When we want something big or exciting, we often hold ourselves back under the guise of “being realistic.” Often this approach has no basis in reality. Rather, it’s merely code for staying small. It’s a shame when we do this, because we forego opportunities to get to know ourselves, fully engage in our lives, and experience triumph. Tune in so this doesn’t happen to you!
Welcome to Rich & Thin™ Radio, the only podcast that helps you get more bank with less bulk. Today’s episode is for every listener who wants to achieve something big, but who’s holding back because maybe it’s not realistic. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth, and I’m thrilled you’re here because “being realistic” is a big impediment to wealth creation. Maybe the biggest one? I don’t know, but it’s pretty big, and it’s unfortunate because as entrepreneurs, we’re drawn to do big things. We get excited about them, we like seeing them in movies, reading about them in books, and we want to experience them in our own lives.
So when we get stuck, why does it happen? It’s often because we throw up our hands and say, “that’s not realistic.” But what I’ve learned in my practice is that “realistic” is code for many other maladies, so today let’s sort through a few of those.
“Realistic” has Many Cheerleaders
The first thing I’d like to say about being realistic is that it has a lot of popular support. When we talk about doing something difficult or exciting or that could really have an impact, but we eventually capitulate to being realistic, we should pay close attention to what happens around us. For the most part, everyone else will generally nod and say, “Yes, of course this makes perfect sense, because of course you want to be realistic, so good for you for recognizing that this is the way the world works so we can all go back to operating exactly the same way we have been.”
The basis of this cheerleading is that for the most part, none of us are actively managing our minds, and so we perceive that any time someone wants to make a change, that is risky. This is because as we evolved, doing things differently often did present risks. If we were safe and alive, whatever it was that we were doing we should keep doing, because anything else could plunge us into danger and darkness. In other words, our unsupervised brains really like it when we stay in the literal or figurative cave, because that’s where the safety is.
But we also enjoy the thrill of doing big things. The thrill of doing big things used to be foisted upon us. At some point, no matter how cozy the cave was, we had to go out and look for food and defend against the lions and tigers and bears, and those of us who were triumphant at this survived longer than those of us who didn’t, so the desire for the triumph of doing big things is also baked into our DNA. And unfortunately, in modern life, leaving the cave and going out to experience the thrill of doing big things is no longer necessary.
So what happens? Our unsupervised brains head for perceived safety every time. They resist change, and in doing so they deny us the thrill of doing big things. This is why, if we listen to conventional wisdom, if we accept the applause for doing nothing from all of our cheerleaders for being realistic, what will happen? We will just stay in the cave forever. This is a big reason that Netflix is so popular these days. Food is brought to our front doors, and our brains are occupied with other people’s big stories, and we never have to leave the cave and go do something big with our own lives. That’s where so many of us are living, so the question is why should we go do something big? And the answer is because that is where the real fun is. When someone is telling us to be realistic, or when we hear the words come out of our own mouths, often what’s happening is that our unsupervised brains have taken the boring way out.
Realistic is Code for “Bored and Frustrated”
Why is realistic the boring way? Because realistic means something that is practical and achievable. When we’re talking about a realistic goal, we’re talking about a goal that we know we can achieve.
And a question I’d like us all to consider about this is where is the fun in that? Everything that I know I can achieve seems pretty darn boring to me. I know I can floss my teeth tonight. That is totally within my capability. I know I can get up in the morning and make some eggs and watch some Netflix. I know I can pick up the phone and order something for dinner. The same thing happens with our projects at work or in our business. If it’s something we know how to do so well that we know for certain we can do it, that’s when it gets boring.
Why does this happen? Because there’s no growth in it. There’s no challenge in achieving it, and there is no transformation or triumph.
The big fun in life comes from the things we don’t know. This is a principle of story that is very illustrative for us. If we were watching a movie and we knew the character could achieve the goal, we would stop watching, because there’s absolutely no wonder in that. There’s no reason that our brains would get remotely interested in something we know our character can accomplish.
