Ok, so you know that I love to call people on their shit. I like to think I do it lovingly and gently and often humorously, and really, I consider it a kind of public service. Making the world better one sarcastic verbal slapping at a time (this may be my site’s new slogan). Well, I was given another such opportunity just recently, while chatting with a friend, when he uttered a sentence that made my face go all scrunchy (some might call this a “constipated” look, but I prefer the term “adorable”). What was the offending, vibrationally unsound phrase? Well, I’ll tell you, but brace yourselves. If you are easily offended, you should look away now. Hide the children, cover the mirrors, crawl under the blankets and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate until the worst is over. Ready? Ok, he said: “It is what it is”. And then he sighed heavily, resigned to the idea that things simply are the way they are (mediocre), and there’s nothing that can be done about it.
It is, most decidedly NOT what it is, godammit. And yes, I’m on my soapbox. I know I usually warn you before I get on up here, but since Bullshit usually arrives unannounced, you sometimes just have to be ready for anything. Like an LOA Ninja.
After I peeled myself off the ceiling and calmed my nerves with a healthy swig of cinnamon tea (straight up, because I’m hardcore like that), I proceeded to explain to my friend why that phrase is just WRONG. And ok, to be fair, I have nothing against the actual words. They can be uttered in a completely different context and leave me entirely untouched. It’s the concept that I have little tolerance for: the idea that we are powerless. And, even worse, the idea that, having achieved mediocrity, it would be pointless to strive for more. After all, given the alternative (suffering, pain, despair), mediocrity really is about the best we can hope for and it would be ludicrous, not to mention greedy, to risk that achievement in order to get “more”, right?
It’s the resignation, the settling, the willingness to give up on one’s own magnificence that I can’t stomach.
What’s the goal?
The reason why this perspective gets my goat is because it creates so much unnecessary pain. The good news is that I’ve been inspired to dissect and dispel this belief about twenty times in the last month, so clearly, my audience is very, VERY ready to drop it, already. Yay!
Ok, so here’s the thing: when most people start studying LOA or any other kind of personal development techniques, they usually do so because there’s something “wrong” in their lives. They’re either missing something they want, or there’s something in their reality that they don’t like and which they can’t seem to get rid of. In other words, they wish to end the pain. And that’s all fine and good, but the problem arises when those same people think that the reduction of pain is the goal, keeping them from looking further.
A pain free life is wonderful and if you are in pain, it’s certainly going to be your top priority for now. But a pain free life is not the goal. It’s not that this is an impossible vision of perfection which is unachievable. It’s not because, as a goal, it’s too big. A pain free life is not the goal because it’s not big enough. In other words, this work isn’t JUST about reducing the pain, even though that’s what most people are focused upon.
Beyond the freedom from pain
What most people don’t realize, but what they are now waking up to, is that getting to a point where there is no pain is not the top of the scale. It’s just the middle. If you think of a spectrum of numbers representing our emotional state, with a 0 in the middle, and a positive progression of numbers shooting off to the right, from +1 to Infinity, and a negative progression of numbers shooting off to the left, from -1 to infinity, then 0, or neutral, would be the place where there is no pain.
Since most people are still living on the negative side of zero, where they are experiencing intense negative emotions, where they are suffering, it seems logical that they would make a pain free state, 0, their goal. And, while that sounds just peachy if you’re currently having a lot of difficulty (“I don’t ask for much, just make the pain go away…), what people don’t realize is that the state of “no pain”, also translates to “mediocrity”. In other words, the absence of suffering is not the same as the presence of joy. We forget about the positive side of the spectrum. We forget that there’s a life beyond zero.
You see, life, at least the way we’re meant to live it, isn’t just about pain minimization. It’s about joy maximization.
Life isn’t about pain minimization. It’s about joy maximization! [Tweet this]
In other words, it’s about getting out of the negative side of the spectrum and into the positive side. We don’t have to stop at zero (unless it’s to take a little breather). Now, this might sound like a no brainer, but the shift in mindset required to start moving from 0 into the positive numbers when all you’ve ever known is the negative side, is profound and often difficult for people to make. When you’re stuck in suffering, you tend to fight. You have a lot of anger, resentment and possibly even rage. And that’s good. That anger will pull you out of powerlessness; it will help you get to zero. When you’re in pain, you tend to reach for relief. As you look at your options, you don’t reach for happiness, you just try to find a choice that doesn’t feel so bad, the lesser of two evils. You’re focused on reducing, minimizing and eliminating the pain.
