The greatest danger in life, love, and work is pretending not to know what you know.
That’s right. The greatest danger in life, love, and work is pretending not to know what you know. Unfortunately, too many people “play pretend” and keep on “playing pretend” even if it kills them.
1. The Pervasiveness of Pretending
Just look at what has happened and is happening in life. Not too long ago, too many people “pretended” that unethical corporate accounting and unsecured home loans were okay but eventually it devastated the savings of millions of people. Too many people “pretended” New Orleans would never flood, when everyone knew that someday it would. And too many people “pretend” that televised sex and violence — aimed at kids — won’t make any difference — when everyone can see that it does.
Then take a look at all the “pretending” going on in love and you’ll understand why so many relationships are in crisis. Too many people “pretend” everything is okay in their main relationship even though they seldom have time to talk deeply, share a meal, or even be intimate with one another. Too many people “pretend” that a small amount of quality time is just as good as a quantity of time together even though every research study indicates that’s a myth.
And then look at all the “pretending” going on at work. Too many managers “pretend” they can run a productive operation … even though they never had or never seek … training in the people skills they so desperately need. They fail to see the truth … that employees leave managers, not jobs. And too many employees “pretend” they can find happiness in their jobs, even though they hate their jobs, if they can just make a little more money.
If you’re ever going to be truly happy and really successful, you’ve got to stop “pretending” or stop lying to yourself. You’ve got to stop playing the role of the Bedouin shepherd.
As the Bedouin shepherd sat in his tent, he lit a candle, bit into a date but found a worm inside. So he put down that date, picked up another one, only to find another worm. Again he put that one aside. When he bit into a third date, he saw yet another worm. So he blew out the candle and ate the dates.
To stop all the “pretending” in your present life and in all your future days, it starts with discovering your purpose and then aligning every part of your life with that purpose. When you know what you stand for, you won’t fall for just anything that crosses your path.
2. What You Lose Without A Purpose
Still, I would guess some of you are skeptics. You may be thinking, “What’s the big deal about purpose? It sounds rather esoteric or academic to me.”
Well, let me tell you, you’ve got a lot to lose if you don’t have a clearly defined purpose. To be specific, you’re going to lose three things.
First, you’re going to lose time. In other words, you may be wasting your time on the wrong things. And notice my emphasis on the word “things.” A healthy, inspiring purpose is seldom connected to the pursuit of things, fame, or fortune.
Take it from Jim Carrey, the movie star. He says, “I believe everyone should become rich and successful so they can see that is not the answer.”
The same goes for almost any spiritual philosophy you want to consult. You’ll find them saying that real happiness comes from purpose. It doesn’t come with things and it doesn’t come with mere accomplishments.
If that sounds like you, then you need to take the time to define what’s really, really important. As psychologist Dr. Terry Paulson puts it, “It’s all too easy to climb the ladder of ‘success’ to a destination that isn’t worth reaching!”
Second, you’re going to lose your emotional health. Back in 1952, Stanford University found that 80% of the students knew why they were there. They knew what they wanted out of life and they had a clear purpose for their lives. However, by 1982, fewer than 20% of the students knew why they were in college and had no idea what difference they wanted to make in the world.
Stanford concluded that the loss of purpose in students contributed to a huge rise in the student suicide rate. Without a clear purpose in mind, life lost a lot of its meaning.
Third, you’re going to lose your control. In others words, without a clearly defined purpose to guide you, your life will be controlled by your pressures instead of your priorities. You’ll be living your life by default. You’ll be living by accident instead of by design. And as you may know … or as you had better learn very quickly … if you don’t have a plan for your life, love, and work, you’ll end up living somebody else’s plan.
3. What You Gain With A Clearly-Defined Purpose
There’s some good news, however. Very good news. When you fully grasp and actually apply the insights and skills in “The Payoff Principle,” you’ve got a lot to gain. In fact, once you get your purpose clearly defined, you can expect three major benefits.
First, you will be physically healthier. A 2005 study of 12,000 middle-aged Hungarians found that those who felt their lives had meaning had much lower rates of cancer and heart disease than those that didn’t feel this way. Another study by Dan Buettner looked at the world’s longest living people. He says that having a purpose or “having a reason to get out of bed” was a common trait among those people who lived past the age of 100.
Second, you will have tremendous staying power. Holocaust survivor Dr. Vicktor Frankl wrote about that. After experiencing and surviving the horror of Auschwitz, and after watching thousands of others who made and did not make it through alive, Dr. Frankl found that the ones who made it through those circumstances had a purpose. They had a purpose that said, “I will do whatever it takes to get out of this place, to find my wife, to find my kids, to reunite my family.” It was the power of purpose that got them through the crisis. In other words, if you know what’s really important, you can make it through almost anything. Purpose gives you staying power.
Third, you will have an overall feeling of deep satisfaction. In my research, I’ve asked thousands of people what they want out of life. And generally speaking, most people say pretty much the same thing. They say, “I just want to be happy.”
Well that’s fine and dandy, but what do they really mean when they say they “just want to be happy?” Typically, it comes down to a deep feeling of satisfaction … that their life is working … and working well in all the various dimensions of life. In other words, their life is purpose-driven and on track.
I don’t know where you are in your life right now, but chances are you’ve got a few … if not quite a few … areas in your life where you need to stop pretending … and where you need to stop lying to yourself. It’s time for you to get brave enough to create your best future ever.