Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. I have someone absolutely delightful with me. Her name is Carla Picardi. She’s an author, consultant and lecturer. She has a degree in architecture and design and she helps to make people’s visions into a reality, whether it’s a design or property development or concept development or people development. Carla was awarded the prestigious Loeb Fellowship by Harvard University for the work that she did at Canary Wharf. And she’s worked in the Gherkin as well. Carla has been a TEDx speaker. She has this fabulous book which is ‘The World According To You-How Our Choices Create It All.
I want to jump right into this topic, because a lot of people have said to me that there’s so much that’s outside our control. Like, look at the pandemic, for example. There is so much that we can’t control. So how then can we create a life that we desire?
Carla Picardi: Well, the concept of “out of our control” is very interesting because yes and no. I mean, surely there are things like a flight being cancelled or a family member coming down with COVID when we’re getting ready to leave on a holiday, or even acts of God or illnesses or accidents. There’s always “existing conditions” in our lives as I call them- we hate our job, we have no job, we have elderly parents, we have a sick family member or anything, so it seems these “existing conditions” seem to be part of who we are. Now, there are some existing conditions that just pop up like a life threatening illness, a loss of income, or coronavirus. It couldn’t be a more perfect example of this, so we all have existing conditions in our lives. In fact, that is our life. I think the important thing is who we choose to be in those moments in relation to those conditions, that creates our lives. So we’re going to explore the best way to release our need to constantly be focusing on the existing conditions. So how do we do that? Well, we’re looking down at these conditions and we’re complaining about them and we’re upset about them and we say, ”why does this always happen to me?” And I think what we don’t understand is by all the energy we’re putting on these existing conditions, we are creating more of them. So instead, if we were capable of saying, “okay, I don’t want any more of those, so I am not going to put my energy in those”, we’re going to start moving our energy on what we desire by feeling appreciation and compassion for ourselves. And then what we do is we hold a space out there for the vision, for the dream, and we move towards that with confidence, one step after the other.
CP: Now, this creates what I call an unconditional life. So what is an unconditional life? That which we do not allow the existing conditions to set the tone for our life. So it’s really pretty simple. If you want to go in a certain direction, don’t be looking behind you and complaining about what you see. I mean, when you’re driving a car, are you looking behind you and complaining about what’s going on? Of course not. You’re focusing on the journey. You’re looking towards your destination, and hopefully, you’re enjoying the ride. Now, this process applies to everything and anything- any project, any physical condition, any financial situation and any relationship. I often say that we control nothing except for our response to things. And when you start living an unconditional life, your life flows more smoothly, it becomes more joyous, out of our control, continues to happen because we’re focusing on what’s working, what’s going well, and we get more of it. So it’s important to understand something big. We create our reality. It’s an inside out job. There’s no one but you. We create it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. And we can change it all by who we are being.
AB: There’s a lot, actually, that you’ve said in the last 1 minute, two minutes. One of them was to enjoy the journey, and the other thing was to be joyful. I think those are huge and amazing concepts.
CP: Our choices create our lives and there’s no one to blame. And you are not a victim. We are 100% responsible for our choices. And the most important choice we can make for ourselves, for our families, for our health, for all the people with whom we work, is to live, enjoy. I mean, think about it, nobody wants to be around those kinds of people- the angry ones, the disgruntled ones, the grumpy ones, the sarcastic, the disappointed, the negative ones. It’s our responsibility not to be that, so lighten up. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life is supposed to be fun, and I think, we think that it’s not in our control and it is in our control. My background is developing and orchestrating large, urban, complex projects and there is always an existing condition. But we use the existing condition, the site, all of the constraints and the unique elements of it to inspire us to create something amazing. So if we can get beyond the existing condition and then we move on, we create a vision, and then we only focus on the vision, we’re going to get the finished project or product or whatever it is that we desire. So if we could do this on megaprojects, I am sure, every single person that’s listening can do this with their lives. So feelings, thoughts, words and actions are energy and they’re like a boomerang, and you send those out and they come back. So, yes, you can get the life you desire, but you can also get the life you don’t desire if you are not conscious about what you’re sending out. So it is really about being conscious, being more conscious more often.
AB: Okay, so you were an architect by training. You studied architecture and design. So how did life bring you to a point where you decided to write the book to help people, to become a keynote speaker? Did something happen in your life, something personal. Like a lot of us have triggers, did you have a trigger?
CP: I just had this dream in my late 30s, early 40s. Wouldn’t it be nice to retire that boomerang I threw out there? Wouldn’t it be nice to retire at the age of 45? Wouldn’t it be nice to retire in Italy? All of these things go out there and are working for you. And so a week before my 45th birthday, I retired and moved to Italy, because in the meantime of those dreams, I met an Italian, and it was time to marry a human being instead of another building. And so I was thinking, “okay, what shall I do?” And in Oslo, where I live, there’s an MBA university called Shimba, which is a consortium of about 40 major public universities in America. And they have their international MBA program here and they invited me to give a lecture because they said we have too few female role models. And so I did the lecture, then I did the weekend. After a while, they invited me to teach a leadership development program. And at that point, most of what’s in my book now is the user friendly version of what I taught in that course. And then I went on from that year of teaching to the BBC, as their strategic Development advisor. So I was going back and forth once or twice a month, not a full time job. And I sat on their architectural advisory board. And as things changed in the BBC, there were less and less money for these think tank sort of things. And so when all was ultimately cancelled, I had some time on my hands and I said, “it’s time to write the book.” AB: That’s amazing.
