One of the most profound "Aha's!" of my entire life happened when I was in my early twenties and struggling with both my relationships and my professional career.
One of the most profound “Aha’s!” of my entire life happened when I was in my early twenties and struggling with both my relationships and my professional career. I had read all the popular books promising better health, lasting relationships, and success beyond my wildest dreams. But nothing seemed to be working.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Everything the books said made so much sense. I resonated at a very deep level with the advice. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was failing miserably.
Desperate, I picked up the phone and called my father in Mumbai, India. I had barely begun when my father abruptly stopped me and exclaimed, “Just because you resonate with these books, it doesn’t mean they have the advice you need. All it means is that the author is in the same place you are.”
I was stunned. At one level, I could see the wisdom of what my father had just said. But I had invested a lot of time studying those books. I resented my father’s implication that I had wasted my time.
Then lovingly, my father continued, “The problem is you’ve been seeking advice that makes you feel good - advice that comforts you that the path you’ve chosen, even if entirely wrong, is somehow okay. But son, look at the pain you’ve been experiencing. Try seeking advice that helps you face what you need to face, and do what you need to do. Yes, it will be painful in the short run, but you’ll be much, much happier in the long run.”
What followed was a conversation I’ll never forget - a dialogue of enlightenment and transformation, of love and liberation, of perspective and wisdom.
In a nutshell, here’s what my father taught me:
From the day we are born, many of us are fed little “comfort lies” by our parents and teachers - those little white lies that soothe us and help us cope with the harsh realities of the world. When we fall down and injure ourselves, mom immediately comforts us with, “Let me kiss it and the owie will go away.” When a mishap happens, our elders say, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” When a close relative passes away, we’re told, “They’ve gone to a better place.”
By the time we’re ready to venture into the world on our own, most of us have become so reliant on the comfort lies that we actively seek out individuals who dispense them in large doses. Some seem like wisdom.
But the sad reality is that most of the advice we’ve been getting over the last several decades has done us little or no good. Despite all the personal growth, diet, and health books and courses, divorce rates are still at 50 percent. The proportion of overweight people has risen to 66 per cent of the population in the US and obese people to 33 percent. In Canada the figures are slightly lower but still nothing to be proud of: 14.8 percent is the rate of obesity in this country. Consumer debt and bankruptcies are at record highs. A sobering 10 percent of Canadians adults and 9.5 percent of American adults now suffer from clinical depression.
But aren’t comfort lies an essential mechanism for dealing with the harsh realities of life and maintaining your emotional health? At first, it might appear that way, until you realize that the fastest, most effective way to get the things you treasure most in life is to simply do what my father advised - face what you need to face and do what you need to do.
If you don’t, the days add up and the guilt piles up, and then you have to face the additional reality that you’ve allowed so much time to slip by. You start resenting those who point out that you’ve been wasting your time, just as I did on that long-distance call to India. Inevitably, your craving for comfort lies becomes nearly addictive. Your emotional health and, as a result, your physical health, go on a downward spiral.
I shall always be grateful to my father for so lovingly introducing me to the importance of rising above comfort lies and facing reality head-on.
If you want to preserve your emotional health, your first step is to embrace reality. And if you are a parent, teacher, leader, author, expert, or member of the media, your first step is to encourage this simple practice among all your constituents.
Commonplace Comforts - What Do You Believe?
Do what you love and the money will follow.
Gary Larsen amassed millions doing something he hated doing, drawing The Far Side cartoons everyday. When he retired he did what he really loved, fishing, but never made a dime from that.
“Think positive” and you will feel positive.
A National Institute of Mental Health study showed that over two-thirds of corporate executives (a very successful group) don’t “think positive.” In fact, they worry that someone will discover they’re faking it.
Let’s just talk it over and everything will be okay.
When two people have entrenched and opposing points of view, talking only digs them into a deeper hole. It’s often wiser to face the reality that you will never see eye-to-eye on every issue.
Good things happen to those who wait.
Sometimes that’s true, sometimes it isn’t. Often, it’s much better to just get up and make things happen.