Crossing the Bridge

February 27th, 2012 by Steve Pavlina

It’s difficult to create a life of abundance until you have a truly inspiring vision of what life will be like on the other side.

Many people try to move towards abundance because they’re fed up with scarcity. They’re tired of working at jobs they semi-dislike just to pay the bills. They notice the years passing and don’t feel they have much to show for it. These people seldom escape that reality, however, because that level of thinking actually reinforces scarcity.

Abundance is much easier to create once you get clear about what you’ll do with it. Why bother with it? Who cares? What will life be like on the other side? Is it just the absence of some annoyances? Is there something more to it?

What inspires me to live from a place of abundance is that I feel everyone deserves such a life, not just a privileged few, but everyone. The impetus to begin thinking about abundance initially came from my frustration dealing with scarcity, but as I began to sense what an abundant life could feel like (joyful!), I realized that such a journey wasn’t merely a personal one. It’s a journey that our entire planet can share.

Abundance doesn’t make people lazy. When abundance is present, the primary source of motivation shifts. Instead of being motivated by neediness and lack, motivation primarily comes from inspiration. Such higher level motivation is more creative — and a lot less stressful — than the motivation that comes from lack. One is fear-based; the other is love-based.

Why write this article? Where does that motivation come from? It comes from love. It comes from being happy. It comes from a desire to share my happiness and love, to contribute, to brighten people’s days, to inspire more creativity, to help people release fear-based thinking, to create a more abundant planet for everyone to enjoy.

Your reasons for creating abundance may be different than mine. But to step into abundance, it’s important to have compelling reasons to create it, something more powerful than I don’t like scarcity.

One source that inspired me to create an abundant life was Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that universe people’s basic needs are easily satisfied by technology. Everyone has a place to live. If you’re hungry you can walk up to a replicator, and it will serve up whatever you desire within seconds. And it’s all free.

Instead of having to work to make a living, people work because they enjoy it. They pay a lot of attention to their relationships. They take care of each other’s emotional needs. And they maintain the technology that handles their physical needs.

That fictional universe inspired me to ponder what it would be like to live in such a reality. I soon realized that even if the rest of the world wasn’t there yet, I could still create a microcosm of that experience for myself. Eventually I could expand it to include my close relationships. Then it could continue to expand from there. And if more people started up similar bubbles of abundance, perhaps this expansion could proceed much faster.

Gene Roddenberry’s vision inspired me to work for love, not for money. The people in that universe study hard to develop their knowledge. They train hard to develop their skills. They work hard to contribute. And they support each other, care about each other, respect each other, and trust each other. They could be lazy if they wanted to, but they choose to contribute.

By the time that series ended (1994), I’d already abandoned the notion of working for someone just to make a living. Roddenberry ruined that possibility for me, making it seem ridiculously small-minded and cowardly. The episode “Tapestry” was one of my favorites. It helped me conclude that I’d rather live and die as the spirit I believe myself to be instead of playing it safe and living out a pathetic existence as a mere shell of a man.

Striving to live up to that vision hasn’t been easy. It took years to create a lifestyle where I can sustainably do work I love and still have all my needs met — and to do this within the practical confines of today’s world, not in the year 23-something.

I experimented with different approaches. I sank into debt for years and went bankrupt. I got kicked out of my apartment for lack of rent money. But I just kept going — and I kept watching Star Trek along the way. :)

The vision was too inspiring to me, and despite various stumbles and hardships, I had faith that I’d eventually figure it out. It seemed challenging but still possible. It wasn’t an all or nothing goal. Each step I took in the direction of abundance and away from scarcity and fear would prove helpful… and would inspire more steps. I realized that creating abundance is an experiential journey, not an on-off switch.

My current solution isn’t perfect, but it works. Every week I get to spend most of my time doing what I enjoy. I work hard, but not for money. My motivation comes from inspiration, not neediness.

People who try to copy my approach usually fail. They typically give up within a few months. Why? Because they’re not really copying my approach. My approach wasn’t to copy someone else’s approach, so if they copy my approach, then that wasn’t actually my approach. Get it?

My approach was to focus on a vision that inspired me and commit to that vision. I didn’t just say to myself one day, “Yeah, this abundance thing sounds cool. Let’s give that a try.” Trying is a waste of your time. It’s much too big a challenge for trying.

Trying works for ordering your first cinnamon dolce latte. Trying works for seeing The Artist. Trying doesn’t work for creating a life of abundance in today’s world.

If you give up within the first year, that’s trying. If you won’t give up even after 20 years, that’s doing.

