An Alternative to Ruination

I received a message (included in its entirety below) from a mentor of mine that I wanted to share.

The idea that we’d rather be ruined than change is real for so many people (they just don’t know it, consciously).

What’s happening with so many people is that, by playing it safe, they are quietly and slowly ruining their lives.

Not “ruining” in the sense of actively doing harm, but in not designing and creating an authentically amazing life . . . sort of how great cities crumble and decay over time, slowly but surely becoming ruins.

What we don’t see is the difference between what one’s life could be and what so many settle for. This is why working with a (good) coach is so powerful.

A coach will, like Steve’s did, ask you to step outside “your story.”

The story of why your life is the way it is, why you can’t change it (or only do “so” much), why you are the way you are and why attempts to change are likely futile, so why bother…

I’m here to tell you (and remind myself) that such thinking (but only all of it) is complete and utter nonsense.

The reason why “story” is so powerful in our lives is because human beings are meaning-creating and meaning-seeking creatures.

We need to make sense of things, we need to understand who we are, we need to understand where we fit into “things” and so on.

The challenge is is that life can often seem overwhelming, scary even, so in a bid to understand things, we play small and safe.

This tendency to play small and safe is no accident. We are programmed to seek safety, security and the routine. The reason is that early humans, not having the complex cognitive functions that we do, relied more on pattern recognition than conscious thought. Those that recognized patterns better and more quickly – and thus made wise choices – survived. Better choices usually equated to (what we would call today) playing-it-safe.

Taking less risks (generally; certain things, like hunting and moving to new places, required boldness and some risk) meant survival.* And so these bias-towards-safety genes – and tendencies – were passed on.

Tendencies are not destiny though. (At least they don’t have to be.)

While the world we live in isn’t threat-free, most of what we don’t do is unnecessary.

Meaning, we’re over-compensating. In most respects, for most people, there’s nothing to fear.

So, given that – that’s there’s generally nothing to be afraid of – what will you do?

*  *  *

* I think what the early humans had in common was ability to take necessary risks, and reject unnecessary risks. The world being a more (physically) dangerous place rewarded those who stuck close to home and their tribe. Modern life, is different: the tribe and home are still important, necessary, parts of life, but things are simply less “dangerous.”

*  *  *

The poet W. H. Auden once said, “We would rather be ruined than change.”

Most of us would and that’s why you see so many ruined people.

They would rather just cling to their collection of victim stories than actually change. Notice how desperately we cling to these stories. It seems that we know they are true. We never even question them. Even if we come to ruin. Our story is still there to explain and excuse the ruin.

One day I hired a coach.

He invited me to step outside.

To step outside the story.

Live well,


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