I have found over the many years of working with people and discussing their hopes, dreams and fears that for the most part all of these human attributes (hope, dreams, fears) stem from one source – Not fully accepting reality.
Let me be clear: I’m not telling you to abandon hope for your favorite baseball team, declare that your children are mediocre, or move to a bunker in the woods. What I am telling you is that as human beings, we have to be careful not to deny reality when it hurts our happiness, health and success. We must accept things are they are, not as we wish them to be.
There’s good news: When we embrace reality, amazing things happen. Four months ago, one of my coaching clients set a goal to work out twice a week in the office gym. Every time we’d meet, I’d ask how he was doing. And every time, he’d hang his head and admit defeat. After a while, it almost became comical.
This month, I had a client say “I need to accept reality. I am never going to be able to use the office gym, or get in shape.” So I asked, “Why don’t you try working out at home?” (Rocket science, right?). My client grinned, “Challenge accepted.” That night, he sent me a triumphant email: “Just got off the elliptical!” And he kept it going — this small change had changed everything. And if he hadn’t realized that the office gym was not for him, he would have been disappointed forever.
So… what truths are you conveniently ignoring or refusing to accept? And how can you jolt yourself back to reality? Here are three tips:
Get objective feedback – Other people typically see us more objectively than we see ourselves. I once coached an executive who thought he was an amazing boss. But when I spoke with his team, they reported that he was a total jerk. Was he a bad person? Of course not! No one had ever been honest with him. So find someone who will tell you the truth, keep an open mind, and get an objective perspective. Ask them:• What do you think about this? What am I missing?”
Change your perspective – Seeing your situation from a different angle is often a game-changer. An easy way to do this is to imagine that your situation is happening to someone else. For example, if my former work-life balance issues was happening to a friend of mine, I would have said, “For goodness sake! You can’t carry on like this! Stop it. Right now! To get this clarity, ask yourself:
• How would I react if this were happening to a friend?
• What advice would I give this person?
Analyze the situation – As psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman states, “Overconfidence is a powerful source of illusions.” In other words, you may be confident, but you might also be wrong. Certainly, listen to your gut. But you also have to rigorously analyze the situation. Ask yourself:• What are the facts and probabilities here?
• How are they influencing me?
Let’s say you want to be more present and mindful. The facts are: You are busy and overwhelmed with work and family, there is no room for your time. So you research the topic and and guess what you discover? You are not alone. You read that although most of us feel the same way about being spread too thin, many people discover they have the wrong mindset and thinks its takes hours per day. But a simple analysis shows that you can begin with a just a few mindful minutes each day and the attitude that you will expand those minutes slowly over time to become your days and eventually your life. This type of research and understanding certainly go further towards to success than quitting your job and meditating 8 hours a day!
Sure you may have have failures and with attention you will know when its time to try again or time to move on. In any case and understanding of the principles will have you finding yourself beginning to accept reality in no time at all. More importantly, you’ll be more confident, more successful and less anxious. If you ask me, that’s a huge payoff!
Peace and Love, Jim