How Big Is Your Jar??
The following story was told by Earl Nightingale many years ago:
“A farmer once poked a tiny pumpkin into an empty glass jar. Over time the little pumpkin grew until it completely filled the jar and then could grow no more. When the farmer broke the glass jar, he had, of course, a pumpkin exactly the size and shape of the jar.
Now if we’re not careful, each of us can do a very similar thing. We can mistakenly poke ourselves into jars that limit our growth. But it’s we who do the poking; not the job, nor the company, nor the territory, nor the economy, nor the times. We do it. We should avoid such self-restriction and realize there’s virtually no limit to our growth and development on the land upon which we now find ourselves.”
Mr. Nightingale’s audience was salesmen and business people, yet this lesson is readily applicable to any other field. The idea is that we are all working with a “jar”—a free space that we will eventually fill and a set of boundaries beyond which we cannot and will not go.
Most people are given their jars early in life; they do not consciously choose them. These jars are planted in the subconscious by endlessly-repeated external stimuli and are readily accepted and reinforced by the time someone reaches early adulthood. How much money you can possibly earn, how good your body can possibly look, how smart you can possibly be, the kind of house you can possibly buy, and on and on and on are all governed by the size and shape of your jar; there is a limit, a boundary that is recognized by your subconscious.
Here’s the important point: because your subconscious determines your behavior, you will never behave in a way that results in an outcome beyond the limits that have been accepted by your subconscious.
Read that last sentence aloud, slowly, three times.
In a later post I will go into exactly how our subconscious minds became programmed and explain how to reprogram them and in so doing inspire new behaviors. Right now I just want to talk about the downstream effects of this “small jar” problem.
I can remember when I was 265 pounds. I distinctly remember looking in the mirror and deciding that I needed to lose some weight. I thought, “Yeah, I could stand to lose 20 or 30 pounds.”
Do you see the problem? What a small jar! Why didn’t I form an image of myself at my current weight of 175 and decide to lose 90 pounds? I would certainly have gotten here much faster had I established that huge jar and persistently begun to fill it. As you may have guessed, I did eventually lose the 30 pounds. This was where I then stayed for a while. I had “filled” my jar and could go no further.
The truth is that we get to decide how large our jars are. Most fat people are afraid to even set the goal of having 6-pack abs. But if they became aware that it was possible and set that as their limit they would eventually get there. Any otherwise-healthy person, without any medical conditions, can reach a level of leanness that permits the appearance of visible abdominal muscles.
Make Your Jar BIG
- If you decide to lose 100 pounds, and repeatedly hammer it into your subconscious mind that you will lose this 100 pounds, that you’ve decided to do it, that you’re going to do it and will accept nothing less, the eventual result will be that your subconscious mind will accept this new “jar” and, over time, will inspire behaviors that will eventually lead to the filling of the jar. Note that this will only work if you constantly and repeatedly hammer this new idea into your subconscious mind.
- If you decide to double your income, and repeatedly hammer it into your subconscious mind that you will double your income, that you’ve decided to do it, that you’re going to do it and will accept nothing less, the eventual result will be that your subconscious mind will accept this new “jar” and, over time, will inspire behaviors that will eventually lead to the filling of the jar. Note that this will only work if you constantly and repeatedly hammer this new idea into your subconscious mind.
- If you decide to get into a fantastic relationship, and repeatedly hammer it into your subconscious mind that you will get into a fantastic relationship, that you’ve decided to do it, that you’re going to do it and will accept nothing less, the eventual result will be that your subconscious mind will accept this new “jar” and, over time, will inspire behaviors that will eventually lead to the filling of the jar. Note that this will only work if you constantly and repeatedly hammer this new idea into your subconscious mind.
You get the idea. Insert your goal into the above template and it will hold true. Do not make the mistake of selling yourself short. I don’t care if you’re 400 pounds; don’t aim to lose 50, aim to lose 200. Make your jar BIG and then slowly, progressively, gradually, and surely fill it. When your subconscious finally accepts the idea of you at 200 pounds, beneficial behaviors will be inspired that move you towards that goal. Ideas will come to you; those ideas will lead to new ideas, each one perfectly suited to the stage at which you find yourself.
I travel a lot for work and spend a fair amount of time in airports. You know how you walk around your town and everyone is fat? Somehow, it’s even worse at airports. It is exceedingly rare to find someone in good shape. I don’t mean “not fat,” there are some of those scattered about, but someone you look at and think they look good. I see it in every town, everywhere I go, and it’s a tragic shame.
I don’t see sloppy, lazy, worthless nobodies ripe for ridicule. Instead, I just see wasted potential. I see fat wives, fat husbands, fat mothers, fat fathers, fat brothers, fat sisters, fat colleagues, fat employees, and fat friends, all failing to fulfill those important roles. Providing valuable service for others and realizing our full potential in all our roles and responsibilities takes vigor, energy, enthusiasm, focus, positivity, and optimism—the very things that are taken from us as we become fat.
Don’t just decide you’re going to be “less fat” or you’re going to “lose a few pounds.” Fire up your goddamn imagination; how good can you possibly look? Decide you’re going to look like that no matter how long it takes. Make that decision over and over again, every hour of every day, constantly, repeatedly. In the end, your success will be primarily determined by your mental endurance—by how long, how powerfully, and how frequently you can hold in your mind’s eye a vividly-detailed picture of yourself looking as good as you can possibly imagine.
Remember: when you eventually break your glass jar, as the farmer did, you will be left with a pumpkin that is the precise size and shape of the jar you selected way back when. How big is your jar??
“I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store.
For Life is a just employer;
He gives you what you ask.
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have willingly paid.”
—Jessie B. Rittenhouse