"Steven Barnes (is) uniquely powerful
(in helping others balance) their physical
and emotional arenas along a spiritual pathway
to abiding self love and unifying purpose."
--Gerald M. Levin,
Former CEO, Time/Warner
“Thank you, brother. I took the psychological grace
you helped me foster into the cauldron….and came out with the gold. You’re the best!”
--Scott Sonnon, four-time Gold Medal Winner, 2010 World Martial Arts Game
"(I thought) this program would
be helpful. I was wrong. It wasn't helpful. It
changed my life. It SAVED my life." --LaVeda Mason, writer
“SECRET FORMULA” 4-13-14
All right, the last basic piece of the puzzle (we’ll discuss minor or supplemental pieces soon).
GOAL X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS
Gratitude is the one that kicked my butt in Atlanta. How am I supposed to be happy about something causing me so much pain? I could see the trap: while it is possible to power yourself with negative emotions (fear, anger, hate) that is a different path. “The Dark Side of the Force.” I don’t deny that it works, but that was not, at all, what was being discussed in Wattle’s book.
Not “THE” path, but certainly “A” path, and the one that called to me. Even if I could find things to be grateful for in this instance, could I apply this across the board? Can a person be grateful in ANY situation?
This is going to be a delicate one, but I’m going to mention it anyway. One of the great teachers of my life was a woman named Dawn Callan, teacher of a fabulous self-defense/empowerment workshop called “Awaken The Warrior Within.” In two days, Dawn could teach women more about self defense than most instructors can in two years. She did this with a combination of simple techniques drilled endlessly for two days at high intensity, combined with spiritual therapy-group style introspection and sharing. Then, at the end, you practice your skils against a padded attacker, in a combat exercise that has to be experienced to be believed. INTENSE. Breakthrough stuff.
I watched hundreds of women go through this process, including some who had been raped or abused. And they came out the other side with a sense of power and possibility that was astounding. Dawn was, in the space of that workshop, an avatar of power and responsibility and pure Goddess energy, fierce as Kali. About five two on the outside, and seven feet tall on the inside. Amazing woman. I asked her what was the hardest thing she had to face in helping these women (and later, men) through this challenge.
And what she said blew my mind. With a woman who had been raped, her greatest challenge was getting her to take responsibility for what had happened. What? What the hell?
She was very precise in her language. “Responsibility.” Not guilt, blame, or shame. Response-ability. The ability to respond. Without that, she believed, you were a victim forever. Taking responsibility for what HAD happened opened the door to taking responsibility for your future actions and behaviors and encounters.
With that, you tap into your deeper perceptions, intuition, and pure animal survival drives from a spiritual perspective. Without that, all you can do is plead for help or mercy. And that was most definitely NOT where Dawn was coming from.
And it was difficult, because the natural tendency IS to confuse “responsibility” with guilt, blame and shame. But if you remove those emotions, what have you?
Commitment. A sense that, even if you cannot always see or understand the pattern, you have agency. But...but...how can you embrace a philosophy like that? What of abused children? What of people born into unbelievabl poverty? What of people born with childhood diseases? Can you ask them to take “responsibility” for any of that?
You cannot demand it, no. And it is totally understandable that saying this can be uncomfortable. Even worse (much worse) some people use such a philosophy to justify cruelty or neglect. “Why, they chose that miserable state…”
What the hell, indeed. And Dawn, a woman of titanic, ruthles compassion, understood that. So she would NEVER ask people to accept such a position until she had shifted their emotions to a powerful state in which they could view their lived out of the “victim” mindset.
This is a tightrope. Huge. But every woman I saw cross it found something that she thought she had lost: a sense of power in her life. She could not change what had happened, but by God, she could take every ounce of that pain and turn it into motivation. Strength. Resolve. She could define what had happened to her as the trigger to turn her into a tiger committed to protecting ALL women, ALL children, and that she was willing to die before losing her commitment.
Taking power like that, as hard as it clearly was, opened the door to a kind of power and clarity that was...unique. Never seen anything like it.
And if hundreds of women could do THAT, what was I being asked to do? To find a way to be grateful in the midst of pain. Was there a way? Could I even imagine looking back ten years from now and seeing ANYTHING to be happy about?
