Thursday, December 26, 2013

Life Lessons You Should Unlearn

This was an interesting article I came across here.  I thought it would be very appropriate for a New Year's resolution. Don't you?

10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn

By Martha Beck

In the past 10 years, I've realized that our culture is rife with ideas that actually inhibit joy.
Here are some of the things I'm most grateful to have unlearned:

1. Problems are bad. You spent your school years solving arbitrary problems imposed by 
boring authority figures. You learned that problems -- comment se dit? -- suck. But 
people without real problems go mad and invent things like base jumping and wedding 
planning. Real problems are wonderful, each carrying the seeds of its own solution. Job 
burnout? It's steering you toward your perfect career. An awful relationship? It's teaching 
you what love means. Confusing tax forms? They're suggesting you hire an accountant, 
so you can focus on more interesting tasks, such as flossing. Finding the solution to each 
problem is what gives life its gusto.

2. It's important to stay happy. Solving a knotty problem can help us be happy, but we 
don't have to be happy to feel good. If that sounds crazy, try this: Focus on something 
that makes you miserable. Then think, "I must stay happy!" Stressful, isn't it? Now say, 
"It's okay to be as sad as I need to be." This kind of permission to feel as we feel -- not 
continuous happiness -- is the foundation of well-being.

3. I'm irreparably damaged by my past. Painful events leave scars, true, but it turns out 
they're largely erasable. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroanatomist who had a stroke that 
obliterated her memory, described the event as losing "37 years of emotional baggage." 
Taylor rebuilt her own brain, minus the drama. Now it appears we can all effect a similar 
shift, without having to endure a brain hemorrhage. The very thing you're doing at this 
moment -- questioning habitual thoughts -- is enough to begin off-loading old patterns.
 For example, take an issue that's been worrying you ("I've got to work harder!") and 
think of three reasons that belief may be wrong. Your brain will begin to let it go. Taylor 
found this thought-loss euphoric. You will, too.

4. Working hard leads to success. Baby mammals, including humans, learn by playing, 
which is why "the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton." Boys who'd 
spent years strategizing for fun gained instinctive skills to handle real-world situations. 
So play as you did in childhood, with all-out absorption. Watch for ways your childhood 
playing skills can solve a problem (see #1). Play, not work, is the key to success. While 
we're on the subject...

5. Success is the opposite of failure. Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed 
to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes 
shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success 
is built on failure.

6. It matters what people think of me. "But if I fail," you may protest, "people will think 
badly of me!" This dreaded fate causes despair, suicide, homicide. I realized this when I 
read blatant lies about myself on the Internet. When I bewailed this to a friend, she said, 
"Wow, you have some painful fantasies about other people's fantasies about you." Yup, 
my anguish came from my hypothesis that other people's hypothetical hypotheses 
about me mattered. Ridiculous! Right now, imagine what you'd do if it absolutely didn't 
matter what people thought of you. Got it? Good. Never go back.

7. We should think rationally about our decisions. Your rational capacities are far newer 
and more error-prone than your deeper, "animal" brain. Often complex problems are 
best solved by thinking like an animal. Consider a choice you have to make -- anything 
from which movie to see to which house to buy. Instead of weighing pros and cons 
intellectually, notice your physical response to each option. Pay attention to when your 
body tenses or relaxes. And speaking of bodies...

8. The pretty girls get all the good stuff. Oh, God. So not true. I unlearned this after 
years of coaching beautiful clients. Yes, these lovelies get preferential treatment in most 
life scenarios, but there's a catch: While everyone's looking at them, virtually no one 
sees them. Almost every gorgeous client had a husband who'd married her breasts and 
jawline without ever noticing her soul.

9. If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect. Check it out: People who 
have what you want are all over rehab clinics, divorce courts, and jails. That's because 
good fortune has side effects, just like medications advertised on TV. Basically, any 
external thing we depend on to make us feel good has the power to make us feel bad. 
Weirdly, when you've stopped depending on tangible rewards, they often materialize. 
To attract something you want, become as joyful as you think that thing would make 
you. The joy, not the thing, is the point.

10. Loss is terrible. Ten years ago I still feared loss enough to abandon myself in order to 
keep things stable. I'd smile when I was sad, pretend to like people who appalled me. 
What I now know is that losses aren't cataclysmic if they teach the heart and soul their 
natural cycle of breaking and healing. A real tragedy? That's the loss of the heart and 
soul themselves. If you've abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything 
else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart 
and soul will return home.


  1. I can do no more than nod enthusiastically, say, "Yes!" to all of this, and wonder why no-one's commented yet on this post. "Live your truth, losses be damned" - what a marvellous motto that is. I can see it on a cushion, or vintage-look tin sign on a wall, or charm bracelet. Thank-you, Julie :)

    1. So glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for stopping by.