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Making the Most Important Decision of Your Life
Every day, think as you wake up, “Today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.”
—THE DALAI LAMA
If this book helps you to become financially free, I’ll be thrilled for you. But if I’m honest, I don’t believe that’s enough. Why not? Because having financial wealth doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be wealthy as a human being.
Anybody can make money. As you’ve learned in the previous chapters, the tools and principles you need are really pretty simple. For example, if you harness the power of compounding, stay in the market for the long term, diversify intelligently, and keep your expenses and taxes as low as possible, your odds of attaining financial freedom are extremely high.
But what if you achieve financial freedom and you’re still not happy? Many people dream for decades of becoming millionaires or billionaires. Then, when they finally reach their goal, they say: “Is that it? Is that all there is?” And believe me, if you get what you want and you’re still miserable, then you’re really screwed!
When people dream of becoming rich, they’re not fantasizing about owning millions of pieces of paper with pictures of dead people on them! What we really want are the emotions we associate with money: for example, the sense of freedom, security, or comfort we believe money will give us, or the joy that comes from sharing our wealth. In other words, it’s the feelings we’re after, not the money itself.
I’m not belittling the importance of money. If you use it well, there are countless ways in which it can enrich your life and the lives of those you love. But real wealth is about so much more than money. Real wealth is emotional, psychological, and spiritual. If you’re financially free, but you’re still suffering emotionally, then what kind of victory is that?
Maybe this strikes you as an odd digression in a book about money and investing! But I’d feel remiss if I wrote an entire book that shows you how to achieve financial wealth while neglecting to share with you the secret of how to achieve emotional wealth. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between them! As you’ll discover in this chapter, it’s possible to be financially rich and emotionally rich. This, my friend, is the ultimate prize!
To my mind, the chapter you’re about to read is undoubtedly the most important in this book. Why? Because what you’ll learn in the pages to come is that there is a single decision you can make today that can change the rest of your life. This one decision—if you consistently act on it—will bring you more joy, more peace of mind, more real wealth than most people can imagine. Best of all, you don’t need to wait 10, 20, or 30 years. If you make this one decision, you can be rich right now!
The truth is, I want to share this idea with you because it’s been life changing for me. So, if you’re ready to join me, let’s begin the final step in our journey!
AN EXTRAORDINARY QUALITY OF LIFE
My entire life has been focused on helping people turn their dreams into reality. I’ve visited more than 100 countries and have spoken with people from every corner of the earth about what they really want. And do you know what I’ve found? Every culture has different beliefs and values, yet there are fundamental needs and desires that all human beings share. What I’ve found wherever I go is that we all crave an extraordinary quality of life.
For some people, that means owning a beautiful home with an exquisite garden. For others, it means raising three wonderful children. For some, it means writing a novel or a song. For others, it means building a billion-dollar business. And for some, it means being one with God. In other words, it’s not about living somebody else’s dream. It’s about living a magnificent life on your own terms.
But how can you achieve this? How can you close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be? The answer: you need to master two entirely different skills.
The Science of Achievement
The first is what I call the “science of achievement.” In every field, there are rules of success that you can either break (in which case, you’ll be punished) or follow (in which case, you’ll be rewarded). For example, there’s a science to health and fitness. Biochemically, we’re all different. But there are fundamental rules you can follow if you want to thrive and have high energy. If you violate those rules, you’ll pay the consequences.
It’s the same in the financial world. Just think about what you’ve learned in this book. The most successful investors have left a trail of clues for us to follow. By studying these patterns and applying these tools, strategies, and principles in your own life, you’re accelerating your journey to success. It’s obvious, right? Sow the same seeds as the most successful people, and you’ll reap the same rewards. That’s how you’ll achieve financial mastery.
When it comes to the science of achievement, there are three key steps that can enable you to achieve whatever it is you want. Can you think of something fantastic that you’ve achieved in your life that once seemed impossible? Maybe it was a relationship, or maybe it was a dream job or a successful business, or owning a sleek sports car. Then think about how this dream went from being impossible to actually being in your life. What you’ll find is that the path to achievement is followed by a fundamental three-step process.
The First Step to Achieving Anything You Want Is Focus. Remember: wherever your focus goes, your energy flows. When you put your entire focus on something that really matters to you, when you can’t stop thinking about it every day, this intense focus unleashes a burning desire that can help you obtain what might otherwise be out of reach. Here’s what’s going on beneath the surface: a part of your brain called the reticular activating system is activated by your desire, and this mechanism draws your attention to whatever can help you achieve your goal.
The Second Step Is to Go Beyond Hunger, Drive, and Desire, and to Consistently Take Massive Action. A lot of people dream big but never get started! To succeed, you need to take massive action. But you also need to find the most effective execution strategy, which means changing your approach until you find what works best. You can speed up this process exponentially by modeling people who’ve already been successful, which is why we’ve focused so intently on money masters such as Warren Buffett, Ray Dalio, Jack Bogle, and David Swensen. By studying the right role models, you could learn in a week what might otherwise take you a decade.
The Third Step to Achieving Whatever We Want Is Grace. Some people call it luck, some people call it God. Here’s what I can tell you, based on my own experience: the more you acknowledge grace in your life, the more you seem to have it! I’ve been amazed to see how a deep sense of appreciation brings more and more grace into our lives.
Of course, you need to do everything in your power to achieve your goals, but there are still things over which you have no control. Even the fact that you were born at this time in history, that you were given a brain and a heart that you didn’t have to earn, and that you get to benefit from the awesome power of modern technologies like the Internet—none of this was within your control, nor did you create these gifts!
Now you know the three basic keys to achievement. But as important as achievement is, there’s a second skill that you’ll also need to master if you want to create an extraordinary life. This skill is what I call “the art of fulfillment.”
The Art of Fulfillment
For decades, I was focused obsessively on the science of achievement—on learning to master the external world and on figuring out ways to help people break through and solve every challenge. But I now believe in my heart and soul that the art of fulfillment is an even more important skill to master. Why? Because if you master the external world without mastering the internal world, how can you be truly and sustainably happy? That’s why my greatest obsession today is the art of fulfillment.
The $86.9 Million Painting
As I mentioned earlier, we each have a different idea of what constitutes an extraordinary quality of life. To put this another way, what fulfills you is likely to be different from what fulfills me or anyone else. Our needs and desires are infinitely and marvelously diverse! One experience that brought this home to me was an unforgettable day that I spent with my dear friend Steve Wynn.
A few years ago, Steve phoned me on his birthday to see where I was. As luck would have it, we were both staying in our vacation homes in Sun Valley, Idaho. So Steve invited me over to hang out. “When you get here, I’ve got to show you this painting,” he said. “I’ve coveted it for more than a decade, and I outbid everyone at Sotheby’s two days ago and finally bought it! It cost me $86.9 million!” Can you imagine how intrigued I was to behold this precious treasure that my friend had dreamed of for so long? I was imagining some sort of Renaissance masterpiece that you might see in a museum in Paris or London. But when I got to Steve’s house, you know what I found? A painting of a big orange square! I couldn’t believe it. I took one look at it and jokingly said, “Give me a hundred bucks’ worth of paint, and I can duplicate this in an hour!” He wasn’t overly amused. Apparently, this was one of the greatest paintings by the abstract artist Mark Rothko.
So why am I telling you this story? Because it perfectly illustrates the fact that we’re all fulfilled by different things. Steve is more sophisticated than I am when it comes to art, so he could detect a depth of beauty, emotion, and meaning in those brush strokes that I couldn’t see. To put it another way, one man’s orange splotch is another man’s $86.9 million fantasy!
While it’s true that we’re all different, there are still common patterns when it comes to achieving fulfillment. If that’s your goal, what principles or patterns of behavior can you model?
The First Principle: You Must Keep Growing. Everything in life either grows or dies. That goes for relationships, businesses, or anything else. If you don’t keep growing, you’ll become frustrated and miserable, no matter how many millions you have in the bank. In fact, I can tell you the secret to happiness in one word: progress.
The Second Principle: You Have to Give. If you don’t give, there’s only so much you can feel inside, and you’ll never feel fully alive. As Winston Churchill said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Whenever I ask people about the most fulfilling aspects of their lives, they always talk about sharing with others. The true nature of human beings isn’t selfish. We’re driven by our desire to contribute. If we stop feeling that deep sense of contribution, we can never feel truly fulfilled.
It’s also worth reminding ourselves of the obvious truth that becoming financially rich is not the key to fulfillment. As you and I both know, people often chase after money in the delusional belief that it’s a kind of magic potion that will bring joy, meaning, and value to their lives. But money alone will never give you an extraordinary life. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time with billionaires, and some of them are so miserable that you’d feel sorry for them. If you’re not happy, you can’t have a magnificent life, no matter how fat your wallet.
Remember: money doesn’t change people. It just magnifies who they already are: if you have a lot of money and you’re mean, then you have more to be mean with; if you have a lot of money and you’re generous, you’ll naturally give more.
What about professional success? Well, it’s wonderful if your success brings you that sense of growth and contribution that we all need in order to feel fulfilled. But I’m sure you’ve met plenty of “successful” people who never seem happy or fulfilled. And how does that qualify as success? In fact, I truly believe that success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.
Let’s think for a moment about a painful example of this.
A National Treasure
In 2014 we lost someone whom I consider a national treasure: the actor and comedian Robin Williams. Over the last couple of years, I’ve spoken to audiences all over the world about this astonishingly gifted man. Again and again, I’d ask the same question: “How many of you in this room loved Robin Williams? Don’t raise your hand if you liked him—only if you loved him.” And you know what? Every place I go—from London to Lima, from Tokyo to Toronto—about 98% of the people in the audience raise their hands.
Was Robin Williams a master achiever? Absolutely. He started out with nothing. But then he decides that he wants to star in his own TV show, and he does it. Then he decides that he wants a beautiful family, and he creates it. Then he decides that he wants more money than he can spend in a lifetime, and he makes it happen. Then he decides to become a movie star, and he does it. Then he decides that he wants to win an Oscar—but not for being funny—and he does that, too! Here was a man who had it all, who achieved everything he’d ever dreamed of achieving.
