After the release of the book / movie, The Secret, many people wondered, “Can I really achieve my dreams simply by changing my thoughts?”
It’s such an alluring concept – the idea that you can have anything you want if you simply focus the right thoughts, energy, and attention.
When I was six years old, I had one – and only one – professional goal for my life. It wasn’t to be a fireman, doctor, or even an engineer. Not a business person, public servant, or scientist.
Nope – none of those held any interest for me.
I wanted to be a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
I would wake up every morning dreaming that I was catching passes from Roger Staubach. I envisioned myself in every game, making important plays for the team. I would go to sleep at night thinking about my upcoming NFL career. I played football often with my friends and, once I was old enough, competed in intramural leagues.
It wasn’t lack of passionate thought, energy, and attention that limited my height to 4’11” through high school and no more than 5’7” by the end of college.
No amount of practice, drive, belief, and willingness was going to lead to a wide receiver career for me. My dreams were dashed.
So The Secret is just a hoax – nothing but a marketing gimmick, right?
If you take its concepts at face value – the idea that we can have anything we think about – then we’ll be sorely disappointed. However, the core truth alluded to is the idea that we do manifest that which we pay attention to.
The key is understanding what it is we’re truly paying attention to.
It may seem like there are so many things we focus our attention on during any given day. Work, family, body, friends, finances, politics, and so on.
But if we’re willing to look beneath the superficial layer, we find that there are only two things we are ever paying attention to:
- Catering to our ego needs (of reducing pain or inducing pleasure)
- Or, serving as a channel for love and selflessly helping others
Consider anything that has been commanding your attention recently. If you look beneath the surface, you’ll see that it’s either something intended to boost you in some way or serve as a channel for love for someone else.
And it’s fairly humbling when we realize how little of our attention is spent on the latter.
So much of our attention is focused on me, me, me. Sometimes even under the guise of serving someone or something else.
If I do this nice thing for the other person, then [I’ll be seen as a better parent / boss / spouse / friend or I’ll feel less guilty about something else]
It doesn’t take much insight to see where the wide receiver attachment falls.
That’s not to say that our ego attachments are bad. But they aren’t good either. They just are. It’s the meaning we give them that either hinders our development or hastens our growth.
When we’re “paying attention to” having our ego needs met, we will continually manifest more of the same – a neverending desire to have our ego needs met.
Conversely, when we are selflessly serving another (including ourselves), there is no sense of giving or lack. In fact, giving and receiving seamlessly merge into the same thing. And when we’re in that state, we manifest more of that joyful giving/receiving unity.
The secret is this: we really do manifest that which we pay attention to … whether we like it or not.
The key to happiness, then, is to be vigilant for where we’re truly focusing our energies.
Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of attention and how we can direct our efforts to achieve greater internal peace. I look forward to seeing you then.