Monday, March 28, 2016

My Personal Woo-Woo Moment

Remember the theme from The Twilight Zone? Hang on to that. You’ll be needing it shortly.

Over on another blog I once gave my opinions on self-help books. Here’s all you need to know: you only need to read one self-help book because they all say essentially the same thing. Boiled down, it’s this: if you want to succeed—personally, financially, or at life in general—you need to take responsibility for your life, work hard, have a positive outlook and take positive actions. If you work at a non-skilled or hourly job, skip the sections about how to succeed at work because those chapters are aimed at people who work in management or sales. That’s where the money is. Companies promote, prefer, and pay more money to people who bring money into the company and therefore into their pockets. Self-help books target managers and salespeople because they’re the ones most likely to have money to spend on self-help books. Want to make more money at your job? Figure out what your boss wants most and make it your job to give that to him/her. That’s the secret to work success. You now owe me $28.95.

And speaking of secrets …

Yes, I did read The Secret. Some of its advice I found helpful, other chapters got the side-eye and a snort. Its premise that your thoughts shape reality is valid, but only up to a point. Your thoughts do shape your own personal reality. If you believe the world is an okay place, it will be. If you think life sucks, it will—for you. We form opinions in our heads and then go looking for examples to prove what we already “know.”

Example: If you think you won’t get that job you desperately need, you’re right, you probably won’t. You’ll go into the interview negative and defeated, and the interviewer will pick up on that. Don’t expect a callback. On the other hand, if you go in smiling, relaxed and confident, with a clear, direct gaze and a spring in your step and your enthusiasm obvious to everyone—well, you still may not get the job, but your odds of coming out on top are infinitely better. If you don't get that particular job, your upbeat attitude is sure to net you several other offers. Meanwhile, Mopey Moe over there, who knew at the outset he wouldn’t be hired, is not at all surprised when he isn’t. He then proceeds to bitch about it to anyone who’ll listen, a group that becomes smaller and smaller because nobody likes a whiner.

So The Secret does work, after a fashion. Just not all the time. If, say, you’re standing on the sidewalk and a car goes out of control and starts barreling toward you, I recommend you get out of the way. Otherwise you’ll end up a grease spot, positive thinking or no.

I’m about to get to the point of this story. Thanks for sticking with me.

I recently picked up yet another self-help book. I have a problem with procrastination, and this book promised to help me. Well, they all do, but this one’s working because for once I’m doing the exercises. That’s the downside to all these books: sooner or later you have to take some kind of positive action. Otherwise nothing will change. Taking timely action of any sort is where I’ve been falling short.

Following instructions, I picked a goal: “I want X amount of money by the end of the year.” Every day I write down this goal, then list ten things I can do to achieve it. Then I rank them in order of priority and that’s what I do all day. At the end of the list I write the mantra, “Failure is not an option.” To this I added a mantra from The Secret: “I am a money magnet.”

My logical side understands how this works. It’s not your thoughts shaping the Universe. It’s your brain training itself to focus on priorities, and to stay alert to life around you, because that’s where the opportunities are. For instance, one of the things on my daily list is, “Keep an eye out for loose change.” Next time you go for a walk, or even cross a parking lot, casually scan the ground for dropped pennies and nickels and such. Last week I found a quarter on the floor of the library. I also found—well, that’s my woo-woo moment.

Last Tuesday, after I’d been at this exercise for over a week or so, I had a dream. I was with my best friend from high school, walking around Philadelphia. I spotted a five-dollar bill in the street and picked it up. Shortly after that I spotted a dollar and nabbed that too. No, I didn’t split it with my friend, though had the dream continued I’m sure I’d have treated us both to a cheesesteak or something. But hey, six bucks. I am a money magnet, even in my sleep.

Two days later I went up to the library. As I was setting up the laptop, I spotted something at one of the other tables in the lobby. It turned out to be money, just lying there on the seat of a chair with nobody around. A five and a one. Just like in my dream.

(Insert theme from Twilight Zone here.)

Like I said, there was no one around. Nothing else had been left on the seats or the table to indicate someone was coming back. The table was unoccupied when I came in. There was no way to tell who’d been sitting there. I was at the library for two hours, and in that time nobody came by looking for missing money. I took it home and added it to my stash. I’m now six bucks closer to my goal.

Other things have happened since I started doing this exercise. The freelance job gave me a huge assignment, at higher than my usual pay. I had my taxes done and discovered the federal government owes me a refund. I didn’t have to pay the state anything. Okay, I had to pay local taxes, but I was expecting that, and it wasn’t all that much. Just the other day I learned DC Comics will be offering writing workshops in their search for new talent. I may just apply.

Have my thoughts rearranged the workings of the Universe to my advantage? Or am I simply more aware of existing possibilities? Which doesn’t explain the dream or the subsequent payout. I’m going to file that under Whoa.

Okay, then. Back to thinking happy thoughts, setting priorities and trying to write for a living. And keeping a sharp eye out for change in parking lots.

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