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The World’s Greatest Lie

And the Path to Freedom 
By Kendel J. Christensen 

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat, Pray, Love.

They say that the best things in life “don’t come cheap.” That which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly someone once told me. 

I think that applies to the quality of life we achieve in general, and the ideas and beliefs that make up a quality life.

We can be exposed to ideas. We can nod our head and say, “Oh yeah, I know that.” But that is cheap knowledge. I think real knowledge—knowledge that makes a difference in a person’s life, has something more to it. We have to actually do something with it. It has to become a part of who we are.

I think I have found one of the most important of such ideas—something that we all know, but perhaps don’t consider deeply. We don’t ask the hard questions that show if we are really living by it or not. It makes us uncomfortable. We’d prefer to keep looking for knowledge that is more fresh, fashionable, or tantalizing.

I think it is perhaps the most important life lesson that separates intensely satisfied, accomplished, and worthwhile individuals from the merely average, and often pitiable. As an advocate for the happiness of all mankind, I must speak my heart on this matter. I have been far too soft for far too long on a principle that negatively affects far too many people. The overall net loss of happiness to the world has been far too great. And I want to state that whatever future “success” I attain in this life, I will owe in large measure to my unassailable belief in this perspective.

It is a perspective embodied by an inspiring international hero. A hero that was a poor student, grew up fatherless from age 12, faced prolonged and unabashed discrimination, and was imprisoned for no less than 27 years of his life. If anyone could claim that life had played him a raw hand and could easily blame his circumstances as the reason his life was less than he’d like it to be, it would be him.

Yet, he chose a different perspective. While in prison, he memorized the poem “Invictus,” which contains the following stanza: “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

The man was Nelson Mandela, and he changed the world. He changed the world because he refused to believe the most enticing, prolific, and damning lie in the history of mankind.

Let me explain.

The second-most influential book I have ever read is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. In it, a mysterious character appears at night to Santiago, a humble shepherd boy. The character is later revealed to be a wise king. This king, King Melchizedek, is sent to those who are about to decide whether they will follow a path that will ultimately lead them to realize their full potential and unique purpose for living (their “Personal Legend”), or follow a more “comfortable” path. He warns young Santiago not to succumb to the world’s Greatest Lie:

Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible.  They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives.  But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend… in the long run, what people think… becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.

“What’s the world’s greatest lie?”…

It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happened to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.
[1]

The world’s Greatest Lie is thinking that we are victims. And unless and until we consciously choose a different path, we can never obtain what will truly satisfy us. That path involves doing something, not just knowing something. I call it the “Path to Freedom” and it involves willfully taking responsibility for our lives.

It is so easy to play the victim. To say that one’s circumstances is to blame, not one’s self. Indeed, it is so embedded into our culture that we don’t even see it. It is normal, expected behavior. When in groups, one of the most common topics is complaining about things that no one is doing anything about. I know some people who seem to want to talk about nothing else.

Some of the common things people complain about, are:

·        “I’m not in a satisfying relationship. I have tried to date, but it has ultimately not gotten me anywhere… besides, I ultimately can’t control who will go on dates with me (or who will ask me out).”

·        “My job is hard or unfulfilling. My boss makes me do an unreasonable amount—and I have to, because in this economy—I’m lucky to have a job.”

·        “There aren’t cool things to do in this town.”

·        “I don’t get paid enough.”

·        “There aren’t quality people here to be friends with.”

·        Etc.

The list is endless. Such statements are readily relatable. They are innocuous. They receive ready validation from “friends” trying to be sympathetic. For those reasons, I don’t advocate an extreme approach where we eliminate any and all such statements from every context. Of course if you just met someone, it might not be the opportune time to bring up the philosophic perspective that they may, in fact, be completely responsible for what they are complaining about.

But do realize that the current that flows underneath such statements, no matter how small, is I am a victim of my circumstances. With its pernicious corollary, and there is nothing I can do about it. Such an attitude is the greatest barrier to realizing our full potential and accomplishing our unique purpose for living.[2] As King Melchizedek says later, about a discontented baker, who could have seen the world and accomplished all the things his heart yearned for—but chose instead to stay on the path he was “accustomed” to—, this attitude is the world’s Greatest Lie because it keeps us from realizing “that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”[3]

The “Path to Freedom” requires that you do three things:

1.      You personally live as if you are the master of your fate, the “captain of your soul.”

2.      You decide—really—what “being a true friend” means, and seek to both be and surround yourself with such people.

3.      You think outside the box and shun the narrow thinking of the world around you.

Without acting on all three, your happiness will be at the mercy of externalities. It will be impossible for you to reach your full potential. For, in the words of Abraham Maslow, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

“I am the Captain of My Soul”

“That’s just who I am,” “it is what it is,” “I can’t change,” “What can you do?” “I can’t help it.”

