‘Decide’ is an interesting word. When we decide to do something we are ‘killing off’ a less favourable alternative action. The root ‘-cide’ makes decide akin to other words like suicide, homicide, insecticide, etc. How about the word ‘choose?’ Is choose the same as decide? No. Choosing doesn’t require a reason or a justification of why you didn’t go with another option.
In fact a whole movement in modern psychology is only now starting to realize the power of focusing on the solution and not the problem.
It’s the difference between motivation and inspiration.
If you are like most people with an addiction, your family has probably tried one of the following strategies to get you to quit drugs or alcohol:
To understand why they resort to these strategies, we need to explore how our society deals with people we think are lacking in motivation.
Do you remember reading your report cards back in grade school? You might have had a score for achievement and another score for effort. Then there may have been a comment like, “Johnny is an intelligent boy. If he would just apply himself a little more his mark in arithmetic would surely improve.” Or you may have been on a sports team where you coach has yelled at you from the dugout or sidelines, exhorting you to run faster, or pay attention. These are all examples of our society’s best efforts at instilling motivation. Despite our good intentions, however, trying to make others try harder rarely results in positive change. Why?
There are three reasons why this approach at motivating others fail:
1. Equating Lack of Change with Effort
The first reason is that we live in a society where a lack of change is typically equated with a lack of effort or will power. As we all know, good people try hard, bad people are lazy. So, the solution for someone who has a problem is to try harder to fix the problem.
2. Equating Lack of Change with Desire
Our society also believes that we can change our lives for the better if we have desire. For example, if you don’t want to be sober, it’s because you don’t want it bad enough. Unfortunately, we rarely ask ourselves whether these desires are shared or whether we are imposing our desires on others. If we confirm that the other persons does have a desire for positive change, we rarely examine the thinking that is in the way for that person to take action as a way to move towards their desire.
3. Focusing on the Problem, Not the Solution
The third reason is that we live in a society where, when we want to change something, we all too often focus on the problem, not the solution. Focusing on the problem and focusing on the solution may sound like two sides of the same coin but, actually, they are completely different. Think about the words we use when we have a problem that we want to change:
- fight (fighting crime, fighting addiction, etc.)
- overcome (overcoming shyness, overcoming fear, we shall overcome, etc.)
- war (war on drugs, war on poverty, war on terrorism, war on guns, etc.)
- resolve (New Year’s resolution)
- decide (homicide, suicide, etc.)
- battle, conquer, etc.
Wayne Dyer, a popular lecturer and author, maintains that we attract what we think about. He calls it the “law of attraction.” Think about it. What has the war on terrorism accomplished? A growth in terrorism and an “anti-American” sentiment that has grown in all countries, including nations considered friendly to the United States. What has the war on drugs accomplished? Cocaine that was a rare commodity just 20 years ago can now be found in school yards and the remotest of communities. How about those New Year’s resolutions?
Consider that the word ‘quit’ is another example of focusing on the problem, not the solution. For example, when you decide to quit smoking you are still fixated on the problem: smoking.
How about ‘lose’ as in ‘lose weight?’ Losing may seem different than quitting or fighting but you are still focusing on the problem, not the solution.
So, the next time you ask why your family won’t just get off of your back, keep in mind that powerful societal forces are at play. We are only now beginning to understand how to make positive change and live to our full potential.
I. PRINTED RESOURCES
Printed Resources – Humanistic Psychology and Personal Growth
Ecstasy: Understanding the Psychology of Joy (1987) Robert A. Johnson
Printed Resources – Peak Experiences and Personal Growth
Mystical Moments and Unitive Thinking (1999) provides an alternative explanation of mystical experience by viewing unitive thinking as a line of cognitive development and mystical moments as creative inspirations on unitive ideas. Daniel Merkur.
Printed Resources – Taoism and Personal Growth
Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao (2007) takes all 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching (the Great Way) and transforms it for the 21st century. Wayne W. Dyer.
