Inspired by Dr. Broder's The Seven Stages of Transformation: Stage Climbing to Your Highest Potential
The happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction that go hand and glove with living life at your highest potential is your natural state of being! The Buddha nailed it best with one of his most enduring metaphors — that the sun is always there and shining. That is the natural order of things. Thus, when you can’t see the sun during daylight hours, it’s only because clouds and storms are blocking its view.
So think of the sun as a metaphor for the true happiness and fulfillment that’s your natural and organic default position. Your fears, self-defeating patterns, and other obstacles you put in the way are merely the clouds and storms blocking the path to your highest potential.
I define your highest potential as the life you live when your principal motivation in any life area that’s important to you is governed by your unique passions and calling. So once you’re able to clear the clouds, you get onto the path where your passion takes you. For you, that may mean benefiting from more love, more creativity, or the calling to use your distinctive talents and gifts to do great things and experience innate and profound happiness.
The challenge is to clear the way so that you can be the master of your choices in even the most challenging areas of your life. For some people, that even includes the choice of whether or not to be happy.
The first level of true happiness occurs when you have achieved the gratification that comes your way via the love, success, and peace that grow out of a life governed by passion. But lasting happiness kicks in once gratitude overtakes self-satisfaction and you are internally motivated to give back without the expectation of any quid pro quo.
In my earliest training as a psychologist, the Freudian view was that happiness — to the extent that it even exists — at best takes years to achieve if it’s possible at all. Although Sigmund Freud was known for many things, being the messenger of happiness was not one of them!
But the Buddha got it right; and out of my impatience to see results with clients more than 30 years ago, I began to develop Stage Climbing — a system grounded in his great observation that genuinely cuts to the chase. Using the latest proven state-of-the-art cognitive behavioral principles, combining them with just a few of the most robust elements of traditional psychological practice, and adding a bevy of brand-new techniques that anyone can learn quickly to remove those clouds or obstacles, you can now access this zone of happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction in the shortest time possible.
The premise of the Stage Climbing System is simple: First, use clear criteria to recognize what I call a problematic hook (a self-defeating part of you), and then select the corresponding user-friendly strategy to clear it. Each time you do this, you’re taking a giant step toward your innately determined highest potential, for any part of your life that you choose to work on.
Your hooks correspond to each stage of your life, from infancy to adulthood. It is the problematic hooks to your earliest life stages that normally make achieving your potential as an adult so much more difficult. For example, hooks rooted in infancy may cause you to become overly dependent and unwilling to take initiative; hooks to the toddler stage of development, undisciplined; hooks in the preadolescent childhood stage of life often lock you into a rigid and perhaps stifling tendency to adhere to rules that no longer work; and your hooks to adolescence may cause you to crave acceptance from others while sabotaging self-acceptance, which is always accessible to you if you know how to access it.
The Stage Climbing System is designed to sort this out and rapidly give you the power necessary to quickly change self-defeating patterns without the years of therapy it often used to take.Then you’re free to live the life you were born to live with your passion and self-motivated drive, the vehicles to connect with your inner calling at all levels so that you can make the contribution you’re here to make.
Once you’ve learned how to manage your problematic hooks, the ideal conditions are in place to determine what parts of your life are and are not working. For example, if you’re trying to juggle too many roles, which of them are adding to your overall feeling of fulfillment? As a typical adult in our society, it’s very possible your day-to-day routine involves playing many roles: with your career, in your family (as spouse, parent, sibling caretaker to aging parents, etc.), and even sub roles. For instance, to your spouse or significant other, your roles might include lover, co-parent, confidant, financial and tennis partner. Then there are your other friendships, involvement in various organizations, religious affiliations, and sometimes the list might seem endless. Many of your roles may even have become merely unenthusiastic habits that provide you little or no fulfillment, such as a job or career that provides income but no satisfaction or sense of purpose, or a relationship that provides comfort on many levels but lacks passion or excitement.
