CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES
Thus far in this book, I have written thousands and thousands of words. Now it's your turn.
In the next two chapters, I'll ask you to do some writing, as well as some remembering and observing. If you're reading this book for information now and plan to do the "work" later, when you return to do the work, please begin with the chapter "What Is Your Purpose?" and then return to this one.
In doing this exercise, you might want to use 3x5 cards, as that eliminates the need for rewriting. It's not necessary for this exercise, and you'll need a lot of them--200 to 300, probably. If you're low on 3x5 cards (fewer than 300), please save them for the exercises in the chapter "What Do You Want?"
So, what have you accomplished? As things come to mind, set this book aside and write them down (one per card). I'll make some comments to jog your memory, but when it's jogged, write for a while, and then return for some more jogging.
What have you accomplished? What have you achieved? What things did you want and go out and get? They may be a part of your life now, or they may be long gone. Either way, write them down.
Cars? Jobs? Apartments? Stereos? Furniture? You don't need to list every piece of clothing or can of beans you ever bought, but if some special purchases or exceptional dinners come to mind, write them down.
What about schooling? Did you get a high school diploma? What degrees did you obtain? Perhaps you're prouder of the degrees you didn't receive. What about night classes, workshops, seminars, or other less traditional forms of education? Have you learned a language? How to change your own oil? Cook? Play ball (any ball)? Dance? Sing? What are your hobbies? Where have you traveled? What about the books you've read? Plays you've seen? Miniseries you've lived through? Tapes you've listened to?
What about people? Of whom did you say, "I want this person for a friend/lover/boss/employee/ teacher/student/roommate/wife/husband/etc.," and got them? Even if you didn't initiate the relationship, for every relationship you've ever had, you had to do something, even if it was not saying no.
The fact that a relationship, job--or anything else--may have ended poorly doesn't mean it shouldn't be on your list. If it was something you wanted and you got, that counts. Much of our growth comes from getting what we want and finding out we don't want it after all. Even if they are the ones who decided the relationships were not what they wanted, include those relationships on your list, too. You had them for a time, and the only difference between a happy ending and an unhappy ending is where they put the closing credits. Go to the happy time, consider it an achievement, and write it down.
What about social or political goals? Did your candidate win? Did the proposal you favored pass? Even if you did nothing more than vote for it, that's better than half the people in the United States do during any given election. What giving--directly, or through organizations--have you done? Yes, this is a lot of remembering and a lot of writing. That's the point. We tend to forget what we've accomplished; we tend to forget how much we have created; we tend to forget how powerful we are.
How about family? Did you create any children? What have you done for members of your family? Perhaps leaving a family situation that wasn't doing anyone any good was a major achievement.
What about health? What illnesses have you successfully recovered from? What changes in your body image have you made? Do you exercise? Have you exercised? Take vitamins? Had body work of any kind done? What bad habits have you overcome (even temporarily)? Have you been in therapy? Whatever the outcome, the fact that you sought help is a major accomplishment.
What about God? Do you go to church? Temple? Meditate? Pray? Whatever connection you have with the Almighty, you had something to do with it. (If not, everyone would feel connected, and that's not the case.) Perhaps your accomplishments include abandoning one religious or spiritual path to find one closer to your heart.
Keep writing. The pump has been primed. This is a good point to set this book aside and spend some time writing and remembering. It will never be a complete list--the list of your achievements is nearly endless--but at some point, you'll approach the limit of your immediate memory. Pick up the book again and continue reading when the memories run out.
Now, read through your list. Note how much you have done, how much you have created--and how much more is available to you in the future. Without regretting anything, imagine what you could have achieved if all these accomplishments had been pointed in a single direction--if all this creative energy had been directed toward fulfilling your heart's desire. Again: no regrets. Don't look at the past and say, "What a waste." As Katherine Mansfield said, "Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it; it's only good for wallowing in."
HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK
Use the energy to be excited about the future. If you're, say, thirty, don't think, "Thirty wasted years!" Most people don't begin making their own decisions until eighteen or twenty. Let's arbitrarily say, "Life begins when you move out of your parents' house." (Although, for you it might be, "Life began when I got my first full-time job," or, if you're, say, Prince Charles and never plan to move out of your parents' house or get a job, "Life began when I got married" or "Life began when I got my divorce.")
For the first twenty-or-so years of life, we are in the hands of other people. If, then, you are thirty, and moved out when you were twenty, you really only have ten years of your life to consider.
Look at what you've done in those years. Imagine how much you'll accomplish in the next similar period of time. This is something worth getting excited about.
This list is a subset of the list you just made. It is a list of everything you're glad to have in your life now.
This is an exercise in recognizing what we often tend to take for granted. It is also an exercise in gratitude.
As you write this Inventory of Now, begin each item on the list with a phrase such as "I am grateful for . . ." or "I am thankful for . . ." or simply, "Thank you for . . .."
The list, then, will read,
and so on.
If you used 3x5 cards for the last exercise, you can go through those and pull out the ones that apply. Write at the top of each "I am grateful for" or, if the top is already taken, you can add to the bottom, "for which I am grateful."
If you didn't use 3x5 cards, go back over your list and copy those things onto a new list. As you copy to the new list, preface each with "I am grateful for" or "I am thankful for"
Please do write "I am grateful for" before each thing on your list. Writing it once at the top of a page is not as effective--the physical writing of it, over and over, is important. And, if you're doing this process on a computer, for heaven sakes don't program it to add the phrase automatically!
