You lie to yourself explicitly to avoid deeply uncomfortable truths. You tell yourself white lies to make yourself feel better, stroke your ego, and distract yourself from the reality that you’re slowly wasting your life.
Am I being dramatic? Maybe. You tell me.
Are you still yearning to get the outcomes you want in life? After all this time? Are you hoping to find some level of peace, happiness, and contentment that just seems out of grasp?
Are you hoping that 2020 will be different? But deep down you’re scared it’ll be just another year?
I can hear you nodding your head.
Look, none of this easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. At a certain point, you’ll have to cultivate the ability to be at least somewhat honest with yourself. Until you get there, you’ll spin your wheels and get lost in your own rationalization maze built from your monkey-mind.
People who “make it” have that tough dialogue in their minds where they expose the rationalizations, lies, and half-truths they tell to themselves.
Auditing your life isn’t all that much fun, but it’s quite useful. That being said, here are some of the common lies we tell ourselves to feel better in the present while at the same time sacrificing our futures.
I Need “X” to Feel “Y”
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” — Jim Carrey
It’s funny. Even though I understand this lie I tell myself, I still operate as if I don’t. I’m always chasing the next goal or accomplishment. The only difference now? I realize that success isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I still chase the goals, but I’m no longer expecting them to change my life in a profound way.
At the same time, you do become a better version of yourself in the process of accomplishing those dreams. You realize that the work you do generates those positive feelings of inner-confidence. You just didn’t need to do all that work to generate those feelings. There’s no reason why you couldn’t have just felt confident by default.
That’s the lesson that going through the journey teaches you. It teaches you that the end of the journey is the origin point. You’re already enough, you already knew the answers, and you were already successful. But, still, even me telling you that won’t help a tonne. Go through the journey and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
It’s hard to believe you already have everything you need to be happy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the next accomplishment or milestone will make you feel better. It doesn’t.
So what’s the point? Eventually, you learn to create for the sake of creating, to do for the sake of doing. Part of you always wants to attain worldly success and your desires won’t fully go away, but you start to take yourself and life itself a lot less seriously.
When I create from a source of joy instead of neediness, my work does well. Each and every single time I push to make my work “popular”, it fails. When I remember I write because I love to write, I just write. It doesn’t matter what happens after that, as long as I put the words on the page for the day.
You could come from that source of joy without needing success right now. Again, hard to grasp. When it comes to your life, you’re probably thinking it needs to be fixed. You think something outside of you needs to happen to make you feel a certain way. But even if it does happen that way, the change still happened inside of you.
The World Owes Me Something
We’ve become quite an entitled generation. Complaining about income inequality from $1,000 supercomputers, while sipping lattes, with Netflix in the background on our flatscreens. It’s ridiculous, really.
In the previous point, I talked about not needing certain outcomes to happen to feel successful. In this point, we’ll talk about the fact that you don’t need a handout to get the outcomes you want.
Think about it deeply. What can some benevolent entity really do for you to change your life in a profound way? Nothing. Even if you had all of your basic needs fully covered, healthcare and all, would that motivate you more to find your purpose? Would you be any closer to doing it? Probably not. Because that’s mostly an issue of psychology and doubt.
Why do you feel owed something? Why do you feel like you deserve anything? If we’re being literal, you’re just an animal out in the modern jungle. Antelope get killed on a routine basis and you’re not crying for them, right? What makes you any different?
When you question why you deserve something, sometimes it’s hard to come up with great answers.
You think you deserve success and wealth — why? What have you done to warrant either? How long have you worked for them? Have you worked for them at all?
You think you deserve great relationships — why? How well are you treating people? How much have you been working on yourself as opposed to wishing people fit into your definition of a good person?
Wanting success isn’t bad. It’s inescapable. But thinking it’s owed to you only results in misery when you don’t get it. When the success I want doesn’t happen when I want it to, I ask myself.
- “Have I done all I can?”
- “Did I take shortcuts?”
- “Should I be patient and let things develop?”
And then I go back to thinking about the fact that success doesn’t matter at all in the first place. I get caught in bouts of paradoxical thinking that strangely put me at ease and make me feel less entitled.
This awareness centres me and calms me down, for about 5 seconds, a minute, an hour, or a day. Then it’s back into the anxiety loop.
That’s okay. I’m not trying to cure myself. I’m trying to understand myself. Change is a process of self-awareness.
If you want to increase your awareness, think about whether or not you truly deserve what you think is owed to you.
There’s Nothing I Can Do
Yesterday a woman reached out to me. She told me she wondered if changing was still possible in her life at the age of 49.
It’s a legitimate question.
When you live a certain way for a long period of time, you have a mountain of evidence against your case for change. Without question, the older you are the harder it becomes. You have less energy and time to pull things off. Plus, your mind gets settled into quite the groove. When you’ve been told over and over again in subtle ways that there’s a ceiling to what you’re capable of, it’s hard to believe you can do more.
Hell, this isn’t even a problem reserved for the middle age and above. Most of us are fully and permanently indoctrinated into learned helplessness before our 30th birthday. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I don’t know what happened to you or where you’re headed. But I do know this. Your past doesn’t have to dictate your future. At all. Not even close.
I spent the first five years of my 20’s getting in trouble and massively underachieving. I’ve spent the last five years living out my dream of becoming a writer, finding stability and sanity, and working harder than I’ve ever thought was possible for me.
The rock bottom moment is very real. I’ve had many of them. You can get fed up with living a certain way and change. You can do something about your situation. In fact, one of you will.
Every year, all of us make New Year’s Resolutions. Some people do make it to the gym past January. Some people do keep writing those blog posts, shooting those videos, selling those products, and taking baby steps towards building real projects and businesses.
Some people do listen and follow through with advice. I do it. And I write in the hopes that some of you do it. If one per cent of people are truly ‘successful’, odds are that at least one person who reads this is going to decide, “you know what, I’m ready. I can’t live like this anymore.”
Is it you? I hope it’s you.
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