These are statements of victimhood. They are embodiments of the Greatest Lie. Lies are often potent precisely because there may be some truth to them—and everyone chooses their own way to cope. But that doesn’t preclude the fact that there may be other, more helpful ways to cope. Remember the corollary idea to being a victim, there is nothing I can do about it. While it may be true that you have some inherent weakness, or a truly horrible circumstance, or a condition, or even a debilitating illness, you can still choose to not be a victim. You can choose to decide the extent to which you can do something.

William George Jordan once said, “Man has two creators, his God and himself. The first creator furnishes him the raw materials of his life—the laws and conformity with which he can make that life what he will. The second creator—himself—has powers he rarely realizes. It is what a man makes of himself that counts.”

Here is what I take that to mean. I believe every human being—Every. Single. One—is here on this Earth for a marvellous purpose. To do or be something that no one else could do or be quite the same. Not all the purposes are the same. They are not “equal” in the sense that they have the same level of exceptionality or the same potential for worldwide impact (let’s be honest—there was only one Gandhi). But everyone is exceptional in at least one way.

You may have deep and persistent weaknesses, but it is absolutely, 100% your choice to view yourself—and any circumstance you are in—as changeable. Changeable isn’t the same as “fixable” or able to be completely “solved”—it may very well be a big problem throughout your life. But you can still choose to view yourself as someone who can affect your situation in some way. Humans are remarkably malleable. Everyone can improve themselves.  And no one has improved themselves in every way completely. We all have untapped potential. We all have a range of “personal possibility.”

If, say, a condition truly does prevent you from achieving the same results as a completely healthy person, you can still choose to admit that you haven’t developed all of your personal potential, haven’t explored just how far your “range of possibility” extends. You can still choose to expect that there may be more distance yet to travel at the “edges” of what you currently think is possible. And what we expect will happen has a surprisingly significant effect on the results we actually experience.[4]

Instead of looking at your circumstance and making excuses for yourself, you can choose to say, “you know, this thing I am dealing with is extremely difficult, but I am going to assume that it can be improved upon in some way. I commit to exploring just how far I can go.” It may be the most difficult decision of your life—no one else can truly know the extent to which you feel you have “tried everything” so sincerely and for so long.[5] In the end, it is an intensely personal decision as to where we draw our line in the sand. Yet, it very well could be your drawing of that line that is the major barrier between you and the results your heart yearns for, the difference between an average life and an exceptional one.[6]

And I am still idealistic enough to say we can all approach life assuming[7] that we may be surprised what happens if we continually test our limits—to ask ourselves if we can’t take one more step over our line in the sand. Who knows what is possible if we simply choose to not give up, and take it with an open and patient mind. It is absolutely our choice. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” We all fall, but it is our choice whether we get up and try again. It is what we make of ourselves that counts. If we think otherwise, we fall for the world’s Greatest Lie.

And we can make heroes of ourselves, even when circumstances contradict every rational reason to think so. Viktor Frankl, another one of my heroes, suffered in a concentration camp during World War II. He experienced and witnessed some of the most extreme depravity that humans have inflicted on other humans in the history of this world. Yet, he penned the following words:

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.[8]

Though our environment and our genes shape us significantly, there still exists that final human freedom: the freedom to choose how we will react. Under any circumstances, even if physically barred from taking action, we can still choose how we will interpret our situation. We are the masters of our fate, the captains of our souls. The more we embrace this idea[9], the more responsibility we take upon ourselves, the more free we become.

In the words of Ross Parmenter,

Personal freedom cannot grow beyond personal responsibility.

The more people that learn to be fully accountable for their lives, the more freedom each of us can enjoy and the more fulfilling all of our lives will be.”

A True Friend

               As I look at Facebook, it tells me I have 2099 friends. It is a lie. I was an early adopter, and accepted any and all requests from anyone I had ever met. Though I had intentions to be good friends with everyone on my Facebook, I have since given up on that ambition. It has been a great tool to keep in touch with my network of acquaintances, extended family, and my various types of friends. But of all those types of friends, only a select few would I consider “true” friends.