ENRIQUE PENARANDA'S MOTHER
(When I say "things," I mean anything--from people to cars to body parts to inner qualities to God. I don't mean to diminish any of them by calling them "things.")
After transferring all the things you have now from the list of your accomplishments, take a look at your current life. What did you leave out? What was so taken for granted you didn't include it on your list of achievements? What would you miss if it were taken from you? List those things, too.
What about your body? Even if some part of it doesn't look the way you'd like or function the way you want, what about the rest of it? Be grateful for those parts, and add them to your list.
How about your abilities? What do you know how to do that you're glad to know? Don't forget the skills you currently use to make money, the skills you plan to make money with, and the qualities that keep your friends coming back for more. (Review the list of qualities you made while working on your purpose.)
Speaking of friends, what about people? Who are the friends, lovers, acquaintances, spouses, children, relatives, coworkers, fellow-seekers you're glad to have in your life?
What about physical possessions? Look around. Your insurance agent may have recommended you make a list of this sort for years. Now's a good time to do it.
What about hobbies? Sports? The view from your window? The country, state, city, and neighborhood you live in? What freedoms do you have you'd hate to lose?
This is another of those lists that takes some time. It is, however, finite, and, with some time spent on it, can become fairly complete.
It is time well spent.
DR. SMILEY BLANTON
Life is like Truth or Consequences . When we tell ourselves the truth, we are better prepared for the consequences.
People often fail to tell themselves the truth in the area of choices. Many people pretend they have made Choice A, while their actions, behavior, and direction clearly indicate they are moving toward Choice B. When they arrive at B (or see it looming before them), they react with genuine surprise (often coupled with disappointment and/or outrage), "What's this B stuff? I chose A!"
It's bad enough to tell others we're heading toward A when we know we're heading toward B. It's ten times worse to tell ourselves we're heading toward A, when all the while we're making a beeline for B. That's called confusion, frustration, and what's-a-nice-person-like-me-doing-in-a-life-like-this?
What gets us to our goal is action-- action in the broadest sense of the word. Mental action, emotional action, and physical action--all focused in one direction. People tell themselves they want one thing--then they think, feel, and move toward another.
Fear of the Consequences.
Humans are smart--as compared with, say, amoebas. Humans can logically, and fairly accurately, project ahead in time. If we go to the store, we know we will find popsicles there. If we pay a certain amount of money, we can have a popsicle of our own. If we put it in our mouth, it will taste cold and sweet. If we set forth on that course, in all probability, a popsicle is what will happen.
We can also predict the down side of the future--the potentially negative consequences of the action: it will cost money, it will take time, it will contain so many extra calories, it might spoil our appetite, and so on.
When we consider actually moving toward our heart's desire, a part of us automatically looks ahead to the possible consequences--especially the negative ones. The comfort zone gloms onto these negative consequences. The comfort zone argues that the actions will bring on the negative consequences. The comfort zone's emotionally backed demand: No Action.
The comfort zone stays fairly quiet as long as we don't seriously contemplate action. We can want our dream all we want; we can think about someday getting it as much as we like; we can tell everyone we know how we're one day going to have it at every opportunity. We can even make commitments we don't really plan to keep. The only thing we can't do is DO IT!
If we begin to do it, the comfort zone goes into overdrive--hyperdrive, actually--and gets us back on track. "On track" to the comfort zone is what we've always done before, which means heading (again) toward B, even though our dream is A.
Why are the consequences of action so uncomfortable? Let's take a look:
When we make our Big Choice and go for the Big Dream, it means letting go of all the other Big Dreams, even though those dreams may be as appealing as grape, orange, tangerine, banana supreme, pina colada, watermelon, tutti-fruti, and passion fruit. I don't like hearing this news any more than you do, but if I don't tell it to you, life will. (Life probably already has.)
If we make no choice, we end up with nothing. (Actually, we end up with what randomly comes our way that's "not too bad." Compared with any of our Big Dreams, however, it's nothing. And we have to pay for it, just as though it were a Big One.)
If we commit to the Big One, the Big Dream, we might not get it. We might lose. And not only will we know, but everyone else will know, too. It's the "agony of defeat." When we never really choose--never really commit--if we don't get it, we can always say, "Oh, I didn't really want it anyway."
Many people find the Big Now-What? more intimidating than "the agony of defeat." Defeat is part of most people's comfort zone. But winning? "What would I do? What would happen to me? How would I cope?" It's called the fear of success.
Not only do we have to make changes to become successful, but success itself brings even more changes. The greater the success, the greater the changes. Imagine being very, very successful at your dream. Would you live where you're living now? Would you do the same things, go the same places, wear the same clothes, have all the same friends? Would any part of your life be the same? Even more startling than the external changes, however, are the inner changes brought on by success. What do we do with the concept that we're not worthy of success? How about the cultural programming most of us have that we're just an "ordinary person"? How can an ordinary person be capable of extra ordinary success? What's wrong with this picture?
An even deeper reason we fear success is that we fear our own power. We are much more powerful than we let ourselves believe. If we knew how powerful we were, "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" would be about as troublesome as being attacked by a frustrated two-year-old.
This sense of personal power is not comfortable. It's much easier to believe the cultural conditioning that things "out there" affect us "in here," that what happens to us is inseparably linked with how we feel, that dreams don't come true, and that our lot in life is not to have a lot in life.
So, what do we do about all this?
The choice is yours.
Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams