I'm listening to a book on Integrity by Henry Cloud and one of the topics he brought up was dealing with reality. Many of us at times, myself included, create an alternate reality to live in. Let me explain.
You have a great idea that you have been cultivating for years, you share the idea with someone and they say that you should try to market this idea. You spend the next 16 months developing a business plan, putting in long hours away from your family and working on finding funding for this project. You finally get funding and launch your idea, you spend lots of money on marketing and after the first quarter you get the sales report. Your sales are dismal.
So you fire your marketing department and hire the best marketing firm in the country to market your idea, you even put most of your life savings into paying for extra marketing. The Internet, Viral Marketing, TV Commercials, Radio, Newspaper, and even leaving flyer's on doorsteps. You left no marketing stone unturned. Finally the new quarters sales report comes in. The sales are even lower.
You are defeated and call a meeting with your team.
"Someone tell me why the marketing is not working?"
Silence...finally a quiet analyst in the back raises his hand.
"Sir, I've tried your product and it simply doesn't work."
Many time in life we have emotions tied up with projects and ideas and we tend to put blinders on and just plow forward finding a way to make it work. We just "know" our idea is a good one.
But sometimes reality is the greatest judge of our efforts.
Rick Warren is the author of the all time best selling non-fiction book "The Purpose Driven Life." He came to southern California in 1980 fresh out of college to start a new church, instead of taking the classic approach of finding a facility, hiring a staff, etc. He first went door to door and asked people "Why do you not go to church anymore?" He then formed his church ensuring that none of those factors stated were in it and today he has a congregation of over 80,000 members
The most successful people I have met are ones who live in reality and deal with all of its ups and downs.
I remember when I was younger I was in a management position and we had to do a blind leadership assessment. People in the organization were asked to rate leaders honestly in a series of questions about a number of different areas.
What an eye opener. I remember my direct supervisor getting upset because he was rated poorly. He thought leadership was based on bullying, intimidating or bossing others to do the work. He was even called Narcissistic. Meaning he thought he knew more than anyone else and thus was unteachable.
When I was younger, I fell into this trap as well. It was easier to hide from reality and create my own rules than it was to deal with failure, rejection and unknown.
I have also observed many older people who are so set in their ways that they can not face change well or deal with emerging trends and technology. They basically fall into an attitude of "been there, done that, know it all already" and are not open to new ideas and approaches.
In Psychology, the concept of "Observing Ego" is one that we look at ourselves in all situations from an outside perspective and have a totally objective view of the situation. This eliminates falling into the traps of pride or letting our emotions carry us.
Psychology further discusses the idea of "Emotional Valance or the Valance Effect" in which we often get in bad situations or habits and instead of looking at the situation or habit for what it is, bad. We instead put on rose colored glasses and try to use some form of positive imaging to change reality so it looks like a positive situation rather than what it really is.
So what is my point in all this?
We have to be thick skinned when our emotions are high. We have to use observing ego and constantly look at our lives and actions from a third party, objective view point and ask ourselves this question.
"Based on reality, not my hopes or dreams, does this action move me closer to my goals or does it move me away from my goals?"
We have to maintain a constant teachable attitude and never pre-judge anything. This objective view of reality is very hard in our age of information flow, it is a lot easier to take things as they seem instead of digging in and looking at the details and truths of the matter.
I've also had to learn to admit I was wrong. Not matter what the cost or how far into a project I am, if I am wrong, it needs to stop.
It doesn't matter if we are looking at our marriage, career or a real estate investment. We need to take a step back and look at the situation as an outside party would, with no emotional attachments.
Using this approach will keep us based in reality and also keep us from spending precious hours pouring our hearts into areas that will not produce the results we really want.
"Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do." - Gian Carlo Menotti