Perhaps you find yourself in a comfortable state of discomfort, pondering what’s become an all-too-common mantra: “I should be happy, but I’m not.” Peggy Lee immortalized this dispassionate sentiment about life in her standard “Is That All There Is?” The good news is that you can leave this rut behind by rising above your roles and allowing yourself to be guided by that innate part of you that recognizes that having happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment is your natural state of being. It is your passion-driven uniqueness that will take you to that zone within you, once you’ve removed the hooks or obstacles that block it, downgraded or let go of the roles that are not working, and cleared the path to it. Just remember, that an amazing zest for life is already within you just waiting to be maximized! The purpose of my latest Nightingale-Conant program, The Seven Stages of Transformation: Stage Climbing to Your Highest Potential, is to give you the tools you need to get there.
As you rise above your roles, you are entering this zone of fulfillment in any given area of your life. And once you’ve learned how to get there, you won’t settle for anything less. You are now governed by passion, aligned with and motivated by the unique mission you were born to do. To the extent you love what you do, you are already there; but what’s new is that now you can take charge of the process and make this the standard for every aspect of your life. For example, even if you had enough money to never have to work again, you’d choose to be doing what keeps you in that zone. The relationships you choose to nurture are ones that connect you to the very best feelings — not only about the other person, but even more importantly, about yourself.
This may sound like a quantum leap, and believe me it is, but there is still one more step to lasting happiness. If you’re like a lot of people I’ve worked with over the years and you’ve accomplished the things in your life that you thought would put you over the top, the lasting fulfillment that you expected would follow might still elude you. This is because many people, believe it or not, actually get burned out on their own self-gratification!
This is where gratitude enters the mix. When the passion you’re now living by and the gratitude for what you already have join forces, practically anything is possible. For starters, your focus shifts away from yourself and outwardly to the greater world. We know this as benevolence, and it by no means deprives you in any way — quite the contrary. You are simply no longer as motivated by personal enjoyment or gratification, money, or praise and recognition. These things are still desirable and nice, but they lose their ability to inspire and satisfy you as they once did.
Mahatma Gandhi wisely said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Thus, moving your focus from yourself onto others may be just what you need to optimize your life rapidly and permanently. In The Seven Stages of Transformation, I describe this situation as the highest stage to aspire to. Most of us experience this to some extent, but few reach it in a way that defines our lives.
Find a purpose or cause larger than yourself to achieve fulfillment in a more powerful and permanent way. Your cause is an individual matter. It could be something that helps one person, changes the entire world, or anything in between. What’s important is that it serves something bigger than you and with no expectation of reciprocity. The most common example of one way many achieve this is through the best parenting, where the sacrifices you make for your children are passed down without any expectation of a payback to you.However, you can experience this level of satisfaction and commitment with any part of your life.
The possibilities are endless when trying to connect with this place of giving! Try making a list of people you admire who contribute to a greater good. These can be people you know by reputation, through history, or on a personal basis. When you think of these people, think about what it is that you have in common with them. Then, ask yourself, “What is a purpose or mission I deeply care about?” This can range from something in your daily life you’re interested in but might not have taken the opportunity to become involved with, a political issue, some form of social injustice, or a bigger world problem. Start with something you’re truly passionate about that serves a larger purpose. Then simply allow your inspiration and the happiness and fulfillment associated with it to guide you.
Your potential for enhancing true satisfaction and excellence in your life is never-ending. When you’re operating from a benevolent place that’s beyond yourself, your impact can have infinite ripple effects. Thus, as you aid others, you will empower yourself in the process. For example, caring for elderly parents out of compassion and desire rather than obligation may do it, as will random acts of kindness or postponing a goal of your own for the benefit of someone you care about.
So take a look at your life and ask yourself, Am I truly happy? If you find that things are just middle-of-the-road or status quo, the ability to elevate your life to one that’s more fulfilling and lights this spark within you is yours for the taking. Your feelings of motivation are endless when they’re passionately coming from the satisfaction you feel as your mission positively impacts others. The Seven Stages of Transformation program is a resource to use for achieving this standard of excellence, whether you’re far along on your journey in search for even greater fulfillment or your journey is just beginning.
You now know that living life at your highest potential is within reach. Allow yourself to use your unique passions to find that zone within yourself, and practically anything you aspire to is possible!
If this article inspired you, we invite you to reach your own highest potential through stage climbing. For JUST $1.00, you can try Dr. Michael Broder’s 6-CD program The Seven Stages of Transformation, plus interactive workbook for 30 full days! Go ahead, start climbing!