You Can’t Learn to Swim by Dipping Your Toe in the Water

Piggybacking on my previous post, The Accumulation of Small, Consistent Actions, I want to discuss another facet of progress:

Decisiveness in our commitment.

This may sound contradictory to the previous post, but make no mistake, you cannot learn to swim by dipping your toe in the water.

To be clear, I am not saying that you must jump into the deep end with no flotation device or assistance.

But you do have to get in the water. And that means you may experience discomfort, although no worse than the anxiety born of anticipating discomfort.

All you will gain by dipping your toe in the water is a poor measure of its temperature.

And what then?

Okay. The water is hot, or warm, or cool, or cold.

What if that is not to your liking?

What then?

Now you have reinforced your resistance to getting in the water.

Or if the temperature is to your liking, it doesn’t really make the process of learning to swim that much easier. Maybe a bit. But ya still gotta do it.

If you wanna learn to swim, at some point ya gotta get in the fuckin’ water.

Which is greater, your desire to learn and grow, experiencing something that has compelled you to stand at the water’s edge, staring into it in nervous anticipation, or the fear of a negative experience?

If you allow your desire for comfort and security to be greater than the promise of fulfillment from pursuing your deep, authentic desires, you will get more of exactly what you have experienced up to this point in your life. If more of the same is what you genuinely desire, then I congratulate you on having found a state of joy. If, however, you want something else, there is no avoiding the fact that you have to be the one to change, and you are the one who must initiate that change.

There is the possibility that your circumstances will improve without your effort. It is highly unlikely, however, that the new state of being will be sustainable. External circumstances are quite fickle. Consciousness is not. So you may experience some temporary improvement in circumstances.

Or they could get worse. From the consciousness state of the fear of loss, while focusing on holding on to that which you do have already, you may lose that as well.

As Matthew 13:12 states, “For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance. But whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even that which he has.”

To be clear, I have no formal religious affiliation. But at its core, this quote is a mystical statement of consciousness and gratitude. A wealthy person is one who recognizes and celebrates the blessings in life, one who focuses upon them. Such a person continually discovers new blessings bestowed upon him or her. So he or she becomes ever richer, simply by discovering the endless ways that the universe bestows blessings.

Equally important, a wealthy person determines goals, and pursues them from a state of abundance and gratitude.

Matthew 13:12 also alludes to the truth that a state of gratitude tends to manifest in blessings of a material nature.

However, settling or playing it safe does not equate with a state of gratitude. When we refrain from pursuing our authentic desires because we “have enough”, we are not living in gratitude. Gratitude does not say “I’m fine. I have enough.” It says “I have more than I could possibly ever use, share, or even discover.” And from that state, there is no risk of loss since we can’t possibly lose what we have, when the universe constantly gives us more than we even can fathom.

Having enough is a rationalization for settling for less than what we truly desire. And when we settle, we are not living in gratitude, acknowledging the abundant blessings with which the universe is seeking to shower us constantly.

In the situation where we settle or play it safe, we are actually living in a consciousness of scarcity. We operate from the fear of losing rather than the faith that we should pursue our passion as its own reward and experience the abundance as a bonus. So the result tends to be that we lose what we have.

This may manifest as the appearance of loss through our failure to recognize and appreciate what is already present in our life. Because failing to recognize the presence of a blessing in our lives is equivalent to not having that condition at all. We can’t derive joy from its existence, so in effect, we have lost it, since even when it is present, it is not available to us.

Loss also may manifest itself through subconscious enactment of beliefs. If we believe that we have little or nothing in our lives, then that is the state from which our subconscious will create. Since it is dictating our experiences, decisions, and overall life outcomes a vast majority of the time, if it is programmed for lack or scarcity, that is what it will find. And that is what you will experience.

Please understand that none of this is meant to frighten you into action. Fear based motivation always is severely limited. I am merely illuminating the internal dynamics that determine the results we experience in our lives.

However, I do mean to motivate you simply by illustrating that the only true way to lose anything in life, is by refusing to do that which compels you.

That’s because the external circumstances, results, and experiences are merely outward manifestations of our internal state of consciousness.

So if you feel compelled to pursue a dream, but you refrain due to fear, then fear is the dominant state of your subconscious. If fear of loss is the focus of the subconscious, then the loss around which the fear is based will be the program the subconscious runs,  and loss is what you will experience in your life.

At the very least, even if the external circumstances do not change for the so-called worse, refusing to live by your inner guidance will result in a life of unrequited desire. An unfulfilling life. What Thoreau called a life of “quiet desperation.”

In such a situation, apparent safety and security will not be your ally. Because regardless of what you do have, whatever it may be that you fear losing, all of the external abundance, luxury, and security in the world will not fill the void of unrequitement.

To expect things and stuff to satisfy your deepest desires is equivalent to me building you your dream home or buying you your dream car and expecting  them as legitimate consolation for losing the love of your life. It can’t truly provide that for which you long.

However, it is important to realize that the historical moment in which we are living is significant from a cosmic and spiritual standpoint for the way in which it is affecting humans. Specifically, the universe is pushing us all to live in integrity with our deepest purpose. As such, we will experience discomfort and even pain as a psychospiritual urging to fulfill the purpose for which we came into this life.