Well...sure. Maybe .01% possibility, but…
And if that was true, if there was only a single cold star in a bleak, black night sky, didn’t it behoove me to concentrate on that star, if doing so brought joy to my life, and that joy made me a better husband and father...and writer...and coach...and then made me a more attractive, dynamic person, drawing in allies and opportunities...which then could lead to me getting out of Atlanta and back to L.A.?
I could see the line of causality. I could “grasp” it. Could see how something analogous had worked in other circumstances. Had had the people I trust most in the world tell me, every one of them, that I had to find joy, peace, happiness...GRATITUDE...where I was, when I was, or I was on the wrong path.
I could have my pain and anger and despair...or I could have my life. I just had to step away from the damage, not define myself by my ego trainwreck. I was not “that.” My life was not defined by “that.” I had agency. Had made choices. Could MAKE choices...if not in what had already happened, certainly in my interpretation: what does it mean? Who am I? What is true?
And if I could line that up so that every event was empowering, even the negative ones...if for no othr reason than I HAD LEARNED THE LESSON AND SURVIVED...then everything that had ever happened to me in my life could be an empowerment. A doorway. A bridge. A motivator.
Every enemy an ally. Every happenstance a miracle. Every day of my life a building block to the man I am today. And if I love that man...I must be grateful for all of it. To all of THEM.
Forgiveness is not a gift to your enemies. It does not mean forgetting, or allowing them to hurt you again. It is a way to unburden your heart.
If you learn the lesson, you can release the pain and fear. And what remains...is love.
And gratitude. For another day of life. For a strong, healthy body. For the people who love and trust me. For Jason, and Nicki, and my beautiful, brilliant wife. For the chance to help one more person by embracing the truth of my own existence.
And the only cost for this lightness of being is giving up the need to be right. And the fear that if I don’t dump my negative emotions and fear onto others, it will rebound upon me.
Could I be that strong? Could I? Well...if I was committed to being the man I’m committed to being, yes. If I am to be the father and husband I am committed to being, yes. The role model I’m committed to being. The friend. The writer. The coach.
It made sense, even if I couldn’t quite attain it. So I did what I have done before: I made it a prayer. To God, to my own Higher Self--you decide. I don’t care.
“God,” I said. “I’m going to give up my anger. I’m going to take the leap. I can’t see what is in front of me, it’s a leap into a fog bank. All I ask is that you either catch me, or, if there are rocks down there...let me hit them before I see them.”
And I jumped, into a world of love, and acceptance, and...gratitude.
GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS
“In every job that’s to be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and poof! The job’s a game!”--M. Poppins.
The third part of this deceptively simple formula is “constant action.” In truth, this is the major flaw I see in people who practice “The Secret.” The ones who fail, without exception thought that wanting something, visualizing it or chanting goals would produce a miracle.
No. YOU are the miracle. A farmer cannot pray over a field that has not been ploughed and planted, and expect wheat. Even if he does everything right, a tornado can tear up his field, the locusts may come, the rain may withhold its blessing. And he will have to dry his tears, stifle his curses, pull up his big-boy pants and try again. That’s the biz.
There are no guarantees of success. But there ARE guarantees of failure. Taking no action, or insufficient action, is one of them. Let’s put it another way: if your goals aren’t exciting and motivating enough to get you off the couch, off your butt, and hitting it hard morning til night, what the #$%% makes you think they’re strong enough to make the Universe respond?
The bad news is that that Universe doesn’t care. At this very moment, wolves are ripping rabbits to pieces in woods all over the world...and all is well.
The good news is that the Universe doesn’t care. It isn’t going to go out of its way to stop you from getting what you want. In fact, with bizarre consistency, those who arrange their lives so that they don’t NEED luck (it’s nice not to have “bad” luck, but “good” luck isn’t necessary) are the ones who get stupendously lucky.
When you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job, until you’ve got a job, and then everybody offers you work. When you don’t have a lover, you can’t get one, until you’ve got one, and then your phone starts ringing. When you’re broke, you can’t get a loan, until you’ve got money, at which point everyone wants to extend credit.
It is perverse. Get over it--it’s just the way it works.
