Category Archives: Blog

The Magic of Lemons and the Power of the Mind

As a naturally sceptical person, I tend to question and scrutinise most things in my life to the point of minute detail. This can be of great advantage at certain times, where situations that arise have already been thought through to a degree where I can approach them in an appropriate and considered manner. However, a big portion of this scrutiny can be involuntary, misguided and lead to nothing other than furthering feelings of stress. I find this is the case when over-thinking situations that I have absolutely no control over, yet still expend the same amount of mental energy pondering to myself. This detailed internal assessment of situations usually takes form (as with most thought) as a monologue in my head, and I'm often completely unaware it's even happening when it does.

Since working with Brian on this Pass Perfection video series, I have gained a hugely valuable insight into how the mind works and just how much control we can have over what our mind does. Brian's techniques are not only straight forward and easy to grasp, but rooted in the real world and therefore immediately helpful and applicable to many situations in day to day life, not just moments of extreme stress or anxiety.

His episode in the Pass Perfection series, 'The Magic of Lemons' helped me greatly in dealing with what I detailed earlier in this post, involuntary internal monologues that lead to increased feelings of stress. Without giving away the lesson's content in all its insightful glory, this episode helped me to identify moments where this 'self talk' was taking place and understand why it was happening. Using simple but extremely effective techniques, Brian opened my awareness up to this side of my mental activity and how prominent and obtrusive this can be at times without realising it for a single moment. This knowledge of self and new found awareness of mind has since led to me understanding and therefore controlling this 'self talk' more regularly when it occurs.

I now feel capable of focussing my internal monologues as they occur to ponder and discuss useful things with myself in my own time rather than stressing out and becoming increasingly anxious about things I can't affect. This aspect of my perception has altered so significantly since working on Pass Perfection that something which used to be a sizeable hinderance to good thought and happiness, is now a welcome element in my day. This in turn, leads to living life as a happier, more content person and turning lonely walks and time alone into useful moments of reflection and personal goal setting.

From Exam Anxiety to A First in Law and a job at the UN!

I met Sarah when she was studying law at the University of Glasgow. She was a bright student, was respected by her teachers and did well in class but she was terrified of exams. She felt overwhelming pressure when it came to studying, let alone sitting the exams and her exam anxiety was getting the better of her.

Sarah was referred to me by a friend of her parents who had been to one of my courses. I took her through everything we cover in the Pass Perfection series. We started with relaxation. When people are in the frame of mind that Sarah was, they can find it almost impossible to relax. They also give themselves such a hard time about not performing well that the idea of taking some time out to clear your mind and relax causes panic and brings on even more stress.

This way of thinking is counterproductive, especially when it comes to studying and can add to your exam anxity. That's exactly why you need to take some time out to reset your way of thinking. Taking just five minutes to relax can save hours of wasted effort. What's the point of trying to study for ages if you just get worked up and don't retain any of the information? Using simple hypnosis relaxation techniques, Sarah was soon able to relax. This was something she hadn't been able to do for months and she was really physically worked up so taking just a little bit of time to unwind was a massive benefit to her.

Next we tackled the feeling of being overwhelmed by breaking up each task into smaller elements. This is something we call “chunking”, an important part of Pass Perfection. You can read more about this on Amanda’s blog post and find out all about how to use it yourself it in the video series.

Then we worked on her ability to absorb and retain information. Memory techniques are pretty simple tools to grasp but they make a profound different to study.

And throughout we kept the goal in mind. She not only wanted to pass, but pass well.

I'm delighted to say that Sarah got a first class honours degree and now holds a position in the international law team at the United Nations! Through applying the elements I teach in Pass Perfection she learned to relax, overcame her anxiety, reduced her stress levels, was able to study and perform well in her exams.

Looking back on the experience she told us that she had really wanted to do well, but felt so overwhelmed that she didn't know where to start.

“I knew I was capable of more, but couldn't see how I could get there. I would spend hours staring at my notes and felt like nothing was retained at all. Brian's teaching helped me so much. I couldn't have done it alone but with his help I achieved everything I wanted to, and more! I can't recommend his teaching enough. Buy Pass Perfection. I would have loved to have something like it when I was studying."

From Mind to Mellow: What I’ve Learned From Pass Perfection

We've recently been working with Brian Costello on his new Pass Perfection series which is a series of videos designed to help with managing stress and improving your study techniques in the build up to your exams. It is always the way with these things, that you begin to imagine how useful all these tips would've been when you were studying but actually, I've found myself already using some of the techniques just to manage my stress at work and focus on tasks.

