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I remember a year or so ago I was trawling a popular Internet marketing forum. This particular forum has some successful marketers, but mostly the members are opportunity seeking newbies, including lots of young guys who are looking to make money online quick and care little for hard work.
I did an “ego” search in this particular forum for my name (market feedback I swear!), and came across a thread from some people discussing my Blog Profits Blueprint free report. Someone had asked how to make money blogging and my report was referenced by another member.
Some of the feedback was positive, but there was also a few replies that were along the lines of…
It’s full of too much fluff… Just show me how to make money!
My report talked too much about things you control with your mind, like being consistent and persistent, finding passion and then narrowing down to a focus, and not enough about specific techniques that just make money flow like mana from heaven.
Put in other terms, these particular people wanted to know the “how” without really knowing the “why”. Unfortunately, you can make a little money by implementing certain techniques, but if you don’t know why you are doing something and how it fits into the big picture, and most importantly, how you as the owner of your business impact your results, then any success you have will be short lived.
I wasn’t really upset about these comments, rather I felt bad for people who wanted a quick fix and weren’t seeing what they were doing online as building a long term sustainable asset. They preferred to flutter from technique to technique hoping to strike it rich one day, just like miners digging for gold.
Impatient people rarely have time for “mindset” lessons, thus they will stop reading an article like this after the first few paragraphs. Discussing things like the inner game seems useless to them. In their opinion all you need to do is figure out what works and do it, there’s no need to worry about much more than that. That might work if we were all robots, but we’re not, so you do need to pay attention to your fallible human characteristics, like your thoughts and your feelings.
What the people in the forums were neglecting is the importance of your “inner game”. The concept of the inner game is widely used in fields like personal development, in the seduction community and is talked about in business circles as well, yet I find people often have trouble grasping exactly what the inner game is, since it’s such an intangible aspect of life.
Some people, particularly men of course, don’t like to talk about things like feelings and thoughts, when they consider what really matters are actions and outcomes. That’s true, but behind every action and the resulting outcome is a thought and a feeling. Doesn’t it make sense to track back all the way to the origin of something to make sure we have all aspects of the process congruent? Of course it does if we want success, and that’s exactly what the inner game is about.
One of the most popular articles I’ve ever published on this blog is – How To Remain Productive When You Feel Like Giving Up.
Why is it popular? Because everyone feels like giving up at some point and goes through periods of downturn where aspects of your life just plain suck. This is especially true when you are working through a time of change, where your focus is on learning something new that has the potential to have a profound positive impact on your life.
When you want something really bad, but your results are mixed and the goal seems very far away, it’s common to feel like giving up. This is no doubt why a more recent article I published has quickly become one of the most popular ever on this blog – How To Find The Courage To Change By Raising Your Awareness – since we all look for some form of “courage” in order to push through the bad times.
In my nearly ten years working online I’ve had plenty of highs and lows. Most of the early years were periods of lack of focus, of questioning and trying new things. I wasn’t sure how to do things, I was learning a lot and experimenting a lot, but my position online wasn’t that well defined. As a result of ambiguity of purpose, I felt lost too, which no doubt contributed to the variable actions I took at the time.
I would pour hours into new website projects only to quickly abandon them shortly after launch (yaz.com.au, youngactivist.com, mp3central.com are three such projects) because no one was visiting my site and I had lost interest since I was no longer in the “creating” stage of the project (a typical problem for entrepreneurs).
In the background, and sometimes in focus, were my cashflow websites that made money, although my interests were going elsewhere. I did what I had to do keep these sites going, but it was like keeping a job you don’t like because you need the money (well, not quite that bad).
Although I felt lost during this time, I was beginning to learn what worked and what didn’t. I was also learning a lot about myself as a person and how I like to work. The 80/20 rule played a big part in my development at this stage, because it gave me permission to be “lazy” at times, without adversely affecting my output.
The most important lesson I learned during this time, which became a permanent part of my inner game and was the inspiration for the article I wrote about remaining productive when you feel like giving up, is the concept that once you know certain actions get certain results, if you just do them even when you don’t feel like it, that act alone and the resulting positive outcome, helps to alleviate the “bad mood”.
This is actually a very profound lesson for all aspects of life. When I’m feeling depressed, regardless of the reasoning for why, I force myself to remain active to keep my life going. This can be as simple as doing the dishes or cleaning your house, which is something you definitely don’t feel like doing when in a bad mood.
The act of finishing a chore gives you a sense of completion, which is a form of momentum – a movement forward – which can trigger more actions and begin to create a positive feeling within, further enhancing your ability to build on that momentum. The opposite of this – seeing that you have to do the dishes, but choosing not to – serves to enhance your bad mood. Your brain says “we need to do this” but your mood says “no thanks”, which creates an incongruity and enhances your stress.
