Happiness First Then Everything Else

Happiness First Then Everything Else

by Steve Pavlina

If you accept a job, a relationship, or a lifestyle that you merely tolerate — but don’t appreciate — you’re putting other concerns ahead of your own happiness.

Social conditioning may have convinced you that sacrificing your happiness to maintain a certain bank balance, to send timely payments to corporations to which you’re indebted, or to pay for someone else’s needs and expenses is the proper way to live. Perhaps your parents played a role in this conditioning as well, teaching you the importance of being responsible and holding down stable employment.

If you do these things well, then according to this conditioning, you are successful. You’re doing what’s expected of you, and no one could fault you for that.

But sooner or later you’ll come to realize that successfully paying the bills and satisfying other people’s needs, while depriving yourself of a happy life you’re truly passionate about, is no success at all. In fact, it is complete and utter failure.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, then you’ve terribly misunderstood the game of life.

While you may have been convinced that these duties are important, the truth is that they’re of no particular importance to people with high self-esteem and a positive sense of self-worth. Such people do not care how much money you make, what kind of provider you are, or how long you’ve been married to the same person. They’re much more curious about something else: how you feel about yourself and the path you’re walking.

I have many friends who earn very little money, can’t or won’t hold down stable jobs, and have constantly churning relationship lives. And yet, if they are happy with themselves, I typically find them fascinating and valuable people to have in my life.

I also have friends who’ve been blessed by tremendous financial success, with brilliant, decades-spanning careers and deeply loving, committed relationships. If they too are happy with themselves, I find them just as fascinating and rewarding to connect with.

When, however, I connect with people who are responsibly doing their duty, but who haven’t yet cultivated a life of happiness, I can’t help but notice the sallow desperation in their eyes, the numbness with which they speak, and the damned-if-I-do-damned-if-I-don’t game of self-deception they play each day. They feel trapped and lost to the point where they label feelings like depression and frustration with words like “fine” and “okay.”

If you find yourself in such a situation, there is a way out, and it begins with finally acknowledging the truth to yourself and diving into the dark places where you think it may lead. Accept your situation as it is, and most importantly, accept how you feel about it. The reality is that the darkness you fear is really nothing to fear at all. Yes, you may face some challenges, but that is how you’ll grow.

Do you love and appreciate your work? Do you love and appreciate your relationships? Do you love and appreciate your lifestyle? What is the truth?

You cannot get unstuck so long as you remain in perpetual denial. No external rescue will appear. But there is indeed a path to freedom, and it lies on the other side of denial and self-deception — on the side of truth and acceptance.

What does happiness look like? Happiness is waking up feeling optimistic and expectant about the day you get to live. Happiness makes it hard to stay in bed once you awaken. A rich day full of new experiences and creative expression awaits you. It is an exciting thing to behold. Happiness is the stillness that exists within energy and movement.

When you are happy, you can still pay your bills on time, but you’ll make better choices about what bills are worth incurring. Some of your current bills and expenses might never have been created, had you been living a happy and inspired life to begin with.

When you are happy, you can still support others if you wish, but this will be done because you truly want to do it, not because you feel obligated to do so.

When you are happy, you can still enjoy a stable career, but you’ll produce significantly more value in less time because happiness inspires creativity and action, and creative action is a wellspring of opportunity — a wellspring which can, if so desired, produce abundant income for you.

Rest assured, your world will not explode simply because you’ve decided to make your own happiness a real priority. More likely, the response from the universe will be akin to a sighing, What took you so long?

When I’ve made decisions that were aligned with my own happiness first, I’ve heard the occasional (sometimes frequent) outcries of those objecting to my choices, but these objections invariably came from those who weren’t happy with their own choices. My decision was a painful reminder of that, and hence I can understand, empathize with, and forgive the momentary insanity on their part — the insanity which presumes that their wallowing in unhappiness could possibly persuade me to join them under any circumstances.

But far worse than the vocal objections of others are the simulated objections that exist only within your mind — the simulated fear of disapproval.

In all honesty which is more important to you: the approval of others, or your own happiness?

If you aren’t happy, you don’t approve of yourself, and hence no one of consequence can approve of you anyway. They will recognize plain as day that your priorities have produced a dismal and wretched failure of a life. If you place approval above your own happiness, you ultimately end up with neither. You’ll be unhappy, and you cannot expect anyone to truly approve of you for that. Whatever approval you do receive will be as fake as the contentment you pretend to harbor.