And then he hanged himself.
He hanged himself in his own home, leaving behind hundreds of millions of people who love him to this day. Even more devastating, he left his wife and children traumatized and brokenhearted.
When I think about this terrible tragedy, I’m struck by one simple lesson: if you’re not fulfilled, you have nothing.
Robin Williams achieved so much that our culture has conditioned us to value, including fame and fortune. Yet despite all his gifts, it was never enough. He suffered for decades, trying to deal with his stress through the use and sometimes the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Near the end of his life, he was also diagnosed with a progressive neurological disorder, Lewy body disease. His wife, Susan, recently wrote in the medical journal Neurology: “Robin was losing his mind, and he was aware of it. Can you imagine the pain he felt as he experienced himself disintegrating?”I Robin Williams was a good man who cared deeply about others—a man who contributed so much to the world, despite his long battle with addiction, depression, and ill health. But in the end, he made everyone happy except himself.
This reminds me of the safety instructions they announce whenever you get on an airplane: “In the event of an emergency, please put on your oxygen mask before assisting others.” It sounds callous and selfish when you first hear it, but it actually makes sense: unless you help yourself first, how can you hope to help others?
Believe me, I know that Robin Williams is an extreme example. I’m not worried that you’re going to kill yourself. But I see so many people—even the “richest” and most “successful” people—who are missing out on so much of the joy and fulfillment they deserve to experience. I want you to experience that joy and fulfillment today. Yet nobody teaches us how to be happy.
To Suffer or Not to Suffer—That Is the Question
A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.
Let me tell you the story of what’s changed in my own life. Over the last two years, I’ve been on a marvelous journey of the mind. I’m always looking to grow personally, so I’m constantly exploring different ideas about how to reach a whole new level.
A couple of years ago, I was in India visiting a dear friend of mine, Krishnaji, who is equally fascinated by these questions about how to achieve an extraordinary quality of life. As my friend knows, I’ve taught for many years about the power of being in an “energy-rich” state: a peak state where you can accomplish anything and where your relationships are filled with passion. By contrast, when you’re in an “energy-poor” state, the body feels lazy, the mind feels sluggish, and you can’t do anything much but worry, get frustrated, and snap at people!
My friend said to me, “What if you use different words to describe these two states?” As he explained, there are really only two different states you can be in at any given moment. Either you’re in a high-energy state that could also be described as a “beautiful state.” Or you’re in a low-energy state (often characterized by internal pain) that could also be described as a “suffering state.” He told me that his spiritual vision was to live in a beautiful state no matter what happened in his life.
My friend then echoed what I and so many others have taught for years: We can’t control all the events in our lives, but we can control what those events mean to us—and thus what we feel and experience every day of our lives! By consciously choosing and committing to live in a beautiful state, my friend believed that he could not only enjoy so much more of life, but also give so much more to his wife, his child, and to the world at large.
I thought a lot about what he’d said. Now, I’m an achiever. If you’re reading this book, you probably are, too. And we achievers don’t believe that we’re ever “suffering,” do we? No! We just have “stress”!
In fact, if you’d told me even two years ago that I was suffering, I would have laughed at you. I have a heavenly wife, four glorious children, total financial freedom, and a mission that inspires me every day of my life. But then I started to realize that I frequently allowed myself to fall into a suffering state. For example, I’d get frustrated, pissed off, overwhelmed, worried, or stressed. At first I figured that those emotions were just a part of life. The truth is, I even convinced myself that I needed them as fuel to move me forward. But this was just my mind playing tricks on me!
The trouble is, the human brain isn’t designed to make us happy and fulfilled. It’s designed to make us survive. This two-million-year-old organ is always looking for what’s wrong, for whatever can hurt us, so that we can either fight it or take flight from it. If you and I leave this ancient survival software to run the show, what chance do we have of enjoying life?
An undirected mind operates naturally in survival mode, constantly identifying and magnifying these potential threats to our well-being. The result: a life filled with stress and anxiety. Most people live this way, since it’s the path of least resistance. They make unconscious decisions, based on habit and conditioning, and are at the mercy of their own minds. They assume that it’s just an inevitable part of life to get frustrated, stressed, sad, and angry—in other words, to live in a suffering state.
But I’m happy to tell you there’s another path: one that involves directing your thoughts so that your mind does your bidding, not the other way around.
This was the path I chose. I decided that I would no longer live in a suffering state. I decided that I would do everything in my power to live in a beautiful state for the rest of my life and to become an example of what’s humanly possible! After all, there’s nothing worse than a rich and privileged man or woman who’s angry and ungrateful!
Flying High and Falling Low
Now, before we go any further, let’s just clarify the difference between these two emotional and mental states:
A Beautiful State. When you feel love, joy, gratitude, awe, playfulness, ease, creativity, drive, caring, growth, curiosity, or appreciation, you’re in a beautiful state. In this state, you know exactly what to do, and you do the right thing. In this state, your spirit and your heart are alive, and the best of you comes out. Nothing feels like a problem, and everything flows. You feel no fear or frustration. You’re in harmony with your true essence.
