By Alan Cohen
How to release limiting fear-based ideas and attitudes that keep us from thriving in business.
The worlds of business and money are so infiltrated with false beliefs that we hardly see them clearly at all. For many people, business is a battleground, a daily fight for survival riddled with brutal competition. People fight over money, steal, murder, abscond with their employees’ life savings, worship money as a god, and condemn it as a devil. Money is the number one cause of arguments among married couples. Nations wage economic-based wars that send thousands of our sons and daughters to their graves. We spend the greater part of our waking hours striving for money, and then we look back on our lives and wish we had taken more time with the people we love. We are in pain because we engage in archaic beliefs and practices as outdated and impractical as a modern executive coming to work wearing a suit of knight’s armor. Tragically, for many, business and money form the house of hell.
If we understood what business and money really are and how they are meant to be used, our relationship with them would transform and they would become a source of joy and empowerment rather than survival, divisiveness, and warfare. Any fear, stress, or pain you experience in your work is an arrow pointing you to a darkened area of your mind calling for healing. The answer to your career and financial challenges is not to work harder, quit, or take another loan; it is to revisit your beliefs about money and shift them so you develop wealth from the inside out. [removed sentence and put in note at end about book]
One of the most pervasive and debilitating limiting beliefs is that you must suffer in order to succeed. Genuine achievement, we have been taught by word and model, is attained only by way of struggle, strain, and sacrifice. Our parents, teachers, preachers, and history books point to countless examples of individuals who have toiled and agonized to get where they are. Abraham Lincoln walked three miles after work to return six cents he had mistakenly overcharged a customer. Thomas Edison went through 10,000 failed experiments en route to the incandescent light. Henry Ford weathered two bankruptcies before he established his successful auto company. J. K. Rowling was divorced and penniless, a single mother on welfare, stealing diapers from maternity stores, as a prelude to becoming richer than the Queen of England through her Harry Potter series. While we must honor, appreciate, and learn from anyone who courageously overcomes adversity, we don’t want to set up our minds so that hardship is always a prerequisite for success. Ease, flow, and joy can take us to the same place, sometimes faster. If you have a hard time believing this, you can see how deeply our programming to suffer has been instilled.
While our teachers and parents often remind us of and even romanticize people who have struggled their way to the top, they do not explain the decisive role that beliefs play in achievement. Those who believe that suffering is a prerequisite for success will suffer and they will succeed. Not because struggle is required, but because all beliefs are self-reinforcing. We don’t believe what we prove. We prove what we believe.
Are there really people who achieve big success without struggle? If so, how do they do it? Are you, too, capable of getting where you want to go without getting fried before you arrive?
Here is one crucial tip to lighten your journey:*
If something you are doing is not working, doing more of it will not work better. When you get tired of banging your head against a wall, you will look for a door. One afternoon a little bird flew into our living room through an open sliding door. The bird kept fluttering around the ceiling, occasionally landing on a high ledge. We opened all the doors and windows, shooed the tiny creature with a broom, tried to capture it with a net, and sent it psychic messages saying, “Flying around the ceiling and bumping into walls isn’t working. Please try something different.” But none of our attempts worked. The distraught little creature didn’t understand that it had to just dip down a few feet to find its way to freedom. This drama went on until dark, when we left the bird to sleep on the ledge overnight. When we awoke in the morning the bird was chirping loudly, indicating it was quite hungry. We tried some more tactics, still to no avail. Finally we decided to just trust that the bird would somehow find its way out, and we left the house for a while. When we came back the bird was gone.
In some ways all of us are like the bird who was stuck on one way of solving its problem, a way that didn’t work. It took strong motivation—hunger—for the bird to seek and find an alternate route that worked. When we become tired of hitting obstacles, struggling with our work and money, we grow so hungry for relief that we ask, “Is there another way out?” Then we find the door to freedom.
Pain pushes and vision pulls. Pain is screaming at you, “This can’t be it!” If you were raised in a religion, family, or culture that glorified suffering and sacrifice, you may tend to choose the path of the martyr. But there is nothing holy about self-induced torture. Contrary to what you have been taught, God does not take joy in your pain. Higher Power wants you to be happy. When you refuse to accept struggle as a necessary element of your work and your life, it will diminish and disappear. Drama is a choice. So is ease.
The practical metaphysical teacher Florence Scovel Shinn told her clients, “Struggle to get, struggle to keep.” If you have to fight and manipulate to obtain something, you will have to fight and manipulate to keep it. Many people in rocky relationships believe that once they get married, smooth sailing will follow. Or “when we have a baby our relationship will become stable.” Then they discover that a ring on a finger, a marriage certificate, or a child does not make a marriage. The attitudes and actions of the partners steer the relationship. Unless you change the mind-set that created a rocky relationship before marriage, you will continue the rough ride. Likewise, if you are wrestling with someone to make a deal, you will probably wrestle with the results of that deal, and if you have an ongoing relationship with that individual, the wrestling match will go on. Struggle perpetuates itself until you choose otherwise.
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success. My client Sara was considering enrolling in a graduate program to get an advanced degree in her medical profession. Then a pizza delivery guy showed up at Sara’s door wearing a T-shirt displaying the logo of the college she wanted to attend. She took this as a sign that she was on the right track, and she submitted her application. To Sara’s surprise, she was not accepted. Disappointed and confused, she asked me, “Why did I get that sign if I was not supposed to enroll in that program?”
“How much did you really want to get into that program?” I asked her.
Sara gave my question some thought, and told me, “To be honest, I feel bored doing the same kind of work over many years. Truth be told, I would prefer to work in holistic or alternative medicine rather than a traditional model.” The more Sara and I discussed this new direction, the more passion she displayed.
“Still, then, why did that guy show up wearing that T-shirt?” she asked.
“You saw that logo not because you were supposed to go to that college,” I suggested. “You saw it to stimulate your process of applying, getting rejected, and introspecting to get clear on what you would rather do instead.”
While Sara initially believed that not being accepted to that program was a sign of failure, it was one element in a broader success. She was not being rejected. She was being redirected.
Success and failure are interpretations, not facts. What appears to be a huge success can prove to be a major distraction and turn into a nightmare. What appears to be a huge failure can serve as brilliant guidance to learn something crucial and lead you to an even more meaningful success. Be careful what you call a failure. The universe is guiding you more than you know.
Editor’s note: Interested in more tips to “lighten your journey” and a wealth of information to help release limiting fear-based ideas and attitudes that keep us from thriving in business?
Check out Alan Cohen’s new book Spirit Means Business—an explosive reframe about money and business, so you see them in a new and empowering light. Excerpted from Spirit Means Business. ©2019 by Alan Cohen, published by Hay House. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books including Spirit Means Business. Become a certified professional life coach in Alan’s life-changing Holistic Life Coach Training beginning September 1. For information on this program, Alan’s weekly live YouTube lesson, and Alan’s books, videos, audios, online courses, retreats, and other inspirational events and materials, visit http://www.AlanCohen.com.