First of all, questions are much more powerful than answers. As long as you are asking a question, you are open to input and discovery. The instant you find an answer, you stop looking; you shut down to new input. Answers eventually lead to rigidity. Rigidity leads to certainty. Certainty leads to stagnation. Stagnation leads to the need for fresh thinking and that requires asking some powerful and world-opening questions.
The mind is basically a fast computer, designed to generate solutions for whatever question you put before it. Ask yourself, ‘Is this the right job/life partner/body shape for me?’ and your mind will scan its database for possible answers to that question. The answers you receive will be in the form of some kind of assessment of your situation: ‘On the one hand . . . but on the other hand . . .’ Ask another question, like, ‘What is present now in this job/life partner/body shape that is fulfilling and full of potential?’ and a completely different set of answers will show up. Garbage in, garbage out.
However, even having the right answers is apparently is not enough. Aristotle was wrong. His belief was that ‘Those who know the good will do the good.’ Not today. At least not so you’d notice. Virtually everyone on the planet knows that smoking can kill you and that eating certain foods increases your chances of cancer or heart disease, yet both behaviors flourish. Research indicates that only about 8% of people leaving their doctor’s office actually go home and do what the doctor prescribed. It seems that even when we know what we should do (read ’the answer’), we often don’t do it. Why?
Reason 1: Treating symptoms
Sometimes even your maximum effort to fix something fails to create sustained solutions because the ‘answers’ you applied were addressing symptoms and not root causes. You can change the way you dress, what you eat, how much exercise you get and so on, but as long as all of that is being done ’over the top’ of the same core system of beliefs about yourself and the world, nothing of any lasting value will change. It’s like papering over the old wallpaper or, to use an example that my colleague, Mark Yeoell, likes to apply from the environmental movement, ‘Make sure you are not working at ‘the brown end of the pipe’!’
Root causes need to be addressed, not symptoms. What is ’upstream’ or ’under the old wallpaper’ of the issue for which you are seeking an answer? That is what needs to be discovered and fundamentally addressed. If you do not get at that deeper reality, whatever your issue is will continue to exist just beyond your reach, rising to the surface again and again as the same or another problem.
The ’answer’ you are seeking must be something that:
- addresses your fundamental issue, and
- produces high-powered solutions, which
- you actually carry out.
What you seek is an approach that creates the potential for transformation, a reality very different from that of merely making a change. Change can be accomplished by applying answers; transformation requires discovering and engaging the right questions.
Reason 2: You can’t really change yourself!
Not only are most personal change efforts aimed at symptoms, they are also based on the premise that there is something wrong with who you are now, the weight you carry now, the shape of your body now, the success you are having—or not having—now. Consider this: you couldn’t have any other kind of attitude, relationships, weight, shape, or success, given who you have been up to now. If you want to create any kind of fundamental difference in your life, the secret is not to become someone else (change), but to become more fully who you are (transformation).
One more time: You don’t need to change yourself—you couldn’t anyway. You need to come home to yourself—and that will change everything.
Each one of us is operating with a powerful picture of ourselves: how we—and the world—are supposed to be. That picture, given to us in childhood, is incomplete and woefully out-of-date. There are important aspects of you and your world that you need to look squarely in the eye, get to know and accept as important parts of your reality. If you live in Chicago and you are planning a trip from there to Los Angeles,you have to start in Chicago. Every transformation begins with you standing completely in the current space you occupy, exactly as it is.
New Water from the Old Well
The difference between ’changing’ something and ’transforming’ it is that changing implies replacing, or in some way negating, what is there now. Transformation, on the other hand, implies reaching deep within what is there now to find the seeds for a new shape, a new reality. It is more like the true meaning ofeducation: from its Latin root e-ducare, to draw out, as in drawing water out of a well. You can think of the kind of transformation described here as drawing new water out of your old well—by going deeper than you ever dipped before. The way to get your bucket deeper into your well is by taking on powerful questions, instead of jumping at attractive-looking answers. When you wrestle with life-changing questions, everything shifts inside and around you, starting with your understanding of who you are.
Come Home to Yourself
Perhaps you have a recurring thought that your life could—and should—be more than it is, that it just isn’t adding up to what you always thought it would be. When you look beneath all the busyness of your day, is your soul joyful, expanded and alive? Or is the drone of life numbing your heart and its yearnings?
The simple act of stepping on this new/old path—even though you may not know where it is going—will feel like you have come upon some fascinating new thing that just might bring you what you are searching for. In the process, it will also unleash you into greater impact beyond yourself, out there in the larger world, which is waiting eagerly for you to show up fully as you are.
The approach is actually very simple. Not easy, but simple. Here it is.
Come home to your Self. Come home to your Self. Not the little self, the one that worries all the time, and tries hard to impress people, and keep up the illusion of safety and control. I’m talking about coming home to the huge Self, the one that truly lives and loves and knows why it’s here, and can’t wait for the next sunrise. The one that yearns to encounter the next challenging person or situation, because of what will be learned in that fire. Your true Self, your higher or deeper Self, the one that understands where your interpretation of this life comes from, that knows how to shift shapes and shift states. The one that has not given in to the default trances of this world’s concepts about life.
Let’s take a walk together and discover—or re-discover—that path of turning work—and life itself—into spiritual development. When you were born, you were a master of that way of learning. In fact, it was all you knew how to do at first. You were a learning being, designed to grow and develop and discover yourself and the world in every moment of every day.
Born to be learners, most of us have turned into knowers. The work-in-progress we believe ourselves to be has stopped progressing, and every day can feel like ‘more of the same only different’.
As you will see, taking on profound questions will keep you fresh, vital, engaged, and alive. Living inside a world of answers—even good ones—will eventually lead to feelings of stagnation, helplessness, and anxiety—the opposites of purpose, power and peace.
Let’s walk together a while, and let me show you how to turn anything and everything that happens to you into a spiritual development moment, a flash of awareness that deepens and expands you more fully into your huge Self, and maximizes your contribution to others, and to life itself.
I’ll say it again: You don’t need to change yourself. You need to come home to your Self. That will change everything.
Where we are headed is nothing less than the unleashing of the human spirit at work—starting with your own.