What keeps us from following good advice? Even inspiring advice often fails. Why? It turns out there are two kinds of inspiration, not just one. More over, there is something which actually prevents us from experiencing the second kind.
Exploring these and other ideas as to why inspiration fades is the point of this article. Before you begin though, please allow me to apologize for the length of this article. It is, in fact, the longest single article on the site. Know however that I have no wish to discourage you. I simply want to say that like all good ideas, these ideas may take some time to present.
My hope is that by the end of this article, that you will understand a side of yourself rarely understood by anyone, even by the most amazing of people. I also hope to have inspired you to seek the second kind of inspiration for yourself.
What Makes Inspiration Fade?
Recently, I bought Stephen Covey's new book, the 8th Habit. I bought it after reading his suggestion, we "focus our lives on finding our voice and helping others find theirs."
Now admittedly, I have a book buying habit that borders on an addiction. Even so, I rarely buy motivational books, especially business related motivational books. So what made me buy Mr. Covey's book?
In a word, "inspiration." I felt inspired by his good advice. I also felt a deep connection to Mr. Covey, even though we've never met. Why? Because he so put into words how I already live my life.
Not a week later, a Canadian man wrote me to point out some typos on my site, not in a "correcting" spirit, but in a "connecting" spirit. My response? After thanking him for writing, I confessed how often I wished I had someone who could help me with my typos. And when I asked him what had prompted him to write, he confessed he had written after being inspired by Mr. Covey's new book.
Weeks later, I find myself unable to stop thinking about Mr. Covey's book. And about how reading it had motivated this man to write to me. I also keep thinking about how inspired this man was. And whether he will remain this way. So often, we can't.
So what is it about good advice which makes it so capture our attention? More important, what makes most good advice, even from inspiring people, fade so quickly?
These are the topics I will explore in this article, starting with the question, "What makes inspiration fade?"
So is it the Messages Which Are Flawed?
My first thoughts went to Mr. Covey's advice and to the question, is it his message which is the problem?
My immediate answer? Absolutely not. In fact, I see inspiring messages like his as being some of the best stuff we get in life.
For instance, take President Theodore Roosevelt. In my boyhood, and even from just reading about him, President Roosevelt was one of my heroes. I, in fact, felt so inspired by his courage and by his life that when I was confirmed, I choose "Theodore" as my middle name.
Years later, I remember seeing a plaque dedicated to him in the entrance to New York's Museum of Natural History. On it, I read how he had been instrumental in getting the public to begin conserving public lands.
An inspiring message? To me? Yes. Very. So much so, in fact, that even now I can vividly picture that old brass colored plaque. More over, I still feel inspired by what I read there. And proud that one of our presidents did such a good thing.
So how often have I done anything to help conserve public lands?
With some shame, I admit, never. Not once. This despite the fact that his good advice still rings in my ears each time I climb the little mountain near my home, a mountain which exists on conserved lands.
So was Theodore Roosevelt's advice flawed? Obviously not.
Then was the problem that he, as the messenger, or I, as the listener, are like all human beings, flawed in the way we speak and hear each other? Is it this, our imperfect ability to communicate with each other that made me unable to follow his good advice?
Honestly, I doubt it. In fact, I've often been affected by foreign movies wherein I barely grasp the actual dialogue. More over, what happened to me is so common and so normal that I doubt there's anyone who hasn't experienced it at times.
So what does keep us from following this kind of wonderful advice? I believe the answer lies in exploring the very nature of inspiration. What makes something inspire us?
What Makes Something Inspire Us?
Last night, I met with a family for the first time. Clearly they were struggling. Thus even as they walked in I could see how alone they all were, and how tired they all looked, and how much anger they were holding in.
At first, they were reluctant to speak. It seems they had that family rule which says that no one outside their family should know their business. Eventually though, when they began, they said, "It's our teenaged daughter. She is defiant and disrespectful. And she is destroying our family."
Of course, while they were telling me, the poor girl was vainly trying to sink through the floor. Even so, as we continued, I heard more and more about what had been happening and how they had all been struggling.
Can you imagine how bad this poor girl must have felt, her whole family focused on her? Even so, in the midst of this session, she so inspired me. How? Well after a very heated and stressful thirty five minutes, the father looked over at me. Then he told me point blank that the therapy had gone way past where he was willing to go. At which point, his defiant, disrespectful teenaged daughter respectfully told him point blank, "Dad, this is what happens in therapy."
To say she inspired me is putting it mildly. She floored me with her courage. And with her willingness to speak up. In fact, this moment is probably one of the best moments I've ever had as a therapist. More over, I doubt I will ever forget her determined, brave face.
So will this moment continue to inspire me? Time will tell. Unlike my Theodore Roosevelt event though, this time, I am acting on it. How? By writing this article.
What about writing this article is at all like what that brave young girl did last night?
To be honest, I feel a bit nervous about writing this article. Why? Because I'm about to question the methods of some very inspiring people. And posit a flaw in the way they deliver their messages, something I see missing in the way they offer their good advice.
What do I see missing? Before I tell you, let me first talk a bit about something I often see present when peoples' inspiration fades. I call this something, "spiritual pessimism."
Spiritual Pessimism. Is This What Makes Inspiration Fade?
Years ago, I was inspired while working with another teenager. In this case, it was a boy who needed help with a pot addiction. As I recall, I had grown quite fond of this boy and so, a year or so later, when he left for college, I felt sad to see him go.
The following summer, he surprised me and called for an appointment. Thinking he had slipped, I asked if it was pot.
Right away he said, no. Not pot. Something else. Then after a long pause, he said, "I was in a very bad car accident. An accident in which someone was killed."
Even before he finished his words, I remember feeling stunned. Then as I fought back tears, I asked him to tell me what happened.
He told me he and a friend had decided to drive cross country, on what was to have been a month long, summer adventure. He told me they had been excited that morning. After all, they were free and out on their own for the first time in their lives. And they had been so looking forward to this trip.
He said it had been his turn to drive, and that it was a bright, clear, Sunday morning. He also told me that it had been warm that day and so, the car windows were down. And that's how it happened.
With no warning, in through his window, a bug flew into his face.
He, of course, immediately struggled to get the bug out of his face. As he did, he swerved into the oncoming lane.
"Did it happen then," I asked? "No," he said. So while he did see the other car coming in the distance, he told me he wasn't worried as the car was still far away.
Unfortunately, the other driver panicked. Then he made a fateful decision. He crossed lanes too.
Moments later, the boy who had been seeing me managed to get his car back into his own lane. But it was too late. An instant later, the two cars hit head on, killing a boy in the other car.
After I hung up, I remember staring at the wall for a while, and as I drove home that night, I remember feeling very lost.
Days later, the boy and I met. As soon as I saw him, I knew, whatever gains he had made in therapy had all but vanished in that terrible instant. Then as we spoke, he surprised me again by telling me that the dead boy's grandmother had already written a letter to him.
"What had she said?," I asked. That she was a good Christian. And that her grandson's death was not his fault. And that he should forgive himself for what happened.
And my reaction?
I'm ashamed to tell you. You see, it didn't seem possible that a person could feel this way. So silently, internally, I dismissed her. And her letter. And although I kept these judgments to myself, I am sure they affected the boy.
Was I right about this woman? Not a word. Worse yet, I had judged her and had never even seen her letter. Sadly, it wasn't until the next summer that I realized how wrong I had been.
Another year passed. During this year, the boy hung on as best he could, trying desperately to manage college. And failing. This time then, when he called me, he sounded even more lost than ever. And this time, as I hung up, I vowed to try harder to help him.
When I then considered what I might do differently, I remembered the letter. So when he came in, I asked if he still had it. He did. Eventually then, when he brought it in, I asked him to read it out loud.
So what happened? To my absolute surprise, and to his as well, as he read it, we both cried. Very deeply. Why? Because as we heard this woman's words, it dawned on us, she had been sincere. More over, in that instant, we both realized it actually was possible for a person to be this forgiving.
Years have passed. So has this inspiring moment faded? Absolutely not. In fact, in the years which have followed, I have come to regard this moment as one of the more genuinely inspiring moments of my life.
I also find it amazing still that human beings can sometimes be so genuinely loving. And that loving beings can sometimes be as I was then, so blocked by spiritual pessimism.
