Monday, November 12, 2007

Can you see it?

For a few weeks now, my wife and I have been in the middle of a massive home reorganization project.  Well, "project" implies more order and planning than we're actually doing.  What's really happening is that we are throwing things out, cleaning things up, fixing what's broken, and upgrading a lot of what's left.

One of the things we wanted to fix was the way we both tend to leave our clothes out on top of whatever's handy when we go to bed.  Thus, the bedroom has always had a thin (or sometimes not-so-thin) layer of dirty laundry lying on top of things.

My plan was to add a clothes bar to the cabinet on my side of the bed.  But this had been my plan for over three years now, and I'd never quite "gotten around to it".  This weekend, however, I finally understood why I'd never done it.

In order to do anything, your brain has to first call up a representation of what it is you're going to do.  This representation can be almost anything: a memory of doing it, a memory of someone else doing it, something you saw in the movies, or something you just imagined or made up on your own.

But There Has To Be One!

Now, I had never installed a clothes bar before, nor do I recall ever having seen somebody install one.  So when I imagined wanting to have one in the closet, I could readily see what the bar would look like installed, but it was not easy to see myself installing it.

And, for most of those three years, it was not a particularly pressing concern to have the clothes bar installed.  You might say, it was not part of the "big picture" of my life.

But, as my wife and I got the bedroom cleaner and cleaner, hung up beautiful art, reorganized furniture, and so on, the way I "stored" my clothes overnight became increasingly out-of-sync with the "big picture" of how the room looked.

Before, the clothes were just a tiny part of a messy room.  But now, they were an unsightly blemish...

In The Middle Of Our Masterpiece!

So, something had to be done.  I put installing the clothes bar on my "list" for this weekend, but "didn't get to it" on Saturday.  But on Sunday morning, I realized what the problem was, even before I got out of bed.

I knew then that I needed to see it, before I could do it.  Not just the parts where I would install the cut dowel in the brackets, nor even where I would screw the brackets to the wall, or measure where the brackets should go.

I also needed to see myself getting the tools!

And as soon as I did that, I got up and got the tools and started on the job.  I didn't yet see how I was going to cut the dowel, but I saw that I could do right then, everything else up to that point, including measuring the dowel.

So I Did It!

Now, if you are "handy" around the house, this article might seem ridiculous to you.  That would be because you already have in your brain, plenty of representations of "handy" actions, that you can call on at a moment's notice.  In fact, these representations are so much on call in your mind, that you scarcely notice you have them.

And if you are fluent enough with your tools, you will mentally assemble those representations into entire projects, as fluently as I assemble these words into sentences!

So for any activity at which we are fluent, we have ready-to-run representations that can be easily linked into some larger whole.  Indeed, that is the very definition of fluency!  If you are a native speaker of English, then you are reading my words right now with barely any attention to the language itself, because your brain can call up the necessary representations literally "without thinking about it".

But for anything that you are not fluent at, of course you have to "think about it".  When learning to ride a bike, you at first will think about which way you have to lean your body to steer, and form a mental image of it.

This conscious image forming takes time, but soon it becomes unconscious and "second nature".  Your brain establishes connections that make the knowledge or actions...

A Part Of You

And from then on, you will always be able to ride a bike, and will never "forget how".

So what does all this mean for you?  Well, it means that if you are having trouble getting started on something, it would be a very good idea for you to spend some time putting together mental images of yourself doing that something...  and succeeding.

See, a lot of the time, when we think about doing something new, we don't think about succeeding at it.  Instead, we think things like, "I don't know how to do that"...  or "I don't know where the screwdriver is."  But this isn't helpful!

Instead, see yourself succeeding.  Finding the screwdriver.  Learning that new skill.  Enjoying yourself.

Without this, chances are good that you will never actually try anything new...

Let Alone Succeed!

Now, this isn't the only thing you need to succeed.  Success, unfortunately, is not the presence of one single thing, but the avoiding of ten thousand ways to fail.