CP: I mean, the book is really about four fundamental understandings of living an unconditional life. So after managing thousands of people on all of these complex projects and coaching numerous more, I realised that there are four things. It’s looking for what’s working, it’s looking for what’s right. The second element is our life is our illusion. There’s no one but us creating and recreating this stuff. Third thing is our relationships are our mirrors. So our relationships are only reflecting back to us, who we are being. It’s that simple. And the last part, which is our choices. Create our world are both- our macro world and our micro world. Our mega world, every part of our little life, our family life, our community life, and that is reflecting out. So who we are being is everything. Really.
AB: I know you’ve told us the four elements that we need, but how do we take these elements and create the life that we desire?
CP: You don’t have to believe me. You just need to stop and observe your life. Are you happy? Are you enjoying life? Is it easy? Or are you angry, disappointed, frustrated, saying, “why does this stuff always happen to me?” Because maybe you’re not making the connection between who you are being and what you are creating. Because we have this crazy thing that someone else is doing this. Who, Some angry, punishing God or some fickle finger of fate? No. What you think over and over again, day after day, is creating your life. So what I ask people to do initially is just observe yourself. Just observe who are you being? And you’ll see, when somebody is rude to you, don’t say, oh, people are always rude to me. You just think, “what did I say? What did I say? What was my role in this?” When I coach people, I mean, not everybody is ready to see their role. Not everybody wants to believe that their wicked boss or their ex husband or wife actually was only responding and they had a role. We are 100% responsible for what’s showing up in our life. So people don’t come to me and say, “hey, yeah, let’s do that.” It doesn’t happen that way. They have to be ready to see, “okay, yes, I created this. I’ll take 100% responsibility.” The freeing thing, the amazing enlightening thing is that “if I created this, I can create anything else. Yahoo.” And I think that’s the part that we don’t understand. We want to blame, but we don’t want to take control and say “okay, I created this. It’s a little bit of a mess now. I’m not going to stand here and look at this existing condition and complain all day long, every day for the rest of my life.” I’m going to say that I married this guy, or I took this job because I wanted to make a ton of money and I was miserable. Whatever thing is going on in your mind and if you can just realise, okay, I’m out there today, and sometimes we all do this, don’t think because I’m sitting here talking to you that, “oh, I got this down that never happens to me.” Sometimes I even have to walk to my bathroom mirror, which is huge, and say “Carla, enough.” We all do this. I’m not claiming… ‘Oh, yeah I used to do that, but I don’t do it anymore.’ I’m sorry, we all do this about any new existing condition that becomes an existing condition or not. We all go there.
AB: Very important. We have to manage who we are being.
CP: Yes. I don’t say doing because we’re not called human doings. We’re called human beings. People think it’s funny when I say, be kind; don’t judge people. Who do you want to be in this moment? Do you want to be that person? No, rise above it. And I think when you begin to do things differently, people see you, and that’s how you change the world. You change the world one person at a time, starting here. The ripples go out. And it’s not so difficult if we just observe ourselves.
AB: That’s really interesting.
CP: Sometimes I’m in a car with somebody and somebody cuts them off and they say, “that guy”. And we have no idea what’s going on with that man right now. Maybe he’s someplace else mentally. Maybe he just got a call that his child is in the hospital and they don’t know how much longer he’s going to live. He obviously needs to get to this place quicker than we do. Let him go. We don’t need to judge everybody’s behaviour, just say, “you know what? I’m making up what I just thought about it in my mind.”
AB: So, Carla, on that note, if there was one thing that you would advise the people listening in to change in their lives, what is it?
CP: That one thing would be to observe yourself. This is not rocket science. It’s discipline, it’s focus. But anything that’s amazing, it’s not easy. If you want to be an Olympic swimmer, that’s not easy. It’s not impossible, but it’s not easy. This is not easy when you’ve never done it, when you’ve just let yourself and your mind go wild and just say anything you feel like to anyone because you think you’re right, because that’s where it’s coming from. You think you’re right and you think they’re wrong, so you judge them. And if you like drama, continue. But if you don’t want drama, then understand it’s all happening inside of you, inside of your mind. So I think there’s not just one thing, but that would be the first thing. Instead of saying, “I don’t understand”, and ranting about “why did this happen?” or going into depression and looking down every day and saying, “I don’t know why this terrible thing happened to me”, instead, begin to observe that everything is happening perfectly the way it needs to and start to make that shift. Look for what’s good about this. My friends all tease me, “okay, and the gift of this is…” , there’s always a gift, even if your vacation is cancelled because one of your family members has COVID, there’s a gift, something else.
