Context

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I: Reality and Subjectivity by David Hawkins

This is the third book in David Hawkins’ Power vs. Force trilogy. His first book in the trilogy is Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior (1994) and the second book is The Eye of the I: From Which Nothing is Hidden. I have highlighted the first two books in prior weeks and though there is a lot of repetitive material, I highly recommend reading the third book I: Reality and Subjectivity.  Reading this trilogy is not an exercise in accumulating more knowledge, rather it is a practice in advancing one’s level of consciousness. Just the mere experience of reading Hawkins’ work can shift you at an emotional level and raise your consciousness.  I spent the last three months reading this whole trilogy. I would spend on average 30-60 minutes a day just letting his words wash over me. When you sit down with these dense books, it is best to read them slowly and be patient with your comprehension of the material. Insights will come to you that you have never thought before- I guarantee it. It is a spiritual experience. Personally, I see it as a form of meditation and consciousness building.

I am not going to go into great detail about the content of this third book, because the experience of reading it for yourself is going to be transformative for you. I however did want to share a fair amount of passages from the book which I found to meaningful.

Profound Passages

“There was the ability to perceive the reality that underlay personalities and that the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities” (xx)

“The Presence is silent and conveys a state of peace that is the space which and by which All Is and has its existence and unfolds. It is infinitely gentle and yet like a rock. With it, all fear disappears. Spiritual joy occurs on a quiet level of inexplicable ecstasy. The experience of time stops; there is no apprehension or regret, no pain or anticipation. The source of joy is unending and ever present. With no beginning or ending, there is no loss or grief or desire. Nothing needs to be done as everything is already perfect and complete.” (xxv)

“People wonder ‘How does one reach this state of awareness’, but few follow the steps because they are so simple. First, the desire to reach the state was intense. Then began the discipline to act with constant and universal forgiveness and gentleness, without exception. One has to be compassionate towards everything, including one’s own self and thoughts. Next came a willingness to hold desires in abeyance and surrender personal will at every moment. As each thought, feeling, desire or deed was surrendered to God, the mind became increasingly silent. At first, it released whole stories and paragraphs, then ideas and concepts.  As one lets go of wanting to own these thoughts, they no longer reach such elaboration and begin to fragment while only half formed. Finally it was possible to surrender the energy behind the very process of thinking itself before it even became thought” (xxvi)

“There is also the path to sudden enlightenment, which may occur in a seemingly spontaneous manner or as a result of meditation or some spiritual practice, or merely by being in the presence of an enlightened teacher.  Great leaps in consciousness result from surrendering oneself to God at great depth. This is seen in our society in people who have hit rock bottom. Willfulness/pride surrenders and transformation occurs. From the pits of hell, paradoxically, heaven is close by… Thus many levels of consciousness can be transcended. These are often preceded by long periods of inner agony.” (19)

“People hate me” stems from one’s own inner hatreds. ‘People don’t care about me’ stems from one’s narcissistic absorption with one’s happiness and gain instead of that of others. “I don’t get enough love” stems from not giving love to others. “People are rude to me” stems from lack of cordiality to others. “People are jealous of me” arises from inner jealousy of others. Thus, if we take responsibility for being the author of our world, we come close to its source where we can correct it. By being loving toward others, we discover that we are surrounded by love and lovingness. When we unreservedly support life without expecting gain, life supports us in return. When we abandon gain as motive, life responds with unexpected generosity. When we perceive in this way, the miraculous begins to appear in the life of ever spiritual aspirant. Harmony manifests as the unexpected discovery, the fortuitous coincidence and the lucky break, and finally the realization occurs that these are the ripples coming back to oneself from the seat of consciousness” (22) 

“In reality, nothing thoughts say about oneself or others have any reality. All statements are fallacious and represent programming and positionalities. There are also positive statements about one’s worth, merit, or value that are equally based on fiction. The true self is invisible and has no characteristics by which it can be judged.” (25)

 

“Goal fulfillment is self-rewarding if the goal of the aspirant is one of direction. Then a life dedicated to God is endlessly self fulfilling, whereas, in contrast, a life devoted to gain is full of pitfalls and suffering” (26)