So has this event affected my life? Very much so. In fact, that woman's letter so inspired me, it changed the whole course of my life. How? Her blamelessness became the focus of my entire life's work. I, in fact, aspire to it every day. More over, I now see blamelessness as the heart and soul of all true therapies, whether these be talk therapies, physical therapies, spiritual therapies, or medical therapies.
All this change from one inspiring moment. Can you imagine?
What Made These 3 Moments Affect Me So Differently?
Three inspiring events. One from forty years ago, one from eleven years ago, and one from last night. Even now I feel inspired by all three events. More over, I can still vividly picture all three events as clearly as the day they happened.
So what keeps these moments so alive in me? And what has kept me from acting on the first one?
To understand this, let's compare these three events, beginning with what they have in common. We'll begin with their most obvious commonality; their visual permanence.
What makes the quality of visual permanence so important? Visual permanence means a person's very nature has changed. And when we can permanently and vividly recall an inspiring event, it means we have had a personal realization; an "aha," or an epiphany. Or in my words, an "emergence."
What makes the visual permanence of an inspiring event so important? The visual permanence of an inspiring event means we've actually changed, inside and out. This means when we behave differently, we do it not because we will it but because we, ourselves, have changed.
So am I saying there is something wrong with will powered changes?
Not in the short run. In fact, we all have times wherein we need to use our will power in order to override our shortcomings. Unfortunately, because no one has unlimited will power, no one can maintain these changes for anything more than for brief periods. In the end then, they always fade.
In a sense, what I'm saying is, when we experience an inspiring moment which is visually permanent, afterwards, we make better choices by nature, not by will. More over, we can make these choices permanently. Why? Because the inspiration which fuels these changes lasts for the rest of our lives.
Here then is the first thing which makes inspiration fade; inspiring moments which are visually impermanent. In other words, whenever someone or something inspires us, if we can vividly recall this inspiring event, we have been permanently changed. And if we can not, we have simply been temporarily uplifted.
If we have been permanently changed, then we will be able to act on these changes for the rest of our lives. And if we haven't, it means we can not, and will not, continue to follow the good advice no matter how inspiring the messenger and no matter how good the advice may be.
And the proof we have been permanently changed?
The fact that we can vividly picture the inspiring event even years later. This visual permanence is the proof our very nature has changed.
So what about the times wherein we believe we have changed but can not vividly picture the event afterwards? These changes will require ongoing effort and will power to maintain. And while these changes do have their value, they also have their downside. The downside? They exhaust us. And when we fail to continue to make them, we feel guilt and shame. And low self worth. And critical self judgments.
To some degree then, what I'm saying is, "being inspired to think and feel differently" and "being inspired to be a different person" are two entirely different things. More over, whenever we need will and mind and heart to behave differently, in truth, we behave differently because someone has temporarily inspired us to this better behavior. In truth, we haven't really changed much at all.
This means that the changes we make will require ongoing effort and reinforcement, in order to keep the inspiration fresh in our minds. And when it fades, so do our changes. And yes, these temporary changes do have value. However, they are still pale imitations of genuine change. Why? Because with real changes, we ourselves have changed. This means the changes we make require little to no ongoing effort.
The Two Kinds of Inspiring Events - Visually Impermanent / Visually Permanent
Over the years, I have realized people make two different kinds of changes.
With the first kind of changes, people hear about better ways to live. And feel inspired. Then they use their wills and minds to force their unchanged natures to imitate these better behaviors.
In the second kind of changes, people feel so inspired by what they see or hear that afterwards, they live differently because they are different, inside and out. Thus, when they make changes, they make them not by will or mind alone but rather because these better behaviors have now become natural to them. In effect, they have become permanently inspired by what they experienced.
As for how I refer to these two different kinds of changes, with the first kind of changes, I say people are "doing damage control," while with the second, I say people have had "an emergence."
So do I mean when I say a person has had an "emergence?" Is this simply my made-up word for the events in which our very natures change?
Actually no it's not. In fact, scientists have been using this word for decades now to refer to the unpredictable and spontaneous ways things like weather and numbers and turbulence can change from visually random to visually organized; from visually chaotic to a visually recognizable pattern.
I, of course, have been using this word in the more humanistic sense to refer to how unpredictably and spontaneously peoples' personalities can, at times, change, from visually chaotic to visually organized as well.
What's the big deal though? Aren't emergences simply events in which we suddenly become more aware of something?
Yes and no. You see, while gaining new awareness is part of what does happen to us, experiencing an emergence means we change so much, we actually feel like we have become a different person. Literally. Thus, when we later make better choices, we make them not just because we are more aware but because it has become natural for us to make these better choices.
Let me repeat this. Because an emergence changes your very nature, you live differently afterwards because you are different. It's as if in some way, you have changed right down to your molecules. And in some sense, you actually have. At least in the situations in which the emergence occurred.
As for behaving differently, afterwards, when you behave differently, you do it not because you will it but because it is now who you are. Which now brings me to the main difference between my three inspiring moments; the quality of effortlessness. What do I mean?
The Effortless Quality of Inspiring Moments
Because emergences literally change our personalities, we make better choices afterwards almost effortlessly. Why? Because we no longer need to straight jacket an unchanged nature with will power and someone else's faith in order to behave like the inspiring person. We literally become like them.
This, then, is what kept me from acting on the Theodore Roosevelt event. I, myself, internalized nothing except his inspiration. In the second and third inspiring events, however, my personality literally changed. Thus, the changes I made as a result of those two events were more be due to the fact that I became a different man.
Don't get me wrong. Will power and faith are wonderful tools, even when it is simply that we witness someone else's will and faith. Even so, no one continues to make better choices in life simply based on someone else's faith. Why? Because in reality, we are simply imitating that other person. Because we are, sooner or later, we run out of gas, and behave the same way we always did.
Don't believe me? Consider for a moment where peoples' faith comes from. It comes from the fact that people experience life changing events, inspiring moments which change their very nature. It follows then that in order for us to be like them, we too need have this same kind of an experience, an inspiring moment which changes our nature.
I call these inspiring moments of change, emergences, and they are the only way we become permanently able to make better choices. More over, because we literally become different inside, afterwards, we make better choices effortlessly. Why? Because these better choices have simply become who we are. Which brings me, finally, to the idea that there are two kinds of inspiration. What are they?
Well, with the first kind, we get inspired by someone else's inspiring moment. And with the second kind, we experience our inspiring moment. How are they different?
With the first kind of inspiration, we become permanently able to visually experience the beauty in this other person's advice. In effect, we become permanently inspired by this person's inspiration for the rest of our lives, what happened to me in my Theodore Roosevelt experience.
Does this mean we can act on the other person's wisdom though?
No, it does not. And this is where Stephen Covey and I differ. You see, he tells us that with encouragement, help, and guidance, that we can choose to make these better choices. And he is partially right. We can. But only temporarily, in the moments wherein we step into the afterglow of that other person's inspiring moment.
In essence, what he's saying is that we can be inspired by other peoples' lives, and that this can make us change. Here again, I agree. However, we also need have our own visually permanent, inspiring moment. Why? So we can permanently access the better choices these moments inspire in us.
Let me say this again. What I'm saying is, there are two kinds of inspiring moments. In the first kind, we become permanently inspired by some other person's inspiring moment. In the second kind, we experience our own permanently inspiring moment.
I am also saying that in order for us to become permanently able to make better choices, we need to have had both kinds of inspiring moments. In lieu of this, we can, for the rest of our lives, feel permanently inspired by another person's wonderful advice and yet be unable to follow this wonderful advice for anything more than for a few, brief, will-powered moments.
How can you tell whether you've had both kinds of inspiration, both the other person's inspiration and your own inspiration?
Simple. When you've experienced both kinds of inspiration, you can then look back on the poor choices you used to make and blame no one. In addition, you can also look at people who still can not make these better choices and not blame them either.
These two abilities then are the way you can tell if you, yourself, have genuinely changed. One, you become able to not blame yourself or others for making poor life choices, and two, you become able to effortlessly make better choices. Not through will or logic alone but because it has become natural for you to make these better choices.
I see these two things as being the essence of what Stephen Covey is urging us to do. I also see them as the essence of all truly inspiring peoples' advice. More over, I see these two qualities as what we need in order to be able to live the lives we'd like to live. And make the choices we'd like to make.
The Two Qualities of Genuine Choice.
Visual permanence and blamelessness. We Emergence Practitioners see these two qualities as the evidence people have experienced a genuine, life changing event.
