You often hear from spiritual teachers of the Law of Attraction that when expressing a desire, one should phrase it as a “positive statement”, and not as a “negative statement” (e.g., “I want an abundance of money,” as opposed to, “I want to not be poor.”). In order to create a new story for your life, the argument goes, you can’t focus on the old story.
This has been true for me. When I focus on the things I want, they flow much more easily into my life. And when I’m paying more attention to the things I don’t want, they keep showing up. Some teachers explain this concept with phrases like “The Universe doesn’t understand the word ‘no’.” So if you say, “I want there to be no fat on my body,” the Universe hears, “I want there to be fat on my body” and brings you more fat.
Personally, I start to get a bit OCD whenever I think of the Big Scary Universe with all these Very Tricky Rules – if you screw them up, then you’ll never get what you want, and your life will be miserable! If I fail to say the magically correct combination of words, I’ll fall into eternal despair, like Indiana Jones trying to take the correct step, lest he fall into a deep chasm of doom.
For OCD-me, a better way to look at it all is to nix the Big Scary Universe and just think about me driving a car. If I want to drive to the store, I have to spend most of my time looking forward – towards where I want to go. If I tried to drive facing backwards, I would have a hard time getting where I wanted to go. So if I want to have money and a feeling of security, but keep looking back on my historical poverty and fears, I’m going to run into an energy block (a tree?) that keeps me from getting what I want. So I try to “look forward” and express my desires as a positive statement.
But another pitfall I’ve run into is the use of comparative statements when expressing what I want – e.g., “I want to be thinner,” “I want to be richer,” “I want to be kinder to others.” On the surface, these are all “positive statements.” And yet somehow they have the same kind of energy block that negative statements do. Why?
To return to the driving analogy, if I spend the whole time looking sideways out the driver’s side window at the road where I am right now, I won’t be able to get where I want to go much better than if I was looking backwards. If I phrase my desires with comparative statements, I have to focus on where I am now and the lack of what I want. If I say, “I want to be more compassionate,” I’m picturing compassion, but I’m also picturing the lack of compassion that I have now. “I want to eat healthier” begs the question, healthier than what? It forces me to focus on all of the unhealthy food I’m currently shoving in my face. “I want to lose weight” requires focusing repeatedly on my current undesired weight.
And with me, there’s usually a judgment. If I say, “I want to be thinner,” I’m subtly thinking, “because I’m so fat right now.” If I say, “I want to be more compassionate,” I’m thinking, “because now I’m often petty and shallow.” If I say, “I want to have more money,” I’m thinking, “because I don’t have enough right now.”
But if I just say, “I want to be compassionate,” it’s easier for me to just focus on compassion – the thing that I want. If I say, “I want to eat healthy,” I can let go of my judgments of what I’m eating now, and focus on what I want to eat. In order for the car to start moving in the right direction, I need to release my judgments of where I am.
I don’t want OCD-me to start worrying about using Scary Comparative Words, like they’re another Indiana Jones death trap – it’s much easier if I just see how it feels to try out the different sentences. “I want to be successful,” versus “I want to be more successful.” The first one feels light and almost playful. The second one feels heavier, with longing and judgment. That heavy feeling is a sign that I’m focusing on what I don’t want.
Knowing how this feels helps me also detect the “hidden” comparative statements I might make. “I want to lose weight,” isn’t technically a comparative statement. But I have to focus on my current weight in order to weigh less. I feel much lighter when I think, “I want to have a healthy body,” or “I want to be beautiful.”
Try thinking about something you want more of in your life. Phrase the desire with a comparative statement, and then try phrasing it without one. Can you feel the difference? Keep trying this throughout the day and see if you notice a difference. The car will go wherever you desire, just keep looking forward. – Nate Borofsky