So define your daily activities so that, if you work your butt off, you can accomplish steps that will lead you to your goal. Set it up so you need no “luck”, and ask for no “help” from others you are not willing to make fair trade for. Re-write and clarify your goals and motivations until you associate GREAT pleasure with accomplishing them, and REAL pain to failing to act.
Seek flow in your daily actions, so that you gain pleasure FROM YOUR DAILY WORK, rather than when you reach that distant goal. Right here, right now, pleasure. Every day. Every moment. THIS IS YOUR LIFE. If you postpone pleasure, you might get hit by a car on your way across the street to cash that check. And won’t you feel a fool, lying there realizing you put off your life, and now it’s over? But if you apply your intelligence you will find ways to take joy in every moment of the work, either for its own sake, or because you are learning and growing, or contributing to others.
ENJOY YOUR LIFE NOW. Bring 100% of what you have, every day, to the blissful effort of going deeper into your two questions: “who am I?” and “what is true?”
Every day. Divide your long-term goals into pieces, and fulfill 1% every week. How do you eat an elephant? One forkful at a time.
Every day. Constant action. The person who makes ten times as many mistakes as you do, AND LEARNS FROM EVERY ONE, AND SEEKS NEVER TO REPEAT AN ERROR, will out-perform you so fast it will make your head spin.
You don’t have to whistle while you work, but you do have to work. And it is then, when you have a clear goal, faith in your efforts, and are totally flowing with constant focused effort…
That is when the gremlins who mess up other people’s plans start saying: “damn! This girl is serious! Let’s go mess with someone with less grit.”
And people will start saying: “wow! He’s lucky.”
And you will laugh at them, and cry for them, just a little. And continue down your road. And it is often a lonely road. Most people think that magic is something outside themselves, something they can call on.
No. Magic is something you embody, or it is nothing at all.
The Secret Formula 4/11
Goals X Faith X Action X Gratitude = Results
The term “Faith” is used in two different senses
1) the belief that your goal is POSSIBLE and APPROPRIATE, and that your efforts will bring you more pleasure and decrease pain.
2) The belief that you have greater resources than those contained within your ego-self.
Both are critical, for different reasons. I don’t believe in lazy people (in the sense of “he’s too lazy to get a job/exercise/etc). I believe in people without motivating goals (there’s nothing I’d get out of doing that), conflicting values that paralyze, or conflicting beliefs that say the goal is out of reach, or toxic, or wrong in some way. Or, they believe that the attempt to reach the goal will cause more pain than pleasure. IF you can clearly see and feel the positive value of the action, if it matches your self-image, if you have an efficient and effective plan to reach it YOU BELIEVE IN, and you associate pleasure with doing it and pain with NOT doing it? I think you’d be doing it. And have never seen an exception to this. Ever.
The second interpretation of “Faith” is more standard. In the Hero’s Journey, the way through the “Dark Night of the Soul” is called the “Leap of Faith”. The “Dark Night” is just the moment at which it feels that all of your skills and strengths and resources are insufficient to reach your goal. You have reached ego-limit.
“Faith” here relates to one of three things:
1) Faith in Self. In other words, even though you have “emptied yourself out” you trust that you can grow, or have hidden strengths, or that Tomorrow Is Another Day. You look back over your life and see countless times you saw no way to succeed, felt exhausted and depressed...and succeeded anyway. You will fight to the last drop of blood. People like that are VERY hard to stop.
2) Faith in Companions. The only known way to compensate for lack of ability is the Mastermind. Friends, family, co-workers, coaches, etc. You trust that you are part of a team, and that they will be there to catch you when you fall.
3) Faith in a Higher Power. Typically, this is belief in a benevolent God. But it could also be a sense that the universe “makes sense”. Or that there are patterns of action in nature that reward the positive. Or the rhythms of life can be sensed like a surfer understands tides and waves. “For every thing there is a time.” It doesn’t matter.
You may have noticed that a disproportionate percentage of high-performing, champion folks, when interviewed, will attribute their success to something other than themselves. They thank their coaches, families, teammates. They “did it” for their dying mother, their country, or school. They “know” that they could never have done it but for answered prayers.