“It is necessary to examine the nature of an attachment.  It is based on a belief and a desire. The belief is that a mental content will bring happiness and solve problems; therefore, the attachment is to the implied promise that it is the thinking itself that is the road to happiness (success, wealth, love, etc). To let go of the thinking therefore seems frightening because it is also seen as the main tool of survival; plus, it is ‘me’. As ‘me’, it is viewed as unique, personal and precious, and it constitutes the main data base of identification of ‘who I am’. The fear of the loss of self- identity brings up resistance. As we get closer to the discovery of the source of the ego’s tenacity, we make the amazing critical discovery that we are enamored with our self.  Even if thoughts are loaded with pain and failure and have been a disaster and source of suffering, we still cling to them because they are who I am, resulting in love/hate relationship with them. To ensure its survival, the self also learned how to juice satisfaction and energy from the negative emotional states. It thrives on injustice, martyrdom, failure and guilt. The ego secretly loves and clings to the position of victimhood and extracts a distorted pleasure and grim justification from pain and suffering. This can be seen in many cases as an addiction and a lifestyle. All along we have been in love with our thoughts and we cherish them. We defend them and make excuses for them. We are jealous of our beliefs. We prize them and alternately despise and punish ourselves with guilt and self hatred. Altogether, it is infatuation. The self-image gets glamorized because it is the stage upon which the drama of our life parades. To let go of love brings up fear of loss. To the self, all love objects are seen as a source of happiness. The next core problem is letting go of emotional love- not because of the love itself, but because of the attachment to that which is loved. We think that the loss of a love object brings grief, but actually, the grief is about the loss of the attachment itself, which is due to viewing the object of love as the source of happiness. Grief is due to the illusion that one has lost a source of happiness, and that the source of happiness is ‘out there’. If one looks at the feeling of happiness, it becomes clear that it is actually located within, although the trigger may appear to come from outside oneself; the sensation, however, is totally an inner feeling of pleasure. The source of happiness is therefore actually within and is released under favorable circumstances when the mind experiences a desired outcome. By inner examination, one will discover that the event merely triggers an inner innate capacity. With the discovery that the source of happiness is actually within one’s inner self and therefore cannot be lost, there is a reduction of fear. Viewed from reality, thoughts are actually an ‘out there’. Although it may sound amazing, they can totally be dispensed with because they interfere with the achievement of true happiness” (40-41)

Some Axiomatic Positionalities of the Ego

Phenomena are either good or bad, right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair.

The ‘bad’ deserve to be punished and the ‘good’ rewarded.

Things happen by accident or else they are the fault of somebody else.

The mind is capable of comprehending and recognizing truth from falsehood.

The world causes and deternines one’s experiences.

Life is unfair because the innocent suffer while the wicked go unpunished.

People can be different than they are.

It is critical and necessary to be right.

It is critical and necessary to win.

Wrongs must be righted.

Righteousness must prevail.

Perceptions represent reality (45)

“Surrender is a constant process of not resisting or clinging to the moment but instead, continuously turning it over to God. The attention is thus focused on the process of letting go and not on the content of ‘what’ is being surrendered.” (48)

“The Source of joy of spiritual endeavor stems from the work itself and is not dependent on outcomes or the achievement of goals.The replacement of resentment with peaceful acceptance is its own reward. There is a progressive alteration in one’s view of self and others. When this happens, one’s life story can then be re-contextualized from a more compassionate understanding” (53).

 

“The ‘politically correct’ activists seem to precipitate an endless series of social conflicts and strife. What is the core of the problem?  They are elitist and calibrate at 180, the level of pride and vanity of egotism.  The error is again one of ignoring context. Although supposedly egalitarian, they paradoxically adopt superior attitudes and pose as high moral ground. They attempt to gain power and control over others by romanticized idealism.” (62)

 “What is the best attitude to view society? One of compassionate benevolence. The average person’s psyche is overwhelmed by layers of programmed belief systems of which they are unaware. Out of naivete and the belief in the principle of causality, the supposed causes and their solutions are sough ‘out there'” (81)

“It is actually more exciting because one learns to live on the crest of the current moment instead of on the back of the wave, which is the past, or on the front of the wave, which is the future. There is greater freedom from living on the exciting knife edge of the moment than being a prisoner of the past or having expectations of the future. If the goal of life is to the very best one can do at each unfolding moment of existence, then, through spiritual work, one has already escaped the primary cause of suffering. In the stop frame of the radical present, there is no life story to react to or edit.” (94)

“Compassion and forgiveness do not mean approval” (113)

“We that trying to overcome the ego without really understanding it brings up guilt, self-condemnation and other negative feelings, which is one of the main reasons why many people are reluctant to become involved in spiritual work. Because of this, people are afraid to be honest with themselves and tend to project the downside of the ego onto others or even onto God” (113)

“Humility and surrender at great depth, as well as prayer, can shorten the process. The seeming duration of time is because one is looking for a result. Even when the ego’s energies have been disconnected, its momentum seems to need to run out. For instance, when a giant ship, such as a great tanker, stops its engine, it often continues for several miles farther before it finally comes to stop.” (120)