III. VIDEO RESOURCES
Video Resources – Compassion and Personal Growth
Why Aren’t We All Samaritans? (March 2007) asks why we aren’t compassionate more of the time. Daniel Goleman
What You Resists, Persists (March 2007) encourages us to focus on what you want, not of what you don’t want. Bureaulamp123 (YouTube).
Video Resources – Faith and Personal Growth
The following is part of a Bill Moyers series on faith:
Video Resources – Gratitude and Personal Growth
Gratitude is a meditation with music narrated by Deepak Chopra.
Video Resources – Existential Psychology and Personal Growth
Ultimate Meaning and Religion explains what are the three sources of finding a meaningful life. Frankl distinguishes between personal meaning and ultimate meaning, which is divinity.
Chasing William James (November 2006) is an interview with author Robert D. Richardson.
Carl Jung: Sea of Faith A BBC series of Carl Jung and spirituality.
Face to Face with Carl Jung in 1959 at the age of 84 (interviewed by John Freeman):
Carl Jung and Letters to Bill Wilson of AA as narrated by Jim B.:
Video Resources – Human Potential and Personal Growth
How Do We Reach Our Full Potential?
Why We Do What We Do and How We Can Do It Better (February 2006) asks what is it that is shaping our thoughts and what stops us from reaching our goals. Tony asserts that decisions shape destiny. Anthony Robbins. TED.
Human needs: (1) certainty, (2) variety, (3) significance (feeling important), (4) connection and love, (5) to contribute and (6) emotion.
Video Resources – Mindfulness and Personal Growth
Coming to Our Senses is presented by renowned mindfulness meditation teacher and best-selling author Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jonn Kabat-Zinn is a pioneer in the application of ancient Buddhist practices to healing in modern medical settings.
Mindfulness (October 2007) is a presentation by Jon Kabat-Zinn to Google Employees. Google Channel.
Mindfulness Stress Reduction and Healing (March 2007) is a presentation by Jon Kabat-Zinn to Google employees. Google Channel.
Toward a Mindful Balance (Spring 2008) describes how misunderstanding the term can have implications for therapists. Tricycle Magazine.
Habits of Happiness (February 2004) asks what is happiness and how can we get some. A Buddhist monk has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by the faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: we can train our minds in habits of happiness.
Host Wade Davis joins Matthieu Ricard of an exploration of Buddhism in Tibet. National Geographical Society:
The Conscious Universe: Where Buddhism and Physics Converge explains how these 2 very different methodologies, one a religion and one a science, are coming together.
Toward the First Revolution in the Mind Sciences (August 2006) is a presentation to Google employees on “Mind Sciences,” which studies consciousness. Dr. Wallace is trying to integrate the various theories on the mind. Google Channel.
For more lectures by B. Alan Wallace visit the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies website.
Dr. Richard Fields, a Psychologist from Bellevue, Washington, talks about mindfulness and addiction:
Video Resources – Physics and Personal Growth
Beauty and Truth in Physics (March 2007) a particle physicist explains that you don’t need something more to get something more. Murray Gell-Mann. TED.
Video Resources – Psychoanalysis and Personal Growth
Sigmund Freud (1938) is an audio clip of Dr. Freud. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
Freud’s 150th Anniversary considers Freud’s legacy. It is an interview with Aaron Beck (University of Pennsylvania) as well as Steven Roose and Eric Kandel (Columbia University). It compares the thinking of Sigmund Freud with modern psychology. The interview also points out the dawning of brain imaging as an opportunity for new understanding of the human brain. Charlie Rose Show.
Video Resources – Spirituality and Personal Growth
Deepak Chopra (1997) is interviewed at a meeting in Noordwijk. Mindlift TV
Deepak Chopra discusses meditation, problems with the world, survival of the fittest, evolution of consciousness, and the Alliance for a New Humanity. This interview is part of a tour to promote his book, “Buddha.” A WildDivine.com production:
Deepak Chopra is interviewed by AlJazeera Television (April 2007). Autobiographical in nature:
One the Movie includes an interview with Deepak Chopra and answers the following questions:
1. Why is there suffering in the world?
2. What happens after death?
3. What is your wish for the world?
4. How would God want us to respond to aggression and terrorism?