Big changes solve problems. Then you move on to tackle bigger problems. So if the problems keep getting bigger, what’s the point?

Conceptual drawing of a man being examined with a magnifying glass.
Conceptual drawing of a man being examined with a magnifying glass.

I had an amazing introduction to the whole self-help thing. I’d never really even heard of it. Yet, while reading an introduction to neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) book, I felt like I was having revelation after revelation.

It genuinely felt magical.

I’d come from a low point in my life, and I’d committed to making myself a better person. I’d committed to not stopping until I was finally a confident, happy person.

It continued for years. I found more books from all sorts of angles. More self-help. I learned about all kinds of therapy. Things really felt like they were changing.

But nothing really was. …

A bit about me, and the most viewed and loved articles I’ve written so far

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I’m Alexander

I’m a Medium Top Writer in Psychology, Mental Health and Self Improvement with a degree in psychology and certified in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I previously trained in hypnotherapy.

— -For my popular and viral articles, skip to the bottom — -

I’ve come from a place of personal social anxiety, anxiety, occasional depression, low self-esteem and more. Also laziness and lack of direction.

I beat it. I’m better now. I’m happy now. I think better. Things are clearer. I’m still lazy sometimes, but that’s ok.

I want to help others do that. I hope I can provide some great stuff for you that will work for you like it’s worked for me. …

The songs were the accidental antidepressants of the merchant navy.

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Imagine being on the deck of a 19th-century whaling ship one night, miles and months from home in the cold and driving rain, unsure if your trip will even be worth anything when – and if – you make it home. The world is a pretty crappy place.

There’s only one thing to make it better: sea shanties. And now they’re back, as a cross-continental phenomenon carried not on boats, but on social media app TikTok.

Shanties have been threatening a return for a few years now, with Cornwall’s Fisherman’s Friends leading the way, even having a movie made about their story. But it’s taken a combination of innovative platform Tiktok, a generous singer from Scotland, and a worldwide pandemic to bring this old music back to the world to do what it was always meant to do: ease isolation and loneliness and create a connection. …

Could fans of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ really be at an advantage in a pandemic world? A new study says yes.

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Sometimes we just want to stumble across a solution to our problems that’s as effortless as it is effective. When that solution comes along in the form of something I’ve been involved with in both sides of my professional life – psychology writing and movies - I get more excited than I probably should.

A study published in 2020 and updated in January 2021 has shown us just what we wanted to see. …

Ask yourself the ‘Miracle Questions’

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Often, when we’re feeling stuck, it’s because we can’t see beyond what’s in front of us. Our brains fall into the same old ways of thinking, which can continue indefinitely — unless we find new ways to challenge them and interrupt the pattern.

Through studying solution-based therapy, which helps people solve problems by focusing on the present rather than looking to their past, I learned about the power of the “Miracle Questions,” a set of questions that can help you uncover your greatest values and desires, and find creative ways to live in alignment with them. …

The 5 hour car journey took 6 weeks on the mower ridden by the 73 year old.

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If I wanted to visit my sister today, I could jump in the car, drive the 400km, and be there this afternoon. But I have a car, and I’m not a 73-year-old man with health issues, so it’s easy for me.

It wasn’t that easy for Alvin Straight, but he went anyway. His brother was dying and it was his last chance. His only vehicle was his lawnmower, with a top speed of 5mph, or 8kph. The journey from Iowa to Wisconsin would take him six weeks. And it wasn’t without mishap.

Humans are amazing, aren’t they?

Alvin and Henry

Alvin Straight was no stranger to difficulty. At 73, he suffered from various health conditions including diabetes and lung problems, and had served in the US Army in Korea. Because of his failing eyesight, he wasn’t allowed to drive a car. His brother, Henry, lived 390km away in Wisconsin. …

Japan. Bhutan. The Philippines. Beautiful countries with cultures we can learn from.

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We’re stuck in our habits. That’s ok. That’s how humans work. But it’s also good to break out of them and try new things, and a great way to do that is to see how others live — and people live very differently on the other side of the world.

Cultural concepts from the East can pull us out of our unhelpful ruts and habits, and help us individually and as societies in the West. It didn’t take me long after landing in the Philippines to see that. The people there live differently. …

Anyone can use these books of short stories and metaphors, written to bring about genuine psychological change.

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When I was training in hypnotherapy, one of the things I found fascinating was the transformational power of stories, and in particular, metaphors. Our minds can make new connections when hearing these stories and apply those connections to our own lives.

When a story like this hits home, people make realisations. Pennies drop. Aha! moments happen. Other times, they give us the feeling we’re onto something, and our minds take some time to work out how to apply the meaning. Sometimes, they just miss. Every story is different and every person is different. …

Life really can be amazing and beautiful. We just need to step outside our normal thought patterns and look.

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If we’re not careful, we can drift through life and get caught up in the expected norms of society, and not stop to notice that life, if we let it, can truly be beautiful and fascinating.

Instead, we opt for the easy route of a steady job and scrolling social media. But what if we didn’t? What if we wanted to step into that more fascinating and beautiful life?

Here’s some ideas about how we can do just that.

1. For a Fascinating Life, Be Fascinated By Life

The most direct route to living a fascinating life it to be fascinated by it all. That’s easier said than done.

Children are fascinated by everything. They want to know how everything works. They ask Why? eternally. They just want to know what things are and how they work. That’s how it is for a child. As an adult we lose that because we already know, and have other things to think about. But do we already know? …

Changes and resolutions don’t always work – but significant dates can certainly be helpful by using them in rituals.

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Whenever we try to make life changes, it happens all too often they don’t last. As soon as we run out of willpower, we revert back to our old lives.

There’s a method we can use though to kickstart the new change overnight, marking it as one of life’s changing points – by creating some kind of personal ritual.

Why We Fail to Make Lasting Change

We try all sorts. New Year’s resolutions are a big one. A look at how crowded gyms are in January compared to March is an easy measure of how well they work. Not very.

Whilst willpower may not be a limited resource like previously thought, it’s still not effective for making deep, lasting positive change. It’s not a good long term strategy. If it was, we’d all be living the exact lives we wanted just by willing them into existence. …


Alexander M. Combstrong

Breakthrough therapy advocate/mental health progressive. CBT Cert. BSc Psych. Actor & screenwriter. Forge, Better Humans, PS I Love You, The Ascent, Mind Cafe

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