You are being lied to.
We all have beliefs that hold us back and keep us from building truly remarkable lives. I call these limiting beliefs.
We pick up some limiting beliefs as children: I’m not a good reader, I’m not very smart, I don’t have a good memory, I’m not a good artist, I’m not pretty.
We pick up some limiting beliefs as adults: I don’t deserve to be loved, I could never quit this job and find something better, I can’t dance, I’m a fraud and it’s just a matter of time before my boss/co-workers/family/friends figure it out.
These beliefs are usually developed over time as we experience failures or emotional trauma. Often, we learn them from other people telling us who we are, and what we can and cannot do.
There are three especially destructive limiting beliefs I’ve noticed in just about every client I’ve coached over the last six years.
I call these the three big lies.
There are whole industries built around these lies and companies spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on commercials to convince us that these lies are true and that their products will help us cope.
Here are the three big lies that are keeping you stuck and the three big truths that can set you free.
Big Lie #1
You can (and should) do it all.
If your life doesn’t look perfect from the outside, you are failing.
You should be super productive at your job, working late and always available (checking email first thing in the morning and last thing before you go to sleep), striving for that next promotion, pushing for every opportunity to advance and to get more done.
You should be a superdad/supermom (taking your kids to all sorts of sports, lessons, and activities, coaching your kid’s teams, volunteering at their school, and buying them the newest toys and brand name clothes).
You should be devoted to your community (volunteering at church, giving time with your nonprofit of choice, saying yes anytime you are asked to give your time).
You should be better looking and more fit (even if it’s at the cost of your health).
You should be moving upward and onward, bigger house, nicer neighborhood, newer car, better vacations, more beautiful children …you should be chasing the American dream.
Except that you feel like crap. You’re stressed out all the time. You devote so much energy to chasing all of the things you should, that you aren’t actually present when you’re with the people you care about most. And because of the guilt you feel about all of this, you seek escape. You escape into alcohol, affairs, overeating, sports, politics, video games, pornography, drugs, celebrity gossip, television, anything to take your mind off of how far behind you are and how lost you feel.
Big Truth #1
You can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all, and that’s totally OK.
You have a limited number of hours each day, a limited amount of energy and a limited number of resources. You can’t get everything done, so stop beating yourself up about it and start making better decisions instead. Quit any obligations that aren’t serving you or your family. If it doesn’t help you get closer to the life you want to live, stop doing it.
Figure out what is most important to you, and run every decision through this filter. “Will this contribute towards the life I want?” If the answer is no, the answer is no.
Big Lie #2
Everybody else has their shit together.
This is the corollary to big lie #1. The lie is that everybody else’s life is great. They don’t have big problems with their marriage, their kids, their work, or their health. They don’t have the same fears and insecurities you do.
Everybody else has it figured out, so what the hell is wrong with you?
Big Truth #2
Everybody is screwed up in their own way.
I have had dozens of clients ask me, “Am I the only person with this problem?” or “None of your other clients has this fear do they?”
Everybody has these problems.
Everybody has this fear.
Nobody has their shit together as much as you think they do. So stop putting so much pressure on yourself to make it look perfect. There is no perfect.
Big Lie #3
Taking care of yourself first is selfish.
Your health and happiness don’t really matter. Your kids needs, they matter. Your spouse’s needs, they matter. Your friend’s, family’s, and coworkers’ needs, they matter.
First, take care of all the people around you. Then, if everybody is ok, then, you can take care of you.
And if you don’t ever get around to taking care of yourself, that’s fine too.
As long as you finish your to-do list, clean out your inbox, and make sure everybody around you has what they need, you are a good leader.
Big Truth #3
Taking care of yourself first is vital.
When you don’t take care of yourself, you are irritable, stressed out, distracted, and not much fun to be around.
Every time you help somebody else, you pour a little bit of water out of your bucket.
Unless you are regularly doing things that fill yourself back up, your bucket will be dry when you need it the most.
So what fills you back up? Exercise? Quiet time spent reading? Listening to live music? Meditation? Figure it out and make it a regular part of your routine.
The people who depend on you need the best version of you. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of the people you love and the people you lead.
So, stop making excuses and start taking care of yourself first.
Life is difficult enough all on its own. You don’t need the additional stress and anxiety created by the three big lies. So next time you catch yourself feeling the guilt that comes from believing the lies, stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the truth. It will set you free.