Sunday, December 31, 2006

They Swim All Their Lives

Recently I've been re-reading Wild Mind: Living The Writer's Life by Natalie Goldberg.  I bought it back in 1988, I think, and read it once or twice.  But in the last few weeks I've been in such a deep state of questioning about whether I really want to do this "self-help guru/Life Mechanic" thing, that I found myself being drawn back to the book.

And one morning last week I got to chapter 56, "Whales".  And in the middle of the chapter, I read:

After the marine biologist gave a lecture one night on the boat, I was quiet and then raised my hand.  "You mean, they swim all their lives?" I said in wonder.  People around me laughed.  I asked such an obvious question.  They didn't understand that I wanted to intuit the dream, called life, of a whale.

I realize now why I went to see them.  A novel is a big dream, a whale of a dream.  You have to go under for a long time into the dark waters of the mind and stay there.  After I finished the novel, I wanted to nod to the blue whales and say, "I've been there, too.  I understand."

And I felt such a chill come over me, then.  Because I understand, too.  I'm there right now, standing on a pier and looking out over dark waters.

Where is your life going in 2007?

I put You, Version 2.0 together in a few weeks, because the material was already written.  I dove into Seven Days To Live Your Dreams before I knew what I was doing, and kept myself busy enough so that my head stayed above water, avoiding any deep contemplation of "where is all this going for me".

But even before Seven Days ended, I've been having great difficulty committing myself to the work ahead.  I've created a massive agenda for myself to carry out in 2007, including a 4-tiered self-improvement group (The Owners' Circle) and various newsletter/CD programs and courses, and even another book, The Willpower Game, that won't be an essay collection like You, Version 2.0.

So I'm gazing into deep, dark water.  Do I really have what it takes to do all this?  Do I really want to do all this?  Do I want to "swim all my life", when I'm still so afraid of drowning?

I'm dreaming a big dream, a whale of a dream.  On one level, I want to affect many thousands of lives in 2007, and I want to enjoy making a boatload of money doing it.  And "on the surface", these things are meaningful goals, but will I really want to live them?

And there comes a point in every dream where we gaze upon dark waters, though the questions we ask may be different.  Can I do this?  Will I sink and drown?  Is what's on the other side worth it?

But the question that we really should be asking is...

Do I want to swim all my life?

Not in the sense of, "Do I want to swim for the rest of my life?".  But in the sense of, "Do I want my current life to be all about swimming?"

Do I want to devote myself to this dream one hundred percent?  Am I willing to live the life this dream will require of me?  Is this a life that will drain me, or sustain me?

In The Day After Christmas, I wrote that there was a technique you could use to "sanity-check" your goals, that will let you know if they'll bring you long-term happiness.  In short, there are three questions you must ask, and answer fully:

  • How will I live, after I have this?
  • How will I live, while getting this?
  • Do I like the person I will become, through the process of gettting this?

But these questions are trickier than they seem. The answers will depend on what other assumptions you're making, that may or may not be true!

The questions cannot create your vision of the future.  They are really only a guide for...

Checking Your Vision

In other words, you can't just pick any old goal and fling the questions at it, expecting to get a nice, neat, yes-or-no answer.  The questions merely ask you to create a vision that satisfies you.  If the vision does not satisfy you, you must change it.

For example, I've been assuming that the process of getting to my goals will be difficult.  For weeks, I've been envisioning not having enough time to get everything done and racing madly to get them done at the last minute.  So guess what?  Now I don't have "enough time" and I'm racing madly!

And that, as they say in Margaritaville, is my own damn fault.

What I should have done instead, is to ask, "How can I get everything done in a relaxed and enjoyable way?"  Because the question behind the question "How will I live while getting this?", is "How do I want to live while getting this?"

So, to rephrase:

  • How do I want to live, after I have this?
  • How do I want to live, while getting this?
  • What kind of person do I want to become, through the process of gettting this?

Or in short, what waters do I want to swim in, all my life.  Not the rest of my life, but all of my life now.  What will I do with my days?  How shall I spend each day, as a process, not a point in time.

