I was asked this question recently;
How do you trust people fully and how can you tell ‘that someone special’ is telling you the truth when you live miles away from each other and people in day to day life are not taking you for a ride?
The blunt truth is that you can’t. It is very rare for someone to live in our world and not be cheated on or taken advantage of.
In a perfect world, everyone would feel their needs sufficiently met that they would not seek to gain advantage at the expense of others.
However, the reality of life is such that, there are many, many people who cannot even trust themselves let alone others. And then there are some people who for one reason or another just can’t help but cheat, manipulate and connive. In the course of your life you will come across many people like this. But they don’t come with Cheat, Liar or Swindler branded into them, so what do you do?
To Live Or Not To Live? That Is The Question.
You can do what some people do, which is to become ever vigilent to ensure that they are never treated like a Sucker.
The problem with this is that they become so closed off to everyone, that they never really live. They are so suspicious that they lose the opportunities that would help them to achieve their dreams. To get the things you really want in life;
and so on, you have to take risks. Failing to take those risks protects you from the sting of failure, humiliation and embarassment, but it also prevents you from sowing the seeds of growth and progress and thus from reaping the harvest.
There is an interesting parallel that can demonstrate your options open to you in the financial investment community. In life we have a certain amount of time to invest. Financial investors have money to invest.
We can spend it in an enormous variety of ways that will produce a huge variation in returns. We can invest our time in worrying, which will bring us a return of anxiety. We can spend it on hedonistic pleasures which will bring us an immediate hit of short lived pleasure, but possibly bigger problems later. We can invest it in projects that will bring us a return of more time later.
In the financial world there are individuals and institutions that have lots of money. Now one of the problems of having lots of money is that you have the worry of losing it. Leave it lying around your house and thieves will steal it. Leave it in a bank and you have the worry of the bank going under with it. Invest it in shares or bonds and there is the potential risk of losing it all.
photo credit: kevinzhengli
Traditionally the safest bet has been to place your money in a bank. However it’s also the lowest return. Stocks and shares can be hugely rewarding and can multiply the value of your investment. Or they can lose everything. However, what many Investors have found, is that if you invest in many high risk/return projects the huge returns more than pay for your losses.
I’m far from an expert on finance, but I believe the current and previous boom and recession were exacerbated by an abuse of this insight. In the 80’s Michael Milken recognised that high yield (more commonly known as junk) bonds brought such a huge return when they paid off that the losses of the failures were a relatively small price to pay. Of ten investments, maybe five or even six will fail, but the four that succeed bring so much money in, that you still get more money overall. His theory paid off hugely. More recently the Sub-prime mortgage loans is built along the same lines.
The problem with these was not the basic formula, but the exact opposite. They worked too well.
You see, there is an inherent problem with success. Once something like this works, everyone jumps in believing it’s a sure thing. And as so much money flowed in to be invested, the net had to be spread to more speculative investments. And so eventually money gets thrown into projects that never had a hope of working. Then it all collapses, until it starts again, riding the wave of the next big promise.
Of course, another option is to place your money in a managed fund and have an Expert manage your risk for you. The trouble is that you are then placing your investment in someone else’s judgement, who will never care as much for it as you will. Also they are stuck between wanting a good return, yet petrified of losing the lot. I once read somewhere that research had found that randomly picking an investment by sticking a pin on a stock had equalled the return from a managed fund.
Emotional Health Is The Critical Factor In Life
The best Investors have always been those that have invested in what they knew. Andrew Carnegie was once asked whether he recommended diversification. He advised to ‘put all your eggs in one basket – and then watch the basket.’ Warren Buffet has become a legendary Investor because he has a refined ability to identify what will make money in the future and trust his judgement regardless of all the noise about him.
So, having digressed, what is the lesson we can learn from this?
The quality of your life depends on your emotional experience of life. It doesn’t matter what we do, if we do it with a negative attitude and emotional state. I’m sure you’ve noticed people who are on the most luxurious cruises, in the most beautiful of physical surroundings, have everything people dream of, yet still moan and are unable to enjoy the experience.
The physical world that we see about us and our capability to interact with it successfully is determined by our emotional state.
Look at Dieter’s as an example. When they try to diet without being emotionally ready, they struggle enormously. If they do succeed, it is with great exertion of willpower. And this is so exhausting to maintain that it can only last for so long before the Individual will relapse.
photo credit: sansreproache
But someone who achieves the emotional readiness to change their eating habits can watch the pounds fall off without even seeming to try. That’s because they don’t need food for comfort. And they aren’t struggling to fight against their emotional reality.
It’s the same thing for someone who want’s to be more organised. No system will work, or not without an exhausting level of discipline, until they are emotionally ready to embrace it.
And of course it’s the same for anything. Changing the nature of a relationship. Being more tolerant, patient or less angry. Whatever you want to do, you have to be ready for emotionally first or all the effort in the world will burn you out.
In essence, what I’m saying is that the only thing that really matters in our life, is our emotional experience. It’s the determining factor of how you will judge the quality of your life. The physical world of actions and reactions that we see about us happens first in the emotional world. So therefore make your priority your emotional health.
