(Bo’s Note: I wrote this sometime back, and I remember people coming up to me–with tears in their eyes–telling me how these words gave them freedom from their bondages. So I decided to share it with you again. Enjoy and be very blessed… )
Focus On Your Ambition,
Not Your Addiction
Have you noticed?
We’re an illogical bunch.
At various times, we act like Esau…
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers.
But Esau was considered the eldest because he went out of the womb of his mother first.
One day, Jacob was cooking some stew.
Esau arrived from hunting and was exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved. Give me some of your red stew.”
Now Jacob said something absolutely nutty. He said, “All right, but you’ve got to do one thing first. Trade me your rights as the firstborn son.” You get an inkling on how jealous Jacob must have been towards his twin brother.
But what was nuttier was Esau’s reaction. He said, “Sure! Now give me that red stew now.”
Jacob said, “You’ve got to swear first that you’re giving me your birthright…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah… whatever! I swear! Now give me that lentil soup…”.
Now why would Esau exchange his birthright for a single bowl of red stew?
Was his brain taking a vacation on that day? Was it surfing in Camsur or gone shopping in Hongkong? Didn’t Esau know what his birthright meant? Being firstborn meant a position of privilege. Being firstborn meant great honor. And yes, being firstborn meant a huge inheritance–where he can buy a swimming pool filled with red stew if he wanted.
Why was he throwing all that for a bowl of red stew today?
Friends, this is a great picture of what addiction is…
(By the way, I’m not saying Esau was addicted to red stew. I’m merely using his story as an analogy.)
The Foolish Exchanges We Make
I met a man who threw away his entire family for drugs. Years ago, he had a great job, a nice home, two kids, and a beautiful wife. Today, because of a bunch of chemicals he was snorting through his nostrils, he destroyed his life. He’s lost his job and his home. His kids hate him and his wife is seeing another man…
Why exchange all that for another whiff of shabu?
There’s no logic. It’s a foolish exchange.
One day, a woman asked for my help. She said, “My husband is a compulsive gambler. He stole money from his office and used it to gamble. His boss found out about it and is pressing charges. My husband’s going to jail!”
Why exchange a great job for another crack at the blackjack table?
Again, it’s a foolish exchange.
The list goes on.
· A chain-smoker, exchanging his health for another nicotine fix.
· A porn-addict, exchanging his dignity and mental-monogamy, for another testosterone fantasy.
· A woman who gives her body to yet another man, just so that he would love her, exchanging her self-respect for a fleeting embrace.
· A government employee taking a bribe, exchanging his honour for cash. After years of doing it, he no longer feels any guilt, his conscience virtually dead.
One Power Skill Of Mature People
On a superficial level, the problem is impatience and impulsiveness.
And boy, do I know impulsiveness.
Like Esau, I catch myself wanting it now–no matter what the cost is to my future. Like Esau, I want my red stew now, whatever my “red stew” is. For me, it could be internet porn, sexual fantasies, and the approval of people. (For my full story on how God healed my addictions, read my book, Your Past Does Not Define Your Future.)
Impulsiveness means I prioritize my short-term wants over my long-term needs.
Which takes us to that very important, essential, powerful skill that all mature people have: The ability to delay gratification. You can’t be emotionally and spiritual mature without it. It’s impossible.
Delaying gratification is the power skill of champions. In any field!
Because there’s a huge reward in front of them, champions sacrifice today so that they can get their reward tomorrow.
Do you want to become a champion?
What great reward are you aiming for?
What is your holy ambition?
Anatomy of An Addiction
Deep inside, there’s a (1) real need.
And that real need is an empty love tank. Bottom line, the addict doesn’t love himself. The addict doesn’t value himself. The addict doesn’t respect himself. Sometimes, he is conscious of this desperate need for love. Many times, he isn’t aware of it. It’s all unconscious.
My personal interpretation of the Esau-Jacob story above is that Esau didn’t value his birthright because he didn’t value himself. He didn’t value his future.