The approval of others is inconsequential, but if you successfully create a happy life for yourself, you will have your own self-approval, and that is worth something. This self-approval will in turn appear to unlock the approval mechanisms of the universe itself, and it will flood your reality with plenty of validating evidence. When your happiness becomes a true priority, you’ll soon notice a conspiracy of ridiculous abundance, including happy relationships with other happy and attractive people, strong motivation to express yourself creatively, and a lifestyle that yanks you out of bed with a “Wow!”

Don’t Pay Your Bills

Don’t Pay Your Bills

by Steve Pavlina

What if you really want to quit your job and go independent, but you’re worried about paying your bills?

Today I’m able to enjoy the best of both worlds. My bills are easily paid from my passive income streams, and I get to do work I love and enjoy tremendous freedom. But when I was first starting out, it was often an either-or situation. Sometimes I had to not pay credit card bills, legal bills, utilities, rent, etc. Many times I just didn’t have the money.

Obviously not paying bills creates consequences. My credit rating was trashed for many years. I had to sell off a bunch of my stuff for food money. I lost my office. I got kicked out of my apartment. I had to declare bankruptcy. But I wasn’t willing to get a job to remedy any of that. Better to lose an apartment than check into a cage.

I never stiffed individuals, but I certainly stiffed some corporations. They took a risk on me and lost. It was their risk to take. I doubt any corporate employees lost sleep over my unpaid accounts.

Eventually I learned what I needed to learn. But in the beginning, I was too inexperienced to earn enough money without a job to cover my bills. I picked the wrong strategies for earning income and got dismal results. So I didn’t pay all my bills, and I accepted the consequences of that.

A bill is just a number. It has no meaning other than what you assign to it. You may determine that not paying a bill is a deplorable act of dishonor. To me it’s simply a learning experience — a lesson. It’s a small oops.

If my bills ever get in the way of my path of growth, the bills lose.

Do you know how many bills I didn’t pay in order to pursue the path I’m on? Dozens, maybe hundreds if you include all the late notices. At least $150,000 of bills were never paid. That was many years ago, long before I started blogging, and of course I had to deal with some consequences.

Negative consequences can be great teachers, but don’t assume that they’re punishments that must be avoided at all costs.

Not paying a bill gets you a slap on the wrist. My wrists have been slapped many times. Wrist slaps are nothing to be afraid of. You get used to them. If you’re committed to a path of growth, expect your wrists to be slapped many times.

Most of the time when I didn’t pay a bill, the first wrist slap came in the form of an overdue notice. Ouch! Those RED ALL CAPS LETTERS make me quake in fear. Or I could just toss it in the trash and go on about my day.

Sometimes I’d get phone calls from collection agencies… up to 10 of those per day. A good solution there is to not pay the phone bill too. :)

Initially I truly did find these consequences stressful. But when it became such a flood because I was so ridiculously in debt that it just didn’t matter anymore, I discovered a newfound freedom on the other side. I stopped worrying and just accepted the consequences for what they were. The fear was much worse than the reality. I realized that my overdue accounts were being processed by a corporate machine. And the psychology employed to try to get me to pay was all based on fear, shame, and guilt. Collection agents would try to make me feel like a loser for not paying. Once I realized what they were doing, I stopped letting them treat me that way, and the debt collectors became much less powerful. Sure they could mess up my credit rating, but they couldn’t make me miserable or worried or stressed without my permission.

Eventually the whole thing became like a game to me. All this fuss over a number in a database? When collection agents would call, I’d ask them about their personal lives, or I’d come up with silly answers to “When can you make a payment?” When I got kicked out of my apartment, I moved to a much cheaper one. When I didn’t have much furniture, I used a large cardboard box as a table. I realized that my stuff was vulnerable to loss, but my attitude didn’t have to be so weak and timid, despite my screwed up financial situation.

This was an amazing time of growth for me. I learned to be a lot less attached to money and possessions. I learned to stand up for myself and my right to make mistakes without being treated like a loser for screwing up. Those lessons have stayed with me ever since. Now that I do have some money flowing through my life, I don’t fear losing it. Money has no power over me like it once did. I’m not afraid of going broke again.

Earning money also became much easier. Since I was already broke, I decided to focus on doing what I enjoyed, expressing my creativity, and making a contribution without worrying about how much I’d earn. Ironically, that’s exactly the kind of attitude that can generate abundant income. Every year since then has been financially abundant (almost 15 years now). Go figure.

One reason employee culture often leads people to be so afraid of wrist slaps is that such cultures are often fear driven. That’s how people are kept in line and conditioned to do work they’d rather not do. Sometimes it’s really hard for me to have interesting connections with long-term employees because so many of them are afraid of their own shadow. It’s like talking to someone via one of those prison visitation phones. Some are scared of being reprimanded for placing the wrong type of item on their desks. Last year I wrote up a mock version of such a conversation in an attempt to point out just how absurd the employee mindset sounds to an independent.