“What characteristics facilitate comprehension and transformation? Dedication, devotion, faith, prayer, surrender and inspiration. When the barriers are relinquished, Truth reveals itself spontaneously” (135)

“What does the Self feel like? It is central, solid, profound, still, immutable, nonlocal, diffuse, all encompassing, peaceful, tranquil, comfortable, secure, emotionless, joy, infinite lovingness, protection, closeness, safety, complete fulfillment and ultrafamiliar” (138)

“How does one then live in the world? One participates but is not involved in or attached to it. One can observe without being judgmental. Detachment would require withdrawal from the world, whereas nonattachment allows participation as there is no stake in outcomes. The game is entertaining, but which side ‘wins’ is of no importance.” (146)

“By analogy, fear arises from perception, and its concomitant is a release of adrenaline. Discovering where adrenaline arises from in the body does not explain fear because adrenaline is merely a consequence and a concomitant, not the cause, which has already occurred in the consciousness field of perception. It would be naive to assume that to discover where joy is experienced by the brain is the cause of that joy. The brain and its physiology exist within the world of form, and spiritual states originate within the nonlinear reality of nonform.” (148)

“True spiritual authority is rooted in Truth and thus has no need or desire to be authoritarian.  It has no argument nor does it have a desire or a need for acceptance.  It would be a misuse of spiritual power to try to use it to control the minds of people. Authoritarianism is intrinsically insecure and therefore has to insist on agreement with its belief system; it is the antithesis of freedom” (160)

“To successfully transcend the seeming opposites, it is only necessary to see that what appear to be two different or opposing concepts are actually just gradations of possibilities that change quality as they progress along a single base line of perception” (169)

“How did a good God create a world that includes evil?’ The answer, of course, is that He did not. The seeming opposites exist in the mind of man as perceptions and positionalities.” (173)

 “Detachment from positionalities, and especially the positionalities occasioned by labeling, leads to serenity, freedom and security. Greater serenity arises from relating to the context of life, rather than to the content which is primarily a game board of interacting egos. The broader style of relating to life leads to greater compassion and emancipation from being at the effect of the world” (179).

“The human psyche becomes attached to qualifying and rating everything on arbitrary social scales of desirability, appeal or value. Whole lives can become devoted to pursuing some mystique in which subtle distinctions become inflated and sought after for their social symbolism. This can lead to an endless seeking of status, possessions, wealth and symbols of endless seeking of status, possessions, wealth, and symbols of distinctions, as well as the need to be right about everything” (187).

“To undo the endless sequences of wanting and craving, it is useful to dissemble them by doing an exercise called “and then what?” I want (a better job, more money, better car, college degree or whatever), followed by the question, “and then what?” It will be found that the answer is always the final belief that “and then I will be happy”. (190)

“There is a great joy in the realization that one does not actually need anything at all to be happy, not even external stimuli, such as television, music, conversation, or the presence of other people or activities” (191)

“The common element  of most fears is that they are based on the illusion that happiness is dependent on externals and therefore vulnerable.  To overcome the illusion of vulnerability brings great relief and the correction of being run by fear so that life becomes benign and filled with satisfaction and an easy-going, confident attitude instead of constant guardedness.  Cessation of fear is the result of learning that the source of happiness and joy is from within. It stems from recognizing that its source of joy is one’s own existence, which is continuous and not dependent on externals.  This results from surrendering expectations and demands on one’s self, the world and others. The thought ‘I can only be happy if I win or get what I want’ is a guarantee of worry, anxiety and unhappiness” (200)

“Thus, poverty is not basically a financial condition but is instead a concomitant and consequence of a specific level of consciousness that cannot be cured by financial assistance. More often, financial aid worsens the poverty as it gives a stimulus to the already excessive birth rate which then brings even further poverty” (206)

“Healthy self interest includes concern for the welfare of others, whereas selfishness disregards others. Self-interest is not destructive to others and is therefore integrous and increases self-esteem. Egotism is separatist and seeks gain at a cost to others, leading to a loss of inner self-esteem. It is therefore vulnerable, non-integrous, and an illusory self-inflation that leads to loss of self-respect” (234)

“The attachment to love is really the trap and the barrier to enlightenment. In Reality, love is freedom, but attachment to love is a limitation” (281)

“This illustrates the phenomenon of entrainment which was described in Power vs. Force. Clinically, this phenomenon is well-known in twelve-step recovery groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, in which the aspirant is advised to “just keep going to meetings and you will get it by osmosis.” Exposure to the group’s aura (at 540) results in the miracle of recovery. It takes a very powerful energy field to overcome the very strong entrapment of addiction. As long as the sober person stays within the protection of the field, sobriety continues, but relapse occurs if they leave unless their own calibrated level of consciousness has advanced to the necessary level of 540.” (306)

“The ego’s addiction and survival are based on the secret pleasure of negativity, which cannot be abandoned until it is first recognized, identified and owned without shame or guilt” (311).