With the first quality, the event permanently alters peoples' ability to picture choices on the screen of their mind. We call this quality, visual permanence. With the second quality, the event alters people in such a way as to render them permanently able to describe a previously difficult life situation without once needing to describe the "cause" of the difficulty. We call this second quality, blamelessness.
So how does blamelessness affect our choices? What, in fact, qualifies a choice as a blameless choice? Essentially, it is that we become naturally able to make better choices without once feeling the need to describe or explain our previous inability to make these choices. Please know that keeping explanations to yourself does not qualifies a choice as being blameless. Thus, if you even consider "cause" while making your choice, then you are blaming.
For instance, consider what I did in the case where I judged the grandmother's letter. Certainly, I kept my thoughts to myself as to what I thought had made the woman write her letter. Even so, in my heart, I focused almost entirely on what I thought caused her to write her letter; that she was faking it. In doing so, I completely missed the real meaning of what she wrote.
What made me assume she was faking it? The fact that I had yet to visually witness this kind of such inspiring advice. In lieu of it, I simply used my mind to pretend I was the man I aspired to be.
I aspired to be non judgmental. Therefore, I faked non judgment, by keeping my true feelings to myself.
Let me say this once more. What made me blame her? I blamed her because, at the time I read her letter, I had never visually experienced an event like this before, at least not consciously. Because I hadn't, her behavior seem too good to be true. It literally seemed unreal to me and impossible that a person could be like this.
Had I in fact ever been around a person who had been this forgiving? To be honest, I am sure I must have been. However, because I had a blocked ability to experience such an event, if I ever did see someone who looked like this, I would have simply assumed they were faking it. The same way I was faking it.
As for what made me even want to hide my blame, I must have been previously inspired by stories about blamelessness. Perhaps about someone like Jesus for instance. Or Gandhi. So while I had yet to meet anyone whom I thought could actually feel this way, I had in fact come to believe it was possible. But only for the most inspired of people and not for us normal folk.
Can we normal folk be this blameless? Yes, we can. But only after learning to see the first kind of choices, the will-powered cover-ups, as "synthetic." And after we ourselves have had this "natural' ability emerge in us.
You know what I find especially sad. That the way I first acted, the way I hid my judgments, is the very thing most people mistake for "blamelessness." This, of course, is not blamelessness. We are simply are faking what genuine blamelessness looks like. More so, even if I have been successful in getting you to see the good in what I've been saying, this awareness still will not make you able to feel blamelessness. You will feel it only after having had your own inspiring moment of blamelessness, a moment in which you see for yourself what you have previously thought not possible.
Want an easy test for whether or not you can feel blamelessness? Simply watch the way you speak and notice if there are times wherein you preface something with words like, "I'm not blaming you, but ...," and then follow this with a description of what you believe caused the situation. These words aspire to blamelessness. But they are not blamelessness.
In truth then, we make blameless choices only after having had these blameless choices emerge in us. And we can know whether or not these blameless choices have emerged in us by whether or not we feel the need to explain our choices.
So am I saying we need feel NO urge to explain our choices?
No. Actually, I'm not. I am, however, saying that if you feel anything beyond the briefest of urges to explain your choices, then you have more blame to heal, at least, in that particular life situation.
Can you now see how learning to discern this difference between "synthetic choices" and "natural choices" can guide us toward the very places we need to heal the most? And how when we get inspired by someone else's inspiring moment, while we do not get to be able to make these choices effortlessly, we do get to learn that these kinds of blameless choices exist?
In a way then, it is the first kind of inspiration, other peoples' inspiration, that gets us to aspire to the second kind, to our own inspiration. But only after we experience the second kind of inspiration can we, by nature, make blameless choices.
So how do you learn to make these blameless choices? Unfortunately, teaching people how is far beyond the scope of the present article. However, should I at all have sparked your interest, you can find numerous articles as to how to use inspiring experiences to heal through this site. Remember, I call them, emergences.
Know also that if you are capable of reading this article, then you are capable of learning how to use these moments. Given you allow for the possibility that blamelessness can exist.
As for our present topic, I have a feeling some of you may be troubled by something I've been saying to you. To what am I referring? To the idea that I have repeatedly said the second kind of inspiration allows us to make choices without mentioning "cause." At the same time though, in what I've written so far, I have repeatedly inferred a "cause"; the "cause" of why inspiration fades.
So have I been blaming? Actually not. And at the risk of sounding like I'm being a weasel right now, please know the kind of "cause" I've been telling you about; why inspiration fades; is very different from the kind of "cause" people say keeps them from changing the way they behave. What's the difference?
Before telling you, let me preface what I'm about to say with that describing this difference, the difference between these two kinds of "causes," can be a bit difficult, even for me. This means I'm going to need to go slow on purpose. Please bear with me then if it sounds like I'm being patronizing.
the Difference Between "Natural Cause" and "Synthetic Cause"
Where do we start? Let's start with what I've just inferred, that there are two, very different kinds of "cause" which effect peoples' choices. The first kind I call the "natural cause" of their choice. The second, I call the "synthetic cause" of their choice. What's the difference?
"Natural cause" involves being able to consciously access choices. "Synthetic cause" involves imitating what it would be like to be able to consciously access choices. Now in an effort to make this difference clear, I need to tell you yet another story, one in which I hope to be able to get across this difference.
Let's start with a restaurant scene. Even go out to dinner in a fancy restaurant? Or even to a moderately fancy restaurant? If you have, then did they ask you, after the meal, if you wanted dessert? If so, did they then roll out one of those big silver dessert wagons?
If they did, then there is a good possibility I'll be able to get across to you the difference between "naturally caused choices " and "synthetically caused choices." How? By having you imagine you are now looking over at one of those dessert wagons.
Can you imagine doing this? What does it feel like?
If you're like most people, what you're feeling is what most of us call, "mixed feelings." Why? Because half of you is probably thinking that you should pass. The other half is saying, what the heck. Why not.
Which kind of "cause" is provoking this ambivalence?
Because in all likelihood, you are relying on someone else's inspiration to make your decision. That and your will power, which you'll use to imitate how that other person would act.
OK. Now let's make it a little more interesting. Let's say I'm going to give you choices you can make naturally. For one thing, say you really feel it's OK for you to have a dessert. OK. So what would you do next?
Well if you are like most people, you'd look to see what they actually had on that dessert wagon.
OK. So let's say you look over. What do you see?
Before answering, please allow me to allow me to direct your choices a bit. How? By asking you to imagine that you as you look over, you see three very tempting choices; an apple crumb pie, a blueberry pie, and a pecan pie. More important, if you actually dislike any of these three choices, please substitute a choice you do like.
Now write these three choices down.
Now picture these three choices and how you'd feel faced with this choice. If you're like me, for a moment, you might feel an urge to order all three. But then, you'd probably laugh at yourself and know you'd never actually order all three. Why? Because if you've like me, you've made a commitment to lose ten pounds by spring. To your doctor. And to your friends. Both of whom have been trying to inspire you into losing this weight.
So, OK. You won't order all three. But you genuinely feel that having just one wouldn't be so bad. Just this once, anyway. So now, you have a decision to make. Which dessert will it be?
Now let me ask you, which kind of "cause" would be sparking these feelings in you at this point, "natural cause," or "synthetic cause?"
The answer. Both, actually. You see, the part of you which wants to will yourself to comply with your promise to diet is coming from "synthetic cause." And the part of you which is deciding which pie you will get is coming from "natural cause." What's the difference?
With the first decision; the choice as to whether to get a dessert or not; you are making it mostly with your mind and will power. In other words, this choice requires effort. With the second decision however; the choice as to which dessert you will get; because you like all three choices, this choice will require little to no effort. Why? Because you like all three pies. Thus, you will simply be picking the one you like more.
In essence then, decisions which require effort and will are "synthetically caused." And decisions we make effortlessly are "naturally caused."
More over, the effort in "synthetically choices" comes from the fact that we see some or all of the possibilities as being less than good for us. And the effortless quality we feel during "naturally choices" comes from our ease in seeing the good in all of the possibilities. We simply pick which our current favorite.
Still unclear as to what I've been saying? Let me try adding something to the story which may help.
Remember I asked you to imagine three good choices, three desserts you do like. Now let's say that you also notice a dessert you don't like, say a lemon tart, for instance. Let's also say you see a rich fudge brownie which if you ate it, would end your diet. Why? Because eating chocolate is close to an addiction for you. And once you start, you can't stop.
