By now, it is common knowledge that thought influences both circumstances and actions, and that paying close attention to what one does can greatly increase the chances of success for any undertaken endeavor. However, attention is not always enough, nor is accumulated knowledge. I was reminded of this over the holidays, during a friendly game of Monopoly. I had the privilege of watching whom I observed to be a master player thoroughly outscore the rest of the players in the game. Granted, he had an edge of experience. Although not necessarily a frequent player, he had played more often than the others in the group. Yet, each player was intelligent and capable of comprehending strategy. The youngest players were paired with adults. Experience alone was not what won the lopsided victory.
As I watched, it became clear that the definitive distinction between the master and the amateurs in the group was a mental orientation. The master player was fully engaged both in winning and in the attitudes underpinning the game, winning being one of those attitudes. He identified himself with the game he was playing, for the time in which he was playing. The rest of the players would have liked to win, but did not fully engage in the process of achieving a win. They were playing mostly to be playing. It made a difference. The energy directed the master player to the victory. No one objected, no one felt diminished or regretted the game’s conclusion. It was a friendly game. What I noticed was the attitude that together with intentions, prayers, attention, and desire can achieve a goal.
With the beginning of each new year, resolutions for change proliferate. For the most part, those making the resolutions have a real desire to achieve their goals. They may apply one or more of well-known or lesser-known techniques. They may engage in prayer or recite affirmations. All these things are good. Yet, six months into the new year, the vast majority have abandoned their resolutions, leaving them for another year or letting them go entirely. Why do so many resolutions fail to conclusively manifest? I am guessing that the resolutions, however genuinely made, were created simply to participate in the event of resolution-making. They were good resolutions, ones which were designed to enhance the lives of the makers, and made with a certain desire and hope. But they lacked the mental effort needed to become the resolution.
There is a difference, for example, to imagining, even vividly imagining, oneself as a straight A student, a masterful musician, a graceful dancer, a winning athlete, a successful entrepreneur and actually becoming, mentally, that goal. The first does not require the mental energy of the second. The first, over time, may lead the envisioner to that goal; the second contains the real power to make it happen. The change-maker who desires, for example, to be a straight A student, will discover a love of study growing as he or she becomes; following that love will lead to higher achievement. Study will no longer be a burden, but a joy. Similarly, practice will no longer be onerous for the aspiring musician or the dancer who becomes. Workouts will cease to be an overwhelming effort for the aspiring athlete, and long hours at work will be joy for the aspiring entrepreneur. This is so because in becoming the goal, the metamorphosis incorporates the attitudes and activities consistent with that goal. It incorporates within the dreamer those attitudes and activities without a sense of burden, and often with a sense of joy. The mental work is first. One imagines not only the achieved goal, but also the joy accompanying making the changes needed to achieve the goal. One cannot be a musician without practice. Becoming the goal also means releasing resistance to the practice needed to become a musician.
This is not as easy as it may sound. It is not accomplished by thinking, “This is good for me,” or, “I should do this.” Emotion must be engaged; mental energy needs be spent in engaging that emotion and directing it towards the goal. Mental energy must be spent in holding the vision of the goal, and acknowledging the steps to be taken to arrive there. Mental energy must be spent to awaken a sense of joy in doing those steps. But it is possible. It is possible for each of us who is willing to expend the energy.
For those of us who make resolutions, either now at the arrival of the new year, or at other times, may we be willing to generate the energy to succeed, to become our goals. Happy 2018!