When you’re on the positive side of the spectrum, however, actual pain isn’t really part of the game anymore. Sure, there’s still negative emotion, but it’s much milder. There’s annoyance and frustration and very short lived, tiny bursts of adorable anger (mini anger). That’s about as bad as it gets. When making decisions, you’re no longer looking for which option is less painful, but rather which choice ignites your passion more. Which option feels more awesome. Which one makes your heart sing more than the others. And just as it sometimes seems like all your options are equally bad on the negative side (“no matter what, we’re screwed”), it can often seem like all your options on the positive side are equally amazing (“I don’t know what to choose! I want to do them all!”). And that’s precisely the concept that most people who are making the shift across the zero threshold have such difficulty with.
Why is it so hard to reach for joy?
When you’re so used to avoiding pain all your life, you tend to look for pain (you know, so you can avoid it…). You’re pain-focused. You’re always looking over your shoulder, expecting things to go wrong, trying to prepare yourself for when they do and waiting for the other shoe to drop. You’re not going to get blindsided, no siree. The problem with being pain-focused is that it actually creates more pain; it literally attracts more painful experiences to you. Even if you’re only focusing on the pain in order to find the least painful choice, you’re still very pain-aware.
Once you cross the zero threshold, being pain-aware or pain-focused is really going to slow you down. You have to be joy-aware and joy-focused. Instead of looking for the option that sucks the least, you have to look for the option that feels the most awesome. And those two perspectives will feel very, very different. It can be easy to fall back on the practice that’s (seemingly) served you for so long – pain-awareness. But, when you consider that AT BEST, this kind of focus will get you to zero, to neutral, to mediocrity, and when you get it through your pretty little head that mediocrity is not a worthy goal for a kick ass creator like you, it may begin to dawn on you that focusing on the awesomeness is going to take you much, much further.
What does this mean in real world terms? It means: stop freaking settling. There’s no such thing as just “good enough”. There’s always a “better”. I don’t mean that you can’t be satisfied with where you are. You should always strive to make peace with the now. But you can love where you are and still be reaching for better.
For example, when you’re at an amusement park, you don’t sit on the rollercoaster lamenting the fact that you’d rather be on another ride. You enjoy the crap out that roller coaster while looking forward to the next ride and the one after that and the one after that. You don’t worry that the next ride might not be as good, or that they’ll run out of cotton candy, all the while ruining the experience you’re currently having. No, you assume that each subsequent activity is going to be awesome, too. You have an expectation of awesomeness.
What most people do, however, is go on a kiddie ride, not really exciting but safe, because even though they’d really rather be on the big, scary roller coaster, they don’t feel that it’s reachable for them somehow. Perhaps there are too many other people, or they don’t have enough tickets, or they’re afraid it might be just a touch too scary. For whatever reason, people talk themselves out of what they really want (or don’t even consider it as a real option in the first place), and settle for something less. They’d rather put up with mediocrity than risk going for something even better, because in their twisted logic, if they do reach for joy, they might end up with even less than what they currently have. It’s a bit like believing that if you’re riding a roller coaster, and you make the decision that you’d like to ride the even bigger roller coaster next, the dude running the machine hears you, feels insulted and proceeds to shut down the ride. That’s what you get for dreaming big, you greedy bastard.
Only, that’s not how amusement park rides work. They don’t discourage you from looking forward to the next experience. In fact, they promote it. “If you liked THAT one, wait till you see THIS one,” they’ll say. And the Universe is the same.
Reaching for a better experience will not cause you to lose out on the experiences you’ve already had. Think about it: if you have a crappy job and you decide you’ve finally had it, and you proceed to allow yourself to define and then visualize your dream career, it won’t cause you to somehow miss out on more crappy opportunities you didn’t want anyway. Sure, your job might go away to make room for a way better one, but how is that such a bad thing? After all, you have to get out of one roller coaster to walk to the next one, don’t you? For those of you who just went off on a tangent and thought “Yeah, but what if I don’t get a better job and all that fantasizing just sets me up for a huge disappointment, go read this blog post. Now. And then apply it.
You are a magnificent creative being, sent here to change the world in your own way. You were never meant to settle for mediocre. Every fiber of your being wants to reach for awesome, and when you don’t, you suffer. Stopping that suffering isn’t the name of the game, it’s just the beginning. Once you move out of pain, once you get to neutral, that’s when the real fun begins. Now you get to play. Now you get to start realizing Who You Really Are. Now you get to finally reach for and achieve all those big, lofty dreams you’ve always been so afraid to admit to.
No, it is decidedly not what it is. The physical reality around you is merely a manifestation of yesterday’s vibration. It reflects the choice you made before now. Just as the roller coaster you’re on is a result of the last choice you made. What is has nothing to do with what is yet to come, the choices that can be made and what can be created. It is not what it is. It is what it was. It is as good as you’ve allowed it to be thus far. Why not allow it to become even better?