How will these additional "choices" affect your decision? Simple. Choices which you can access with little to no negative feelings nor mental gymnastics are your "natural choices." You make these choices between people, places and things which you see as being all possible good choices. More over, you see this good effortlessly and with no rationalizations. In other words, your choice not whether to make a choice, but rather which choice.
And the "choices" you make which require effort and will power?
These choices are your "synthetic choices." They do not come naturally to us. This means that in order for us to make these choices, we will need logic and will power. More over, although it is natural for people to use logic and will in situations wherein they can't behave naturally, the natural part is not the choice itself. What is natural is the urge to act on impulse.
This impulse then is all that comes naturally.
So what is my point in telling you all this.
My point is, most of us believe we have actually make choices in these difficult events. So have we?
In reality, we have not. Why? Because we make real choices effortlessly. And because there is a big difference between these real choices and the synthetic choices we make using our minds and will to override our internal life scripts.
Consider now the word I used to finish this sentence with, the word, "scripts." Can you see how we fail to see a difference between the already scripted "decisions" we make and the genuine choices we actually make?
Here, then, are the two kinds of choices people make. In the first kind, we make choices based on a having genuine access to the good in all the choices. And in the second, we make synthetic choices based on some combination of our internal life scripts and our wills.
So where do these internal life scripts come from? In all honesty, I doubt there's an simple way to answer this question. Even telling you the little I know could easily take me a very long time and then some. What I can tell you though is that one of the biggest life scripts we act on is what I've been focusing on during this whole article. What is it? It's other peoples' inspiration. Whatever the case though, whether we will ourselves to imitate others, or whether we will ourselves use logic to come up with a good choice, these kinds of choices take a lot of effort to make. Why? Because they are not our natural responses to life. They are artificial choices based on will and logic.
These artificial choices then are what I call, "synthetic choices." We make them synthetically, as they do not come to us naturally. Further, the energy for these synthetic choices comes from two places. One, it comes from our having been personally injured, which leaves us with internal life scripts, or two, it comes from our having been personally inspired by some other person's life.
So what exactly makes us mistake synthetic choices for real choices? Just one thing. The fact that synthetic choices exist on paper. And the fact that we all have, built into us, a natural blindness to the difference between the choices we can genuinely access and those we can only access on paper.
What is this blindness? Logic. We have logical minds. And because we humans so love this logic, we sometimes forget we are also spiritual beings.
Real choices honor both parts of us, both the logical part of us and the spiritual part of us. In effect then, when we make "synthetic choices," we honor only the logical side of us, by saying that if a choice exists on paper, then we should be able to make it.
When we make "natural choices," though, we honor both the logical and spiritual sides of us. Why? Because these choices exist for us as real, genuine, accessible possibilities. They exist not only as logical possibilities but also as effortless possibilities, choices we can act on with little to no effort.
And my point for telling you all this?
My point has been, making better life choices requires we have both kinds of inspiration; both other people's inspiration and our own inspiration. And the proof that we have had had both?
 The inspiration we feel exists as a permanent, living visual memory, and
, this permanent, living visual memory contains natural choices, choices which are accessible to us with little to no effort.
Stephen Covey's Emergence: Was This Event the Source of His Inspiration?
So now, can I offer you an example of this kind of an event, a time wherein both kinds of inspiration have emerged in me?
One event which easily meets these two criteria is Stephen Covey's story about the library book. Now for those unfamiliar with this story, in it, Mr. Covey, on sabbatical in Hawaii, finds himself in a library. Here, he tells us, he pulls down a book and randomly opens it to a page.
On this page, he read:
Between stimulus and response there is a space.
Now as you can see, I've drawn a little diagram which represents what he says inspired him. This drawing, in fact, is very similar to the one he included on that very page in his new book.
He then goes on to identify this moment as one of the most profound and truly life-changing experiences of his life. He also tells us that this event has been conceptually fundamental to his work ever since.
More significant still is how he goes on to describe how this event affected him personally. He says ...
Of course, anyone even vaguely familiar with emergence will see his words, "hit me like a ton of bricks," as just another way to say he had an epiphany, an "aha," a life changing realization. In other words, regardless of what we actually call this event, clearly, Mr. Covey's very nature changed in that moment. In fact, if I were to have the privilege of personally asking him, I am sure he would tell me as much.
We Emergence Practitioners call what happened to him, having an emergence. More over, he clearly felt the two qualities which we know to look for to see if someone has had both types of inspiration. Can I be certain he had both inspirations? He as much as tells us this when he says, "It has been permanent and is now my natural cause for all my work." He then adds that he, after so many years, still sees this moment as fundamental to his life's work.
Does any of this sound at all similar to the emergence I had about the grandmother's letter? In both our cases, a single moment changed us permanently and for the better. More over, in both cases, a single moment has become fundamental to our lives' work.
Now the hard part. And I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit nervous right now. Why? Because I am not too sure how you'll react to what I'm going to say next. Please know, then, that in a very real sense, I'm having to rely on the inspiration I received from that disrespectful teenager last night. How? I'm picturing the courageous way she so naturally said what she truly believed.
So what do I truly believe?
I believe that what emerged in Stephen Covey that day changed him, permanently, and with great love. But I also believe that he has yet to understand that people need to have these moments themselves in order to be like him. How can be saying this? Because of what he writes in the lines immediately following those I've already quoted. He writes ...
So what is my objection to what Mr. Covey wrote? Simple. It blames. With kindness? Yes. Even so, by pointing the finger at what he believes causes us to be unable to make better choices, he blames. He also then believes what he blames is what we have to change.
To me, these ideas do not qualify as "truth." Why? Because these ideas are not blameless. They blame our inability to make better choices on our genetic or biological inheritance and our upbringing and present circumstances.
Isn't this true though? Aren't these things what cause our inability to access healthier choices?
To some degree, yes, these things do influence our choices. However, the real "cause" here is the way human nature makes us believe we can make better choices when in truth, these choices exist only on paper. In other words, we can't really make them without faking it.
In effect, what we have in those times wherein we make these choices is we have a knowledge of someone else's good choices. Because we do, we wrongly see ourselves as being able to actually make these choices.
More over, because this belief is largely based on the fact that someone else can make these choices, most people can not keep on making these choices even when they clearly see then as better choices. For instance, in Stephen Covey's case, I wonder how many people will remain permanently inspired by his wonderful choices but remain unable to keep making these choices for themselves for any significant amount of time?
Can you now begin to see why I spent so much time talking about the difference between the two kinds of "choices," between "natural choices" and "synthetic choices?" And can you also see how both synthetic choices and natural choices are present even in what Stephen Covey writes? How so?
The first part of what he writes involves "natural choice." This is the part he can still access with little to no effort even years later; the "what happened to him" part. The second part of what he writes then clearly involves "synthetic choices." Why? Because in this second part, he tells us "why" the first part happened to him. And why it doesn't happen to others."
In this second part then, Stephen Covey points the finger of blame.
Admittedly, he points his finger in the most gentle and loving of ways. Sadly though, most of us have never learned to see this difference. And in Stephen Covey's case, this is so sad it hurts my heart because he truly is one of the most loving men I have ever read.
Even more sad is the fact that this second part, the "synthetic choice" part, is what occupies pretty much the whole rest of his book. By this, I mean, after telling us how this event happened to him, and why he thinks it occurred, he then spends almost the whole rest of his book telling us how he thinks we can get this to happen to us.
What does he say? That we should live as if we too have had this wonderful realization. And lest you think I am missing the good in what he suggests, let me tell you straight out, I am not missing the good. In fact, I began this article by telling you that what Mr. Covey suggests is literally how I live my life.
More over, I believe many of those who read his book will, in fact, have the first kind of inspiration emerge in them just from reading his book. Even so, how many people will read his book and be able to access AND act on this wisdom years from now?
In truth, most will not. More important, wouldn't it be wonderful if something could be added to to what he says which could make this happen? The one ingredient which does have the power to turn his inspiring messages into personally life changing messages for the rest of us?
I believe we can add this ingredient and in doing so, all benefit from his wonderful advice. This includes even the most skeptical among us, such as a man like me.
So how can we access his good advice? By adding to his good advice that it must be experienced in the same manner as Stephen Covey experienced it; in a flash of insight; as an emergence.
Tony Robbins' Emergence: Was This Event the Source of His Inspiration?
