Over these many years of helping people move from whining to winning, I have remained resolute in my focus that each of us is capable of far more than we typically give ourselves credit for. As I have pointed out in many ways, you can have the results you choose, or you can settle for all the perfect reasons that you don't have those results. I have learned that it really is just a choice.
However, as with all choices, the art is that of choosing wisely. I can imagine those who read these articles simply to find something to disagree with, or worse yet, something else to be disagreeable about, are already having a field day. Perhaps today is the day we can all "wise up" just a little and focus on what it is that truly matters, on what the results are that we truly seek.
Amongst the various newsletters and blogs to which I subscribe is Seth Godin's daily blog. In Sunday's blog, " Accepting False Limits," Seth wrote about being perplexed by all the people who stop themselves from succeeding in life by declaring failure before they even get started. You know the drill, especially if you have children. "I can't" has probably killed more ideas than book censors.
As he said, clearly there are some things that neither of us will ever do -- dunk a basketball, fly by flapping our arms, etc. These truly do belong to the "I can't" realm. But what about those things that we declare outside our capability simply because we declare that we can't?
Seth remains resolute in his belief in people and our ability to improve the world we live in. As he wrote in his false limits blog post:
This attitude gets me in trouble sometimes. Perhaps I shouldn't be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it's none of my business if people choose to accept what they've got, to forget their dreams and to not seek to help those around them achieve what matters to them.
Perhaps I am overreaching a wee bit here, but I suspect Seth and I share at least some "improve-the-world" DNA. When people ask me what I do for a living, and I get that they really want to know, I usually say, "I help people get what they think they want as fast as possible so I can ask, 'Was that it?'" Sometimes I answer, "I help people get what they really want instead of what they settle for." Same thing, really.
The trick, as always, comes in understanding what it is that you truly want. I often paraphrase the longshoreman philosopher, Eric Hoffer, by saying, "You can never get enough of what you don't truly want." (Mr. Hoffer actually said, "You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.")
In last week's column about whining vs. winning, a number of readers missed the point and chose instead to focus on definitions of winning that require the contradistinction with losing. Others wisely noted that the focus on winning vs. whining is one of clarity of purpose and intention. The more clarity you bring to what really matters, the more likely you are to "win" the game of life. As someone once said, and I can't seem to find who said it, the game of life is about becoming a "winner in the human race." Lots of double meanings, I suppose, but the real focus is on building the life you truly seek, rather than settling for the weevily peanuts. And, no, it's not about "he who dies with the most toys wins." That's the booby prize.
Real winning is about stepping past self-imposed limitations to create the quality of life experience that you truly seek. Kind of like the old story about the person lying on her death bed, few of us are likely to say we wish we had accumulated more material things any more than we are likely to wish we had spent more time at the office.
So, what is it that you truly seek in life? What is it that truly allows you to experience fulfillment? What is it that brings you peace?
Every week, I invite readers to leave a comment or drop me an email. Every week, comments range from those who find benefit, to those who sincerely disagree, to those who just like to find something to dismiss. Amongst the most rewarding aspects of putting up these columns are the emails I get. Here's one from Sherie, responding to the whining vs. winning article:
Absolutely loved this article. I am going to buy the book. You are absolutely right. I am a single mother who has been raising my son alone for the past 12 years when my ex-husband abruptly, without warning disappeared from our lives. I was penniless, soon homeless and had to start all over, my son was not quite 2. I had no one to help me and no one to turn to even for advice. I had no idea of what to do. The one thing I did know was that whatever happened would be up to me and to take the time to sit around whining about my circumstances was a luxury I couldn't afford. I stepped up and did what I had to do to get us out of that situation and never looked back. It was very hard and for many years I was just barely holding on. I went through many cheap apartments, to being evicted to living in pay by the week hotels a few times. I would be okay and then a small emergency would happen like my son having to go to the urgent care and that $50.00 would throw everything off and I would not be able to pay the rent, then the light bill, then the phone bill, etc. It was a domino effect. Once in awhile I would cry in my shower after my son was asleep, but that was it. I never complained and I always tried to stay positive. I would convince myself that it would be okay. I did not want negativity to make things worse. I don't know why I thought that this would work, but it did. After 12 years I am finally at a place where one small emergency doesn't put me over the edge. Positive thinking and working around negativity is something I have always instilled in my son. For some reason, I have never thought about this in terms of work. I am excited to read this book and see how these strategies can help in my office.
As Sherie points out so wonderfully well, hers is not a life of glitter and glamour; she has worked diligently to keep moving forward, apparently against some steep odds. And yet she has found the inner strength to keep herself focused on what she can do to keep moving. As challenging as life must be, her son has the blessing of living with a great teacher, one who is encouraging him to step past apparent limitations and into an improved experience of his own making.
How about you? Are you creating the life you seek or settling for the emptiness of "I can't"? Please leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell@russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your own life and how you can take a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, download a free chapter from Russell's new book, "Workarounds That Work."
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about his work by visiting his website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact him by email at Russell@ russellbishop.com.