FACTS OF LIFE : “You need to learn how to face the obvious facts of life”
Why is it that whenever someone tells the phrase “Face the facts”, we often don’t prefer to hear what they have to say ?
Perhaps, this is because of a second cliche : “Sometimes, the truth hurts.”
Nobody recommends denial, but neither does anyone recommend procrastination. And we’re all susceptible to both. Existential procrastination is denial.
But problems aren’t scary when we know that solutions are available. When we know there’s a roadmap, it’s a lot easier to face harsh truths, and that we’ll come out stronger on the other side.
So let’s look at some difficult realities and learn how we can leverage research to turn a trampoline that will bounce us to greater heights into what looks like a pit of desperation. Cool sound? Cool. Awesome.
Let’s get down to it …
Just guess what? You’re about to die.
Cheery, huh? You are going to die. We all know this, but we certainly don’t live like we do. We’re just acting like there’s always going to be another day, another year, and then we wonder where the time has gone. Because it’s scary to think about death.FACTS OF LIFE
But many great thinkers, including the Stoics (and even the Samurai), strongly believed that when we remain conscious of death, we live better lives. And science also agrees:
Actually, thinking about death can be a good thing. According to a new analysis of recent scientific studies, an awareness of mortality can enhance physical health and help us re-prioritize our objectives and values.FACTS OF LIFE
Face facts (there’s that phrase again)-how much without a deadline do you get done? Well, we’ve got one. The date is a bit fuzzy, but there is, rest assured, one. We would all procrastinate like, “I’ll get to that next century,” if we didn’t have death.
You get approximately 30,000 days, and then you’re done. And you have a good portion of them already used up. Death puts focus into life.
But we ignore death, so we’re losing track of what matters. From priorities. Of a large image. Of what’s valuable. We lose track of what’s fun, even. Friends don’t get seen and they don’t get used to vacation days. We don’t recognise that there is an end, so we don’t prioritise and waste time, not even in ways that are really enjoyable. FACTS OF LIFE
Well, that’s scarier than death, I think.
They want to pound this awareness on young people, not to depress them, but to encourage them to make better choices. There is a whole theory called “socioemotional selectivity theory” in the field of gerontology. What they argue is that a sense of limited time horizon is the one thing that makes people different at 70 and beyond, from younger people, developmentally. You really become conscious that your days are numbered. Instead of being so depressed, people are starting to make better decisions.FACTS OF LIFE
We enhance the quality when we’re aware of the quantity. Now the Stoic philosopher Seneca did not feel that life was short, but he came to the conclusion that what Karl discovered still jibes with:
It’s not that the time we have to live is too short, but that we squander a lot of it. Life is long enough, and if we spend it well, it is enough to do many great things. And so it is — FACTS OF LIFE
we don’t get a short life, we do it that way.
What should we do, then? Live a month as if it were your last. That’s what happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky believes the solution might be. Imagine you’re going to move far away from your job, your friends, your family, your life as you now know it. Don’t imagine you’re having terminal cancer. We appreciate things more when an end is in sight:
Previous research suggests that this exercise should encourage us to appreciate what we are preparing to give up in a profound way. When we believe for the last time that we see (or hear, do, or experience) things, we will see (or hear, do, or experience) them as if it were the first time.
Far from being painful, it makes life richer to know there’s an end.
All right, mortal friend, we do the right things because we don’t have unlimited time. But what is the harsh truth that we have to face about that stuff and that time?
Anything worth doing more work than you think will take FACTS OF LIFE
A gazillion times have we all heard it: it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something. But that’s inaccurate. Actually it’s worse …FACTS OF LIFE
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
To become an expert requires 10,000 hours of “deliberate practise”. You have been driving for 10,000 hours and you are not ready for NASCAR. Deliberate practise “means that to improve them, you need to spend 10,000 hours concentrating on your weaknesses and pushing yourself to your limit.” It’s difficult. Really tough.
All right, but you might not want to paint the next Guernica or start the next Google. It didn’t matter. You will still face challenges that take a great deal of time and effort. What is it that everyone says? “Marriage takes a job.” And children? Whoa, lots of work, as any parent will tell you.
