“So you’re always seeking the truth?” she asked.
“I do my best to be,” I said. “Don’t you?”
Her gaze shifted downward. “No, I don’t.”
“Well, that’s good to know. I mean, it’s a good start,” I said. “Just admitting this is a step forward…”
She quickly interrupted me, “I’m not saying I like lies and liars! At least that’s not how I meant it, anyway.”
I smiled and continued, “I’m smiling because I know what you mean. But I also want to hear it from you, in your words. So tell me, how do you mean it?”
“I…I just…I just don’t always admit the truth about what I think and how I feel, and I don’t always seek the truth when I probably should.”
“Because it’s easier not to,” she said. “Because the truth is often scary, and it hurts pretty bad sometimes…and sometimes it even changes everything.”
“Yeah, it does. But lies and ignorance usually hold people back and hurt them even worse in the long run,” I said.
She nodded her head slowly in agreement, “Yeah, I guess that’s true. I’ve been sitting in my comfort zone for awhile now, in my own little bubble of half-truths, mostly miserable.”
Then we sat for a prolonged moment in silence together, before she took a deep breath and said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that.”
And I thanked her too, for reminding me that the truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored – it just tends to fester and haunt us…
That’s the general gist of a conversation I had this morning with a new Getting Back to Happy course student. I’m sharing this with you today (with permission, of course) in hopes that it might remind you of the truths you’ve been subconsciously avoiding.
Although it may be tough to stretch our comfort zones beyond the boundaries of what we’re familiar with – and into the realities of what we don’t yet feel ready to deal with – doing so is often the only clear path to mental and emotional freedom.
And we have to admit that, to a certain extent, we’ve been embracing too many half-truths and falsehoods in our lives. These half-truths and falsehoods are subtle, but they constantly get in our way – they stop us from growing, learning, loving, and living to our greatest potential.
Admitting this can be downright uncomfortable, scary, and even a bit painful sometimes, but doing so is absolutely necessary.
So in light of this, I want to highlight seven incredibly beneficial, life-changing truths Angel and I have seen hundreds of our course students and coaching clients struggle to admit and deal with over the past decade for various fear-based reasons.
1. The vast majority of our struggles are self-created, and we can choose to overcome them in an instant.
We all struggle. We all suffer on the inside. Every day…
We feel overwhelmed.
We feel angry.
We feel lonely.
We don’t feel good enough.
We wish we were thinner
We wish we had more money.
We wish our jobs were different.
We wish our relationships were different.
We think everything in life should be easier.
And yet, every one of these struggles is self-created. They are real, but they are only real because we have created them in our minds. We have attached ourselves to certain ideals and fantasies about how life has to be in order to be good enough for us.
We worry because things might not turn out how we expect. We procrastinate because we fear discomfort and failure. We feel overwhelmed because we think we should be further along than we are. We feel angry because life should not be this way. And so it goes.
But it’s all in our heads.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. At least not anymore.
You can think better… you can live better. This is a choice YOU can make.
Take a deep breath, and let all that thinking and ruminating go. Just bring your attention to the present moment. Focus on what’s here with you now – the light, the sounds, your body, the ground under your feet, the objects and people moving and resting around you. Don’t judge these things against what they should be – just accept what they actually are. Because once you accept reality, only then can you gradually improve it.
See life as it is, without all the ideals and fantasies you’ve been preoccupied with. Let go of all of those stressful distractions, and just experience this moment.
This moment is good enough as it is. Focus. Be in it completely.
You can go back to fretting about everything else in a minute.
2. We fear the judgments of others, even though their judgments about us are rarely valid or significant.
“What’s wrong with wanting other people to like you?”
That’s a question several of our course students recently asked me in response to one of my course-related emails. And I’ve been asked similar questions over the years too. So let’s talk about it…
In a nutshell, tying your self-worth to everyone else’s opinions gives you a flawed sense of reality that can cause serious trouble when it comes to your confidence and happiness. Yet, as human beings, we do it quite often. From wanting others to think we’re attractive, to checking the number of likes and comments on our social media posts, most of us care about what others think. In fact, a big part of this is an innate desire we are born with. It has been proven time and time again that babies’ emotions are often drawn directly from the behaviors of those around them.