Friendship is widely treated as a relationship of convenience. Two people both happen to live in proximity, and are opportunistically using one another to enjoy things that one can’t do alone. We are kind to our friends. We would never offend them, even if our true thoughts were otherwise. If you happen to see them, and if it is convenient to help them, you are happy to do so. It isn’t necessarily bad. It is absolutely a mutually-beneficial relationship, and we can learn much from any association. Additionally, both parties often come to rely on and support each other. And who knows when two people make a connection of convenience into something more. It has to start somewhere.

But true friendship is much more. The approach is completely different. And it is an absolute necessity to become truly free. The path of freedom, though personal, cannot be marched alone.

True friendship isn’t about opportunism. It doesn’t ask about convenience. It’s about a certain type of regard, a love that wants more than company or validation or shielding others from consequences. True friendship wants its object to be the best he or she can be.

A quote by C.S. Lewis illuminates the essence of true friendship:

Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering… it is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.[10]

In other words, a friend of convenience values more that the “friend” be temporarily appeased than ultimately bettered. By contrast, though a true friend would not seek to offend, a true friend values the friend themselves, more than the friend avoiding temporary suffering. And that includes inviting their friend to challenge possible victimizing attitudes.

A true friend would question any attitude that insinuates accepting less from life, if it truly is important to the other person. A true friend wants the best for his or her friend. And what is best in the ultimate sense is often uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or uninviting in the short-term.

So what does friendship mean to you? What do you value more? Do you hold people to a standard that temporarily appeases them, or ultimately makes them a better person?

               All of my true friends, without exception, hold me and themselves to a high standard. They regularly and proactively ask me how they can do better, where their blind spots are. They call me out when I claim to be a victim or when I attempt to justify acting beneath my ideals. They invite me to think critically about the role I play in my problems. They invite me to think more creatively before I accept conclusions about the truth of the matter.

               It is sometimes hard in the moment, but looking back on my life, I see it as one of the greatest contributors to the overall satisfaction in my life.

Do you know how it feels to have someone know everything about you—the true blameworthiness of your offenses, the true breadth of your failures, and the true depth of your weaknesses—yet stands by your side saying, “I am completely invested in helping you discover the right thing to do, and seeing that you act true to your best self”?

When I talk to one of my true friends, it puts me more in control of my life. I am filled with strength. I feel like I am seeing things as they really are. I feel truly confident that I am approaching life with both eyes open, and living without being deceived. I finish each meaningful conversation truly empowered. While the entire world is left feeling empty and unsatisfied from their relationships (because they are merely seeking to feel justified and have their complaints about life confirmed), I regularly stand in awe at how truly great my life is due to the quality of the relationships I have. I am truly satiated by them (because I know they are based on truth—even if that means I am told how I contribute to my problems, how I may not be not acting in accordance to what is really the best thing to do). An average person might say that it is too hard to live this way, but exceptional people know that it is a critical component to satisfaction and self-respect.

It is a type of satisfaction and self-respect that can only come from refusing to see yourself as a victim. And I could not do so without my true friends.

So what type of friend are you? Do you enable others to be their best self, or enable them to be… less? Consider well. As Bob Marley once said, “Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy.”

Think Outside the Box

The world conditions us to think and act like we are victims. Entire schools of thought within psychology seek to reduce human behavior to simple stimulus-response reactions. Movements in biology seek to make our genes responsible for what we do. Media makes it seem like all our problems are due to incompetent governments and an uncontrollable economy. Popular culture suggests that we “cannot help the way we feel.”[11] Such messages are mainstream. They are pervasive and embedded deeply within our cultural DNA. To differing degrees, they all play a part in the Greatest Lie.

If we do not question the messages we receive, it puts our mind in a neat little box—a small space that makes us small-minded. Small-minded enough to be triggered by the next external stimulus that seems a lot more important than it really is. Combine this with the fact that we have an unconscious tendency to want to conform to our surrounding social groups[12] (who conform to the mainstream beliefs around them), it is no wonder we all love to complain. We live in a culture of victimhood! It is a cycle that feeds on itself.

It is a vicious cycle that acutely limits our vision, chaining our imagination inside a damp cave, doomed to watch the shadows of an elaborate puppet show which conditions us to believe that “this is all there is.” We are stuck in a slum, content to make mud pies, when we could be enjoying the fullness of life at the beach.

