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Keep it Happy – Let in the Light!

Deborah Stephenson, trainee Ollie Coach, reflects on how we also exist in the undefined place that is our mind, built on the abstract bricks of meaning and understanding, formed by each experience, belief and feeling we have from the moment we are born.

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become” – Dr Seuss

Everything is gritty… and there’s dust in the air. We are in the middle of some fairly drastic building work;  walls are coming down, floors are coming up… outside the house there is a big yellow skip full of broken bricks and smashed plaster. A few weeks of chaos… but it will be great when it’s done!

Houses are quite a theme among family and friends at the moment – some are thinking of moving and some actually are, some are decorating, and some, like us, are reconfiguring what we already have. One friend has even had a couple of novels published recently (very exciting), at the heart of her stories is the emotional significance of the place we call “home”.

But we don’t just inhabit a physical space, we also exist in the undefined place that is our mind, built on the abstract bricks of meaning and understanding, formed by each experience, belief and feeling we have from the moment we are born. Everything we encounter is scoured for significance, evaluated and filed, and that’s not easy because it’s estimated that we receive around eleven billion signals from the environment every minute… eleven billion… that’s a lot… more than a lot!

It would be too overwhelming to assess and absorb all that information, so to avoid being swamped in confusion and chaos, we filter our experiences. We edit, generalise and even sometimes disregard what’s going on. Even if I was to do exactly the same as you, or have exactly the same experience as you at exactly the same time, our interpretations would be very different.

Our perspective and what we choose to believe becomes our “world model” or “reality tunnel”. We are the architects and builders and we tend to filter life in a way that supports these reality tunnels, processing things we recognise, and unconsciously seeking things that reinforce our “world” view. This is called confirmation bias, and is the mortar that keeps the bricks of meaning, understanding and belief in place in our individual reality tunnels.

Our tendency to dwell on negative experiences more than positive ones can lead to limiting beliefs, the “I’m no good at this” or “I can’t do that…” beliefs. About a year ago my daughter returned from school upset at not being made a form captain or a school councillor “I am never ever chosen for anything!” she said despondently. “Mmm,” I thought, “I don’t think that’s true!” I encouraged her to remember a number of other lovely things she had been chosen for during her time at the school.

It changed her perspective, and she even decided it was good that other people had a chance this time, smashing that limiting belief brick. The “I am never ever chosen for anything!” could have become a reality for her, denting her confidence and stopping her from going for other things in the future. It’s a small example, but negativity builds up, especially if, as often happens, the limiting belief becomes a pattern.

I am no good at maths,” thinks the child who is finding it tricky and getting a few questions wrong. They lose confidence, worry about the next lesson, and because they are anxious, can’t concentrate, so they find it tricky and get a few questions wrong, lose confidence, worry about the next lesson… the loop repeats, “I am no good at maths”… and up goes a brick in their reality tunnel.

If you hear that happening, challenge those broad statements… “Never chosen for anything”… really… ever? “No good at maths”… really? Not any of it?

Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas.” said Albert Einstein, and there is no doubt that reality tunnels can be very dark places for some people, particularly if the difficult beliefs begin in childhood because early beliefs are the foundations and cornerstones of our reality tunnels. Continuous bad and difficult experiences can build whole walls of constraint and fear, but the beauty is that removing just one brick will let in a little light and fresh air… break down a wall and the light and air will flood in.

Much of the moving, decorating and building work going on with my friends and family has been planned for a while, but perhaps the amount of time we’ve been spending in our homes recently has given us a better insight into what we really need from where we live. I wonder if this is true for our mind too, and that this time will become a trigger for transformation.

Is it time to renovate, reorganise or rebuild your reality tunnel? What would you remove or change? Can you push out a brick and let the light in?

The brilliant and most important thing to remember is that you are a different person now from the one who laid the brick. Life has moved on, go grab your sledgehammer … maybe get a skip…

And there’s something else too…

It took eight people to carry one of the steels that now holds up the ceiling of our room and supports the walls of this house – without those eight people, and the people who worked out the engineering and the planning, it would not have been possible or safe.

So if you are thinking of knocking down a reality tunnel wall or are planning to replace a corner stone, don’t go it alone… get some help… a friend, family, coach or counsellor – someone you trust to help you to get those emotional steels in place.

It has been interesting watching the transformation take place in our home, and despite the broken brickwork, stray pipes and exposed wood… it already feels light and airy and we can see it will make a huge  difference to the space when it’s finished, but you don’t have to pull down walls to make a difference… you can go brick by brick.

I wonder how good you will feel when the dust settles…

Deborah Stephenson, Ollie Coach trainee

I am an Ollie School trainee and a Director at an Independent Prep School for boys. I am a trained journalist and worked in BBC Local Radio for more than twenty years as a reporter, bulletin reader, news editor and programme maker. It was a great job, but I wanted to do something to support my own children’s wellbeing with a view to taking that on to support others and, in pursuit of a better work life balance, I resigned as the Assistant Editor of BBC Essex last year. Inspired by the Ollie School concept I was excited to be accepted for the training course and it has been a fascinating and enlightening and journey so far. 

To get in contact with Deborah, email

To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to

Caroline Chipper

Caroline Chipper


Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to

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