10/23/2012 07:58 am ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

Understanding vs. Implementation: An Essential Distinction

Self-help or performance strategies require implementation. A person learns the method, practices the method, and then applies the method. "The 12 Steps to Happiness," for instance, must be studied, absorbed, and then put into action for it to work -- or so they say. Success experts who espouse positive thinking suggest that you must be aware of the difference between unconstructive and affirmative thoughts and then replace the bad thinking with the good.

Indeed, in the performance-coaching world, practicing to make perfect and then executing precisely seem to be the norm. Several well-known self-help gurus have even crafted their own careers by insisting that implementing happiness, positivity, or mindfulness is the key to success.

Seems like a lot of hard work to me.

Instead, have you ever considered that there is built-in understanding within you that doesn't take learning? And better yet, this understanding requires no doing, trying, effort, or implementation whatsoever. That's right, you already own the only true self-help (as opposed to external help) system available. Here's how it works:

The nature of your thinking (free and easy vs. bound up) creates your feelings. Your feelings create your mood. Your mood then perpetuates the nature of your thinking, forming a closed loop that is immune to the circumstances of the outside world.

To illustrate, when I feel bound up, I am not feeling my circumstance. I am feeling the effect of my bound-up thinking and my circumstance looks bleak. When I feel free and easy, I am not feeling my circumstance. I am feeling the effect of my free-and-easy thinking and my circumstance -- the same one that looked bleak -- now looks inviting.

Now, the coolest part of this inborn system is once you understand that the nature of your thinking is variable and has nothing to do with your circumstances, it will no longer make any sense (when you are struggling) to implement a strategy to try to change something that is designed to change on its own.

For example, the other day I felt pessimistic about the thought that two of my three children had gone off to college. My head was filled with negativity: "Where have the years gone?" "Am I getting old?" "What am I going to do?" But then, without doing or changing anything, I felt optimistic as insights and opportunities about my freed-up future flooded through me.

Remember, it happens to everyone: Bound-up feelings, at times, crop up. And because it appears that these feelings are the result of the world around you, implementing a coping strategy might look like the answer. Strategies, however, require memorization and implementation. They will not free your mind -- they will only add more clutter. On the other hand, understanding how the mind works clarifies where your feelings and moods truly originate (your thinking). It permits your innate functioning (stale thinking out, fresh thinking in) to resolve any momentary glitch.

The choice is yours -- understanding vs. implementation. To me, it's not a fair fight.

For more by Garret Kramer, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.