A Suffering State. When you’re feeling stressed out, worried, frustrated, angry, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, resentful, or fearful, you’re in a suffering state. We’ve all experienced these and countless other “negative” emotions, even if we’re not always keen to admit it! As I mentioned earlier, most achievers much prefer to think they’re stressed than fearful. But “stress” is just the achiever word for fear! If I follow the trail of your stress, it’ll take me to your deepest fear.
So what determines whether you’re in a beautiful state or a suffering state? You might assume that it depends mostly on your external circumstances. If you’re relaxing on a beach and eating ice cream, it’s easy to be in a beautiful state! But in reality, the mental and emotional state in which you live is ultimately the result of where you choose to focus your thoughts.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. For the last 25 years, I’ve flown back and forth between America and Australia several times a year. Nowadays I’m privileged to have my own plane, which is a bit like having a high-speed office in the sky. For better or for worse, there’s no need ever to disconnect from work! But I vividly remember the dread I used to experience when I’d sit down on a commercial flight to Australia and wonder how I could possibly live without connection to emails and texts for the next 14 hours! How could my businesses possibly survive without me?
Then, one magical day, I was sitting on a Qantas Airways flight to Sydney when the captain proudly announced that the plane had international Internet access. All around me, people started cheering, clapping, and high-fiving one another! It was as if God had descended from on high and entered the plane! I didn’t stand up and do a jig, but I have to confess: in my mind, I was clapping, too. And then, after 15 minutes of giddy delight, do you know what happened? We lost Internet access. It didn’t work for the rest of the flight, and it’s probably still not working after all these years.
So how do you think the passengers reacted? We were crushed! One minute, we’re euphoric. The next minute, we’re cursing our terrible misfortune. What’s amazing is how quickly our perspective changed: moments earlier, Internet access had been a miracle; now it was an expectation! All we could think about was that the airline had violated our inalienable right to Internet access—a right that hadn’t existed until that very day.
In our outrage, we instantly lost sight of the wonder that we were flying through the air like a bird, crossing the globe in a matter of hours, and watching movies or sleeping as we flew!
Isn’t it ridiculous how jaded we are and how upset we allow ourselves to become? When it rains on our parade, when we don’t get what we want or expect, we’re so quick to give up our happiness and sink into a state of suffering.
Everyone has his or her own flavor of suffering. So here’s my question for you: What’s your favorite flavor of suffering? Which energy-sapping emotion do you indulge in most? Is it sadness? Frustration? Anger? Despair? Self-pity? Jealousy? Worry? The specific details don’t really matter because they’re all states of suffering. And all this suffering is really just the result of an undirected mind that’s hell-bent on looking for problems!
Think for a moment about a recent situation that caused you pain or suffering—a time when you felt frustrated or angry or worried or overwhelmed. Whenever you feel emotions like these, your sense of suffering is caused by your undirected mind engaging in one or more of three particular patterns of perception. Consciously or unconsciously, you’re focused on at least one of three triggers for suffering: 1. Suffering trigger is “Loss.” When you focus on loss, you become convinced that a particular problem has caused or will cause you to lose something you value. For example, you have a conflict with your spouse, and it leaves you feeling that you’ve lost love or respect. But it doesn’t have to be something someone else did—or failed to do—that caused you to perceive the sense of loss. This sense of loss can also be triggered by something you did or failed to do. For example, you procrastinated, and now you’ve lost a business opportunity. Whenever we believe in the illusion of loss, we suffer.
Suffering trigger is “Less.” When you focus on the idea that you have less or will have less, you will suffer. For example, you might become convinced that because a situation has occurred or a person has acted a certain way, you will have less joy, less money, less success, or some other painful consequence. Once again, less can be triggered by what you, or others, do or fail to do.
Suffering trigger is “Never.” When you focus on the idea or become consumed by a belief that you’ll never have something you value—such as love, joy, respect, wealth, opportunity—you’re doomed to suffer, you’ll never be happy, you’ll never become the person you want to be. This pattern of perception is a surefire route to pain. Remember: the mind is always trying to trick us into a survival mindset! So never say never! For example, because of an illness, an injury, or because of something your brother did or said, you might believe that you’ll never get over it.
These three patterns of focus account for most, if not all, of our suffering. And you know what’s crazy? It doesn’t even matter if the problem is real or not! Whatever we focus on, we feel—regardless of what actually happened. Have you ever had the experience of thinking that a friend did something horrible to you? You became tremendously angry and upset, only to discover that you were dead wrong and that the person didn’t deserve all that blame! In the midst of your suffering, when all those negative emotions were swirling inside your head, the reality didn’t matter. Your focus created your feelings, and your feelings created your experience. Notice, too, that most, if not all, of our suffering is caused by focusing or obsessing about ourselves and what we might lose, have less of, or never have.
But here’s the good news: once you’re aware of these patterns of focus, you can systematically change them, thereby freeing yourself from these habits of suffering. It all starts with the realization that this involves a conscious choice. Either you master your mind or it masters you. The secret of living an extraordinary life is to take control of the mind, since this alone will determine whether you live in a suffering state or a beautiful state.
