QUESTION: I have been reading your column, and finally decided to write and ask you a tough question. Are there any secrets about life that you have learned in counseling others that many never seem to learn?
ANSWER: You are right. That is a tough question. But, here are three secrets, the answers to which seem to elude many.
1. INSECURITY: This may be a shock to you, but all people feel insecure. Growing up, I had this image that on the other side of the hill were all these “normal” people, and that when I went through that magic door into adulthood at age 21, I would be like them. Well, I am now 67 and there is no magic door. I have counseled people from all walks of life to whom others often turn for advice: clergy, doctors, lawyers, professors, corporate executives, as well as others who are rich and famous, and they all have one thing in common, they are human! They are just as insecure as you and I. If they honestly admit and face their clay feet, they grow. If they hide behind masks of superiority, making you think that they “have it all together,” they don’t.
2. POWER: Who has the power to define your self-worth? Thinking that love is conditional upon performance, most people nervously give their power away to those from whom they hope to get praise and affirmation: parents, teachers, employers, and spouses. Giving away your power condemns you to always worry about what others think. The secret is to take back your power, and define your own self-worth. OK, so you have some weaknesses, join the club. But, in general, you are probably a nice person. Once you rely upon your own judgment about yourself, it is as if you are wearing a psychological suit of armor. Others can hurt your feelings, but their demeaning criticism can no longer devastate you to the core. Why? Because you, not they, have the power.
3. SUCCESS: Most people equate success as attaining something big: a job, title, house, car, bank account, etc. If they do not, they feel like a failure. But, while pursuing achievements is good, it is the “little goal.” The “big goal” is how your personality develops along the way. Homer once said that “the journey is the thing.” Your job will end with a gold watch, your house will pass to someone else, your car will rust, but your soul will live forever. Who you become is defined by the choices you make in life: to be kind or cruel, loving or manipulative, humble or a snob. Life is a process of creating a work of art: YOU. Your death signals the end of your growth, and the judgment of God is to simply accept your judgment, allowing you to be as you have chosen to be, for all eternity. So, don’t get mixed up; the big goal is who you become — the little goal is what you attain. Your Lexus will not fit into the coffin with you, but your soul will.