“The ego’s focus is narrow and constricted by intention, which is therefore selective. It constantly seeks ‘problems’. To the ego, everything can be seen as a problem. As a consequence, the ego’s evaluation of situations is often prone to very serious error and miscalculation” (318)

“The ego is potentially deadly and would rather see you dead than admit it is wrong” (319)

“While the world may have the expectation that the life of a spiritually committed person should be holy and tranquil, quite often the opposite may occur. The karma is activated and brought up into awareness. Major changes may occur in the aspirant’s life and relationships. For some years, life may appear to be tumultuous as profound inner changes take place. These may involve lifestyle, vocation, relationships, and possessions, all of which may rapidly come and go. Change in geographic location is common. Friends and family in the world may think the devotee has gone mad, left reality and gone overboard” (337)

“Enlightenment means that the former personal identity and all that had been believe about it have been erased, removed, transcended, dissolved and displaced. The particular has been replaced by universal, qualities have been replaced by essence, the linear has been replaced by the nonlinear, and the discrete has been replaced by the unlimited” (346)

“Man thinks, but thinking is a two edged sword. The bird flies about, enjoying its life and does not need to study ornithology or even know that it is a bird.  It doesn’t need to understand or know anything because it just is.

“Any approach will reveal that attachments are the core problem to be overcome through relinquishment. The problem is not money, or sex or pleasure but the attachment to them, plus the illusion that the source of happiness is external, which brings up fear of loss.” (349)

“Attachment is a very peculiar quality of the ego. It can be totally undone in all its pervasive and multitudinous forms of clinging by simply letting go of one’s faith in it or belief in its value as a reality. This one giant step is a confrontation to being unaware of one’s attachments. The attachment to ‘self’ or ‘me’ or ‘I’ is a basic trap. The mind is attached to the very process of attachment itself as a survival tool.” (350-351)

“Humor is a means of detachment or re-contextualizing the events of life.  It is a way of being light hearted and wearing the world like a loose garment.  It leads to compassion for the totality of human life and reveals the option that one can play at life without getting involved in it as though it were an exhausting life-and-death struggle. Humor is inclusive of life and is a level of compassion. Indifference, in contrast, is exclusive of life. Humor allows for participation; indifference leads to nonparticipation.  Humor enjoys while indifference yields flatness and ennui” (354-355)

“One has to discern the difference between ‘rights’ and ‘privileges’. All so-called rights are merely privileges that are granted by societal agreement. To understand that concept spells the difference between gratitude and arrogance.  The illusion of rights is an ego inflation which can lead to a narcissistic positionality of entitlement, with its hostile, demanding, unappreciative, and paranoid attitudes. One cannot acquire rights by oneself; they are an earned gift from free society.” (377)

 “The way to truth is via radical honesty” (383)

“The rebirth of the eog/self/I occurs again every morning upon awakening. With observation, one can see that awareness returns at first as merely the return of conscious awareness. As the identifications slowly reappear, one becomes aware of location, but the awakening mind doesn’t even know what day it is. Then it slowly again identifies with the world, place, time and name and all the past identifications return from memory.” (385-386)

“It is useful to pretend that one has no memory” (386)

“Nonattachment does not mean passivity or nonaction; thus, one can take a stance in the world to defend innocence as a commitment to the integrity of truth.  As we saw prior to World War II, the passivity and naivety of Neville Chamberlin invited Nazi aggression to pursue the rabbit. In mountain country, everyone knows that to run from the mountain lion invites its attack. If life is sacred, then to defend life is aligned with the will of God, and it is not intrinsically an act of aggression” (396)

“The inner ‘high’ of righteous indignation, being right or hating enemies turns out to be disappointing in hollow illusions of victory.  The mature spiritual aspirant is one who has explored the ego’s options and false promises of happiness.  The ego’s final song, after examination, is represented by a famous singer’s poignant song, “Is This All There Is?” (397)

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The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do When You Feel Down or Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 years I have read a lot of books on emotions, depression, peak performance, anxiety and overall cognitive functioning. Through my aikido, meditation and several other practices have begun to understand these things on an experiential level. I have been to the lowest of lows (a deep depression) and the highest of highs. And after enough time spent in both places, I have come to some level of observation and self awareness with what goes on during each of those experiences. Today, I want to present to you a simple strategy for dealing with a down moment or a bout of depression that takes you under and engulfs you. 