As we grow up, we learn to separate our thoughts and emotions from everyone else’s, but many of us continue to seek – and in many cases beg for – positive social validation from others. In a recent survey we did with 1,200 of our course students and coaching clients, 67% of them admitted that their self-worth is strongly tied to what other people think of them. And even though that isn’t a healthy way to measure your self-worth, it isn’t surprising that so many of us think this way.
We naturally respond to everything we experience through the lens of our learned expectations – a set of deep-rooted beliefs about the way the world is and how things should be. And one of the most prevailing expectations we have involves external validation and how others ‘should’ respond to us.
Over a century ago, social psychologist Charles Cooley identified the phenomenon of the “looking-glass self,” which is when we believe “I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am – I am what I think that you think I am.” Sadly, this kind of external validation has insecurity at its core, and relying on it for even a short time chips away at our sense of self-worth and self-confidence.
The biggest problem is we tend to forget that people judge us based on a pool of influences in their own life that have absolutely nothing to do with us. For example, a person might assume things about you based on a troubled past experience they had with someone else who looks like you, or someone else who shares your same last name, etc. Therefore, basing your self-worth on what others think puts you in a perpetual state of vulnerability – you are literally at the mercy of their unreliable, bias perspectives. If they see you in the right light, and respond to you in a positive, affirming manner, then you feel good about yourself. And if not, you feel like you did something wrong.
Bottom line: When you’re doing everything for other people, and basing your happiness and self-worth on their opinions, you’ve lost your moral center. If you catch yourself doing this – as you inevitably will at some point – remind yourself of the truth: What most people think of you doesn’t matter at all.
3. In many ways, our past experiences have conditioned us to believe that we are less capable than we are.
All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true. Of course, an old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it just means some person or circumstance from our past failed to align with what we had to offer at the time. But somehow we don’t see it that way – we hit a mental barricade that stops us in our tracks.
This is one of the most common and damaging thought patterns we as human beings succumb to.
Even though we intellectually know that we’re gradually growing stronger than we were in the past, our subconscious mind often forgets that our capabilities have grown.
Let me give you a quick metaphorical example…
Zookeepers typically strap a thin metal chain to a grown elephant’s leg and then attach the other end to a small wooden peg that’s hammered into the ground. The 10-foot tall, 10,000-pound elephant could easily snap the chain, uproot the wooden peg and escape to freedom with minimal effort. But it doesn’t. In fact the elephant never even tries. The world’s most powerful land animal, which can uproot a big tree as easily as you could break a toothpick, remains defeated by a small wooden peg and a flimsy chain.
Because when the elephant was a baby, its trainers used the exact same methods to domesticate it. A thin chain was strapped around its leg and the other end of the chain was tied to a wooden peg in the ground. At the time, the chain and peg were strong enough to restrain the baby elephant. When it tried to break away, the metal chain would pull it back. Sometimes, tempted by the world it could see in the distance, the elephant would pull harder. But the chain would not budge, and soon the baby elephant realized trying to escape was not possible. So it stopped trying.
And now that the elephant is all grown up, it sees the chain and the peg and it remembers what it learned as a baby – the chain and peg are impossible to escape. Of course this is no longer true, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the 200-pound baby is now a 10,000-pound powerhouse. The elephant’s self-limiting thoughts and beliefs prevail.
If you think about it, we are all like elephants. We all have incredible power inside us. And certainly, we have our own chains and pegs – the self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that hold us back. Sometimes it’s a childhood experience or an old failure. Sometimes it’s something we were told when we were a little younger.
The key thing to realize here is this: We need to learn from the past, but be ready to update what we learned based on how our circumstances have changed (as they constantly do).(Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
4. Real pain, heartbreak and failure are outcomes that can help us grow.
Many of the most iconic novels, songs, and inventions of all time were inspired by gut-wrenching pain, heartbreak, or failure. Therefore, the silver lining of these great challenges is that they were the catalyst to the creation of epic masterpieces.
