Martha Beck» Category: Money & Manifesting http://marthabeck.com Creating Your Right Life - inspiration & tools for empowered living Fri, 19 Sep 2014 23:17:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 How to Make a Vision Board: Find Your Life Ambition http://marthabeck.com/2010/06/how-to-make-a-vision-board/ http://marthabeck.com/2010/06/how-to-make-a-vision-board/#respond Sat, 05 Jun 2010 10:00:10 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=8770 read more...]]> "Vision Board" by Amy Palko

“Vision Board” by Amy Palko

Since childhood, I’ve had a vivid recurring dream in which I can move objects without touching them. When I awaken from the dream, I can’t believe it isn’t true. For hours I’ll glare at objects—starting with cars or furniture, gradually lowering my sights to scraps of Kleenex—incredulous that I can’t move stuff with my mind.

Except that now I can.

A friend just gave me a gizmo called Mindflex, a game that includes a magnificently dorky-looking headset, a console, and a little foam ball. The headset transmits your brain’s electrical activity to a fan in the console that blows the ball into the air. By thinking different thoughts, you control the fan, and thus the altitude of the ball.

The fact that this works delights but doesn’t surprise me. The discoveries of physicist Werner Heisenberg, not to mention my recurring dream, long ago convinced me that the mind influences physical matter. If Heisenberg’s work is unfamiliar, let me translate the theory into Californian: “Consciousness can shape reality.”

This oversimplification makes my brain wince…which moves the Mindflex ball, confirming for me that the New Age ideal of mental magic—the notion that thoughts can create reality—is kinda, sorta supported by evidence. My goal is to teach you how to use one aspect of that magic, something indubitably cheesy but surprisingly effective. I’m talking about a vision board.

All the Pretty Pictures

Next to the Mindflex on my desk is a photo box containing many images I’ve torn from magazines. I plan to glue them all to one large piece of butcher paper. The resulting collage will be a vision board; its purpose, to depict (and lead me to) my desired future. This whole process makes me roll my eyes—as I was trained to do over the course of my very rationalist education—but damn if it doesn’t work.

Sometimes.

I’ve made several vision boards that bombed out, and some that were so successful that the hairs on the nape of my neck prickled for months. Years ago I glued up a headline that said MAKING AFRICA WELL. I thought it was a joke—oh, sure, like I could do that—never expecting that a few years later I’d be invited to speak in Africa and while there meet folks who are healing African ecosystems. Suddenly, I found myself volunteering to work with them.

I’ve discovered there’s a trick to making a vision board that brings forth such improbable coincidences. It starts with avoiding common pitfalls that result in faulty, inoperative models. Many people hear the basic instructions—”Find pictures of things you want in your life and stick ‘em where you can see ‘em”—and create virtually identical collages: a wad of cash, a handsome husband, a gorgeous body, a luxury car, a tropical beach.

Snore. These images constitute our culture’s idea of the good life. Even a rich, happily married beauty queen with a Porsche in the driveway and a house on the ocean will crank out this same damn vision board. This has no juice at all. To really work, a vision board has to come not from your culture but from your primordial, nonsocial self—the genetically unique animal/angel that contains your innate preferences.

When you start assembling pictures that appeal to this deep self, you unleash one of the most powerful forces on our planet: human imagination. Virtually everything humans use, do, or make exists because someone thought it up. Sparking your incredibly powerful creative faculty is the reason you make a vision board. The board itself doesn’t impact reality; what changes your life is the process of creating the images—combinations of objects and events that will stick in your subconscious mind and steer your choices toward making the vision real.

Vision Board 101

I’ve known for some time that staring at objects while holding pictures in my head makes reality oddly responsive. I was persuaded of this by two events so striking and improbable that I’ll describe them to you in some detail. Both occurred while I was illustrating a children’s book, which was never published because: (1) My animal/angel didn’t really want to create it; (2) I got tired after doing about 25 percent of the illustrations; and (3) the book basically sucked.

Anyway, one illustration I did finish depicted a startled elephant. I wanted to paint it from a child’s perspective, with the pachyderm rearing back, lifting one front leg, raising its trunk, and opening its eyes and mouth in surprise. I had no photographs that showed this scenario, and it wasn’t the easiest thing to imagine. So I went to a circus, found an elephant who seemed to be parked in neutral, crouched down in front of him, and squinted, imagining what he’d look like with his leg lifted and his trunk raised. The elephant looked back at me…and adopted precisely the pose I was picturing. He remained in this awkward position for several minutes as I scribbled a sketch.

Just days later, I was working on another illustration involving parrots (this children’s book was set in post-genocide Cambodia—what fun for kids!). In the midst of my research, I learned to my surprise that there was a species of parrot indigenous to my own turf in Arizona. I stared at these parrots in my bird book, wishing that one day I could see a living specimen. At that moment, I swear to God, I heard a scratchy thump, and three rare parrots landed on the window screen less than a yard from my face.

