There is a prevalent philosophy I see practiced a lot that is just plain false. It’s the idea that great success is achieved through luck or chance. No truly great and enduring success just “happens”. Enduring success is the result of purposeful, planned action, done consistently.
Our society is obsessed with getting things immediately and with no effort. It’s everywhere: “Get instant credit NOW!”, “Cooked and ready to eat in 5 minutes!”, “Get rich FAST!”, “Lose 3 inches from your waist OVER NIGHT!”, “Miracle acne cure removes scars and blemishes in 24 HOURS!’ Hogwash!
There is a fundamental element of human nature that yearns for something for nothing or for “the easy, fast way”. It is perhaps the first hurdle to achieving any great success. I have practiced this in my own life…if I just “hope” hard enough great things will happen.
At the heart of it all I get seduced by the thought of “having” verses the act of “becoming”. Just “having” stuff doesn’t mean much. It seems like it will at first, but it never does. On the other hand, the act of “becoming”, while difficult, brings the most satisfaction.
I can illustrate this with the desire I have to be more free. I want more time freedom, more financial freedom, more freedom to fully chose what I will do with my day, etc. I just want it now! But here is the trick. What if I was just given unlimited wealth over night? Without the strength of character I would need to handle that freedom, I would destroy myself. Without the knowledge to do something meaningful with such wealth, it would make me miserable. This is proven time and again with people that win the lottery, or receive a huge inheritance. Why is it a year or two later that they are right back in the same mess they were before? Because they never developed the knowledge and character needed to become the type of person that could handle that type of success.
So if just “having” stuff immediately destroys and makes miserable, what is the best way? Shift your focus from “having” to “becoming”. Become the type of person that can handle unlimited wealth, and you will HAVE unlimited wealth. Simple concept perhaps, but difficult to do.
Society doesn’t focus much on “becoming”. The focus is on “having”. Things evolve that way because its easier to be lazy and appeal to that part of our nature. I don’t know how many people would be seduced by this marketing message: “Lose 30 pounds in 12 months by eating right, exercising and working your rear off !” Or, “Earn unlimited wealth through years of planning, working, and learning wisdom through applied effort and delivering value”.
The result is a lot of people waiting around for “their ship to come in”. With all these messages about “fast and easy” it’s just got to be a matter of time right? WRONG. Here is the “secret”. It’s a matter of EFFORT.
UUUGGGG effort!? Yuck! Or is it? Look at it like this. There are two classes of miserable: “those that receive stuff with out earning it and destroying themselves (miserable), and those that make no effort, and therefore make no progress, also miserable. So if getting something for nothing leads to misery and doing nothing leads to misery, what is left? Work! Plan! Become!
For the remainder of this post I will focus on the concept of “becoming” and some ideas on “how” to “become”.
When I say “become” I am speaking of the process of becoming the best you. The joy comes in the process of becoming and not arriving or having. This is a little bit abstract, so let me provide an example of what I mean. I attended graduate school at Idaho State University to obtain the training and degree to get a job as a licensed mental health counselor. When I first began my focus was all about the degree and what that would get me. My thoughts were centered on “just getting through” the next 2 years. I just wanted the degree. My first semester was tough, particularly with that attitude.
The second semester something happened that changed my attitude. As part of the program I was doing an internship at the state of Idaho department of child protection. I was to work with children that had suffered severe neglect and abuse. I was assigned to work with a young, 10 year old boy I will call “Steven”. He spoke to no one. He didn’t look any one in the eye. He was completely withdrawn.
My first thought was, “great, I get to spend several hours each week baby sitting a completely mute kid”. Then I spent some time reading his file. He had suffered horrible abuse. Anger grew in me as I came to understand all that he had suffered. Following the anger an immense admiration for Steven began to swell inside. He had amazing strength and a very calm, but determined demeanor. I completely forgot about graduate school, degrees, internships, I became consumed with a desire to help some how.
