“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.”
― Barbara De Angelis
“Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
When I was a young man, I was at a party for a relative who had saved a special piece of cake for some occasion or another. It was amazing cake, and the more I thought about it sitting there, the more I desired it.
Finally, I went in, devouring that cake in a matter of seconds as I ate fast and furiously to avoid detection..
Later the grownups got wind of this and rounded up all of the usual suspects. As I wiped the chocolate off of my face, my turn in the interrogation line arrived. With bits of cake still all over my cheeks, it was gut check time.
"So Joe, it’s a simple question. Did you take the cake?”
I thought long and hard before answering.
“The truth is, I can’t lie about it anymore. I saw my little brother Jim snooping around the fridge a few minutes ago.”
We have a pretty good idea about why kids lie. To avoid consequences. To avoid disapproval from adults. For kids, this is somewhat understandable, as they haven’t yet learned to stop digging when they find themselves at the bottom of a well. More lies lead to more trouble and even worse consequences. Most kids eventually figure this out. Most kids.
But another kind of lie develops as we get older, as we stop lying as much to others, and start lying a lot more to ourselves. Here are some common ones.
“It’s too late for me. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
“I’ll never meet anyone else. I’m too old. Why even try?”
“Why bother getting in shape? I’ve done too much damage to my health already.”
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking, wow, do people really say those kinds of things to themselves? It’s so defeatist.
Lots of people tell themselves these kinds of stories.
Even doctors, lawyers, and psychologists.
And me. Yes, I’ve told myself every one of those things at one time or another.
The psychologist Alfred Adler called these stories, "life lies.” Stories of self-deception we engage in to justify our bad choices and avoid responsibility.
Paulo Cohello said it like this, “What's the world's greatest lie? It's this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.”
Some of this is summed up by something called the “end of history illusion." For reference sake, here is a short video explaining what that is. Essentially it refers to the idea that wherever we are now is the “finished” part of our personal history.
So knowing our personal history is a work in flux, it’s also good to think about our future selves, and how they’re going to enjoy living with the consequences of our current choices. When I order pizza, skip the gym, and spend money buying things online when I get home, my “present” guy is pretty content.
But somewhere out there is a future version of me that I think is gonna be a little pissed off he didn’t pay a little more attention to his health and save a few more bucks when he was younger.
The end of history illusion is an important thing to think about every day. With this in mind, I decided to engage in a Self-authoring suite created by Jordan Peterson, that asks the following kinds of questions,
Imagine your ideal future:
Who do you want to be?
What do you want to do?
Where do you want to end up?
Why do you want these things?
How do you plan to achieve your goals?
When will you put your plans into action?
Write about the ideal future that you have just imagined for 15 minutes. Write continuously and try not to stop while you are writing. Don't worry about spelling or grammar. You will have an opportunity to fix your mistakes later.
Dream while you write, and don't stop. Write at least until the 15 minutes have passed. Be ambitious. Imagine a life that you would regard as honourable, exciting, productive, creative and decent.
Remember, you are writing only for yourself. Choose goals that you want to pursue for your own private reasons, not because someone else thinks that those goals are important. You don't want to live someone else's life. Include your deepest thoughts and feelings about all your personal goals.
And honestly, there is nothing earth-shattering about this approach. Lots of people have created similar programs, so pick the one you like. The key is, YOU are authoring this story, not fate, not your past, not your parents. YOU.
But I can say that for me, writing it down was important. It became clear to me that a lot of what I do to get through the day (i.e. order pizza, turn on Netflix) is not in the service of my future goals.
But I’m learning that there’s always time to change the story.
Now go forth and prosper!