How can we experience the same thing, and yet react so differently? Ultimately it is because it is what is in our heads that determines our reactions – Gary Burton explores the Three Principles that underline a radically new way of understanding how we think and react the way we do.

Listen to his podcast here Why we think differently

Hello everybody, it’s Neil Foley from the Business Growth Club here again. I’m very pleased today to be with Gary Burton of Principles 4 Performance, easier to read probably than say. How are you Gary?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, I’m fine thank you. Good afternoon Neil.

Neil Foley:                           Thanks for giving us your time Gary. And in essence what we’re going to be doing today is exploring the world of thought, the world of thinking, and the flow of thoughts. And I’ve met Gary a couple of times now, and he’s a really interesting fellow with a really interesting story, because your background, other than your dealing with things of the mind and psychology and things now, but that isn’t your background is it Gary?

Gary Burton:                      No, not really. In an indirect way it is, but my background is I spent 30 years in direct sales and marketing, started off as a salesman, most of that time spent running sales and marketing businesses basically. So, no it isn’t, but indirectly I’ve always had a fascination with psychology and what makes us tick basically.

Neil Foley:                           Getting into the mind of the salesperson is never easy is it?

Gary Burton:                      No, no, sometimes it isn’t. But yeah, I’ve always been fascinated first for myself in terms of personal development and then as a side when you’re dealing with a sales force and customers and anybody basically.

Neil Foley:                           Absolutely. So what we’ll do over the next half an hour is just explore this a bit further. So tell me about the principles behind this Gary, this new process that you’re using to understand the power of thought.

Gary Burton:                      Well basically what it says is there’s a psychological paradigm that have got some principles behind the human experience. And predominantly the first one is the principle of thought, and that is that we experience life essentially from the inside out, i.e., there’s a world out there, work, families, money, relationships, the past, the future, and it looks like all those things come together and give us an experience of life, because of our feelings and emotions basically. But when you step back a way and look at it a bit closer, you can see that although there is obviously a world out there of all those things, how we experience them comes from the inside out, i.e., from the principle from the way we think from moment to moment basically. And that shapes our experience, and not the outside world.

Neil Foley:                           So is that why we can both experience the same thing, but in very different ways?

Gary Burton:                      Exactly that, yeah. If you look on the simple basis, if you take anything really, but some simple things, if you take three, four, five people and they all watch a movie, it’s the same movie, but we can all have totally different experiences of it. One can think it’s absolutely brilliant, another one thinks it’s pants and would never go and see it again and would tell everybody that, and somebody else would take it or leave it basically. So yeah, and the more you look into that, it’s a very simple example, but you’ll see that’s true when you look at anything basically.

Neil Foley:                           I suppose it makes perfect sense to me, and we never think of it that way do we?

Gary Burton:                      Absolutely.

Neil Foley:                           So where does that come from then? Is that from childhood, or it is genetic, or-

Gary Burton:                      Basically it’s the very essence of how we experience life, so that’s why we call it principle, cause it’s always been there and it always will be. Principle, in the same way as you can look at gravity as a principle. You might not understand gravity, you might not be able to explain it, but we’re all subject to it basically. And you might not even believe in it, but it doesn’t mean that you are going to float to the ceiling if you don’t. It’s there. And the principle of thought is the same. It’s the way that we experience life, and it’s there from the moment that we’re born. But it’s a formless energy that ebbs and flows basically. It’s a case of looking at how that works against how we sometimes think it works that can make a profound difference to you.

Neil Foley:                           So are you able to explain that a bit deeper Gary, in terms of understanding how it works, the ebbs and flows? I’ve never thought of it as ebbs and flows, I would have thought thought is thought?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah. Well if you look at how we experience anything, we just used the example of how three, four, five different people can have a different experience of the same thing. But if you take it one step further, and when it really seems to have an impact, it certainly was for me, when I saw from day to day, moment to moment, my experience of the same thing can change. Again, a simple example, which always comes to mind for some reason, my partner, my girlfriend, one day she can say something to me and laugh, and the next day, two or three days later, she’s says exactly the same thing and I got the hump about it basically and we have a row about it. Another day she might say the same thing, I don’t even acknowledge it, it doesn’t even register basically.

