Let me ask you a question? What must happen for you to feel successful? Do you need to be admired by the people that you care most about? Do you need to have financial abundance? And if so how would you know what financial abundance is? 1 million dollars, 2, 100, a billion?
What is success anyway? Think about it for a moment, is success what you really want or is it the emotions the feelings that you connect to being successful? I mean, if you imagine yourself to be a success, how does it feel? Do it, just for a moment, imagine you to be a total success. What do you see, what do you hear and how does it feel.
If you did this little exercise you probably imagined, saw and felt pleasurable things. Did you? I bet you did. Because we wouldn't strive for success if we didn't connect pleasure, massive pleasure, to reaching it. Now, think for a moment that reaching success would not be pleasurable. Would you still try to be successful?
It seems that it is not success we are looking for but the feelings, the emotions, the state we suppose to be in once reached what we consider a success.
In fact, for most people success is nothing more than an emotional state. It is the emotional state where we feel totally awesome, energized, joyous, happy, and alive.
Experience number 1: Success is a means to experience the most pleasurable state we can think of.
Now to the next question, what prevents you from feeling that way? What has to happen before you allow yourself theses emotions? In fact, and I will tell you more about that in another article, we ourselves produce our emotional states. We decide, based on rules, beliefs and values we have, what emotional state we enter at any given time. The trigger might come from the outside but the reaction (that is the state we enter because of that trigger) is totally processed and executed by our brain and body. If this was not the case all humans would react exactly the same way on the same event. But that is obviously not the case. Some watch a comedy and laugh until their stomach hurts, while others switch of the TV set being totally bored. Same external event, different emotional reaction.
The difference is how we process external events. Our brain constantly evaluates the information it gets through our senses. Just to repeat it, we can hear something, view something, feel something, smell or taste something.
In every single moment of our life our brain evaluates this information (and much more) to decide what it means to you. And the decision criteria is always, does that mean pain or pleasure. Every single event is considered by your brain that way.
How do you know not to tap on a hot stove? How does your brain know that this action means pain? Because it happened at some time in your life. We all burned our fingers literally one time. Now that was pain and it was big pain. Big enough to make our brain build a memory for this. Our brain builds a rule that goes like "hot stove equals massive pain!"
Next time our brain encounters a similar situation it doesn't have to test -you do not have to go through that pain again- it simply calls the rule to evaluate the situation instead and therefore prevents us to burn our fingers again. This I like going on auto pilot. You do not evaluate an event anymore you simply apply the rule.
Is this a useful function? You bet it is. Rules help us to focus on things we like to focus on while our auto-pilot (our rules and values) drive us safe through the common roads. Even more rules ensure we avoid what our brain considers painful helping us to stay away from pain.
The issue is that our brain might have memorized rules that are limiting in some way. For example, if you, as a little child, where rejected when you wanted to cuddle with your mom this rejection was not very pleasurable. In fact it was painful. Now if this happened on a consistent basis, your brain might build a rule like "If you get to close to others then they reject you which is painful". Can you see the structure of the rule? It is always the same, if ... then... outcome (pain or pleasure).
Now you have a rule to handle rejection. Dependent how painful that experience was for you your brain might decide to avoid rejection under all circumstances by jut preventing you from starting close relationships with others. After all, if you do not have close relationships, you can't be rejected. Sure you loose a source of tremendous pleasure like feeling loved, accepted and the like but if you connect too much pain to being rejected you will always decide to avoid the pain rather than go for the pleasure. Unless the pleasure is so massive that you are willing to bear the chance of pain.
I try to explain the concept at a basic level but it gets much more complicated than that. As a matter of fact, our brain stacks rules. It does not only evaluate one rule at a time but might stack various rules into a hierarchy of rules to come up with a decision. These hierarchies is what we call belief or values. The difference between a belief and a value is that a belief is a rule that we are pretty sure is right. Though we are open to question it. A value on the other hand is a rule or better a stack of rules we are absolutely certain about. We usually never question a value under normal conditions. Even more we get upset when something or someone questions or act against it. If you want to find out some of your values try the following exercise.
Write down the following sentences:
I am .....
Now fill in the blanks. For example, I am a procrastinator, I am a caring person, I am beautiful etc. You got the point. Now do it with the other sentence. Like, all people are lazy, all people are greedy, all humans have equal right, all people have the right to happiness and so forth.
Now take the last step. Go through the sentences one by one and ask yourself how you would feel if someone or something would violate that point of view. Say you have a value that says you are a caring person. How would you feel if something would tell you are not? Would you get angry? Maybe real angry? If you find a sentence where a violation would make you real angry and upset, you found a value of yours. Many western people share some values; we call it social values, like the idea that every human being is precious. If someone violates this value, we tend to get angry up to a point where a society starts a war.
Ok, now I know about rules, beliefs and values but what has this to do with success.
The answer is, the more rules and beliefs and values you have that limit you gaining pleasure, the harder it usually is for you to see yourself being successful.
Think about it, what has to happen for you to become a success. Some people come up with a laundry list of things that need to be in place to feel successful. "I need to make 2 million dollars a year", "I need to be totally fit", "I need to be totally admired" and so forth.
These people make it really hard for them to ever feel successful. Especially if they have rules that depend on the action of others like being admired.
On the other extreme there are people that feel successful every day, just because they are still alive, just because being alive means opportunities. They have very less rules for allowing them to win the success game and, sure enough win it all the time.
Somewhere in between are you with your rules and values for success.
Find out your personal rules, write them down and evaluate if they are worth being part of your success rules. If not throw them away. How? There are several ways to do this, but this is another topic.
Let's wrap it up. Success is a means to achieve a totally pleasurable state. We do not want success we want the emotions that success will give us.
Success is what we declare it to be. Every on of us has a definition and a set of rules and values to decide if she is successful.
The more complex and longer the list of rules and values is, the harder it is to feel successful.
Reducing the number of rules and finding conflicting rules is a way to ease the road to success tremendously.
Successful people have power because they are in a positive state that helps them focusing their energy on opportunities rather than rules and perceptions.
This article may published freely only in its whole including all appendices.
(c) 2005 by Norbert Haag Online Business Coach