IN THE END, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE POWER OF DECISIONS
Our lives are shaped not by our conditions, but by our decisions. If you look back on the last 5 or 10 years I’d be willing to bet that you can recall a decision or two that has truly changed your life. Maybe it was a decision about where to go to school, what profession to pursue, or who you chose to love or marry. Looking back on it now, can you see how radically different your life would be today if you had made a different decision? These and so many other decisions determine the direction of your life and can change your destiny.
So what’s the biggest decision you can make in your life right now? In the past, I would have told you that what matters most is who you decide to spend your time with, who you decide to love. After all, the company you keep will powerfully shape who you become.
But over the last two years, my thinking has evolved. What I’ve come to realize is that the single most important decision in life is this: Are you committed to being happy, no matter what happens to you?
To put this another way, will you commit to enjoying life not only when everything goes your way but also when everything goes against you, when injustice happens, when someone screws you over, when you lose something or someone you love, or when nobody seems to understand or appreciate you? Unless we make this definitive decision to stop suffering and live in a beautiful state, our survival minds will create suffering whenever our desires, expectations, or preferences are not met. What a waste of so much of our lives!
This is a decision that can change everything in your life, starting today. But it’s not enough just to say that you’d like to make this change or that your preference is to be happy no matter what. You have to own this decision, do whatever it takes to make it happen, and cut off any possibility of turning back. If you want to take the island, you have to burn the boats. You have to decide that you’re 100% responsible for your state of mind and for your experience of this life.
What it really comes down to is drawing a line in the sand today and declaring, “I’m done with suffering. I’m going to live every day to the fullest and find juice in every moment, including the ones I don’t like, BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST TOO SHORT TO SUFFER.”
BEWARE OF GODZILLA!
There are many different techniques you can use to take control of your mind and achieve a beautiful state. This is such an important subject that I plan to write an entire book about it. But you don’t need to wait to begin this life-changing journey. You can decide right now that you will no longer settle for a life that’s less than the one you deserve to feel and experience. All you have to do to change your life forever is commit in your heart and soul to find something to appreciate in every moment. Then you will experience the real wealth of ongoing happiness!
Are you up for making this bold and brilliant decision right now?! If so, let’s support you by reviewing two simple techniques that I’ve found enormously helpful in staying on this course.
The first tool is what I call “the 90-second rule.” Whenever I start to suffer, I give myself 90 seconds to stop it so that I can return to living in a beautiful state. Sounds good, right? But how do you actually do it?
Let’s say I’m having an intense conversation with an employee at one of my companies and discover that he or she has made a mistake that could cause an array of problems. Naturally, my brain leaps into danger detection mode, launches that ancient survival software, and starts bombarding me with thoughts about all the ways I and our whole team might suffer as a result. In the past, I could have easily been swept up in a whirlwind of worry, frustration, or anger—a maelstrom of mental suffering!
But here’s what I do now. As soon as I feel the tension rising in my body, I catch myself. And the way that I catch myself is really simple: I gently breathe and slow things down. I step out of the situation and start to distance myself from all those stressful thoughts that my brain is generating.
It’s natural for these thoughts to arise, but they’re just thoughts. When you slow down, you realize that you don’t have to believe these thoughts or identify with them. You can step back and say to yourself, “Wow, look at that crazy thought go by! There goes that crazy mind again!” Why is this helpful? Because the problem isn’t the existence of our negative, destructive, and limiting thoughts—everyone has those! What hurts us is the habit of believing those thoughts. For example, have you ever found yourself getting so mad at someone that you started to think, “Man, I really want to throttle this guy! I could kill him!” I’m guessing that you didn’t actually do it. Why? Because you didn’t believe the thought. At least, I hope you didn’t!
Once I’ve detached myself from these unwanted thoughts, I start to focus my mind on finding something to appreciate. The survival brain is always searching for what’s wrong, but there’s always something to appreciate. As I always say, “What’s wrong is always available . . . but so is what’s right!” Maybe it’s the simple fact that I’m alive and well, that I’m still breathing! Maybe it’s the fact that the person who made the mistake is a beautiful human being who works hard and has the best intentions. Maybe it’s the fact that I have the awareness to see that I’m suffering, which gives me the ability to stop and let it go immediately.
It doesn’t matter what you appreciate. What matters is that by shifting your focus to appreciation, you slow down your survival mechanism. Love, joy, and giving, will all trigger the same positive transformation. This shift in your focus creates space for your spirit to enter the game, so you don’t get stuck inside your head. If you keep doing this with real consistency, you actually rewire your nervous system, training your mind to find the good in every situation, so your experience of life is one of thankfulness and joy.
And you know what’s miraculous? Before you know it, you feel free. You let go and start to laugh at things that used to drive you nuts. This makes for a happier life and healthier relationships, while also helping you to think more clearly and make smarter decisions. After all, when you’re stressed, angry, sad, or fearful, you’re not likely to find the best solutions. When you’re in a beautiful state, the answers come more easily. It’s like tuning a radio to the right frequency so the static disappears and you can hear the music loud and clear.