So that’s how thought works, it comes and it goes. But we tend to do and what we get caught up in sometimes is we sort of see it differently, we see it as something that’s far more solid and real so we can get caught up in thought basically. And we can give it meaning, and we can take it seriously. And I call that something, “thought stacking.” Somebody will say something to you, you’ll get an image in your mind of it, you’ll dwell on it a bit, if they’d have said that, that must mean this, so I’ve got to do that about it basically. And we build up these whole scenarios.

Neil Foley:                           None of which may be true.

Gary Burton:                      None of which may be true, and any of which can be experienced in infinite different ways when we see it differently.

Neil Foley:                           So is the principle then that this is where conflict comes from?

Gary Burton:                      Yes, that’s a very good point. Conflict is just two people seeing things differently with two different sets of thoughts going on basically. And it’s something that I explain to people when we’re working together. Conflict can seem very rude sometimes, an argument, a disagreement, conflict, in a work setting, in a relationship, but all it really is two or more sets of people with a lot of thinking going on. None of which can be the same because thoughts are so infinite, so we’re going to live in our own thought-generated reality, but to us it looks real; to somebody else, they can’t understand it.

Neil Foley:                           So what do you do with this? So I understand a bit about the principle. So armed with this information, are we able to control our thoughts then?

Gary Burton:                      You can try and control your thoughts, but there lies a separate issue. There’s many other types of interventions and psychological understandings, NLPs, CBT, positive psychology. All these things acknowledge that we experience [inaudible 00:07:30] thought, in my understanding of them anyway, which [inaudible 00:07:34] limited. But most of these things then look in the direction of exactly that, that you then have to in some way control the way you look at things or reframe or change the way you look at things.

These principles are far more focused on the nature of thought. Like I said earlier on, look at the natural ebb and flow of it, and if you leave thought to its own devices, it just naturally moves on. Take for instance if you’re feeling typically stressed or angry or frustrated or anxious about something, that can only last as long as you think it. The moment you stop thinking about it, the moment you have another thought, that feeling moves on. So it looks like the feeling is coming from outside, from what somebody said or from a certain circumstance or an event, but actually it’s just purely down to whatever thought’s popping up in our head in a moment. So what we say with these principles is that you don’t need to control it, in fact that’s very difficult because more often than not that just gives you more thought. Basically it makes you get stuck even more, you just have to understand the nature of it and it will flow naturally.

Neil Foley:                           So it is understanding the nature of it in the sense of not giving it credence, or acknowledging that it’s real to me?

Gary Burton:                      That’s a good point. It’s sort of a bit of both. It’s not taking it seriously, but understanding that because thought is so effective, is so creative, I liken it to it’s like the world’s best IMAX movie basically; thought is the best special effects department in the world. It really makes things real to us basically. And that’s when it involves our senses and it can impact us physiologically basically. It can seem real, but the more you understand that it is a formless energy and it will come and go, the less impact that it can have on you especially when you focus on things like stress, anxiety, worry and frustration.

Neil Foley:                           And is that where you’re using this, cause I know you use this in a business sense and also within the number of work that you’re doing within prisons? Is this how you use it then to help people assess how seriously they should take things, or how they should react to them?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, it’s showing them just how we actually work and how we work far less effectively from a busy mind, with a lot of thinking going on, and how we work far more effectively from a calm mind, from a point of clarity. When our personal thinking falls away, that’s when naturally inside of us we’ve got all the resilience, the creativity, the peace of mind that we need basically. And that’s what this points to. That’s always within all of us 100 percent of the time.

Neil Foley:                           So how do we get to that? What work do you do to help us get to that?

Gary Burton:                      It’s there, we just have to recognise it. To use another analogy, my daughter used to, she’s older now, but she used to collect the Disney snow globes. And the analogy that I use is that if you pick up a snow globe and you shake it, you won’t be able to see what figures are inside it. But the moment you set it down, it goes back to its natural state and the snow falls away and you see what’s inside basically. Well our minds are exactly like that, they’re self-correcting mechanisms basically, and left to their own devices they will naturally calm down and find a place of clarity inside of us. And what it’s all about really is getting people to sit back and reflect on that and consider that basically, because when you do there’s something innate about this that tells you, “Yeah, this makes sense to me” basically.

Neil Foley:                           And are you then able to trigger that feeling of calmness, that feeling that this was just a thought flow, if you like.