An emerging field of psychology called Post-Traumatic Growth has suggested that most people are able to use their hardships and traumas for substantial creative and intellectual development. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people grow their long-term contentment, emotional strength, and resourcefulness.
When our view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered, we are forced to reboot our perspective on things. We suddenly have the opportunity to look out to the periphery and see things with a fresh set of beginner’s eyes again, which is extremely beneficial to our personal and professional growth.
The underlying key is to fully embrace reality and the broad range of experiences you encounter on the road of life, taking the good with the bad. This includes all of your emotions, all of your ups and downs, all of your blissful moments and painful ones, and the entirety of everything in between. Life is not just rainbows and butterflies. It’s intricate, complicated, and remarkable.
Fully embracing life in this way means opening yourself to unimaginable possibilities, being vulnerable to unexpected changes, being compassionate with yourself when times are tough, giving yourself some extra love and kindness no matter what happens, and being grateful for the opportunity to experience it all.
It means not expecting to always be the perfect human living the perfect life, but instead accepting reality as it is, and accepting yourself as you are, and then making the best of it.
5. We have to give some things up to get what we ultimately want in life.
We have to say “no” to good things to be able to say “yes” to important things. We simply can’t do it all. So be mindful and choose wisely today.
What you choose to focus on grows stronger in your life. At every moment, thousands of little things compete for your attention. All these things fall into one of two categories: things that are priorities and things that are not.
You’ll never get more done by blindly working more hours on everything that comes up – there are only 24 hours in a day.
So if you want to be less busy and more successful, don’t ask how to make something more efficient until you’ve first asked, “Do I need to do this at all?”
If the answer is “no,” give it up!
And remember that giving things up isn’t just about making small, immediate sacrifices. It’s also about gradually gaining the resources you need to do something significant. When you give something up you automatically create an opening in your life for something else. By saying no to everything that’s not aligned with your priorities you make room for what is.
If you want to achieve a significant goal or outcome in your life, you have to give up the things that conflict with it. This doesn’t mean you have to make your life unnecessarily grueling. It just means you can’t have it all – you have to sacrifice something that you value less than whatever it is you ultimately want to achieve. For example, you might sacrifice some level of comfort in the present, for a better chance of future achievement.
Let me give you a few additional, real-world examples…
- Last year one of our course students gave up a sizeable salary at an office job for a commission-based sales job in an industry she’s passionate about. She stalled on making this transition for the longest time because she feared not having a steady paycheck. Indeed, for the first six months her commission paycheck was lower, but now her income is nearly double what she used to make at her old office job, and she loves what she does for a living.
- Another one of our course students made losing 25 pounds her New Years resolution for this year, so she gave up a little sleep and some junk food, and embraced the early mornings in the gym, the sore muscles, and the healthy meals her resolution required. And with a little support and accountability from us, she was able to hit her target weight in under six months.
- Angel and I gave up living on the beach in San Diego in a really cool, walkable neighborhood. Even though we were initially reluctant to leave, we now live in South Florida where we get to watch the joy in my parent’s eyes on a daily basis as they play in the yard with our son – their only grandson – Mac. You really can’t put a price tag on that.
All details aside, if you want something in life, you have to also want the costs of getting it – you have to be willing to make certain sacrifices. And it’s up to you, and ONLY YOU, to decide if the juice is worth the squeeze.
6. Passion is not something we find, it’s something we do.
Many of us are still hopelessly trying to “find our passion” – something we believe will ultimately lead us closer to happiness and success. And I say “hopelessly” primarily because we are putting the cart ahead of the horse. When we say we’re trying to find our passion, it implies that our passion is somehow hiding behind a tree or under a rock somewhere. But that’s far from the truth. The truth is, our passion comes from doing things right.
If you’re waiting to somehow “find your passion” somewhere outside yourself, so you finally have a reason to put your whole heart and soul into life, you’ll likely be waiting around for an eternity.
On the other hand, if you’re tired of waiting, and you’d rather live more passionately starting today, it’s time to proactively inject passion into the very next thing you do.
Think about it…
- When was the last time you sat down and had a conversation with someone you love, with zero distractions and 100% focus?
- When was the last time you exercised, and literally put every bit of effort you could muster into it?
- When was the last time you truly tried – I mean TRULY tried – to do your very best?
Like most of us, you’re likely putting a half-hearted and half-minded effort into most of the things you do on a daily basis. Because you’re still waiting…
You’re still waiting to “find” something to be passionate about.
What you need to do is the exact opposite!
When I was a kid, my grandmother used to tell me, “Stop looking for the next opportunity. The one you have in front of you is your opportunity.” She also said, “Too often we spend too much time attempting to perfect something before we ever even do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, just do your best with what you’ve got right now, and improve it along the way.”
Interestingly, recent psychological research indirectly reinforces my grandmother’s sentiments. For decades psychologists thought that our minds could alter our physical state, but not the other way around. Nowadays, however, it is widely documented that our bodies – for example, our momentary facial expressions and posture – can directly affect our mental and emotional state. So while it’s true that we change from the inside out, we also change from the outside in. And you can leverage this reality in your favor…
If you want more passion in your life right now, do something about it right now.
Put your heart and soul into something!
Not into “the next opportunity,” but the opportunity right in front of you.
Not into tomorrow’s work, but today’s work.
Not into tomorrow’s workout, but today’s workout.
Not into tomorrow’s relationships, but today’s relationships.
I’m certain you have plenty in your life right now that’s worth living for. You have people and circumstances you’re taking for granted. You have an endless reservoir of untapped potential within you, just waiting.
There is no next opportunity, only the one you have at this moment.
Put your heart and soul into what you’ve got right in front of you.
And your long-lost passion will show up to greet you.
7. There will never be a better time to start than right now.
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
That’s a Chinese proverb I constantly use as a guidepost in my life. It inspires me to work on the goals I’ve been putting off.
Look at your life right now…
- What goals are you still procrastinating on?
- Where are you today compared to where you could be?
- Where would you be today if you had started last week?
- Where would you be today if you had started last year?
- Where would you be today if you had started five years ago?
These questions and the thoughts they prompt may be somewhat disheartening, but ignoring them for another five years only makes matters worse. The disheartening truth is what you must face today if you’re serious about making your goals happen – if you’re serious about making tomorrow’s results better than yesterday’s.
Your present position in life is a reflection of your past planning and decision making. If you want your future to yield better results, you need to make some immediate and formidable changes.
Today is the day!
Now is the time!
You will never feel perfectly ready, and the moment will never be perfectly convenient…to start, to put in the effort, to learn as you go…to gradually get the hard things done. If it was easier and more convenient, everyone would be operating at a much higher level. There would be no inner emotional conflicts. There would be no unrealized dreams.
You have to do the hard things to be happy in life – you have to put in the effort.
Most people are just waiting around for someone or something outside themselves to pick them up and carry them forward.
It’s never going to happen for those people!
If you want something from life, you have to want it like you want to breathe. You have to start doing things today, and every day hereafter, that directly support the outcome you desire. It may not be easy, but it is just that simple.
And remember, you can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once, however you can easily lift one pound 1,000 times. In repetition, your little actions have great power. You become highly skilled at whatever you do again and again. Every day offers you the opportunity to develop a ritual of success, regardless of your priorities or how you personally define success. So from this moment forward…
May your daily actions speak louder than your words.
May your life preach louder than your lips.
May your success be your noise in the end.
(Angel and I build little, daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Let’s bring this article full circle…
…by bringing our focus back to embracing the truth.
How many times have you thought it was the end, when it was really the beginning?
How many times have you blamed someone else, for a problem you created yourself?
How many excuses have you made, in place of actually trying to do your very best?
Think for a moment.
Then remind yourself that the truth does not cease to exist when it is ignored.
When the truth is ignored and avoided, whether consciously or subconsciously, it just complicates your life. And there’s absolutely no reason to do that to yourself. There’s no good reason to weigh yourself down with old stories, half-truths, and falsehoods.
Seeking today’s whole truth, speaking today’s whole truth, and living by today’s whole truth is incredibly liberating!
I challenge YOU to use the seven points above to do just that.
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
Which point mentioned above resonates with you the most today, and why?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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