Once again, let me state my central point: I believe that every addiction is a hunger for love. That’s the real need behind every addiction. Your hunger of love produces the second part of the equation: (2) painful feelings–such as depression, anger, fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc.
To escape these painful feelings, the addict will pick a preferred anaesthesia. That anaesthesia is the third part of the equation: (3) addiction. It could be gambling, drugs, and alcohol. It could be workaholism until one’s family breaks down. Or shopping until five credit cards are maxed out. Or food until one becomes obese. Or dieting until one becomes very sick.
In order for an addiction to get healed, the real needs must be met. The love tank must be filled.
Thankfully, you can do that in many ways as we discussed in my last article.
In getting rid of their bad habits, I share to them one of the most powerful–and controversial–principles…
Don’t Focus On Your Addiction…
Bear with me. Do this exercise for me.
Say out loud “I won’t think of a Pink Elephant” for five times.
“I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.”
“I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.”
“I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.”
“I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.”
“I won’t think of a Pink Elephant.”
Let me ask you a question: What are you thinking of right now?
A Pink Elephant, of course.
People who want to overcome their addictions end up focusing on their addictions, and it simply won’t work.
When a smoker says, “I won’t smoke anymore!” 300x a day, guess what fills his mind? Smoking his favorite Marlboros, what else?
When a compulsive eater says, “I won’t eat!” 300x a day, guess what fills his mind? Eating his favorite cheeseburgers and chocolate sundaes.
When you focus on your bad habits, you enter into a vicious cycle that buries you deeper into your addiction. You end up depressed and helpless, draining your love tank even more, making you open more to your addictions.
Look. I’m not saying you deny that you have an addiction. In fact, acknowledging that you have an addiction is the first step to healing it. By admitting you’ve got a problem, you solve 50% of your problem. But you see, there’s a big difference between acknowledging it andfocusing on it 24 hours a day.
A Simple Principle of The Universe
Let me share to you a simple, powerful, universal principle that has guided me in my daily life:
What you focus on grows!
Let me sidetrack a bit and explain this principle to you.
I know some people who focus on the bad things in their day.
They wake up in the morning feeling lousy. “It’s a terrible day,” they mutter. They ride to work complaining about how hot it is. They wade through the traffic complaining about the crazy drivers on the streets. They arrive at their office complaining the workload on their desks. They complain about their boss, the low pay, the slow internet, the over-time, the terrible food at the cafeteria, and how cold the air-conditioning is.
I pity them. Because the more they complain, the more they feel miserable.
Sooner or later, they experience more problems. (Remember, what you focus on grows.)
First, they may get sick. The Bible says a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Medical studies have shown that most of our physical diseases are psychosomatic. A negative spirit may create ulcers, hypertension, and other diseases. Simply because our bodies are blueprints of our emotional life.
Second, they may lose friends. Because no one wants to talk to a whiner. About her, they’ll say, “She’s depressing and it may be contagious!”
Third, they may lose their job–or at the very least, a promotion. Someone who doesn’t have passion in his work will not be rewarded. 200 CEO’s were asked what’s the number one ability that they look for in their employee, and most of them said, “The ability to work with others.” It’s not technical skills, but relational skills that are prized in companies.
Okay, my digression is enough. How does this apply to your hidden addiction?
Focus On Your Ambition
Instead of focusing on your addiction, focus on your ambition.
“Ambition” has a negative meaning today, so let me purify this word.
By ambition, I mean your vision for your future.
By ambition, I mean the dreams that God has placed in your heart.
So instead of saying, “I’ll stop smoking” 300x a day, say instead, “I’ll be healthy and run the marathon” or “I’ll be healthy and be a Class A badminton player.”
Instead of saying, “I’ll stop eating”, say, “I’ll be healthy, weigh a healthy120 pounds, go to the gym three times a week, play badminton twice a week…”
Instead of saying, “I’ll stop shopping everyday,” say, “Starting next month, I’ll save P5,000 a month, erase all credit card debt by December 2013, and start investing in the Stock market by February 2013, and accumulate P300,000 by December 2015.”
When you focus on your addiction, it depresses you.
