Let's Get Off Our Buts

Part Three:


Take what you can use and let the rest go by.


You've discovered and chosen your Big Dream, your Heart's Desire. What? No cheering? No celebration?

Not quite yet.

Lying "in the ruins" are all those other heart's desires--all those deserted little 3x5 cards. The reminders of the dreams that won't immediately--and might never--come true.


Welcome to success.

Remember that the sadness you feel is a reminder of your caring, and the caring is your caring--available to place behind the Big Dream you have chosen to pursue.

It is important to complete each WANT that you will not--for now--be pursuing. "Complete" doesn't mean do it; complete means declare your involvement with it, for now, done. "Complete" doesn't mean to physically finish; "complete" means you are complete with it--that you have completed all you're going to do about it, for now.

The down side is that you must say good-bye to some valuable and desirable dreams--perhaps for good. (When we say good-bye, we never really know for how long it's going to be.)

The up side is that declaring things complete frees the mental, emotional, and physical energy we've been holding in reserve for the achievement of that goal.

If you don't have enough time to accomplish something, consider the work finished once it's begun.


This can be a significant amount of energy.

For each WANT that didn't make the "I am . . ." or "I have . . ." pile and for each thing you currently have that you chose not to maintain, read it, consider it, and say, out loud, "This is complete for now." Say good-bye to it, and place it face down. Pick up another card and repeat the process.

Take your time. You may feel the sadness, or you may feel the freeing of energy. You may cry and laugh at the same time. Always have your Big Dream clearly in mind, so that you can direct the newly freed energy toward it.

With some cards you may feel that, after all, you can achieve this smaller dream, too. You'll just sleep less at night, or something. This is the newly freed energy (or perhaps the comfort zone) talking. Stick to your plan. Declare it complete. Direct the energy toward the Big Dream and move on.

If the dreams you are completing involve other people, let them know you will not be doing anything more about these dreams. This is only fair. The most important person to tell, however, is yourself.

Sometimes the "extra energy" is stored in material value. If you choose not to maintain certain physical posessions, sell them. Or donate them. Use that good will toward your Dream. Don't wait for the things you're not maintaining to rot. Cash them in. Convert them into energy and channel that energy toward your Dream.

The amount of power freed by telling yourself you no longer choose to put energy into something can be remarkable. Be prepared for extra energy. Be prepared, as well, to channel that newly liberated energy toward your Dream.

The way to begin that is through commitment.

Committing to Your Dream--and Keeping That Commitment

I've been on a calendar, but I've never been on time.


Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't yet asked you to commit to your Dream. This is because, when we commit to something, and we really mean it, the manure hits the fan and the fan is running.

Before asking you to commit, I wanted you to understand this process, and offer some suggestions on how to use the manure as fertilizer.

Most people don't know about this process, because most people don't keep most of their agreements.

Most people add a silent, unconscious modifying phrase to all their commitments: " long as it's not uncomfortable."

What most people don't realize is that discomfort is one of the values of commitments, one of the reasons for making a commitment in the first place.

Within us is an automatic goal-fulfillment mechanism. When we commit to something, we are telling the goal-fulfillment mechanism, "I want this." The goal-fulfillment mechanism says, "Fine. I'll arrange for that." And it does, by performing various functions--individually or collectively:

Never take a solemn oath. People think you mean it.


There is something else the goal-fulfillment mechanism does: it gives us numerous opportunities to expand our comfort zone.

In order to have something new, we must expand our comfort zone to include the new thing. The bigger the new thing, the more the comfort zone must expand. And comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort. As they say in weight training: "No pain; no gain."

Lifting weights seems like a terrible waste of time, a lot of work, and unnecessary pain, but lifting weights makes you strong enough to fulfill the goals you do want to achieve. The same is true with expanding the comfort zone.

When people don't understand that being uncomfortable is part of the process of achievement, they use the discomfort as a reason not to do. Then they don't get what they want. We must learn to tolerate discomfort in order to grow.

This process of growth is known as "grist for the mill." When making flour in an old stone mill, it is necessary to add gravel to the wheat before grinding it. This gravel is known as grist. The small stones that make up the grist rub against the grain as the mill wheel passes over them. The friction causes the wheat to be ground into a fine powder. If it weren't for the grist, the wheat would only be crushed. To grind wheat fine enough for flour requires grist. After the grinding, the grist is sifted out, and only the flour remains.

When we commit to something, the automatic goal-fulfillment mechanism throws grist in our mill. It's all designed to give us our goal.

If you never want to see a man again, say, "I love you, I want to marry you. I want to have children..." they leave skid marks.


If we don't understand the process, however, we protest, "Why are you throwing gravel in with my wheat? Stop that!" The dutiful miller uses no grist, and we wind up with crushed wheat. "This isn't what I wanted. I wanted flour."

When we order flour, we must be prepared for grist in our mill. We must become an "eager learner." Whatever comes along, look for the lesson. Assume it's for your good, no matter how bad it seems.

No, there's no need to run out and invite disaster, just as one doesn't have to bring gravel to the mill. The necessary experiences will take place. Our job is not to seek them, but to take part in and learn from the ones that are presented to us.

