If you follow my blatherings on Facebook or my blog, you probably know that I am no slouch as an author nowadays. In recent years my books have been pretty successful on Amazon, nominated for major awards, published in several languages, yada, yada, yada.
Now, here is something you didn't know. I am only the second best writer in my household.
Here is why you don't know that. My darling wife writes jaw-dropping fiction. She has a talent for painting incredible landscapes of tortured psyches and the human condition. She could take a simple trip for pizza in a small rural town and turn it into an existential masterpiece. And her plots are intricate but refreshingly inventive. If you were to read one of her books you would be gripping the arms of your airplane seat, or staying up way too late turning the next page.
Except that she hasn't completed a book yet. Why? Because she never pictured herself as a successful author. She would say things like, "people say that we're all just mosquitoes in the middle of the ocean." And she turned messages like that into an unspoken belief that she was never good enough, so why bother. Which is why we average five published books apiece nowadays – ten for me and none for her.
Of course I love her madly, novel or no, so no pressure from my end – but with time and encouragement, she is finally starting to see the gifts that I have always seen. Today she is finally working in earnest to complete her first real novel project. It is going to be incredible, and what I have seen so far is incredible already. So stay tuned.
But this brings up another point for you – yes, you – to think about. The difference between Colleen and I is not our writing talents. (If it was, we would be living nicely off her royalty checks.) The difference is the mental images we hold of ourselves. I always saw myself as a successful published author, even 20 years ago when I was like Father Mackenzie, writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear. So I acted like a success, and made choices presuming that I would be one. And guess what happened?
So now, I look at all the other big goals in my life. Moving back to Ithaca in the 1990s, when we were tired of living in big cities. Escaping the corporate grind. Becoming a full-time writer and speaker. Each of these goals were things that I pictured clearly in my mind for a long time. Between that and studiously ignoring my friends' well-meaning "reality" ("Everyone starves in Ithaca." "You can't quit your job in a recession." "No one makes a living as a writer."), all of them came true.
This was true for much more than career goals. Like becoming a homeowner in the overheated Los Angeles housing market of the 1980s, when everything seemed out of reach, by being patient and finding the right condo and the right deal. And then there were more personal ones. Like when I dreamed at age 18 of meeting a soulmate, right down to the dark, curly hair and the wire-rimmed glasses – and how we met and fell in love soon after. Looking back on those days, Colleen surprised me recently by saying that before we met back then, she had imagined someone just like me as well.
The bestselling book "The Secret" talks about what they call the power of intention – you will attract what you think about, and the universe will align itself to provide it. For an Irish Catholic like me with an engineering degree, its premise is frankly a little too spooky, kooky, and get-rich-quick-y for my tastes. But here's where I think the real secret is: when you hold a goal clearly in your mind, universe or no, *you* will start making all those tiny, subconscious choices that will ultimately make your goals happen.
This isn't a new concept. I first read about it decades ago in the 1960s book Psycho-Cybernetics, where plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz talked about how you can put your subconscious mind to work on any goal you can imagine for yourself. And by golly, it seems to work pretty well for me. It is still in print after all these years, and I've just picked up a new copy to re-read. Maybe you should too?