My independent friends never seem to ask, “But how will I pay my bills?” My independent friends know that if they can’t pay their bills, the bills won’t be paid, they’ll deal with the consequences, and life will go on just fine. But my employee-minded friends have often been conditioned to believe that not paying a bill is the worst sin imaginable — a massive failure to be avoided at all costs.

Am I suggesting that you become wildly irresponsible and spend money like a crazy person? Not at all. But don’t be so afraid of betting on yourself and taking some risk. You’re going to lose some of those bets. That’s okay. Just dust yourself off, and try again. How else are you going to learn if you don’t make the attempt? And you get more than one attempt — a LOT more!

So the answer to the question “What if I quit my job and can’t pay my bills?” is pretty straightforward. If you can’t pay your bills, don’t pay them. Rest assured that if you don’t pay some bills, the universe will not actually explode.

Is this against the rules? Yes, it’s against the rules.

If you don’t pay your bills, it obviously means that you’re a dishonorable, rotten scoundrel, and you’re surely going to hell. But I’ll be rotting there right along with you, in that extra toasty domain of hell reserved for rule breakers. You should be able to find me if you look for the bonfire of overdue notices, with a bunch of crazy folks dancing around it in celebration of their freedom. The rising smoke from our bonfire will probably annoy all the obedient collection agents playing their harps in heaven, and whatever RED LETTER NOTICES they send us in response can be used to keep the fire going. ;)

P.S. Thank you, WordPress, for including bubble-help with the names of the colors over the color squares. It makes it possible for a color blind person like me to know which color in the palette is actually red. :)

Never Put Profits First

Never Put Profits First

by Steve Pavlina

Most ideas I learned from business books were useless. The rest were downright harmful. Intuition and experimentation have been the best guides.

The #1 assumption business books tend to make is that the purpose of running a business is to earn and increase profits. Some books really hammer on this point, as if you’re an idiot for disagreeing. I found my decisions and results to be the most idiotic when I bought into that model.

I just thumbed through such a book yesterday that someone had sent me in the mail. That book is now in the recycle bin. It will serve a greater purpose as a cardboard box, which is far healthier for all of us than letting someone else read it.

As soon as you walk into the office of a business that puts profits first, you can smell the oppression. It’s almost unfathomable that human beings would accept such a lack of freedom. I dread walking into places where everyone behaves like zombies. The vibe is so disgustingly creepy. No wonder the cartels have such a thriving business. I’d probably drug myself daily too if I had to spend years of my life in a cubicle.

Profits-first is a great mindset if you want to destroy your health, self-esteem, motivation, and relationships. I’d never want to work in such a place, nor would I ever want to subject others to such an environment. People deserve much better than to be treated like cogs in service of a machine.

There are much more empowering priorities for a business. Surely you can come up with something more exciting than, let’s make a bigger number than we did last year.

I rather like this one:

The purpose of business is to empower people to express and share their creativity, for the highest good of all.

It’s nonsense to believe that you can’t have a sustainable business if you don’t put profits first. In my experience it’s much easier to achieve sustainability if you refuse to demean yourself with a money-first attitude.

Instead of putting money first, put creative challenges first. Put growth experiences first. Put fun first. Put the opportunity to work with cool people first. Put contribution first.

I love running my business — so much — because I don’t put money first. Money is a consideration of course, but the bottom line is at the bottom for a reason, right where it belongs.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for nearly 20 years straight now. The years when I put money first were by far the most stressful and miserable ones. The years when I set out to express my creativity, improve my relationships, dive into fun co-creative projects, make a contribution, give more, stretch myself, and so on, were the years when I was the happiest and most fulfilled.

This longer time perspective helps me see that if I create stressful and miserable years for myself, it will eventually add up to decades of such memories, which means that in my older years, I’m going to feel awfully bitter about how I’ve lived. Fortunately I was able to nip that in the bud before I went too far down that path, so now the opposite is happening. I’m getting happier as I get older because I’m stacking up year after year of positive memories. Regardless of how much money I make or don’t make, I remember the fun projects, the creative flow, the intimate friendships, the collaborations, the heartfelt hugs, the people I helped, and so on. I don’t remember what my bank balance looked like.

Generating income from your creativity is great. Let it be part of the challenge. But don’t make money the central purpose of your work. Don’t do things just for money that you wouldn’t otherwise be inspired to do. It’s better to stick to your path with a heart, even if it means getting kicked out of your home because you can’t pay the rent. I’m speaking from experience since I did that once. At the time it was stressful of course, but as a memory it’s something I’m rather proud of, and as a story it helps encourage others not to settle for zombie-hood.

