In today’s fast-paced and achievement-driven world, our concept of success is fed by external accomplishments and recognition.
Recently, I have been questioning this in myself, thinking about how I define success, and where I got those definitions. My current definitions of success are very different from how I thought of success in the past and they seem to challenge what I see in much of the world around me.
This led me to thinking about truth and perception. Which is true, how I defined success when I was 20, when I was 30, or now? If my own personal version of truth can change, there’s obviously not one singular truth, and yet we tend to live our lives as if there is.
What if we could shift this poignant aspect of our lives, how we view truth? I think this one tweak would heal so much suffering, both in ourselves and in the world. Byron Katie who created “the Work” transformed her own life and countless others by asking one very hard, and very simple question, “Is it True?”
Relative and Absolute Truths
We’re taught that there are two types of truths: absolute Truths (capital T, true for everyone all the time) and relative truths (truths specific to our experiences). Quantum physics is calling into question the concept of absolute Truths, and the mystics say that all Truths (capital T) end in paradox, so let’s leave Absolute Truths to the physicists and mystics!
Let’s play in the “Relative truths” playground of our own Personal Truths.
All day long we define ourselves and claim our ‘personal truths’ – “I don’t like coffee, I’m allergic to milk, I need a weighted blanket to sleep, I get a cold every September, I can’t charge that much, I have to do more to get noticed, etc.”
These are personal truths, relative to particular situations, yet things we tend to repeat until they own us. They are learned, or decided and become thoughts that run on autopilot in the back (and front) of our brains. In this way they run our lives and define who we are. They are the ‘’truth’ about us.
In actuality, they are just stories, they’re not a solid, factual ‘truth’ that lives outside of us. They are relative and can be changed.
Make Them Overt
In my 40’s I decided to consciously challenge my beliefs around success. I had to start by making those unconscious thoughts conscious. I had to find the stories that were running my life, the ‘success’ beliefs that rattled around in my brain, as of yet, still unexamined. Things like:
Success is hard work.
I have to earn my way to success.
Success is incremental.
Instant success is a lie.
As well as a few very specific stories around how much success I would allow myself, often referred to as the ‘glass ceiling’.
Do you agree with any of those? Disagree? Either way, it’s perfect. Let’s apply some logic. If you can agree or disagree, then the “truths” are relative, not absolute. They are relative to me, to you, to a situation. You might have different truths. All of that means I could change any one of those ‘truths’, or all of them.
Someone with different truths would live a very different life than I lived. They would be playing the game of life by a different set of rules. I saw this first hand when I started working with a business coach in Bali. In his world, money was easy to find. I use that word, find, very intentionally. He didn’t think about earning money, he found where money was (the people and businesses that had it) and directed it to where he wanted it to be. He was masterful.
It flipped my concept of earning money on its head. His process was not one I chose to emulate, and the lesson came with me: the story I tell myself defines the game I’m playing in life. If I change the story, I change the game, the rules, and the life I’m living, .
If I believe I have to earn money, earn success, then that will be true for me. The tighter I hold this truth, the more concrete I make the story in my mind (insisting that I really do have to earn it, everyone has to earn money, etc.) the harder it is to see any other options. My relative truth just became ‘true’ across the board so that is all I can see.
Holding Truth Lightly
Our senses pick up 11 billion bytes of information per second. Our conscious mind can only process 50 bytes per second. What determines which of those 11 billion bytes become the 50 bytes of conscious information? Our truths, our beliefs. The stories we tell ourselves.
When we look for proof of something, we find evidence to support it. The further we dig into a ‘truth’ the more invested we become in being ‘right’ about it. It seems ridiculous, why would we want to be ‘right’ about needing to earn money. Because we’ve invested 40 years in that truth and it’s too painful to let it go. It can be hard and painful, and that’s ok. It’s best to start small and learn how to hold truth lightly.
As we begin to uplevel our lives, we need to build some new skills. One of the most helpful is training our minds to hold things lightly. Physically when we grasp on too tightly we crush what we are holding while exhausting ourselves. If we let go completely, we have nothing. Our minds work the same way. We can train our minds to maintain a light hold just like we train our bodies. When we do this with our truths, holding them lightly instead of rigidly, they serve us instead of owning us. Holding truth lightly changes rigidity into flexibility which makes space for evolution.
Questions are the kindest AND fastest path.
Ask Different Questions
Our questions shape our experiences and direct our focus. The conscious mind is a seeking machine, when we ask it a question, it seeks the answer for us. Like a search engine, it sorts through the 11 billion bytes and picks out the 50 bytes that directly relate to our question. So shifting our questions shifts the focus of the search.
We unconsciously ask ourselves negative and limiting questions like, “why am I always late, why can’t I land more clients, why can’t I lose weight”. Our search engine is now filtering for all the reasons we’re not able to be on time, land clients or lose weight. Some of it’s responses might be helpful, and it’s really hard to find the gold nugget amongst the onslaught of negativity.
Questions like this tend to reinforce our belief that ‘our story’ is the truth.
“Why can’t I land more clients?” Because you don’t make enough calls, you’re not smart enough, you don’t actually like talking to people, you didn’t pay enough attention during that webinar, your website sucks, you don’t know enough people, you’re not good enough, you need testimonials, etc. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Shifting the question itself leads the brain to do a completely different search. How is it that I am so good at landing clients and how might I get even better? What is one thing I could do differently tomorrow to lead to more clients? You’ve just given the old, rigid story space to instead become powerful new possibilities and transformative insights.
When I was building my dance studio I worked with a business coach who said “everyone always asks ‘why me?’ when bad things happen like getting a flat tire. I decided to ask ‘why not me’ about good things like winning the lottery or landing the big account.” I took that and ran with it.
Changing the question changes the internal dialog. It focuses our brains on opportunities and solutions that align with where we want to go instead of relative truths stuck in a loop from our past.
Three simple steps that work – if you do the work.
Make them overt – what are the ‘truths’ that are running your life?. Hold them Lightly – entertain that maybe the things you’re telling yourself are not an ‘absolute truth’, what else could be true? Ask different questions – shift the answers you’re getting by changing the questions you ask yourself.
If you want to learn more about how to change the questions you’re asking yourself – download my completely free (no email address required) resource that will help you do just that!
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life. To learn more about how we can work together to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.