Now I have to admit, with some degree of shame again, that for most of my life, people like Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins set off alarms in me. Clearly though, it wasn't them. Nor their good advice.
Nor was it solely my spiritual pessimism, although I'm sure, my pessimism was a part of it. So what was it?
Mostly the fact that their advice sounded too good to be true, this despite my having heard advice like theirs from many sources over the years. In other words, whenever I heard this kind of good advice, I blew it off, and the people who spoke it. Why? Because what these people said felt so unreal for me. And them so phony for saying it.
For instance, take the grandmother's letter. Like most people, I could intellectually hear the truth in her advice, that my client should forgive himself. But I couldn't actually imagine that anyone could really feel this way. Because I couldn't then, I mistook her words to be just some well-meant but disingenuous advice.
Is this then what I was referring to a moment ago when I said that for most of my life, people like Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins set off alarms in me? Absolutely. And in order to make what I'm saying here clear, I'd like to now take another look at how Stephen Covey described his life changing event.
Intellectually, he had learned from many sources. But had he been living it, authentically, before his amazing moment of transformation? Of course not. More over, he as much says this when he tells us he had intellectually known for years prior what he discovered in that moment, but had not truly felt it.
So can people simply "find their voice and help others to find theirs?" Yes. But only after they experience a transformational moment similar to the one Stephen Covey tells us he had, a moment which changed his very nature. In other words, yes, his wonderful advice; to "find our voice and help other find theirs"; is wonderful. But living it requires we become like him, not just by desire or will, but by our very nature.
OK. So Stephen Covey had a life transforming moment, what I refer to as an "emergence." But does this have to happen in order to learn to access choice?
When I ask myself this question, the first person I'd want to ask is Tony Robbins. So did Tony Robbins change only after having this kind of experience?
As a matter of fact, yes, he did. And to see this, you have but to read the opening pages of his inspiring book, "Awaken the Giant Within." What does he say? He tells us how he was lost in life, a janitor living in a 400 square foot flat. He then goes on to say that he remembers listening to a Neil Diamond record, and to a song which describes a man whom no one saw. Then he writes simply that he finally said, "I've had it!" He then goes on to describe what he realized after this moment. He writes ...
So how is Tony Robbins explaining his life change? He says he simply made a better choice! Did he though? Did he simply "make a better choice?" I think not. In fact, if you were to read his description of that moment more closely, you would easily find the evidence he had an emergence. What evidence? First, the permanence, and second, the access to new, natural choices in virtually every area of his life.
So what did happen to him in that incredible moment? I think he realized, in a flash of insight, that he was just like the man Neil Diamond was singing about. A man whom no one saw, "not even the chair." How can I know for sure? The very nature of his life after that moment. You see, he literally is seen and known by millions of people all over the world. And he sees them, genuinely and without effort. How more opposite from his previous life could he be?
So what do I think emerged in him? The true nature of his painful life; his terribly sad aloneness. And a connection to another man, the man Neil Diamond sang about.
But did he intellectually know this about his life before this moment?
Of course, he did. He as much as tells us this in the paragraphs preceding his description of this moment. I can also, with certainty, know these ideas had not emerged in him before this moment. How? Simply because of what he writes. He says that in his life transforming moment, "how he had been living became clear" (the emergence). Then, and only then, does he say he made the choice to change his life.
So whose inspiration supplied the first kind of change in Tony Robbins? This part is obvious. It was Neil Diamond, with his inspiring lyrics. This inspired Tony Robbins to have his own inspiring moment, the second kind of inspiration. Unfortunately, in the 500 plus pages which follow, he never tells us that we too need experience this same kind of inspiring moment. He tells us only that we too can have a life like his if we choose to live as he lives, by using the power to choose.
Can we live like he lives? Yes, we can. But only after having a life changing experience similar to the one he had. But doesn't Tony Robbins tell us we can simply make a choice to live differently? Yes, he does. If this were true though, then why will most people be unable to live like he does?
In truth then, while Tony Robbins himself does have an amazing power to choose a good life, what gave him access to this amazing power was the emergence he had, the moment in which he actually connected the man in Neil Diamond's lyrics to himself and to his then sad life.
So am I saying Tony Robbins gained access to all his better choices in that one amazing moment? In a way, yes, I am saying this. However, access is not knowledge. So while I am saying this one moment did open the door to all his better choices, he still had to discover these better choices for himself. And this is where the value of other peoples' inspiration comes in. Even for a man like Tony Robbins.
My point is though that the choices Tony Robbins made before his emergence, including his choice to listen to that Neil Diamond song, were choices he made synthetically; choices from logic, and will, and from prior life scripts. After this moment, like the three good choices in my dessert wagon story, he became able to access better choices effortlessly. Why? Because it had become natural for him to make these choices. These better choices simply now fit his better nature.
So What Does Happen to People in These Moments?
Strangely, neither Stephen Covey nor Tony Robbins ever mentions the true significance of those amazing moments other than to say they occurred. So although Tony Robbins does admit his difficult life led to his having been affected by that Neil Diamond song, and although Stephen Covey does say his reflective mood made him open to what he realized in his amazing moment, in effect, they both, in their own way, say, they simply chose to be different in those moments.
Is this true though? Did either of these men simply choose to be different? I think not. In fact, if you were to study the histories of people who have led similarly inspired lives, without exception, you would find that they, too, each mention at least one transformational, life changing moment. Some, more than one.
For instance, Madame Curie has her "eureka" moment. Descartes, his hiding in a stove during war moment. Einstein, at 26, has his relativity "aha" while on a walk with a friend. Newton, his lunch time vision of gravity.
Augustine writes about his realization of sin. Paul of Tarsus, his vision on the road. Carl Jung had his Septum Sermones ad Motuos, about which he says, it "sprang from his imagination, suddenly, spontaneously, out of no where." And Rumi, the moment he suddenly knew his dead friend Shams was still within him.
Perhaps AA founder Bill Wilson describes his moment most directly when he writes ... "Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light." Bill never drank again. And even Deepak Chopra, in his new book, "Peace Is the Way," describes the emergence which in all likelihood led to his writing that book. Here, he describes a discussion with his son wherein he was "struck by the strangeness" of how his son could not understand why people fight wars.
So what am I telling you? The whole point of this article. That no one simply chooses to be different, no matter how inspired they get or how amazing they feel afterwards. People choose only from the choices which have already emerged in them. In other words, in order for us to make better choices, we need for these better choices to have become natural for us to make. Otherwise, even when we do seem to make these choices, in effect, we are simply making synthetic choices, mere imitations of someone else's better choices.
What makes me really sad here is that Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey say some of the most amazingly inspiring stuff. Yet most people who read or see these men will in all likelihood never really change except to temporarily mimic these men.
Isn't it ironic too that when Tony Robbins tells us we have the power to choose, that this advice is part of why we do not change.
Do we have this power? No, we do not. What we do have though is we have the power to heal what blocks our natural access to this power. In lieu of knowing these blocks exist though, most people who feel inspired by Tony Robbins will fail to ever be like him and not know why. Not all people. But most people.
Oddly, Tony Robbins himself indirectly urges us to make this very quest when he writes ...
About this, I so agree, especially with his urging us to learn "what shapes human behavior." I also hear the blamelessness in his words as he urges us to focus not on why we couldn't make better choices but on knowing ourselves.
Isn't it ironic too that in the paragraph which follows these words, he goes on to ask some of the very same questions I've been asking in this article, questions such as, why do some people from very humble beginnings create lives that inspire us, and some people born into privileged environments end up so unhappy?
His answer. That we simply focus too widely and on choices that do not matter. And he is right. We do. However, he never tells us what makes it natural for us to be like this. Nor how he came to stop being like this. He only says he made a choice to stop being like this. When? In that one amazing moment, of course.
Can you see the circular logic here? He learned to make better "choices" through "choosing to make them?" Can people simply "choose to make better choices" though? No, they can't. However, they can choose to look for what has blocked their natural access to these better choices.
What an example?
Years ago, I quit smoking. Obviously, before I quit, I knew that smoking was bad for me, intellectually, at least. I also probably knew more about the ills of smoking than most medical doctors knew at the time. Did this "knowledge" make me quit though? No. So what did? Before I tell you, let me ask you. Why do you think I did not quit? Be honest now. Do you think it was because I was weak or addicted or that I just didn't really want to stop?
I was weak. And I was addicted. And a part of me did not really want to stop. However, another part of me genuinely did want to stop. Or else I never would have quit.