When I first began to use this technique, I should have called it the four-hour rule or the four-day rule because it sometimes took me so long to stop suffering and regain my equilibrium! But it’s like any skill: the more you use it, the better you get. I’ve found that it really helps when I catch myself quickly, instead of letting those negative thoughts linger for longer than 90 seconds. Why? Because the best time to kill any monster is when it’s little. You don’t want to wait until it’s Godzilla and it’s devouring your entire city!
I’m still not perfect at this, and there are certainly times when I get hooked. But I use the 90-second rule so often that it’s gone from being a discipline to becoming a habit. This one technique has given me an amazing level of freedom from all those destructive emotions that used to rob me of my joy and peace of mind. Those emotions still come, but they disappear quickly, overwhelmed by the power of appreciation and enjoyment. As a result, life is more beautiful than ever!
What you’ll also find is that you’re much more present for other people when you’re not caught up in your own thoughts of loss, less, and never. When you’re in a beautiful state, you can give so much more to everyone you love.
And you know what? There’s power in happiness. There’s a happiness advantage in life. Happiness is an advantage in your relationships, your business, your health, and in everything you touch. Living in a beautiful state no matter what is the ultimate freedom and the ultimate gift that you can give to those you love. It’s the experience of absolute abundance—and abundance of joy!—that is true wealth.
Even better, you can possess this abundance now, instead of having to wait until you acquire a certain amount of money! And the good news is, this decision rests entirely in your hands. You alone can give yourself this happiness edge.
UNCHAIN YOUR HEART: THE POWER OF ALIGNMENT!
To overcome fear, the best thing is to be overwhelmingly grateful.
—SIR JOHN TEMPLETON
The second tool I’d like to share with you is a simple two-minute gratitude meditation that I’ve taught to tens of thousands of people in my seminars over the last year or so. I’ve recorded this meditation and made it available online at www.unshakeable.com and on the Unshakeable mobile app, so you can listen to the audio with your eyes closed.
But I’m also giving you a written version below. We all absorb information in different ways. So you may prefer to read this over, get a general sense of the instructions, and then do this brief meditation from memory, without the audio. I’ve found that reading it once to understand where the process is going is valuable, but it’s much easier to listen to it, so you can stay out of the mind and in your heart. Either way, I hope you’ll discover that it’s a powerful technique for aligning your mind and your heart, quickly placing you in a beautiful state.
But first, let me give you a quick word of explanation about the science behind this meditation. If you went to a hospital and we hooked you up to an electroencephalogram (EEG) and an electrocardiogram (EKG), we could measure the electrical impulses in your brain and in your heart. What you’d see when you’re stressed out and suffering mentally is that the lines on the EEG and the EKG would look jagged. But the jaggedness from your heart’s rhythms would look nothing like the jaggedness from your brain’s rhythms. In other words, they’re out of sync.
But scientific studies have shown that this short meditative focus can dramatically alter those electrical impulses in your brain and your heart. What’s miraculous is that the jagged lines on the EEG and the EKG tend to become rounded after this meditation. What’s more, the lines from the heart and the brain become almost identical. Why? Because the mind and the heart are now operating as one. This is what happens naturally when you’re in a state of flow.
The simple goal of this meditation is to change your emotional state by filling you with a sense of gratitude, and to use that emotion to solve whatever challenge has been causing you to suffer. Why gratitude? Because you can’t be grateful and angry at the same time. You can’t be grateful and fearful at the same time. If you want a miserable life, there’s no better way to achieve it than to focus your mind on anger and fear! But if you want a happy life, if you want to live in a beautiful state, nothing works better than to focus on gratitude!
So if you’re ready to test-drive this technique, go to the audio now or read the steps below. Here’s what I’d like you to do:
Step 1. First, I want you to pick an aspect of your life where you have some “unfinished business”: something you need to change or resolve in your professional or personal life; an issue you’ve been putting off because dealing with it would be upsetting, frustrating, or stressful. Maybe it’s a problem at work or a conflict or difficulty with a family member. On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being the most upsetting), where would you rank it? Ideally, pick an issue that ranks at least a 6 or a 7, so that you can feel the true impact of this simple technique.
Step 2. Now set aside that situation for a moment and place both of your hands on your heart. Feel it beating. I want you to close your eyes and breathe deeply into your heart. And as you breathe, feel the blood and the oxygen flowing into your heart. Feel the power of your heart. Find the strength of your heart. What are you grateful for that your heart has guided you to do, enjoy, appreciate, or give?
Step 3. As you breathe deeply, feel grateful for your heart. Feel what a gift your heart is. Every day it beats a hundred thousand times and pumps blood through 60 thousand miles of blood vessels. You don’t even have to think about your heart, and yet it’s always there for you, even while you sleep. It’s the ultimate gift, and yet you didn’t have to earn it. It was given to you. Something loved you so much that it gave you this heart. And as long as it beats in your chest, you live. What a gift! Feel the power of that gift now.
Step 4. As you breathe into your heart, feeling deep gratitude for your heart, I want you to physically feel your heartbeat. And as you’re doing this, I want you to think of three experiences in your life for which you feel incredibly grateful—and you’re going to step into those three experiences one at a time. They could be big or small. They could date back to your childhood, or they could be from this week or even today.
