When I was a boy I thought the whole world revolved around me. Everyone in life existed for the sole purpose of providing me with everything I wanted. Nothing else mattered except me, my pursuit of germs, small animals, inappropriate places to poop and things I could hide in.
However, there comes a point in our lives when we start to realize we aren’t the center of the universe we thought we were. That difficult moment when we accept that sometimes we have to go second not first. When we have to say no, not yes. Or when we have to smile and say nothing at all. That’s because we aren’t the center of the world we live in, and it’s important we learn this sooner rather than later. This is one of the first difficult truths we learn in life and there are more to come. Our failure to acknowledge and accept them can have a significant effect on our lives.
Our happiness and well-being are proportional to how many difficult truths we’re able to accept. This is because our struggles in life are generally related to our resistance to accepting one of these truths. Failure to accept the truth means we create our lives around the antithesis of them. We deny them, avoid them and withhold ourselves from living in the truth that exists around them. These truths are waiting for us though, and the sooner we accept them the better our lives will be.
These truths are tough to accept and they’re not written to scare you. They’re written to liberate you from the expectations you may have of what you think life is about, who you should be and what you should do. Each truth, based on the writings of Richard Rohr, has a payoff. Something important to remind us that each truth comes as a gift once we learn to accept it.
1. Life Is Tough
There’s no getting away from it, life is hard. We can easily trick ourselves into believing the “showreel” of people’s lives they choose to share with us. The reality is life is tough for everyone, even if they don’t want you to realize it. Elon Musk was recently asked what his amazing life was like. He responded:
“The reality is great highs, terrible lows and unrelenting stress. Don’t think people want to hear about the last two.”
He’s right. People don’t want to admit that someone like him finds life difficult. It’s more convenient to believe he’s special, and life is one success after another. Look up the history of Tesla and SpaceX and you’ll see the truth. We have this idea if it’s not effortless then it’s not meant to be, so we give up and wait for the next thing to come along. That’s rubbish, life is tough for everyone. The truth is our greatest successes in life come out of pain and adversity. Therefore the question is not if you’ll experience pain in life, but what will you do with it when it arrives?
Think of the greatest lessons you’ve ever learned in life. What was the event that triggered the lesson? In my experience, it’s always the hard knocks I’ve received that have helped me grow the most. It’s usually the rejections, the failures, and the embarrassing moments falling flat on my face.
Yes, life is tough, which is good because that’s how you grow.
2. You Are Not That Important
We’ve all been there. We walk into a bar we’ve never been to before, in a town we’ve never visited before. Yet it seems entirely normal to believe that our sheer entrance would explain why the group of men in the corner start laughing. It’s my nose, that spot, this new cravat I’m wearing. No, it’s not. They don’t even know you exist and they certainly aren’t thinking of you. It’s you that’s thinking of you! That’s because we view so much of what happens in life through a lens of what we’re making it mean about us.
My partner gets a new job for example.
What does that mean about me?
Someone ignored me at the supermarket.
What does that mean about me?
The difficult truth is you’re not that important. People are not up at night worrying about your thoughts on Donald Trump, or whether you stared at the new babysitter for a moment too long. Contrary to what Facebook and Twitter feeds would suggest, your thoughts are not that important. Once you accept this then you can start to ask what is important. Who is important in my life? What is more important than me? Who and what do I want to dedicate my life to? This helps to liberate us from our thoughts and expectations. It takes the pressure off and helps us get the perspective on life that we need.
Yes, you are not that important, which is great because now you can find what is.
3. You Are Not In Control
One of the modern mantras of our time is “take back control”. With years of hurt and oppression in so many cultures, you can understand why. How can you guarantee that you’ll get what you want unless you take full control of the situation? This is what our culture teaches us; take control, get what you want and you’ll live happily ever after. Consequently, we extend the need for control beyond ourselves and into our relationships.
Letting go of control, trusting and being vulnerable in front of others is not something we often see modeled today, especially from men. That’s because we learn to listen to our fears to keep us safe. Our evolution has taught us to ensure we can control our surroundings so we don’t get hurt. This survival instinct isn’t necessary for today’s society and that control has morphed into something that causes us pain. As Richard Rohr said:
“Suffering is the fear that you’re not in control”
To stop suffering is to stop believing you are in control. With the release of control comes a sense of trust and from here something greater will flow through you.
Yes, you are not in control, but that means you can learn how to trust.
4. You Are Going To Die
In a recent study, 68% of Americans admitted to being afraid of death, second only to public speaking at 74%. So as Jerry Seinfeld famously said:
“This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”
It’s clear that the idea of death scares people a great deal. This explains why we attempt to avoid it so much, both in our lifestyle and our beliefs. I heard a story from a journalist who was comparing the London journalists of the 1980s with those same men today. Whiskey bottles and packs of Marlboros swapped for Nutribullets and trainers. Extending your life by a few years is one thing. Doing so in fear of your death won’t make those extra years any more worthwhile.
In ancient cultures and tribes, there were rituals, ceremonies, and initiations where they would kill boys for the man to be born. They used death as a necessary part of life to mark the passing of stages of a man’s life. They embraced it because it was only through death that the man could truly live. If you don’t embrace death then you will fear it and that fear will stop you from ever fully living your life. The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you can move beyond the fear associated with it and embrace the life you always said you would.
What would you do if I told you that you had a year to live? How differently would you live your life? Where would you go? Who would you forgive? What would you create?
Yes, you’re going to die, but not yet!
Originally published on the InspiringMenProject.com