You’re pretty happy these days. You’ve got interesting projects, people you love, your health. You know what you’re doing because you’ve studied the pros and learned from your mistakes. You’ve built a good life for yourself.
Congratulations! All that work is paying off.
But lately you don’t seem to be getting as far, or getting there as fast as you’d like. Some days it feels like you’re wading through mud, and you’re not sure why. You’re taking all the right steps, and working hard and smart, so why the slowdown?
Even if life is good there are challenges, from the annoying to the earth shattering. You’re cruising along, doing your best, when you hit a rough patch. It happens to all of us.
So you give yourself a pep talk. You think of all you’ve learned through the years, and you remind yourself of what’s true about life and the world. You’re trying to make yourself feel better, so you can get back on your feet, ready to rock.
This is a good thing! Friends or family aren’t always right there, ready to get you through difficult times. Sometimes you need to fend for yourself, which is a critical life skill. Bravo.
But I’m about to get a little tough love on you, only because I’ve been guilty of exactly what we’re talking about.
Here’s the deal: this pep talk becomes a problem when what you’re telling yourself – those “truths” about the world – aren’t true at all. They’re lies. White ones, yes, but they’re holding you back from going farther and faster.
See if any of these sound familiar:
1. “It’ll all work out for the best.”
Why it’s a lie: It might not work out for the best at all. That’s a fact – you have no way of knowing. This is one of those “oh well” statements that make you feel better because it takes the issue out of your hands. But if you’ve done all that work to become a better person and create a good life, why let fate dictate the outcome of the situation you’re facing?
The real truth: Take charge. If you want something, don’t just let whatever happens happen as if you’re a drifting leaf in a stream – go after it. There are many aspects of a situation you can’t control, but you should take charge of the ones you can, as in your actions and attitude. Acknowledge uncertainty, but tilt the odds in your favor by getting more information, working harder, or reaching out to someone who could help.
2. “It’s okay that I don’t make much money – at least I’m paying my bills.”
Why it’s a lie: This isn’t good economic sense, this is settling for less than you deserve. It’s wonderful that you’re not going into debt every month. That’s a huge first step. But what this statement implies is that your current situation is good enough, that you shouldn’t strive for more, when all it really means is you’re thinking small.
The real truth: Think big. Money means freedom and opportunity, so banish “scraping by” and “starving artist” from your vocabulary. First off, you need an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or job loss. Then realize that more money = freedom. Freedom for the big leaps like starting a business, traveling for six months, or taking a work sabbatical and writing that novel. More money than that means you can help others in need or fund a worthy project. Thinking big means not only taking care of yourself and paying your way, but also giving back in a big way – making the world a better place.
3. “I have to (something you don’t need to do) because if I don’t it’ll hurt so-and-so’s feelings.”
Why it’s a lie: No, you don’t. The key word is “need.” It’s one thing to follow through on a commitment or something that truly needs doing, whether you like it or not. That’s non-negotiable. But if you’re saying yes out of social obligation, you’re wasting your time and theirs. You’ll feel resentful for having to do the thing, and might give them less than what they need because you don’t have the enthusiasm for it.
The real truth: You have to learn to say no with kindness and respect. A polite, “I’m sorry, but I can’t” works wonders, no explanation needed. Shoot for doing what you want – what you’re interested in or passionate about – 80% of the time. (The other 20% should be obligations that have to be met.) This might sound selfish, but it’s not. If you’re only pursuing those tasks and projects that you truly care about, you’re giving the world your best. And the world needs your best.
4. “As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, who cares if I (mindless or self-destructive behavior)?”
Why it’s a lie: Even the private stuff matters. I’m a fan of the occasional all-night wallow, mindless summer blockbuster, and potato chips for dinner, but if you’re consistently not taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically, there’s a problem. You’re responsible enough to not hurt others, but by letting your bad behavior slide, you’re devaluing yourself. That serves no one.
The real truth: Bad behavior on a small scale can blossom into big problems. Don’t let it get a foothold. If you’re not disciplined (most of the time – you’re not a robot) behind closed doors, that lowered standard will creep into the open. It’s the oxygen mask on the plane analogy: you have to put yours on first before you can help others. You want to help others – it’s human nature – and discipline with the little stuff boosts self-esteem and keeps you healthy and useful.
5. “I’ll get around to (awesome idea) when I have more time.”
Why it’s a lie: That time won’t come unless you schedule it. You never know what the future holds; something could happen to derail your plan. Illness, accident, or job loss can and do happen. And when you might have the time (in retirement, for example) you may not have the interest or energy for that awesome idea you had way back when.
The real truth: Life is short. Don’t wait. There’s no reason to put off awesome ideas. I know how busy you are, but it doesn’t mean you can’t schedule in pockets of time every week to make that idea happen. The bonus of regular action toward a goal is not only that the goal gets met, but that you get practice making your dreams come true, and you deserve to have your dreams come true. Start now.
Next steps: First off, pat yourself on the back for all the good you do. What we’re talking about here is tweaking to make your life even better.
Pick one white lie you’ve told yourself lately, and be on alert for it to come up again. When it does, reframe it to the real truth and feel yourself getting out of the mud and back on solid ground.
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One more thing – is there something you’ve quit telling yourself because you realized it wasn’t true? Let us know in the comments!
DEONNE KAHLER writes at Life on the High Wire. She’s mom to Sam the Wonder Pup and is obsessed with road tripping, national parks, and quirk.
Photo credit: ‘Truth‘ by Big Stock