When we think of goals in terms of reaching them, we become lost.  Life is an ocean, not a road.  There are no signposts, no paths, and above all,

No Destinations!

But our brains do not understand this.  They cannot understand it, because they are built to reward destination-seeking, with the drug of anticipation linked to the single moment when we achieve a single goal.

But we can understand it, because we can imagine what it's like to live an ideal day, or week.  We can imagine a period of time, not just a point in time.

This simple understanding is at the heart of about one-third of what I taught in Seven Days to Live Your Dreams.  It is the difference between clutter and organization.  It is the difference between stress and balance.  Between living, and merely getting ready to live.

Unfortunately, principles and intellectual understanding are not enough.  If all I do in writing this blog is lift you up to see the sunrise, and you say, "wow, that's neat", then I have not really done anything at all, because you are not yet changed.

See, I've been reading self-help stuff for at least twenty years now.  If it were possible to make significant changes through reading and understanding alone, I would have done it...

Long before now!

Yeah, sure, you're different from everybody else.  That's what I thought, too.  But brains really aren't that different, no matter what you tell yourself to the contrary.

And in the past year, I've seen that it takes more than just understanding and even using the things you read about.

Because in many cases, the thing you need to change is not your conscious mind.  And your unconscious mind, to learn many kinds of things, requires repetition and examples.  In the words of my coach, it requires "relentless repetition".

And willpower is not enough, either.  If you don't understand right down to your bones what to repeat, and why, you will not be able to manage the amount of willpower it takes to create a sustainable training program for yourself.

In short, you need a coach.  And no matter what you think, you cannot be your own coach.  Believe me, I've tried, maybe for a lot longer than you have!

So I've known for a few months now that if I really want to help you and others change your lives, I have to do something more than what I've been doing, and something different as well.

Because if you want your life to be different, you have to...

Do Something Different!

Otherwise, 2007 will be just the same for you as 2006, even if you've changed your circumstances.

It doesn't matter if you move or get a different job or start a new exercise program.  Because you will still be the same you.  And as soon as an outside stimulus distracts you, your willpower will crumble, leaving you back at square one, just like the last time, and the time before that.

And the only way to fix this is to get some external support.

In my case, I'm in a group coaching program, and I subscribe to a variety of paid and free newsletters and blogs, that are all by people making a living doing what I want to be doing.  When I get off track, I learn from their examples and I remember to think differently.  When a newsletter or CD arrives in the mail and I devour it, I get to spend a short time in the mind of somebody who is successful, and I take a piece of their thinking into my self.

Yes, I still have to apply what I learn, and practice what they preach.  But the essence is simply repeated exposure to a way of thinking.  Or to...

A Way Of Life

And that is why I am going to do the same thing for you, if you would like me to.

You see, different people need different models.  You can't just go out and find any old coach or guru and have it work.  You've got to find somebody who you actually look up to in some way, however small.  If you can't find anything to admire about someone, then your brain isn't going to want to imitate them, no matter how successful they may be.

And for smart and talented people, this can be tough.  We can get used to being the smartest person in the room, and we can be skeptical and cynical about looking up to somebody.  Self-reliance can become its own religion, and getting help can be viewed as a sign of weakness.

And it's made even more difficult by the mumbo-jumbo and mysticism that runs rampant through the self-help sphere.  I'm not so much of a skeptic as to say that there's no possible way for your mind alone to change the world, but I am enough of a skeptic to say that a self-help program should not depend on the existence of psychic powers or the supernatural!

So I think that there is a place for self-improvement that's grounded in rationality, even as it relies on the emotional and social spheres for its success!  Science has come far enough to understand that "soft" notions like "inspiration" and "encouragement" are based in our biology and evolution.  It has even begun to understand that our "free will" is really not so free as we once thought, and that these "soft" factors have far more influence than we previously knew!

Indeed, in the last two years of writing this blog I have personally come to understand just how much of our lives is controlled by our unconscious minds, and how much work it takes to become the true owner of one's life.  Because...

Even if you spend a lot of time in the driver's seat,
it doesn't mean you own the car!