Follow your path with a heart, especially in business. Do real work that you find dignified and fulfilling, and you’ll end each year with a feeling of deep satisfaction, regardless of how much money you make. If you trust your intuition, act on inspiration, and take the time to build experience and positive relationships, you’ll find a path to sustainability sooner or later.

How to Build a Stronger Ego

Another brilliant contribution of intelligent thought to our global consciousness by my unofficila guru, Steve Pavlina.

How to Build a Stronger Ego

There’s a notion that’s been spread around the spiritual side of the self-help field that suggests one of our primary aims in life should be ego-less enlightenment, a state where we achieve near-perfect inner peace, where we’re one with everything but attached to nothing, and where nothing in the physical world can knock us off balance.

This creates some personal challenges for me because whenever I write about anything remotely spiritual in nature (and sometimes even when I don’t), some readers assume I’m one of the guys promoting this same sort of ideal. Then they question why my behavior doesn’t seem consistent with it.

My behavior isn’t consistent with the pursuit of ego-less enlightenment because I have no interest in that path. If other people find value in it, that’s their choice, but I find other paths of development to be much more practical and fulfilling, both for myself and for others I’ve observed over the years.

Do you really want to kill your ego?

Do you even want to weaken it?

In this case I’m using the word ego to refer to your physical world identity, mainly your personality and sense of self. I’m not referring to ego in the sense of being arrogant, such as when people say, “So-and-so has a big ego.”

Many spiritual seekers claim it’s wise to weaken the ego as much as possible. The ones who really go all out with this idea give away all their possessions, shave their heads, and spend their days meditating and doing chores, striving to burn away any last bits of attachment to their previous identities.

But most people who claim to pursue this path have mixed feelings about it, so they hold themselves in a state of limbo. They can’t get themselves to progress on the ego-empowering path, so they don’t take strong steps to advance in their careers or make much more money — that would be too ego-based for their spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, they can’t get themselves to relinquish all attachment to their identities and their stuff, so they strive to get by with a sense of minimalism. But they’re never really satisfied living in this halfway space, so quite often their “spiritual practice” devolves into attacking others they believe are more ego-based than they are. It temporarily makes them feel better about themselves.

Often the people stuck in this middle place maintain careers with pseudo-spiritual associations such as being a healer, massage therapist, yoga instructor, tarot card reader, astrologer, etc., but the one thing they usually have in common is that they’re borderline broke most of the time.

This is a very half-assed approach to enlightenment. From what I’ve observed in those who attempt it, it just doesn’t work. It leads to long-term stagnation. You can find whole communities of bloggers like this, and they seem to spend much of their time writing posts that express frustration and judgment at everything they dislike about the world. Meanwhile, they do nothing tangible to make the world any better.

You may want to question whether or not you really want to weaken your ego. Is that truly a wise idea? Sure it’s a popular piece of religious dogma, but is it really how you want to live? Does it even make sense?

Building a stronger ego

Instead of weakening your ego, let me suggest an alternative approach that works really well for me, one that will allow you to avoid stagnation… not to mention bitter blogger syndrome.

Build an even stronger ego.

Your ego is your character, an important part of your human avatar. If you try to weaken your ego, you’re simply weakening your character. Do you really want to devolve into a sidelined NPC (non-player character)? Or would you rather build out a really strong character with well-defined attributes?

How does it serve you — or anyone else — to play the game of life with a weak character? Are you really doing much good by checking out from life and cocooning yourself in a mini-monastery?

Instead of trying to weaken your ego, consider what good you might achieve with it instead. How would you like to develop your character during your time here on earth?

Let me offer you some ideas to get you thinking…

Character-building ideas

Honesty – See how honest and open you can make your character. Be honest in your dealings with others. Stop pretending and hiding who you are. Share yourself openly with the world.

Courage – Continually push yourself to face your fears instead of shrinking from them. This will give your character more options.

Exploration – Experiment. Learn by trial and error. Step into the unknown and learn by doing. Develop an ego that loves to dive in and explore new things.

Service – Tune your ego in the direction of serving others, such that the stronger your ego becomes, the more you push yourself to help people. Make service to others part of your identity.

Acceptance – When you accept yourself as having a strong ego, you’ll be more willing to accept other strong people into your life as well instead of feeling you need to attack the strong in order to justify your own weakness.

Discipline – Develop an ego that identifies itself with good habits like regular exercise and solid productivity.

Connection – Develop your social skills, so you can connect with others easily. Learn how to surround your ego with social support that helps to refine your positive character qualities while chipping away at your unwanted attributes.

