Your self-acceptance score sets your "personal allowance" for how much happiness, success and love is possible and how much is "too good to be true." Your allowance determines how much good fortune you can identify with before you start telling yourself "good things like this don't happen to people like me." As your self-acceptance score increases, the more good fortune you will allow yourself to notice, accept and enjoy.
When your self-acceptance score is low, you tend to forget that abundance is natural, and you start to believe that good fortune has to be deserved, earned and paid for. When good things happen to you, you feel guilty, anxious and afraid, because deep down you believe something deeply illegal or blasphemous has happened. You quickly set about "paying the bill" by making sacrifices, working harder, apologizing everywhere, pushing away love, rejecting the joy and sabotaging the success. Thus, for as long as you do not accept yourself, you will always want more than you let yourself have.
Exercise: Self-acceptance feels so good that you should try it at least once in your life! At the deepest level, self-acceptance is the awareness that you are what you seek. The love you hope to find in the world is what you are made of, and the happiness you are searching for is your true nature. Today, be willing to accept the idea that love is here because you are here, and happiness is here because you are here, and hope is here because you are here. Affirm to yourself, "I am what I seek."
To feel truly abundant for the rest of your life, do this one thing first: Give up all sense of separateness. Despite how it looks or how you may feel right now, you are not a separate self, you are not an island, and you are not alone. As you let go of thoughts of separateness—described by scientist Albert Einstein as "optical delusions"—your perception changes, and so, too, does your experience of the world. Once you were lost, and now you are found. Grace is at hand. Inspiration is here. All manner of help and support is available to you.
Exercise: If you want more energy, more inspiration, more creativity, more aliveness, more joy, you have to connect. First connect with yourself. Failure to do so will leave you feeling like something is missing in your life. Eventually, you will come to realize that what is missing is you! Next, connect with others. Ask yourself, "Who would I like to spend more time with?" Social studies show that people who invest in a rich "circle of friends" are twice as likely to feel very happy and abundant.
Your abundance score will increase as you extend your sense of connection to include the sun, the stars, the sea and the trees. Too many of us suffer from what author Richard Louv calls "a nature-deficit disorder." Mother Nature offers a perfect holding environment that helps to restore us to our unconditioned selves. Most important of all is our connection with the original energy that created us. In my favorite book, A Course in Miracles, it is written, "A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need to correct." Amen to that.
Contrary to what the advertising copy writers tell us, the goal of your life is not to have it all. Nor is it to have everything. As the comedian Steven Wright said, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Your goal is not just to accumulate. You are not a consumer. You are not here on Earth just "to get." If you think only in terms of "getting," you have clearly forgotten who you really are, and you'll always be haunted by a mistaken sense of inner lack.
Most of the people I meet are not broken, they do not need fixing and there is nothing missing in them. My experience is that they don't need more therapy, but they do need more clarity. In particular, they need to get clear about what they really value. Until we know what our real values are, we will not be able to discern between genuine desires and advertising slogans. The Sufi poet Hafiz put it very well when he said:
"Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel."
Exercise: Reflect on the statement, "I know what I want." How true is this for you? Sit with this until you are at least a little bit clearer than before about what is the real more you want and why. Your newfound clarity will save you so much time, so much energy and so much unnecessary heartache. Notice also that knowing what you want isn't just about "having" and "doing," it's also about "giving" and "being." When you know what you want, you stop wanting more of everything else.
Rich people seldom feel rich. They do not perceive themselves to be rich. In a Gallup poll, the average person judged that 21 percent of people, approximately one in five, are in the "rich" bracket. And yet not even one-half of 1 percent of people put themselves in that bracket. In other words, only one person in 200 can identify with the phrase "I am a rich person." Most people relate to terms like "rich," "wealth" and "abundance" as something you eventually experience when you finally, one day—you hope—enjoy something more than what you have now.
Rich people often feel poor. "When they are asked how much income they need, richer people always say they need more than poor people," writes Lord Richard Layard, the British economist. In his book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Lord Layard collated research on the economics of happiness back to the early 1970s. He writes: "Although real income per head (corrected for price inflation) has nearly doubled, the proportion of people who say they are pretty well satisfied with their financial situation has actually fallen."
Exercise: Money is important in life, but if you are to enjoy a truly healthy relationship with money, you have to be clear about what is even more important than money. The real truth is that you can't buy what you really want. True love is not for sale. Real happiness cannot be bought. Peace of mind is not a commodity. To increase your abundance score immediately, try this great exercise: Make a list of 10 things in your life that are priceless to you and that money cannot buy. This powerful exercise will open your eyes to how rich your life already is.
Receiving: I am a good receiver (in all areas of my life).
Are you a good receiver? Do you drink life in? Do you let people give to you? Can you let the good times roll? When it comes to letting life be really great, what's your threshold? What's your fear?
There are no shortages, only a lack of willingness to receive. Receptivity works on three levels. Level 1 is about being open to what wants to come to you. This openness makes you attractive, in that it helps you to attract great things. Level 2 is about recognizing what is already here. Many of us overlook what is already here because we are poor receivers. Level 3 is about appreciating the natural qualities of our true nature—our secret beauty, our eternal loveliness, our innate wisdom and our human kindness.
Exercise: Take a personal inventory in which you identify at least three ways you limit your own happiness and abundance. Notice how you are depriving yourself of nourishment, inspiration, joy and aliveness. Make a resolution to stop being so mean to yourself. And be willing to let life give to you, so you can give yourself more fully to life. Reflect also on what my friend Dr. Chuck Spezzano says: "When the receiver is ready, the gift appears."
