Tag Archives: Success

Dance marathon-1As fast as our life seems to be moving, we generally find enough time to do all of the things we feel are necessary to maintain a reasonably rewarding life. Or have we? What we are subjected to daily seems to leave us in the position of contending with others in our peer group who are also attempting to take care of their own daily business and responsibilities. But we just take it in stride and move along our way only occasionally getting frustrated with others in our way but doing the same thing. This all seems pretty normal to us if I can use that word. But a shift has slowly been taking place much like the frog in a pot of water slowly being brought to a boil over time without him even realizing that his landscape has changed dramatically.

WebYears ago the most dramatic things we had to contend with in our peer group was keeping up with the Jones's and “getting ahead” in our career. This was about as close as we came to echoing nature’s survival of the fittest. We laughingly referred to our part in striving for position and recognition in life as our struggle in the jungle glibly comparing ourselves to nature and its brutal scenario of eat or be eaten. This perspective has been true for a long time but over the last twenty years it has intensified one hundred fold while the water boiling our frog, unbeknownst to us, has slowly climbed to life threatening temperatures.

Jerry SpringerWhile accomplishment and becoming good at what we do has always had a front row seat for our attention, another characteristic member seems to have decimated the game board; that of competition. Sports have always been competitive. This we take as a given.  But now we have media show chef contests, dating games for the most winning and eligible partners, reality shows exposing strife and childish behavior like Jerry Springer, survival shows like Naked and Afraid, American Idol judging the best performances, the Emmys, the Oscars and many more all focused on being the best and the highest in our peer group and judged ranking. We can see this even more clearly, not only in our media but in our daily lives with bumper stickers such as “My Child is an Honor Student” at some unknown elementary school or setting up bank accounts so we can pay for the best colleges for kids who will grow up twenty or more years from now not even knowing if there will be such a thing as colleges let alone a future for them when they graduate. So much of what we do has become so geared to standing out, excelling, “rising to the top,” being THE best; the bottom line; who are we supposed to be better than? We used to be so smug looking at Orientals and Europeans putting pressure on their kids to Child Testing-2become the best lest they end up committing suicide as a result of their inability to top dog everyone else shaming their family. Elementary school state testing? Students are now tested for performance and IQ in the second grade. FCAT? “Common Core?” What has happened to us? Where did we go? What happen to children actually having a childhood?

Many years ago I worked in a government contracted electrical calibration lab. The man whom I became friends with was twenty years my senior and from Italy speaking with a broken American accent. We spoke of people and culture. We used to watch everyone get their knickers in a twist rushing about attempting to meet military deadlines. When I had seemed to get caught up in the flurry, he took me aside and told me a story about a young man in his Beach Boardwalktwenties sitting quietly on a bench peacefully watching the ocean surf. A man with a briefcase and a fine suit exited his limousine and hurriedly approached the bench and sat next to him. There he wrote notes, made appointments, assessed proposals and conducted business in a frenzy. After a while the youth asked the man what he did and the businessman talked about his work began to advise the youth on how to structure his life. He told him that he should go to the best schools that he could gain admittance to. He should keep his grades up so he could shine above his competitors. He should burn the midnight oil so he was always prepared. He should canvas the companies to see who offered the best opportunities for growth. He should get a loan and open his own business so he could hire others to do his work for him so he could spend his time relaxing rather than toiling over things that were beneath him. Then he’d have leisure time and could spend time with his family. When the businessman’s recommendations played out, they fell silent for a while. Finally, after thinking a while the youth said, “But sir, I AM relaxing.”

Kid footballEven during the 50s and 60s in the time of “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Father Knows Best” we were aware of the intensifying of our efforts toward simply surviving. We said things like “do it now because you only live once” or “stop and smell the roses.”  But we’ve journeyed long and hard to where we are now. Being stressed and pressured into performance has become the norm. We now say things like “no pain, no gain” and I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We’ve become almost totally unaware that the frog’s landscape has monumentally shifted and our awareness has not yet caught up with the changes in the water temperature. Things have progressed so fast that now even our children have become caught up in the frenzy and when they grow up they will never know that there even was a time where we were slower and more internally focused let alone that being that way was then considered “normal.”

PoltergeistBecause of the frenzy we’ve been caught up in, our natural reaction has been to shut down our sensitivities to prevent further assaults on our attempts to cope. As a result, and in order to find relief in entertainment, it now takes radical activities whose force has to overcome the emotional barriers we have erected attempting to stay safe and self-contained. We need the shock of horror shows to verify that we’re still alive and that we can still feel something. We need sensational special effects in movies to evoke the awe that nature was once able to give us. We need jalapenos in everything we eat just to remind us that we still Jalapenos-1have taste buds even though they have been numbed out with additives, sugar and spices to heighten the perceived blandness of nature’s subtle flavors. Then on top of it all we judge which had the best special effects. Which was the hottest? Which show gave you nightmares and made you afraid to turn off the light? Which was more, higher, faster, stronger? Comparison has become our emotional standard for everything that we take part in. This has translated into intense competition in just about every endeavor we put our energy into. What has happened to us? Have we become so tunnel visioned and myopic on what everyone else is doing that we have forgotten how to just dance to what we feel?