That’s when I began believing that animals respond to intense visual images held in the human imagination. So does my Mindflex, and perhaps even complex phenomena like one’s love life or career. I also noticed that the mental state that produced the elephant and parrot miracles was very different from the hankering I directed at my usual goals. And I’ve come to realize that you need to get into that mind-space if you want your vision board to work for you like a short-order cook hopped up on Red Bull. Here’s how to do it….

Step 1: Please Your Animal.

There are two basic procedures involved in creating an effective vision board. First, instead of cogitating about familiar images, scout for the unfamiliar. Your mind can’t do this. Your animal/angel self can. Just page through a magazine (and walk through the world) noticing things that trigger physical reactions: a heart thump, a double take, a gasp.

The only responses involved should resemble these:
“Ooooh!”
“Aaaahhhhh.”
“Whoa!”
“!!!!”
“????”

These “thoughts” register in your stomach, your heart, your lungs—anywhere but your head. You can’t produce them in response to cultural clichés or abstract ideas. Nor can you always know why your body reacts to an image. Wondering, then finding out, is one of the most delicious things about assembling a vision board.

For example, as I rummage through my current collection of images, my body is utterly unmoved by photos of mansions or designer clothing. What interests it are pictures of an abstract sculpture, a dried leaf, and (overwhelmingly) a map on which the migratory route of the springbok antelope is shown in red. !!!! Go figure.

Though it makes no logical sense, I know from experience that gluing these pictures on one big page will begin catalyzing something beyond my mind’s capacity to calculate or conceptualize. If you’re not already accumulating images that rock your socks, stay alert. Whenever you find them, filch them.

Step 2: Let Go Mentally and Emotionally.

Most folks master Step 1 easily, gathering new and interesting images by the bushel. It’s like making the Mindflex ball go up: You stare at the ball and picture it rising. Powered by the output of electricity from your brain, the fan starts to blow, et voilà! Up goes the ball. You do this with focused, intense thinking—something you’re almost always engaged in.

Step 2 of making a vision board requires something trickier: not thinking. This is the counterintuitive process that makes the Mindflex ball descend. To do it you must relax completely and let your mind go blank. You don’t concentrate on the result you want—i.e., the ball going down. In fact, you concentrate on not concentrating. Slowly the fan decreases speed and the ball begins to drop.

This is exactly what you should do once you’ve created a vision board. Stop thinking about it. Lose it. Recycle it. The biggest mistake aspiring reality creators make (aside from that predictable cash/tropical island collage) is continuing to push something they’ve already set in motion. You’ve felt the repellent energy of salespeople desperate to hook you—it makes you sprint away so fast, you cause sonic booms. Don’t use that results-oriented energy.

Anecdotes about vision board success always include statements like “Then I forgot all about it until the very moment, years later, when I found myself standing on the Champs-Elysées, holding that exact plaid umbrella!” The key phrase is “forgot all about it.” The purpose of the vision board is to focus your attention—briefly. After that, the less mental strain you feel, the sooner good things will happen. That initial intense focus helps us create “search images,” and by relaxing, we increase our chances of noticing the things we seek. Then it’s time for the trickiest step of all….

Step 3: Be Still and Still Moving. 

Making a vision board is not a substitute for elbow grease. Magical cocreator or not, you still have to do stuff. For example, I want to be better at social media—you know, all that Faceplace Twootle Googler stuff. So I put a headline on my vision board: SOCIAL MEDIA GENIUS. I tried reading blog posts and signing up for all sorts of new online accounts, but I was making zero progress. Two weeks later, I was working on my laptop in a bookstore when a man with a kind face asked me if I liked my computer. He turned out to be a social media specialist and an extremely nice guy, and I hired him to be my social media genius. He’s brilliant, he’s motivating, and he’s kicking my ass, teaching me how to accomplish my goals. I wanted the Force to give me fish; instead, it sent an expert fisherman to teach me.

This is the zone of reality creation: regularly picturing delights that don’t yet exist, emotionally detaching from them, and jumping into action when it’s time to help the miracles occur. I’m barely learning this, to be (in T.S. Eliot’s words) “still and still moving.” But in the moments I get it right, every step I take seems to be matched by a universal mystery, which obligingly, incredibly, creates what I can’t.

So that’s my 411 on vision boards, but please, don’t believe me. Try it yourself. Do it as a lark, a hobby, a physics experiment (though calling it that may cause Werner Heisenberg to spin in his grave like an Olympic ice dancer). While you’re oohing and aahing, cutting and gluing, I’ll be wearing my fabulous headset, making the Mindflex ball follow my mental orders like my tiny foam bitch. If you happen to know I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me.

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Ask For It…Insight From Martha http://marthabeck.com/2013/12/ask-for-it/ http://marthabeck.com/2013/12/ask-for-it/#comments Sun, 08 Dec 2013 11:00:18 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=8041 read more...]]> iStock_000018596624Small“If only I were free enough/ rich enough/ young enough/ supported enough to do what I want, my life would be perfect.” 

I’ve heard some version of this sentiment from literally thousands of people. I’ve also noticed that what these people lack is almost never the freedom, money, youth, or support they think they need. What’s really holding them back is simply that they don’t know what they want.