This may even mean that we will experience loss for the larger purpose of pushing us into the life we are meant to live. Or for snapping us out of the illusion that some insignificant artifact that we may have deluded ourselves into believing should be the focus of our energy has little or nothing to do with our authentic purpose.

For me the bottom line is that we have come to this human experience with a purpose to fulfill. We came to this life at this time to bring the wholly unique gifts that the world needs. Badly! And fulfilling that universal purpose will fulfill us individually as well.

So regardless of what gets us moving ultimately, be it fear, discomfort, or the joy of fulfillment, one way or another, the time has come to live our deepest truth. No doubt, that will mean choosing fulfillment over fear.

Are there ways that you have been playing it safe, living in fear rather than stepping into your fulfillment? If so, how can you begin acting from your desires instead of your fears.

Please feel free to reach out to me if there is any way that I may help you.

At your service.

Jon

The Accumulation of Small, Consistent Actions

If you spend enough time studying the philosophies and practices of manifestation, peak performance, self-realization, or whatever other tag you might affix to the field, you will come across a powerful metaphor for human development. That of the Chinese Bamboo tree.

The seed of the Chinese Bamboo is so hard that it requires watering and soil cultivation for five years before any sprouts appear above ground. Once it does break ground, however, it can grow to a height of ninety feet in six weeks.

What is important to realize, however, is that in order to achieve any growth at all, the care and cultivation of the seed and the soil must take place consistently for those five years. If this consistency is not present, no growth will occur.

So while it would appear that nothing is happening for several years followed by extraordinarily rapid growth in a short period of time, the reality is that the vast majority of growth took place out of sight, prior to an explosion of observable progress.

The same tends to be true for humans working on our larger life goals.

Historically, I have been an all-or-nothing person. The problem with such an attitude often was my refusal to engage in many endeavors unless I could immerse myself in them completely. I set my expectations so high for my actions, that it became easy to fail to execute them.

This was harmful, first off, since it always left me with some form of excuse as to why I hadn’t achieved success.

“Well, I would have been better at this…

…  if I could have devoted more time.”

… if I didn’t have to do (insert excuse here).”

… if my hair weren’t in my eyes.”

… if the wind had blown the other way.”

… if so and so hadn’t distracted me.”

… if… if… if… if… if… blah… blah… blah…

The “if only” excuse became not only an explanation for prior failures, but also a justification for current and future ones.  I frequently failed to achieve success precisely because I would quit on pursuits when I couldn’t do them “full tilt”.

So then I had all of my bases covered.

“I didn’t succeed with that because I couldn’t give it my all, and I won’t succeed with this because if I can’t give it my all then I shouldn’t devote any energy to it.”

But that isn’t how progress is made.

In truth all progress is gradual and incremental, even in situations where the bloom of results occurs suddenly. The small consistent actions are what yield the fruits.

If progress occurs incrementally through consistent action, then achievement is merely the appearance or clear evidence of results that have been accumulating regularly and incrementally all along. Two significant events in my life showed me this truth.

After two failed attempts, at the age of thirty-three, I finally completed my bachelors degree. During the graduation, as various speakers hailed the significance of the threshold that the day’s graduates were crossing, I understood the purpose of such ceremonies.

Ceremonies and awards are symbols, not of achievements made in that moment, but of the accumulation of consistent actions that culminate in some external result.

Earning a college degree is not a matter of walking across a stage in a cap and gown. It is a matter of applying sustained effort, regardless of, sometimes in spite of, how one feels about the work at hand. It is a result of all-nighters pulled to complete projects, papers, and exam study sessions. Or, in my case, three to nine hours of daily practice on my instrument, ear-training, keyboard harmony, music theory, music history, or the like.

I recognized the same to be true of my marriage. The wedding itself is not a commitment, it is a symbol of the commitment that we have made up to that point in time, and a promise of future commitments.

The commitment to a marriage is not made at the altar. It isn’t a choice made once in the presence of friends, family, a justice of the peace. It is made every day, leading up to, and more importantly, following a wedding day.

Marital commitment is made in the moments when we share our feelings with our partner even though it feels safer to shut down. It is made in the moments when we are vulnerable enough to forgive or ask forgiveness. Commitment to our spouse is manifest in the choices we make regardless of, even in spite of selfish inclinations that may encourage us to choose otherwise.

Along with the notion that progress and achievement are comprised of consistent, incremental acts, is the essential understanding that grand gestures and deeds can be inconsequential, even detrimental to long term progress.

Given my all-or-nothing tendencies, the big action I would take frequently led to a rapid expenditure of energy. Worse, having believed that one big surge of effort would get me to my goal, I would feel disillusioned and frustrated when I met with what I didn’t realize need only be temporary failure. So I quit.

Make no mistake. Our attitude and our actions need to be decisive. But if we grant ourselves the gift of a long term commitment to our goals, and we take the consistent actions necessary, even if we must rest occasionally, even if we don’t arrive there when or how we thought we would, we will reach our destination. And who we have become in the process will be just as important, if not more so, than the rewards we reap as a result.

Are there ways that you may be cheating yourself by acting inconsistently? The best part about resuming our pursuit of a goal with small actions, is that we are never far from getting back to it.

So keep at it, or get back to it. The reward awaits.

Please reach out if I can be of any assistance.

At your service.

Jon