So what keep me from quitting? Only one thing. It had yet to become natural for me to not smoke. Why? Because I had yet to literally picture this choice as being one I could actually access. What am I saying?
I'm saying that, yes, I knew for years that I could make a choice to stop smoking. On paper, anyway. However I had no way to make this choice let alone keep it. Why? Because I had yet to visually experience that I actually needed to quit.
Now does this sound like my logic is circular too? If it does, I can understand why. Want to see what I'm really saying though? Try picturing this.
I stopped only when I became able to picture this choice. How can I know for sure. Because like all life changing moments, I can still, to this day, vividly picture the instant in which I knew I had to quit. And feel amazed that I had not pictured this choice before.
What was I like before this moment? Well right before I quit, I was smoking three packs a day. More over, I had been doing this for years, three packs of Marlboro's red's no less. God, what a self destructive life I was living.
Now, some two decades later, I have yet to pick up my next cigarette. In fact, it will be twenty four years this April to be exact. So what changed?
Well, I didn't simply choose to quit, that's for sure. In fact, I openly admit what happened was more accident that choice. Why? Before I quit, I literally could not picture, on the screen of my mind, what me not smoking would look like. And although I had no idea at the time as to what the significance of not being able to picture a choice was, I can still see myself trying to picture quitting. And failing. Every time. This despite the fact that a part of me genuinely did want to quit.
I can also remember how easy it became for me to quit from the instant I first pictured me quitting. In fact, I remember feeling amazed at how easy it had become to quit. More over, like Tony Robbins, I simply saw this as that I had done a Dr. Phil; that I had simply chosen to not smoke. Ever again.
OK. So I haven't smoked ever again. But did I simply "choose" to quit in that one amazing moment? Yes and no. You see, while I did chose to stop smoking in that event, I chose this only after I became able to picture what choosing to quit would be like.
In a way, what I'm saying then is that in that one amazing moment, I became visually inspired to quit. In a way, this is absolutely all that happened.
So who inspired me in that moment? A thirty something year old ex speed addict. A women whom I also knew to be one of the most classy people I had ever met. And what did she do? She told me how she had reached the point wherein she could not leave her home without fearing she'd urinate on herself. Class and all. And that when she went to a doctor and told him what was wrong, he told her no one as bad as her stops without a rehab.
And her inspiring moment?
It was that moment, the moment in which she first pictured herself as being as bad as this doctor described her. A desperately lonely addict.
Now can you see how my "quitting smoking moment" so resembles Tony Robbins' "the power to choose" moment. More important, can you see how I did not simply choose to change in that moment, but rather I became able to picture myself choosing?
My point is, no one has the power to simply keep choosing any choices other than those they can already see, at least not until they experience for themselves their own visually inspiring moment.
Are you beginning to see my point? Here again, please remember, I am not finding fault with either man's messages. Both men live inspiring lives. And both men inspire me. Our disagreement, then, is simply with how people come to make better choices.
As for Tony Robbins, he says you simply choose to make better choices, something like what is happening in the little diagram below:
Obviously, what I've done here is to adapt Stephen Covey's diagram to reflect what Tony Robbins has to say about choice; that we have the power to change, if we focus our choices, one at a time, on what is important.
Again, he is right. Even so, because he never mentions the importance of having your own inspiring moment, how many people will actually follow his good advice?
So What Actually Keeps Us From Accessing Peoples' Good Advice?
So are you now growling at me for having been so openly critical of these two inspiring men? Please remember, at the same time, I have been openly acknowledging the good in them as well. Given my criticism, though, do you now wonder whether my admiration is mere false flattery, words meant only to open the door for my own ideas?
If so, let me reassure you, this is in no way true. Both men have genuinely inspired me to live my life with more honest and integrity. Ironically, my way of living my life this way includes pointing out what I see missing in their good advice.
What is missing ? That in order to have the power to make better choices, you need have your own inspiring moment. Now in order to better explain what this looks like, I need to show you yet another diagram. Again, the diagram looks very similar to the one in Stephen Covey's book but with one difference. My diagram includes a visual representation of what blocks our natural ability to access his and all peoples' good advice, inspiring or not. No surprise, I call this metaphor, a "BLock."
OK. So I've added something to Stephen Covey's diagram. And yes, it 's easy to make up a metaphor. Anyone can do it. However, even if this was all I'd done, I'd still be in pretty good company. For example, take Sigmund Freud. Freud believed it was our "unconscious" that made us make most of our bad choices.
Admittedly, this is a heck of a good metaphor.
Strangely, this same man tried to swear Carl Jung to "fight the tide of the occult." Yet how much more can something be occulted than to say we make bad choices because a made-up metaphor called the unconscious tells us to.
Even more strange is the idea Freud openly hated religion. Yet his metaphor seems surprisingly similar to a well known religious metaphor, the one most Western religions use to account for peoples' bad choices. What metaphor? The "devil," as in, "the devil made me do it."
Can you see how Freud unknowingly renamed the "devil" to the unconscious and then claimed it was now scientific? Hardly the truth. However, haven't I just done the very same thing, calling what prevents us from accessing better choices, "BLocks?"
Actually, no, I haven't. Why? Because when I refer peoples' "BLocks," I'm referring to measurable, empirical, real life structures, things which can repeatedly and reliably be located inside of each and every human being's psyche.
Ironically, my discovering these structures was probably my most inspiring emergence. I've literally never been able to see peoples' wrong doings the same way again. My point here though is that without knowing how to see and heal these BLocks, we literally can not access the good in other peoples' advice, let alone retain their inspiration.
So what can we do? We can learn how to find and heal these BLocks. But only we actually believe this possibility exists.
Where is my proof that BLocks really exist? Before I show you, let me say, it has taken me ten years to find even the few words I am about to offer, this despite the fact that I literally help people find their BLocks daily. More over, I've also written many thousands of pages about BLocks, mostly in an effort to find these words. With all this effort though, very few people write to say they've had an emergence.
So am I disappointed? Yes. Even so, consider what I've been telling you about Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins. I've been telling you that in order to see the choices that they see, you need have had the same emergences they had, the same moments of natural change.
In truth then, that even a few people write amazes me. For instance, I recently posted a story wherein a woman who hated her sister for more than twenty years healed this hate. All from doing a simple exercise called the "Cycles of Three." Amazingly, I have never met her. Nor have we ever spoken. Even so, doing a simple exercise designed to help people have an emergence helped this woman heal twenty plus years of hate.
So can I now help you to have such this happen? To be honest, I doubt it, at least not from simply reading my words. However, I do believe there is a chance my words will wake up enough curiosity in you for you want to look further. And if you do, you may have such a moment.
How about the proof I say I have, the proof BLocks exist? In truth, it's not that hard to see. Let me start by asking you take a moment to explore your own inner mind and specifically, your ability to picture images on the screen of your mind. Please know that whenever I ask you to "picture," what I'm asking you to do is to try to actually picture what I've asked you to see, to see it as something like a movie on the screen of your mind.
What do I want you to try to picture? Try picturing a flower.
Which flower? Actually, any flower will do.
So now, try to actually picture a flower, a living, moving, beautiful flower on the screen of your mind.
Can you do it?
Please know, it's not enough for you to tell me you can. After all, haven't I been saying that just because you can think it does not mean you can do it.
Really try to picture a flower now, including where it is growing and what it looks like.
So can you? Most people can. In fact, I'm picturing one right now, an orange and black and green flower which grew all around my childhood home.
My mother taught me they were called, "Tiger Lilies," and I still love seeing them. My point is though that I can still picture these flowers on the screen on my mind. Further, I can picture them effortlessly. In other words, because I still have a natural ability to picture these flowers, picturing them takes me little to no effort.
What's a BLock then? And why the heck am I spelling this word with two capital letters?
Let me start with the spelling part. I spell BLock this way because for ten years now, I've used this word to refer to those areas in us wherein we have a "blocked ability to be ourselves." A "being lock," for short. Cute? Trite? Whatever. This is the word I've been using for ten years now to refer to our wounded ability to choose.
And what exactly is a "BLock?"
BLocks are the situations wherein we can not picture effortlessly. And because we can't, we fake it.
Sound similar to what I've already been telling you about "synthetic choices?"
In a way then, when something is BLocked in us, we literally work around this blindness, similar to how blind people work around their blindness. In a sense, they fake it too.
