December 27, 2014

Enlightenment Made Simple (Part Four): Accept No Substitutes

rhodes“Something else is possible” is the simple, powerful, and essential belief that gets us into the enlightenment game. With it, we can move toward peace, freedom, autonomy, meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose… whatever makes up our version of enlightenment. Without it, we won’t get started, and won’t continue if we do.

Holding that belief isn’t easy, because ego doesn’t believe it, and as long as it’s in charge, we’re not going anywhere. That’s why ego has to go, like we saw last time. That’s simply said, not easy to do.

Our brains support our egos by creating and maintaining a “road most traveled” of neural pathways for our habitual thoughts and actions to run on. It’s a very neat and tidy and efficient system, until one day we come stomping in with our muddy boots on its newly-waxed floor and announce we just saw the light.

What happens next isn’t going to go well.

Ego trots out The List of All the Irrefutable Reasons why we can’t, don’t, and won’t get what we want. I’ve been asking for that list in workshops for the past four years, and it’s always the same. You can recite it with me: not enough money, it’s a bad time, I’m too young, too old, my firm/boss/spouse isn’t going to like it, etc., etc.

The. Same. List. Always. Everywhere. Every crowd. Every time. It’s ego-generated, and it’s a stopper. No matter how pumped we are about making change, once ego weighs in, the game is over.

Each of us thinks our list is personal. It’s not. The reasons are universal. Think about it, if it’s always the same list, then how could change ever be possible for anyone? It’s an obvious question, but we don’t ask it. We give up instead.

It’s not that we’re wimps, it’s just that reasons always win, and no wonder: they’re backed by fear. Fear of what others will think. Fear of failure. Fear period. We sense that, and we back off, rationalizing why it’s a good thing if they win the argument, forgetting that it’s ultimately an argument against ourselves.

Rationalizing is ego foisting cheap substitute goods on us. We accept them not because we want to, but because we believe we can’t have the real thing. Rationalizing tries to make a bad thing sound good. Consolation prizes are the most misnamed trophies in the world. They mean well, but they don’t help. There’s no consolation in them; not to our hearts, anyway. Maybe they placate ego, but we still feel lousy. We were in it to win, but we lost, and we’re hurting. Where’s the consolation in that?

No dream of what our lives could be at their highest and best should have to suffer that kind of indignity.

Ego is not an original thinker. Substitutes are all it has to offer. If you want enlightenment, then get it. Period. Adopt and enforce an Accept No Substitutes policy. Hold out for the good turtle soup, and forget the mock.

Just know that working with the recipe is going to require some tinkering. We’ll talk about that next time.

Kevin Rhodes has been a lawyer for nearly 30 years, in firms large and small, and in solo practice. He has also been in and out of the practice more times than anyone can count, and his reflections on that topic will appear in an upcoming article in The Colorado Lawyer. He also plans to publish a book on that topic later this year. He’s a certified mentor with the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program, offers career and performance coaching, and leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including University of Denver Law School, the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section, and the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at kevin@rhodeslaw.com.

Trackbacks

  1. […] gave me lemons, reaching for the consolation-less consolation prize I warned you not to accept in a post not long ago? And what’s the difference between conceding defeat/failure and the practice of pivoting I’ve […]

  2. […] gave me lemons, reaching for the consolation-less consolation prize I warned you not to accept in a post not long ago? And what’s the difference between conceding defeat/failure and the practice of pivoting I’ve […]

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