10/27/2014 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 27, 2014

The Order of Things

Ezra Bailey via Getty Images

Here's an out-of-the-ordinary question: What comes first, a situation or a feeling? If you're a hockey player, for instance, does scoring a goal lead to an elevated feeling state or does an elevated feeling state lead to scoring a goal?

Although our feelings and perceptions of the world outside come and go so quickly that it's easy to miss, to me the answer is certain: Feeling state first, situation (scoring a goal) second. That is, a situation can't cause a rise or drop in one's level of consciousness. One's level of consciousness is what causes a person to be productive or not; to score goals, or not.

Why is this an important distinction? Because the misunderstanding that happiness or misery is dependent on circumstances is responsible for virtually every problem known to mankind. From poor performance on the playing field, to skyrocketing divorce rates, to wars over territory, to unethical business decisions--all over the world, people are attempting to manage their circumstances in a quest to find a good feeling, always with diminishing returns. I mean, are all rich people happy? Are all poor people miserable? Of course not.

What we need to consider, then, is that chasing external wants requires thought, a lot of thought. And a lot of thought is what causes bad feelings; it detaches us from our own inner wisdom and instincts. On the other hand, grasping the true order of things--how we feel on the inside determines our perception of everything on the outside--is at the heart of our power to create, give back, and consistently achieve.

Here's a final illustration of life's rightly order. I once had a golfer tell me that he "loves the feeling that comes from making birdie putts." So, he became desperate for more of them. I said he had it backwards: "Love comes first; birdies are sure to follow."