“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters.” NATHANIEL EMMONS
Consistency . .. Isn’t this what we’re all after? We don’t want to create results once in a while. We don’t want to feel joyous just/or the moment. We don’t want to be at our best sporadically. The mark of a champion is consistency—and true consistency is established by our habits. I’m sure you realize by now that I didn’t write this book just to help you make a few distinctions. Nor is it designed to inspire you with a few stories or share with you a bit of interesting information that you might use every now and then to create a little “personal development.” This book—and my entire life—is dedicated to producing a measurable increase in the quality of our lives.
This can be accomplished only through a new pattern of taking massive action. The true value to an individual of any new strategy or skill is in direct proportion to the frequency of its use. As I’ve said so many times, knowing what to do is not enough: you must do what you know. This chapter is designed to assist you in establishing habits of excellence—the patterns of focus that will help you maximize the impact you have on yourself and others.
In order to take our lives to the next level, however, we must realize that the same pattern of thinking that has gotten us to where we are will not get us to where we want to go. One of the biggest challenges I see in both individuals and corporations is that they resist change (their greatest ally), justifying their actions by pointing out that their current behavior is what got them to the level of success that they now enjoy. This is absolutely true and, in reality, a new level of thinking is now required in order to experience a new level of personal and professional success.
To do this, we must once and for all break through the barriers of our fear and take control of the focus of our minds. Our old patterns of allowing our minds to be enslaved by the problems of the moment must be broken once and for all. In their place, we must establish the lifelong commitment to focus on the solutions and to enjoy the process. Throughout this book you’ve learned a wealth of powerful tools and strategies to make your life richer, fuller, more joyous and exciting. But if you just read this book and fail to use it, it’s like buying a powerful new computer and never taking it out of the box, or buying a Ferrari and then letting it sit out in your driveway, collecting dust and grime. So let me offer you a simple plan for interrupting your old patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, a way that can help you condition these new, empowering alternatives and make them absolutely consistent.
Years ago, I found myself caught up in a pattern of frustration and anger. I seemed to have problems everywhere I turned. At that point, thinking positively was not high on my list of solutions. After all, I was being “intelligent,” and intelligent people don’t make things look positive when they aren’t! I had plenty of people around me who supported this idea (and they were equally frustrated with their lives, as well!). In reality, at the time I was being incredibly negative and seeing things worse than they were. I was using my pessimism as a shield. It was my feeble attempt at protecting myself from the pain of failed expectations: I’d do anything to keep from being disappointed once again. But in adopting this pattern, this same barrier that kept me out of pain also kept me out of pleasure. It barred me from solutions and sealed me in a tomb of emotional death where one never experiences too much pain or too much pleasure, and where one continuously justifies one’s limited actions by stating they’re “just being realistic.”
In truth, life is a balance. If we allow ourselves to become the kind of people who refuse to see the weeds that are taking root in our gardens, our delusions will destroy us. Equally destructive, however, is what happens to those people who, out of fear, constantly imagine the garden overgrown and choked with intractable weeds. The leader’s path is one of balance. He notes the weeds with a smile upon his face, knowing that the weeds’ visit to the garden is all but over—because he’s spotted them, he can and will immediately act to remove them.
We don’t have to feel negative about weeds. They’re part of life. Weneed to see them, acknowledge them, focus on the solution, and immediately do whatever it takes to eliminate their influence from our lives. Pretending they’re not there won’t make things better; neither will becoming inflamed with anger by their presence nor devastated by fear. Their continual attempt to be part of your garden is a fact of life. Simply remove them. And do it in an emotional state of playfulness or joy while you’re getting the job done; otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life being upset, because I can promise you one thing: there will be more “weeds” that continue to come up. And unless you want to live in reaction to the world every time problems occur, you need to remember that they’re actually an important part of life. They keep you vigorous, they keep you strong, they keep you vigilant in noticing what needs to be done to keep the garden of your life healthy and rich.