Whatever you may think about the arena of Faith, it seems a very, very powerful ally in accessing deep wells of skill and energy and courage when all seems lost. And if you can find something to believe in that is bigger and deeper than your ordinary sense of self, you too will be able to keep going through the “Dark Nights”. And the combined wisdom of all world cultures suggests that on the other side of the “Leap of Faith”...is everything you’ve ever wanted, needed, or deserved.
“Secret Formula” 4/9/14
GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS
If we apply this to those fortunate few who just seem to “zen” their way through life, I’d suspect that they are people who have these principles at the level of “unconscious competance.” They just wake up, chop wood, carry water, and are following their bliss. But in some way either through natural inclination or careful training earlier in life, they align these factors to produce a constant stream of happy occurance.
Let’s take a look at the first piece: GOALS.
We could call this “intent”, “preference”, “outcome” “destination” or whatever, but I’ve never met a successful person who didn’t have some vision of what they wanted to accomplish. The most advanced had no “technical” sense of it, but just followed their feelings and somehow ended up with fantastic results. Again, the theory is that these people are integrated at a phenomenally deep level, and we can learn much by studying them from this perspective.
There are different ways to view goals. For instance “SMART”:
Specific: you know what you want, EXACTLY what you want. Most people don’t--they only know what they “don’t” want. That’s the “don’t think of a purple cow” paradox. Remember that money doesn’t come in denominations of “enough.”
Meaningful. You are doing it for YOUR own motivations. It must decrease pain and increase pleasure FOR YOU, not someone outside you.
As-If Now. You must visualize/feel yourself having it NOW, be able to “step into” the picture so that you can feel if anything chaffs.
Realistic. If anyone else has ever accomplished what you hope to do (especially if they began where you are beginning), it is “realistic.” You may have to adjust your vision: “you can accomplish anything you want, if you can just let go of how it’s supposed to look.” You may not be able to grow wings and fly (childhood ambition) but you can hang-glide, pilot, parachute, study birds, fly kites, hot air balloon--any number of things that satisfy the drive for freedom, exhilaration, grace in motion, and so forth.
Time-Bound. A goal is a dream with a deadline. When will you accomplish it? What is your five-year plan? Three years? One year? Six months? Three months? One month? What must you do TODAY?
I could do a week-long workshop just on this subject, but it will get you going.
The Cold Hard "Math" of it all by Steven Barnes
I am convinced that if there is a conflict between emotional needs/filters and intellectual/objective reality, the capacity to perceive objective reality suffers. The mechanism would seem to be complicating the subject until there is no longer an objective measurement available to the “common sense” part of the personality. Oh, right...it’s all too complicated to figure out…
I know that in each of the major arenas, there are very simple (or relatively simple) measures that people who struggle in those arenas often seem to have a difficult time accepting. These ideas are the bedrock of mastering the “dream” of consensus reality, and any concept of awakening roots quite strongly within them. Without them, you risk mistaking delusion for “spiritual advancement.”
If you accept the following ideas, which range from the emotional/spiritual (difficult to quantify) to the bedrock of physics and mathematics, my approach to reality will work for you. If you don’t, it won’t. And I would suggest you simply consider me deluded. Seriously.
Pretty simple. Ultimately, we can’t be certain of what reality is: we may, after all, be nothing but brains in boxes. But the following notions seem to be internally and externally consistent enough to explain so much of our lives that I find it FAR more useful to accept than reject them.
By the way: I’ve never met a human being who did not struggle in at least one of these areas. Never. NOT A SINGLE ONE, myself most certainly included. This is tough, ugly stuff. We go from the most emotional/least objective to the most mathematical/most capable of individual control.
1) Relationships. The “Beauty-Power” access. The more power a woman desires in a potential mate, the more beauty (however that is measured in her cultural niche) she has to trade for it. The more beauty a man desires in a potential mate, the more power (however that is measured in his cultural niche) he has to trade for it.
Application: not interested in the people who are attracted to you? Change your standards: either for the people you are willing to accept, or your own behaviors affecting power and beauty. If you don’t, it is a recipe for pain.
2) Balancing the budget. If you spend more money than you make, you go into debt. You have to control both ends of the money equation, or you are screwed. Period. If you find yourself reluctant to balance your checkbook, you are probably dealing with pain and delusion in this arena. (While this is math, we often have little direct control on exactly when and how we are pain. The time lag between cause and effect can be devastating. If your career does not position you close to the “money flow” or if excellence does not correlate to amount of remuneration, you will have to employ creative thinking, big time. And you will have to be ruthless about demanding that the world pay you what you earn...or moving to another arena where you can do so.)