The first several times we met he didn’t say anything or even look at me. Although he wasn’t saying words he would communicate through his body language and alert manner. The idea came to me to get out of the counselor’s office and just take walks. So we would walk and I would tell him how I admired him for who he was. I would reinforce every positive thing he did. This went on for weeks.
Then one day…I came in to the office and looked me in the eye and asked to go on a walk. He opened up and it was like flood gates opened. He talked about everything. His frustrations, his fears, anger first…then he spoke of things that he liked, and what he hoped for. Everyone in the department was amazed that he would say anything, let alone be so open.
We became good friends and we stayed in touch long after the internship was over. Somewhere in the middle of this experience I completely forgot about the degree. Some thing changed inside me and I became a bit more caring and my focus shifted from “getting a degree” to genuinely helping other people. As I look back now on that experience, the person I was becoming is what brought the satisfaction. The day I graduated and received my degree was okay, but it was nothing really in comparison to the process of becoming better.
It is experiences like that, that has me getting up at 3:00 AM every day to write and post in this blog. The process of sharing ideas and experiences that can help others is what brings me satisfaction. I really don’t know what I will ever “get” or “have” in the material world for this, but I enjoy the process. Every article I write has me thinking about you, and how I can help some how.
So how do you shift from thinking about “having” to “becoming”? The first step is recognizing that happiness comes from the process of becoming the best you, you can be. Any rewards or accolades are just “by products” of the person you have become. This mind set is THE KEY. It is this mind set that allows for the next step.
Next step is to identify who you are and what you want to become. At first glance it would appear that this would be the easiest thing to do. Who doesn’t know what they want to become? This question is shadowed by a more dominant question: “What do I want to have”? As a result the more important question is pushed out of the way. Everywhere you turn you are told what you want: “Flatter abs”, “More hair”, “Less hair”, “More money”, “Bigger house” “Better performance”, etc, etc. The secret is this: You don’t learn what you are to become by focusing on yourself! You learn who you are and what you want to become by focusing on service to others. Only in the act of getting outside yourself can you begin see who you really are. It is easy to get started on this step really. Go do something for someone. Do the dishes, pick up some trash, fix a meal, make a visit. As you provide this service, you will begin to see with more clarity.
This step takes some time. We are so conditioned to think about “receiving” that thinking about “giving” can be difficult at first. Give without thoughts of what you will receive in return.
Next, write down the thoughts and feelings that come to you as you serve. Don’t get hung up on this step. Don’t concentrate on writing as if you are crafting your own autobiography. Just transfer thoughts to paper. Get a note book, start on the first page and put the date at the top. Start writing.
Ask yourself questions and then write the answers. I will concentrate on the answer to a single question until I have exhausted any thoughts or feelings that come into my mind. Following are the questions to ask/answer:
1. “Why am I here?”
2. “Where am I going?”
3. “Who am I?”
Take a single question and focus on it first. Ask the questions in the sequence I have written them. Stop writing after you have written every thought and answer that comes into your mind. Go back and read what you wrote the day before. Refine your answer the next day. Ponder the question as you provide acts of service during the day. Then write down the thoughts that come to you. Be prepared to receive thoughts or impressions about actions you should take. Write those down, and DO the things you feel impressed to do.
At the end of 7th day of this process, review the final answer you have written. If you followed through on this process, step by step, have full confidence in the final answer. If the answer feels “hallow”, evaluate the “service” step. Make sure that you took time to serve, AND that you took note of the thoughts that came to you as you served.
I have seen this process work with great success, for myself and others. Continue this process. New questions will arise. Write these down and then follow the same process on each question. As you serve and act upon the thoughts that come into your mind, you are “becoming”.
The final answer to “Who am I” will outline what you are becoming. It will provide the direction you are to follow. I have outlined these steps in an easy to read document. Click here to get the file. Print it and go to work. Come back and post your comments on who you are becoming.