Gary Burton:                      The more you look to understand it and the more you see it, the more it will naturally occur basically. That’s what I’ve found in my experience and in the experience of the people that I’ve worked with, whether that be business or individuals or indeed within the prison system, which is one of the best testing places to sharpen it because this is all about it’s not your external circumstances that dictate your experience, and there’s not a better place to see evidence of that as when you go into prisons and see the impact that you can make. But that said, if you’re human, you can benefit from this, so it can have a huge impact within businesses, for individuals, anywhere basically.

Neil Foley:                           And for businesses, from a business viewpoint, is it people suffering with stress, struggling to cope? What sort of people would really benefit from this more than most?

Gary Burton:                      It can be. I found in my experience it’s just about everybody, like myself. I ran very successful businesses, I was MD of several sales businesses, with substantial revenues, etc., and I didn’t even realise that over a period of time I run with a certain level of stress and anxiety and overwhelm, which I didn’t really recognise it, just felt normal to me. And within a business environment we even sometimes convince ourselves that stress and worry can be a good thing. But again, when you stand back and reflect on that, you see that that plainly isn’t so, and we work more effectively and creatively and innovatively from a calm mind basically. So yeah, it can make a huge difference to people who are feeling extreme levels of stress and anxiety and overwhelm in the workplace or personally. But on the other hand, it can work very effectively for leaders of businesses that are performing very, very well within their businesses, because when they see where that comes from, where that innovation comes from, where that creativity comes from, and can tap into it even more, it can take their businesses to another level basically.

Neil Foley:                           So it, cause you’ve used that term creative and innovation, those terms. So is it for creative people more than other people? I know in a sales environment you wouldn’t necessarily say you were creative I wouldn’t have thought, but-

Gary Burton:                      When I use those terms I mean, I think, again, we can all be creative and innovative in just about any business that we’re in, in any career that we’re in. And we can certainly be more productive and effective basically. And that’s what this is pointing to. It makes an impact on the practical, day-to-day level essentially. I’ll give you an example, if I can. I’ve been working with a marketing business since the start of the year, and I started off working with the leaders of the business, the directors and owners of the business to start off with, and we did a programme over about six weeks with those guys, and they saw some profound shifts in the way that they were working and within their home lives as well. It was a very successful business anyway, their putting [inaudible 00:15:47] on the double-digit growth on their business, but they just wanted to see if they could take that forward, especially from the perspective of increasing the wellbeing of their team. That was what they wanted to do directly.

So I suggested that I go in and work with them first, which we did. We had some profound impact on the three directors. One explained, which he doesn’t mind me talking about, that he talked about wanting to “tame the bear” basically; that he’s a very effective leader of business, his teams loves him, but he had a certain way about him when he got to a certain stress level that came out of him in not too many productive ways sometimes. And when he saw where that was coming from, that changed for him. And over the last six months he’s been a lot more relaxed, he’s been less stressed, and certainly all the people within his team have seen a massive benefit from that.

Neil Foley:                           And that was all from a six-week programme that you put together for them?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           That’s amazing.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, that was over six weeks, and I’ve since gone on to work with probably now 90 percent of the people within the business. But one of the most effective things I wanted to point to that the environment has changed and the feel of the place, and the motivation within the place has really gone forward, which is a subjective thing. But that’s certainly the case. But one of the things they’ve seen is a very strong forward direction in terms of the volume that they’re producing. And one of the things that they’ve just got into over the last two months, they noticed over the summer where there was a succession of bank holidays, that they were working more effectively within the four days of the week than the five days. So they made a decision to switch to four days. Many of their people are paid by performance and they were actually earning more in four days than they were in five. And because of the revenue coming into the business, the people that were on salaries, they were able to be paid their normal salaries and work four days a week. Which is a huge evolution in the format of that business and the way that has impacted that business-

Neil Foley:                           That astonishing.

Gary Burton:                      -has been incredible. And the MD says that although the data pointed towards that fact, if he didn’t have that state of mind where he was more open and he had more clarity, he would have never of in a million years dreamed of doing something like that. Just a brave thing to do.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Gary Burton:                      And the principles behind it.

Neil Foley:                           Absolutely. That’s an interesting one isn’t it because I know in our part of the world, in Norfolk, retaining talent is actually really hard, and I know there’s been a couple of conferences recently where they were talking about that. Whereas if you had the same thing, a four-day week with a decent income, and a performance-rated income. I can imagine that’s a huge advantage.