Notice that since these are character qualities, they can’t be taken away from you. You may lose your possessions, job, relationships, etc., but your character qualities are yours to keep.

Intelligence, not enlightenment

My gold standard for conscious living isn’t enlightenment. It’s intelligence.

In this case I define intelligent living as having three main components:

1) Developing a progressively more accurate model of reality and living in accordance with it.

If you’re living intelligently, then as a general rule, you should find that life becomes progressively easier and your results get measurably better as your mental model of reality gradually becomes more accurate.

When you encounter a spiritual teacher who can’t pay his/her electric bill, I’d say something is off.

2) Deliberately engineering your social environment to actively support you in fulfilling your desires.

We humans are very social creatures. Your environment plays a huge role in your development. Unfortunately most of us find ourselves with rather unsupportive social circles when we try to stretch and grow. We have the power to change that, however. We can drop the connections that don’t support our continued development and invite new connections that do. This is a significant growth accelerator.

It isn’t intelligent to remain stuck with an unsupportive social circle. Place your loyalty not with your pity posse but with your highest vision of yourself, and surround yourself with people who can help you support that vision. The first step is to say no to connections with those people who reject your vision. Hang out with people who will help you develop a strong, positive, service-oriented ego, not a frustrated one.

Don’t become obsessed with trying to transcend your feelings towards people who consistently bring you down. Just drop the nay-sayers and move on. Saying “I’m done with you” once can be more effective than having to say “I forgive you” a dozen more times. This creates the space where new connections can come into your life, the kind that will have you saying, “Thank you so much!” dozens of times instead.

When you’re living intelligently, you won’t settle for social connections that drain you. You’ll consciously build ample social support and resources for pursuing your goals and fulfilling your desires. You will notice that over time, your life becomes increasingly abundant.

3) Getting stronger.

Intelligence seeks its own improvement.

If you’re on a path of intelligent living, you should find your character growing increasingly capable. You should see yourself progressively building courage and overcoming more and more fears such as fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, and fear of success. You’ll learn to stop giving your power away and take your foot off the brake pedal.

Engage with life

Checking out from life and trying to pursue ego-less enlightenment may be popular in certain spiritual circles, but it’s not a path I recommend, especially after witnessing the long-term results of many of the practitioners, not to mention the behind-the-scenes inconsistencies of certain proponents. It’s a path that can feel comforting at first because it gives you permission to avoid many of your fears instead of facing them. You can shrink away from life instead of boldly pushing yourself. You don’t have to stand out much. You can simply sit still and quiet your mind. There are many benefits to meditation of course, but don’t let the practice turn into escapism.

I think you’ll find it much more beneficial to relate to life on the basis of ego development as opposed to ego destruction.

Ego destruction is slow suicide. It’s yet another version of giving your power away. As long as “become ego-less” remains on your spiritual to-do list, you can use it to distract yourself from facing the real life challenges that scare you… like stretching yourself to go out and make a real difference in the world instead of escaping into the land of make-believe enlightenment.

Having a strong ego is not in conflict with inner peace. Inner peace doesn’t mean being passive. You can be quite active and engaged with life and still feel very peaceful and centered on your path.

Part of the reason ego-less living has so many people pushing it is that it’s a control strategy. People with strong egos are harder to control. If a religious leader wants to be surrounded by a bunch of loyal followers, it’s much easier to do that while encouraging all the followers to shed their egos. Then standing up to the leader can be called out as an act of ego and therefore something that the culture itself will repress, thereby keeping the leader in charge. However, this structure stunts the leader’s growth as well if the leader must pretend to be upholding the same ego-less standard that’s being preached to the followers.

Own your character

Again, having a strong ego doesn’t mean putting yourself above others. But it’s perfectly fine to take complete ownership of your character and express your pleasure with what you’ve developed so far. That’s much better than being secretly ashamed of your character, isn’t it?

There are limitless ways to grow your character, and where you take your character’s development is for you to decide. But when you catch yourself criticizing others for the choices they’ve made, consider that perhaps you’re giving your power away to them because you aren’t satisfied with the character development choices you’ve been making. Stop fussing over other people’s egos, and direct your attention back on your own to see where you need to improve.

When done consciously it can be fun to develop your character. You can shop from a vast menu of new skills to learn and character attributes to develop. Do you want to build a character who’s very brave? Very physical? Very social? Very musical? The choice is yours. You can even dress up your avatar with a little extra bling if you’d like.

When I blogged about fashion a few months ago, I saw comments from a few people on Twitter and Facebook to the effect of, Well, Steve… this is a rather ego-driven pursuit. And I thought, Well of course it is! Is that supposed to be a bad thing???

I’ve been writing this post from my hotel room in Puerto Rico. I’m here for a weeklong leadership retreat for the Transformational Leadership Council. When I got in late last night, I exchanged hugs with about a dozen TLC members in the lobby. Several of them gushed over how much they liked my new hair. By making a small change to my avatar, it created a fun shift in the way people relate to me, even people who already know me. But prior to making this change, I was one of those guys who could criticize others for fussing over their appearance. It took me a while to realize that I was giving my power away to others so as to avoid taking full ownership of my own avatar’s appearance.

It’s very easy to give our power away and use it to feed criticism of others. It’s much more challenging — but a lot more beneficial — to channel our power into creating what we desire, including the myriad ways we can develop our characters’ potential.

Are you taking full ownership of your character? Where do you catch yourself criticizing others for being too ego-driven? What does that say about the character attributes you’ve been refusing to develop in yourself? Are you bothered by people who are super confident, very focused, very attractive, financially abundant, successful in relationships, super healthy, etc? Stop giving your power away to other people’s egos, and reclaim 100% responsibility for developing those aspects of your own character. It will take time to be sure, but you won’t get there faster by succumbing to denial.

Even though your truest identity is the consciousness behind your ego and not the ego itself, that doesn’t invalidate the reasons for building a strong and capable ego as your primary means of interacting with the physical world. An underdeveloped ego won’t do your consciousness much good anyway; a weak ego will only limit the range of experiences that are possible for you, thereby stunting your conscious growth. So don’t be so quick to buy into the notion that ego-less enlightenment is an intelligent spiritual ideal. Consider that building a stronger ego may be the more intelligent, heart-centered choice for you.

Becoming the person you were meant to be

Another great piece of genius by Steve Pavlina

Becoming the person you were meant to be

Are you normal?

I’m certainly not normal.  I was born blond-haired, blue-eyed, and colorblind.  So not only do I look different – I also see differently than “normal” people.  To make matters worse, I’m left-handed… just a cesspool of recessive genes.  Over time my lack of normalcy only grew worse when I started noticing other differences and making choices of my own.

Eventually I realized that “normal” was only a concept in my own mind.  In fact, my “normal” wasn’t the same as someone else’s normal.  Even my “normal” was unique.  And in fact it was just a way of limiting myself, a concept rooted in fear to begin with.

Realize that you are not like anyone else on earth.  No one on this planet is exactly the same as you are, even if you have a twin.  It’s not even close.  Your individual collection of experiences makes you unique.

Yet what do most people do with this uniqueness?  They try to forget it.  They cling to the pack, thinking that need to be like everyone else.  They strive for normalcy, to be similar to everyone else.

This is pure folly, since normalcy doesn’t exist except as an imaginary concept.  Have you ever met a 100% normal person?  Are you normal?  Or is there anything unique about you that separates you from the pack?

Throw out dumb labels

“Normal” isn’t a label worthy of your pursuit.  It’s worthless.  Perhaps you’re worried that if you’re too different, you’ll be ostracized.  That’s true.  You will be ostracized by other fear-driven normality seekers, but their acceptance is basically worthless anyway.  On the bright side, when they kick you out, the ever-growing high awareness community will welcome you with open arms.  Plus it’s a lot of fun to go back and tease the normality seekers afterwards.

“Abnormal” or “different” aren’t labels you should pursue either though.  In this case you aim for the opposite of normal out of an egoic drive to find a sense of uniqueness.  But the person you were meant to be doesn’t lie anywhere on the linear spectrum from normal to different.  Comparing yourself to others isn’t going to help you.  What you need is a way to compare yourself to yourself.

Get to know your higher self

The best way I’ve discovered to become the person I’m meant to be is to first go and meet that person.  You can do this too, and it’s not even that difficult.  You can do it in your imagination.  See My Favorite Meditation for details.  Basically you just visualize yourself going to a room, meeting your future self, and having a conversation with him/her.  It’s a very enlightening experience.

When I did this meditation in my early 20s and met my future self in my imagination, one of the first things I noticed about him was that he was completely free of fear.  He was amused by all the fear I seemed to have in me, and he would even tease me about it.  If I had a problem or concern, he’d recommend a very bold and direct solution, but it often required a great deal of courage to implement.  He was brutally honest and direct, never playing games or doing anything manipulative.  I always knew where I stood with him.  He always held me to a higher standard than I did.

