Mentoring Letter 435 Facing Reality
“Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them?” M. Scott Peck
I am unashamedly an optimist. I see the world through rose coloured glasses. Being a typical golfer with the belief that the next round will be my dream round I go back over and over and punish myself with a range of bad to mediocre shots sprinkled with some good and the occasional brilliant one.
A golfer who had been playing badly went to a psychiatrist who told him to relax by playing a round of golf without a ball. “Do everything you would normally do, but use an imaginary ball,” advised the psychiatrist.” The golfer tried it the next day. He stepped up on the first tee, imagined he got a 240 metre drive, made a fine approach shot to the green, and then putted for a par. The round went splendidly and as he approached the 18th hole, he met another golfer playing the same way, no ball. The other golfer had seen the same psychiatrist. They decided to play the last hole together and bet $10 on the outcome. The first golfer swung at his imaginary ball and announced that it had gone 260 metres right down the middle of the fairway. The second golfer matched his drive. The first fellow then took out his 5 iron and after swinging at his imaginary ball, he exclaimed, “Look at that shot! It went right over the pin and the reverse spin on it brought it right back into the hole! I win.” “No you don’t,” said the second golfer. “You hit my ball.” Funny anecdote, but come on guys – get real! Unfortunately we can’t live in a dream world. Sometimes we need to see the world and life for what it is.
I have discovered that my innate optimism, with the immense value it brings into my life, can also have a negative impact. It can cause me to not see the world as it really is. It can mean that at times I diminish real problems and don’t recognize them as what they are. John Maxwell, through his writing gift, is often a source of balance and wisdom for me. I am currently rereading segments from his book ‘Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn’ and the chapter called ‘Reality: The Foundation For Learning’ jumped out at me in terms of some straight, hard truths. In the book Maxwell refers to the three realities of life.
- Life is difficult – Sadly, whether we like it or not, life is not simply a smooth and simple journey. Life is tough. Hal Urban, in his book ‘Life’s Greatest Lessons says,“One of life’s most valuable lessons, one that takes too long to learn, is that life is hard. If we had our way, there would be no pain, things would go our way, we wouldn’t have to work as hard and we certainly wouldn’t have to suffer. We get reality instead, a reality that tells us all too often that things are not fair and “the world will not devote itself to making us happy”.
- Life is difficult for everyone – Yes, I know, we can accept that for other people, but we all secretly hope that it doesn’t apply to us. Like it or not, we cannot avoid life’s struggles. Winston Churchill said, “It is no use dealing with illusions and make-believes. We must look at the facts. The world is too dangerous for anyone to be able to afford to nurse illusions. We must look at realities.”
- Life is more difficult for some than for others – I shudder as I listen to the horror stories of some people’s lives. When I listen to their problems, I am almost grateful for my own. The reality is that life isn’t fair and never will be. In fact, life is not obligated to making us happy, we are responsible to accept life as it is and make the most of it.
Okay, so life is hard, that is no big secret, but hiding from that unpleasant reality doesn’t help at all. As John Maxwell says, “As much as an escape from reality might give us some temporary relief from our problems, the truth is it’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success.” Andy Stanley said, “Designing and implementing a strategy for change is a waste of time until you have discovered and embraced the current reality. If you don’t know where you really are, it is impossible to get where you need to be.”
So then how do we do this? How do we face reality in our lives in a way that sets us up to not just accept what is, but to still find ways to achieve what we want?
Firstly, face reality and accept it for what it is – your current reality. History shows however, that accepting reality isn’t as simple as that. For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten pound and a one pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right. Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it? Well, we tend to do the same.
The key therefore is no more ‘head in the sand’ ostrich behavior.
Secondly, choose to create a new reality. In other words, start to think differently, exploring ways to overcome the challenges you are facing. Starting with the current reality, redefine what you want the future to look like and begin to find ways to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Going back to Hal Urban’s comments about life being hard, he says, “Remember, successful people accept their problems and work through them, it is this process of meeting our problems head on and looking for solutions that gives life its meaning. Once we accept the fact that life is hard, we begin to grow. We can begin to see that every obstacle is an opportunity to write our future, regardless of what the past has said.”
Thirdly, take action to create the new reality. Ann Landers said, “Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, “I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.” Desiderius Erasmus said, “There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
Okay, so it is true, life is tough, but is has been for everyone who ever lived. I love biographies; because they show me that I am not alone in having a dream but with huge obstacles blocking my way. History shows that others have done it; they have overcome, so I can too. So instead of succumbing to my struggles, I am choosing to turn my reality into my dream. I choose to make it! How about you?
Have a great week.
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15th and 16th September – Time Management
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If you have any questions or feedback about “Facing Reality” please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to hear from you.
Antony Jennings is an international trainer, consultant and motivational speaker based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Antony writes this free weekly mentoring letter to support and encourage those who are serious about taking charge of their lives. You will find an archive of his letters at www.antonyjennings.comor www.zifundise.com