Step 5. I want you to think of the first experience and step into it right now as if you’re there, inside that memory, reliving it. See what you saw in that moment of pure gratitude: feel it, breathe it, own it, and feel so grateful for that moment. Fill yourself up with gratitude because when you’re grateful, there is no sadness, there is no hurt, there is no anger. You can’t be grateful and angry simultaneously. You can’t be grateful and worried simultaneously. If we cultivate gratitude, we have a different life.
Now think of a second experience, another moment for which you can feel so grateful—something that felt like a pure gift in your life, a miracle, an act of grace, of love. And fill yourself up with the beauty and the joy of that experience. Fill yourself up with deep gratitude for that moment, taking time to feel it and appreciate it fully for at least 30 seconds.
Next, I want you to think of a third moment for which you could feel so grateful. But don’t just think about it. Step into that experience, step into that environment, and feel what you felt in that moment. Savor it. Fill yourself up with the joy, the miracle, the gift of that experience.
Step 6. And now I want you to think of one more experience, but this time I want it to be an experience that was a coincidence. It wasn’t something you’d planned for, and yet it brought such joy into your life. Maybe that chance experience led to your meeting a person you love or who changed your life or who enriched your life. Or maybe it led to a new career choice, or brought you new opportunities for growth or happiness. This coincidence happened just for you. Was it a coincidence, or were you guided?
I have a core belief that has often pulled me out of pain and into meaning. In my soul, I believe that life is always happening for us, not to us! Even the most painful situations cause us to grow, to expand, to deepen, or to care more. I’m sure there have been events in your life that you’d never want to go through again. Yet when you look back on it 5 or 10 years later, you see the higher purpose in it all. You see how life was actually working for you in that moment. Even those moments of suffering turned out to be great triggers for growth.
Take a moment to give thanks to whatever you believe has given you these gifts. Fill yourself up with gratitude to the universe or God or whatever you believe in. And trust in this universe, which is billions of years old, and which has always taken care of you, even when you felt that you’d lost your way!
Step 7. And now, as you breathe into your heart and feel this tremendous gratitude, I want you to remember the issue that was upsetting you earlier. As you stay in this beautiful state, feeling filled with gratitude, I want you to ask yourself a simple question: “All I need to remember about that situation, all I need to focus on, all I need to believe, all I need to do is . . . what?” Don’t filter. Your first, instinctive heartfelt thoughts are usually the right ones. As you remain in this beautiful state, ask yourself that question again: “All I need to remember about that situation, all I need to focus on, all I need to believe, all I need to do is . . . what?”
And your heart knows the answer, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. Trust your heart. It knows what to do. Breathe into your heart and give thanks for the answer. Your heart and mind aligned are a powerful force. When unified, they’re unbeatable.
It’s much easier to listen to this meditation than to read it, so please take advantage of the app audio. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve guided tens of thousands of people through this meditation. At this point, I ask them to raise a hand if they know what to do in this situation that used to stress them out. I then ask them to open their eyes and look around the room to see how many people have raised their hands. It’s usually about 95% of the audience. In some cases, the situation requires more intense work. But this simple 2-minute meditation is just one of many techniques I can use to help them.
But here’s the broader point I’m making: you and I have the power to vault ourselves out of a suffering state and into a beautiful state in just two minutes. How? By focusing on what we appreciate. It’s so simple and yet so profound: appreciation, enjoyment, and love are nothing less than the antidotes to suffering. It’s all about shifting your focus away from the illusion of loss, less, or never, and engaging your gratitude, appreciation, and love for what you already have in your life!
Take all of your negative thoughts and all of your negative emotions, trade them for appreciation, and your whole life changes in an instant.
A DREAM OF HAPPINESS AND A VISION OF HOPE
Yesterday is but a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
—KĀLIDĀSA, Sanskrit dramatist and poet, ca. fifth century CE
Now, I’m not saying that you’ll never suffer or be stressed again. You know as well as I do that life is full of extreme circumstances. No matter how smart we are or how rich we are, none of us is immune to health issues, the pain of losing people we love, and a myriad of other difficulties.
I can’t control what’s going to happen to you or your family in the future. I can’t control what will happen with the financial markets, including the possibility of a crash that lasts longer and is more severe than anyone expects. I wish I could . . . But I promise you this: if you make the decision to master your own mind, you’ll be mentally equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way.
Some people are experts on posttraumatic stress. But I’ve spent a lifetime focusing on the miracle of posttraumatic growth. I study resilient people who’ve been through the worst situations and still end up creating magnificent lives.
A few years ago, I met an incredible woman named Alice Herz-Sommer, a brilliant pianist born in Czechoslovakia in 1903. During World War II, Alice and her son were deported and sent to a concentration camp. She was forced to give piano recitals in the camp—and somehow pretend that she was gladly performing for her Nazi captors. Otherwise they would have killed her child. The extraordinary story of how Alice survived these experiences with her spirit intact is recounted in a biography entitled A Garden of Eden in Hell.