Stress will not make you feel better, so task completion rather than task avoidance, is the right medicine when you feel bad, even if the act of willpower required to create the initial inertia to get something done, feels monumental at the time.
I’m using household chores as an example here, but it can be something business related like clearing your email inbox, or doing some work on a project, or other aspects from your life like getting a haircut or paying a bill. Anything that gives you a sense of moving forward.
If you look more deeply at what is going on when you feel bad and how the act of completing even small tasks can make you feel better, you start to realize how important your inner game is. It’s the conversations going on inside your head, impacted significantly by the feelings you have (and vice versa) that dictates everything in your life.
I’m not going to attempt to establish a cause and effect relationship between thoughts and feelings. Let’s just be comfortable stating we know that how we think affects our mood and how we feel affects our thoughts. One thing is for sure though, it’s MUCH easier to control how you think than it is how you feel, but of course as a result of controlling how you think, you can impact how you feel. Ultimately both the mind and emotions are important when working on your inner game.
When you feel motivated and congruent with the job you are working on, your energy is vibrant. It’s easy to stay on task and results flow naturally. This is especially true when you enter what has been termed “flow-state”, that period where immersion in your task is so complete that the world around you disappears and time no longer has meaning. Flow-state is when your best work is done and it’s during this time that your core passions align perfectly with the task you have in front of you.
Painters, musicians, writers (that includes bloggers too!) and other creative types enjoy flow-state periods frequently. Many times while writing this article I have entered flow-state. Authors and spiritual leaders like Eckhart Tolle and Paulo Coelho would tell us that when you are in flow-state you are actually tapping into the soul of the universe and it’s not in fact your brain producing the output, it’s divine inspiration, or something similar.
I’m not going to debate the source of creative inspiration, but one thing is clear, being in flow-state is immensely pleasurable and results in the most wonderful gifts you can give to the world. As humans we should seek out activities that generate flow-state at all times – it is when this happens that you know you are doing what you are “meant” to do.
Once you become aware of the connection between thoughts, feelings and actions you begin to analyze why exactly you let yourself get into a bad mood in the first place. In almost all situations, when you are feeling negative about something you realize it’s the reaction you’ve had on the inside, in response to some kind of external stimulation you perceived, that is the cause. Your inner game is hooked on what is going on “outside”, which is not good.
Awareness is a powerful thing. Taking that very first step to ask yourself why you are feeling depressed or sad or unmotivated can lead to all kinds of powerful insights. Take this awareness I went through early on during my blogging career as an example –
Inside Yaro’s head –
Yaro: I’ve been blogging for six months now and I just tried to make some money by selling an affiliate product and I didn’t get a single sale.
Yaro: I’m going to give up blogging, it’s a waste of time and I’m not getting anything in return. I feel like such a failure.
Awareness: Hold on. Why are you blogging again? Are you doing it just for the money?
Yaro: Umm, no, I’m not.
Awareness: So why are you hinging your happiness on whether you make money?
Yaro: Good question.
Awareness: Didn’t you enjoy the process of blogging for the past six months? Isn’t it the act of expressing yourself, helping others and enjoying many flow-states that offer real benefits for putting in this effort?
Yaro: Well yes of course, but eventually I’d like be rewarded financially too. It’s not the only reason I blog, those other benefits count too, but money is part of the equation – it can’t be ignored.
Awareness: Fair enough. I know you believe you will make money eventually based on your current trajectory. You know persistence and patience will get you there, but why are you letting one outcome dictate your entire emotional state?
Yaro: That’s another good question.
Awareness: Focus on what is delivering value today, use that as motivation to keep working and stop letting your inner state be impacted so significantly by what does or doesn’t happen as a result of your actions.
This sort of “discussion” goes on all the time within me, especially when I don’t get the outcome I want or something I perceive negatively impacts me. It’s important I have this awareness otherwise my inner state would always hinge on the outer reality I perceive.
Reality is rarely what you want it to be, and this is always true during a time when you are working to make changes to your life. Until that change is realized, what you perceive in the real world and what you want are incongruent, so you need to carefully monitor your inner game so you keep working towards making the real world meet your desires.
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I found it profound to listen to Barack Obama respond to questions during the election campaign whenever something perceived as good or bad happened.
His response always came from the same place and went along the lines of this (my words, not his) –
I maintain a stable balance, an eternal equilibrium where I don’t really feel extremely high or low. When something bad happens, it doesn’t crush me, nor do I feel like a king when something good occurs.
In other words, Barack has managed to get off the roller coaster of life. He’s no longer riding up and down, rather coasting along smoothly regardless of what happens in the “real world”. This is obviously a powerful state to be in and especially important for someone in his role.