Unfortunately, we have effectively passed this disease on to our children. We have exacerbated its effects by having to give up quality time with them just in order to survive. Now, the media has become their evil babysitter and they’ve gone for the hype hook, line and sinker. And the media shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

Lazy panther-2We have allowed ourselves to become the brutal side of nature. We’ve become obsessed with survival of the fittest, the best, the highest, the hottest. We have let fall away one of the priceless qualities that animals in nature still retain. They still roll in the grass. They can still take a nap. They can still play with their children. They can still follow their inner urges. They can still participate in courtship. They don’t need hyper stimulation like we do simply just so they can feel what comes naturally to them. They are still able to dance simply when the spirit moves them. Can we? Or have we truly forgotten how to dance?

self-help booksAn unbelievable amount of time, effort and energy has gone under the bridge in the name of self-improvement. It has become almost synonymous with other headings such as self-help, personal growth, personal empowerment and a host of other labels alluding toward the accomplishment of increasing our influence and effectiveness upon our world. But the questions arises, “What are we improving” and “Whom are we improving for?” Ourselves? Others? An ideal? What is the objective? What is this thing we call self-improvement and why do we pursue it?

We all strive, at the least most of us, to be “better” people. But what does that mean? And in whose eyes will we be “better?” For each of us who invest in the process our reasons will vary tremendously but our bottom line goal will be the same; to feel wanted, needed and loved by Love & Approvalthe world. The feeling that we are not is a primary urge resting in the core of our self-perception. Whether we admit this to ourselves or not is the most important factor in determining how we will approach the process. Since personal growth and personal empowerment are most often seen as self-improvement, our process will fall under one of two labels; either self-improvement or self-help.

In self-help there is a belief within us that we are somehow lacking whatever it takes to put us into a position in life that we feel will make us happy. Whether it is developing skills for work and career or characteristics that we believe are responsible for attracting the most desirable relationships, it is still viewed as a void that needs to be filled. What is ironic is that according to the law of attraction it is our belief in what it is that we are lacking that focuses our energy and attention toward manifesting more of the same perceived lack. In other words, what we believe about ourselves will continue to manifest until we change our belief or like begets like. This even resonates with the bible that says what a man thinketh, so he is. So then, does self-help make things worse? It does only if we start by believing that something is lacking. If that’s what we’re then faced with in self-help, what can we do?

A less “self-fulfilling prophecy” would be self-improvement. It starts from a position of believing that who and what we are is enough. Nothing is lacking. It’s just that now we want more of what we can be, do or have. The focus switches from a feeling of lack to a feeling of wanting more to feel happier. You may now say, “Doesn’t wanting to be happier come from a lack in itself?” I’d say yes, but the want is much more general in its focus. Focusing directly on the lack of a skill or characteristic is specific and augments our energy in a way that focuses and accelerates the perceived lack specifically emphasizing its manifestation. Focusing on being happy is more general and diffuses the energy leaving our field of concentration and endeavor more open to its satisfaction from more than one specific focus, namely, the skill or characteristic. It leaves pot-gold-2our fulfillment open to the “universal manager” which certainly brings us what we want, but most often, from avenues that we least expect. The dynamic then bypasses our mind lock and specificity which are then minimized or moved “out of the way” of more preferable yet unexpected benefits manifesting from avenues which we hadn’t considered. So, based on the Law of Attraction, focusing more on what we want rather than what we lack is the better way to go.

So, self-improvement is more preferable over self-help. Yet, with our perceived lack in a much more defused and expanded focus, it is still aimed at increasing something which we feel is an elusive and indescribable lack. But, what is it that will make us happier? Even with self-improvement, we’re right back to wanting to feel wanted, needed and loved. Granted a lack but a lot less focused and a lot less likely to create our own resistance through specific “pointing” of our energy and attention.

garden-of-eden-22In becoming self-improved we believe that if we do more, have more and are more what we want will materialize. But, where did we get this belief from? In whose eyes do we believe that this is true? Others. The people we know, love and admire. The people who we believe are happy. The people we believe that are outside our reach, outside of our world and, essentially, disconnected from us. We want to belong. We want to be accepted. We want to be reunited with what we believe is our source, that place where there was no separation before we were born into this polarized separated world. This is the place in the bible referred to as the Garden of Eden. This is the ancient memory of our all being one: a union of feeling in the empathic ocean. But I digress.

So, what are the hazards? There is only one. It is believing that being wanted, needed and loved by someone or something outside of ourselves will make us happy. We’re still playing the “tapes” that originally taught us to believe that all that is important and that all that will answer our need to be wanted, accepted and loved comes from our parents. While this may have been so when we were helpless infants we’ve since then buried the recognition of this attention and urge from this non-verbal time deep into the unconscious as our thinking mind became the overlay determining how we discriminate what we seek. Then we continued the outward attention by simply transferring the expectation to others who remind us of family members. The fact that we were trained to look outside of ourselves during a non-verbal time accounts for most of the difficulty we have in believing that we create our own circumstances through how and where we focus our energy.

donkey-&-carrot-2When we focus on others to fulfill what we believe will make us happy we also subject ourselves to their unpredictable changing of like, loves and dislikes who, even in the best of times, have difficulty keeping their preferences focused and consistent. As they change their preferences we end up feeling like we’re chasing our tail. Many time we don’t even realize that they’ve done so. Happiness provided by them then becomes totally elusive and frustrating.

So, what is the answer? For most people it is an extremely difficult one to put into action. We must first learn to become accountable for and accept the decisions that put us in positions that we feel are undesirable and, second, we have to come to realize and accept that our happiness rests in using our energy in a way that makes us feel good NOT panders to the whims Alone time-1and approvals of those whom we believe hold the key to our contentment and security. Since we live in such a materially oriented world, this is an extremely difficult pill for many to swallow.

So, what’s the primary hazard of self-improvement? Believing that what we need comes from outside our own heart. What can we do? We can all start by creating and relishing more quiet and alone time and learning to enjoy our own company without outside stimulation. Can you do it?