We need to practice this same approach in weeding the gardens of our minds. We have to be able to notice when we start to have a negative pattern—not beat ourselves up about it, and not dwell on it— but simply break the patterns as quickly as we discover them, and replace them with the new seeds of mental, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, and professional success. How do we break these patterns when they show up? Simply remember the steps of NAC you learned in Chapter 6.
1) You need to decide what you do want. If you really want to feel a sense of passion, joy, and control over your life—which obviously you must, or you wouldn’t be reading this now—then you know what you want.
2) You’ve got to get leverage on yourself. If you read this whole book and don’t establish any new patterns, wouldn’t that be an unbelievable waste of time? In contrast, how will you feel as you truly use what you’ve learned to take immediate control of your mind, body, emotions, finances, and relationships? Let your desire to avoid pain and induce massive pleasure drive you to make the changes necessary to take your life to the next level now. In order to accomplish this, you must . . .
3) Interrupt the limiting pattern. The best way I know to do this is to simply go on a “Mental Diet”— that is, take a set period of time and take conscious control of all your thoughts. A Mental Diet is an opportunity to eliminate the negative and destructive patterns of thinking and feeling that inevitably come from living life in an emotionally reactionary and mentally undisciplined fashion. I committed myself to such a mental cleansing almost eight years ago, and found it to be a very profound and invaluable process.
I came across the idea in a small pamphlet by Emmet Fox. In it, he expounded upon the value of spending seven days without ever holding a negative thought. The idea seemed so Pollyanna, so ridiculously simple, that at first I thought the whole concept was a total waste of time. But as he began to lay out the rules of this diet he was prescribing to cleanse the mental system, I began to realize it might be more difficult than I thought. The challenge intrigued me, and the final results astounded me. I’d like to broaden the challenge Mr. Fox created in 1935 and expand it as a tool that can help you integrate the master tools of change that you’ve been learning thus far in this book, beginning today. Here’s your opportunity now to really apply all the new disciplines you’ve learned in the previous chapters. My challenge to you is simply this:
For the next ten days, beginning immediately, commit to taking full control of all your mental and emotional faculties by deciding right now that you will not indulge in or dwell on any unresourceful thoughts or emotions for ten consecutive days.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? And I’m sure it could be. But those who begin it are frequently surprised to discover how often their brains are engaged in nonproductive, fearful, worrisome, or destructive thinking.
Why would we continually indulge in mental and emotional patterns that create unnecessary stress in our lives? The answer is simple: we actually think it helps! Many people live in a state of worry. In order to accomplish this state, they continually focus and dwell on the worst possible scenario. Why would they do this? Because they believe it will get them to do something—to take action. But the truth of the matter is that worry usually puts a person in an extremely unresourceful emotional state. It doesn’t usually empower us to take action, but rather, it tends to cause us to become overwhelmed with frustration or fear.
Yet, using some of the simplest tools in this book, you could change your worried state immediately by focusing on a solution. You could ask yourself a better question like, “What do I need to do right now to make this better?” Or you could change your state by changing the vocabulary you use to describe the sensations you’re feeling: from “worried” to “a little bit concerned.”
In essence, if you decide to accept my Ten-Day Challenge, it means that you’ve committed to putting yourself and keeping yourself in a passionately positive state, no matter what happens. It means that if you find yourself in any unresourceful emotional states, you’ll instantaneously change your physiology or focus into a resourceful state regardless of your desires of the moment. For example, if someone does something that you believe is destructive or even hateful toward you, and you begin to find yourself becoming angry, you must immediately change your emotional state, regardless of the situation, during these ten consecutive days.
Again, remember that you have a multitude of strategies for changing your state. You could ask yourself a more empowering question like, “What could I learn from this?” or “What’s great about this situation, and what’s not yet perfect?” These questions will lead you into resourceful states where you’ll find solutions instead of dwelling on and habitually running the cycle of increased anger and frustration. How many other ways could you change your state if you were really committed?
Remember, our goal is not to ignore the problems of life, but to put ourselves in better mental and emotional states where we can not only come up with solutions, but act upon them. Those people who focus on what they can’t control are continually disempowered. Yes, it’s true, we can’t control the wind or the rain or the other vagaries of weather, but we can tack our sails in a way that allows us to shape the direction of our lives.
