By Natalie Amsden
What is the difference between you and Joe, a homeless man on a bench who asks for change? Are you more blessed because you are a better person? No. Just because someone lives on the streets doesn’t make him a bad person. Are you being rewarded for all of the good things you’ve done and Joe is being punished? No. Joe has a great heart and started his life as a person with a job and a family and later found himself in circumstances that lead to a downward spiral. Then he became stuck. So, what’s the difference?
There are two distinctions between you and the destitute person on the street, and both are related to what you ask for in life and, therefore, what you create.
1. What you ask life for that you want.
2. What you ask life for that you don’t want.
Asking for what you want:
We have all heard the biblical quote, “Ask and you shall receive.” However, few of us truly understand what this means. The homeless person asks for change in a can, while you ask for a raise or a job. That is what you both want, and you both ask, and you both receive. The street dweller probably does not believe anyone would hire him, so he does not ask for a job and, of course, if he does not ask he’s not going to receive. He also probably assumes that people would say “no” if he asked for other things he wants and needs, such as a home, guidance, support, and money to sustain himself. As a result, he limits himself to asking for change in a can.
We are not immune from these self-limiting assumptions and doubts that lead us to ask for less than what we really want. You may ask for a raise but you probably limit how much you believe you can receive, so you end up asking for less than you want. You may ask for a job but may similarly limit your possibilities because you do not believe you can have the higher position, which is what you really want. Consequently, you ask for the “sure bet.”
If we do not ask, it is 100 percent certain that we will not have it.
We know this, yet somehow we still don’t ask. We’re often too afraid to hear “no,” and so we miss out on many opportunities. While you may not be sitting on a park bench begging for change, you probably still are limited because you do not fully understand the power of asking for what you want. Not only does it limit what you literally ask others for in life—it limits what you allow yourself to dream about as well. If what you truly desire seems unrealistic, impossible, or unlikely, you probably have readjusted your goals and dreams to what you feel is practical, logical, and not likely to fail. Mediocrity is easier to attain, after all (or so we believe). But mediocrity isn’t what you want, is it?
Asking for what you don’t want:
The other side of the “asking coin” is that we are likely to ask for many, many things that we don’t want. Joe is homeless because he asked for it. “What?!” you may ask, “Why would anyone want to be a bum?” I said he asked for it—and that is not the same as wanting it. You may not want to hear this (but you asked for it by reading this article). You are in the circumstances you are in because you asked for them. “No!” you protest, “I didn’t ask for this!” You may not have wanted it but you did ask for it.
Asking = Thinking
Whether we are thinking about what we want or what we don’t want WE ARE ASKING for it.
And, why does this matter? Remember how earlier we said that if we don’t ask we are 100 percent certain of not receiving it? This is true, but what is even more important to understand is that if we DO ask we WILL receive it. Let’s use Joe as an example of receiving what we think about. The homeless man wanted stability, a job, and a home, but his limiting beliefs determined he could not have these things. As a result, he resigned himself to thinking about how to collect enough money for his next meal. He thought about needing change, asked for change, and received change. It might not have been what he really wanted, but it’s what he asked for. Since he asked for it with his thoughts, he took action and asked for it with his cup, and so he created the experience of receiving change.
We don’t always get what we want, but we always create what we ask for—eventually.
Lori dreamed of a career in management. She knew she’d be good at it, but when the position became available she didn’t apply for it because she didn’t feel her superiors liked her. She applied for the secretary position in another department instead, and she received the secretary position.
Have you ever asked for a position and not received it? Ask yourself if you were suffering from a negative expectation like the homeless man.
You may have wanted the position but had doubts and negative expectations. “I get nervous at interviews—I’m probably going to make a fool of myself and blow it.” “I have trouble getting along with people.” “I’m nervous that I won’t be able to fit in at this new job.” “I exaggerated on my resume regarding my computer skills—I hope they don’t think I’m a fraud.” “I’ve been turned down by everyone and probably won’t get this job either. I don’t want to get my hopes up.” All of these negative and contradictory thoughts are what kept you from getting the position. You may have wanted the job, but you were asking with these thoughts—and these thoughts are not going to create what you want.
“But what about the time I asked for the big position and really felt good about it, and wanted it and believed I could get it—only to be turned down?” In this situation you may have some residual or unconscious limiting thoughts that are getting in your way. For example, “I don’t really want to commute that far” and “I never get the jobs I really want” can sabotage a desire. The first example shows that unconsciously you really don’t want the job because you don’t want to drive that far. You resist the commuting and so may unconsciously sabotage the interview by being late. The second example shows residual thought energy left over from previous negative experiences with interviewing. You believe that you are a person who does not get the positions you want and therefore feel insecure. This shows through and does not inspire managers to believe in your competence.
In a positive way, you may be blocking the job because you have conflicting desires. For example, if what you truly desire is to be self-employed, but you are applying for the position because you feel you can’t have what you really want, you may not get the job because you are being pushed to go for your true desires.
We can look at it from a spiritual perspective. What you focus your attention (thoughts) on you will attract to your life (The Law of Attraction). In the example above, your thoughts and desires about self-employment were stronger than your desire for the job and the Universe is pushing you to take a different path, one that you have created with your true desires. You can also look at this from a psychological perspective. If you believe something will happen (that you will bomb the interview) you will unconsciously do things that will cause it to happen (self-fulfilling prophecy) because in this situation you don’t actually want the job. Either way, you will create what you think and therefore ask for.
Many argue that there are other factors involved, that we don’t necessarily create EVERYTHING in our lives, and I agree. I acknowledge that the concepts of “ask and you shall receive,” “the Law of Attraction,” and the “self-fulfilling prophecy” do not explain all of life. However, one thing I can say is that in my life I can see very clearly how I have gotten what I have asked for, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. We need to allow ourselves to ask for, think about, and dream of what we truly desire in life. We can never create the life of our dreams if we aren’t willing to ask for it!
Put down the change can, step away from the bench, and ask yourself: What do you really want to create?
Natalie, Publisher of Transformation Magazine, has worked with thousands of people seeking to live a life of purpose and genuine relationship with their true selves, others, and their world. She is the former Director of a counseling center for at risk teenagers and their parents. She is also a public speaker and leads workshops and retreats on Practical Spirituality, Finding Joy, Discovering Your Purpose, and Enlightened Relationships.