June 2013: Seven Steps to an Amazing Life

by Brad on June 1, 2013

“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” — Anais Nin        .

I’ve always wanted to write an article with a title like this. It would appeal to my love of structure and order. It would respond to requests I’ve had to turn my ideas into practical steps. And it would align with the seven-steps-to-anything mania we see in books, blogs and advice columns. But there’s a reason I haven’t suggested seven steps to anything. It doesn’t work. Seven steps would be great if you wanted to clean out a closet or leave you with a sense you’d actually accomplished something in your hectic day. But simple steps are of questionable value for making personal, sustainable life change. And because I don’t write about cleaning closets, seven steps don’t hold much appeal for me.

IMG_2861Here’s why. And this is crucial if you do want to make sustainable, substantive change in your life. Although there’s often nothing inherently wrong with the steps themselves, there’s a huge flaw in the way we think about steps. When we see steps, our minds say (1) oh, that looks easy, (2) if I just ‘do’ them, I’ll be done, (3) they make sense, so I must already get it. None of these is true. Such thoughts come from the superficial level of consciousness sufficient only to get us through an ordinary day. We love the idea of simple steps, but at this level of thinking, we cannot sustain the awareness needed to do them. Simply stated, life-limiting thinking won’t evoke life-changing behavior.

Deeper levels of consciousness are always available to us. We access them by slowing down, calming the mind, turning our gaze inward – things the “everyday mind” tells us are a waste of time. This is why I write about awareness, presence, and the thinking that underlies our experience of reality. The path to creating a life you really love is one that gets underneath the consciousness of the everyday, and into levels of awareness that allow you to sustain change.

Oh yes, the seven steps to an amazing life? The seven steps that would actually take you there, if you did have the presence to put them to work in your life?

  • Gain complete clarity and acceptance that “the way it is” today just is.  Release all judgment; it just is.
  • Gain complete clarity and acceptance that “the way it is” is a natural consequence of your thinking up until now.
  • Create in your mind, then continually replay to yourself, a bold, powerful vision of the life you’d love to live.
  • Start to measure your life based on your relationship to your vision and inner truth, not the opinions of others.
  • Adopt a regular practice of extreme self-care.
  • Take one action step toward your vision each day. Let go of how it turns out; focus instead on being it. With each step, listen; just listen – for ‘feedback,’ a natural information flow that will guide your next steps, and the next.
  • Connect deeply – with yourself, nature, a higher power, and a strong community of love and support.

Notice that each of these “steps” represents a fair amount of inner work. You don’t just do them; you become them. You become them through practice. The practice is one of awareness. Cultivating personal awareness gives you the presence to take sustained, committed action on any set of steps. Here’s an exercise that will open you to that power.

Exercise: Grow your awareness: Only by interrupting the unconscious and incessant flow of chatter that your mind has become can you connect with the deeper levels of your consciousness. Stop what you’re doing a few times each day. Remain still for 5 – 10 minutes of quiet reflection. Then for another 5 – 10 minutes, replay in your mind thoughts you’ve had since the last time you stopped. Listen to what they tell you. Don’t try to change them. Notice. That’s it; just become a student of your own thinking. With regular practice you will (1) come to know your thinking, (2) see your life with greater clarity & less judgment, (3) realize that only your thoughts determine your experience of reality, (4) hear subtle messages of your inner truth, (5) experience a sense of calm and presence – about yourself, others, your life and your world, (6) expand your perspective, thereby creating a bigger world, (7) make new choices, naturally. Awareness. Presence. Choice.


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

A turning point in my life came with a single, powerful piece of awareness. It was probably 20 years ago now, but as I sat leaning on a tree beside a stream contemplating how, during that year, everything I thought my life was about had fallen apart, again (losing a relationship, a job, a home, a retirement fund, some self-confidence, and more) I had the simple but scary realization that the one thing all my losses had in common was me. Even then, I didn’t see this as about blame, but about responsibility; I had a part in everything that had happened to me. From this single piece of understanding and acceptance, I began a process of self-inquiry that has led me through the seven process steps noted above. The journey wasn’t always “nice,” but it freed me to become who I really am. Today, I both love my life and am grateful for all that happened; it helped to teach me what I needed to know to “live amazing.”

Some of my greatest insights have come to me just “being in nature.” I think it’s because in nature I feel connected to my true self, to the world, to a higher power and to the full potential I (and each of us) represent. I won’t claim that I wouldn’t have had those insights had I not been in nature, but I know from experience that connecting with mountains, trees, rivers and birds, even just sitting for a while, opens me to a “me” much bigger than the everyday “me.” 

It is in these deeper levels of awareness where my own greatest potential speaks to me. It’s difficult to put into words what this place is like, perhaps like trying to explain water to a fish. But the felt experience is unmistakable. As I’ve noted before, and as I experienced all the time before I began to see a new way, the mind tells us not to step into this territory, for it is a waste of time. I now know that this was just my unconscious, trying to “protect” me from things it saw as scary. I’m glad I stopped listening to it for long enough to try out something new.


Openings to New Possibility

Available for you:

  • The Road Not Taken Community, a no-cost subscription that offers you connection, interaction, challenge, and learning. See articles, newsletters and blogs; you’ll find “new stuff” here regularly. I welcome comments and conversation; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together.
  • “In Nature’s Image,” a series of blog posts here. A new post every few days, each a simple suggestion for adding meaning to your life, accompanied by one of my images from nature. If you’d like have them delivered to you by email, you may use the green icon (“receive blog via RSS feed”) on any page of my website or right here. If we’re connected on Facebook, you’ll also find each post there.
  • My e-book, A Field Guide to Life: How to Live With Authenticity and Freedom, offering a path beyond the limiting belief that you can’t live an extraordinary life. Reclaim the power of your deepest longing. You can purchase the ebook, or read it at no cost as a series of blog articles posted on my website.
  • The Road Not Taken newsletters (11 years, 132 issues of Purposeful Wanderings) available here as a pdf file.  
  • Photo images from my travels available here on fun products – note cards, coffee mugs – great gift ideas.

An invitation to possibility: If you have the courage and determination to step apart from the crowd and challenge conventional thinking, so you can live instead with authenticity and freedom, contact me for a conversation that can shift your thinking forever. I will help you reach a level of clarity and perspective – about yourself, others, your life, your work and the world – that allows you to live your truth, every day. Trade the way it is for the way it could be.

Book of the month The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho.  This book has been around a while, but continues to be popular for a reason. It’s a story, not a “self-help” book or a text, of a young boy in search of treasure. Turns out it’s the treasures of the heart, of awareness, of life’s depth, of meaning and purpose. An easy read, yet with a message that lingers, and invites more depth than its story might suggest. Perhaps it offers you the opportunity to become the journey, rather than simply reading about it. … 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 June 2013 pdf

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

RM June 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Hey! Experiencing practice…remember when we grew up like most kids, the old adage “Practice makes perfect!” Who says we have to be perfect, or want to be perfect. Cleaning a closet is easier than cleaning your mind of old teachings!


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