August 2012: What’s Your Recipe for Success?

by Brad on July 31, 2012

“To control your cow, give it a bigger pasture.”   — Zen Master Suzuki Roshi       .


The “prevailing wisdom” about success goes something like this: Success comes from setting goals, then controlling life so as to achieve them. If you want more success, set bigger goals and work even harder. Our early lessons here are so ingrained in us, both as individuals and as a society, that we can’t even imagine questioning them, say nothing of discovering them to be false. The energy at work here is force, and it’s likely the least efficient kind of energy to fuel success. If what you’ve accomplished comes at the expense of fighting with life, dealing with stress and living up to the expectations of others, imagine what could be possible if all that energy fueled your potential instead.

Your attachment to the prevailing wisdom above may be strong, so see if you can suspend your judgment for a bit, and ask, “what if …?” Here’s a perspective on the idea of control, one you may not have considered up until now:

  • Control is not a “strategy” for a great life. It’s an unconscious reaction to the fear that you “have to have it all handled” (which is impossible) … when in fact, you need only “have what it takes” to handle whatever comes up (which you already have).
  • The struggle that results is not, as you may believe, your struggle with the circumstances of life, but the struggle with your own thinking, thinking that says you need to be someone you’re not, to accept other people’s thinking, or to gain the approval of others (all of which are stressful and life-constricting) … when in fact, you need only learn how to become your true self (which has always been inside you, wanting and waiting to be expressed).

Because we don’t stop and question our obsession with control, we unconsciously block ourselves from the very possibility we want. We do so by erecting barriers to that possibility, barriers in the form of claiming it’s “just the way life is,” pretending not to be afraid, stressing out on life, controlling or blaming others, hiding out in denial and working on “the small stuff” of life instead. As a result, the world closes in on us. Experiencing a smaller world causes our thinking and seeing to become even more constricted, at just the time when we need it to be more expansive. Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you want to achieve/create/experience more, let go of the need to achieve/create/experience more. “Possibility thinking” rushes in to fill the void created by releasing control.

A simple recipe: Stop, step back, see life and its challenges from a new perspective, a place where the light is better, where you can illuminate the facts, not the fears, where you can see how it wasn’t life, but your thinking about life, that led you into the darkness to begin with. Illuminated by the light of your own conscious discernment, you can let go of the persistent choice to think about the negative, and in its place, “think a bigger world into being.” The ability to do so, by the way, has always been a part of you. It’s the part that “has what it takes” to confidently live your truth.  

Exercise: A new viewpoint on control. Think about various parts of your life (personal, work, relationships, family, etc.). Replay in your mind some recent events in each area, noticing where and how you were fighting with “the way it is,” forcing it to become “something it isn’t.” Name the specific actions you took to make it turn out your way (getting angry, being overworked, blaming others, being “strong.”) Lastly, step back from what you discover, becoming the audience in the movie of your own life. Now just notice “the way it is,” separating yourself from your judgment of “the way it should be.” Allow your mind to drift. Seeing more objectively, ask new questions:  What’s possible here? What can I now see that I missed before, while lost in trying. How can my own uniqueness allow me to create something extraordinary here? What might this situation want from me? Do this exercise regularly, a few times a day at least, for a month. Then notice how your behavior may have softened with respect to controlling life.

The feedback I receive from readers is both clear and consistent: love the ideas presented here, yet struggle putting them into practice alone. I’m here to help; I love this kind of work. You are 100% capable of becoming all this article suggests. If you’re ready to reclaim your potential, I invite you to contact me. Together we’ll explore the thinking that holds you back and chart a course into an extraordinary future, no matter where your starting point may be.


A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

“Sitting quietly doing nothing spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” This Zen poem is a beautiful reminder of what we experience when we’re in nature. Nature never tries, yet at the same time nature never stops doing. In words of Lao Tzu, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Why do we experience this so deeply, and perhaps notice it so vividly when we’re immersed in nature’s beauty, yet find so little of it showing up in our own lives?

When I “sit quietly doing nothing” in nature, I become fascinated by nature’s mystery. At one level, nature is a bunch of processes, each doing its own thing on its own terms to create its own result. These processes, most of which we experience as recurring rhythms or cycles, are nature’s way of renewing and refreshing life. None of them is “trying” to get done sooner, or to compete with processes operating over longer time frames. Can you imagine if the rhythm of the seasons decided to compete with the rhythm of the tides, so seasons would be “done” every 12 hours?

At the higher level of nature’s unity, all of her activities are set against a single backdrop – the backdrop of creation. Every aspect of the beauty we observe in nature is geared toward sustaining life, each according to its own unique essence. Nothing about nature is geared toward trying, judging, stressing or fighting. Yet the result is beauty.

As a simple exercise, you might choose to experience this for yourself (always better than just reading about it … in much the same way that skiing is usually more fun than reading a book on skiing.) Sit someplace outdoors for an hour or so, and just notice how nature “does things.” Notice for yourself the rhythms and cycles of creation, and the elegant manifestations of those processes. Then imagine how your life might be if you could trust your own creative essence, which, by the way is unique to you, and allow it to illuminate your life’s path, guiding you to the joy, meaning and “success” you dream about. If you’re adventuresome, you might even picture the “gap” between that possible future state and how your life is today, identifying specific ways in which you might take on “nature’s way” in your own life, thereby releasing the stranglehold the stress of trying has had on your creative genius. Of course, if you get that far, then it wouldn’t hurt to take action on what you’ve discovered. You might be pleasantly surprised.


Openings to New Possibility


An invitation to bold possibility: As noted in this month’s article, I love to write about life-changing possibility, yet I am aware that most people will not integrate these perspectives into their lives on their own. I’m here to help you. Good ideas are just that – good ideas. They become your own good ideas only by developing personal felt experience of them. It’s often a struggle creating this personal experience, largely because, left to ourselves, we use the same thinking that got us where we are to get us somewhere else. That’s like washing off paint with paint. If you’ve noticed that despite workshops, programs and reading you’ve done, life still falls short of your dreams, consider a “guide for the unexplored territory” of your future. I’ll meet you wherever you may be on your path. Together we’ll challenge the thinking that holds you back, discover what matters most to you and chart a course into the territory of your potential. Contact me, and begin to shift forever your view of what’s possible.

The Road Not Taken website: Join The Road Not Taken Community, a subscription offering free of charge, giving you the opportunity to stay connected, to interact, to be challenged, to learn. (If you subscribe to this newsletter now, you’re already enrolled. Look for an email update this week.) Gain access to articles, newsletters, blogs; you’ll find “new stuff” on a regular basis. This newsletter is found as a blog entry (under the category Purposeful Wanderings), along with several back issues. I welcome comment on anything you read; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together. Available now: my first book, A Field Guide to Life, offered as an e-book for purchase, or free of charge as an on-going series of blog articles to which you can subscribe.

Book of the monthThe Art of Possibility, by Roz & Ben Zander. It’s time for a return recommendation of this delightful little volume. Perhaps more than any other, it offers practical approaches to seeing and living your potential without control. In simple yet artful language, Ben & Roz offer more in the way of generating possibility in your life than most books I’ve read. Many of you know it well; get to know it again. Try out its “big ideas” in your life, and allow their messages to ‘seep’ their way into you. I’ve met Ben; he is both a compelling coach and a great “life cheerleader.”  … And, if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book available at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons – 508-539-6985.


Download August 2012 pdf


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment