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BUILD ON ROCK NOT SAND

You’ve heard this expression before, I’m sure.  It’s an ancient lesson that’s been handed down over centuries in religious writings, popular literature, folk tales, songs and fairy stories.

The “build on rock not sand” theme repeats itself throughout literature simply because it’s so sensible and it has applied to every recorded generation, so far.  Human nature hasn’t changed much over the last few thousand years.  We seem to repeat the same, age-old mistakes.

At one end of the literary spectrum, we have the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter seven.  He told the parable of a man’s house battered by storms, flooding – you name it – to a large crowd at the end of the “Sermon on The Mount”.  The house stood firm because the man had built it on rock, not sand.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have “The Three Little Pigs”.  When that Big Bad Wolf is after you, you’d better have somewhere safe and solid to hang out.  There are lots of other famous renditions in between, but you get my drift …

Given that the lesson exhorts you to “build your life on solid, reliable beliefs”, how do you do that?  It’s quite amazing how many people blunder through life without really applying the lesson to their own lives, given that it’s so well known.

Living a fast-paced life in the modern world demands that you create your unshakeable, indestructible ‘safe place’.  Rather than bricks and mortar, of course, the safe place is your own healthy psyche that can withstand the battering that stress throws at you.  From what stuff is that invisible, intangible ‘safe place’ of yours made?  Do you have one, yet?

If not, you’re not alone.  Too many men in business are trying to be movers and shakers without having built their own ‘safe place’.  They’re suffering the consequences.  It’s not so much a lesson in morality:  it’s become more of a lesson in survival.

Male suicides have consistently accounted for three quarters of all suicides in the UK since the mid-1990s.  As the biggest killer of men under the age of fifty, it is a very real threat to every one of us.

Not one of us is immune from depression; having a strong inner core is your greatest defense.  Just as you wouldn’t launch a new business without a business plan, nor should you go through life without a ‘core belief’ – a clear knowledge of what you stand for, who you are and what truly matters to you.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN?

Really, what do you truly believe in? 

It’s an invasive question, which is why you don’t get asked it often enough.  When was the last time anyone asked you that?  More importantly, when was the last time you asked yourself that?

Another way of putting it is this:  what is your Life Principle? 

You already have one.  If you haven’t spent any time thinking about it and defining it in your adult life, you’re likely to be holding fast to one that you were taught as a child.  Here are a few popular ones that men hold today that they adopted subliminally as boys:

  •  “Only hard work leads to financial success”
  •  “One big failure will be your downfall”
  •  “Doing what you like to do best is a hobby, not a career”
  • “It’s not what you do, it’s who you know” (this one applies to all of your relationships – at home, at work and with friends.)
  • “Wealth is true power”
  • “A university degree will put you in the top 10% of all earners”
  • “Winning isn’t everything but losing isn’t anything”

Sound familiar?  Our loved ones who imparted these nuggets are now at least a generation out of date.  If you’re in business today, you’re bound to be mixing with people who rid themselves of these unhealthy beliefs some time ago.  It’s time to develop a stronger belief system and to rethink your Life Principle.

Here’s how to make a start:

  • Keep a journal – every morning over the next month, write down before you leave your bedroom how you’re feeling, what’s on your mind, how you want the day to work out for you.  Later on in the month you’ll look back on these writings and see how your belief system is strengthening.
  • Catch your negative thoughts and rephrase/reframe them.  Telling yourself, “I really screwed up there!” when you arrive five minutes late to a meeting or drop a phone call can be turned into a positive lesson.  Forgive yourself, move on.
  • Start exploring … meet new people, go to new places, try new things.  When was the last time you went sailing?  Went to a live concert?  The people you meet when you’re doing something that excites you will excite you, too.  These are the people whose beliefs you should get to know.  You might not share them all, but it’s an opening of a window to a new world.
  • Put a question out there … your spiritual life is the most important of all.   If you belief in a deity then privately, over time, tell him/her how you feel, where you’ve been, what you’ve done and what’s happening in your life right now.  Restart the conversation between just the two of you.

