You’ve heard the metaphor that children are sponges when it comes to learning. They absorb whatever information they are provided, as their belief systems are still very much in formation. There’s nothing to challenge their newly acquired knowledge with and if you ask a schoolteacher how many languages a child can learn, most will answer, “As many as you will teach them.”
Children’s lack of experience is a gift in most cases. They don’t have a past to shape their present and limit what’s possible. As adults, this is exactly what happens. The opening to the mind is shrunk down from a pair of propped open double doors, to a crack in the wall. New information must be confronted by various stages of approval until deemed reasonable enough for adoption. And even then, traditional patterns often still take precedent.
Beliefs can be powerful. They can inspire us, motivate us and keep us determined on our path to accomplishing what we aim to in life. They can also do the opposite — limit, confine, restrict, misrepresent, and ultimately, cause tremendous amounts of pain.
There’s more than enough available to produce joy in life. Whether we leverage intrinsic or extrinsic sources, we’ll find a way to get it done. The real challenge is the management of the alternative — the negative emotions that knocked on those double doors long ago and slowly began sealing them up.
The difference between a good day and a great day — or a terrible day and an average day — is the amount of moments we get to call our own. When negative emotions take over us and we shift into reaction mode, we distinguish in our minds these moments as lost. Given that we are all in a life-long war with time, a significant impact is felt and the negative emotion cycle repeats itself.
People often venture into entrepreneurship because they want to live life on their terms. If you’re truly passionate about business, go right ahead. But if you simply are interested for the freedom, I’m here to tell you there’s a much faster track available.
When You’re Through Questioning, You’re Through
Negative emotions show up most prominently when other people are involved. Someone may say or do something, or you may feel something about yourself in comparison to another person. Either way, the default isn’t very empowering.
It works like this: an event takes place and immediately a representation is made in our head, linking the instance to something we’ve seen in our past or a general worldview we opt to associate it with. What we had no idea about seconds earlier, we’re all of a sudden masters in.
At least that's what it feels like.
When you think you know everything is when you get into trouble. When you were a kid, that’s when you would talk back to your parents — completely unaware of what they actually had in store for you at the time. As Wayne Dyer puts it, “No one knows enough to be a pessimist.” As long as you’re stuck on what you think the intent was or the behavior represented, you’ll be robbed of the moment.
Your emotions are your teachers. They are there to educate you about yourself as life exhibits its Broadway masterpiece. If you don’t pay attention and ignore the lessons available, you’ll never gain the understanding on what you need to do and be to make life beautiful.
Defining Yourself Ceases Your Growth
As humans, we have a desperate need to relate. One of the ways we do this is by defining ourselves as a distinct type of person. We tell ourselves we’re this way and that’s just who we are. The underpinnings of this are specific beliefs we’ve created to go along with our personal narrative. Just like we wrote the initial script, we can take out a new sheet of paper and begin writing a new one.
This is important to grasp as we do this in short bursts with our negative emotions. We use them to define us and build suspense or drama in the story we’ve formed about our life — the human need for significance on full display here. But sometimes we take it too far. A mistake that can be easily summed up as, “I did something wrong” is transformed into “I am wrong” in a matter of seconds. Our mind now has an imprint of something to find more evidence for, deepening the cuts unconsciously.
As someone who ran this tornado in his own head for years, I want to alert you to stay in front of this. Extenuating circumstances aside, who you are is not always in alignment with your actions. You sometimes say and do things you don’t mean, as do many other people. Your best is your best and sometimes, it’s just not that sexy. We don’t need to make ourselves feel bad for it, but instead let it serve as a guide for the improvements we can make to create progress — which over time, makes us happier than just about anything.
Do a thorough scan of your beliefs as they are displayed in reaction to the events in your life. Don’t be afraid to question them and certainly don’t define yourself with them. I’m not saying don’t have any beliefs. I’m simply cautioning you to maintain a loose grip.
A blissful life, above all else, involves letting things go that aren’t the most important things. The battle with time is real and we only get so much. Too tight a grip, and you’ll allow trivial things to get in the way of what’s truly precious. Worse, the trivial things will exhaust you to the point where you won’t have enough energy to appreciate what’s precious to you.
Keep your powerful opinions at arm’s length, never too afraid to let them go. They aren’t you. You are you. And your life is waiting.
Go live it.