A key turning point for me was making the commitment to cross the bridge and to do my very best not to cross back. This is a point I try to make in so many different ways through my writing and speaking. If you want to create and experience abundance, you must willfully abandon the thought that you can keep one foot in both worlds. You have to say goodbye to scarcity-thinking, and going back must feel like it’s akin to drinking poison.

Even with a commitment to cross the bridge, you won’t be perfect. You’ll still revisit the scarcity mindset now and then. Fearful thoughts will arise. You’ll succumb to them sometimes. But sooner or later, you’ll remember your commitment, and you’ll cross back to the abundance mindset and heartset, this time with even more resolve than before.

Without such a commitment, you pretty much have no chance. Creating abundance in today’s world requires going against the grain. You have to be willing to say no a lot, to develop and exercise your courage, to keep raising your standards. Without a strong internal commitment, there’s no way you’ll make it. I’d bet against you.

Being fed up with scarcity may provide some initial motivation, but it’s not enough to go the distance. You’ll be ready to quit after the first mile. For sustained motivation you have to go deeper into your purpose. You need to create a vision that truly inspires you, one that shakes your spirit awake and makes you remember why you’re here.

Your mind won’t be able to keep you going by itself. You have to involve your heart and spirit as well. And you’re going to have to do a great many things that you’re currently afraid of. If you fear it, it’s probably going to be on your to-do list someday.

What I found most inspiring about Roddenberry’s vision was the way people relate to each other. There isn’t this clawing neediness. The people are independent, competent, and strong on their own. They spend time with each other because they enjoy each other’s company. They engage in delightful intellectual exchanges, help each other solve problems, and encourage each other. Most of all they genuinely like each other.

I want to experience this kind of abundant relationship life as well, and I feel very committed to such a vision. If it takes many years to get there, it’s still worth it.

My basic needs are well met. I get to do inspired work that I love. But for too many years, my social life wasn’t on par with the abundance I enjoyed in other parts of life. I hadn’t yet crossed that part of the bridge yet. I was still willing to settle for something less, and so I got… something less.

During the past year, I’ve been gradually saying goodbye to that something less. I’ve opted out of connections that invite less than mutual respect, especially in terms of how people treat each other. That alone has made a noticeable difference. Part of me is still celebrating the progress I’ve made thus far, while another part is excited to keep going.

If you’ve been to one of my recent workshops, then you’ve already had a taste of the kind of social environment I seek to create more abundantly. The vibe is positive, supportive, constructive, and ridiculously open and honest. When I sometimes point out to people that I’m actually “at work” while I’m there, they usually laugh, perhaps because it seems like I enjoy it too much.

I love seeing how people flourish within such an atmosphere. Their eyes brighten. They smile. They laugh. They communicate about things that matter to them. They raise their standards. They make new decisions. They feel safe and supported. They lower their shields. Many don’t want to go home when it’s over.

Now what if we could make this the new baseline for how people normally interact with each other, including strangers on the street? It may take a long time, but I actually believe that this is an achievable goal.

I find this kind of vision very inspiring, and regardless of how much resistance I meet along the way, I’m not going to give up on it.

If you seek to create abundance mainly because you’re frustrated with the opposite, you probably won’t get very far. It’s too big a challenge, requiring deeper and more lasting motivation. You can’t really talk your way into abundance thinking either; people have tried that, but it doesn’t work well. Part of them still remains unconvinced.

What works is to see your way into abundance. Roddenberry helped me see what that might look like. Strip away all the future technology, the space stuff, and the drama, and what we have left is a core vision that we can already get pretty close to today.

We can choose to do work we love. We can rely on inspiration instead of neediness as our primary source of motivation.

We can leverage technology to meet our basic needs, so we don’t have to invest so much time and energy in basic life support.

We can maintain high standards in our relationships. We can connect with openness, honesty, and mutual respect. We can share what’s deeply important to us and invite others to do the same.

None of this is easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but it is doable. We even have the pocket communicators to prove it. :)

You can create this… but not if you’re willing to settle for something less.

If settling is an option for you, if you’re still willing to work from fear and obligation instead of requiring your work to flow from love and inspiration, if you’re still willing to relate to people on the basis of neediness instead of mutual respect and caring, then what kind of life will you end up living? What kind of life are you already living? Do you love it? Does it fulfill you deeply? Are you happy? Do you wake up and go to bed smiling?

Many people can look at scarcity and say to themselves, “This isn’t me.” That’s a good first step.

The next step is to find a vision that you can look at and say, “Now this is me!”


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