I am speaking from my own experience in a depressed state as well as several other people who report a similar experience. In an emotional state of depression, everything looks bleak. I feel lonely, disconnected from society, helpless and hopeless. I see absolutely zero potential for anything positive to happen in my future whether it be in terms of relationships, money, experiences, work- whatever. I literally feel like a “shit-magnet”. Bad shit seems to stick to me. Everyone I encounter is a selfish jerk. The best way I can describe depression is a complete and overwhelming tunnel vision for everything negative. And as Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has affirmed, the bleak perception of our reality feels permanent (like it’s going to last forever), pervasive (like every aspect of our life is fucked) and highly personal (like we as a person are majorly defective). 

 I have noticed that when I have been depressed, I will freeze frame my current “shitty” reality and conceptualize it in my mind that it is going to be this way forever. It makes me not even want to live anymore. I feel like giving up. I then begin to ask myself questions like, “what is wrong with me?” and “what’s the point anyway?”. I try to go up in my head and think my way out of the problem.  If there is one thing to take away from the lesson today it is this:

Intellectualizing and trying to rationally think your way out of a troubling emotional state is the worst thing you can possibly be doing to feel better. Your trying to solve a problem from a impaired level of thinking. It makes no sense, however we as humans love to see ourselves as smart creatures who can think our way out of shit. 

Einstein nailed it right on the head when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. And this quote is quite applicable to depression.  When we are in a low level of consciousness, it is impossible to get ourselves out of it by thinking more. 

Instead what needs to be understood is that our feelings are a signal. And this powerful signal of “I feel like death” is telling us that our thinking is off!  Way off. Therefore, the only thing you have to do when you start feeling like absolute crap is begin to not believe in the thoughts that are creeping into your mind. I just read Garrett Kramer’s peak performance books Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance and I really love his paradigm regarding this. He asserts that you should “feel what you feel, but don’t believe what you think”. Our terrible feelings are a powerful signal- to disregard and be disbelieving of our thoughts- not to cling to them and try to rationally joust with them. 

The more you can begin to simply sit with your feelings and not try to create a story around them about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling- this is when you will escape the grips of your depression. What keeps the depression in place is the constant thinking that ‘this event’ or ‘that person’ is to blame for my depression. This type of thinking is not going to get you out of your depression, it is only going to ensure that you stay in that state of mind longer. If you just sit still and begin to quietly retreat to the silent confines of your mind- you will start to notice that your depression will begin to subside and eventually drift away. Our brains and bodies have the natural tendency to self-correct. There is a built auto-pilot mechanism built into our nervous system if we simply let go of needing to control every process along the way. 

When we try to think our way of our depression- we are trying to “will” it and control every step in the process. This absolutely shuts off our self-corrective mechanism in our brain that is the skeleton key to our emotional regulation. The less energy and power you give your depressing thoughts- the sooner you will start to see your emotional state rise. And then pretty soon thereafter your perception will begin to broaden. You will start to see things in brighter color, see the hopeful (and realistic) future and get out the blame-game you’ve been playing with yourself. 

This process takes a keen level of self awareness. Most people get into a depressed state and they try to fight it- but that just gives it more energy. Think about depression like your little brother or that neighbor of yours who is a shit-grinning twerp. The more you engage with your little brother, the more he is going to try to annoy you and rattle you. However when you laugh at him and not let what he is doing bother you- he goes away because it is no fun for him anymore. Depression is the same way. Begin to watch your hopeless thoughts come into your awareness. Don’t let them hook you, just watch them and be accepting of them. Sit there through the painful experience and become an outstanding observer of your own mind. This is the secret to mastering your inner world- becoming a master observer of your own mind and it’s default patterns and tendencies. 

Once you begin to observe and not absorb or attach to these negative thoughts- your consciousness will begin to rise and the heavy feelings will start to lighten drastically. It will feel like a exhilarating experience. The more you can practice this, the better you will get. As Garrett Kramer loves to say, it’s all about STAYING IN THE GAME. If you hang around long enough and don’t fight the negative thoughts and bleak perspective- it will all turn around. It always does. But the minute you begin to try to understand why you are feeling like crap and begin to create some narrative about your depression- you have lost the game. 

We all have a unique inner life force. I believe it is God within us, others call it a whole lot of different things. However, this force is the very thing that guides us intuitively and if given the freedom to work for us- can produce miracles. I know relinquishing control and not engaging with the depressing thoughts is a major challenge that most will probably fail at their first few times. Yet, all it takes is one breakthrough and it will change your life forever. One experience of letting your inner guide take over and guide you out of your depression will allow you to never be a hostage to this crippling condition ever again. It’s amazing. 