But there is another way. We can choose not to be victims by choosing to think outside the box. We can choose to shun the common worldview for one more rare. We can choose to take conscientious responsibility for our lives. Thinking outside the box means choosing to ask the questions no one is asking, even if they are uncomfortable or reflect poorly on us. If you are on the Path of Freedom, you will realize “who are we to not to ask these questions?”

The Questions No One Asks 

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a Personal Constitution. It is a document that states the personal values that I publicly commit to live by throughout my life. Point number 10 states, in part:

10. I choose not to be a victim. Though I cannot control everything, I choose to proactively seek and take personal responsibility for the things that I can control.

I do not diminish the adversity, heartache, and truly tragic circumstances you may come from. But you, too, can make the same choice. You can think outside the box and become free. Unless and until a person chooses to fully embrace this idea and its implications, they will be a victim. And both their immediate self-worth and long-term happiness will be held captive by that choice.

Again, it is a difficult choice. I am not so deluded as to say there aren’t consequences to saying that your personal successes and failures are your responsibility. I am just saying it has brought me more happiness than I can articulate, and I invite you to consider the possibility.

While you do so, I offer a warning: do not dismiss this as more extreme than it is. We humans have a propensity to think in extremes. We tend to default to “all-or-nothing,” “black-and-white,” straw-man portrayals.[13] And it kills countless ideas and splendid plans that may have offered wondrous solutions, if we had simply given them a full chance.[14] All I am really advocating is that, before you complain, that you scrupulously look at how you may, in fact, be more responsible than you think for the situation.

If you are willing to continue, here are some of the paradigm-altering questions I have found helpful as I have tried thinking outside the box, and choosing freedom over victimhood.

1.    Do I acknowledge the vastness of what I don’t know?

“Never, never rest contented with any circle of ideas, but always be certain that a wider one is still possible.” –Richard Jefferies

We are so quick to jump to conclusions. We think we are so smart. We can observe something or someone, and we immediately tell ourselves a story that explains it. But so very often, there is more to the story.

For example, I had a job where my boss and I did not get along. As a result, I felt I was unduly burdened and treated unfairly in certain ways. I could have jumped to the conclusion that my boss was “just a jerk” (a conclusion we jump to so quickly and easily, it is called “fundamental” in social psychology). In my mind, I had plenty of evidence for it. And besides, what could I do? I was a nice person doing all I could, and I can’t do anything about other people’s behavior. Conclusion: I’m a victim.

Baloney.

Here are some of the questions one of my friends asked me when I tried to complain about the situation:

·        How much do you know about your boss, really, as a person?

·        How much of an effort do you make every day, especially during lunch, to make small talk?

·        Have you talked to your boss’s friends at work, asked them for suggestions as to what you could do better?

·        Have you asked your boss directly how you could improve your relationship?

·        Have you read a book about getting along with people in an office setting?

·        If you were George Clooney, what would you do to improve the situation?

Of course there was more I could do. I hadn’t even come close to “trying everything.” The first questions illustrate the vastness of how much I really did now know about my boss. The last two questions illustrate the vastness of much I really do not know about communication, human relationships, and being likable. In all that vastness, how could I see myself as a victim? Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I now had a mission—and a lot of work to do.

Did my friend give me a quick fix? A magic bullet? Heck no! I have still yet to read a small fraction of the applicable literature that could have a bearing on my boss liking me. But the point is that the information is out there (and applying just a few tips from the book Crucial Conversations did end up transforming my entire work experience). There is more to life than what you happen to know.[15] And if you realize the vast gap between what you currently know and what you need to know to get what you want, you’d spend less time complaining and more time improving.

2.    Am I consistently working toward ennobling goals?

One of my mentors told me once that if we don’t master the principles of goal setting, we will reach old age and realize that we reached but a small fraction of our full potential. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has a similar philosophy. He plans his life as if he is 80 years old looking back on his life. He focuses on doing the things today that will minimize any possible regrets for his 80-year old self.

This is an absolute necessity if you want to live freely. If you are actively setting specific goals and achieving them, you are increasing your innate capacity to do more. After just a few years, you will be amazed at how much more of a worthwhile, capable person you are.[16] Again, to quote C.S. Lewis, “the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”[17] You become more free, because more capabilities give you more options.

If you are not continually setting and achieving goals, you are cultivating victimhood. Of course you will have a hard time with life and be tempted to complain about things you can’t control—you have made no progress to control anything beyond the things you already control!