Has it ever occurred to you that what you are not getting—either from someone, something or somewhere—might be precisely what you are not giving? For example, your boss doesn't motivate you, but do you motivate your boss? Your partner doesn't compliment you, but do you compliment your partner? Your child never listens to you, but do you really listen to your child? Really? You are held back not by what you don't get, but by what you don't give.
Do you ever feel you give too much? If so, it may be that you are blocking abundance by being in a role. Roles are often so unconscious and automatic we often don't notice them until we collapse with exhaustion. So, what roles do you fall into in relationships? Do you ever play "the giver" who only gives and never receives; or "the helper" who suppresses any personal needs; or "the independent one" who never asks for what they want; or "the rescuer" who is always on duty; or "the martyr" who cannot really give unconditionally because they do not really receive?
Exercise: Today, do not think in terms of giving and receiving; rather, see that giving is receiving. Notice the difference between giving from your essence and giving from a role. From your essence, giving is always sharing and the gifts are multiplied. In a role, giving is always a transaction in which someone inevitably loses. When you give from your essence, you notice how you receive as you give, and, thus, you naturally let go of all fear of giving and receiving.
The most abundant people I know are committed to a strong sense of purpose. Having a purpose helps you to feel good about yourself. It connects you to something bigger than your ego, helps you to recognize what is truly valuable, inspires you (more than money ever can), opens you up and makes you want to give and to serve in a way that you feel truly blessed. Without a strong sense of purpose, you can still get by, but you might not feel very alive, except for when you go shopping for more shoes and stuff.
Exercise 1: What would you say if someone was to ask you, "What is the purpose of your life?" Notice your response to this question. If you are not clear on your answer, you need to take some time to work this out. If you need some more help on this, I recommend you read my piece, "What Do You Want to Do with Your Life?" The clearer you are about your purpose, the more abundant you will feel.
Exercise 2: To discover the purpose of your life, you have to "let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love," the poet Rumi said. Asking yourself, "What do I love?" will help to clarify what energizes you, what touches your heart and what inspires you. As you answer the call to what you love, you will naturally feel more alive and more deeply engaged with life. You will also experience a greater sense of direction, meaning and fulfillment.
Grievances often seem justified at the time, but ultimately they cost too much: They are not worth the upkeep, and they cannot give you want you really want.
The first step in moving beyond grievances is to realize that a grievance is not a solution. It offers nothing of value to you. A grievance keeps you stuck in the past, and until you let go of the grievance, you will keep giving away your future to the past. The good news is that your whole life shifts whenever you give up a grievance. As soon as you let go of a grievance, you move into the present, your life begins to flow again, you are more open, you attract new possibilities and a new story unfolds.
Exercise: Make this your affirmation today: "Forgiveness offers everything I want." One of my favorite lessons in A Course in Miracles begins: "Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? ... All this forgiveness offers you, and more."
Everyone understands, at least intellectually, that gratitude is essential for happiness and abundance. That said, most of us do not make a conscious habit of practicing gratitude daily. Instead, we reserve gratitude for after something especially good happens. The problem with this is that, because we don't practice gratitude regularly, we often miss all the good things as they happen! Our lack of gratitude gives us only partial sight, and we lack a full appreciation of what is available to us.
Practicing gratitude is really a decision to give up all belief in lack. The miracle of gratitude is that it changes your perception, it changes your brain and it changes your experience of the world. Gratitude is a training in vision that helps you recognize what is already here for you. Gratitude energizes you. Gratitude opens you up. Gratitude makes you attractive. The more you practice gratitude, the more abundant you will feel. Why? Because like attracts like; and practicing gratitude attracts more reasons to be grateful.
Exercise: Your abundance score will increase if you commit to practicing gratitude on a daily basis. To get started, say out loud 10 things you are truly grateful for. Notice what this feels like to hear yourself say it. Are you having fun? Does it feel silly? Any resistance to doing this exercise is really a temptation to keep holding on to your old stories of lack, unworthiness and separation. Keep going. And keep doing it. The gift of gratitude is that it helps you to enjoy your life as it happens, here and now.
Our modern lifestyles are so manic, busy and hyperactive that we often have no time to enjoy our lives. In maximizing our efforts to pursue happiness, chase success and accumulate wealth, we miss out on life as it happens. We are so focused on "going" and "doing" and "having" that we settle for getting through the day instead of living and loving each day. Life becomes such a blur and the busyness is so chronic that it is almost impossible to locate ourselves in our own lives. We hope we might catch up with ourselves some time in the future.
Every authentic school of wisdom and spirituality teaches you that now is the most abundant moment of your life. They all agree that now is an eternal treasure chest dripping with everlasting gifts of peace, inspiration, grace and joy. And since time began, spiritual teachers have taught their students to "be here and now," to "enjoy the moment" and to "seize the day." And every spiritual student has repeatedly disregarded his or her teacher's wisdom—at first.
Exercise: One way to be more present in your life is to stop "doing," "going" and "having," and pay more attention to "being." How does this work? Well, you can start right now, by deciding "to be" more of what you want to experience. For example: If you want more love, be more loving; if you want to receive more, be more open; if you want to feel more abundant, be more grateful; and if you want to enjoy your life more, be more present.
By being more of who you really are,
you manifest more of what you really want.
Robert Holden, PhD, and his innovative work on happiness and well-being have been featured on The Oprah Show and Good Morning America and also in two major BBC documentaries, The Happiness Formula and How to Be Happy, shown to more than 30 million TV viewers worldwide. He is the author of the best-selling books Happiness NOW!, Shift Happens! and Success Intelligence. His latest book, Be Happy, is published by Hay House. Robert lives in London with his wife and daughter.