This is a fundamental shift from the default view of life which is about accumulating assets.
The Flawed Dream
The typical vision of a happy and successful life goes something like this;
You’ll work hard, develop certain skills and succeed in a career. This brings you financial success and security. You can then buy your ideal home, nice cars and have enjoyable hobbies and holidays without worrying. Alongside this you’ll search through the haystack of people to find the ideal one for you and so meet Miss or Mr Right. You’ll fall in love, want to spend the rest of your life together and extend your love into a family. These will grow up, follow the same path as you and produce Grandchildren. And you’ll all live happily ever after.
This vision is essentially based on the idea that you invest in assets that accumulate in value. So you invest in developing skills that bring a return in financial success. We then have the asset of money that brings us freedom from worry. We invest in a relationship, so that we have that asset which we can love, will love us, produce children that will love us, and care for us if we are sick.
But it’s a flawed vision. Because it’s based on a world that doesn’t change. You can develop skills that will be obsolete tomorrow. People change. The one who loved you yesterday, may no longer love you tomorrow for reasons that have nothing to do with you.
It is natural for people to want Friends to enjoy times with. But at the root of many friendships is a reciprocal idea of ‘being there’ if the other needs them. A support network has become one of those buzz phrases that people and especially Psychologist’s talk about. Every time I hear the phrase, something deep inside me just wants to scream ‘No’ at the idea.
Because the whole notion is based on you not being strong or resourceful enough to deal with stuff on your own. It looks at the world as being a hard, cruel place that will batter your dreams and beat you down. And so you need other people to emotionally prop you up. But what often happens is that as these Friends console you and agree how unfair things are, they do make you feel better.
What they have done though is essentially told you that you don’t need to change and instead created the idea that other people, situations and ultimately the world is to blame. So you go on without learning from your experience, just a little more cynical, world weary and insecure.
I accept that I’m a little weird, but I have never, ever needed anyone else to resolve a problem. And I think that is mainly due to my having almost no fixed beliefs. When things haven’t worked out I recognised that there was something flawed about either what I was aiming for or the way I was going about achieving it. And so I took the knocks as a guidance to course correct.
The Only Guidance You Will Ever Need
Life is brutally honest. If you’re living with flawed notions it will expose them. And if you hold onto those notions dearly, it will crush you. But if you hold onto nothing, you can ride the wave.
Furthermore, we don’t worry because of situations. We worry because of emotional insecurity. So removing the situation that we might have worried about, just changes what we worry about.
I suggest that since it is your emotional experience of life that matters more than the physical experience, you should invest in emotional assets, rather than physical assets.
Let every experience, every interaction create a database of memories and a rich depth of emotional tapestry that build your life into something more than it was before. Let Life guide you to emotional security. A place where you need nothing from anyone, yet you can come together with others to enhance the good times.
photo credit: pardeshi
In this light, if you find that someone has cheated on you, or taken advantage of you, then it is probably the end of your relationship with that person. But the asset was not the person or the relationship, but the emotional experiences and the insights that gave you to better control the way you feel and so your experience of life. And you still have them. Indeed this experience is just another one of them.
The basis of all our relationships should be to enhance each other’s lives.
My wife and I are almost complete opposites. My temperament is very stable, whereas she has a much wider emotional range. Over time, having been through the ‘let’s fix these emotional dips’ I realised that it was none of my business and let them run their course. But what I noticed was that it was as if we became more distant in those times.
After observing this I thought about it and realised that I only wanted to interact with my wife, or anyone else for that matter, when they were happy and fun or those that really want to reach that emotional state and I can in some way help.
My Philosophy On Relationships
If you are happy, in a positive emotional state and looking to have fun, then it’s time to meet and interact with others.
If you are hurt and unhappy, then your interactions aren’t going to be as enjoyable for either side. It’s when people are unhappy that they lash out or get involved in petty disputes. Think about it, when have you ever been happy and wanted to hurt another in any way?
Yet, I’ll bet there have been many times when you have been hurt by another that your thoughts turned to revenge?
Relationship problems are really about people interacting whilst they are personally unhappy. And so their personal issue becomes also a relationship issue.
If you feel negative emotionally, it’s time for some serious introspection and to work out where and what the problem is and how you are going to fix it. Personally I need to do this alone. Of course, I understand that some people do need to talk in order to work out their thoughts and feelings. But do this where the people you are interacting with enjoy the process.
You see, the fact that you’re reading this, means that you are pro-actively building a stronger emotional base. You’ve come to a place where everyone is focused on understanding what it takes to live a happier and less stressful life. Personally, I love interacting with people who are unhappy, but genuinely seeking happiness. Because I need more situations than my own life brings to understand life at a deeper level. So here and places that are focused on solutions, there is less personal investment and so no-one feels burdened with responsibility.
But what often happens is that people want to emotionally unburden to avoid the responsibility for resolving it. And so they will share problems with people who really don’t want to deal with them, but feel they have to because they care for the person and they take it at a more personal level. It ends up worrying them and emotionally drains them. So now you have two emotionally low people. It’s not the most promising ingredients for a positive solution.
Enjoy people, but never need them or anything from them.