Maxwell Maltz explains the process this way:

Your automatic creative mechanism operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend on its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than "You" ever could by conscious thought. "You" supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism then supplies the means whereby.

How do we know when there's grist in our mill? When we feel the comfort zone acting up, there's grist in the mill. If we discard the grist (that is, honor the comfort zone's dictates), we have crushed wheat. If we use the grist to gain strength and learn the lesson at hand (that is, continue on our committed course despite the protestations of the comfort zone), we have flour.

Keeping agreements with others is, of course, an excellent method for getting what we want from them. If we keep our agreements, people learn to trust us. If we break our agreements, they don't. It's hard to imagine people giving something of substance to someone they don't trust.

People may say, "Oh, that's all right," when we make our apologies, but it is seldom truly all right with people. "Unfaithfulness in keeping an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty," Horace Mann explained 150 years ago. "You may as well borrow a person's money as his time."

The best way to keep your word is not to give it.


Although keeping agreements is a good technique for building trust with others, the more important reason for keeping agreements is building trust with ourselves.

If we frequently break agreements--either with others or with ourselves--we are training ourselves to ignore our own word. Committing to something, then, means nothing. Committing to a Big Dream is about as significant as saying we will learn to fly--sounds nice, it would be fun, but it's not going to happen.

Committing to a dream is not a one-time occurrence. It must be done daily, hourly, continually. We must choose to commit to our choice, over and over.

The test of this commitment is action. If I say, "I commit to being a great dancer," and then don't practice, that's not a commitment; that's not dance; it's just talk. Conversely, if I'm practicing dance, I don't need to tell myself how committed I am. My action is my demonstrated commitment.

When we commit and act, we are confronted by the comfort zone. We are tempted to stop, encouraged to stop, demanded to stop. If we move ahead anyway--we expand the comfort zone, learn a necessary lesson, and the commitment becomes stronger. That causes us to come up against the comfort zone again, and the process continues.

Here are some suggestions for making and keeping commitments:

  1. Don't make commitments you don't plan to keep. Some people are so casual about making agreements: "Talk to you tomorrow," "Let's get together next week," and, one of my favorites, "I'll have him call you back." (You will? What if he doesn't want to call me back?)

    Most people like to pretend that these "casual" commitments don't count. They do. Every time we give our word, it counts. For the most part, people give their word entirely too often. Our word is a precious commodity and should be treated as such. Imagine a commitment as a precious jewel. When you give it to someone, the other person has the jewel. When you keep the commitment, the jewel is returned to you. If you fail to keep the agreement, however, the jewel is gone forever. (This is true of agreements with yourself as well.)

    The one word you'll need is no.


    If we remember this jewel analogy each time we give our word, we tend to be more careful. Our word is a precious jewel; each time we give it, we risk losing it. Don't take that risk unless you plan to "cover your assets."

  2. Learn to say no. When we commit to a Dream, one of the great tests of our sincerity is whether we say no to things not on the way to that Dream. If we commit to moving to another city, for example, temptations from the city we have not yet left appear: we're given a raise and a promotion; we hear about a larger, better, less-expensive apartment; a 24-hour gourmet restaurant (that delivers) opens nearby; and we meet Someone Wonderful. If we're really committed to moving, to all of these we must say, "No." Talk about the comfort zone acting up! Wait until Someone Wonderful calls and invites you out (or, worse, in) on the same evening you planned to go over street maps of the city you plan to move to. Ouch.

    Beyond this, we are programmed not to say no to people we know. Conversely, we are also programmed to automatically "no" all strangers. This dual programming makes for a small circle of the same friends with whom we do things we don't necessarily like. To pursue a Big Dream, we must learn to say no to both programmings.

  3. Make conditional agreements. Doctors learn to say, "I'll be there, unless I get a call from the hospital." You can, too. If there is potentially something more important than the agreement you are about to make, let the other person know. "I'd love to have lunch, unless I get a call-back on my audition," "I can make it, unless Greenpeace calls," or "Yes, I'll do it, if I can find a sitter for the kids." Do not, however, use this as a substitute for saying no. That turns your Big Dream into a Big Excuse and robs it of some power. Use the condition only with agreements you want to--and plan to--keep.

    Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.


  4. Keep the commitments you make. As an exercise, practice keeping all agreements you make--no matter how difficult, no matter how costly. This will do two things: first, it will build strength, character, and inner trust. Secondly, it will get you to reread suggestions #1, #2, and #3 and follow them more carefully.

  5. Write commitments down. Keep a calendar and write agreements down--including agreements you make with yourself. Don't just say, "I'm exercising tomorrow morning," write it down. Set a time. Arrange for it. Make it as important as an agreement you made with someone else--a very important someone else.

    You might want to write on a sheet of paper, "All agreements with myself shall be in writing. Everything else is just a good idea." Then place the paper somewhere you will read it--often. Write it on every page in your calendar. Eventually, there will be a difference between commitments you make with yourself and those things that would be nice, would be beneficial, but are not going to happen.