Application: sick of your current financial situation? Bring in more money and spend less. Whatever you do, however you have to do it, no one has ever changed their finances in any other way than changing the balance of this equation.
And the most basic arena, the one that requires the least cooperation from other human beings (and if you grasp the difficulty people have here in this arena, the problems in the others become clearer thereby:)
3) If you take in fewer calories than you burn up, you lose weight. Sure, “not all calories are equal.” Sure, emotional, social, physiological, metabolic, and other factors make things harder. There is no “moral” dimension to the struggle. Weight is not directly correlative to health. I don’t believe in “lazy” people. Health, and injury can make it terrible. Social pressures are ghastly. Yes, you can eat and exercise exactly as you did twenty years ago, or before you had that baby or changed that job, and gain weight. No, it isn’t fair that your friend/neighbor/sister can eat the exact way you do, and still stay skinny. Yes, it takes seven hours of jogging to burn a single pound of fat. NO I’M NOT SAYING IT IS EASY. Sure, if you eat healthier food, you may want to eat less of it, leading to a better physical situation. All of these things are true. But it is also true that if you take in fewer calories than you burn up...you lose weight. No exceptions (I’ve actually had people say bizarre things like: “what if you eat rocks? Rocks have no calories, but you’ll be heavier…” Can you see the massive avoidance involved in saying something like this?). All of these things are true. But if you try to avoid the reality of the first sentence in this paragraph, you will get lost in a vast, twisty maze of exercise theories, conflicting opinions about nature and nurture, fad diets, and more. All your roads have to lead to this one reality, OR YOUR EFFORTS WILL NOT WORK. There is not an animal on this planet whose body disobeys the laws of physics.
Application: find some way to change the balance of the calories you take in and burn up. Usually, the answer lies in better knowledge, changed behaviors and healed emotions. Even bariatric surgery just seeks to limit intake. Everyone who has ever lost weight has found a way to change this balance.
No, I’m not saying these things are easy. The tangle of damaged emotions around these three issues are killer. The cavalcade of people and opinions that will distract you from the simplest realities here are legion. The support for infinite complexity (it’s just too complicated to understand!) are endless.
But if...and I mean IF, you can accept these three ideas, you gain a way to look at your own concepts, your reality map, your beliefs and emotions and actions that will teach you things about yourself most people don’t want to know. If you accept responsibility in all three arenas at the same time, you have “safety rails” around the most critical aspects of your life, and you will be able to push HARD without damaging yourself, and in the process make real, generative progress toward self-knowledge.
In each of these three the reality is simple. NOT “EASY”, “SIMPLE”. If you want to be happy, either change your standards, or change your behaviors, whatever it takes. If you have a wound in one of these three arenas? Hey, join the human race: you’re like the rest of us. Take a deep breath and re-adjust your grip on the wheel.
But if you have wounds in two or (God forbid!) all three? You are in trouble. You are careening down a mountain road, asleep, your inner child screaming in the back-seat for you to WAKE UP, DAMMIT!
Or...you can simply believe it is all just too complicated. I say it is killingly simple...but HARD and often PAINFUL. There is a difference.
If you have flaws in one of these three arenas, get FOCUS AND FLOW and the 101 PROGRAM and watch your efficiency, effectiveness and balance increase!
DISCLAIMER of Steven Barnes and MH Sub I, LLC as hosting company dba TherapySites.
Steven Barnes and TherapySites expressly disclaim all warranties and responsibilities of any kind, whether express or implied, for the accuracy or reliability of the content of any information contained in this site, and for the suitability, results, effectiveness or fitness for any particular purpose of the content. You are solely responsible for your use or reliance on such information and any foreseeable or unforeseeable consequences arising out of such use or reliance. In no event will Steven Barnes or TherapySites be liable for any damages resulting from the use of or inability to use, the content, whether based on warranty, contract, tort or other legal theory, and whether or not Steven Barnes or TherapySites is advised of the possibility of such damages. In no event will Steven Barnes's and TherapySites's aggregate liability exceed U.S. $100.