Are you playing the lottery in life, or just playing the fool? Lottery hopefuls make bets on Mega Millions while the real fools keep making the same bets with their lives over and over again, somehow hoping things will be better. The difference between Mega Millions and every day fool's bets is that someone actually does win the lottery. Fools bet regularly and never win at all in the game of life.
The real game of life revolves around where you place your energy. If you place those energy bets wisely, you can wind up winning consistently in the game of life. Over the years, I have pointed out many life lessons I have learned about where to place those energy bets, and many of those same lessons keep coming back to see if I really learned them. As often as not, a second, third or fourth helping of lessons seems to be what's on the menu yet again today. And, almost every time, those lessons appear under the heading of "Food for the Fools." If you, like me, have been known to play the fool from time to time, read on.
A Five Course Meal from the Fool's Diet
The following five characteristics constitute some part of the diet of foolish choices we sometimes make in life. While each of us has a deeper, soul-centered aspect trying to guide us to a more helpful and healthy diet of choices, we also carry with us a bit of the fool, something that I call our Self-Talk. Just as Self-Talk may try to convince you that one more tub of ice cream couldn't be so bad, so too will your Self-Talk try to convince you that holding onto these five empty calorie choices will actually help fill your life in some odd way.
You can never get enough of what you don't really want. This paraphrasing of Eric Hoffer may be the most significant of the fool's life bets. Whenever I find myself in periods of dissatisfaction, my Self-Talk is likely to raise its voice with some combination of resistance, blame, or upset. Your Self-Talk is highly unlikely to ever accept response-ability for things that don't work out. However, the real issue has more to do with your object of focus than who's to blame for not getting there. Your Soul-Talk is always right there reminding you that the source of your satisfaction lies within. In the quiet way of the Soul, you are being directed back into the realization that what you truly seek has more to with inner peace, loving and soul-centered joy than it does with the physical score card of life. Even winning the lottery won't fill those inner longings, and yet they are available to those who would turn inward to their ever-present source.
Victimizing your own self: this one seems to have evolved into a national pastime and is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of the blame game. What makes self-victimization so difficult to confront is that most of us have a handful of victim stories we cling to as though our lives depended on them. Each of us has at least one real victim story, a story where something untoward happened to us, something where blame seems not only appropriate but the "right" thing to do. Clinging to the facts and unfairness of the situation simply prevents you from noticing that the event passed some time ago and yet you continue to add negativity to what was already bad enough. The foolish part of us keeps repeating the story, somehow of the mind that repeating the story will make things better. I know I've been remarkably adept at this brand of playing the fool. However, if you listen closely, you may notice your Soul-Talk quietly reminding you that "It's Not What Happens to You. It's What You do About It."
What you resist you're stuck with: one of those classic clichés I first encountered nearly 40 years ago. Resistance often accompanies those who continue to be self-victimized. Rather than acknowledge and accept the reality confronting you in the moment, your resistant Self-Talk may well encourage you to remain stuck in your current rut by denying any role in the situation, by keeping the blame game running in high gear, and by refusing to do what you can to make any improvements on your own. The more you resist what's in front of you, the more you are going to wind up not only stuck, but also bear the risk of repeating the same lesson over and over again.
The poison you take hoping the other person will die: one of the most seductive of foolish, self-victimizing bets that most of us seem to fall into from time to time. Human beings have a propensity to keep taking the poison of resentment, hoping the other person will die. While I would like to say that I'm getting better at this, my Self-Talk still seems to favor periods of resenting someone else for something they did or didn't do rather than getting on with my own life. Fortunately, my Soul-Talk is always present reminding me that the way I experience life is a function of my choices, not the other person's. No matter how badly the other person may have behaved, you still have choices about moving forward with your own life.
Critics Not-So-Anonymous: as a card carrying member myself, I know that I only criticize that which I care about; however, rather than focus on the caring, I have often leapt to the fool's errand of communicating the criticism. My Self-Talk seems convinced that investing in criticism will somehow reap a positive reward downstream. However, my Soul-Talk is also good at reminding me, "no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." Why masquerade as someone who knows when what really matters is being known as someone who cares? Indeed, just as the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so too is the price of developing close personal relationships. Becoming free from the self-victimizing tyranny of the inner critic requires opening to the part of you that cares and communicating from that deeper, more soul-centered place.
False Prophets of the Positive: we all know the emptiness of the false prophets of positive thinking, those who would tout that all you need to make life great is to keep a string of wishful thoughts in your head and all will be well. Indeed, it is the fool who persists in positive thinking without taking the necessary action steps to bring about the positive change. Positive outcomes require positive actions and positive actions typically require some kind of positive focus. Positive thinking does not attempt to place lipstick on a pig; instead, the truly positive thinker is one who brings a positive focus or positive set of thoughts to difficult situations, accompanied by a set of positive actions.
I'd love to hear your take on this subject. What are some of the other foolish bets you have experienced in your life and how have you overcome them? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.