When I first considered going on Fox’s mental diet, I believed that staying positive would get me hurt. After all, I had been positive in the past, and my expectations weren’t met. I had felt devastated. Eventually, though, I found that by changing my focus I was able to take more control of my life by avoiding the problem state and immediately focusing on solutions. My requests for inner answers were quickly met when I was in a resourceful state.
Every great, successful person I know shares the capacity to remain centered, clear and powerful in the midst of emotional “storms.” How do they accomplish this? Most of them have a fundamental rule: In life, never spend more than 10 percent of your time on the problem, and spend at least 90 percent of your time on the solution. Most important, don’t sweat the small stuff. . . and remember, it’s all small stuff!
If you decide that you’re going to take on my Ten-Day Challenge—and I sense you will, since you’ve made it this far in the book—then realize that for the next ten days, you’re going to spend 100 percent of your time on solutions, and no time on problems!
But won’t this make the problems worse? “If I don’t worry about my problems, won’t they get out of control?” I seriously doubt it. Ten days of focusing entirely upon solutions, on what’s great in your life, on what works and how lucky you are will not make your problems worse. But these new patterns may make you so strong that what you once thought was a problem may disappear as you assume a new identity of an unstoppable and joyous human being.
There are four simple yet important rules to this Ten-Day Challenge. So if you’re going to take it on, remember the following:
THE TEN-DAY MENTAL CHALLENGE—RULES OF THE GAME
Rule 1. In the next ten consecutive days, refuse to dwell on any unresourceful thoughts or feelings. Refuse to indulge in any disempowering questions or devitalizing vocabulary or metaphors.
Rule 2. When you catch yourself beginning to focus on the negative—and you certainly will—you are to immediately use the techniques you’ve learned to redirect your focus toward a better emotional state. Specifically, use the Problem-Solving Questions97 as your first line of attack; for example: “What’s great about this? What’s not perfect yet?” Remember, by asking a question like, “What’s not perfect yet?,” you’re presupposing that things will be perfect. This will change your state. It doesn’t ignore the problem, but it keeps you in the right state while you identify what needs to be changed. In addition, set yourself up for success each morning for the next ten days by asking yourself the Morning Power Questions. You can do them before you get out of bed or while you’re in the shower, but make sure you do them right away. This will focus you in the direction of establishing empowering mental and emotional patterns each day as you awake. In the evening, use the Evening Power Questions, or any questions you believe will put you in a great state before you drop off to sleep.
Rule 3. For the next ten consecutive days, make certain that your whole focus in life is on solutions and not on problems. The minute you see a possible challenge, immediately focus on what the solution could be.
Rule 4. If you backslide—that is, if you catch yourself indulging in or dwelling on an unresourceful thought or feeling—don’t beat yourself up. There’s no problem with this as long as you change immediately. However, if you continue to dwell on unresourceful thoughts or feelings for any measurable length of time, you must wait until the following morning and start the ten days over. The goal of this program is ten consecutive days without holding or dwelling on a negative thought. This starting-over process must happen no matter how many days in a row you’ve already accomplished the task.
The Ten-Day Mental Challenge
You may ask, “How long can I focus on the negative before it’s considered ‘dwelling’?” To me, one minute of continual focus on, and emotional attachment to, what’s wrong is dwelling. One minute is more than enough time for us to be able to catch ourselves and create a change. Our whole goal is to catch the monster while it’s little. Certainly, within twenty to forty seconds you know if you’re being negative about something.
If I were you, though, I’d give myself up to a maximum of two minutes to notice the challenge and begin to change your state. Two minutes is certainly enough time to identify that you’re in a negative state. Break the pattern. If you allow yourself to go as long as five minutes or more, you’ll find the Mental Challenge won’t accomplish its task; instead, you’ll just learn to vent your emotions more quickly. The goal is to knock things out before you ever get in a negative emotional state in the first place.