When I met Alice, she was 108 years old and living in England. She had endured so much tragedy, yet she was one of the most positive and inspiring people I’ve ever encountered, full of life and joy. She lived on her own and insisted on taking care of herself. She still played piano and sang every day. What struck me most was that everything seemed beautiful to her.
How amazing is that? To me, it’s the ultimate reminder that even someone who has been through hell can be filled with happiness. I was most deeply moved by her description of her time in the concentration camp. Alice told me that every moment of her life—including those years—had been a gift.
When you meet people like this, you never forget them because they possess such an outstanding ability to live in appreciation, awe, and gratitude. Despite all of their challenges, they radiate love and joy. And then there are those people you want to slap in the head because they freak out when the milk in their caffé latte isn’t hot enough!
So what are you going to do? Are you going to join me in my quest to experience true and lasting wealth today by training your mind to find joy in every moment? It’s your choice whether to live in a suffering state or a beautiful state. You have the capability to become a master of enjoyment, to fill your mind with appreciation, to be happy no matter what. Best of all, the joy in you will affect everyone around you.
If you’re ready to burn the boats and take the island, I recommend that you write a note explaining your decision to live in a beautiful state and why you’ve made it. Then send this note to three people you respect and ask them to tell you (gently!) if they ever see you slipping into a suffering state. You can also send the note to me at email@example.com. I’d be touched to hear that you’ve made this decision, why you made it, and how it’s enriched your life.
By writing down your decision, you crystalize it, while also committing yourself publicly in a way that will help you stay the course. Even better, you may well inspire the recipients of your note to follow you in making this commitment to live in a beautiful state.
Everyone needs a vision. Mine is simple. I’m going to live in a beautiful state every day of my life—and when I get off track, I will snap myself back immediately. This will enable me to bring more beauty to the lives of others and all those I love. I hope you’ll join me in this mission. Because let me tell you: living in a beautiful state is the greatest prize, the real jackpot, the ultimate treasure. This is rarer—and a much greater achievement—than being a millionaire or billionaire. If you can learn to ride the roller coaster of life and enjoy both the ups and the downs, then you are utterly unshakeable.
THE SECRET TO LIVING IS GIVING
I started this chapter by talking about real wealth. So, as we come to the end of our time together, what is it? And how can you truly experience it every day? When I interviewed Sir John Templeton, one of the first great international investors to become a billionaire, I asked him, “What’s the secret to wealth?” He said, “Tony, it’s what you teach.” I laughed and said, “I teach a lot of things. Which thing?” With a big smile on his face, he replied, “Gratitude! You know, Tony, we’ve both met people who have a billion dollars and they’re miserable. So they’re truly poor. And we both know people who seemingly have nothing, yet they’re grateful for the breath of life, for everything. So they’re rich beyond compare.” In our hearts we all know it’s not money that makes us rich. As I’m sure you’ve found, the greatest treasures are never financial. It’s those moments of grace when we appreciate the perfection and beauty of it all. It’s those moments when we feel something eternal and invincible inside us, the core of our spirit. It’s the loving warmth of our relationships with family and friends. It’s finding meaningful work. It’s the capacity to learn and grow, to share and serve.
For me, it’s also the joy of helping people to break through their limits and seeing them light up as they remember who they really are and what they’re really capable of achieving. It’s the delight of seeing their lives become a celebration instead of a battle. It’s the magical feeling that somehow I’ve made a little difference, that I’ve played a role in the awakening of a marvelous and unique human being. It’s appreciating that everything I’ve gone through has served not only me but others—that even the deepest pain I’ve experienced has led to something beautiful. In fact, there can be no greater gift than for your life to have meaning beyond yourself.
This is the ultimate game changer. Find something to serve, a cause you can be passionate about that’s greater than yourself, and this will make you wealthy. Nothing enriches us as much as helping others.
People often say they’ll give when they’re rich. But the truth is, you can start giving even when you have very little. If a person won’t give a dime out of a dollar they will never give $100,000 out of $1 million! Start now with whatever you have, and I can promise you blessings beyond compare! This psychological shift from scarcity to abundance makes you wealthy and brings you a glorious sense of freedom. In making this shift, you’re training your brain to recognize that there’s so much more available for you to give, to appreciate, and to love. And remember: It’s not just money that you can donate. You can also give your time, your talent, your love, your compassion, your heart.
My daily prayer is to be a blessing in the lives of all those I meet. If you make the tools and principles in this book a part of your core, you’ll be able to receive—and give—more than you could ever imagine. As this extraordinary abundance flows to you and from you, you will feel truly blessed—and you will become a greater and greater blessing in the lives of others. This is what it feels like to possess real wealth.
I’m thankful that you’ve allowed me the privilege of spending this time with you. I sincerely hope the contents of this book have been helpful to you on your journey to financial freedom. Perhaps someday our paths will cross, and I’ll have the privilege of hearing the story of how this book has helped you accelerate the building of the life you desire and deserve.
Please return to these pages whenever you need a reminder of who you really are and all that you can create. Remember that you are more than the moment. You are more than your economics. You are more than any challenging time you may face. You are soul, spirit, and essence—and you are truly unshakeable. God bless you!
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