This happens off-screen, too. Picture the last time you felt the most alive. Maybe it was in the effervescent stage of a new romance, when you were totally smitten with the other person, but not at all certain that it was reciprocated. Maybe it was when you were first starting your business and wondering, how is this going to land with other people? In scenarios like these, how do we show up? We do everything we can to make things as wonderful as possible to increase the chances of a favorable outcome. During times of uncertainty, that is often when we are rising to the challenge, fully engaged, and performing at our best. It’s generally when we feel our best.
If we only give our brains goals that we know we can achieve, our brains get bored. They go on autopilot, and we feel frustrated and disengaged and lackluster. If we give our brains something to work on, something to think about that excites us, we feel fantastic in large part because our brains love puzzles.
So why do we shut our brains down? Why do we turn off our thoughts about our wonderful opportunities and confine our brains to thinking about the things we know we can achieve? One reason is because of our misconceptions about unpleasant emotion. And here’s another thing I’d like to offer you about being realistic. Often it is code for “I am afraid to feel unpleasant emotion.”
Realistic is code for “Fear of Unpleasant Emotion”
Most of us believe that events outside of us trigger unpleasant emotions inside of us. We also believe that this happens against our will. We tend to believe that unpleasant emotion is wholly outside our control, like someone sneezing in our proximity, and then we catch a virus.
Why do we believe this? Because we are indoctrinated in this misconception pretty much since the birth. When we’re children and we’re upset about other kids, our teachers and our parents ask us, “Did those kids hurt your feelings?” This carries over into adulthood. We say things like, “That imbecile at work is making me so mad” or “this traffic is stressing me out.”
But is that what’s really happening? Are the mean kids and the imbeciles and the traffic really causing us these negative emotions? The answer is no. Consider traffic. When my husband and I are riding around in a car together, he is often furious because the reason he moved to Coeur d Alene Idaho was to avoid any kind of traffic. I am in a fine mood, because I used to live in midtown Manhattan and I know what real traffic looks like.
So what’s going on here? The traffic isn’t the problem that is making my husband furious. He is furious because of the thoughts he is thinking about the traffic, whereas I’m in a fine mood because I’m thinking completely different thoughts about the traffic. He’s thinking this is horrible and it shouldn’t be happening, and I’m thinking, this is nothing and it could be a whole lot worse. The traffic is neutral, and it isn’t a problem until we think certain thoughts about it.
This is true every time we experience unpleasant emotion. Whatever is happening outside of us is the neutral circumstance. The unpleasant emotion doesn’t happen until we think unpleasant thoughts about the circumstance.
So how do these misconceptions about unpleasant emotions relate to the desire to “be realistic?” When we say that something is unrealistic, what we mean is that we think it’s unlikely to happen. And if we think that unpleasant emotions come from success not achieved and that seems too painful to bear we accept failure ahead of time, and we don’t even try. We resign ourselves to living in the ordinary and doing the safe things, the “realistic” things, that we know we can accomplish.
This resignation as a protective mechanism is a fiction, and it is among the most damaging lies that we tell ourselves. We think that resignation to the ordinary, failing in advance, is going to feel better than the disappointment or shame or frustration of trying but not succeeding, but we’re wrong. Giving up before we even get started is where the real pain is. It is the pain of a life unlived, and it is among our biggest death-bed regrets. We get to the end of our lives and with the clarity of hindsight, we can see that all that fear of negative emotion meant nothing, and what really happened is that we wasted our lives staying small.
This is so sad, because all of those negative emotions that we were trying to avoid are always optional. If you try to achieve a goal, if you go all-in, and it doesn’t come to fruition by a certain date, that doesn’t mean you failed. It’s never over as long as you’re still trying. Failure only happens if you quit. But even if you decide to quit, you decide that it’s time to try something new, viewing what didn’t work out as a failure and feeling disappointed, ashamed, and other unpleasant emotions is 100% optional to you.
All of this unpleasantness comes from our thoughts, not the thing that didn’t work out. If we think thoughts such as, “I wasted all this time and energy and now look, I have nothing. Now I will never succeed because I miss this opportunity. I blew it and now it’s over,” you will feel disappointed.