Many, many years ago I heard this from Bart and Lisa Simpson when Homer asked them a question –
Lisa: Dad, we’re the MTV generation. We feel neither highs nor lows.
Homer: Really? What’s that like?
Bart and Lisa: meh.
I don’t think the intention here is to make a powerful philosophical statement of course, and I’m not sure that responding with “meh” is that inspirational, but the concept is still relevant. When “meh” is your response to any external stimulation, whether good or bad, you can remain on focus for whatever is giving you purpose in that moment.
We’re all aware that people have a “vibe”, as can places and even objects. Steve Pavlina calls this your vibrational/energy frequency and discusses the idea of changing your vibration to manifest what you want in life.
This is an extremely intangible subject matter and as such, if you are very pragmatic or scientific, you may have trouble grasping or even believing the idea.
Whether you believe changing how you “vibrate” can impact your reality on some kind of energetic, spiritual or universal level doesn’t really matter. What is obvious is how you feel impacts how you perform, so it’s worth trying to change your inner state.
Steve suggests two very practical ways to shift your vibration –
I personally find the best way to change my vibration is option two, with some positive reinforcement from option one. I take certain steps to alter my current situation, which creates an external stimulus that triggers a new state of vibration (a higher state of emotion – or just plain feeling good!), and use my mind to help assimilate and provide positive reinforcement of what I am doing to make it a permanent part of who I am.
The mind is especially important when you face setbacks as a result of the environment you entered. You don’t always get the result you want when you change your environment/people you associate with, so you need to be prepared for that. By having a strong internal state, you can reframe any situation so it is at worst a learning experience, and thus doesn’t have a negative impact on your vibration (easier said than done of course!).
Throughout all of this you must be aware of your emotions. Your emotion is your compass to assess your current vibration. When you are happy, excited, motivated, fun, energetic, positive, and experiencing similar emotions, it’s much easier to take steps that lead to positive reinforcement – more doors open for you as you open doors yourself. When you are feeling weak, sad, insecure, negative, lost and confused, the opposite happens, and things stand in your way and reinforce the negativity you feel.
I’ve found that two things have negatively impacted my performance in all aspects of life, including business –
Don’t get me wrong, goals are great, the problem arises when you attach a specific outcome to a specific action. This is a recipe for internal conflict and disappointment because there’s no such thing as a sure bet. If you attach your ego to an expectation of getting something in return, when you don’t get it, self doubt enters the equation and things can spiral downward from there.
Having a goal in mind is great, but realize it’s the sum of lots of different ingredients, some you can control and some you can’t, so don’t tie your happiness to an expectation.
The other major flaw in human thinking is basing how you feel in a moment and what you expect in the future, entirely on what has come before. Reading this as words makes complete sense, but I’m confident that if you look in your life you will make assumptions on what you can and can’t do based on what has happened to you in the past. This is a seriously limiting attitude, and while it’s completely natural, it can’t exist if you are to change your inner state to reflect what you want in the physical world – it’s a contradiction.
If you look at every day as a clean slate and seek only to experience something new and honestly believe that is an attainable outcome (and let’s face it, experiencing something new is easy – go buy a different type of cereal!) and don’t attach yourself to a specific outcome when doing new things, then you can only benefit positively from the result. Obviously there are a few exceptions, but almost all experiences you have can be reframed as positive steps towards a goal, it’s all down to perception (are you naturally optimistic or pessimistic?)
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If you can take everything I’ve written about in this article and go one step further, the ideal “perfect” state is pure oneness with the now.
When in flow-state, it’s no coincidence that time has no meaning. The activity you are doing is pleasurable because there are no external factors influencing you. Your mind is completely engaged with controlling your body so you can manifest whatever creativity is flowing from you at that moment. There is no “what am I having for dinner tonight” or “I can’t possibly do this because I’ve never been able to do it before”. It’s timeless and not limited by any beliefs you’ve created based on your personal history.
Being in the now encompasses all the concepts I’ve talked about in this article because it excludes all that is irrelevant – thought and perceived reality – and offers a state of pure clarity of purpose. I personally have only experienced being in the now for short glimpses, and it’s clear to me this state of being is quite powerful if you can experience it.
As with all change, the first step is to become aware of what you need to change. Use this article as inspiration to start watching how you feel and how you react throughout your day to day activities. Become aware of your inner state at all time and you will begin to harness your greatest asset – you as a source of energy.
Understand that your feelings are there to inspire you and steer you in the right direction. By detaching yourself from external influences and focusing on creating a strong inner game, no outcome will master you and your journey forward will be unencumbered by whatever baggage you used to carry along with you.
This is not something that can happen overnight and like most human beings on this planet, most of our lives are spent trying to realize many of the concepts I’ve discussed in this article, and I’m no different. As long as you are moving forward, you are evolving, and ultimately that’s all you are meant to do.