I could see that his courage gave him a tremendous sense of inner peace.  But I didn’t understand how I could reach that level myself.  It took me many years to find out what his source of courage was.  His courage came about because he saw reality a certain way – a way in which it didn’t make any sense to be afraid.  It’s not that he was overcoming his fear or facing his fear.  He just wasn’t experiencing any fear at all.  He saw fear as nothing but an illusion, so it was pointless to be afraid.  So fearlessness might be a better description than courage.

But he wasn’t a perfect success – in fact, he experienced more failure than I did.  He had his own problems to handle, but he would handle them by diving in and taking action.  He’d never hesitate or worry about the outcome.  To him life was about action, results, experience, learning, and growth.  Fear just wasn’t part of the equation.

One way of looking at this meditation is that my subconscious created this imaginary person as a projection of who it felt I could become – an idealized version of me.  But perhaps on some level, this person actually exists.  How this model came about, however, isn’t as important to me as how it enables me to grow.

Become your higher self

When you meet your higher self and get to know him/her, it gives you a model for your own growth.  It’s a way of comparing yourself to yourself.  You don’t need to worry about labels like “normal” that are based on comparing yourself to others.  You’re presented with a vision that is uniquely you, one that you can actually achieve.

Year after year as I continued doing this meditation, it gave me a powerful path for personal growth.  By comparing my present self to my future self, I could always see what I needed to do to take the next step.  My future self became the vision of where I wanted to go.  He was the person I was becoming.

My future self also had the solution to all my growth problems because he’d already solved them.  I never had the problem of not knowing what to do.  The challenge was always in getting myself to do it.

Eventually this vision become so strong that I felt the presence of my higher self even outside of my meditations.  He was a part of my consciousness that I could tap into whenever I wanted, like accessing a living memory.  Some people would define this imaginary person as a spirit guide.  It certainly felt like that at times.

After a number of years, I felt a fusing of that higher self with my present self… to the point where the two became indistinguishable.  I actually became the person I first envisioned in my 20s.  It took more than a decade to reach this point though.  And now I have another projection of a new higher self, one that is more expansive and which is helping to guide me through the next steps on this incredible journey through life.  Whereas my original higher self served the purpose of helping me let go of fear, there’s a new higher self forming that seems to be here to help me learn to develop greater compassion, especially as a balance to courage.

Coming full circle

The irony is that by pursuing your own uniqueness, you’re likely to feel a lot more normal.  You’ll be able to connect with people from your own inner strength instead of your fear.  You will own yourself, knowing who you are and who you’re meant to be.  The judgements of others, whether positive or negative, won’t knock you off course.

A strong connection to other people lies within you already.  Your connection to your higher self is your connection to others, one that is always on and simply needs to be noticed.  This connection is very different than third-dimensional connections based on ego and attachment.  At this level you connect with others through their higher selves too.  And this often has the effect of waking them up.  Plus it’s a lot of fun to connect with people this way.  It’s how people should connect.  You simply bypass people’s fears and labels and talk to them as free spirits.

High awareness people do this very naturally.  Labels and titles are irrelevant.  Two high awareness people can meet for the first time, and inside of a few minutes, they’re discussing things like mission, purpose, and the meaning of life.  It makes no difference if one person is wearing a suit and the other is wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt.  They’ll barely even notice.  Communication is high on content because such people speak as if talking directly to each other’s souls.

On the other hand, when two low awareness people meet, communication is shallow and timid.  Each person feels out the other instead of communicating their true selves.  They aren’t even in touch with their true selves because they identify with their egos.  Egoic communication is competitive and fearful.  People play silly games with each other in a vain attempt to protect themselves from potential rejection.

Conscious relationships

I remember shortly after I met Erin in 1994, we were talking on the phone one day, and I said to her, “Erin, I like you a lot, and I’d like to us to be boyfriend-girlfriend if you’d like that too.”  She said yes, and we’ve been together almost 12 years now.

This might not seem like a big deal, but consider that this conversation happened before our first real date.  Erin and I had only known each other for a few weeks and were just friends.  In fact, I was dating someone else at the time we met.  So it was a fairly bold thing to say, but it certainly moved things along quickly, since a few months later we moved in together.  We could have played games with each other and dated for a long time, but it was easier and faster to just see if we both felt the same.  This worked because Erin and I were both the kinds of people who didn’t need to play games with each other.

I’m often amazed at the silly machinations people go through when they’re interested in beginning a relationship with someone.  Fear causes people to miss all sorts of opportunities and overcomplicate things to the point of being ridiculous.  Imagine how simple relationships would be if fear were removed from the picture.  If you like someone, just go tell them and ask if they feel the same.   How simple is that?  In a matter of minutes, you’re able to move on one way or the other.  When you move beyond fear, your accuracy will increase as well, so you won’t even ask the question except when you know you’re going to get a yes.  If you get a no, it just means you misread the other person, but that really isn’t a big deal.  Getting rejected unblocks your energy and frees it up to attract someone else.