  6. Renegotiate at the earliest opportunity. As soon as a possible conflict arises, contact the person with whom you have the first agreement. Unless the original agreement was conditional, the way in which you renegotiate an agreement is important.

    "Something more important than my agreement with you has come up," is not the best way. It's a form of breaking the agreement, just in advance. "I know I have an agreement with you, and I still plan to keep it, but something important has come up, and I wonder if we might be able to reschedule." That asks permission. If granted, you get a second chance at reclaiming your jewel. If not granted, see #4.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which noman could have dreamed would havecome his way.I have learned adeep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.


And now you are ready to commit to your goal--your Dream. It's important to commit to the fulfillment of the goal, not just to a certain amount of time spent pursuing the goal. Some people's commitments sound like this: "I'll spend two years pursuing this goal, and see what happens."

When we commit to pursuing, our goal is then pursuing, and we will pursue. We won't necessarily get what we're pursuing, because getting it is not our goal--pursuing it is.

It is fine, however, to add a time statement to your dream. "By DATE I am . . ." or "By DATE I have . . .."

This makes it a bigger challenge, of course. We will know precisely when we have succeeded in fulfilling our Dream, because we put specific parameters on the goal (so much money, a certain credential, etc.). Adding time to our goal lets us know precisely when we have failed, too.

This is important. To say we want something by a certain date shows us what we must do today, right now, to make that happen. It gets us going. If we don't achieve it, it gives us a chance to look back, see what must be done differently in the future, correct our course, set a new date, recommit, and continue on.

So, add a time to your dream, and, if you so choose, commit.

The time to commit is now.

And now. And now. And now. And now . . .

Keep Your Goals Away from the Trolls

People hate me because I am a multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.


There is a type of crab that cannot be caught--it is agile and clever enough to get out of any crab trap. And yet, these crabs are caught by the thousands every day, thanks to a particularly human trait they possess.

The trap is a wire cage with a hole at the top. Bait is placed in the cage, and the cage is lowered into the water. One crab comes along, enters the cage, and begins munching on the bait. A second crab joins him. A third. Crab Thanksgiving. Yumm. Eventually, however, all the bait is gone.

The crabs could easily climb up the side of the cage and through the hole, but they do not. They stay in the cage. Other crabs come along and join them--long after the bait is gone. And more.

Should one of the crabs realize there is no further reason to stay in the trap and attempt to leave, the other crabs will gang up on him and stop him. They will repeatedly pull him off the side of the cage. If he is persistent, the others will tear off his claws to keep him from climbing. If he persists still, they will kill him.

The crabs--by force of the majority--stay together in the cage. The cage is hauled up, and it's dinnertime on the pier.

The chief difference between these crabs and humans is that these crabs live under water and humans don't.

Anyone who has a dream--one that might get him out of what he perceives to be a trap--had best beware of the fellow-inhabitants of the trap.

These are the soul cages. These are the soul cages. Swim to the light.


The human crabs (I call them trolls) do not usually use physical force--although they're certainly not above it. They generally don't need it. They have more effective methods at hand, and in mouth--innuendo, doubt, ridicule, derision, mockery, sarcasm, scorn, sneering, belittlement, humiliation, jeering, taunting, teasing, lying, and several dozen others.

The way to handle such people is the same method used by Jonathan Joffrey Crab on his clan. (Remember that book about the crab who wasn't content to walk around, he wanted to learn underwater ballet?) Jonathan, knowing the dangers of attempted departure from the cage, said, "Hey! This is fun! What a gathering of crabs! I'm going to go get some more!" And he danced off to freedom.

My suggestion: keep your goals away from the trolls.

People don't like to see others pursuing their dreams--it reminds them how far from living their own dreams they are. In talking you out of your dreams, they are talking themselves back into their comfort zone. They will give you every rational lie they ever gave themselves--and add a few more. If you don't believe the lies with the same degree of devotion the trolls do, get ready for Big Time Disapproval.

Why bother? Consider your Dream a fragile seed. It's small now. It needs protection and lots of nurturing. Eventually, it will be strong--stronger than the slings and arrows of outrageously limited people.

When you've obtained your goal, then tell them about it. Even though faced with irrefutable evidence, the most common expression you'll hear will be, "I don't believe it!" If they can't believe reality, imagine how much difficulty they'd have believing in your Dream.

This warning, of course, does not apply to close friends and supporters who have always believed in you and offer only encouragement. If you're not sure whether to discuss your dream with someone, talk about a "friend" who has a similar Dream. If the response is positive, you're in good hands. If the response is, "What a silly thing to do," it would be a silly thing, indeed, to share your goals with this person.

If some people should hear of your dream and start telling you all the reasons why you can't possibly do it, you can (a) walk away, or (b) listen to them with compassion as they describe the parameters of their own comfort zones--the limitations that may keep them firmly in the trap until it is hauled up.

Anybody who sees and paints a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.


Without deviation progress is not possible.


Purchase the book from Amazon

Next   Back   Top   Table of Contents   Home  

Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams