We are most susceptible to these devils when we aren't doing what we really want with our lives.

By James Dillehay

Few people are clear about what they really want in life, becoming more certain only after experience. We can learn what holds the most fulfillment for us if we measure an activity by how we feel afterward. If what you do makes you feel inspired, expanded, energized, playful, satisfied, or content, then this means you are doing the right thing for yourself.

If an activity makes you feel tense, nervous, contracted, angry, obsessed, tired, or frustrated, you are doing the wrong thing. These negative feelings give rise to self-defeating tendencies that I have likened to devils, because their ruinous effects give the appearance of willful, malevolent intent. The devils of the negative self rob us of both energy and willpower, allowing us to become victimized by others. If, however, a person confronts and conquers these devils, an inner force is released and comes back to him or her.

We are most susceptible to these devils when we aren't doing what we really want with our lives. Inside each of us, there is an important faculty called the intelligence of the heart. This intelligence is the source of intuitive perception, or knowing without thinking, that guides us to discover our true desires. When intelligence of the heart is active, the natural source of creativity is awakened. The first step toward learning what fulfills your heart's desire is to recognize what does not.

THE FIRST DEVIL: False Success

False success means abandoning what is important in your heart for the lure of money and security. When we primarily strive for more and more money or possessions, there will always be a better job, a newer car, or a bigger house. Whatever we gain in material success will never be enough, because these desires for "more" arise from conditioned social drives, not from real needs.

The media creates unrealistic role models through glorifying the millions of dollars earned by rock idols, football quarterbacks, and television anchor-persons. We have been exposed to endless social signals that tell us winning equals success and losing means failure. By comparing ourselves to the artificial media version of success, we overlook the reliable source of happiness at hand. If one ignores the natural source of intelligence within for too long, it becomes dormant and forgotten.

For many, the frustrations of living out the expectations of employers, family, and spouses may finally make them ask, "When do I get to do what I want?" It's one thing to recognize your own needs, it may be more difficult to find the strength to seek their fulfillment. Perhaps we resist because it may mean making changes and moving away from past ties. Will freedom from false success, in of itself, guarantee more satisfying accomplishments? We cannot know without trying.

THE SECOND DEVIL: Fear of Change

Fear is an instinctual reaction to danger. It is a primal, visceral response which when stimulated, usually produces intense chemical changes in the body. Those changes prepare us to fight or flee a threat. Fear can also be so intense at times we are terrified to the point of paralysis.

The fearful reaction originates with an actual event where there was a real or perceived danger. In many cases, however, fear can become restimulated as a habitual response long after the original danger has passed. When this happens, we respond to imagined threat, not the reality. Negative associations enforce thinking patterns and behavior that later return to block us from seeing or acting freely in a given situation. Fearful reactions thus become habitual or phobic.

Fear of changing our lives can be overcome only when we want to change even more than we want to stay stuck. The process starts with thought patterns. If we say "I can't" to anything in life, that becomes the truth. Unless we are willing to act on our real needs, those fears will always leave us self-defeated. In your mind and in your speech, replace this denial with the positive affirmation "I can." For the positive person, there is no end to opportunities for achievement.


Guilt means feeling as if we have done something wrong, a response that often begins with family obligations. Our parents have sacrificed for us and naturally, we feel indebted to them. Sometime, parents or spouses will remind us of how much we owe them in order to keep us bound to their influence. It may be necessary to first learn about our own needs in order to truly benefit or contribute to a healthy relationship.

In situations where one must care for a child or relative, choices become harder. Ultimately though, we are not responsible for another's happiness. The unhappy person almost always suffers from self-inflicted pain. More importantly, we aren't responsible for their getting better. To think otherwise is an indication that the devil of guilt has found a place in our thinking. It is also a sign of profound vanity. Do we really believe we can make other people feel happy if they don't want to do so themselves?

When we are true to ourselves, we are filling our own needs. We become full from the inside, overflowing with goodwill and positive intentions. In this state, we give of our time to other, because we freely choose to. When we refuse to allow guilt and other devils to keep us in a holding pattern, we come closer to discovering our own happiness.


Vanity means pride or self-worship, which is different from self-love. In the effervescence of gaining achievement, it is easy to become enamored with oneself. You are happy having found what you want. It's so wonderful that everyone else must surely see its value, acclaim your efforts, and of course, shower you with money for doing it. But others may not see it the same way just yet.

This is a point where you can make use of doing what you love to do to become happier and more prosperous. The trick is to not be swept off your feet by vanity, but to look for ways in which your project can be turned into a product or service with a practical application in the world. You may indeed have come up with a fantastic idea. Now is the time to see if anyone else wants or needs it. Any business which offers a product cannot survive out of vanity but must identify and fill their customer's needs.