This is how most of my coaching conversations start out:

ME: So, what do you want to experience during your life?
CLIENT: Yeah, that’s the question, isn’t it?
ME: Yes, and I’m asking it. What do you want?
CLIENT: Mm, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that.
ME: Please think about it now. What do you want in this moment?
CLIENT: Well, what’s supposed to happen to me?

And so on.

At least I know what ­I want in these moments: I want to stab myself in the head with a crab fork. There’s nothing I can do to help someone who won’t look inside and identify a clear desire. My hunch is there’s nothing The Force can do in these situations, either. It’s like going into a restaurant and saying, “Bring me the food I love best!” without identifying the food.

My experience is that there’s almost always a way to get what you want, but (stay with me here) you have to ask for it. Specifically. Here’s a helpful hint: Right now, think of something that sounds fun, something you could do today. If nothing sounds fun, think of something that would be a comfort, or just a relief. Got it? Good! Now you can take steps to make it happen. And as you take one step toward the thing you want, it really does take a hundred steps toward you. 

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Real Magic… Insight from Martha http://marthabeck.com/2012/09/real-magic/ http://marthabeck.com/2012/09/real-magic/#respond Mon, 10 Sep 2012 03:28:05 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=5957 read more...]]>  

So, we just finished our very first Wayfinder Workshop. It was a FABULOUS experience for me—and let’s face it, who else matters? (I am kidding!) By targeting my last book to people who already feel their magic, I appear to have achieved two things: convincing most of the reading public that I am certifiably insane, and inviting the most awesome people on earth to come play with creating a new way of being in the world. We held the seminar on Pismo Beach, California, for reasons I will describe in a minute.
 
The first day, as we stood on the beach, some of us used the animal-calling exercise described in Finding Your Way In A Wild New World. By the following day, so many whales were surfacing off Pismo Beach that it made the national news. I watched them playing for an hour during our lunch break. My partner, Karen, insists that this is a coincidence, and it probably is. I’M JUST SAYING.
 
The fact is that real magic does not require the grandiosity of a Hollywood movie. When it arrives, one can always trace the way it happened in the physical world. The miracle is always a coincidence in which God chooses to remain anonymous. Magic is glory, not what I call “gloriola.”
 
On that same note, I want to thank anyone who gave so much as a glancing thought to my story about wanting a ranch where I could live close to nature. That miracle is finally a done deal, although I’m still waiting for it to land. This is not a story of “rich person buys a ranch.” This is a story of “wacky person feels compelled to buy something she absolutely cannot afford which she is then somehow able to buy.” Seriously, you guys, I do not know how this happened. All I know is that I can now sit on my front porch watching wild turkeys, deer, foxes, skunks, and potentially a bear (some of the coaches saw him down the road a bit, and there is nothing stopping him from visiting me). Best of all are the bobcats that live on the land. I like to think of them as starter leopards.
 
In short, I live in a three-dimensional miracle—and so do you. Before the Wayfinder Workshop, several tribe members gathered with a Shaman to dedicate the land to the objective of “Restoring Eden”—healing animals, ecosystems, and humans, in any way possible. At one point the Shaman took me aside and said, “Martha. Stop trying.” Without words, she helped me find an incredibly deep flow wave of movement in my lower torso. “There,” she said, “that anchors you and you can let others anchor there as well. Then, let it heal them.”
 
She didn’t say what ‘it’ was, because on one hand it is inexpressible, and on the other hand, once you’ve felt it, there is no need to describe it. It is the TAO. It is Love. It is saturating the air you breathe as you read this. Be still until you can let it find you. That is your only job. And then, what the hell, call some whales. Because that’s AWESOME.

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Explain This: Change Your Story, Change Your Life http://marthabeck.com/2012/08/explain-this/ http://marthabeck.com/2012/08/explain-this/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2012 03:48:43 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=5791 read more...]]> Okay, this time you’re serious. You’re going on a regimen that will really improve your health—not like that crash diet: You’ll snarf down antioxidants; exercise moderately but consistently; balance fats, proteins, and carbs; and pay attention to the way you explain whatever happens to you.

Wait a minute. The way you explain what happens? What does that have to do with physical health? According to findings from the burgeoning field of behavioral medicine, a lot. How we think can affect physical processes as surely as diet and exercise do. For example, putting a positive spin on events in our past is associated with an enormous array of health benefits, from improved immune function to reduced stress to quicker healing, with all their emotional and physical advantages. To some degree, we may be able to literally explain away many devastating physical problems. If you want to have a healthier body, I suggest changing your mind first.

So What’s Your Story?

Caroline, one of my brightest, prettiest, best-educated clients, was a wreck. Her pet cockatiel, Bonkers, had flown away.

The way she told the story of her bird’s disappearance—what researchers have called “explanatory style”—was making her situation much worse. Her explanation of Bonkers’ great escape showed the three key markers of pessimism: She described the problem as being personal (“I made it happen; these things always happen to me”), permanent (“Things will never get better”), and pervasive (“My whole life is rotten; I’m such a loser”).