And that is why I have created The Owners' Circle.

It is a self-improvement group, but perhaps not in the sense that you might ordinarily understand a self-improvement group.

It is not that the people in this group are going to spend a lot of time mixing and mingling and telling each other about their problems, any more than that happens among people reading this blog.

Instead, it is a community in spirit.  It is for people who want to become the real owners of their lives, instead of passengers or even drivers.

Because the owner of a vehicle needs to understand that life is not a destination.  The journey is everything, and maintenance is an ongoing process.  Oil changes, tune-ups, and sometimes overhauls.  Seasons change, and so does the terrain, but...

You will still be driving,
all your life

And in this blog, I usually try hard not to repeat myself, because for a long time I was under the impression it was a bad thing.

And it is...  if your goal is merely to inform, amuse, and entertain.

But that is not the goal of the Circle.

You see, I will be emailing the Circle's members every single week -- as many as three to five times, in fact, with my new email newsletter, "Life In Every Moment".  And there will be a lot of repetition.  You might even say, relentless repetition.

Because I'm going to keep hammering away at the same ideas, from a lot of different perspectives, and giving a lot of different examples.

Not just from my life, but also from yours, and the lives of other people in the Circle.  Because you never know when a particular phrasing of an idea from a different person will be just the thing that makes it really "click" for you.

You see, we can understand all these principles intellectually, but...

To truly grasp a principle, you must first experience it!

Even vicariously, through examples.

But examples are only the beginning.  I'll also be giving some free workshops for Circle members, beginning with one called How To Make Yourself Do Anything, in late January 2007.

And a guest membership in the Owners' Circle is yours, free, if you want it.  I ask only that you not sign up if you aren't serious about learning and growing, so as not to bring down "the level of the room".  In fact, I want only committed and enthusiastic participants at all four levels of membership, whether paid or free.

But if you meet those basic requirements, then as a "Guest of The Circle", you will receive the email newsletter, and free listen-only access to selected workshops on a first-come, first-serve basis, subject to the number of open conference lines available.

And no, by "guest" membership, I don't mean "free trial until I start charging you".  I mean, it's 100% free.  There will be no charges, ever, although I do reserve the right to kick you out in a heartbeat if you're disruptive or annoying, or for some other reason I can't yet foresee.  (And of course, paying members will always be receiving lots of extra goodies that guest members won't, but that's just the nature of economics!)

Now, I will be mentioning my products and workshops and such in these emails, just like I do in my blog.  But if you don't think that what you're getting from the group is worth a little bit of product placement from time to time, you are free to cancel your membership by unsubscribing at any time.  (Or better yet, just don't sign up in the first place!)  But I will NOT sell, rent, trade, or otherwise share your email address with anyone else, so you needn't worry about getting spammed to death.

Only You Can Decide

So it's all up to you, now.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and in this case that step is to type your name, email address, and biggest self-help challenge into the form below.  And be sure to answer the "challenge" question as openly and honestly as you can, because I want to tune my emails and workshops as specifically as possible to the people who are participating.

Then, once you've filled out the form, go ahead and click the "Let Me In!" button. My newsletter system will send you a confirmation email with a link that will activate your membership when you click on it.  Once all that's done, you'll start receiving your newsletters, and as soon as the schedule and call-in details are ready for the "How To Make Yourself Do Anything" workshop, you'll receive those too.

So everything I've written for you in the last two years has been leading up to this.  I've been doing my best to show you the ocean, but only you can decide to swim!  But you don't have to dive deep into dark waters.  You can just dip your toe in and start getting your feet wet.  Everything else will follow from that.

So come on in.  The water's fine!


Become a "Guest of the Circle" Now

Your First Name
Your Email
Your Biggest Self-Help Challenge


P.S.  Maybe in a year or so from now, you'll look back on this moment and smile, knowing that the new life and new self you're enjoying then, all began here and now, with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks... and a decision in your heart.  Sometimes, it's surprising how much it matters to just make a decision to change, long before there is any visible outcome, as long as you take action!