The truth is that there is power in simply deciding your problems are your own.
I often think of a photo I had come across a few years ago. The picture features a strong, powerful horse standing tall next to a flimsy patio chair. The horse’s reigns are tied by one simple rope to the lightweight, plastic chair. Inferred in that photo is the idea that the mighty horse believes it cannot move because it is tied.
What is truly holding the horse in place is its perception of the circumstances rather than the rope itself.
In contemplating the dilemma of the horse, I began to think about what ropes hold us in place. Thoughts are powerful things with an energy all of their own. Our thoughts are the very seedlings of our actions. They shape much of the way in which we see both the world around us and ourselves.
What if we were to cut ties to those seemingly small misperceptions we hold onto? I suspect our lives would change in a big way. Here are some common yet powerful lies we often hold onto and need to stop telling ourselves immediately.
1. Life has been hard. For many of us, our lives may certainly have been filled with challenges and unfair circumstances. Although we may have endured many difficulties, if we can see every crisis we have experienced as a lesson, a life riddled with obstacle would also be a life steeped in wisdom. If each problem were seen as a teacher, our adversities would be gifts of knowledge.
2. Others are worse than I am. Many of us live lives of comparison. You may tell yourself that you have been unfaithful to your spouse on a single occasion, but your friend has a steady girlfriend his wife doesn’t even know about. You may do the bare minimum at your job, but know of many men who know take from their companies and their employers are none the wiser.
Using the lives of others as benchmarks for our achievements is a subtle yet huge mistake. Avoid measuring your interiors to the exteriors of others. Life is not a sprint. It is not even a marathon but a journey run at your pace. Take the time to stop and rest if you need to. Look around at the beauty of what surrounds you. Take a road less traveled if you so desire. Strive to be the most excellent version of yourself. Being the best version of yourself is much more powerful and interesting than being a carbon copy of anyone else.
3. Perfection is the goal. Perfection is a mirage. It can become such a lofty, idealistic target that is paralyzes many of us from even starting towards our ambitions. As George Fisher pointed out, perfection is a moving target. When you eradicate the goal of perfection, you make room for authenticity. You also make room for failures, which are par for the course on the road to excellence. We often believe that success is the opposite of failure when missteps and failures are necessary stepping stones and finger-pointers to success itself.
4. Nothing will be different tomorrow. Believing that tomorrow will be just like today is the very definition of despair. In committing yourself to small, incremental changes that you will carry out on a weekly or daily basis, life will change along with your choices. If you decide for each day in the upcoming month you will commit yourself to one hour of physical activity, regardless of work, inclement weather, mood swings, or an argument, your life will be changed after one month’s time. The same applies to work and relationship goals. When we take the element of choice out of the equation and fully commit ourselves to action, change will occur. When we open the door to possibility, we make room for all the universe has to offer to enter our lives.
5. I am too old. Many of us tell ourselves we are too old, too fat, and too ordinary to achieve our goals. For some of us, this is what we have been told by others, and we have allowed those corrosive ideas to settle under our skin. Just like the horse tied to the plastic chair, we need to cut those ropes. Best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd did not have her first novel published until she was over age fifty. Gene Hackman did not land his breakout role in Bonnie and Clyde until he was 37. Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa when he was almost 76 years-old. Bill Wilson was age 40 when he went on to start the organization Alcoholics Anonymous.
6. I deserve it. This lie we often tell ourselves can be among the trickiest. We certainly deserve to live the best version of our lives. We must, however, be cautious as to what is a goal and what is a short-term fix. Many of us become preoccupied with the idea that if we just had that one new suit, that expensive dinner, that one dream vacation, or that new sports car, life would be different. Even when its harmful to our physical or emotional health, we will overindulge in food or alcohol as a reward. Even when we cannot afford the exotic vacation or pricy club membership, we will offer ourselves a costly bandaid that temporarily numbs us from the issues we must face. Dealing with the main issues at the core of the matter and creating a life we are passionate about is much more effective and healthy for our long term plans.
7. If I ignore it, it will go away. For many of us, life offers us signs we are incredibly unhappy with our current circumstances. Some of us experience depression. Others suffer from anxiety. Many of us experience damaged love relationships and stressed work relationships. Many of us treat the symptoms rather than viewing these symptoms as indications of a greater problem.
Some problems seem so great in magnitude that it seems difficult to know where to start to address them. The truth is that there is power in simply deciding your problems are your own. Whether your problems stemmed from your parents, the economy, your environment or a series of misfortunate events, they are yours, and you have the opportunity to solve them. It is a far greater plan to address these issues as opportunities than let them manifest as chaos in your life.
Photo: Flickr/ Gonzalo Saenz