So you have 2 choices. You can either be a victim and continue to fight with your annoying shit-grinning little brother (depressive thoughts) and continue to feel agitated (depression). Or you can begin to observe and allow your annoying little brother to “try” to bother you, but never actually bite the hook (depressive thoughts)- therefore making him disinterested and leaving you alone so that you can be in peace (free of depression).

 If you tend to fall down the “rabbit hole” of depression, I suggest hanging two signs around your place as a reminder. One is from Kramer’s book:

“STAY IN THE GAME”

And the other is from the Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor:

“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

The second quote is what gave me the hope to carry on in the darkest of my depression a couple years ago. Though I really had no where to turn and felt almost entirely hopeless- I kept looking at that quote and it kept me looking for another way- another answer. I’d read another book, I’d watch another youtube video, I just kept going. Until pretty soon, I was guided to meet my mentor. And that was the moment that changed everything. So I suggest you adopt this belief. If you believe there is always a way- you will find a way. People, when their either going to die or succeed- they tend to succeed. Hunger is your greatest asset. Plain and simple. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Success is the Ultimate Failure

You wouldn’t be looking at this if you were 100% content with you current life and circumstances. And I’m not sure that ever becoming 100% content with your life is a recipe for success, fulfillment and happiness. By being 100% satisfied and content with your current life, there is no room for growth and progress. And inside all of us, I believe, is the need to grow so that we have more to give. Our yearning to grow and to give are the needs of our spirit and the soul. This is why I believe if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. How often do you hear about successful and wealthy corporate executives who retire and move down to Florida with the intention of doing nothing but relax, that die soon thereafter. It’s an amazing phenomenon. They literally within a month or two of retirement. Our nervous systems weren’t built to sit on the beach and drink pina coladas all day.  We were built to be constantly improving and growing ourselves so that we have more to give to others (whether it be the ones we love, the community we live in or the rest of the world).  Another place where this shows up is in depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are great signals. They typically manifest themselves as a result of a neurotic and intense self focus. People who are clinically depressed as well as those who suffer from anxiety (the co-morbidity between anxiety and depression is high) have mastered focusing their attention on themselves and their problems.  As a metaphor, people who are depressed are literally running a negative tv commercial about themselves and their problems on repeat- over and over in their mind. They spend virtually none of their attention and focus on helping others or getting outside of their narrow view of the world. Anxiety is much of the same.  This is why people commonly say that depressed and anxious people should spend time around those who are less fortunate. Additionally, Dale Carnegie in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living affirmed this idea when he wrote, “A good deed, said the prophet Mohammed, is one that brings a smile of joy to the face of another. Why will doing a good deed every day produce such astounding efforts on the doer? Because trying to please others will cause us to stop thinking of ourselves: the very thing that produces worry and fear and melancholia.” And there is a stark difference between the ‘pleasing’ he is talking about and ‘people pleasing’. People pleasing comes at the expense of one’s own happiness. People pleasing is being an emotional hostage to others and allows no room for free self expression.

 

Many people initially enter the self help and personal development world because they are hungry for more success- whether it be money, relationships, career success, power, possessions, etc. They then seek strategies and methods for achieving these external goals. I have no problem with success driven individuals. Success is a noble goal. However I think what many of these success seekers fail to understand is that just by getting the money, the car, the house, the girl or their perfect physique- this will not lead to happiness and contentment in and of itself. What leads to true fulfillment is not what we get or achieve, but who we become as a person. Interviews with numerous 80 and 90 year olds’ who are on their death beds have consistently affirmed this overlooked distinction. Jim Rohn always affirmed this by saying, “The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become”.  Have you ever achieved a goal that you had wanted so dearly and once you got it you asked yourself, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” The pleasure and enjoyment derived from the money, the possession, or the actual goal that was attained is a temporary high. It might last a day, a week or a month, but soon thereafter you will return to your default state of existence and only be left with the person you have become. This is why people who win the lottery see only a momentary spike in their level of happiness and then return to their default level soon thereafter. Unfortunately lottery winners almost always find a way to lose all their winnings and return to their default financial level too. This is not a coincidence. Money is nothing more than a symbol for the amount of value we are able to provide as a human being.  And most people choose to chase money directly and never focus on the value they are providing to others. Most people seek external goals for the possession of the prize in and of itself, when in reality the quest for the external goal is a journey that is going to require them to grow, develop and improve themselves in a way they never expected. Such a journey is going to be rewarding not because of the prize that is sitting at the end of the road, but because of the person they will have to become to get to the finish line. Enjoyment is found in the journey. The end result is a pleasant reward temporarily, but the ultimate fulfillment is found in who the seeker had to become to get there. 

