The Greatest Life Lesson I’ve Ever LearnedPosted in - Life on May 24th 2010 21 Comments
This great lesson has been quietly simmering in my head for years. Now it’s time to divulge possibly the greatest lesson about relationships, happiness, wealth, success – life in general – that I’ve ever discovered.
In my Big Talk Training Course, I uncovered the secret to confident socializing, overcoming shyness, beating loneliness, and deeply connecting to people: harnessing the shadow. The shadow is a concept introduced by psychologist Carl Jung, which describes anything you avoid and prefer to not see in yourself.
Shy individuals, like my former self, are masters at suppressing their needs and avoiding their emotions. We don’t voice our opinions, say what we want, talk to people we’d like to meet, get angry, or put ourselves in situations where rejection is possible. Loners are kings of avoidance. The issue here is avoidance darkens the shadow, intensifying fear.
Have you ever been scared crap-less to give a presentation? You think about the presentation weeks before you have to give it. When the time comes to deliver it, you’re a nervous wreck at the start, but then suddenly your fear vaporizes.
Why? Because you faced your shadow and fear that would otherwise grow with avoidance. You accepted your nervousness and just worked with it.
The Solution to Most Communication Problems?
After writing Big Talk, I discovered its lessons not only apply to conversations with strangers and friends, but it solves many greater problems we all experience:
- Family relationships perish when they have issues that everyone dreads talking about. Whether it be about an alcoholic, finances, or household chores.
- Marriages break down because one person cannot safely address a topic bugging him or her and instead resents his or her partner for not being able to mind-read one’s needs. The person ends up exploding in a verbal out-lash after finally having had enough.
- Companies lose billions of dollars because managers and employees are afraid to bring up that topic “we don’t talk about around here”. Also, leaders hide mistakes and cover up lessons to protect themselves in the short-term that cost the company in the long-run.
What drives this issue is a denial and rejection of what is. What solves these issues and many more – and what the greatest lesson about life I’ve ever learned – is acceptance.
We’re so use to fighting everything:
- We criticize ourselves for not socializing, feeling tired, not making the sports team.
- We criticize other people for not doing what we say or hurting us.
- We feel repulsed at the government for wrong decisions, wasting money, not doing what’s best for the nation.
- We hate it when a car breaks down, an item of ours gets stolen, the weather ruins a day out.
- We get frustrated when we injure ourselves, catch a cold, gain fat.
The list of your tendencies to reject reality could fill a book. We are so good at non-acceptance that we create constant stress and anxiety in our lives.
The more I learn about life, the more I see the power of this most important lesson of acceptance.
Accept Your Body
For example, recently I’d beat myself up over feeling tired throughout the day. I want to be productive and know the importance of rest, but whenever a slump came over me, I felt I had to push through it because successful people get work done. People commonly think successful individuals are the hardest workers (and that maybe true), yet at the same time the happiest and successful know how to rejuvenate. I know many athletes screw up their mind and body by not allowing periods of rest during their off-season.
After reading The Twenty Minute Break, it turns out the body has hundreds of natural rhythms occurring every minute, day, year. We blink, swallow, and breathe. These are some simple rhythms most people are aware of.
One rhythm as it pertains to energy is the ultradian rhythm where the body requires 20 minutes of rest after 90 to 120 minutes of activity for peak performance. When poor rest breaks the ultradian rhythm, stress accumulates, attention deteriorates, and mistakes occur-u-rates (I had to make it rhyme).
On the visibly physical level you cause yourself grief when you don’t accept your body. An inferiority complex develops not when you think you’re less than others, but when you reject yourself.
The little girl in this video has learned to love everything that exists about herself and her world. Perhaps you can learn from her?
Accept Your Mind
Here’s another example. I use to get frustrated at people’s defensive behaviors. I devised an exercise training program for a loved one which went untouched. Each time this person became defensive about not doing the program.
Most people fight defensiveness, which compounds the tension because what you resist tends to persist. I could have fought the behavior, but instead accepted it, got curious about it, and worked with it.
Defensiveness is a protective mechanism for the mind. When the ego feels threatened, it defends itself. It’d be silly to deny humans unconscious techniques for survival.
There’s a lot going on in the mind and body and world that if you understood it, you’d slap yourself silly for not accepting it. You save so much energy by working with people’s (and your own) conscious and unconscious behaviors.
Life becomes easy when you accept what occurs. You stop beating yourself up, you stop judging and criticizing others, and you stop the massive levels of anxiety and stress that fill life.
The predictable response my clients and subscribers use to argue against acceptance is “but I don’t want to approve or put up with this problem”. You may think acceptance is agreement or approval of a problem yet that’s completely wrong. Acceptance is an acknowledgment and willingness to work with what is. It’s a belief something is true (not right, healthy, or wise).
Go about your week and I want you to cultivate a mindfulness of what you fight. Become aware of your resistance to reality, but don’t beat yourself up over it because that’s the problem of non-acceptance! Observe what occurs, accept what occurs, be curious about what occurs, then you can change what occurs.