Bill Cottringer

“We discover who we have always been when we stop attempting to become better than who we really are” ~Stephen Levine.

When the positive psychology movement was gaining momentum, Stephen Covey characterized us as being “spiritual beings on a human journey.” This was a very profound paradigm shift, just like the one that helped us from exchanging our negative preoccupation with human pathology and problems for the positive hope and solutions of the human spirit in living. According to this line of reasoning, our real objective in this life is to grow spiritually to be able to enjoy the personal success we are able to achieve biographically with our natural gifts, creativity and hard work in dealing with adversity in the material world. However, you could ask most people the Dr. Phil question—How is that working for you? And unfortunately “Not very well” would be the typical honest answer.

Why is this so? Mainly because we still have the cart before the horse in this needed transformation of consciousness and there is a widespread over-focus and over-value, from the schools to the work and domestic worlds, on learning and improving into our best personal biographical selves at the expense of everything else. This chase without an end is driven by all the tempting external carrots we have placed before us—the common standards of judging success we bow down to—like money; good looks; political, corporate, or entertainment power and influence; career achievements; ivy league graduate degrees, A-list parties, big houses and fast cars and the other gold at the end of the rainbow our ships are supposed to bring in.

Understanding the meaning of the title above can bring the genuine happiness and true peace that comes with such a fundamental paradigm shift. This fundamental shift in consciousness is the only thing that can give us what we really longingly want and need before we start talking about it and giving it so many different misunderstood names—an authentic sense of longing to belong, that is always enough reward in and by itself, needing nothing else to make it so urgent, important and valuable. And it is a positive vicious circle that generates great abundance. The more longing we feel for belonging, the more we keep getting in both respects.

Finding this pile of gold is our birthright, but it is probably the hardest thing you can try to do in life short of running a 2 minute mile. We don’t really know how to subjectively measure success well enough to talk about it, so we do it objectively and verify it by setting the standard with external things. These are the things that we can all see and touch and be envious of others having when we don’t, and feeling superior when we do and they don’t. But anyone who knows anything about motivational principles understands that intrinsic motivation—doing something because doing it rewards itself—is much more powerful and longer lasting than chasing external carrots that eventually lose their luster and attraction, even money, good looks and power. More is never more but less that somebody else. The same is not true regarding the sense of truly longing to belong.

Making the shift from external motivation to internal motivation is a conscious choice, but not one that comes natural, at least not without a lot of failure experiences in chasing external carrots and ending up empty-handed. But at least one mega billion-dollar industry—gambling—knows just how long it takes when the rewards are spread out and unpredictable like most life successes, benefiting greatly from that knowledge. Sooner or later though, the reality of what is really happening gets sighted by a few and then gradually spread further to take hold. Such an idea starts out as preposterous and unpopular and is rejected outright for a while, until everyone begins to wonder why anyone would ever doubt its truth.

The only way to speed up this human journey as spiritual beings to make it more enjoyable and less troublesome, is to take away the excess baggage and drag holding us all back in going from surviving in personal biographical success to thriving in self-less spiritual growth. You can consider several ways to do this:

1. Seriously question why you do anything and everything, especially when you think you already know the answer. And if an answer comes back anything other than “because it feels good and right to do inside and nothing outside can feel better” you may need to keep asking the question over and over again until you do get the right answer that can’t be questioned. Isn’t it a sense of longing to belong and making progress that we all seek, before words confuse the issue?

2. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not, reincarnation or not, creation or quantum physics; you are here and how you feel right now is all that really matters and all that you can really know for sure. And what you do to get those feelings matters just as much because they are inseparably inter-connected with super glue. If you are not enjoying success, happiness and peace from longing to belong and belonging, it may be a time for a change because something isn’t right. And you have two choices to win this one—change what you are doing, or change what you think about what you are doing. Either way wins for you in doubling your success rate.

3. Even the smartest, richest, healthiest and most powerful people in the world never really know for sure any certain truth about being successful. This is because they are too busy doing it, having learned the hard way from trial and error and either embracing failure and overcoming great adversity or a few being extremely lucky but waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all have to trust in and follow some “authority” to know what to do in life, relationship’s, work and play and then let go to see if it works or not. Unfortunately resisting the acknowledgment of failure seems to be programmed into our DNA. Plus most of us are moving so fast we can’t even see past the blur to notice the connection between our choices, what we do, and what we get from them. Start trying to notice what you have been failing to notice all along and you may find yourself running that 2-minute mile!

4. When in doubt, you can trust in the truth of this reality: One inch of selfless spiritual growth—In increasing your ability to love unconditionally, accept the unacceptable, be more tolerant and understanding, demonstrate empathy and show compassion—translates to a mile of biographical, personal success. But it is wise to know the inverse is also true, that one inch focus on personal biographical success loses a mile of the spiritual growth that impacts both. For the gambling savvy person, this is a no-brainer. But this truth hides itself well with the temporary pleasure of apparent personal biographical success. That is at least until we question if it is really working to give us the basic sense of longing to belong and belonging we know is present or not, inside, where nobody else can see or feel it, only ourselves and perhaps the source from which it originates.

“The only single word that best characterizes this sense of longing to belong we all agree about before using words, is God; but the trouble with that word, once spoken or written, always means something entirely different to the reader or listener” ~the author.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), and “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or