Am I finally getting across what made me focus so much on the difference between "natural choices" and "synthetic choices"? BLocks are literally life situations wherein we can make only synthetic choices. Why? Because when we try to picture our choices on the screens of our mind, we either see only the one bad choice or go totally blank.
What causes this restricted ability to picture? Nothing like a logical reason, that's for sure. However, because explaining this would take an entire book and then some, the best I can do right now is to tell you that BLocks are what happens to us when we get startled while we picture something. What do I mean?
Have you ever had your picture taken by a professional photographer, perhaps at a wedding that you were a part of? If you have, then in all likelihood, you have a BLocked ability to picture your self having your picture taken with one of those big flash cameras. How can you know?
Well, perhaps you hate getting your picture taken and can not remember ever liking it. Or perhaps you have absolutely no feelings about having your picture taken; you don't care one way or the other.
Things we hate, and things we have no feelings about, are often the indicators we have a BLock.
So how do you know if you have one for sure?
Try picturing yourself being in a wedding photo as part of a group. Now picture the scene as an unfolding movie and try to see how long you can keep picturing this scene.
If you can picture this scene but not past the flash bulb moment, then in all likelihood, you have a BLocked ability to picture your photo being taken. What's the big deal though?
Well, if you do have the "one painful instant" variety of this BLock, and if someone you love ever asks you to be in their wedding picture, then you may suddenly get an attitude and have no idea why. Similarly, if your BLock is more of the "nothing is happening" variety, then you may be warm and caring and yet after they ask you, seem cold and distant. Again, for no apparent reason and with no sense you've even done it.
How though does this relate to our ability to make choices? Simple. We can't make real choices if we can't picture what making these choices would be like. Thus, we would not have actually chosen to have an attitude or to be cold, but we would have been that way none the less.
Of course, in all likelihood, we would have simply faked a good attitude. In fact, this is what most people do when they experience a BLock. However, to make authentic choices, we need to be able to picture these choices. Naturally. And effortlessly.
What I'm saying is, "BLocks" are literally those life situations wherein we have lost our natural ability to picture, even if we can intellectually describe what these situations should and could look like. For instance, when Tony Robbins says he could clearly, and easily, describe the details of his then difficult life even before he "made his choice," he means this literally. He could.
Even so, before he experienced the moment in which this choice emerged in him, he literally remained frozen in his life script despite what he knew intellectually to be better choices.
So am I suggesting that before this moment, he was unable to choose to live his life differently because he literally could not picture his life except in the ways in which he already saw it?
Yes. This is exactly what I am suggesting, that he literally had no access to any choices other than the ones he could already picture.
Granted, I'm sure he could intellectually refer to those better choices. One has only to see how he writes to know this. However, from his story, I believe it was only after he heard Neil Diamond's lyrics, and only after he pictured those lyrics and connected himself to those lyrics, that he had access to any choices other than those he already knew.
In a way, what I'm saying is, if you can't picture where you are, you can't know where you can go. Thus, like my battle to quit smoking, until I saw what smoking was doing to me, meaning, literally pictured it, I could not choose to go to a different place. I had no starting point, so I couldn't plot a course.
No surprise, Stephen Covey implies the very same thing. He states he intellectually knew for years the idea which emerged in him in that library in Hawaii. So what kept him from living it? My knowledge of human nature tells me again, it was his literal inability to picture that idea on the screen of his mind.
In other words, his natural ability to visually access this idea had literally been BLocked. Then, in that flash of insight, he became able to picture himself living this idea, both the starting point and the change.
If all this is true then, what does this mean?
It means that we can in fact, be more like those we admire than we've ever thought possible. More over, this likeness includes that we can effortlessly live more inspiring lives.
How do we do this though?
We learn how to have these same inspiring moments for ourselves. How? By learning to identify what has been BLocking us from having them all along.
Until then, the best we can do is to live as if we do have access. How? By imitating those we find inspiring. And by faking, as best we can, what accessing those better choices would look like.
And who exactly should we imitate?
The people who have inspired us. People like Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins.
Healing My BLock to Genuine Forgiveness
Now let's take a look at an actual example of how a BLock heals. We'll do this by talking about a choice many people struggle to genuinely choose; the choice to forgive.
How do you do when you need to forgive? Me, I've struggled with this choice for most of my life. Of course, intellectually, I've known whole lot about forgiveness even from when I was a boy. Even so, when it came time for me to actually forgive someone, I struggled, this despite the fact that I very much wanted to be able to genuinely forgive and had spent years trying to learn how.
Did these years of efforts help me? Honestly, not at all. Although I can say these efforts did make me more aware of how unable to forgive I was.
In other words, while these years of efforts failed to teach me how to forgive, they did inspire me enough to keep trying to learn.
So was this inspiration the evidence I had experienced an emergence?
No. Why not? Because I had yet to have either kind of choice emerge in me. How can I tell? Because I can picture the first time I did get this ability. And because I can, I know I did not have this ability prior to this time.
What I'm saying is, I knew for years that these choices existed, and this knowing did help on one level. It helped me to keep me looking for these better choices and trying to will myself to behave better.
In a way then, I became like the little guy in the drawing below, the little fellow on the left. Every time someone inspires him, he temporarily get to picture the good choices that other person can picture, this other person being some one like an inspiring teacher or spiritual guide. In effect, he temporarily gets to see the choices they can already see.
Choices inspired by others ...
Unfortunately, since I was exactly like that little guy in the drawing above, at least about forgiveness, none of what I pictured stuck. This meant that I constantly had to have reinforcement in order to behave as if I could see these choices. To wit, I have probably read more spiritual and philosophical books about forgiveness and have studied with more inspired teachers than just about anyone I know. Why?
Back then, I would have told you it was because I was a "seeker," a man who was looking for a way to be more like them.
In truth, what I needed was to learn how to be more like me. The natural me, that is. Ironically, isn't this what most of the great teachers tell us to do anyway? To be ourselves, and not just copies of them?
Without knowing it then, and in order to keep being able to synthetically choose to forgive, and because making synthetic choices requires you get your "power to choose" from someone else who has already been genuinely inspired, I kept seeking new and better ways to be inspired. Thus, I spent many years reading and studying and listening to inspiring men.
Neither did I limit my quests to men either. To me, women have always inspired me, beginning with my mother, a schizophrenic woman who managed to instill love and spiritual values in me despite her great disability.
Then there is my sister Teresa who, despite being incredibly abused as a child, both mentally and physically, has managed to create a wonderfully rich and rewarding life for herself, including a warm and loving family. Given the fact that she never witnessed such a family growing up. And that she has had to face cancer and more. And that she has watched her only child almost die several times, and I will never cease to be inspired by her.
In the end though, it didn't matter who inspired me. The inspiration always faded. This meant that no matter how hard I tried to genuinely forgive, eventually, I would once again hate the person as this was exactly how I felt inside.
So what do choices look like after inspiration fades? To get a bit of an idea, you can take a look at the drawing I've placed below, the one wherein that little fellow on the left has now become unable to picture the better choices on the other side of his BLock.
How often does this happen? Each and every time our inspiration fades. And like him, although I would mentally remember that I once had access to better choices, when my inspiration faded, so did my access to these choices.
And after the inspiration fades ...
So can you change this? To be honest, it takes a lot of work. However, each emergence permanently increments you forward. For instance, I remember a time when my ability to forgive incremented forward. And like all emergences, I remember the moment like it happened yesterday, this despite the fact that it happened to me many years ago.
On this day, I had taken a friend of mine to hear another friend, Father Bruni, speak. Now Father Bruni happens to be one of the most loving men I have even known. The fact that he is a Catholic priest and that I am the furthest thing from a religious man never fails to amuse me. Or him. In this, we are so alike, he and I. Spiritual rebels. The truth before words.
What made me go to see him that day? I wanted my friend to meet Father Bruni. Why? Because I was sure my friend would leave as inspired as I always did.
What was he like? Well, one time, I was attending one of Father Bruni's talks, and there was a baby crying for something like twenty minutes straight. I, like most of the others there, had become quite annoyed, and very frustrated, but was pretending to be spiritual by faking being unaffected.
You want to see people make synthetic choices? Try sitting in a crowded room with a crying baby while trying to hear inspiring messages. Anyway, here we were, some twenty of us, all faking it the best we could when Father Bruni paused his talk. Then he stood there for a moment, simply looking back at the crying baby, while we all hung in mid air waiting to see what he would do next.