When we look at the great guys in most fields, it turns out they were confronted head on with this harsh truth. Most were workaholics without apologies. Depressing, aren’t they? To really excel, it seems that you have to be a workaholic in your career, as a partner, as a parent. So you’ll be stressed, miserable and you’ll die young …
In fact, no. At least not if you’re doing it correctly. Not if you’re engaged and passionate. Right up to the end, being passionate about something makes life richer: FACTS OF LIFE In fact, no. At least not if you’re doing it correctly. Not if you’re engaged and passionate. Right up to the end, being passionate about something makes life richer:
And if you accept the challenges, you’re not going to die young either. The Terman Study, an eight-decade research project that followed nearly 1500 individuals from infancy to death, found that individuals who worked harder lived longer. Being laid back and not achieving much? Oh, that’s going to kill you:
Those who were most successful were the ones at any given age who were least likely to die. Ambition was not an issue and it was not healthy to take it easy. Actually, those men who were carefree, unreliable, and unambitious in childhood and very unsuccessful in their careers had a massive rise in their risk of mortality.FACTS OF LIFE
Admittedly, battle in the short term does not lead to a happy life, but in the long term it leads to a meaningful life:FACTS OF LIFE
A struggle with life was negatively correlated with happiness, but a significant positive relationship with meaningfulness was approached … People with very meaningful lives are more worried and more stressed than people with less meaningful lives. Again, we believe that this indicates that concern comes from participation and engagement in important activities …
But what if you were not blessed with the inspiration of God and did not “find your passion”? Well, professor Cal Newport says the whole outlook is bunk. You don’t “find” or “follow” your passion for the vast majority of people; you build it:
Here’s what you find if you study individuals who end up loving what they do, and if you study the research on it, you find the same thing: long-term career satisfaction requires characteristics such as a real sense of autonomy, a real sense of impact on the world, a sense of mastery that you are good at what you do, and a sense of connection with other people. Now, the key point is that these characteristics do not match a particular piece of work, and they have nothing to do with matching your job with some kind of ingrained, pre-existing passion.
Something in life you will spend a lot of time and effort on. Or you can commit to it, build it, jump in with both feet, and reap great rewards, you can resent it and half-ass it and just get by.
Don’t tolerate struggles with you; embrace them. Direct them and forge meaning from them towards a goal.
Makes sense, huh? But some will say that I avoided the issue of happiness by emphasising the meaning. All of us want to be happy. And happiness is mercurial and fleeting right now, just showing up when it wants to. How are we going to get it to stick around for good? This is what all of us want, right? To achieve ultimate happiness and to remain there.
And that leads us to number three, the hard truth …
Never will you be perfectly happy
Hey, in the headline it said “harsh truths” and you read it anyway. Hey, no whining. Through the others, we have worked our way, and we will work our way through this one. Stick to me …
That magic bullet, we’re always focused. I’ll be perfectly happy forever if I make the money … if I just meet my soulmate … if I just get that promotion … if I’m just, if I’m just, if I’m, if I’m just. Nope, sorry. An incorrect answer. The discomfort and worries will always be there. About why?
Simply put, your brain isn’t wired for everlasting happiness. It is actually wired against it. Noted science author Robert Wright is here:
Natural choice, after all, does not “want” us to be happy; it just “wants” us, in its narrow sense of productive, to be productive. And making the anticipation of pleasure very strong is the way to make us productive, but the pleasure itself is not very long-lasting.
But just because you’re never going to reach the ultimate, eternal bliss doesn’t mean that life is terrible.
Another of those studies that followed people throughout their entire lives is the Grant Study. The subjects who were the most successful and happy didn’t get that way because “they were happy every day.” Because of their coping skills, they were at the top of the heap, their ability to deal with the inevitable issues that life threw at them:
In 1977, Vaillant reported, the men who exhibited “mature defences,” were happier, more satisfied with their careers and marriages, and “were much better equipped to work and love” than their peers who had less mature adaptations. In comparison to men with less mature coping abilities, they earned better incomes, engaged in greater public service, had more rewarding friendships, suffered fewer physical and mental health problems, and were even more comfortable being aggressive with others.
The safest way to remain unhappy is to insist that life should be nonstop happiness. Work towards the moments of goodness. Accept that there are going to be bad moments. Go make more good moments then.
(Click here to see the schedule that very successful individuals follow every day.)
All right, it is unrealistic to expect to always feel good or that one magic event will solve all your problems. You can at least rely on other individuals to help you through the tough times.
Well, kinda …
People are going to let you down
I said they were harsh, okay? We’ll talk about the bad, then we’ll get to the good. By now, you know the pattern. Hmm. Chill. Jeez.-Jeez.