On the other hand, I’d noticed that whenever something good happened, she explained it as a fluke. ” This cute guy from work asked me out,” she said one day. Caroline explained the man’s interest in her as his own “insanity” (not personal) and assumed it wouldn’t last (not permanent). She stressed that other people’s interest never lasted, even though I knew she had been the one to end most romantic relationships (not pervasive).

Bear in mind that Caroline didn’t think like this only when she talked to me. Day in, day out, her mind serialized every piece of bad luck into another episode in a continuing Saga of Doom and deflected every happy event into the Meaningless Trivia scrap pile. Her style was crushing her mood—and was probably damaging her body as well.

Why See the Glass Half Empty?

Despite its attendant miseries, there seems to be a useful place for a pessimistic explanatory style. Some people appear to downplay positive aspects of their situations to limit their expectations and help them feel less pressured. They’re less likely to feel let down if things go wrong.

Researchers Julie Norem and Nancy Cantor call this defensive pessimism. My friend Julia calls it inoculating yourself against disappointment. In the seven years I’ve known her, Julia has changed her explanatory style deliberately, gradually, and successfully. Giving up defensive pessimism may invite disappointment in certain situations, but overall, Julia’s quality of life and her physical health are benefiting as she turns herself into a thoroughgoing optimist.

This doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re a habitual pessimist, you know there’s nothing worse than those bouncy optimists.

Habitual thought patterns are like ruts in a dirt road. The mind slips into them over and over, and at first, steering down another route is extremely difficult. Stopping habitual thoughts as they flash along these pathways, turning one’s mental energy to a new way of thinking, requires an effort that is not merely impressive but heroic.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The way to start changing your mind is not to force it or command it but to watch it. Jeffrey Schwartz, MD, who studies obsessive-compulsive disorders, teaches his patients “mindful awareness,” a form of meditation that can free them from intrusive thoughts—a technique that has also been shown to help other patients stop a blue mood from becoming full-blown depression. The idea is to identify a destructive thought pattern, then simply label it and watch it and let it pass by whenever it appears in your mind.

When Caroline did this, her mood changed immediately. Instead of drowning in thoughts like “Bonkers never loved me!” she learned to say, “Oh look, there’s a pessimistic explanation.” This gave her enough space, enough mental distance, to at least consider a more optimistic story.

If you want to change your explanatory style, start by evaluating where you fall on the spectrum from pessimism to optimism. Researchers do this by analyzing the way people use the “three Ps” (personal, permanent, and pervasive elements) in their descriptions of past events. (You can use this quiz.) Unless your score shows you to be wildly optimistic, consider nudging yourself further toward the bright side.

Testing your explanatory style is the beginning of mindfulness, of watching the way your brain tells stories. Initially, you may simply notice that a thought seems negative; as you pay more attention, you will begin to see how you use the three Ps.

Once you’ve become aware of your explanatory style and its elements, make a concerted effort to describe positive events as personal, permanent, and pervasive. Tell the story of a bad event without personalizing it or thinking that it will have a broad, lasting impact on your life.

Staying the Course

The great thing about developing an optimistic explanatory style is that it’s self-reinforcing. It increases your hope and expectation that your whole health-and-fitness regimen, mental and physical, will be worth the effort. This frame of mind will help keep you not only happy but healthy; studies have linked it to improved immune function, better lung function, quicker recovery from heart surgery, and a lower risk of heart disease. I’ve also noticed that it correlates with my clients’ ability to achieve all their goals. Changing your thought diet—your way of thinking—may be the best thing you can do to stay on your food diet.

I suspect this is why Caroline, like many of my clients who successfully change their explanatory patterns, has experienced an unexpected side effect: She’s in the best shape of her life. She’s managed to drop a pattern of emotional eating, stay on an effective workout schedule, and lose five pounds. Even more dramatic are the changes in her posture and facial expression, which have gone from cringing and miserable to alert and interested, making her much more attractive and approachable. Not only does her mood improve every time she observes and alters a negative explanation rather than getting mired in it, but her body appears to love the change.

And I suggest that Caroline can expect this trend to continue. Is this an optimistic explanation? You bet. I’m sticking to my diet.

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Make It Pay… Insight From Martha http://marthabeck.com/2012/07/make-it-pay/ http://marthabeck.com/2012/07/make-it-pay/#respond Sun, 08 Jul 2012 21:45:42 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=5713 read more...]]> I am coming to you from Londolozi South Africa where I am running our annual self-transformation adventure retreats. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.

That last sentence was ironic. The fact is, of course, that I am bizarrely fortunate to be doing what I’m doing right now. That said, this good fortune came my way because my friends and I decided to make it happen. I just said “This is a tough job.” But of course, it’s not a job in the sense that most people use that word. I didn’t go down to the unemployment office in Phoenix where I live and ask an employment officer to please find me a job running luxury safaris in South Africa. I didn’t send out a bunch of resumes and out of the clear blue sky get an offer to do this for money.

