One of my backbone principles in executive coaching stresses the importance of getting two things in alignment: the head and the heart.
I tell my executives, “It all works from the inside out. Until you’re happy with who you are, you’ll never be happy with what you have.
“When you’re in alignment, head and heart, everything gets easier. When you’re out of alignment, every day is a struggle.”
As the nation’s economic bandleader switched from the happy sheet music of a vibrant economy to the sad marches of the slog-on recession, the big money diversions to buy happiness disappeared. Happiness no longer hid behind the acquisition of things. Happiness made a one-eighty and headed inward, testing the strong but rocking the weak.
It is foolhardy and unhealthy to look outside yourself for contentment and happiness. These are not external pursuits. For those who think so, the eternal chase will last. Once something thinks they’ve caught it, chances are it’s in the same cul-de-sac as the rainbow’s pot of gold, two unicorns, and an eight-foot Easter Bunny.
While the secret to greater happiness is really quite simple — do more others and want less for yourself — misconceptions often get in the way. Misconceptions are mistaken ideas; and listed below are eleven common reasons these arise to cloud the mind.
Each of the eleven is self-governed. As you read and reflect through each, remember that everything works from the inside out. Any of these eleven can jeopardize your head and heart alignment.
- Faulty perceptions of reality. Look no further than the carnival barking of zealots banging pots and pans in this year’s presidential primaries. Figures lie, liars figure and never let the facts get in the way of a good sound bite. Many of my friends are doing fine; if not for wicked and biased slants spewed by talking heads, they wouldn’t know they were doing was so bad. Other friends are in a tough spot. They can dwell on it and see hopelessness, or they can believe in themselves and see hope. Faulty perceptions jade reality and spawn misconceptions. Do not fall victim to this one.
- Self-defeating beliefs. Throughout my career and around the world I have seen more great talent stopped by their mirror than their skill sets. Too often I have to say, “If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else?” Ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things on stages grand and small. Step one is believing. Step two is persevering. Don’t doubt yourself. Eliminate the words “can’t because” from your lexicon. Live in a world of “how can we,” not “can’t because.”
- Delusions. Stars don’t become stars by accident. They become stars by design and thanks to a whole lot of money spent on agents, managers, and press agents — whose work does not come cheap. There is a range of buoyant practicality each of us operates most effectively within. Respect it.
- Limiting concepts. Live in a world of “what if” and not a world of finite boxes. While I am quite willing to bang the next person who uses “Think out of the box” with a frying pan atop the noggin, I’ve seen a lot of good companies and salespeople think too small. Think bigger.
- Unhealthy attitudes. The media — especially now — spawns negativity. Believe their rubbish and you’ll develop increasingly unhealthy attitudes. How you choose to look at things is up to you. You can look for the positive or look for the negative. Either way, you will find what you’re looking for. Trust me: upbeat is a better place to be. The air is cleaner, the vibe better, the neighborhood happier.
- Unrealistic thinking. If it’s true a dream is a goal with a deadline, it’s also true that people with written goals achieve more than those who stare at clouds for inspiration. Need a reality test? Follow this simple three-step process of self-determination. If you can’t see this simple plan as realistically attainable, you may be guilty of unrealistic thinking.
a. Can you see your goal clearly enough to describe it in three words?
b. Can you clearly describe the two things must you achieve in order to produce your goal? Those two, added together, must produce your end goal. Nothing else need be added.
c. What three steps must you accomplish in order to position yourself to succeed? In other words, what three things will position you to succeed?
Realistic planning is tested from the top down and executed from the bottom up. If the plan doesn’t test, you have unrealistic thinking.
- Impaired judgment. In matters of the heart, we’ve all flunked this one. The important note here is to remember the huge and vital difference between dealing from a point of emotion versus a point of logic. Logic cannot overlay emotion. Emotion tends to distort things, so strive for a logic-based judgment with endorphins stripped away. A logic-based friend is a good resource, too.
- Mistaken perspectives. Life and interactions are not always reciprocal. Allow this to be the truth. When we insist it’s not the case, misconceptions arise. (hint: Think men, women, and relationships!).
- Distorted thoughts. Distortion is inaccurate reporting fathered by multiple inspirations. Each of us has a map of the world — life as we know it to be true — and that map is shaped by our environmental upbringing during our formative years. Maps cause distortion. Dwelling causes distortion. Conclusion-jumping causes distortion. “He said, she said” causes distortion. Blending fact with opinion does it, too. One of the first lessons of critical thinking is stripping away non-facts. It’s a handy tip we all should remember.
- Fallacies. Among other things, I teach multi-generational workforce effectiveness. Each generation is rife with these. Races and religions are too, especially as they relate to the assumptions and beliefs of others. The Internet, as handy as it is sometimes, is loaded and reloaded every day with falsehoods and untruths. These are perhaps the easiest cause of misconceptions to identify. Sometimes the facts aren’t the facts at all. Sometimes they’re ten miles from truth.
- “Stinkin’ thinkin’.” My late friend George Simmons used to preach against this one all the time: “No stinkin’ thinkin’!” George insisted that all of us in his friendship circle take a positive, high road view of life and each other. George taught me several wise things; and this was near the top of the list.
In the end, the rush-rush digital age causes a lot of knee-jerk reactions and because of it, misconceptions abound. The quickest way to limit the number you make is to learn what causes them in the first place.
I hope the list helps.
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