Gary Burton:                      It’s a massive advantage and a big part of that business is a telemarketing business and so obviously that gives them a massive advantage over other businesses basically. So we’re really excited to see how that’s gonna play out  with the ongoing benefit of me working with the guys.

Neil Foley:                           I guess the other advantage is once it’s spread through all the teams, there’s a common language isn’t there, there’s a commonality that people can … You know what somebody else, how they’re reacting or you can try and sort of empathise more with them.

Gary Burton:                      Absolutely. And what you touched on earlier on is there’s been a drastic reduction in any form of conflict within the business, the way people are interacting with each other, the way they’re getting on has changed dramatically because they’ve started to see more and more that exactly where somebody gets irate or gets frustrated, where that’s coming from. That’s coming from them and not from-

Neil Foley:                           -a personal attack.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah. It makes you look at things far less personally like you said, and far more universally as in, “That’s just the way we work.” And that could work on any level, from an individual to a business to any sort of macro level with society in general.

Neil Foley:                           So where does this come from? Is there a framework somewhere?

Gary Burton:                      These principles were first uncovered by a guy called Sydney Banks back in the seventies.

Neil Foley:                           So it’s been around a while.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, it’s been around a while. That’s a great story in itself. Syd Banks was a Scottish welder, lived in Canada, and he was relatively uneducated, he left school at an early age, didn’t complete his education, became a welder. But from his background he’d always had issues with depression, anxiety, going back to his childhood, family, stuff like that. And his original insight, his original epiphany as it were was when he was at another counselling session and a psychologist said to him, sort of off the cuff, “You’re not anxious Syd, you just think you are.” And he saw that on a very, very deep level, and then from that uncovered these principles basically. And when he had the epiphany, he actually said to his wife, “I’m gonna quit my job and we’re gonna go around the world talking about how this works”, to psychologists, psychiatrists, universities, and that’s exactly what happened. An uneducated boy, he went on to write books and if you look him up on line you’ll see many videos of him on line speaking. And it’s branched out from there. And now it’s used in communities, substance misuse, all different sort of areas, criminal justice system.

Neil Foley:                           How are you using this is the prisons service, I know you are doing some work in.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, basically we go into, there’s a couple of prisons that I work with directly, a category C prison, a category B prison over in the Midlands, and literally we go in and talk to prisoners. It’s a voluntary course, it’s not mandatory as far as they’re concerned like a lot of the are for their sentence plans. They volunteer for it. One particular prison, the lady that I work with, a lady called Jacqueline Hollows, who started a social enterprise called Beyond Recovery, working in prisons and communities a couple of years ago, an amazing lady. We run courses in the prison. In one particular prison we’re now trying something like 240 out of 750 guys and it’s making a massive impact in the prison as a whole.

Neil Foley:                           Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you Gary. Just the thought popped in, so are you able to measure the impact in terms of less acts of violence?

Gary Burton:                      There’s actually some research going on, one of the research papers is just about to be published in a criminal justice journal basically. And it’s proving … We do research with the guys, we do wellbeing research with them and research into their actual understanding of how life works basically. And it is showing both quantitatively and qualitatively that there are massive shifts with the guys … reductions in anxiety, stress, substance misuse, self-harming, and because it’s now been going a couple of years, we’re starting to get the first evidence that it’s drastically reducing the offending as well, which obviously will be amazing.

Neil Foley:                           Fantastic. So presumably the Home Office are thrilled, throwing huge sums of money at this and say, “Go on Gary.”

Gary Burton:                      Not quite, not quite, not at the moment, but Jacqueline’s working very hard with the social enterprise to actually make inroads into that. And it’s gradually taking off and branching out into other prisons

Neil Foley:                           Needs to doesn’t it?

Gary Burton:                      Without a doubt the prison system is an area that needs massive assistance basically. And she has actually started to work with some of the staff in the prisons as well, which is really helpful.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah they suffer a lot with stress.

Gary Burton:                      A lot of officers have seen dramatic impact that we’ve had on some of the prisoners that they thought would never change, and have seen that, and have started to get involved themselves, which is brilliant basically.