Feeling good about your self is healthy. When self-love turns to self-worship, it’s easy to get illusions of grandeur. It is a good practice to look at your creative ideas or projects for ways in which they help others. Any small business owner will tell you that finding and filling a particular need is the key to success.

When what you do or create will positively help others, it can become a practical way to gain satisfaction and affluence. If the intention behind your efforts is to provide real service, the public will reward you.


Impatience is rushing to complete an activity before its natural time. Often, we cannot tell that we're rushing a project until its too late. A vicious devil is chasing us, but we seem unable to stop and ask, "Why am I in a hurry?" In trying to speed things up, we will perceive a situation as a crisis that needs to be solved immediately. Projects done in haste only increase the likelihood that we will make mistakes which will cause us to have to start over again.

Impatience creates stress and stress creates more impatience. This is an exhausting cycle, both emotionally and physically, which results in our feeling that we are surrounded by chaos and confusion. Some of the signs of impatience to obstacles or delays are obsession, tension, anxiety, nervousness, short temper, and confusion. If any of these negative feelings are present, slowing down and gaining distance from the situation will provide the advantage of a detached viewpoint.

The relaxed, unhurried person has control of his life. The calm person is more likely to look on difficulties as challenges and see opportunities where the harried person only perceives setbacks. The higher functions of the brain such as holistic perception and intuition tend to be inoperative under stress. The more relaxing our activities are, the more intuitive and creative we become. We can then see our way clearly and use time more fully instead of feeling chased by it.

All of the devils discussed so far are habits or learned behavior patterns. They can be unlearned and replaced by positive patterns. If we don't confront them, they will imprison us in a slave mentality.


Anything done mechanically and without awareness is a habit. Habits can be physical, mental, emotional, or any combination of these. Although some routines may seem harmless, the danger in any habit is its tendency to lull us to sleep. We miss the opportunity to act in the moment because we engage in old patterns. In order to hear the intelligence of the heart, be on the alert for any habitual thinking or behavior that restricts your creative flow.

We have learned to think and react in patterns because our education focuses on memorization and calculation. This discipline strengthens reliance on memory and mental habits, yet ignores the need for being ready for the unexpected.

Our habits of response are measurable and send a clear signal to others who are always ready to take advantage of our vulnerability. They have learned how specific words can make us feel excited, fearful, aroused, or guilty. If we allow them to, they will tell us what to think, what to buy, what to eat, and even what to become. Our habits will support them.

Other emotional reactions can be habits too, stimulated when we receive a particular cue. Emotions play a large role in self-defeating patterns like smoking, drinking and overeating. When people get in touch with the positive forces within themselves, they no longer need or desire superficial habits.

The most powerful tool for accessing creative insight is awareness of the here and now.


Perhaps the most insidious and illusory devil of all is time when we perceive it as the clock. Though useful in a scheduled world for meeting deadlines, the clock can easily enslave us to the illusion of sovereignty. When this occurs, we lose track of the only true asset we have in this life, the here and now.

As children, we experienced time as open-ended and full of wonder. We lived our creativity in play, barely touched by the demands of the clock. Life flowed and time was full. After many of us reached the age of responsibility, the experience of being present in the moment was lost to a multitude of schedules and agendas.

The conception of time as a clock, an object separate from our inner experience, is a trained perception just like any other habit. The artificial rhythm of the clock replaces our own natural rhythm, yet everything in nature has its proper time and season. The devil of the clock pushes the organic, natural time of any project, but worse, it pushes you toward an artificial reality.

Remember that planning is an illusory projection, based on what might be, not what is. Plans must be flexible and ready for anything that comes in the moment. The world never stays the same. Survival and success have always come naturally to those who are instantly ready to adapt in nature or in business.

If we follow our heart's desire, the devil of false success cannot lure us into an unfulfilling future built on others' expectations. Unreasonable fears from the past will have no hold on us. Vanity and impatience will not steal our success from under us. We will replace self-defeating habits with awareness of new possibilities. In the experience of the moment, the intelligence of the heart will awaken and transcend the powers of all the seven devils to become a magic genie that brings you wisdom, joy, and happiness. From then on, there are no devils. Everywhere you turn, there is only wonder, delight, and opportunity. Time becomes your friend and will guide you to discover your own secret dream and how to realize it.

The above article is excerpted with permission from "Overcoming the 7 Devils that Ruin Success," by James Dillehay who traded fortune and security for the unknown and discovered an extraordinary inner source of strength and transformation. Dillehay currently resides in Torreon, New Mexico.

Excerpted from UNICUS Issue #13 | E-mail us your comments


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