Where’ve I been? Betrayal of those who care most about you. “Yeah, that’s it.” All right … Alrighty …
Most of the secrets that you told your best friend never ever tell anyone that someone else got blabbed. (Sorry.) And if you really want to make sure that they don’t keep a secret, make sure they say, “Keep this between me and you.” Because that makes the beans more likely to spill:
In one study, 60 % of individuals confessed to sharing the secrets of even their best friends with a third party. Another study found that a quarter of individuals shared with at least three other individuals “confidential” social information entrusted to them. In fact, there is even some information to suggest that simply prefacing your secret sharing with a confidentiality request (such as “Please keep this close to your chest” or “Just between you and me”) can actually make your confidante more likely to betray your trust, because as high-value social knowledge, you are essentially flagging the coming data as strategic and gossip worthy.
So, obviously, trusting no one and keeping all people at arm’s length is the right response, never getting close to or relying on anyone …
Bad. Well, bad. Incorrect. Wrong. Improper. Yes, you will occasionally get screwed. Welcome to planet Earth. But in the long run, when we trust more, not less, we come out ahead. And here, we don’t talk about little secrets. Actually, we’re talking about large things, like money:
Income peaks among those who trust more, not less, individuals. In a study titled “The Right Amount of Trust,” people on a scale of one to ten were asked how much they trusted others. Among those who responded with the number eight, income was highest … Who suffered the most? Those with the lowest confidence levels had an income that was 14.5% lower than eight percent. That loss is the equivalent of not attending university.
So trust gets more money for you. What are you supposed to do about the extra loot? Again, individuals are the answer. Research at Harvard by Michael Norton shows that we’re happier when we spend money on others rather than on ourselves.
We’ll be disappointed by people. Life is that. It’s real. However, despite that, when we trust and forgive others, we still do better in the long run. The number one predictor of a happy life is relationships. You can’t be happy without confidence. The Grant Study concluded that “the ability to love and be loved at the age of eighty was the single force most clearly associated with subjective well-being.”
How do we manage, then? The occasional disappointment we can’t avoid. It’s impossible, that. John Gottman, the leading relationship researcher, says it all comes down to ratios. For example, what leads to a happy marriage is five positive interactions for every negative one.
Do you expect to be perfect with people? Are you flawless? Hey, no. And if someone seems perfect, we become suspicious. Gottman also discovered that: 13 positive to every negative makes individuals lose credibility. We think something’s fishy when anyone is that positive.
“Perfection” is not perfect, as it turns out, and “pretty good” is good enough.
Let’s round it off and learn the greatest good that can come out of the greatest pain …
Summing up :
These are four harsh truths that will make you a better individual:
You will die:
you have a deadline. Just literally. So concentrate on what matters. And make sure to celebrate the times that are good. I ‘d prefer to have an awesome life shorter than a long, lousy life.
It takes more work than you think to do anything worthwhile:
Ever futz around an entire Sunday, not really having fun and not really doing anything? And then you say, ‘What the heck have I been doing all day? “Well, that is not what you want to say about your life. Embrace and find meaning in the challenges.
You’re never going to be perfectly happy: you don’t have to be. The surest way to remain unhappy is to insist on complete happiness. Be grateful and gently reach for a little more of what you have.
People will let you down:
on the day you become perfect, you’re allowed to insist that others be perfect. Which is never, never. People are going to cause you problems, but they are the greatest source of happiness as well. Five-to-one is good enough.
Life is demanding. Living in denial just means that more often you’ll be blindsided. To be pretty happy, you don’t have to kid yourself that the world is perfect.
There is a lot we hear about post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic growth is what we don’t hear about as often. “Yes, some people (very few people, actually) experience pain that has been following them for a very long time.” But Nietzsche was right more often. As University of Pennsylvania happiness expert Martin Seligman discovered, you are made stronger by what does not kill you:
After extreme adversity, a substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. They arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning in the long run than before … In a month, 1,700 individuals reported at least one of these terrible events, and they also took our well-being tests. To our surprise, there were more intense strengths (and therefore greater well-being) for people who had experienced one terrible event than people who had none. Individuals who had been through two terrible events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three were stronger than those who had two, for example, raped, tortured, and held captive.
Avoidance perpetuates discomfort. The harshness we do not face can’t be fixed. But we grow and live better lives when we address issues.
Maya Angelou put it best :” My mission in life is not just to survive, but to prosper, and to do so with a certain passion, a certain compassion, a certain humour, a certain style.”