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Proudly reprinted from issue 24
You want real freedom? More than you ever imagined? Then read this article.
(You might want to print this one out as it’s longer than usual)
Do you have skeletons in your closet?
Of course you do; we all do.
I’ll define a ‘skeleton’ as anything you’ve done in the past that you feel was wrong, feel bad about, would like the world not to know, or are still hiding. Let’s start with the easy ones…
What do you regret, but have never apologised for? What are you still carrying guilt about? Who do you never want to bump into, because you feel uncomfortable about something? Is there something you are worried someone might find out some day?
Think about it – absolutely anything about you or what you have done that you are hiding? I invite you to pause now for 5 minutes and make a list. Trust me – it will be worth it.
Now before we jump into how to free yourself once and for all from these ‘skeletons’, let’s go even deeper so we cover everything. Have you ever stolen something that was never publicly known? Have you had an affair that is still secret? Are you terrified people will find out you are gay? Did you ever take advantage of someone? What lie did you tell that has not been found out? Only you can know what you have been carrying around – let’s add it to the list.
And I promise you – no matter how small or how big, you CAN be free of it.
How Can We Be Free of Our Skeletons?
Now how can we be free of these deeds of the past? I’ve heard a lot of rationalization about how we should just ‘let go of it’, or write a letter and burn it, or some other action that bypasses dealing with the person who was involved. Oh – and check out this great line to try and justify doing nothing: ‘It doesn’t really bother me’. If you haven’t thought about it in 3 years, then fine. If you honestly feel good about it, then fine. If not – then consider you’ve just gotten used to this like a heavy weight on your back. You’ve probably forgotten what life was like without it!
In fact – I’ve tried to justify most of these myself at some time in the past! This is because telling the person involved and/or my parents or my partner, was the LAST THING I WANTED TO DO. I was of course hiding my skeletons for a reason:
I was scared of the consequences of people finding out. If I look back at all my skeletons in the past, I was afraid of being made fun of, being yelled at, being bad mouthed in public, being embarrassed in front of a group, being ostracized by society, and even going to prison.
(I’ll share an example in Part II).
I invite you to write down (yes, now) the consequences you could face by getting free of this skeleton or weight. It’s a critical step on the way to moving through it.
Come clean and tell the truth to the person you most fear telling. In fact – that’s how you know they are the right person to tell. Because that’s where the fear lies that stops you soaring in life. That’s your demon to confront before you may grow.
Yes – this is a radical approach. Many people die with their skeletons, and with the heavy fear of being found out. However, if you come clean, if you are extraordinarily bold, if you decide that living with your head held high and the peace of true integrity is more important than anything else in life….
If you risk everything you hold dear to tell the truth, then your growth and peace will be unsurpassed.
Take a look inside. Are you stirred right now to clean something up? If so – then the best time to do it is now. If you choose to risk the consequences – if you choose personal freedom over fear of consequences, then pick up the phone and come what may.
WARNING: While the consequences are often pleasant, this can in no way be guaranteed. The whole point of this is you may face some unpleasant consequences – which is exactly WHY you’ve been hiding it. Some of the worst things I can imagine are: you could lose for example your partner, your family, your business, your life, or go to gaol (jail). If cleaning this up could have legal consequences, I recommend consulting a lawyer so that you know what you are dealing with. And then you can make your choice.
If you find it too big to clean up right now – if the fear has too great a hold on you – bear in mind that this can be handled a couple of ways. It can be over in 5 minutes from now – sometimes with shallow breath and sweaty hands. Or – it can be a process.
It took me two years to finally clear my biggest skeleton with my close family, and the person involved. The choice is yours.
Perhaps today I’ve planted a seed in you that will grow with time. Or perhaps I’ll hear from you in the next 24 hours with what’s happened at the blog !
FEATURE PART II: ‘My Skeleton’
To reassure you that you are not alone in this, I’m going to give you an example of a difficult skeleton I cleaned up in my life, how I did it, and the result I got.
Once every six months I would drive past the residential college at which I boarded when I was eighteen. And each time I would feel a tiny twinge of guilt at what I had done.
While a student, I had taken the sign from the front of the college. In fact I did it twice! (Two separate signs). The signs were never returned. At the time, being drunk and with friends, it seemed like a daring adventure. In some circles I was a hero, and the college never found out. More recently, however, it felt like vandalism plain and simple – and I felt ashamed of it.
I must have mentioned it on three separate occasions to my partner at the time, who finally said ‘Why don’t you clean the damn thing up and stop bugging me?’
I think it took another 6 months for me to decide I was willing to risk, and accept the possible consequences of cleaning this up – embarrassment, fines, ostracism from a community, and even a police record. And in return? Integrity, truth, and knowing I was doing the right thing by another human being(s).
With racing heart I dialed the phone number of the college, and asked to speak to the current Principal whom I’d never met. (Heads up: in these calls the person is NEVER available first time. Nature’s way of making you sweat it out. )
After introducing myself I said something like this: ‘Sir, you may find this a very unusual call. I did something a long time ago that I’m not proud of, and I’m calling to clean it up. I stole a sign from the college and never gave it back. And to make matters worse – I did it twice. Can you please tell me what these things cost so I can reimburse the college?’
As you might imagine there was a period of silence. His first question was to ask when this happened. His surprise came clearly through the phone when I answered 1989! He then seemed intensely interested to know what would motivate me to make such a call after fourteen years. I explained that I had found that every time I had cleaned something up in my life, I felt better about myself. And the scarier and more uncomfortable the clean up – the more freedom I gained in my life.
He gave me a figure and we arranged a donation to the college to cover it. (And he said my timing was impeccable, as they had just lost another sign!) To my great relief, that was it.
I don’t promise that the results will always be what you want. But in this case:
1) I felt absolutely fantastic – an enormous high
2) The college got a new sign
3) Two weeks later I received a personal invitation from the Principal to attend an opening ceremony for a new wing of the college, and to view the new sign! (I hadn’t been welcome in that college for 14 years, so I felt wonderful to be invited to such an event.)
4) Would you believe the Prime Minister of Australia was speaking at the ceremony? And – with perhaps 300 people attending, and I was one of the few people to be personally introduced. The press photographer happened to snap this pic: www.life-coaching-resource.com/pmpic.htm
It’s weird huh? I called to clean something up, and ended up meeting the leader of my country.
Bear this in mind: life is FOR you, not against you. When you clean something up, it always works out in the long run. The more fearful you are, the greater the growth. And if you get consequences you don’t like – there’s your chance for even more growth.
1) So go on. Start small if you like. Or start big and work down. Make your lists as described in Part I and pick up the phone!
2) If you’d like, go to the blog and share what you experience was with cleaning up.
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P.S. Got a comment on this article? Add it to the blog
I’m working on my book and will come out of my cave shortly.