This month I’m featuring thoughts from my upcoming book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn. Last time, I gave an overview listing all of the chapters, which cover topics like humility, hope, change, and maturity. Growth in each area has the potential to help us turn losses into gains.
Today I want to talk about one of those topics: Reality, which I consider the foundation of learning.
If we want to succeed in life and to learn from our losses, we must be able to face reality and use it to create a foundation for growth. That can be very difficult. People who face horrific experiences can be crushed by them. But even lesser losses can tempt us to avoid reality. We may blame other people for our circumstances. We may rationalize or make excuses. Or we may retreat into our own little world, like this man in one of my favorite “reality” stories. He had been an insomniac for thirty years, and finally he decided to see a psychiatrist.
“Why can’t you sleep at night?” the doctor asked.
“Because I’m trying to solve the world’s problems,” the man responded.
The psychiatrist pressed further, “Do you ever solve them?”
“Almost every time,” replied the patient earnestly.
“Then why can’t you sleep?” the psychiatrist asked.
“Well Doctor, I think it’s those big ticker tape parades they have in my honor that keep me up.”
As much as an escape from reality might give us temporary relief from our problems, the truth is it’s easier to go from failure to success than it is from excuses to success. When we lose sight of reality we quickly lose our way. We cannot create positive change in our lives if we are confused about what’s really happening. You can’t improve yourself if you’re kidding yourself.
There are three realities of life that every person needs to accept:
1. Life is difficult. Somehow people seem to believe that life is supposed to be easy. We expect a smooth, easy road to success. We expect our lives to be hassle free. We expect to get the prize without having to pay the price. That is not reality! Life is hard.
2. Life is difficult for everyone. Even if we are willing to concede that life is difficult for most people, deep down inside many of us secretly hope somehow that this truth won’t apply to us. I’m sorry to say it isn’t so. No one escapes life’s problems, failures, and losses. If we are to make progress, we must do so through life’s difficulties.
3. Life is more difficult for some than for others. Let’s face it: life is more difficult for some people than it is for others. The playing field is not level. You may have faced more and greater difficulties in life than I have. You may have faced fewer. And comparing our lives to others ultimately isn’t productive. Life isn’t fair, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.
Your life is probably plenty difficult already. The reality is that you will have to deal with those difficulties no matter what. One of the keys to winning is to not make things even harder for yourself, which is, unfortunately, what many people seem to do. To help you with this, next time I want to point out some ways people make life harder for themselves, and what we can do to keep from doing the same.
In the meantime, take some time today to assess yourself: How much do you accept the reality that life is difficult for everyone? In what areas do you struggle with fairness or the desire for everything to work out perfectly? What would change if you took the reality of your situation for what it is and began to come up with a plan to deal with it?