CP: Okay, I needed to clean out all these closets, and now I’m going to do it or whatever. The third thing that I would say is spend your time focusing on being present. Don’t go to the existing condition to complain, but focus on where you want to be. Hold the space and focus on that. So you launch the dream, like I discussed before, and then you hold steady.
AB: Launch the dream and hold steady. So you mean then don’t waver from what it is that you set your intention.
CP: Well, most humans, what do they do? They say, “wouldn’t it be nice to retire at 45, oh, I don’t have enough money”. So the poor dream is like getting emotionally sick. It’s launched, it comes back, it’s launched, it comes back, it launched. But it doesn’t have time to create what it needs to be. It doesn’t have time to grow. The other important thing is in observing ourselves is to recognize we are either always part of the problem or part of the solution, okay?
CP: If we’re part of the problem, what are we doing? We’re looking at the existing condition and wondering why it won’t budge. Obviously, if this is happening to you, it’s because you’re stuck on the existing condition and you’re not part of the solution, which is what you desire. What you desire to be, to exist in your life.
CP: If you’re blaming somebody else, if you’re feeling valueless, if you’re being a victim, you are part of the problem, and you need to recognize that. And until you can shake yourself out of that, you are not capable of creating an unconditional life. The important thing is we have a huge, huge role in making the choices that create the life of your dreams, creating the career of your dreams, creating the perfect project, the world you want to see. And funny enough, the only thing we do control is our choice to focus on that and not focus on the other things that we don’t want.
AB: What I like to do is leave people with some techniques or some tools. So is there a practice that you could recommend on a daily basis that would help people? Because as human beings, we might set an intention, and like you’re saying, we have doubts, we start judging people, so is there a practice which will help us get there?
CP: Meditation is so important. Whatever you want to call it, science has proven it. It changes our brain. If you find that, you’re on what I call a personal rant, if you’re not at a place where you can even settle your mind down enough, then I recommend what I call maybe someone else calls it this, but I learned it many years ago called verbal vomit. And I ask people before they get out of bed in the morning to take I want them to write it. It’s not a computer thing, like a large block of paper. And I want them in any language, mixed languages, not even need to be a full sentence. Start writing. “I can’t believe I have to get up again. I hate this job. I don’t want to work” or whatever it is that’s going around and round and round in your head. You need to vomit it out. After three pages, close it up, and you put it someplace. So if you live alone, you just put it in a drawer. If you don’t, you put it someplace where no one really can find it. And you never read it yourself. You just keep adding to it for six weeks to two months, and by that time, you will have gotten out of all of this rank or all of these things that you don’t even understand is wrecking your day from the moment you open your eyes. And then when you finally feel like, “okay, I don’t really feel like I need this anymore”. I’m like, “oh, the sun is shining. I’m so pleased”. Then, you know, you’re there. You take it. You go to a safe place, meaning a fireplace or a barbecue or wherever you can, and you do a little mini ritual. You look at these papers, and you say, “this is no longer who I am.” And you say, thank you, and you let it go.
CP: I think that is a very powerful way to shift to a place where you can sit down and meditate, where you can be present with yourself.
AB: When I hear you talk, Carla, a lot of what you say reminds me of a sort of Vedantic philosophy, so are you a follower of some sort of philosophy?
CP: Not really. But I am a person who thinks the Vedantic concepts, as well as any non dualistic concept is important, meaning that everything in everyone is inherently divine. Okay. The despots and the saints, all just a little bit more or less darkness, and it’s not my thing to judge them. I believe in the concept of being non judgmental.
AB: Any advice or tip that you have for people listening in?
CP: The most important thing is to observe yourself. I mean, a simple little exercise of observing yourself right now. How are you feeling? What words would describe you? Because I think that if you can do that right away, there’s people that are like, “yeah, but I didn’t get that promotion”. And there’s other people who say, “oh, I’m the luckiest woman in the world. I just had an amazing day, and I have wonderful friends, and I have an amazing family.” You can hear it right away. You can hear that. It’s like a buzz that’s going on. It’s all there. You’ve got it all. You’ve got all you need to do this. Yes. I’d be thrilled if you went out and bought my book. I would be thrilled if you saw my udemy course. And honestly, if you just looked here, just listened to all of that mumbling and grumbling and judgement and lack of kindness and compassion, you would see why what you’re getting is not exactly what you had hoped for. And I think we’re always disappointed, but we never want to see how we create our reality.
AB: Absolutely. So thank you so much. So you’ve given us a whole load of things to do, and the one that I absolutely love was about enjoying the journey. Very often people say, “I’ll be happy when I get here or I’ll be happy when I get there”, but it’s the journey.
CP: It is about that. But we’re always thinking that we’re going to arrive somewhere else.
AB: Thank you so much, Carla, for that lovely chat. Thank you for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the Wellness curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you, leading your best life.