Insofar as I can even call this a “job,” it’s a job I made up. I am continuously amazed by the way people frantically look for jobs when almost nobody likes them and they are going away. Most of the clients I’ve coached tell me two things: #1) They absolutely hated all the jobs they’ve done in their lives, and #2) They desperately need another one. This is insane, all by itself. The whole construct of a job is just a cultural anomaly that has existed for a brief period of history. We are problem-solving animals, born with brains that can make astonishing things like computers and Toll House cookies. Why in God’s name would such an astonishing creature submit to a lifetime of drudgery on the assumption that there is no other option, even when that option no longer works?

This may sound a little mercenary because of the way our culture deals with money (obsessing about it continuously without ever mentioning it out loud), but I’m going to say it anyway. Think of something you really really really love. Then repeat the following phrase in your mind: “Find a way to make it pay.”

You may think that the thing you love has no possibility of creating income. You may think your survival hinges on replicating what somebody else made up and labeled “job.” But do you know what that person was doing? He or she was thinking, “Find a way to make it pay.” All jobs are invented. And you can invent a job that has never existed before. In fact, this is the single most important skill you can have in the 21st century­—not to do a job but to invent a job.

Some people get so indignant, even enraged, when I talk this way. They say things like “Well, that’s easy for you to say, you had all the skills and training to do what you’re doing!” But I have trouble recalling even a single moment during my education and training when someone said, “Yes, a PhD in Sociology is just what you need to take groups of Americans rhinoceros tracking for considerable sums of money.”

You can find a way to make it pay.

You can find a way that serves the world, serves your customers, and serves your soul. The job you are meant to have has not yet been named. It has not yet been imagined. It is waiting in the confines of your own heart to take shape in the world of form. I’ll talk to you next month. Right now I’ve got a job to do. Those rhinoceroses are not going to track themselves.


Photos Courtesy of Susan Honnell (c) 2012

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Enjoyment is in The Waiting… Insight from Martha http://marthabeck.com/2012/06/enjoyment-is-in-the-waiting/ http://marthabeck.com/2012/06/enjoyment-is-in-the-waiting/#comments Sun, 10 Jun 2012 10:00:38 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=5625 read more...]]> Last month I promised to tell you results of my experiment in Radical Fun. This month I will be somewhat cryptic, because although things are in process, they are not yet signed, sealed, and delivered. I will say however, that even the pursuit of these radically fun ideas has, itself, been radically fun.
 
This has led me to think—a rare but thrilling experience for me—and my thoughts are that as I wait for things to be signed, sealed, and delivered, I have the capacity to derive immense enjoyment from the challenge of creating in form what I have pictured in my imagination.
 
It seems to me we do this all the time: we spend months or years in anguished waiting, thinking, and longing for the day that things are signed, sealed, and delivered, and then we will be free to enjoy ourselves. To draw this to its logical conclusion, I suggest we all do what Salvador Dalí was rumored to have done—purchase our own coffins, climb in, and pretend we are all finished with everything, forever.  The fact is, as long as we are breathing, the conditions of our lives will always be in flux, our ships still sailing in, the things we already own potentially dissolving (or disappearing). To accept that fact without anxiety is to enjoy the process of living. Anything less, and we are simply suffering until we die.
 
Try a thought experiment with me: Recall something good that happened to you in the past which required some level of patience. Maybe you started a business and didn’t know for a while if it would succeed. Maybe you fell in love and weren’t sure if the object of your affection would love you back. Maybe you planted weed in the back of your walk-in closet and had to wait to see if it matured before the authorities caught you. Were you relaxed and jovial awaiting the outcome? (Remember I said before the weed matured). If not, if you spent sleepless nights or anxious days anticipating an outcome you could not control, welcome to the club. Most of us do that. Now imagine that you knew beforehand that all would go well—as in fact it did. Imagine the feelings of anticipation, the delight, the happy planning, and the joyful discussions with loved ones you could have had in the absence of that anxiety.
 
Now notice that even if you had been disappointed, that period of positive anticipation could have been enjoyable, in and of itself.
 
I think the key to this kind of enjoyment is to relax around the concept of disappointment. Tension and anxiety won’t make you less disappointed if you don’t get what you want. So you might as well dive in and enjoy optimism knowing that while you cannot control all outcomes, you can control how well you cope with circumstances that hurt your feelings.
 
My favorite story about handling disappointments comes from the India guru Amrit Desai. He had a collection of very rare crystals that he’d accumulated over many years. One day his cleaning lady knocked over a display case and smashed most of the irreplaceable crystals. When she tearfully pointed out her mistake, expecting a violent reaction, the guru shrugged and told her “Those things were for my joy, not for my misery.”
 
This month, accept things for your joy instead of making them the reason for your misery. Hope for your wildest dreams to come true, and then spend all your time imagining, discussing, dreaming, and enjoying the happiest possible outcome in advance. If your heart’s desire does not happen, you have my permission to be extremely disappointed—but not for very long.
 
The fact is, the only reason you are alive is that far more has gone right for you than has gone wrong. Your dreams are for your joy; even if they lie crushed on the ground, you need not make them responsible for misery. If you raise your eyes from the shards you’ll find more dreams all around, and many of them can come true. As Marcel Proust wrote, “If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.” 
 