A complaint at this point may rightly be “but there is only so much time in a day.” That is absolutely true. And you can choose to view that as if you were the master of your destiny, or a victim. A victim will say, “I don’t have time.” Someone who is the captain of their soul will say, “I haven’t made that a priority.” One is the world’s Greatest Lie. One puts you on the Path to Freedom, and places responsibility squarely where it belongs.

Of course you will not be able to get to everything. This is precisely why goals are important. Your time can be wholly and entirely spent merely reacting to what life sends at you. But goals give you a clear sense of your priorities. The only way to say ‘no’ to things, in the words of Stephen R. Covey, “is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.” Decide what your highest priorities are, and make sure your day planner matches those.

If you don’t, you are, by default, choosing to be a victim. What is important will forever be at the mercy of what is urgent.

One small example of this. I subscribe to a lot of educational youtube channels, but used to never watch any of them. When I have a full computer accessible, I work (or watch funny youtube videos—those are my priorities). When I am out and about, I never want to use my data plan to watch videos. For years, those channels got zero love. Then I asked myself some creative questions and had an idea. I bought a small laptop—the cheapest I could find—and set it up in the kitchen. Its sole purpose is to watch those channels. That one small decision has enabled me to watch almost 100 hours of enriching material that has expanded my mind (and provided the inspirational impetus to write a book). And this arrangement only used time that I already had, but wasn’t using as creatively as possible until I tried to think outside the box.

What are your priorities? When are you going to cut the fluff, and do what will really bring you happiness? The moment you decide to, you are taking a grand step to becoming the master of your own fate.  

3.    How would my heroes respond?

Ever since my 8th grade history class with Mr. Fox, I decided that I loved history. The world would have us believe that the greatest people are a scarce resource. They are great only because they are lucky, gifted, or exceptionally blessed. You and I could never be like them. This, too, is part of the world’s Greatest Lie.

The greatest people from history are not great by accident. Greatness takes deliberate effort, and each one has a story to tell of how they became great. I have been fascinated learning how they got to be the way they were—how they progressed from shy schoolchildren to realizing their full potential.

It is my belief that you can’t help but be empowered to stand up and take charge of your life when you read their stories. Literally everything that could go wrong, goes wrong… and they make it right, or how what they wanted to do was impossible… and they did it anyway.

How can you be a victim when you know the stories from heroes like Mandela and Frankl? How can you be a victim when you know the story of Elias Feinzlberg, who survived the holocaust while remaining hopeful and positive—tricking the guards and making up games to play to take his mind off his starvation?  How can you be a victim when you know the story of Nujood Ali’s forced marriage to a man in his thirties, who abused her? When Nujood was just 10 years old, she hatched a plan to take a taxi away from her remote village to file a divorce at the city courthouse. How can you be a victim when you see what Brad Snyder, Jill Bolte Taylor, and Neil Pasricha chose to do in response to some of the most devastating tragedies that can befall a person?

I submit that you cannot be a victim, not if you truly catch the vision of what their lives mean. Note that I am not merely advocating that you simply learn about some people from history and be content with the increase in your accumulated facts about them. I am advocating that you adopt some heroes in your life—especially local heroes. Say to yourself, “I have a personal affinity to this person—it is my intention to live my life like them, and stand for what they stand for.” It will widen your perspective, and change your life. We tend to become like those we admire.

The Path to Freedom requires that you be deliberate about doing so.

4.    Am I taking the most helpful perspective?

The final thought I leave with you, in your quest to achieve your full potential in life, become more happy, and become the captain of your soul, is simply to be aware of your perspective. As we have gone over, there is a near-limitless amount of knowledge in the world in hundreds of different disciplines from Astronomy to Zoology.

That is a lot of untapped applicable knowledge. But it bears repeating: within the vastness of all that you don’t know, there is likely a lot that you can do if you did know—and a persistently wide gap between the two.  Realizing that makes you humble. Instead of throwing up your hand, concluding, “there is nothing to be done!” You realize there is very likely something that can be done. It makes you aware that there is another way to see things that you are currently blind to. It makes you open to reassessing even the most fundamental things you know and do. [18] This insight is the secret to innovation, and is often the only critical difference as to why some companies stay on top, while others stagnate.

That realization should drive you to seek to take as many perspectives as possible.

And when you don’t find a perspective that solves the problem, there is still something you can always do. And that is to see your situation from the perspective of thankfulness.

