What if your computer still used DOS as its operating system? How much could you really accomplish with it these days? Probably not a lot - even though DOS would have been a to-drool-over, state of the art operating system only two decades ago.
Just as computers and our expectations of them have evolved, so have our internal operating systems. What may have been a state of the art operating system two decades ago ("go to school, get a great job, stay until retirement, …") may no longer work. The way we communicate with the world has changed, the speed of life has increased, and the number of jobs we can expect to hold in our lifetime has gone up. We may know intuitively that our own operating systems may need to be updated, but how do we go about doing it?
With computers, it's a rather easy process. Provided that the hardware can handle the upgrade, we simply take a tiny, slick CD-ROM and put it into the CD drive. A friendly installer dialog pops up on the screen, we get asked a few questions about the files we want to bring over, click on "start upgrade" and sit back. A few minutes later, the friendly installer informs us the task is done and asks us to restart the system to effect the changes. Phew! Done.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a CD drive somewhere on our bodies, too? The belly area, for example? Wouldn't it be nice to simply pop in a new CD each time we wanted to upgrade our knowledge or the operating system itself? "Gee, I think that my current operating system doesn't allow me to make as much money as I need or to have the kind of relationship I want… Hmmm. Where are the darned CDs to do the upgrade? Aha! Here they are - 'MoneyMaker 2003', 'LoveCreator 2003'. Put the CDs in, run the installer, go to sleep for a night, tomorrow I'll be a brand new person!"
Yes. Wouldn't it be nice? Unfortunately, there is no easy and simple way of upgrading our systems or of installing a quick InstantFrench or CarFixer program. We need to learn all new skills and upgrade our systems, one bit at a time. Of course, to learn French or to find out how to fix a car, there are courses to take, books to read, and ways to practice. But how to upgrade the operating system, the one which tells us how ambitious to be, how happy or healthy to be, and how much money we really deserve to have?
The closest system that I have found to the "CD upgrade" system are affirmations. These are essentially present-time statements of something that isn't yet true but what we want to be true. Are you broke? How about "I am now debt-free and have at least $20,000 in my savings account"? Are you single? How about "I am now in a great long-term relationship with the person of my dreams?" Is your health a bit off track? How about "I am healthy, I am strong, I am in a great shape"? Whatever affirmation you craft, it needs to 1) have the word "I" in it, 2) be stated in the present tense, and 3) be a specific positive statement of what you want in your life, such that it isn't currently true (or not as true as you would like it to be).
Affirmations have unfortunately gotten a bit of a laughable reputation in some circles. Whether the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit, or simply dismissed as another "fluffy" idea, I think that affirmations are often misunderstood. For one thing, there is somehow an expectation that they should work immediately. They don't.
In fact, when you start writing them down or saying them aloud to yourself while you drive, you will feel rather silly at first. Not only are other drivers looking at you funny as you have a wild look on your face and recite, "I am happy. I am healthy", you own brain isn't going to be much help to you either. It figures that you are telling it a lie (you are, if you put the affirmation together right) and it doesn't hesitate to tell you. "Yeah, right! B.S.! Who are YOU kidding, buddy?" will be some of the helpful ideas your brain gives you as you are trying your hardest to do this re-programming thing. After fighting with yourself for a little while, it's easy to declare the experiment a failure and join the crowds who say that affirmations don't work.
They do work - you just have to keep them up long enough. Yes, there will be a time period when all you'll get is the unhelpful and mean brain blurbs. This may last for a few weeks, even longer. Then there will be a time when the brain becomes silent. Your stubborn insistence on these new untruths will have confused your brain sufficiently that it no longer knows what to think. And finally (and that's why you're doing this whole thing in the first place), your creative brain starts to help you.
It figures that if you've kept this up for this long, there's gotta be some truth to these statements. Now it starts to give you ideas that are aligned with the new programming. "Hey, have you noticed the new health club by your home? How about signing up?" Before you know it, you are acting in accordance with the new programming - and the world around you starts to respond to your new operating system as well. After the initial struggle, the change is smooth and gentle. You may not even really notice that you have changed. You just feel happier and you are getting better results, almost as if by magic.
Affirmations might not be as quick as the CD-ROM upgrade, but the process is almost as simple. And either way, it sure beats getting stuck with the 1989 version of the success operating system in the 21st century, doesn't it?
"My formula for success is rise early, work late, and strike oil."
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
"It takes twenty years to become an overnight success."