A lot of self-help gurus disagree with this idea.  They say that if you never give up, you cannot help but succeed.  And this statement is true, but it's also completely useless.  It's like saying that the cure for procrastination is to just "do it now".  Absolutely true, but utterly useless!

The catch is this: you can know exactly what you should be doing with your life, and yet still not do any of it.  Not because you are lazy or worthless or anything like that, but simply because your brain contains a bunch of bad programming.

Imagine what would happen if you were trying to write a novel, but your word processing program kept crashing every 15 minutes and wiping out all your work.

It wouldn't matter if you were the greatest novelist who ever lived...

You're Just Not Going To Succeed That Way!

The reason that people like me can read self-help books for twenty or more years before being able to make significant changes is pretty simple.  If you have bugs in your mental programming, everything you put through it is suspect!

In other words, so long as I had wrong ideas in my head to start with, I could not really understand anything that was being said in the self-help books.  Instead of a word processor crashing every fifteen minutes, it's as if I was wearing magic glasses that subtly changed the meaning of everything I read.

And if your life isn't going the way you want it to, if you don't feel like you're in control and you're the owner of your life, then you are wearing those magic glasses too.  Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City only looks green to you, because of the glasses that everyone who enters is required to wear.

And if your glasses say "failure" on them...

Then All You Can See Is Failure!

Unfortunately, I have found that it is virtually impossible to take your own glasses off.  In order to even tell what glasses you have on, you must first encounter someone who is not wearing them.

Can this happen through reading something?  Yes, sometimes.  But it's vastly more effective in live communication, which is one reason I do my monthly workshops via live teleconference.

Nothing beats having your thinking ripped to shreds by someone who isn't wearing the same blinders as you...  which is why I spend a ridiculous amount of money to get my blinders ripped to shreds on a regular basis by people "further up the food chain" than me.  In truth, we are all blind, we just differ in where the blind spots are.

But, we are not entirely helpless in ourselves.  There is one thing that you can do, that will get you started, without needing anyone or anything else.  And that is...

To See Yourself Succeeding

Even if you are wearing glasses that say "failure", you can still see yourself succeeding.  This is the necessary first step, before you even encounter anyone who can teach you more.  Because until you see the possibility of succeeding, you will not really listen to them.

A case in point: when the small software company I'd worked at for twelve years shut down, the president of the company took me aside and said, "Phillip, if you don't look to at least triple your salary at your next job, you'll be underpaid."

And before he said that, I'd had absolutely no clue that it was possible for me to do that.  I had never seen myself making "that kind of money."

So if someone had tried to tell me what I needed to do to get "that kind of money", I wouldn't have paid them any real attention!

But once I saw that I could do it, I said, well heck, why not make five times as much as I was making?

So I went out and did it!

Now, I can't directly do for you what Roger did for me.  After all, I trusted and respected him in a way that I have very few other people in my life, as we had worked closely together for twelve years.

So if I tell you, "I know you can get more out of your life than you currently are, and what's more you deserve better," you will have no reason at all to believe me.  Your personal history will tell you I'm lying or a fool, that I don't know you, and I have no idea of your problems.  So be it.

But that doesn't stop it from being true, nonetheless.

And that is why my next workshop is called "Think Big, Walk Tall, and Live Large."  It is all about seeing yourself at your best.  Seeing your possibilities.  And yes, even seeing where you left the screwdriver.

So start as I did, with the "big picture".  Because when you see that you can succeed, the rest is merely a question of how.

And the "how", is easy.  You just need to take your "failure" glasses off!

And I'll show you how to do that, on Saturday.

Can you see it?



P.S.  Saturday's teleconference is only for Associate and Full members of the CircleJoin now, and you'll also receive this month's newsletter ("You Deserve Better") and CD ("The Secret of Quantum Leaps"), as well as 30 days access to the Pathfinders' Forum.  (Can't make the call Saturday evening?  Download the MP3 afterwards!)  You can cancel your membership at any time, so there's no long-term obligation.

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