected and uncomfortable and the price of change seems too great compared to the familiarity of the present state of affairs.   

The Self-Change Model

Also known as the Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997), this model describes a series of steps and stages for personal evolution. It requires giving up dependency and blame and taking appropriate responsibility for our decisions and actions.  


In the first stage - pre-contemplation - a person may have no idea that there is a need for change. They may deny the existence or the significance of any evidence, clinging tenaciously to the security of their map and model of 'Reality'. They certainly have no thought of change in the foreseeable future.   


In this stage we look at our own thoughts, feelings and actions, and consider the possibility that we could do something different.

It is at this point that many people, peeking out of their comfort zone, realise (decide) that they prefer their patterns, even if they're painful, and retreat hastily into a bolthole of rationalisations.   

Alert for danger, we may oscillate in and out of the contemplation stage as we test the waters and sniff the air. As each emergence makes us a little bolder, a little braver, we may roam a little wider. We are still wary, doubtful and ready to retreat, but ever more optimistic that change could be worth the risk. As we yo-yo between the past and the future, between hope and the fear, something in our perception shifts and we start questioning our assumptions and attitudes. We can now imagine the possibility of possibilities.   

I asked Joe, after some emotional freedom tapping, “As you listen to your feelings now, how are they different?” “I believe that I can believe in myself!” he replied.  


Emboldened by our forays, we direct our thoughts, though perhaps not yet our actions, toward real change. Not just any change, of course, but self-change.

We can think seriously about doing something different or doing the same thing in a different time or place.

This could be simply thinking about preparing for a new activity, or it could be thinking about a change of job, abode or places of entertainment.   

Grossly overweight, John decided that he wanted to run a half-marathon. He thought seriously about his eating (and drinking) habits. Reluctant to forgo his weekly binges with his drinking buddies, he decided that, at the very least, he didn't need to imbibe quite so much at lunch times. Immediately he cut down.

He was not quite ready to commit, but he was getting ready.  

Re-evaluating means (re) considering how Selfhood (who we think we are) shapes our relationships with people, events and situations. We question the validity of our convictions or the vanity of our certainties. This can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if our sense of Self is firmly attached to our version of Reality.

Fragile Egos believe they can only survive in the confines of their Limiting Beliefs! 

To get ready for change, it is useful, even essential, to have a clear picture of the desired changes. How will I look different, how will others see me differently, how will things look different as I change and when I’ve changed?

When you have pictured that clearly, in full colour, you can step into that picture and anticipate the feelings you will have when the changes are established.

At this - or at any - point in the process, you could decide that the changes are not worth the effort required. Too little outcome for too much input.   


Having prepared, we can focus attention on the emotional, conceptual and psychological investment required. No longer just wishing and hoping, we are aware of and serious about taking the risk. We are prepared and now we commit to following through and dealing with the consequences.

This, and every stage, can re-stimulate enough doubts and anxieties that we loop back to any of the previous stages - even to pre-contemplation. “What was the point? I was just banging my head against a brick wall!”

Other people know that something is different because of our general attitude, the things we say and the way we say them, and because our reactions are different. When we are truly committed, we are less threatened or upset by other people’s scepticism or cynicism. As they are very willing to remind us; they’ve heard it all before!   


OK, we made it this far! Perhaps we took a convoluted route, two steps forward three steps sideways, but now we are ready to show we mean business. Now we are going to walk our talk!

So we do, and guess what? Just as (or worse than) we feared, it all goes wrong.


What next? Retreat or recommitment?

It’s up to you. It’s up to me.

Either way, it's still a choice.   


This can be a difficult stage. We need to stay focused on the benefits and believe in our capacity to work through to the glittering prize of Self-esteem.

We may need encouragement but not find it.  We can relapse and feel that we have failed – again! Friends may say “I told you so!” Colleagues may indicate “I knew it!” And we will need to draw on all our inner resources, resilience and support networks to maintain our determination.

And if you fall before winning post? So, You pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again!   


Eventually, you know that you unlikely ever to return to the problem state. It may happen, ‘never say never’ but there is no need to worry. Your effort, your preparation, your commitment and the action is now a part of who you are. People don’t offer you drinks, or tablets or cigarettes. They don’t expect you to engage in the same old tired and tiring behaviours. You don’t expect them to bail you out, and you aren’t blaming them for what goes wrong because you accept responsibility for your contribution.

Other people may not like the way we have changed. At any of the stages, some people may have fallen by the wayside. In the contemplation stage we will have weighed up the possibility that a friend or lover may not stay around if we change the way we are. And maybe they won’t! But, we can let them go with love or we can use them as an excuse not to change.

Handling other people’s reactions to our personal development will be addressed in a future article.   

Personal Evolution

Self Change takes time and it requires ‘minor’ yet profound changes. We will need at least to consider our (limiting) beliefs, our values (to value ourselves by shifting from self-doubt to self-esteem is a massive shift of beliefs and values), our relationships, our perceptions, assumptions, memories, attitudes and even our identity.   

I believe we are here to grow. To develop our full potential and to evolve both as individuals and as a species. Human beings are remarkable and wonderful creatures with a vast capacity to evolve and grow. We can create an illusion of security by trying to maintain the status quo, but it goes against nature to do so. It takes as much emotional and creative energy to stay the same as it does to change. We are by nature creative and aspirational beings. As Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars!”   

·          For details of Michael’s workshops, you can email, call Michael on 020 8202 3373 or send three 1st class stamps (UK only) to

·          Living On Purpose 37 Layfield Road Hendon London NW4 3UH.