For instance, let’s say you hate your job. It really is mindless and unfulfilling. Imagine you are someone who has been out of work for a year and a half and is starting to lose their self-respect. How would you feel about your job then, if you were that person? Take it a step further. How would you feel about your job, compared to being one of the slaves that worked on the pyramids?

Realize your perspective. The most helpful perspective—after exhausting the perspectives that lead you to reasonable action—is one of gratitude. You tried. You gave it your all, and things didn’t turn out as you hoped. It happens to the best, even if you are on the Path to Freedom (that is why it is a path, not a destination). Situations are persistently far from the ideal. Not everyone can be the best.[19] But you can choose to view your situation with one of thanksgiving.

The human mind can only focus on so much at one moment. Instead of complaining, why not focus on something to be thankful for?[20] In the words of Melody Beattie:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

So here is to a different vision for tomorrow. One in which you renounce the universal lie of victimhood. One in which you choose to be the master of your destiny, the “captain of your soul.”

I promise you can reach entirely new levels of satisfaction in your life if you do so.

Committed to your success,

Kendel


[1] Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, HarperCollins: New York. 1998. From pages 21, 23, & 18, that order.


[2] It should be noted that not everyone really wants to achieve their full potential. It requires a lot, and the price often intimidates us. You can achieve whatever degree of fulfillment in life you set your mind to. If you decide to live with accepting less than your best, that is your choice. I wish you the best. You can still live a great life—though the baker was discontent, he wasn’t completely unhappy.


[3] Ibid, p. 23


[4] See “Placebos & Nocebos: How Your Brain Heals and Hurts You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtPe5lsoHXY


[5] A special note here: in your struggles, I hope you actively seek out the help of others. Too frequently we think we have to face things on our own. Often, it is accepting that we desperately need help, that we are the one that needs to be served for awhile, that offers a breakthrough or the strength to go on. No one should be alone, especially not in the trials that most affect us.


[6] Again, not everyone wants to be exceptional… but that result is largely if not solely their choice.


[7] In my opinion, the greatest triumph of human will is when we make that choice, when everything around us contradicts the reasonableness of that choice.


[8] Man’s Search for Meaning [1981], 74–75


[9] Within reason. As with everything, there are general principles and specific exceptions. Taking responsibility for something like being abused as a child would be a specific exception. In such cases, they would not responsible for what happened. They are only responsible for how they choose to react to it.


[10] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Chapter 3, p.29.


[11] This requires a bit more explanation to see why we are not victims of our feelings. For why I deem this particular worldview as incorrect, read chapter six of Crucial Conversations. Additionally, experts suggest that there is actually a lot we can do to affect the way we feel. See Noam Shpancer, Ph. D., “Action Creates Emotion,” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201010/action-creates-emotion These ideas can even arguably be extended to romantic feelings. See also Dr. Jeremy Nelson, “Is Your Personality Making You More or Less Physically Attractive?” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-attraction-doctor/201105/is-your-personality-making-you-more-or-less-physically-attractive


[12] Sometimes to an absurd length, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conformity


[13] For example, one could read this and think, “He is saying that, if you have problems, you are a horrible, worthless human being!” I am doing no such thing. Sometimes doing all you can to take responsibility for your life is saying, “I’m going to try again tomorrow.” Sometimes, that really is all we can do. I’ve been there.


[14] “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” –Thomas Edison


[15] Crucial Conversations again provides an excellent illustration. Before reading the book, all I had were weak notions of what makes communication successful. After reading it, I have an entire framework for what really happens during a conversation, including the 2 conditions every conversation must meet to feel safe, the top 3 distractions from productive dialogue (and 4 questions you can ask yourself to return to helpful conversation), 2 ways to prepare for any important conversation, and literally dozens of small skills to improve the way I communicate. Did I realize how much more there was to the way I was communicating with my boss after reading it? Heck yes! 


[16] For example, my decision to join a few clubs on www.meetup.com has led to more job and life opportunities than I can count!


[17] Mere Christianity, 117


[18] For example, I was working on one of my life goals and wasn’t making much progress until I learned that the ways I breathed and walked were incorrect! You can’t get much more fundamental than that!


[19] Though again, I maintain that everyone on earth can be exceptional.


[20] I realize that this could be misunderstood into accepting true injustices—but I am merely saying what % of our thoughts should be on—at the same time I say that our thoughts should be more grateful, I advocate that we establish action plans to tackle the things that really ought to be changed.

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