Sometimes a simple shift in thinking about one part of your map of who you are can totally transform your experience of life. "The Gap" is such a concept.
I have a very good friend named Dan Sullivan, who owns a company called Strategic Coach. Dan taught me something he calls "the Gap" and I want to pass this understanding along to you, because I see it come up over and over as we communicate with Centerpointe program participants. It can be a source of constant unhappiness, frustration, and dissatisfaction for many people. Luckily, it is also very easy to fix.
The Gap is something that happens when we notice the difference between what we want and our actual results. We want something, we take action, we get a result. The difference between the two is the Gap, and how we measure this difference can literally mean the difference between happiness and unhappiness in our life.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of the horizon, the place where the sky and the earth meet when we look off in the distance. Does the horizon actually exist? If we travel far enough, is it a place at which we can ever actually arrive? No, it isn't. The horizon does not exist, except as a CONCEPT, a mental construct, in our minds.
The horizon is, nevertheless, real, even if just as a concept, and it is helpful to us in dealing with distance and space in certain situations. But we do not become unhappy because we can never arrive at the horizon. We know it's not a real place.
We have another very similar mental construct, one that is very important in human life, called the Ideal. The Ideal is not about space or distance, however, but rather about time. The Ideal, as a concept, helps us deal with the future.
The Ideal is a very interesting and very crucial concept, and to understand it you must understand something about how humans internally process the idea of "the future." What we do is take experiences we have had, and based on them we create internal movies about how we want things to be in the future. That we do this is very useful, because the mind latches onto those movies and uses them in order to know what end result to take you toward. Without them, you would drift aimlessly, and you wouldn't even be able to walk across the room or get yourself to work, much less achieve anything on a grander scale.
This mechanism of the Ideal is hard-wired into us. Ten thousand years ago, people on Earth thought about the future, and moved toward it, in the same way, and ten thousand years from now they will still think in the same way. The Ideal is built in to us, and understanding its purpose is crucial to human happiness.
As I said, people easily handle the idea of the horizon, and no one gets upset because they cannot reach it. Many people, however, have trouble with the Ideal, because they don't realize the Ideal is a mental construct, like the horizon, and can never be reached. As a result, they think life should happen the way their movie said it should. They don't know the Ideal is just a mental tool designed to make life easier for us. It is part of our map of reality. You cannot swim in those blue lines on the road map, or go camping on the little triangles and in the same way, you cannot reach the Ideal. It's a concept that is not specific enough to actually obtain, and so it's always a moving target.
The Gap, then, is the permanent difference between our achievement and the Ideal, and just like the horizon is always the same distance away from you, wherever you are. The distance between your achievement and the Ideal is always the same.
The Ideal has three purposes: 1) it helps us establish goals, 2) it motivates us, and 3) it helps us withstand difficulties and hardships by continuing to inspire us. Everyone has ideals, and everyone uses them to create goals, whether it is just to get to work in the morning or to make dinner, or to create an international organization or build the world's largest building or to eradicate smallpox. To use ideals as a way to measure, however, is a recipe for unhappiness.
Goals and Ideals are not the same. Ideals are not achievable, but rather act as inspiration and motivation to create and achieve goals. Goals, on the other hand, must be achievable and need to be stated in real terms so that your progress towards them is measurable.
As an example, take my Ideal. My Ideal is that, through what we offer at Centerpointe, it is possible for every human being to live a life that is happy, internally peaceful, and outwardly fulfilling. This Ideal is not measurable, since happiness, inner peace, and fulfillment are not measurable, and because even if it were measurable, there are too many people to measure (over 6 billion at last count). Still, this Ideal regulates my interactions with every person I meet. It is what I draw on to create the specific goals for Centerpointe and for the specific program participants I interact with, and it inspires and motivates me to keep going.
When we translate the Ideal into a goal things get very interesting. When we do this, we end up with what Dan Sullivan calls two "actuals": Actual 1 and Actual 2. Actual 1 (A1) is where you are when you begin, and Actual 2 (A2) is where you are now -- the results you have achieved towards your goal.
Here's where it gets interesting. Once we have A1 and A2, humans split into two camps. All people, when they get to A2, want to measure their progress. We do this automatically, and every person does it. People have always done this, and they always will, for it is a fundamental part of how the human mind operates. For some reason, very early in life, people learn one of two ways to do that measurement, and which one they learn makes a huge difference in how happy and satisfying their life is.
Either they 1) measure themselves against the Ideal (in other words, they measure their progress against the Gap, which is always large and never gets any smaller), or 2) they measure themselves against A1 (their starting point, against which progress can continually grow). Each way of measuring has a completely different emotional and psychological result.