 

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for your own journey toward greater success and fulfillment.  Many spend their entire life climbing one latter, only to realize that it is resting against the wrong wall.  The question you should be asking yourself is not what external goal you think will make your life better, but rather who you must become in order to be satisfied and fulfilled. Step into your 80 year old self and look backwards. This exercise of evaluating your current path from your 80 year self is about operating out of the context rather than the content. Most people make huge life decisions based on what is the easiest or most comfortable route in that moment. They inherently sacrifice long term success and fulfillment for short term comfort. Its kind of funny, people spend more time planning their next vacation then they do planning the rest of their life. 

 

This post is not to sway you away from going after your goals and dreams, rather it is to awaken you to the fact that the goals themselves are not going to be the things that provide the ultimate enjoyment and fulfillment.  The person you are to become en route to your goals is the ultimate prize. The actual goal is just the cherry on the top and a great symbol to remind you of the person you have become. Understanding this simple yet commonly overlooked premise of personal development can literally save your life. Failure is not the ultimate failure. Failure is temporary. The ultimate failure is reaching your ultimate goal and still not being fulfilled.

 

 

 

Why Goal Setting Doesn’t Work

If you’ve ever read a self help/personal development book I’m sure you’re familiar with the trite idea that people who set goals are more successful than those who do not.  You’re probably sick of hearing about it. I am not going to tell you to get your planner out and start writing down a bunch of goals to set for the new year.  Millions of people in this very moment are sitting at their kitchen table and listing out their goals for 2017. But how many will actually achieve what they put down on paper? It is likely that less than 3% will achieve their goals. In reality the number is probably closer to 1% or a fraction of that one percent.  The key to changing your life is not setting more goals and adding things to your to do list. It is much more simple than that.  It is about setting the context for your life and operating out of it. This process of establishing the context is what the masses fail to do.  However if you look at the most successful people in any industry, this process of creating the context of their life is the distinguishing factor that separates them from the rest. 

 

What is meant by setting the context? Let’s take a look at two different examples to shed some light on this and show the contrast in approaches.

 

In the first example, let’s look at Randy. Randy is 45 years old and makes 100,000$ a year working in sales. He is 30lbs overweight and his family life and relationship with his wife is average. They have good days and bad days. Today he sits down at his kitchen table and sets his goals for 2017. He says he wants to make $125,000 this year, lose thirty pounds and be a better husband and parent to his wife and kids. All respectable and very much attainable goals for 2017.  He even goes a step further and creates an action plan for how he can achieve these goals. He lists out various activities that will propel him to the success in each category. He says he will workout 5 times a week, make 5 extra sales calls a day, come home from work 30 minutes early to be with his family, etc. As the days pass by, Randy sees an overall leap in productivity throughout January and very much is acting in accordance with his goals. Then February and March come along and things start to get very busy at work. He starts eating out a lot more and spending less time with his family to meet the demands of his busy work schedule. By April his 2017 goals have gone down the drain. He’s added 5 pounds, his family life has gotten worse and he is struggling to meet his sales objectives.  This is the typical result when people set their new years resolutions and well-intentioned goals.

 

Rob on the other hand is a 35 year old middle manager at large manufacturing company. He makes 75,000$/year and works an average of 40-50 hours a week. He is not in love with his job, but understands he needs to pay the bills. He ultimately wants to get into coaching college football. Though he sees this as a challenging jump from a comfortable decent paying job to the uncertain terrain of college football, he has made the definite decision that he will do whatever it takes to become a college football coach. He is single and understands that in order to break into coaching, he might have to sacrifice his social life for the time being. Throughout 2016 he has filtered every decision through the context that he will do whatever it takes to break through and become a college football coach. He volunteered and was an assistant varsity football coach for the high school around the corner from his house. He also spent 20 hours on the week training high school players and preparing them for their transition to the college game.  Through this he made several contacts to various college coaches. In 2017, Rob has a discussion with a college coach about becoming a graduate assistant for their program. This would entail him quitting his job and moving 3 hours away to a different city. Just like in past decisions, Rob considers his ultimate destiny and his compelling vision of becoming a college football coach and decides to quit his job and take the leap into the coaching profession.

 

Compared to Randy, Rob did not set goals in the traditional sense. He did not write out his objectives in some systematic list. Rather he set the context for his life.  He created such a compelling future and subsequently made every decision through that very prism. Every decision in his life was made on the basis of one single question:

 

Is this taking me closer or further away from my ultimate destiny?