Brian started talking about the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything and not being able to figure out where would be best to start, I could identify with this straight away – both when I was at University but also on particularly busy days at work. Brian describes how complex the brain is and working to its strengths so for example, break everything down into chunks, or what Brian calls 'chunking', something that our brain already does subconsciously. It seems like such an obvious approach – break everything down – but actually when you are aware of how your brain should be acting, you can almost pull it into focus when you need it to be. I've found myself working with shorter lists, smaller notepads and breaking down text into bullet points and it does work.

For example, I personally find reading lots of text on a screen overwhelming. I love to read but I often avoid reading online and will print things off. Since working on Pass Perfection, I've found myself taking emails into a separate document and breaking it up into action points. It doesn't seem like much but before 'chunking', I was spending time reading over the email, maybe several times, and finding that rather than take in the information, I'd begin to stress out about what was being asked of me, regardless of the task. Now I find myself working my way through the task methodically and more efficiently because it's almost like by breaking it up, I'm processing each chunk at a time.

Alongside the video series, we also put together an audio accompaniment to help with sleep after studying or before an exam. Again, it seems like a given – you need a good sleep to perform at your best for an exam but it's easier said than done. Never mind the slackers burning the midnight oil as they try to cram as much in as possible – sometimes it's just impossible to switch off from all the butterflies in your stomach and information swirling around your brain.

I'm definitely one of those people that can lie awake all night questioning everything over and over, over-analysing situations and worrying about everything. I sleep lightly and often have a broken sleep so I've found working with my breathing has helped massively with this. By breathing slowly, mimicking your breathing during sleep, and communicating the inhale and exhale to yourself internally, this can really help with getting back to sleep. I've tried it a few times lately. I had a friend staying and normally I would get up to do something to tire me out and take my mind off of it like read a book but I didn't want to wake him. I tried the breathing technique and the next thing I know, it's the next morning!

I think often the key to getting the best out of your brain is by understanding it, understanding how it works and more specifically, the way your brain has chosen to work. The more I learn about myself and understand how my brain likes to work, the more I feel I'm ticking off my to do list each day.

Using digital media to do good things

The Pass Perfection series has been devised by Headstrong and produced by Inner Ear. In this blog post, Inner Ear's director, Dougal Perman, ponders how digital media can be used to, as Brian often says, do good things...

The internet is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to finding ways to improve or help ourselves. I have encountered many wonderful resources, learned lots from the teachings of great people, been comforted, found support, engaged with communities and benefitted from the wisdom of the crowd on many occasions. But like many of us I've also been easily distracted, lost focus, been overwhelmed by what I've ready, watched, seen and heard and sometimes can't see the digital wood for the virtual trees.

How we use technology is up to us. At Inner Ear (which is a content creation and communications company – that is we produced, publish and promote digital media) we are very interested in using the tools at our disposal to make stuff that informs, educates and entertains people in many different ways. We're passionate about making messages as accessible as possible. That's why when we met Brian from Headstrong, through our friends at Skylark PR, we discovered that we not only got on really well but we knew we wanted to pool our combined talents to create something really useful and beneficial for people.

Our very first encounter was when Anny (our digital marketing consultant) was asked by Lisa at Skylark to DJ at Brian's birthday party. Her blend of disco and house went down well and Brian then asked her to DJ at another event. She was eight months pregnant then so I DJed at Fashion In Flames instead – an incredible fashion show charity fundraiser where the runway was a fire-walk!

Brian, my colleague Benny (our communications manager) and I put our heads together and decided we wanted to take Brian's long track record of helping people realise their true potential and approach studying and exams in the best possible way and create a useful, easy to follow digital product that we would price at an affordable level so that as many people as possible could benefit.

We're very pleased with the results. Our production team have been enjoying the benefits of the relaxation MP3s included in the product. You can get a free audio download pre-study relaxation to help you relax and focus your mind simply by signing up to our mailing list via the link on the homepage. There are four more audio recordings available in the Pass Perfection series.

The combined teams at Headstrong and Inner Ear have really enjoyed working together to create Pass Perfection. We hope you get as much out of it as we do. Check out the promo video, sign up to the mailing list and get the free audio, watch out for our promotional live streamed previews of selected episodes from the video series and let us know how you get on.

We're confident that by creating this digital good thing, we're going to help you do even more good things yourself too!