(This is a slightly longer tip than usual, so you may want to print it out and take your time with it…)
One of the main questions I’ve been exploring and wrestling with over the past 20 years or so is how we create more of what we want in the world.
Some related questions include:
- What makes the difference between success and failure in any endeavor?
- What are the key skills people need to develop to create more of what they want?
- What can I do today to move forward in the direction of what I’m wanting?
Here’s a visual representation of the D-O-R model:
In order to make sense of it and put it to work in your own life, let’s go through each of the steps in turn…
1. D is for Desire
It would seem somewhat obvious that in order to create more of what you want in your life, the first step would be to know what it is that you want. Yet the most common answer I hear when I ask people what they want is “I don’t know”. My question in return is most often “why not?”
Here are some of the most common responses:
- I’ve never really thought about it.
- If I start focusing on what I want, then I’m going to feel bad when/if I don’t get it.
- If I say what I want, then I’ll have to do stuff I don’t want to do in order to get it.
- If I admitted what I really wanted, everyone would think I’m a. selfish, b. shallow, c. foolish, d. grandiose, or e. all of the above. And even if they didn’t think that, I would!
And here’s the problem with all of these responses – you want what you want, whether or not you think you should want it and whether or not you think you can have it. Authentic desire is, well, authentic – it comes from somewhere deep inside us.
You can no more make yourself not want what you want than you can make yourself invisible (not that people don’t try). The freedom comes in realizing that you don’t have to do anything about it. Wanting what you want is natural; doing something about it is always a choice.
The wonderful thing about desire is that when you begin to respect it, listen to it, and even experiment with following it, it will take you in the direction of the most wonderful life you can imagine. This is the principle of effortless success, and as I wrote in the introduction to You Can Have What You Want:
When you get really clear and honest about what you want,
everything in the universe conspires to help you get it.
Which leads us on to the next part of our model…
2. O is for Opportunity
When I was an actor, I noticed a peculiar phenomenon – whenever I actively reconnected to my authentic desire to get acting work, opportunities to do or audition for that work started showing up. In fact, I can recall three separate occasions where I was sitting in my car reading a trade newspaper looking for auditions when my agent rang to tell me about an audition that had come in for me.
Coincidence? Maybe – but just because two things coincide doesn’t mean they’re not also related. And in the years since then, I’ve noticed again and again that when I’m in touch with my authentic desire, opportunities to fulfill that desire begin showing up.
Here are the two main theories I’ve heard to explain that phenomenon:
a. The Perceptual Snowplow
There is a part of our brain called the RAS, or reticular activating system, which essentially filters information in such a way that we notice more of what we’re looking for and less of what we aren’t. This is why when you first get a new car (or shirt or dress or pretty much anything) you begin to see it everywhere.
The “perceptual snowplow” theory says that the reason opportunities follow on from desire is simply that acknowledging the desire sets up our perceptual filters in a way so that otherwise random data appears to us as meaningful and otherwise random events get recoded in our brains as “opportunities to fulfill our desire”. By this theory, the auditions I got when I was sitting in my car would have come anyways – but because my perceptual snowplow was clearing the way to notice “auditions”, those phone calls showed up for me as significant.
b. Harmonic Resonance
In fields as varied as quantum physics, neuroscience, music theory and metaphysics, the theory of harmonic resonance suggests that all objects have a frequency or set of frequency with which they naturally resonate.
This is the science behind the “law of attraction” that has come into vogue through “The Secret” and the work of Abraham-Hicks. Since thoughts are a form of energy, when we think about something happening and resonate with the frequency of that thought (i.e. think it clearly enough to generate the corresponding feeling state in our body), it sends an actual vibratory frequency out into the universe and literally attracts anything with a similar frequency into the time and space of the person thinking those thoughts.
So by this theory, the auditions I got when I was reading the trade papers weren’t coincidental at all, but rather the natural fruits of the seed of my desire. Desire is the cause; opportunity is the effect.
So which theory is correct?
I don’t have a clue. And fortunately it doesn’t seem to matter – people who believe in the perceptual snowplow seem to have as many opportunities turn up as those who believe in harmonic resonance – and neither belief system appears to be a prerequisite for creating more of what you want in your life.
What does seem to matter is two things:
The first is clarifying your desire – getting really clear and honest with yourself about what it is that you’d most love to happen, even if you don’t think that it can or will happen and even if you think you’re a terrible, silly person for wanting it.
The second is spotting opportunities as they arise and stepping into them by taking action. (See my recent tip on “Event-Action” for more on this.) The best thing about opportunity is that it is not, contrary to popular mythology, a one-off event. In fact, when you get really clear about what you want, opportunity knocks so hard and so often it has bloody knuckles.
But if desire and opportunity are so readily available, why doesn’t everyone have everything they want? Is it just laziness, or lack of discipline, or lack of clarity?
The answer to this question comes in the third element of our model…
3. R is for Readiness
I was having a conversation with my mentor George Pransky, when he pointed out to me that perhaps the reason a project I had taken on hadn’t worked out was that “it wasn’t in the cards”.
Slightly horrified at the inference that I didn’t completely control the universe and that occasionally even with all the will and cleverness in the world there was still an element of fate that played a part in how things turn out, I asked him to clarify what he meant.
He told me the story of a 19th century Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis who had discovered that if he and his nurses washed their hands before handling babies, it reduced infant mortality rates from as high as 35% to below 1%. And yet, this ran so contrary to state of the art medical knowledge at the time that his “radical” theories were rejected and he was fired from his job, committed to a mental institution, and died as a societal outcast.
In other words, while what he had to say has long since been proven and accepted as “common sense”, at the time he was saying it there was no readiness for its acceptance. And therein lies the key to understanding why some great ideas don’t catch on, great projects don’t come off, and great actors don’t get jobs 🙂 – sometimes, even when everything else seems to be in place, the world just isn’t ready for whatever it is you want to happen.
And if you know this, it needn’t be a problem. Very few trees seek out therapy or life-coaching in the fall or winter, even though to an outsider it might appear that their “strategies for successful blossoming” aren’t working out. And I’ve yet to have an acorn call me to complain that despite it’s positive attitude and repeated use of affirmations (“I want to be an oak tree, I will be an oak tree, I am an oak tree!”), it’s just not growing as fast as its fellow acorns.
The fact is, some stuff just seems not to be in the cards – for now. But if you get clear about what you want and continue to step into each opportunity as it arises, you’ll maximize your chances for success and minimize the stress, guilt, and striving that thinking it’s all up and down to you tend to bring.
Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!