 

Rob sacrificed his dating life and social life for his compelling future. He quit his well paying job to pursue his dream. He relocated for it. This kind of definiteness of purpose is what setting the context is all about. Most people set goals and then when distractions come up during the day to day hustle and bustle of their everyday life, they forget what their ultimately after and they fall off the path.  Holding the greater context is about keeping one eye on the prize during even the most monotonous times.  Most people don’t fail to reach their goals because they make some fatal mistake or have some huge blunder. Rather they just lose focus during the small and seemingly meaningless minutia that takes place on a daily basis. They take their eye of the ball and after a few days of that, their goal slips right through their hands without them even realizing it. 

 

Creating a compelling vision and operating out of the context (the bigger picture) rather than the content (the moment to moment) is what separates a truly outstanding person from the pack. During every journey there will be setbacks, annoyances, mistakes and frustrations- that is a given. However someone who operates out of the context plows right through the difficult times because they have the big picture in mind. A person who operates out of the content will almost always quit and give up on their ultimate destiny because they are more concerned with being comfortable in the moment, then attaining their ultimate outcome. So while goal setting is important in the general sense, it is more important to create such a compelling future that you’re pulled to it- you’re so excited that you can’t wait to wake up in the morning.  And then when the difficulties and set backs come- you won’t be tempted to quit or take the easy road- you’ll know exactly what you want and more importantly- you’ll know exactly who you must become.  This leads me to the final part of this equation.

 

Once you have identified such a compelling future to the point where you’re willing to give up everything you own just to pursue it, the next question you must answer is “who must I become to get to my ultimate destiny?”  This question is not to be answered in an external sense like “I must be wealthy, have a lot of friends, etc”. Rather this question of “who must I become” should be answered in an internal sense.  What kind of person must you evolve into? What internal personality traits and qualities must you exude? What kind of habits must you cultivate? What kind of relationship would you have to have with yourself? And most importantly, what emotional states would you have to live in to reach this place?  People tend to evaluate themselves on external factors like appearance, relationships, connections, resume and background. These are the least important things in the process of attaining your ultimate vision.  If there is one quote to live by during this process of transformation, it is one by David Hawkins:

 

“We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.” 

 

Greater knowledge, connections, opportunities aren’t going to do it. Your ‘beingness’ will determine your ultimate destiny. And one’s ‘way of being’ is a direct result of one’s internal relationship with them self, as well as the emotional states they consistently live in. 

 

Goal setting is all fine and dandy if you are pretty content and satisfied with your current life and just want to make it 5-10% better. But if you want to completely overhaul and absolutely transform yourself into the person you must become, then you must create such a clear and compelling long term vision that you’re pulled to it, so you don’t have to push yourself toward it. Then from here you will automatically be operating out of the context rather than the content.  The next time some little hiccup happens or some annoyance gets in your way- it doesn’t fucking matter. It becomes a trivial and meaningless event because you know you are have bigger and better things to focus your attention on. This level of 100% certainty, commitment and definiteness of purpose is what separates someone who is outstanding from someone who is good. Commitment engenders passion. Not the other way around. Commit yourself to your ultimate destiny and make every decision in your life through that lens and you’ll find a way to get their.  That’s the secret to massive success- operating out of the context, rather than the content. 

 

The perfect example of this was the former Duke point guard Bobby Hurley who won two national championships, played in the NBA for the Sacramento Kings and is the all time NCAA assist leader.  Here is an excerpt from Adrian Wojnarowski’s book The Miracle of St. Anthony about how Hurley was operating out of the greater context as an eighth grader:

 

“The balls would stay locked in the steel bin for most of the next hour. They were going to hear about the St. Anthony standard for dedication and determination, the story of squeezing the last drop of potential out of a young man’s body, about how a five-foot-four, 110 pound eight grader who told his teacher and classmates what he wanted to be when the subject of goals came up one day, told them point by point, laid it all out for everyone. And they laughed at him. They laughed when he said he was going to break David Rivers’s assists record at St. Anthony, when he said he was going to earn a big-time basketball scholarship to college and when he said he would someday play point guard for the Boston Celtics.  They laughed him all the way out of school that day, all the way down to the projects, where he want back to work on his game. The St. Anthony Friars were going to hear the legend of Bobby Hurley.  Three quarters of an hour later, they were still sitting mesmerized at mid-court, and the balls hadn’t come out of the bin since the Hillside scrimmage. There was one thing that the coach swore for sure: If Bobby walked into this team as a freshman that moment, he would’ve gone after someone. ‘There would have been a problem here.  Bobby would’ve told somebody, “You’re messing with my dream”.