STUDY THE training regime of an Olympic athlete and you may discover why you’re not in their league. Sure you don’t have the physique or natural talent, but you know what I mean: you quite possibly don’t have the mental discipline either. Or to be a leader, or a successful entrepreneur: do you have the emotional fortitude to make the difficult choices that people in those positions have to make every day? Or if you were a mega-millionaire, for example, would you have the restraint and wisdom to be able to hold onto that money, let alone make it grow?
There are two levels of working towards and achieving goals. There’s the goal itself – the body mass index, the degree, the sales target – and then there’s you, the participant in the goal. Most people know what they should do, and they don’t do it. They are smart enough to get the degree, and they don’t. They are able to lose the weight, and they don’t. So achieving goals is seldom about knowledge or talent, and much more about an abstract invisible which we will call “being”.
Let’s not get lost in a definition of being. That’s not what this is about. We’re simply saying there is much more to achieving a goal than the goal itself; there’s more than just the knowledge of what to do; and there’s more than just the EQ required to do it. Your being is a whole ecosystem of beliefs, thoughts, reactions, talents, interests and callings, and achieving a major goal may require much more than changing one single mental or emotional habit. If it was that easy, everybody would do it. The fact is, we don’t. Why not? Let’s take a look.
It’s obvious that you wouldn’t set a goal for something if that thing was already in your life. The fact that it’s not in your life means you are not expanded sufficiently as a being to hold whatever it is – just like a lottery winner who is unable to hold onto his winnings, if your most cherished goal arrived today you wouldn’t be able to hold onto it. If you could, you’d have it already!
Now if we slow it down to view the process frame by frame we can see that at the point of setting a goal, or making a resolution, some part of your ecosystem is stronger in that particular area than the part of you that makes the resolution. (If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have to make the resolution, it would just happen!)
It’s clear that the part of you that makes the resolution is the conscious part, right? After all, you think about it and decide. It happens above the surface of awareness, like the first time you drive a car and you have to think about every action. The part of you that repeats the habit that you’d need to break in order to achieve the goal is unconscious. It’s been done so many times, like the actions for driving a car after you’ve been doing it for years – they’re deeply buried and you don’t need to think about them.
A habit can be likened to a living entity that uses you for its own survival – and that fights back whenever it’s challenged.
This is obvious, now let’s go deeper. Any action that is repeated often enough, the subconscious recognises and records as being “necessary for survival”. Actual physical pathways are set up in the brain to accommodate them, and the brainwaves will always aim to travel down those pathways first. So we can say that the part of us that repeats any habit is a highly efficient mechanism that actually seeks its own survival. It can be likened to a living entity that uses you for its own survival – and that fights back whenever it’s challenged. Let’s add one other notion. Analytical psychology is clear that powerful unconscious forces show up as events in our lives. Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity” for this phenomenon, and also pointed out that “whatever is not made conscious manifests as fate”. In other words, events show up in the outer world that reflect what we believe and hold to be true at a subconscious level.
So let’s see what happens. As soon as you set a goal, you’re telling that automatic, subconscious part of your being which holds the existing pattern of beliefs, thoughts and responses which are producing the current unwanted result – you’re telling them that you’re going to make some changes. Naturally, since your subconscious has recognised that pattern as being necessary for survival (for no other reason than that it was repeated so many times), its defence system is activated. It goes into automatic reaction and because it has all the power of the subconscious behind it, it’s got much more power than your flimsy little resolution. It’s the powerful wizard that can conjure up storms and put all kinds of obstacles in your way while your conscious resolution-maker is akin to the student of magic on day one at Hogwarts.
Don’t believe me? Try these examples: you resolve to go to gym and after two successful attempts, suddenly you get a box of chocolates as a gift and start scoffing them like crazy; you resolve to save money, and the very next day you meet the girl of your dreams and simply have to take her to an expensive restaurant. Sure enough, for any resolution you make, your subconscious, in its fight for survival, will throw obstacles and temptations in your path. We’ve looked at small, straightforward examples. Imagine what happens when you set the goal to double your earnings. Your being needs to expand in a dozen different areas: you’ve pressed a dozen different survival buttons in your subconscious and chaos erupts in your life!