Awareness makes life easier

As you consciously strive to become the person you were meant to be, life becomes much easier.  Actually it would be more accurate to say that life is just as hard, but your capacity for handling it grows to the point where life seems to get easier.  You’re stronger, so the weight feels lighter.

What’s your vision of your higher self?  If you want to become this person, take some time to get to know him/her in your imagination.  Allow this vision to inspire you and to guide you.  Visualize the type of person you always wanted to be, and then hold that vision until you’ve become its physical embodiment.

How to find your life purpose

This article by Steve Pavlina is another one of my favourites. Enjoy.

How to find your life purpose

How do you discover your real purpose in life? I’m not talking about your job, your daily responsibilities, or even your long-term goals. I mean the real reason why you’re here at all — the very reason you exist.

Perhaps you’re a rather nihilistic person who doesn’t believe you have a purpose and that life has no meaning. Doesn’t matter. Not believing that you have a purpose won’t prevent you from discovering it, just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from tripping. All that a lack of belief will do is make it take longer, so if you’re one of those people, just change the number 20 in the title of this blog entry to 40 (or 60 if you’re really stubborn). Most likely though if you don’t believe you have a purpose, then you probably won’t believe what I’m saying anyway, but even so, what’s the risk of investing an hour just in case?

Here’s a story about Bruce Lee which sets the stage for this little exercise. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”

If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all).

So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, some of them fairly involved, here is one of the simplest that anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — again, it will just take longer to converge.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
  2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.

For those who are very entrenched in low-awareness living, it will take a lot longer to get all the false answers out, possibly more than an hour. But if you persist, after 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 answers, you’ll be struck by the answer that causes you to surge with emotion, the answer that breaks you. If you’ve never done this, it may very well sound silly to you. So let it seem silly, and do it anyway.

As you go through this process, some of your answers will be very similar. You may even re-list previous answers. Then you might head off on a new tangent and generate 10-20 more answers along some other theme. And that’s fine. You can list whatever answer pops into your head as long as you just keep writing.

At some point during the process (typically after about 50-100 answers), you may want to quit and just can’t see it converging. You may feel the urge to get up and make an excuse to do something else. That’s normal. Push past this resistance, and just keep writing. The feeling of resistance will eventually pass.

You may also discover a few answers that seem to give you a mini-surge of emotion, but they don’t quite make you cry — they’re just a bit off. Highlight those answers as you go along, so you can come back to them to generate new permutations. Each reflects a piece of your purpose, but individually they aren’t complete. When you start getting these kinds of answers, it just means you’re getting warm. Keep going.

It’s important to do this alone and with no interruptions. If you’re a nihilist, then feel free to start with the answer, “I don’t have a purpose,” or “Life is meaningless,” and take it from there. If you keep at it, you’ll still eventually converge.

When I did this exercise, it took me about 25 minutes, and I reached my final answer at step 106. Partial pieces of the answer (mini-surges) appeared at steps 17, 39, and 53, and then the bulk of it fell into place and was refined through steps 100-106. I felt the feeling of resistance (wanting to get up and do something else, expecting the process to fail, feeling very impatient and even irritated) around steps 55-60. At step 80 I took a 2-minute break to close my eyes, relax, clear my mind, and to focus on the intention for the answer to come to me — this was helpful as the answers I received after this break began to have greater clarity.

Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.

When you find your own unique answer to the question of why you’re here, you will feel it resonate with you deeply. The words will seem to have a special energy to you, and you will feel that energy whenever you read them.

Discovering your purpose is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it with you on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point where you become that purpose.

If you’re inclined to ask why this little process works, just put that question aside until after you’ve successfully completed it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably have your own answer to why it works. Most likely if you ask 10 different people why this works (people who’ve successfully completed it), you’ll get 10 different answers, all filtered through their individual belief systems, and each will contain its own reflection of truth.

Obviously, this process won’t work if you quit before convergence. I’d guesstimate that 80-90% of people should achieve convergence in less than an hour. If you’re really entrenched in your beliefs and resistant to the process, maybe it will take you 5 sessions and 3 hours, but I suspect that such people will simply quit early (like within the first 15 minutes) or won’t even attempt it at all. But if you’re drawn to read this blog (and haven’t been inclined to ban it from your life yet), then it’s doubtful you fall into this group.

Give it a shot! At the very least, you’ll learn one of two things: your true purpose in life -or- that you should unsubscribe from this blog. ;)