1.) He/She will call me back.
Let me save you the trouble of becoming that “Cat Lady” or the local hermit that just couldn’t take a hint. Allow me to assuage your anxiety concerning whether or not he/she really cares about you by condensing the single most significant (yet elusive) mystery concerning human socialization: if people want to be around you, they’ll make it happen. This is probably one of the most overlooked concepts of modern socialization, especially when considering the context of utter convenience that digital communication provides. No one—that is to say—not one single person in a developed country that you’ve met on some online dating site is SO busy that they don’t have time to send a quick text message saying, “sorry I’ve been so busy, I’ll get back to you soon”. The point is that silence (the absence of communication) is itself the message. It’s not the most mature means of telling someone that you’d rather not see them anymore, or that, perhaps, you only meant to borrow their genitals for one lonesome evening. But, it has become the “go to” tactic when trying to shake someone you’re generally not interested in keeping around. Don’t wait around for someone who’s obviously not interested in you. Delete their contact info and move on.
2.) If only I had more __(insert noun phrase here)__ I’d be happier.
Go ahead. Fill it in sparky. We’ve all got our wishes and they’ve all made it into this fantasy line at one point or another. Maybe it’s that you feel more money would make you happier, or more sleep, a hotter girlfriend, or better sex. The list goes on, but the truth remains that this line is most often the reflection of a desire for things that are not really necessities (hence the more). And yet, no matter what we choose to fill that blank with, in the very realization of that scenario, we find something else to want. This very phenomenon can be illustrated in how we feel after purchasing a new car, a new computer, or even new clothes; it’s all exciting at first—until it’s not anymore. The high derived from achieving an ideal level of comfort is often challenged by a mind that searches for something more to be uncomfortable about. If we get enough sleep, have the great salary, and drive the nice car, then we long for better relationships and a slimmer body. The desire never ends because the mind’s imagination is limitless; it will always find a source of discomfort which invokes a desire to remedy it. The trick, of course, is to turn the game on its head. We must force ourselves to look at the things we do have and find happiness in that good fortune which we currently enjoy. We must choose what fortunate aspects of life we wish to make our focus and stay fixated and grateful. We must continually wake up every morning and choose happiness, no matter how difficult.
3.) I should have known better
This is a tricky one. In the aftermath of unfortunate events, it’s very easy to imagine the things that we might have done to mitigate the destruction (or, perhaps avoid it altogether). Yet, truly, we make the best decisions we can with what information we have at the time of a particular event. By this rationale, we must concede to the fact that we cannot solve, or even predict, the unforeseen problems of the future while in the present. It’s just not logical. We all know the old saying: “hindsight is 20/20”. There’s a reason it’s a well known axiom. After any such event, it’s important that we keep perspective; we mustn’t allow ourselves to imagine that we had information about an unfortunate event before it actually happened. This realization becomes an integral part of the healing process, and eventually, moving on.
4.) Motivation must come first before I can take action.
Over the source of my professional career, and within my own personal experiences, this dilemma plays an exceedingly central role in the dogma of everyday life. Whether the focus at hand be exercise, career goals, or even personal passions (like me: sitting at this desk, typing these words for no one but myself essentially), people have become dedicated fans of the idea that motivation always comes first. The problem with this notion is that not only does it set people up for failure, it also creates a cycle that reinforces the idea.
[No Motivation—–>No action—–> Guilt and self-loathing over lack of action —–> Further Demotivation ]
But the effect is even more severe and subtle than the concrete flow chart above, which is rather concrete. In our modern culture of diagnoses, our society has become accustomed to naming what hinders us, and therefore, in doing so, absolve ourselves of any expectations that might leave it in our hands to take action first. You see, since medication and science have become our new “gods”, so to speak, the naming of evils confirmed by the scientific method have brought comfort to the masses—a comfort in knowing how things works. When behavioral psychology revealed the importance of motivation and rewards in relation to taking action, we accepted the notion that motivation always comes first. The implication became that, if motivation doesn’t exist, there is nothing to do. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s false.
Motivation can come as a result of action as well. In the case where motivation is lacking for some particular task, we must force ourselves to take action first. In this scenario, motivation will come second. The mere engagement in an activity can inspire us and motivate us to keep going, or even try something new. So, while it’s certainly true that motivation may come naturally and inexplicably, the opposite is also true—though it also happens to be much more difficult.
5.) I don’t need anyone; I can do it all on my own.
This particular trademark philosophy is known well in American culture. The respect and earnestness with which we regard the concept of the “lone wolf” approach is as timeless as hamburgers and hotdogs. Growing up in American culture, I can tell you firsthand how concepts of individuality are strongly emphasized. In fact, the culture is riddled with axioms about how self-reliance is best, and how looking to others or asking for help is not only shameful, but self-jeopardizing. From the “rags to riches” self-made man, to the super heroes that populate our literary culture, the protagonists did it all themselves. This emphasis on self reliance becomes so extreme at times that, many of the messages quite literally insist that you CAN’T rely on anyone but yourself; trust no one; and of course the ever famous: if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
But Americans are fooling themselves. They love to talk about how they’ve never had any help, when frankly, it simply just isn’t true. Everyone needs help at some time or another, even Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is like the epitome of American ruggedness, cleverness, and integrity in the face of danger and corruption as one man quests in pursuit of truth. But no matter how many times I’ve watched Indiana Jones, there’s always one point where he gets caught in a trap, or his hands are tied, and some side-kick or minor character saves him. If that little Chinese kid wasn’t there to drive the car, or if that cutie brunette wasn’t there to release him from the falling spike ceiling in the Temple of Doom, Indiana would have been dead, the bad guys would have won, and Harrison Ford would be out of a job. We all need help; but if we have too much pride or fear to ask for it when the time comes, we may end up suffering more than just a bruised ego.