How often have we thrown up our hands in disgust when our attempts to achieve a personal goal, such as giving up a self-defeating habit, fall short of success?
The problem is: we try hard, but somehow we never get there. Whether it is about trying to quit smoking, giving up liquor, losing weight, or even overcoming the tendency of procrastination, the goal seems ever so elusive. The more you try, the more frustrating it gets. Perhaps, the answer lies in delving deep into what we want instead of what we don’t want. This simple act of re-focusing our energies manifests enormous power—the power to drive our mental engines to change ourselves.
Take, for example, weight loss—a goal that drives millions of people around the world to sign up with gyms, health clubs and fitness programmes. Overweight individuals hate that surplus flab enveloping what they reckon to be their “lean and beautiful body.” They try everything—exercise routines, crash diet plans, gadgets, and as-shown-on-TV quick-fix that promise you the moon—but, what you get is nothing but blunderbuss, or miracles that don’t work. That slim and sexy figure stays illusive. Worse, even if some of us succeed in losing weight, most are unable to maintain it. According to studies, 85 to 90 per cent people regain any weight they’ve lost within three to five years. Why?
Think about it, and you will realise that almost all weight-loss candidates are exclusively against their excess weight, instead of being in favour of a healthy, slimmer self. The mind, a powerful magnet, attracts to itself what it focuses on. So, in the process of trying to lose weight, you are dwelling constantly on what you don’t want [excess flab], and this is exactly what you get. The more you hate your body, the less likely you’ll be able to change it.
Change your focus
Being against anything is a waste of time. It is like trying to fight darkness— no matter how hard you try, you will not succeed. Is it not easier and effective to light a candle, instead? The moment you focus on bringing in light, the darkness around you vanishes.
Dr Wayne Dyer writes, “Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you.” Shifting your focus, thoughts and action/s can help you attract what you really desire. Stop fighting the negatives in your life and resolve to bring in what you really want.
You may think this being-for-not-against business nothing more than semantics, but it is, in truth, a whole new way of living your life. Just a gentle shift in your attitude can result in massive changes in your life. It is not different from the famed “butterfly effect” popularised by American mathematician Edward Lorenz. According to the theory, the flapping of the butterfly’s wings can create tiny changes in the atmosphere that can ultimately cause a tornado to appear [or, for that matter, prevent a tornado from appearing] in some other part of the world.
In the example cited earlier, overweight individuals would do well by just thinking and acting towards their healthier and fitter selves. Here is how it works: when you demonstrate love for your body, instead of hatred for your excess weight, you will find yourself acting in loving ways. Love provides you with all the energy you want. It will also automatically motivate you to give up nutritionally empty foods, laziness, procrastination, and all the self-defeating habits that come in your way of becoming a fitter self.
Let’s take another example. Say, you wish to quit smoking. Don’t fight smoking and hate yourself each time you reach out for a cigarette. Instead, just bring into your consciousness the thought that smoking is unhealthy and harmful and think about ways to replace/substitute your smoke signals with some healthier alternatives. Also don’t fight the urge, don’t resist the temptation. After a while, you will find that whenever you have an urge to smoke, you will do something else—go for a jog, or take a shower, or even make love to your spouse. The important point is: just do anything you possibly can till the urge passes away. You will do all this and more out of love for yourself, and not because of your half-hearted, or wholehearted, determination to quit smoking.
Think of larger goals
We have all heard of Mother Teresa’s thoughtful quip, when an activist group asked her if she would join them in their march against the Vietnam War: “No, I won’t march against the War with you, but if you have a march for peace, I’ll be there.” Mother Teresa knew that being against anything only expands its disagreeable nature, or intensity.
So, there it is! If you want to become more effective in attaining your goals, cultivate an attitude that Mother Teresa espoused. In other words, the next time you find yourself “pitched” against illiteracy, for instance, try changing your thoughts to be someone who’s in favour of literacy. You will find that instead of blaming the government and its education policies, you will look for ways to spread literacy—may be, sponsor a child’s education, or teach part-time, or even donate money to charitable schools run by selfless NGOs.
Think of your larger goal as a “transformer,” located within your consciousness. Switch it on. It will not only light up your life; it will also light up the lives of those around you.