A lot of us are good at giving advice. We are good at communicating the wisdom our friends and loved ones need to hear for their situation. Wisdom is based on probability, and probability tells you what usually happens. Wisdom may have you finish high school, invest money for retirement before you turn 70, and act as a law-abiding citizen. But it cannot guarantee that you will be successful or live long. In fact, there are high school drop-outs who make it big, millions of people who never make it to the age of senior citizenship, and criminals who seem to be living a good life (at least for now). However, we all know that basing our life on unlikely possibilities isn’t the right course of action. That’s why wisdom is so crucial to living a good life. The fact that our advice to others is an appeal to probability is proof that we already know this to be true.
If you are anything like me, you often do not apply the same standard of wisdom to yourself. You think of your case as an exceptional case. You advise yourself differently than you would somebody else in the exact same situation. Today I want to debunk four beliefs, conscious or subconscious, that lead us to think of us ourselves as the exception rather than rule. These beliefs sabotage us in the long run because they keep us from heeding the voice of wisdom.
Belief #1: I am a god.
No, you probably don’t want anyone to worship you. But you do believe you are above the principles that govern human affairs. And there is only one category of being for which this is true, and it is the category of the divine. You think you can get away with lying, cheating, stealing, lusting, treating people poorly, and making unwise life decisions. Sure, others reap what they sow, but I’m essentially better than them so I don’t need to pay attention. The problem is you are not a god. And you will undoubtedly live the consequences of every decision you make.
Belief #2: I am a beast.
There is a second category to which wisdom does not apply, and that is the category of beast. While God is above the principles that govern human affairs, beasts are beneath them. Beasts have nothing to gain or lose from wisdom. The logic of instinct rules in its place. Good luck persuading a raccoon not to cross the street. Many hardened criminals embody this belief. At some point in their lives, they drew a distinction between them and the rest of mankind. In other words, they lost touch with their humanity. When this happens and wisdom is discarded, disastrous life outcomes for self and others are sure to follow. Reality is that you are not a beast. Wisdom has something to offer you, and to ignore it is to do so at your own peril.
Belief #3: I am too far gone.
A third self-sabotating belief is the belief that you are too far gone, that you are a lost cause. It’s not the belief that wisdom doesn’t apply to you, it’s the belief that wisdom has been disregarded for so long that no amount of wisdom can save you where you are. Maybe you’ve made bad decisions. Maybe you had a rough childhood. Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of separation from a loved one. I have news for you today: if you are reading this post, you haven’t reached the place of no return illustrated in the passage below. The fact of you being here is evidence that there is hope. Wisdom can and will supply the healing you need to move forward in life.
Because I [Wisdom] have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. . . [b]ecause they hated knowledge. . .Proverbs 4:24-29
Belief #4: Fatalism is the truth.
The fourth and final self-sabotaging belief is a kind of fatalism. Fatalism maintains that all life outcomes are pre-ordained. Mind-chemical processes beyond individual control dictate every action, and every reaction, in the world of human affairs. We may think we have control, but that belief is based on the illusion that we are in the driver’s seat of our minds. Fatalism holds that human beings cannot change their fate, and are destined to live it out, for better or worse. I’m here to tell you that fatalism is not the truth. It matters what you do. And the more wisdom you apply, the better your destiny will be.
I didn’t write this article from a place of inexperience or a lofty pedestal. I have struggled with every one of the aforementioned beliefs at different points in my life. And none of them moved me an inch closer to the place I want to be. Which, if any, of the four beliefs resonate with you?
For more on the life-changing power of belief, see my article Words Make Worlds (I Create as I Speak).