I’ll update you next month, but in the meantime I plan to enjoy myself!

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Pronghorn Alert! http://marthabeck.com/2011/12/pronghorn-alert/ http://marthabeck.com/2011/12/pronghorn-alert/#respond Thu, 01 Dec 2011 15:00:18 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=4522 read more...]]> First of all, I wish to say a huge thank you to everyone who, acting on good will and perhaps a tiny dose of insanity, has already purchased my new book even thought technically it does not yet exist.  We managed to get into the top 200 bestsellers on Amazon for a considerable period, which means that this nonexistent volume actually trounced innumerable books that are actual physical products.  All of you who preordered have my most heartfelt gratitude.
 
Speaking of things that happen before they exist, as I was writing Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, which, as you may know, is all about making things happen with less effort and more amazement, I experienced a succession of events that should not have happened. It seemed I was continuously encountering the kinds of people I was writing about:  medicine men, shamans, healers, and mystics from all sorts of obscure traditions around the world.  I thought that when I finished the book that these events would stop.  In some odd way, I had convinced myself that my daily writing sessions were causing me to pay abnormal attention to the subject and that this was creating an illusion of “manifestation” that would disappear when I stopped writing.  I may be wandering off into “woo woo” territory, but at heart I am still a skeptic.
 
That’s why I was surprised when, not long after I finished the book, I was introduced to a shaman from South America and invited to attend a retreat in a remote region of the American West. I was somewhat nervous about the entire event.  Even though I have been running them for years, I have never been to a retreat myself. I had no clue what shamanic ceremony we’d be performing and, as some of you know, I have a slight tendency toward anxiety­—to the extent that waking up in the morning is an athletic exercise of will and courage.  The one thing that can reliably calm me down is an animal—any animal. I love animals.  If I woke up and there was a rat in my room, I would be profoundly calm. 
 
So, as I set out from the airport to the wilderness area where the retreat was to take place, I decided to request that animal be sent to calm me.  I do this a lot in Africa and it always works there, though the Londolozi Game Preserve is so magical that I have begun to take it for granted. This time I decided I wanted to see a Pronghorn antelope.  These animals are native to the American West, but though I have lived in their immediate neighborhood most of my life, I had never seen one.  They are wary, very fast and learn to avoid people.  So, as I sat in my rental car, mentally “calling” Pronghorn, my hopes were not high.  A few seconds later, to my surprise, I experienced an odd sensation much like a hot flash.  I my head, I heard (or thought I heard) something say, “We will bring them right to you.”  I popped another Centrum Silver for aging women and thought I was imagining things. 
 
Four hours later, I was motoring down a dirt road toward the retreat location.  I was in a wide valley, too high for trees to grow, and could see for miles around me.  Suddenly, in the distance, I caught a blob of movement, a little like a patch of sand, moving quickly across the ground.  I stopped my car and stared in complete amazement, not quite daring to believe that I was looking at a herd of Pronghorn antelope.  The blob came toward me like it was late for an appointment.  When it was about a mile away, I could make out individual animals.  Until the herd was very close, I didn’t dare believe that the very beasts I had requested were headed toward me, against all logic and instincts.  When they were about a block away from me, there was no more doubt.  They were much bigger and chunkier than I had expected and fast.  I have since learned that Pronghorns are the fastest land animals in North America.  These animals were not living in a protected game preserve, but in a place that was frequented by human hunters.  Yet they sprinted a considerable distance to the one human artifact in sight—my car.  And then they stopped. 
 
As I sat in my car, alternately laughing and gasping, the last thread of my disbelief snapped.  There really is some sort of communion between humans and the other animals that share our planet.  There really is something real in the belief and practices of humans who have found harmony with the natural world.  And there really is magic. 
 
Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  To me, an iPhone is pure magic, yet I accept its existence.  Mine continues to work no matter how many times I drop it.  Sometimes I use it incorrectly or I’m in an area where the signal is weak, but that doesn’t mean I stop believing that the technology works. 
 
Similarly, the “technologies of magic” used by ancient people must be used intelligently and correctly to have the desired effect.  Very few people still know how to program them, use all their apps, or even turn on the power, but that does not mean there is nothing to these technologies.  Not only do they work, they are part of the hardware that was born into your brain and body.  They are waiting for you to take them out of the package and begin fiddling with the buttons.  At first, you may not see many results.  Keep tinkering.  Ask people who know.  Look for small effects and repeat the actions that produce them until the effects become more noticeable.  If you persist, there will come a day when something sprints toward you with such determination and such beauty that your disbelief will snap like a dried twig. 
 
Along with some of my master coaches, I have decided to label these “Pronghorn Alerts.”  Just having a name for them will help you identify them in your own experience.  When you have a Pronghorn-type event, even a tiny one, you must sound the “Pronghorn Alert!” by posting it to my Facebook or Twitter page.  There you can also learn the not-at-all secret hand signal that we have invented to designate the statement, “I have just performed a miracle.” 

We look forward to reading your stories and thanks again for being a miracle in my life.  Just the fact that you are reading this makes you a bit of a Pronghorn to me.