Those who measure themselves against the Ideal end up unhappy, frustrated, and disappointed. They do not get to experience a sense of accomplishment or a sense of achievement. Whatever they do, it feels like a failure, because they are still just as far from the Ideal as when they started. This creates incredible dissatisfaction and low self esteem. They may achieve a lot, and may contribute to the world a great deal, but emotionally and psychologically it does them no good. Often they philosophically think "this is the price I pay for being a high achiever". They do the work but never get the internal reward. Even when they are making progress, with this approach they often spiral downward, running out of gas, running out of inspiration and motivation.
Those who measure themselves against "Actual 1" (their starting point) have a different result. These people look backward to measure their progress. In fact, that is the rule: always measure against where you were, never against the Ideal. Always measure backward, never forward. Because they measure against where they started, they experience great psychological and emotional reward. Over and over, they experience satisfaction and a sense of progress and optimism. They keep spiraling upward, always making progress -- and enjoying their progress.
Dan Sullivan tells the story of a man he worked with whose daughter was bulimic. She was severely ill, and they sent her to a counsellor who specialized in eating disorders, but there was no progress. Then, the man learned the concept of the Gap, and in the next therapy session he asked his daughter what ideal she was measuring her body against, and described the concept of the Gap and the dangers inherent in measuring oneself (and, in this case, one's body) against the Ideal. She "got it," and within two weeks, she was eating normally and returning to health.
In my own life, I have always been a high achiever. I was a high school track star, graduated second in my high school class, was an accomplished musician who began playing professionally at age 14, and was pretty much good at almost everything I tried. I was, however, miserable, because I thought I needed to be perfect at everything and I, of course, was perfect at nothing (no one is). I was measuring myself against my Ideal, and I never measured up, never got closer to it, no matter what I did. I was a high achiever, but I had none of the rewards. I was, instead, depressed and angry, difficult to get along with, and my life was horrible.
One of the many benefits I received from using Holosync over several years was the awareness that I was doing this to myself. You cannot do something harmful to yourself and do it consciously. You must do all harmful, non-resourceful acts unconsciously. The conscious awareness I gained from using the Centerpointe program made it impossible for me to continue to measure myself against the Ideal, because doing so creates nothing but unhappiness. I will tell you, this one change has made an incredible difference in my life.
It makes no sense to measure yourself against the Ideal. You cannot see progress even when it is great. You do not get any of the emotional or psychological benefits of your activities. It results in discouragement and unhappiness. Use the Ideal for inspiration and motivation in setting your goals, but measure your progress based on Actual 1, where you were when you started.
A certain number of people who join the Centerpointe program tell us "nothing is happening" as they use the program. Very often, when I question them about their experience, they eventually share a whole list of things that ARE happening, and which we know from many years of experience are definite signs of progress, but they do not see them as progress. They are measuring the distance between their Ideal and where they are, and this distance never grows smaller. This makes them blind to the changes and improvements that are happening, and keeps them from enjoying the fruits of their time with the program, even as that progress is happening. Very often they quit, as they have quit everything else they have tried. These are the people who tell us "nothing works for me." Their whole life is constantly frustrating because it appears to them that nothing ever gets any better.
There are others reasons why "nothing works" for these people, but the Gap is probably the major one.
There are, then, two ways of living. Dan Sullivan calls them the Negative Zone and the Positive Zone. Some people live parts of their life in one zone and other parts in the other, but usually by a certain age we pick one or the other as our primary mode of dealing with things. If they choose the Negative Zone (and this is not a conscious choice -- such a negative choice is not possible if one is conscious), in addition to the negative consequences I have described above, they also become very discouraging to other people. They become the kind of person who, when another achieves something, points out how much better it could have been. "You got an 88 on your test? Why didn't you get a 95?" Whenever something good happens, they always look to the deficiency. We all know people like this.
Those in the Positive Zone, however, in addition to creating their own happiness and inspiration, also inspire and motivate others by pointing out how much progress they have made (and also helping the other person to choose to live in the Positive Zone). Those in the Positive Zone live with constant self-acknowledgement, constant progress, and a sense of continuing growth. The Positive Zone is one of fulfillment and well-being, and I highly recommend it.
Knowing what you know at this point about the Gap, it is very important that you take inventory of yourself on this crucial issue. What do you measure yourself against? If it is the Ideal, you need to learn how to measure yourself against Actual 1 -- or, be willing to pay the price.
In my opinion, the price is much too high.
And keep listening to those Holosync soundtracks!
Bill Harris, Director