When I first tried this exercise, after doing it for three days I got caught up and angry about something and indulged for about five minutes in negative emotions before I realized what I was doing. I had to start all over. On my second trip through, on the sixth day, I ran into some major challenges, but at this point I was committed. I wasn’t about to start over again! So I immediately found myself focusing on the solution.
The benefit, as you can guess, was not just staying with my mental diet, but I began conditioning myself for a tremendous, lifelong pattern of staying in a positive emotional state, even when there were challenges around me, and focusing the majority of my energy on solutions.
To this day, even when I hear about problems, as you’ve probably noticed, I tend to call them challenges. I don’t dwell on them, and Immediately focus on how I can convert the challenge into an opportunity.
“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” JOHN DRYDEN
You may decide that while you’re taking this Mental Challenge you may want to cleanse your body as well. In Unlimited Power I issued a ten-day physical challenge. Combining both the ten-day Living Health Vitality Challenge with the ten-day Mental Challenge can produce powerful results that can take your life to another level in the next ten days. By committing and following through on this Mental Challenge, you’ll be giving yourself a break from limiting habits and flexing the muscles of empowerment. You’ll be sending your brain a new message and commanding new results. You will be demanding empowering emotions, enriching thoughts, inspiring questions.
With a clear-cut moving-away idea (the pain of starting over) you are giving your brain strong signals to search for empowering patterns. By setting a higher standard for what thoughts you’ll allow your mind to dwell on, you’ll begin to notice the garbage and destructive patterns you used to blindly or lazily accept from yourself. And as a result, you’ll find it difficult to ever go back to the old ways again. The starkness of this approach will cause you to remember these patterns in the future and make it difficult to go back to the old patterns again.
A word of caution: Don’t begin this ten-day commitment unless and until you are certain that you are going to live by it for the full length of time. If you don’t start out with a sense of commitment, you certainly won’t make it through the ten days. This is not a challenge for the weak at heart. This is only for those who are really committed to conditioning their nervous systems for new, empowering emotional patterns that can take their lives to the next level.
Have you decided yet whether you’re going to do this? Think about it carefully before committing yourself, because once you do, you need to hold yourself to your word and experience the joy that comes with a disciplined effort. If your answer is yes, for the next ten days you’ll be taking the things you’ve learned intellectually up until now and making them part of your daily experience of life. These ten days will help you use the NAC technology to condition yourself for success. You’ll be asking new questions, using Transformational Vocabulary and more empowering global metaphors, and instantly changing your focus and physiology.
Let’s face it, we all have our indulgences in life. If you’re overweight, your indulgences may be chocolate fudge sundaes or double-cheese pizza. When you diet, you say to yourself, “Enough is enough. This is where I draw the line.” You hold yourself to a higher standard and enjoy the selfesteem that comes with that single, small, disciplined act. But we all have our mental indulgences, too. Some people feel sorry for themselves.
Some get angry in a way that subverts their own best interests. Some of us fail to focus on the things that need attention. My challenge to you is to decide that for ten days, you will not allow yourself a single one of these destructive mental indulgences.
What stands in the way of just deciding to banish them? Three things, really. One is laziness. A lot of people know what they should do, but never quite get up the energy to do it. Many know their lives could be something more, yet they’re sitting in front of the tube, eating junk food, depriving their minds and bodies of the fuel they need to spark new growth.
The second obstacle is fear. All too often, the security of a mediocre present is more comfortable than the adventure of trying to be more in the future. So many people get to the end of their lives wondering what could have been—don’t let this happen to you.
The third challenge is force of habit. We have our old emotional patterns: the deadening force of routine. Like a plane on automatic pilot, our brain dredges up the same old responses it always has. We face an obstacle and see the problem instead of the solution. We suffer a reversal and feel sorry for ourselves instead of deciding how to learn from it. We make a mistake and see it as some sort of baleful judgment on what we can’t do, instead of deciding to learn from it and move forward. This exercise is a way to get beyond all three and produce lasting changes with benefits that can multiply over time. This is your opportunity to make a true commitment to CANI!
