Are you one of those people who is addicted to self-help books? It's no surprise that this genre of books is one of the biggest seductions (and money-makers), because they hold the promise of transforming lives that have gone somewhat awry or have even become derailed. It's takes restraint to resist a book that convinces you there is actually a way to attract more abundance, become powerful at work, or finally get the love you've been searching for your whole life.
There's a lot of people reading self-help -- it's no wonder it's a billion dollar industry. And so you might assume that people who read and buy hundreds of self-help books are walking around feeling yippy-skippy about their life, if not enlightened.
I have a new client who has been a self-help junkie for most of her adult life (I'll call her Cathy). She admitted that despite her voracious appetite for reading self-help, nothing changes in her life. At 45 she's still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up; she's still broke; she's still trapped in a relationship that makes her miserable; and she still hasn't learned how to take control of her mind that acts like a mad dog dragging her into undesirable neighborhoods.
Cathy understands intellectually that her crappy mindset and patterns of thinking need a major over-haul, and that she desperately needs to tell a different story. She's clearly onto herself. For Cathy (and for most people) the real problem is not a lack of intention, sincerity, or her attempts to implement new habits. The problem is her inability to SUSTAIN new habits over a long period of time. She confessed that she gives up too soon because her old patterns of behavior and thinking that have been with her for 20-odd years, are so entrenched within her psyche that they just won't budge and let go of her. It's as if they've become part of her DNA.
Cathy's dilemma makes perfect sense, because our brains love consistency. In fact, the brain loves our habits even if they're bad for us. It's a built-in survival mechanism to keep us safe. Anytime we try to make a change in our behavior, the brain will have a hissy-fit and let us know that it's having none of it. If Cathy's been living and practicing disempowering thoughts for twenty years, how the heck is she ever going to convince her brain to back off and let her develop new habits?
The answer to that question is: She has to TRICK her brain into believing that she's not really interested in becoming a permanently enlightened being. Just some days.
I suggested to Cathy that she practice being enlightened every other day. We agreed that she could manage to get through one day where she could practice her self-help tools, and then the next day she could take a day off and go back to her crappy feelings. One day on -- one day off.
Here's why this is a brilliant strategy:
1. It tricks the brain into thinking that Cathy is not being threatened. There's nothing radical going on to alert the brain of danger. The brain can handle one day.
2. Cathy gets to practice her tools without feeling overwhelmed at the thought that she has to maintain and sustain an enlightened state of being. In the past, trying to do this every day was exhausting for Cathy, and she ended up giving up altogether. Now she knows she can go back to her unenlightened ways the next day. She just has to get through one day.
3. The contrast between an enlightened day and unenlightened day becomes remarkably noticeable to the practitioner. Very soon you'll realize that enlightened days have obvious rewards. You'll feel as if you've been holding your breath your whole life.
4. Enlightened days are easy and totally doable. Anyone can do ONE enlightened day.
What exactly is an ENLIGHTENED day?
It's a day that allows magic to happen in your life. It's a day when you're acting and feeling like your true self. It's a day when the universe conspires with you to attract your heart's desire. It's a day of huge possibilities. It's being in the flow. It's you stepping into your power
What exactly are ENLIGHTENED practices? Here are just a few...
-- Get really picky and selective about your thoughts and feelings.
-- Reach for thoughts that soothe you.
-- Notice the negative thoughts that always show up daily. Question them. Tell them to buzz off.
-- Show up at work with a good attitude even though your job is not ideal.
-- Find ways to appreciate people you don't like.
-- Practice kindness to everyone, particularly yourself.
-- Be fully present in every situation, even when you're doing the dishes or taking out the garbage.
-- Negate negative or judgmental talk even though it may be true or justified.
-- Practice daily gratitude for anything in your life.
-- When you feel scared or stressed, say out loud: I can handle this.
-- Refuse to let your mind drag you in the bushes. Take control of the reigns.
-- Keep reminding yourself that you are powerful.
-- Tell yourself everyday, that everything's going to be OK.
Can you imagine a day like this? Can you imagine how different your life would be? Can you imagine yourself in this way? Stepping into enlightenment is going to feel awkward at first. You won't believe the words you say. You'll feel like a phony. But do it anyway. Just for one day. Because an enlightened day has the power to cause powerful shifts in your life, and open you up to new possibilities. It's worth the experiment.
As you practice this strategy, it's best to begin with a 30 day plan. Cathy even writes it into her calendar. You will soon discover your own comfortable pace, and you'll know when it's time to ratchet it up to 2 or 3 days.
Very soon your new habits will become second nature. Your brain will adjust, and it won't even suspect that you've tricked it. You'll gradually begin to see your unenlightened days in the same way you suffered and tolerated days when you had a hangover -- just not worth it. And best of all, you'll find yourself living the enlightened life you've always just read about.