This is when we usually withdraw. We look at what happens and think, this means I’m not supposed to do it. Or simply that it’s too difficult. For a straightforward goal like getting fit or saving money we can see quite clearly that we’re breaking our resolution. And even then we have a whole story to justify it. When it’s a more complex goal that involves many more variables and many more components of your being that are challenged, it’s less easy to see events as obstacles or temptations conjured up by your subconscious. How could your own subconscious mind possibly have the power to cause your prospective client’s boss to have some emergency so that they have to cancel their meeting with you – leaving you to think that it’s a sign you should not start the business? In these situations it’s much easier to have all kinds of stories and interpretations about what’s going on, and to start doubting, even changing, the goal.
The challenge right then and there is to stay with the goal, to stay connected to the wisdom in you that made the decision in the first place.
The challenge right then and there is to stay with the goal, to stay connected to the wisdom in you that made the decision in the first place. Of course it’s going to be difficult. Of course there’s going to be inner resistance, and of course your very own subconscious is going to throw up all kinds of challenges in its fight for survival. That’s its job.
Overcoming the obstacles and sidestepping the temptations is not only the path to the goal, it’s life’s intelligence preparing your being to hold the package when it’s finally delivered. Every obstacle and temptation is perfectly measured and designed – it has to be, it’s coming from your own subconscious! – for you. In recognising your response pattern, you get to deal with exactly and precisely what you need to deal with in order to hold the goal when it comes. If you don’t – if the goal comes too easily, for example – then you will not hold it for long when it arrives, and you’ll have to try again.
Let’s look at some examples. If it’s gluttony that prevents you from holding the goal of being fit, then a pattern of gluttony will show up as the obstacle or temptation as soon as you make the commitment to start training. In other words, if you’re a person who when he or she got fit would use it as an excuse to eat more, then as soon as you set yourself the goal of getting fit you’ll start eating more. Opportunities for this will suddenly present themselves.
If it’s childish fantasies that prevent you from holding lots of money, then childish fantasies will show up in your path to a goal of lots of money. In other words, if you’re a person who would throw money after childish whims, then as soon as you set yourself a goal, your throwing money after childish whims will increase. Opportunities for this will suddenly present themselves, more than were present or visible before you set the goal. If you get rich without dealing with the fantasies, you will not hold the goal and will have to start all over again.
So we can say that the creation of a goal is like a magnet that gets placed under a bunch of iron filings, where the iron filings are all your dormant weaknesses. As soon as you set a goal they become active, visible, prominent, and you have to work to overcome them. Or you can shrink back.
This is a different view from a linear cause-and-effect view. The linear view would say that I overcame gluttony and therefore I got fit; I overcame childish fantasies and therefore I got rich. As though the events had nothing to do with me, as though they were caused externally and not by me; I just responded to them, the personal growth happened by chance and the goals were a consequence of that.
The view I am offering is different. It’s called a teleological view of reality and is in alignment with both Jungian psychology and quantum physics. It says that the cause of the personal growth is not a push from the past, but in fact a pull from the future. However there is no future except the thoughts we have about it, so the goal cannot exist in the future, it can only exist in the mind. So the pull in fact comes from the mind itself which wants its goal to be realised once it’s been created by the decision and commitment – once it’s been created in the mind by the word with which it was spoken into being.
So the goal becomes a living reality that draws the maker towards it (if it existed in the future) or more precisely that moulds, or offers to mould, the being into the holder of the goal as long as they take the necessary action in the direction of the goal. At the same time, every move towards the goal creates its own opposition, sprung from the subconscious of the person who created it. (Yes, the goal and the opposition to the goal both exist in the mind; anybody who cares to observe their own mind can see that this is true: the goal exists in your mind as a thought, and the opposition exists in your mind as a thought – and so the fierce debate rages inside your head as the two parts tell stories to each other. Religious instruction has illustrated this as the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.) Back to the point: every step taken to overcome the opposition to the goal prepares the person for the arrival, or unfolding, of the goal in the present. It sounds odd, and it’s perfectly in alignment with what quantum physics tells us about reality: that subjects of experiments are impacted by the expectations (the committed words, which may be silent thoughts) of the experimenter. So our own reality is impacted by our own committed words, the words with which we define and express our goals. Our own reality starts to behave instantly in ways that will support us to hold the goal as soon as we are ready.
So how is this useful, rather than just interesting? Well the question you could ask yourself in difficult times is: What if every obstacle or temptation I face has been perfectly measured and created by my own subconscious to prepare me to hold the goal that I’m after?