Neil Foley:                           Cause you even mentioned to me before when we were having coffee Gary that a couple of the prisoners are actually now starting being trained to be practitioners themselves.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, yeah. We had a seminar about six weeks ago put on by 12 of the guys that had been most impacted by this understanding, and we had about 35 visitors come from all walks of life from outside to come and see the seminar that the guys put on. And two of the guys from that group actually graduated on that day and have now become fully-fledged facilitators and have now actually started running programmes themselves within the prison, which is a really brilliant.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, because they have credibility with their fellow inmates.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, we always connect with the guys when they see where we come from, but these guys can take that to another level basically so yeah, they really resonate. When they tell their story and where they’ve come from and what they’ve seen and the transformations that they’ve had, it really is impactful.

Neil Foley:                           So what you need more than anything, and Jacqueline needs, you need a champion, you need somebody either in the Home Office or somewhere who says, “Actually, you know what”, cause I mean, we don’t want to get too political, but the prison system doesn’t work from my viewpoint. You either  they lock them up forever because they’re violent, dangerous people while actually what you do is screw their lives up and put them inside for short periods of time, no education, no re-training, they’ve still got drug problems, alcohol problems, a gambling addiction, and then kick them out broken into society and wonder why they re-offend.

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, it can certainly seem like that and in the majority of cases, that can be the issues and the challenges that you’re facing basically. And so yeah, we need to look at ways to change it basically. And the very nature of this understanding is that it does change from the inside out. The outside doesn’t have to change for them to have a different experience, but the amazing thing is when they do change on the inside, then their circumstances change anyway because they become less violent, they become less stressed, they self-harm less, and therefore they are able to progress and take on things like education.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, so presumably this is well known throughout the world, so is this technique, etc., practised in different countries?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, it’s practised all over the world. It’s growing exponentially. It started, if you look on line for, you can Google the Three Principles, you can see the varying areas that it’s worked in. It has been strongest in America over the time, but in the last probably six seven years it’s growing tremendously in the UK. There’s an annual conference every year. I think six years ago was the first one was started with about 30 people in the room. I’ve been to the last two years, and this year there was a thousand people down at the Allianz Stadium in North London. Most of those people are coaches and practitioners. So it’s growing all the time and going into every walk of like. So yeah, because people are starting to see the impact it can have, and established psychologists and psychiatrists who’ve run traditional practises for many years have started to use the understanding because they’ve seen the impact they can have with it.

Neil Foley:                           And do they use it in conjunction with some of their techniques?

Gary Burton:                      Not normally. From what I’ve seen, once you see how this understanding works, it goes in a pretty different direction to most traditional interventions and psychological paradigms. And there’s all sorts of people that are working with it now, from the therapist to NLP practitioners, as a side to psychology psychiatrist, but when people see how well the understanding works, they normally go full blast with it.

Neil Foley:                           And am I right in saying Gary that you run workshops on this if people wanted to find out more? How do they go about doing that?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, I run workshops. My website is

Neil Foley:                           Is that “for” being “f-o-u-r?”

Gary Burton:                      Well you can actually get there with either one. It’s actually number four. Yeah, and I’m currently looking to set up some open workshops that you’ll see details either on my Facebook page as a person, Gary Burton, or my LinkedIn profile, or my website very, very shortly. I’m going to be looking to run open workshops in the new year.

Neil Foley:                           Sounds good. I’m going to come along to some of those. And finally Gary, something I always ask people in terms of human experience from a business viewpoint and I’m guessing life in general, if you were able to advise your younger self, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself if you could get hold of yourself as an 18 year old? What would you say?

Gary Burton:                      Oh, even before I came across this understanding, as you get older you realise maybe to not be so impulsive, and step back a little bit and think and be a little bit more measured in what you do. That certainly would have been good advice to my younger self. And obviously with this understanding and seeing where our experience is coming from moment to moment, the thinking, that has helped tremendously in that. In fact, even at my age I’ve worked something out over the last couple of years.

Neil Foley:                           So you’re less impulsive now than you were?

Gary Burton:                      Oh, hugely so.

Neil Foley:                           Really?

Gary Burton:                      Absolutely.

Neil Foley:                           We need to talk Gary. We’ll it’s been really great Gary. I really appreciate your time in explaining more to us. So you can find details on the website. Do you want to give the website address just one more time Gary?

Gary Burton:                      Yeah, it’s, or obviously you’ll find me on LinkedIn, Gary Burton, and I have a personal Facebook profile.

Neil Foley:                           Brilliant. And obviously you can find out more about the Business Growth Club at And this podcast will be on iTunes as well as our own speaker channel. So until next time, goodbye.