When you’ve done that, you’ll be feeling and living differently.  Now it’s time to take it to the next level:

  • Talk about your new beliefs with your closest family and friends.  If you’ve gone through a real change, give them time to accept it.  This is a change that’s affecting your behavior fundamentally and for good, remember – they’ve never seen this fortitude in you before.  Be gentle.
  • Keep up your journaling.  This is the easiest way to keep track of what’s going on.  Remember, your actions reflect what you believe, so by reading through what you are doing and how your actions are changing over time will be testimony in itself to how your Life Principle is evolving.
  •  Know that you’re bound to change.  Any core belief that’s worth its salt will change the way you behave.  As long as this is authentically you, your actions are changing for the better and for all.  Within a short while, you will start to feel an increase in self-esteem and confidence.

FACING DIFFICULT CHOICES

There’s a difference between ‘choice’ and ‘dilemma’.  A ‘choice’ is a selection of options that you can take in order to move forwards positively.  A ‘dilemma’ is what you face when you have just two options before you and neither of them is going to be fun.  It has its origins in Greek, and literally means “double proposition”.

Sometimes the very thought of one of those ‘dilemma’ options is so bleak that our conscious mind blots it out entirely.  Can you remember saying, “I have no option …”?  The truth is, you do.  You always have an option.  You just don’t want to even look at that one as it’s so bad.

Often, we get stressed wondering which ‘choice’ to make and speak of it as a ‘dilemma’.  Is it really a ‘dilemma’, though?  If not, then are you attributing too much fear to something that is actually an opportunity.  If you have more than two options on the table, you have a number of paths to take towards potential growth.

Whether you’re facing a tough choice or a dilemma, you can beat the stress you’re feeling by simply talking it through with somebody else.  This could be your partner, a mentor or a friend.  One of the things that your parents might have taught you that you should hang on to rather than chuck out is this:  that “A problem shared is a problem halved.”  Talk about a stressbusting tip!  Maybe not everything they talked about was rubbish after all …

COMMITMENT IS THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL CHOICE

Once you’ve made your choice, you need to commit to it.  Before you say, “Rob, tell me something I don’t know!”, perhaps there is something about commitment that you don’t know yet.  I think it’s the key to making a successful choice.  It is this:

Commitment is a decision, not a feeling. 

When you’re faced with three or more options to make a choice about something important, it’s tempting to choose based on how you feel about it at the time.  By doing this, you open yourself up to the risk of changing your mind a bit later when you don’t feel quite the same way.

That’s fine if you have lots of money in the bank to risk, loads of time on your hands to play with and the endless patience of your loved ones to put up with your oscillations and general mucking about with their emotions.  For those of us in the real world, though, wasting all of those resources is bound to lead to stress, anxiety and possibly depression.

No.  When you make your choice, commit to it.  Commitment is a decision … and although it’s not like me at all to wow you with my knowledge of the classics, the word “decision” has its root in the Latin verb ‘decire’, which means ‘to cut off’.

When you make a decision, as the Ancient Romans would have it, you quite literally cut yourself off from any other eventuality.  They might not be around now to back this up (perhaps they listened too much to their parents), but they had several good ideas that we still live by – and this is one of them.

Keep a journal and write in it why you are making your choice.  List the reasons why you are committing to it by cutting yourself off from any other course of action.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS FIRST

Whatever you decide your Life Principle should be, make sure that your family and friends enter the mix.  They’re in your life already, so somewhere along the line you decided and committed to the fact that you want and need them with you on your journey.

There will be times when your feelings will challenge your choices, irrespective of the decisions you make.  That’s human – perfectly natural.  Your first and strongest fallback here is your commitment to the choice you made.  Revisit your journal to remind yourself as to why you made your choice in the first place.  This will help you to stall yourself from making any alterations to your plan which is, after all, affecting other people in your life.

When those hard times hit, stay put if you can.  If you are in a tough place, you need your loved ones around you.  You might be arguing with everyone for the moment but as one counsellor puts it, “Don’t rattle all of your tentpoles at the same time!”.  You need your people around you.  Don’t make any sweeping decisions that concern your relationships with them while you’re feeling down.

If you need to talk to somebody outside of your immediate circle of family and friends, then talk to a professional counsellor.  Talking helps enormously.  It’s not the easiest thing for men to do but it’s a wonderful relief when you try it.

There’s one popular thing that our parents used to tell us that really is true:  “Time heals”.  It does – but so much more effectively when you use it to reach out and express yourself to someone who is there to listen.  The people in your life who love you are.  There are others who are trained to listen who can offer you help, support and liberating guidance, too.  Don’t waste enough time to allow depression to sneak in and debilitate you.

If you need to speak to somebody outside of your circle now, then click here to contact “Men’s Health Forum”.

 

 

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