Fun Contest Time!

Sound Your Pronghorn Alert!

We want to hear about your miracles! Post your Pronghorn Alert on my Facebook or Twitter page (use the hashtag #wildworld) between now and Noon Pacific time on December 12th (Yes! That’s 12 on 12/12!) and you’ll be entered to win one of ten autographed copies of my new book before it’s available in stores. As a matter of fact, you’d most likely have it in your hot little hands by Christmas. For more information on the contest and to hear me talk about my own Pronghorn Alert, watch the video below.  Then pop on over and post your Pronghorn Alert pronto!

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Big Dreams: Setting & Achieving Wildly Improbably Goals http://marthabeck.com/2002/09/wigs/ http://marthabeck.com/2002/09/wigs/#respond Sun, 01 Sep 2002 16:00:27 +0000 http://marthabeck.com/?p=4845 read more...]]> Woman ClimbingI was 13, doing my homework in front of my family’s broken-down television, when I felt strangely compelled to look up at the screen. It showed an athlete running around an indoor track. I heard myself say out loud, “That’s where I’m going to college.” A split second later the TV narrator’s voice came on: “Here at Harvard University’s athletic center…” My heart stopped. Not in my most fevered dreams had I ever considered applying to an Ivy League school. Such behavior would be unusual, if not downright bizarre, for a girl from my deeply conservative Utah town. Besides, going to Harvard required several thousand times more brains, talent, and money than I would ever have. On the other hand, I felt the truth of my own strange words in the marrow of my bones. Okay, I thought nervously, maybe going to Harvard isn’t utterly unthinkable. Maybe it’s just barely, barely possible. Right there, in front of the TV, I surrendered to the first of what I would one day call my Wildly Improbable Goals (WIGs, for short). 

Decades later I have a couple of Harvard diplomas stuck in a closet, and a happy expectation that sometime soon another WIG is going to pop, unbidden, into my consciousness. I’ve watched this happen repeatedly, not only to me but to loved ones and clients. I suspect it may have happened to you, too. Perhaps it was just a flicker of thought that transported you for a moment, before you dismissed it as nonsense. Maybe it’s a dream that simply will not let go of you, no matter how often you tell yourself not to hope for anything so big, so unlikely. Or it may be an ambition you’ve already embraced, even though everyone else thinks you need serious medication. In any case, learning to invite and accept your own WIG can awaken you to a kind of ubiquitous, benevolent magic, a river of enchantment that perpetually flows toward your destiny.

Time travel 
I might as well admit what I believe about these minor prophecies I call WIGs. I suspect they’re not so much mental constructs as literal glimpses of the future. I stand behind Albert Einstein’s comment that “people like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Physics tells us that time can be stretched or compressed like Silly Putty, and I am just woo-woo enough to believe that we humans might sometimes sense truths that are ordinarily veiled by our assumptions or self-imposed rules.

Prescience—knowing about events that haven’t yet occurred—is not altogether foreign to behavioral science. In one study, experimenters showed test subjects a series of images, including both pleasant pictures and violent or otherwise emotional ones. The researchers were not surprised to find that the subjects’ blood pressure and heart rate increased in response to the upsetting images. They had not anticipated, however, that this reaction would occur seconds before the subjects saw the violent pictures—a result that has been replicated in other studies but never satisfactorily explained.

What occurs infinitesimally in laboratory experiments takes on huge dimensions in the lives of some extraordinary people. Joan of Arc had goals so wildly improbable that she was burned as a witch for achieving them. A young Winston Churchill once said to a friend, “I tell you I shall be in command of the defenses of London… In the high position I shall occupy, it will fall to me to save the Capital and save the Empire.” Do such people accomplish great things because they dreamed near impossible dreams, or were their dreams previews of what they were destined to achieve? I’m open to either explanation. To me, one seems as mysterious as the other. Whether our WIGs are the cause or effect of our actions, they have a peculiar power to lift us beyond what we thought to be our limitations.

Wild Kingdom 
At this point, I hope you’re wondering how you can set your own Wildly Improbable Goals. The problem is, you can’t. WIGs are to normal thoughts what Siberian tigers are to house cats, and your “right mind” doesn’t have the hunting skills to find them. Fortunately, your WIGs can find you. The knowledge of your destiny may stalk you for years, undetected except for occasional moments of longing or hope that glint like eyeshine in your darkest hours. Then when you least expect it, a WIG will leap out of nowhere and overwhelm you in one breathtaking burst. I’ve had the privilege of watching many clients recognize WIGs. It’s thrilling to see people who thought they were directionless realize they’re about to run for office or buy a house or publish a novel or have a baby. If these moments were broadcast on cable—the Wildly Improbable Discovery Channel—I’d watch it all day long.

Speaking of having babies, that process is somewhat similar to the procedure for inviting WIGs into your life. You can’t force a WIG to happen, but you can create conditions that will either prevent it or invite it. One precondition is absolutely necessary: You must befriend, protect, and nurture your own spirit. This means paying attention to your real needs, treating yourself not just fairly but kindly, and standing up for yourself even if that displeases people around you. Just as a run-down body may be unable to conceive a healthy new life, a run-down soul can’t support the healthy development of the life you were meant to have. 

