Monday, October 08, 2007

Your Shadow, Your Compass, Your Light

This self-help gig is tough sometimes.  In difficult times, I wish I could clone myself, so I could step outside my own limitations to see what's wrong with my own thought processes.

Of course, once I've found where my own thinking is wrong, it's easy for me to help other people correct the same patterns in their own thinking.  The hard parts of self-help, the real struggles, are not in the process of making a change, but rather in seeing precisely what needs to be changed, and knowing what to change to, instead.  Once you know these things, the actual changing can be done almost instantaneously.

The catch is, it is very difficult to know either of these things on your own.  Your thought processes are what you're used to -- they seem normal and right to you.

And even when you realize how those thoughts are negatively affecting you, you still need to know what to replace them with.  And if you'd had an obvious role model for a better way of thinking...

You'd probably already be doing it that way!

So sometimes I stumble blindly through the dark, hacking away at the "software" that makes me, me.  In August, for example, I cleaned up a bunch of fears and neurotic drives from my psyche.

And then in September, I discovered that one of the neurotic drives I removed was in fact pretty much responsible for all my ambition and motivation and direction in life, up to that point.  Oops.

Now don't get me wrong -- I do not, under any circumstance, want the neurosis (a strong competitive desire to "show them") back.  The ambition it gave me was a source of more pain than pleasure.  But the lack of it left me drifting, and apart from fulfilling my existing obligations...

I made very little progress

At least, I made little progress on the outside.  On the inside, I did quite a lot.

For one thing, I began learning how to have fun -- an important skill I neglected to study when I was a child.  (No, I'm not joking - I was a really serious kid.)

But the other thing I learned, that I want to tell you about today, is how to tell the direction you would like your life to go, even if you don't think you know what it is!

See, during the later part of September I was struggling with finding a way to get my drive back -- without the competitive aspect.  I was trying to design new "mental software" for my brain, that would track a long term vision and motivate me to make the steps happen.

Actually, I already know how to make that sort of mental software -- I certainly had already installed it into several people's brains during one-on-one consultations.  And on this month's Life-Changing Secrets CD for The Owners' Circle, I even explained how to do the installation yourself.

Unfortunately, this mental motivation "software" requires that you actually have something that you want, and that you know what you want from it.

But I Had Neither!

And one evening, I was talking with my wife, trying to use the conversation as a way to "get outside myself" so I could see the problem and fix it better.  And I was saying something like, "I know I want to have a great life, but I don't really know what that is.  I just know this isn't it."

And suddenly, I had a flash of insight.  The situation reminded me of something I often encounter when I do one-on-one consultations.  When I'm trying to step a person through their thought process (so I can find what's wrong and help them fix it), a person will often say that something is "just" a certain way.  For example, they'll say they think about working on a project they want to complete, and then they immediately want to do something else instead.

But I know that what they're saying isn't true, because the brain has to do things in steps, and in each step, there is a connection that forms a transition from the previous step.  So, to want to do something else, you have to at least have thought first about something else, or considered a list of things to choose from.  And before you can do that, you would've first needed to reach some kind of conclusion about the first thing you thought of doing!  (Like that it's too hard or you don't have time, etc.)

These steps can go by very fast, and outside your immediate awareness, but they have to happen, because that's how the brain processes thought programs: one transition at a time.

So what I flashed on in the moment of hearing myself say "this isn't it", was that there were...

Invisible Steps In My Thinking!

See, in order for me to know that "this isn't it", i.e. that my life isn't "great", my brain must do a comparison.  Otherwise, it would have no basis for determining that "this isn't it!"

And that means that I do know what a great life is, and what I want.  Or at least, my brain does, even if I don't consciously have a clue.

So I began to work backwards, from what I found to be negative.  If my life was boring and dull, for example, perhaps what I would like is for it to be exciting and adventurous.

And on one level, this sounds like a pretty obvious thing to do.  Indeed, Robert Fritz's books advise doing precisely that kind of reversal!  But what they don't mention is how much easier this is to do if you simply back up your mind, rewinding the judgment you just made about some aspect of your life, and trying to see the missing comparison.

See, if I am thinking about my life being boring and dull, then clearly I am thinking about specific events in my life, and comparing them against some standard.  Even if both of these steps happen too quickly or at too low an intensity for me to be aware of them going by, this has to happen, or there is no way I could know that the reference events don't meet the standard!

So if I slowly back up my thoughts and turn up their intensity, then the hidden desire for adventure and excitement is revealed to me.  Not as a mere intellectual idea for the opposite of boredom, but rather as the images and feelings that represent...

What I'd Rather Be Doing

So if you are judging yourself harshly, or are fed up with things in your life, then know this: your judgment is only the shadow of your ideal.  And if you follow that shadow backwards, you will always find your light....  because no shadow can exist, without a light to cast it.

And so the deeper you find yourself living in shadows, the more you can find that every shadow is a compass pointing to a piece of your true direction.  You need only turn away from them one by one, to face the light that makes each shadow possible.

Now, I am not saying that by doing this, you will necessarily find some great and singular Purpose, nor mighty Goals and Visions.  But you will certainly know...  that no matter what... you are not lost now, and need never be again

Because no matter where you are, or where you go, the shadows will always point in the direction of your true home.  And the further you travel in that direction, the better you'll be able to see what lies ahead.