Thanks Bood, good to have you back. Here’s what he said…
In this issue, I want to take a look at one of the ideas I’ve been working on, along the lines of “lies to stop believing”.
For a long time now, I’ve been uncomfortable with some aspects of the personal development movement, with its focus on positive thinking and unlimited possibility, and, if you like, the “shadow” side of that, and its connection with entitlement, something I’ve written about often.
It’s increasingly my view that entitlement is one of the biggest challenges we face, both as individuals, and as a society, and at the root of many of the problems we face, and it’s a theme I will be returning to often.
The personal development world, in particular, makes many claims about the kind of life that is possible for us, if we follow certain routes, or buy certain books/workshops/coaching, etc.. Some of these claims speak directly to beliefs that we hold about life, too.
There’s nothing wrong with aspirations, or wanting ‘a better life’, but I think we have come to hold these aspirations as expectations – the idea that we are somehow entitled to them, and that, if only we do the right thing, those expectations will come true.
I call these claims “lies to stop believing”, because I have found, both in my own life, and those of the people with whom I work, that there is a lot of suffering caused by the disappointment when these expectations aren’t met.
What are some of these “lies”?
Some day, my prince(ss) will come. Not necessarily – many people face a lifetime of not meeting their prince or princess. An increasing number of us might have to face a future of growing old alone, and accept that there isn’t “someone out there, just for me”.
You can make your dreams come true. You probably can’t. This is one of the ones I hear and read about most often, and perhaps one of the most insidious. Yes, we can aspire to fulfil our dreams, but we need to be grounded in the reality that most of us aren’t going to be able to have the ‘life we always dreamed of’.
Things will get better. No, they might not. This might be ‘as good as it gets’.
If you build it, they will come. Again, they might not.
I deserve better than this. Perhaps, most harshly of all, why? Deserving is absolutely tied up with entitlement, and it’s a myth that I deserve anything – it’s an act of sheer good fortune that I have the comfortable life I have, and am not living on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, or languishing in a prison-cell in Baghdad.
Sorry to be so blunt, but there it is – life is unfair. The good guy doesn’t always get the girl, and the bad guy sometimes wins. We can have our dreams, do our affirmations, practice chanting and meditating on our goals, do the work, network, go on plenty of dates, and still not get what we long for.
This might sound negative, defeatist even, especially from a coach, but I want to suggest that acceptance of the possibility that we might not get what we long for is also a route to peace.
When I accept that life isn’t necessarily going to bring me what I long for (of course it might, but it equally might not), then I have the possibility to ask different questions about life, and to navigate with what is, rather than the striving for, and pain of disappointment if I don’t get, what I yearn for.
What if I am single for the rest of my days? What if I never write that book I’ve been meaning to write? What if my life never gets any “better” than this? What then?
For me, this is deeply connected with the Buddhist ideals of non-attachment. Have goals, by all means. Apply yourself to them with passion and zeal. But the real practice is to accept that you might not live the life you expect to lead, or feel entitled to have. And, yes, there is a paradox there.
In addition, there are many other dimensions to this – the implications for others when we give up our entitlement, the cultural idea that we are somehow responsible or, worse, actually “to blame” if we don’t have a perfect life (unfortunately sometimes disseminated by parts of the personal development world), etc, and, as I said this is a theme I will be returning to frequently.
For now, though, some reflections.
What “lies” do you believe?What has been the cost to you of those? What happens when you accept that you might not get what you want (or what you think you deserve)? What then?
Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.
Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer
You are not a precious and unique snowflake; you are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.
Tyler Durden in Fight Club