Inside the Mind Of John-Paul Flintoff
John-Paul is writer, maker, speaker and coach. He has designed a range of crockery and kitchenware that invites a more mindful and engaged relationship to our everyday lives. Follow him @jpflintoff.
Tell us more about your range – Conversation Pieces.
I made a plate, a pair of mugs, and a tea towel - all designed to encourage people to be more connected to the people and things they are with, to be a bit more present and in the moment.
I used the willow pattern plate design because I liked the fundamental elements - I think something very primal in us (about storytelling) recognises that crossing a bridge is a moment of transition. It’s a landscape where someone wants to move forward into something better.
How do you look after your mind?
I’ve always liked the idea of mindful washing up - which may be a bit bonkers. There’s a very well known buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh, who says you should wash up every plate as though it were the baby buddha himself. This makes you very careful, and helps you to enjoy it. If you wish away the washing up you’ll wish away the tea afterwards. Eventually you’ll wish away everything you’re doing because you’re constantly in a chase.
So I’m trying to be just a little bit slower.
What do you do well?
Well, I was trained as a coach after being a journalist.
And coaching is a conversation, a bit like journalism, but in coaching you are very much on the same side.
Each of us contains multitudes. I’m curious about people’s inner critics. Where does it come from - and why do we have one? I mean, if we didn’t we’d be running around killing each other. The social pressure valve is in our own head.
But with the products, I didn’t want to sound too coachy because for some people that can be off-putting. There’s kind of a healthy skepticism in Britain.
Tell us about your inner critic.
Like everybody I guess, I have little ideas that stop me. Often we don't even notice ourselves becoming submissive to the inner voice that says “Not for you, you cant have that, you’re too old, it can't happen, don't do it." I’m curious about where it comes from. Why do we have an inner critic? I mean, if we didn’t we’d be running around killing each other. So it's a kind of social pressure valve - in our own heads.
When you look closely at it, the critic only ever offers an opinion on a spectrum. And we can always choose another opinion. Just by being conscious of it, we can find ourselves not wanting to keep saying the same old self limiting beliefs to ourselves any more.
God knows, we all make mistakes. But it’s fun to slow down and think about it.
Tell us something surprising about you.
I draw. I designed the mug myself but I think I am a bit rough and ready so we worked with the brilliant Rachel Sale to create it as you see it. I love her style - that she can draw something sweet and yet simultaneously acerbic.
What do you struggle with?
I’ve noticed recently that I have a habit of trying to sort things out for other people.
For a long time it was invisible to me but now it’s transparent, like water. What I mean is that I try to second guess what my wife needs. And not only her. And at times it's a kind of control freakery - unnecessary, unhelpful and a pain in the bum for everybody.
I mean, I wrote How To Change The World. I’m always bloody interfering!
Whose mind would you like to get inside?
I’m very curious about what might be going on inside the minds of people who’ve just been convicted of something terrible... and how they could over time (I hope) move towards a healthier way of thinking about themselves. I think we don’t realise how much pain some of them are in. I’m curious about it and I don’t really know that much.
Do you follow your instincts?
I have the most fun when I'm doing theatrical improvisation and I trust my gut instincts. In that context especially, I don’t mind making an arse out of myself.
Improv is about putting my inner critic aside for a minute. You can’t ever get rid of it. But for a moment I can stop worrying about whether I’m being good - and just do everything I can to help the person I am improvising with.
It’s like having faith in something. For some people, that might be in God - or the other person - or just 'in myself'. But it seems to work. A feeling like, this is okay!