Helping it Happen 
Once you’ve met the basic condition of self-care, there are several strategies you might use to lure your WIGs out of hiding. One is to take a pencil in your dominant hand (right for right- handers, left for lefties) and write down a few pointed questions, such as “What are you feeling?” “What do you need?” and “What do you want?” As soon as you’ve finished writing a question, switch the pencil to your other hand and write whatever words bubble up. You may be surprised. When your problem-solving mind is fully engaged, trying to master the task of writing with the “wrong” hand, hidden aspects of the self often surface. I’ve seen people encounter full-fledged WIGs in the shaky words written by their own nondominant hand. 

If you think more visually than verbally, you may want to try another exercise: time travel. Take a few quiet minutes, relax in a comfortable place, close your eyes, and imagine that the date has changed. It’s the same day of the same month, but the year is 2005, 2012, or 2020. Figure out how old you are in the year you’ve chosen. How old is your best friend? Your children? Your spouse? Let yourself inhabit this time. Now with your eyes still closed, simply describe your circumstances. Where are you? What are you wearing? What is the weather like? Now describe your life. What is most important to you on this date? What projects occupy you? Who hangs out with you? Try to simply observe rather than make things up. If no images appear, don’t worry. Your WIGs are still hiding, but you’ve called them and they are listening. They may show up after you’ve finished the exercise, when you’re brushing your teeth or making your bed. 

A third WIG-baiting exercise also involves time travel, but for this one you don’t project yourself into the future. Instead your future self comes back to visit you. Imagine meeting a wise, happy person who just happens to be your best self ten years from now. Ask this person for advice. If you’re facing a problem, ask your mentor how she got through it ten years back. Ask her what mistakes you’re making and how you might correct them. As with the previous exercise, you may initially get no answer. Nevertheless, your true self, that wise being who exists outside of time, has registered the questions. The answers will come.

When it Hits 
Being struck by a WIG is nothing like setting an ordinary goal. First of all, you’ll notice that it is not something you thought up; it seems to come from somewhere beyond thought. Second, you’ll feel an almost physical jolt of yearning, as though your heart is straining toward its destiny. Third, you’ll have the vertiginous sensation of your mind boggling. If you haven’t experienced this before, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed, the way I felt at 13, watching that runner circle the Harvard track. You won’t even be able to imagine the mess of work and luck necessary to make it happen. The very idea will seem impossible…almost. That “almost” will tickle the edges of your consciousness, tempting you to believe that somehow, someway, your dream may fall just inside the realm of probability. How can you be sure? You can’t. Fortunately, your first step is simple: Write down your WIG. In detail. Immediately, before you regain your sanity and lose your nerve. 

Experts say that simply writing down goals greatly increases your chance of actually achieving them. Perhaps it’s because the act of writing primes your brain to scan the environment, looking for opportunities that will take you toward your objectives. Many choices you make en route to realizing your WIG will be so inconspicuous that you won’t even notice them, but over time they’ll add up to huge changes in direction.

Once you’ve written your WIG, the real work begins. I’ve had many clients who, impressed by the strange electricity of their WIGs, assume that this intense feeling alone will magically create the desired reward. Yeah, right. I think the reason WIGs have so much mojo is that we need a huge reservoir of desire to keep us slogging through the hard work needed to realize them. Almost invariably, the effort necessary to achieve a WIG is not less than we expect but more. That said, the process of working toward a WIG does seem to land us in extraordinary territory. Creativity coach Julia Cameron comments that her clients reap the fruit of their labors only if they are willing to go out and “shake the trees,” but weirdly, the fruit that falls almost never comes from the tree the person is shaking.

This has been my experience as well. By the time I was 15, I’d developed a shortlist of WIGs that included three rather childish goals: I wanted to learn to ski, own a ten-speed bicycle, and visit Europe. Once programmed, my brain began noticing job opportunities and sporting-goods sales, and I slowly earned enough money to buy a bike and some used ski equipment. I was also working on selling enough French-club perfume to win a trip to Europe. I’d sold three whole ounces and had only a couple of gallons to go, when a Yugoslavian friend sent my family two round-trip tickets to Europe that he was too busy to use. Days later I was standing on European soil, dizzy with jet lag and euphoria.

That pattern—the recognition of a WIG, followed by enormous amounts of work, followed by a miracle—has happened to me so many times that it’s almost stopped surprising me. I see it strike my clients as well, when they prepare a safe space for their true selves, ask a few questions, and accept the answers. You already know your own WIGs, though you may not yet realize it. The part of you that is unhampered by illusion—the illusion of time, the illusion of powerlessness, the illusion of impossibility—is waiting for you to slow down and open up so that it can speak to your consciousness. In some unguarded moment, you will hear its wildly improbable words and know that they are guiding you home. 


Wildly Improbable Goals – WIGs – are a foundational concept for my life coach training program. First introduced in my book “Finding Your Own North Star”, all of my coaches are trained to help you set – and achieve – your own WIGs.

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