This Ten-Day Challenge is not easy. If you habitually feel sorry for yourself, it’s not easy to stop. If you’re focusing on financial pressure, operating out of fear won’t make it any better. If you blame your spouse for everything that goes wrong in your life, the easy thing is to keep doing it. If you mask your insecurities by being angry all the time, if you wallow in guilt, if you blame your looks or your financial situation or your upbringing for all your problems, it’s not easy to change. But you already have so many tools to improve your life. This is my challenge to you to start using them.
Believe me, the power inherent in this little exercise is amazing. If you stick with it, it will do four things for you. First, it will make you acutely aware of all the habitual mental patterns that hold you back. Second, it will make your brain search for empowering alternatives to them.
Third, it will give you an incredible jolt of confidence as you see that you can turn your life around. Fourth, and most importantly, it will create new habits, new standards, and new expectations that will help you expand more than you could ever believe.
Success is processional. It’s the result of a series of small disciplines that lead us into habitual patterns of success that no longer require consistent will or effort. Like a freight train picking up speed, this exercise in doing things right consciously, in erasing the patterns that hold you back and installing new ones that can propel you forward, will give you a sense of momentum like very few things you’ve done in your life.
The great news about this is that, unlike a diet where you starve yourself and eventually have to go back to eating, your old pattern of finding the negative is not one you ever have to return to again. This may not be a ten-day exercise in the end. It’s really an opportunity for you to become “addicted” to a positive focus for the rest of your life. But if, after banishing your toxic mental patterns for ten days, you want to return, be my guest. The truth is that once you experience life in this mentally vital and alive way, going back would disgust you. But if you ever find yourself getting off track, you have the tools to immediately put yourself back on the high road again.
Remember, though, only you can make this ten-day Mental Challenge work. Only you can make the commitment to really follow through.
You might consider getting extra leverage on yourself to make certain you follow through. One way of providing yourself extra incentive is to announce to the people around you what you’re committing to, or find a partner who wants to take on this ten-day Mental Challenge with you.
In addition, it would be ideal for you to keep a written journal while you’re meeting the ten-day Mental Challenge, writing your experiences each day and recording how you successfully dealt with those various challenges. I think you’ll find it invaluable to review later on.
Finally, one of the most valuable took in creating a change is not just interrupting your old pattern, but replacing it with something new. What you may decide to commit to doing is something I do on an ongoing basis throughout my life: become a reader.
LEADERS ARE READERS
Years ago, one of my teachers, Jim Rohn, taught me that reading something of substance, something of value, something that was nurturing, something that taught you new distinctions every day, was more important than eating. He got me hooked on the idea of reading a minimum of thirty minutes a day. He said, “Miss a meal, but don’t miss your reading.”
I’ve found this to be one of the most valuable distinctions in my life. So while you’re cleansing your system of the old, you might want to be empowering it by continuing to read the new. And there are plenty of pages of valuable insight and strategy ahead of you that you can be utilizing during these ten days.
If you’ve learned anything from this book, it’s the power of decisions. You’re at a critical point in our journey together. You’ve learned a variety of fundamental strategies and distinctions that can now be used to powerfully and positively shape your life. My question to you right now is: Have you made the decision to use them? Don’t you owe it to yourself to make the most out of what this book has to offer you? This is one of the most important ways to follow through. Commit now to do this only as quickly as you’re committed to living the quality of life that you once only dreamed of.
So realize that this chapter is my personal challenge to you. It’s an opportunity and an invitation to demand more from yourself than other people would ever expect, and to reap the rewards that come from this commitment. It’s a time to put in practice what you’ve learned. But it’s also a time to decide whether you’re willing to make the commitment to make some simple yet powerful improvements in your life. I know that’s what you desire. If you need evidence that you can do it, I sincerely believe this chapter will provide it—if you’re willing to go for it full out.
At this point, you’re ready to move on to the next section of this book. You’ve learned the fundamental tools for shaping your life by making decisions. But now let’s study the Master System that’s controlling every decision you make throughout your life. Understanding the basis of your own personal philosophy is accomplished by …
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