as published in Conway Daily Sun
I want you to imagine you are standing at the beginning of a grand buffet – the kind of buffet that cruise lines are famous for. The kind of buffet where you get embarrassed for some people as you watch them balance a second plate on the edge of the first plate, as they stuff a roll in their pocket, like they may never see food again. This is the kind of buffet where you realize you are, in fact, becoming that person! Got the picture? It is a grand, endless onslaught of irresistible delights and calories, the likes of which you have never seen before.
Welcome to life. Picture this buffet as a metaphor for life. Life is not like sitting in the Portsmouth Pease Airport looking for a vending machine to offer sustenance. No, life is the grandest of all grand buffets, yet most people are starving to death. Regardless of resources, education, money, connections or talents, everyone is invited to the buffet. The hard part is now to figure out what you want. At some point, early in our lives, some of us take whatever presents itself to us. We get a job we don’t really like, but we need a job. At this point, we stop looking for a job because we have one. In our buffet metaphor, we only got as far as the salad; lots of lettuce and cheap rolls. With this mind-set, we’ll be lucky if we get a taste of Jello for dessert before we die. Remember the whole buffet is ahead of us – if you are willing to invest a little time, and postpose gratification for a moment, there’s a carving station at the other end of the line. There is crème brulee for dessert, just beyond the Jello. Knowing you can have anything you want, knowing you cannot fail, knowing every resource will appear just when you need it, what would you do? What would you experience? What would be so personally fulfilling that you would be happy to do it for free? One of the most enjoyable areas of my work is helping people identify their top character strengths, combine it with their passions and create a vision for the world they want to live in. When people are complaining about life (or anything for that matter), it simply means they have something else they would prefer but are not willing to pay the price (or take the risk) to get it. It is high time we decide what we really want.
So step 1 is to decide what you want. Step 2 is to make it your “Must”. Go ahead, get demanding. Declare what it is you will do/have/experience, and that you will settle for nothing less. Yes, you will sound unreasonable. When we say you “should” do/have/get something, we generally don’t. When we say we “must”... do/have/get something we generally do. You make exactly the amount of money you must make and not a penny more. If you’re scraping by on minimum wage or if you’re making $200k per year and putting a good amount into retirement, you are only making the amount that you call a “must” for you. You have exactly the kind of relationships you must have and nothing more. You have exactly the amount of free time for yourself you must and not a minute more. If you declared that you “must” have another 30 minutes a day for yourself, chances are good you will. Decide what you want and what it will take to get it. Whatever resources you will require are your new “musts”. I know you say the word must on a regular basis for things that are stressing you. You say I “must” go to work now, or I “must” get something done. We use the word must too frequently for negative things, and not enough for the positive things we really want.
Step 3, kill your judge. We all have this inner judge and mine is a jerk. He’s always judging me or someone else, or the situation. Frankly, I’m sick of him and he’s sabotaging my biggest plans. I bet he sounds very familiar, like maybe we’re related? It does not help us to have world’s harshest critic reminding us of our insecurities and weaknesses ever time the smallest thing goes awry. Tell the inner jerk to shut the hell up. I believe there is no separation between us as humans, but if you want to be separate from someone, separate yourself from the judge in your mind. Say: “I have a judge, I am not the judge”. Observe the judge when you hear the thoughts judging yourself, or someone else, or the situation. Simply observe – “Oh, the judge thinks we don’t know what we’re doing”, or “the judge thinks I’m not going to finish this project”. It is much easier to dismiss the judge’s judgments when you observe them, shine a light on them and recognize them for what they are – just the opinion of some jerk, who doesn’t even exist! Everyone has this judge, and everyone has the same doubts – you are fine! Forge ahead. Practice discernment, and use your head for sure, but point out the judge and dismiss the judgments. You are perfect, and fully ready to succeed! Decide what you want, make it a must, and dismiss the judge.