He stood there for what seemed to be quite a long time. Then with that sparkling Italian look in his eyes, he turned to us and said something none of us could have even pictured. He said, "Isn't that a beautiful noise."
I well up even today as I picture him and his beautiful message. More important though, this moment permanently changed my nature, not only about crying babies but about all people being babies. How? In that moment, I became able to picture what this kind of loving tolerance looked like. For the first time. Thus, Father Bruni's message literally opened my mind and heart. Permanently. And blamelessly.
More over, this experience has now become reference experience whenever I hear someone cry. By this, I mean it has become my natural response to crying people, whether they be babies or otherwise. Without effort then, I now hear, and see, the beauty hidden in their tears and in their sadness. More too, I now connect with them in that part of myself, in that part of me that is just like them at times; a crying baby.
As for my BLock to forgiveness, what happened was, on the day in which I took my friend to see Father Bruni, before we went, we stopped to get something to eat. While we were waiting for this meal to arrive, my friend asked me to show him what emergence was like.
Knowing the most direct way to show him was to help him to have one, I asked him a question designed to find BLocks. I asked him if he could think of something he hated, something ordinary and not like war.
Instantly, he told me that he hated his brother. In fact, he told me he had hated his brother for something like twenty five years.
Even now, I can see where we were sitting and can hear his shame as he admitted this to me. I can also picture asking him if he could picture his brother's face. Sure enough, he could not; he literally could not picture his own brother's face.
What he could picture, though, was something like a vague, shadowy face. Certainly nothing like a clear, detailed image though, and this for a brother he had known for more than forty years.
He then asked me if I'd do emergence on him. So I asked him to again try to picture his brother's eyes.
Within minutes, he began to see an angry face. He then told me he had seen this face many, many times.
In the next instant, then, he told me he realized that this was the very face that had been setting him off for all these years.
Then something especially poignant happened. As he was looking across the table at me in amazement, he realized that I had been setting him off in the very same way. You see, it seems I had been making the very same face.
He then asked me if I had been angry at him, to which I responded that I had, indeed been angry. However, it wasn't at him. It was at his brother, for the way he had hurt my friend.
In the next instant then, he had yet another emergence. And at this point, he looked over at me, and said, "Oh, my God, you have the same eyes as my brother!"
Now can you see how he had misinterpreted my anger as being aimed at him? Can you imagine how many times this distortion must have affected him in relationships with people other than with his brother?
Equally important to is what he had been missing in me. He had been missing the fact that his hurt had made me mad, not at him, but at the person who had hurt him.
Imagine the pain that this BLock must have caused him? He couldn't feel my sympathy, nor anyone else's, for that matter. In fact, he as much as told me this in the next few moments.
What actually caused friend's BLock though?
My answer. It doesn't matter. What matters is that he knows there was a time when he did have a natural access to his brother's face and then, something happened which BLocked this access. What happened then. A time wherein he experienced the same kind of event as the wedding photo. A time wherein he was startled while he pictured his brother's face.
The result? After that moment, he literally became unable to picture his own brother's face, other than as a vaguely frightening shadow face. Until that moment, right before the lecture, when he began to emerge from this BLock.
What emerged? First, he first gained access to the face which had been setting him off for more than twenty five years. The angry, frightening face of his brother.
Then he saw his brother's frightening eyes.
Then he saw me as having the same frightening eyes.
Again, I want to say that as for what caused this injury to occur in him, I don't really care. All I care about is that I helped him get over it.
I also care that what I helped him over became his own permanently inspiring moment.
Finally, I care that I can repeat this process with others, and can teach others to do the same.
Here, then, is what is important to remember. What was the nature of my friend's BLock? Was it that he hated his brother? Or that his brother had done something to him? None of this. What is important to remember is that, whatever the literal event was, whether real or imagined, that my friend had been unable to picture, on the screen of his mind, his own brother's face.
And did this event then change his relationship with his brother? About this, I can't say much other than to say, he many times spoke about seeing his brother in ways he had never seen him in before.
So did he have access to better choices after all this? Absolutely. His references to seeing his brother in "ways he had never seen him before" is evidence of this. More over, these better ways had, at this point, become his natural ways. Thus they required no ongoing maintenance nor any additional inspiration. They required only that he continue to explore his new and better choices.
Choices after an emergence ...
Can it really be this simple though? Can it really be that our ability to make better choices in life depends almost entirely on our ability to picture those choices.
Yes. This is really all there is to it although I admit, we still need inspiring teachers to teach us how to use this power. Also, emerging from behind these BLocks can require quite an investment in time and effort, as well as a whole lot of skills and training.
The important point is, though, that BLocks, not cowardice or laziness, are what prevent us from accessing the good choices in our lives. This includes the good choices we see men like Stephen Covey and Tony Robbins make.
And my emergence in and around forgiveness that day? After my friend and I finished eating, we went to Father Bruni's lecture. And in the minutes before the lecture started, I suggested to my friend that he ask Father Bruni for his thoughts on forgiveness in the question and answer time at the end of his lecture.
Sure enough, my friend did ask later, and I was floored by my reaction to his answer.
Father Bruni's said that all that genuine forgiveness is divine and that we can't will it. Only God can create it in us. Now do you realize there was a time when I was so BLocked to the love in religious statements that I would not have heard a single word? I would, in fact, have heard these words like I heard the dead boy's grandmother's words; as hollow and empty.
Remember too, that while I am a spiritual man, I am in no way a religious man. Not at all. Even so, truth is truth. And when a truth emerges in you, where it comes from doesn't matter. It rings right through you, and lasts forever. And on that day, that is exactly what happened. The truth of Father Bruni's words, the words of a Catholic priest, rang right through me. In fact, they still ring right through me. More over, these words have probably done more to help me forgive myself and others than just about any other emergence I've had in and around forgiveness. And I've had a few.
So what is my point?
My point is, that at the time this event happened, both my friend and I were unable to picture what forgiveness would look like. In my friend's case, he had no picture for what forgiving his brother would look like. And in my case, I literally couldn't imagine what forgiving myself would look like. I was filled with guilt.
Afterwards, we each had a reference scene emerge in us. More over, we both changed dramatically. Amazing what just a single moment of picturing can do to change a life. And our ability to make choices.
So Do I Expect You to Believe Me?
So, do I expect you to now believe me, that BLocks are what makes inspiration fade?
Honestly. I hope you do not.
Why say such a strange thing?
Because as I have been telling you, adopting a new view, especially about something as important as what makes inspiration fade, requires you have the same kind of inspiring moment as has happened to me.
Likewise, if you want to be like the men and women who inspire you, you literally have to be inspired by your own inspiring moments, moments which mirror their inspiring moments.
How do we know where to look for these choices?
We look for the things we have been unable to picture.
Then we do the work to heal whatever blocks our visual access to these choices.
Afterwards, you will become permanently able to visualize these better choices. More over, visualizing these choices will be effortless, and inspiring.
Finally, once you've had your own inspiring moment, you will then feel inspired to pass to others what you saw in that moment. And you will feel inspired to encourage others to seek these same inspiring moments for themselves. Now isn't this exactly what Stephen Covey is urging us to do in his recent book?
Can I be wrong though? Can people change without having these inspiring moment?
Perhaps. However, before you write off my idea, consider this. Consider where both men start off their books. They start with the very events which inspired them to change.
I would also ask you to consider how much of what they then write about has anything at all to do with how you can have these inspiring moments. And how their not mentioning that you must have one of these inspiring moments will prevent many people from actually following their wonderful advice.
Finally, I hope in some small way I've peaked your curiosity as to whether or not BLocks really exist. If I have, please do take the time to check this idea out for yourself. More over, should you need help with where to start, you have but to ask. Or search the site. This is, after all, the whole reason I've put up this site; to help people to find their BLocks and to inspire others to find theirs.
As for me, I admit I continue to need others to inspire me, as I in no way feel I am "baked" as yet. Even so, where I used to wish for the day when I could say I my personal work was done, I now look forward to the work I have yet to do. And to the choices I have yet to discover.
I also look forward to meeting more inspiring men and women, who like me, love being inspired and helping others to feel the same.
And on this note, I'll leave you with my wish for you.
May you live an inspiring life.
The Choices (and people) We Have Yet to Discover ...
A Quik Summary of this Article - What Makes Inspiration Fade ...
The conversation I had with the inspired man from Canada, ...
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