Do you ever want something really, really badly, like more money, love, or success, but you tighten up whenever you think about it? Does it feel like something inside you is preventing you from getting it? There are a lot of people who say that you just need to “clear your blocks” — those thoughts, “limiting beliefs,” and energetic sludge that are holding you back — and, if you do, life will become all sparkly rainbows.
To a certain extent, there is some truth to this. Sometimes, the easiest way to be happy is to let go of what’s been making you sad. But for most of us, it’s not enough. A lot of the time, it seems like the harder we try to get rid of our fears, the stronger they tighten their grip.
I do believe that our thoughts and stories shape our experience and our opportunities. I think a lot of us get tangled up in the stories we tell ourselves, and we end up making Life harder for ourselves than we have to. Are you familiar with the old saying that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional? It’s those thoughts and stories that can turn authentic pain into unnecessary suffering.
It reminds me of the time that a friend was freaking out because his job situation wasn’t secure, and he was terrified that he might lose his apartment and have to live in his car. That same day, I heard an interview with another person who was asked if she were worried about taking risks. “Nah,” she answered. “I never thought it was a problem. I just figured that, even if everything went south and I lost my place, I could always live in my car.”
Unlike my friend, she talked about needing to live in her car as if it were no big deal. This relaxed attitude helped her examine her options more easily, and she ended up quite happy and successful on her own terms.
To go back to the “clear your blocks” scenario, the most important part that I agree with is that we have the power to change our stories and, by extension, to change our experience of our lives.
But then we get to the part where trying to “clear your blocks” isn’t as useful.
I do not think that, once you “clear your blocks,” Life becomes all sparkly rainbows. In fact, I don’t think Life is supposed to be all sparkly rainbows. Life is about challenge and growth and exploration and joy and sorrow and curiosity and pain and wonder and love. Acting like where you currently are is Bad and everything on the other side of The Blocks is Good robs you of all the texture and nuance of living.
I do not agree with the idea that getting That Specific Thing (money, love, etc.) will make us happy. As long as we make our happiness dependent on external factors, we will never feel truly secure. In addition, focusing too much on That Specific Thing can blind us to other opportunities — and even successes — that don’t look the way you think they should.
To top it off, what if you do believe on some level that the thing you want won’t happen because of those “limiting beliefs” and Blocks? What if you’re afraid that you don’t deserve it, that you’re not smart enough, that you’re unlucky, or whatever stories are lurking in the depths of your psyche? If you try to deny them head on, you could be setting yourself up for even more frustration.
Do you remember the character of Stuart Smalley from the Saturday Night Live comedy show? He’d recite affirmations (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”), but you could tell he didn’t believe anything he was saying. (I found it quite painful to watch.)
Similarly, if a part of you doesn’t believe that you can be wealthy, loved, or successful, then trying to force yourself to deny those thoughts can often backfire, leading to self-blame, depression, or worse.
So what can you do?
Instead of struggling to wipe out what you believe, simply open yourself up to the possibility that there might be something else. Ask yourself an expansive What If:
What if I could be able to pay all my bills and have nice things?
What if I am worthy of love?
What if Life is providing magnificent gifts that are already coming my way?
Approaching your shift in perspective in terms of potential rather than absolutes reduces conflict. You’re not claiming that this new way of looking at the world is The Truth. You don’t need to turn your back or shut the door on what you’ve been doing or how you’ve been living your life. Unlike poor Stuart, you don’t get into an inner argument with yourself. Notice the difference:
Confronting a Belief
Voice 1: I’m deserving of happiness.
Voice 2: No, you’re not. You’re a selfish, blah blah [insert stream of negativity that drags you down.]
Considering a Possibility
Voice 1: What if I am deserving of happiness?
Voice 2: But you’re not.
Voice 1: I didn’t say that I was. I was just curious if it might be possible.
Voice 2: Hmm. Okay.
By loosening the constriction of direct confrontation, you’re more able to shift closer to being who you want to be. When you’re not fighting yourself as much, you can more easily hear the urgings of your own heart.
By approaching your future with curiosity rather than needing it to be A Specific Thing, you can transform the paralyzing, rigid separation of “Success versus Failure” into experimentation and play. Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, used a similar technique to reduce anxiety and move into a space of greater freedom. Whenever she found herself becoming too attached to a specific desired outcome, she’d use the phrase, “I wonder….”
“I wonder if my date will call me again.”
“I wonder if I’ll get the job.”
Again, curiosity beats fear, hands down.
So what is the real reason that you don’t need to “clear your blocks” — ?
The reason is that those “blocks” don’t really exist. They’re just ways of thinking and seeing the world. Therefore, trying to get rid of them is much less efficient than playing with them. Instead of trying to shoehorn your thoughts into how you think you should feel, relax.
Ask yourself “What if it is possible?”
And open your heart to embrace what could be.