But even if you do feel disappointed, what do we know about emotions? They’re just vibrations that pass through our bodies. When you think a thought, you may feel an emotion such as disappointment that is going to last for 30 to 90 seconds. It’s not going to kill you.
But what does kill us, what makes us feel dead while we’re still running around on the planet, is sitting on the sidelines for our entire lives, wanting something more but never going after it because we’re trying to avoid 30 to 90 seconds of potential future unpleasantness that might never occur at the cost of decades of suffering because we feel stagnant and frustrated and mired down and completely unfulfilled.
Realistic is Code for “Comfortable”
Every time you hear the word realistic, whether it’s coming out of your mouth or someone else’s, swap out the word “comfortable.” Instead of, “I’m only being realistic,” let your brain hear what is really being said, which is, “I’m only being comfortable.”
And let that gel for a moment. “I’m only being comfortable” is a poor trade-off, because it assumes that discomfort is the only option if you’re going to move forward on trying to achieve your goal. Mostly when we’re talking discomfort, we are talking about the kind of discomfort that arises purely from our thoughts.
This is something we went over in episode five. Discomfort on the road to wealth is optional, because discomfort comes from our thoughts, and we are in control of our thoughts, so we are in control of the level of discomfort that we feel or don’t feel. And here is probably one of the most important things I can tell you: If we don’t pursue something that’s important to us because we fear discomfort, basically what we’re saying is, “I am willing to forgo my interests, the things that matter to me, the things I’m motivated to achieve, because I’m simply unwilling to manage my mind. I’m simply unwilling to look at the sentences that I’m writing in my brain and determine if new sentences would serve me better.”
This is the saddest double whammy that I think any of us can experience. Not only do we forgo all the fun and pleasure of pursuing the things that excite us, we do it at the expense of getting to know ourselves. When we work on managing our minds, when we look at what’s going on in our brains to determine if our thoughts, the sentences that are running our brains, are serving us or need some editing, essentially what we’re doing is becoming very acquainted with ourselves and learning about how we tick and learning how to improve our thinking and the way we feel about ourselves and our opportunities. This process is where we show ourselves that we have our own backs, we are looking out for our own best interests, and there is nothing that feels as fantastic as that.
What to do Instead
The willingness to do this, to connect with ourselves, to look at what we are thinking and whether it is serving us or not serving us, and to curate a wardrobe of thoughts that cloaks us in productive, pleasant emotions, is what transforms us from wannabes into rock stars, and it is available for any of us who want to choose it. In our episodes thus far, we’ve discussed some of the tools that can help you get to know yourself and your thoughts and shift your emotions in this way, and if you are able to use these tools on your own with rock-star results, I think that’s fantastic. But I will tell you this. Even avid listeners of the podcast, who have listened to every episode, and some of them multiple times, are experiencing big breakthroughs when we get on the phone and go through the concepts together. We all have difficulty being objective about ourselves and our own thoughts. We all get mired down in our own painful stories and oftentimes we can’t see anything else. If today’s topic is resonating with you, if you have the sense that you are holding back under the guise of being realistic and that is preventing you from doing your big things in the world, let me know if I can help.
As I said in the last episode, with summer coming on I am thinking about weight loss as an excellent place for listeners to begin doing this work. It doesn’t really matter where you start, you can learn to manage your mind in weight loss or business or any other area, and that will infuse all aspects of your life. But with summer coming on, weight loss is an excellent place to start. Who wouldn’t feel better with a leaner body during the warmer months? So especially if you are contemplating doing this work around weight loss right now, definitely get in touch with me because it really changes everything. Deprivation and over-desire turn into disinterest in overeating and a sense of confidence that you can do the things that you set out to do and create what you want to create. So definitely get in touch with me if you’d like to chat with me about this weight-loss program for entrepreneurs, or anything else for that matter. I’m here for you.
And with that I would like to say thank you so much for joining me today. I love having you with me on this journey and I look forward to connecting with you next week.