The aphorisms that cover the screens on Facebook and Google+ are what the people posting them consider to be important “information” they want to remind you of. Essentially they are saying, “Live this way and improve the quality of your life.”
But if you take a look at the aphorisms you like and respond to, the ones that you nod to and say: “Yeah, that makes perfect sense”—notice that the ones you like are the ones you either already agree with or that made immediate sense to you. So the aphorism is not necessarily telling you something new, something that you didn’t know, it is reminding you of something that you already knew and that made sense. Sometimes it is just stating what you already believed but in a more succinct form.
Here are just a few I copied from those two sites just now:
“Do more of what makes you happy. Do less of what makes you sad.”
“The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. The unhappy people are evaluating and judging others.”
“The biggest obstacle to change is the little voice that tells you it’s impossible.” (With thanks to Geneen Roth.)
“When life is hard don’t wish it were easier, decide to be stronger.”
“A year from now you’ll wish you started today.”
If you agree with aphorisms, why don’t you live consistently with them?
Unfortunately, most of the time a positive response to the aphorism is all that happens when we read it. In other words, we agree with the sentiment, but we don’t change our behavior to be consistent with the message if it hasn’t been already. And why don’t we take action when we agree that the message of the aphorism makes sense, when we agree that this is the way we should live our lives?
The answer is simple: Our behavior is a function of our beliefs, conditionings, and occurrings (the meaning we give moment-to-moment events). Behavior inconsistent with these three “barriers” in our lives is virtually impossible over the long run.
Do you think that statement is too extreme? Let’s take a look.
“Do more of what makes you happy.” If what makes you happy is spending more time with your family and you have the belief, What makes me good enough is being successful, you will tell yourself to leave the office and go home to your family, but this belief leads to an obsessive need to be successful, which will keep you in the office more times than not.
Also, if what makes you happy is doing something for yourself but you have the belief, I’m not important, or Putting your own needs first is selfish, you won’t do it.
Okay, just stop evaluating and judging
Let’s look at another aphorism: “The unhappy people are evaluating and judging others.” Do you agree with that statement? … Okay, so stop evaluating and judging others. You know that nothing good will come from your evaluations and judgments. You know in the long run that that behavior will only make you unhappy. So why don’t you just stop it? … Right now? … Not that easy, is it?
Our brains are wired to attach meaning to moment-to-moment events, meanings that seems like “the truth” to us. I call these meanings “occurrings,” because they are how the events occur to us.
For reasons I’ve explained in other blog posts, these meanings were meant to help insure our survival tens of thousands of years ago in our evolution. We unconsciously asked the question about whatever was going on around us: For our survival or against it. And, because assuming the worst (any event was potentially against our survival) helped to insure our survival when a split second’s delay in taking action could lead to our death (when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we were run essentially by our emotions and limbic system.)
Given that our brain is a meaning-making machine, with a bias toward negative meanings, assuming the worst about people is a protective mechanism. If we assume the worst about someone and operate as if that assumption is true, we are not surprised when someone does something negative: we always knew he was that type of person. If we assume the best, we could be surprised and hurt when they actually do something negative toward us.
One more thing. If you have a bunch of negative self-esteem beliefs and the belief, What makes me good enough is being better than others, putting others down is the best way to make yourself feel good about yourself.
Fear is probably the biggest obstacle
Let’s look at one final aphorism.
“The biggest obstacle to change is the little voice that tells you it’s impossible.”
After reading this many people might think: “That’s certainly true. I’ve really got to stop thinking that things are impossible. It frequently does keep me from taking action.”
I used to be one of those people.
Early in life I had been conditioned to experience fear when starting something new or doing something that involved a significant risk of failure. That fear usually stopped me shortly after I started something new. (Other people experience fear in these situations because of beliefs like Mistakes and failure are bad and If I make a mistake I’ll be rejected.) I had wanted to produce plays on Broadway and once I had even hired a writer (my first wife had been an actress and I loved the theatre). But when it came to raising the money for the production, my beliefs, especially I’ll never get what I want, stopped me. I lost count of the number of projects I started that were stopped by my beliefs.
Some years ago after I created the Lefkoe Stimulus Process and I deconditioned that conditioning, and I unlearned a number of beliefs, the fear stopped. I no longer experience fear when there is a chance of failure. In fact, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I love committing to do things I don’t know how to do, that I’ve never done before, and then figuring out how to achieve them. After a lifetime of struggle, I finally do live out of “anything is possible.”
Don’t allow yourself to be stopped
If you look carefully at any aphorism to which your response is: “Yeah, I agree with that; that makes perfect sense; I ought to do that (or stop doing that) more often”—ask yourself: Is the way I live my life consistent with the aphorism?
If it isn’t, remember that the only things keeping you from living consistently with the ideals expressed in the aphorisms you like are your beliefs, conditionings, and occurrings. Get rid of them (I’ve already told you how and it’s relatively easy) and notice the profound shift both in your behavior and feelings. It really is possible to live a life where you can say after reading aphorisms: That’s how I already live my life every day.
Thanks for reading my blog. Please share your thoughts about the possibility of living your life consistently with your favorite aphorisms.
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Copyright © 2015 Morty Lefkoe