When you focus on your ambition, it fuels you with passion.
And what happens when you do that? As you take baby steps towards fulfilling your ambition, you value yourself more. You gain confidence. You gain self-respect. Little by little, love is being poured into your Love Tank. The cravings are still there, but they lose its urgency and intensity.
Make Your Dreams MAGIC Dreams
Each Sunday, I preach to 9000+ people in PICC (For more information, call Tel (632) 7259999). Each Sunday, I teach them how to dream. So I wrote a Novena to God’s Love Prayer Booklet and gave it to each of them. (All first timers receive it.)
In that Novena, I ask people to write 7 dreams that they will pray for everyday. Believe me, people were excited writing down their dreams!
And as they pray for them, I ask them to also take baby steps towards fulfilling them. In the Novena, I also give instructions that their dreams should be….MAGIC!
By MAGIC, I mean…
Don’t just write, “Have a happy family”; Write instead, “Have a happy family by having separate weekly dates with my spouse and each child starting August 2015”; Don’t just write, “Have more money”; Write instead, “Earn an additional P15T each month through a side-line by December 2013.”
A – Ambitious
Again, I use “ambition” without its negative meaning. By “ambition”, I simply mean dreaming big dreams! Small dreams won’t excite you. But even if they’re ambitious, let your dreams also be attainable at the same time.
G – Godly
Never dream from greed or selfish ego. They will make you empty and miserable. Instead, discover the dreams that God has placed in your heart. The fulfilment of these dreams should ultimately help you love God and others more. (And don’t you notice? G is at the middle. God should be the center of our dreams.)
I – Imaginative
Put details in your dream. Make it graphic. Don’t just write, “Own a house by 2016.” Describe what kind of house you want. “Own a 2-bedroom white house with a small garden in Laguna by 2016.”
C — Complete
Have dreams that touch the most important aspects of your life: Spiritual, Family, Financial, Physical… By succeeding in all areas, you attain Life Balance.
Wise Exchange, Anyone?
Yesterday, I read a beautiful story.
One day, a little girl named Jenny was with her mother in the grocery store. She saw a toy pearl bracelet worth P20. She became giddy with excitement and asked her mother to buy it for her. “Are you sure you like it?” her mother asked.
“Yes, Mommy! Please, please, please buy it for me!”
So the mother bought the toy pearls for little Jenny.
Jenny’s father, who loved her very much, read a bedtime story to Jenny each night. One night, after reading to her, he asked her, “Jenny, do you love me?”
“Of course I love you, Daddy,” she said.
“Can you give me your pearl bracelet?” he asked.
Little Jenny pouted. “You can have my princess doll, Daddy, but not my pearl bracelet. That’s my favorite.”
Daddy smiled, “That’s okay Jenny, I love you.” He kissed her good night.
Seven days later, after another reading session, the father asked again, “Jenny, do you love me?’
“Daddy, you know that I love you,” the little girl said.
“Can you give me your pearl bracelet?” he smiled.
“No Daddy, please. You can have my brush, my violet pen, and my red hair band. But not my pearl bracelet!”
He chuckled. “That’s okay, hon. I love you,” and kissed her goodnight.
But a few days later, a teary-eyed Jenny came to her father and said, “Daddy, I love you very much,” and placed in his hand her toy pearl bracelet.
Her father gave her a big hug and said, “I have a very special gift for you, little girl.” He pulled out from his pocket a beautiful velvet case with gold lining. He opened it, showing to her a genuine pearl bracelet. “This is yours. No more toy pearl bracelet for you, my princess. You deserve the real one.”
Friends, this is the kind of wise exchange that God wants to give to us.
Not foolish exchanges that the “Jacobs” and the “Red Stews” in our lives are offering to us.
Instead, God wants to take what is cheap and fake in our lives (our addictions), so that He could give us something much, much better (our holy ambitions).
Give up your addiction.
Give up what is counterfeit.
Give up what destroys you.
Give up what pulls you away from God and life and happiness.
Like Jenny, you deserve better.
May your dreams come true,
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 Proverbs 17:22