One of my favorite questions to use when I’m teaching at conferences is what I call the “genie question.” It’s pretty simple. Say that a genie appears in front of you and offers to grant one wish, that can be absolutely anything. There’s just one catch: you have to make your wish in the next 10 seconds or lose it forever. Go ahead and give yourself 10 seconds to think if you haven’t come across this before.
If you’re like most people, you probably wished for some kind of external circumstance to change. Something like your job, or your health, or a relationship. I’ve talked before about how if you keep asking questions about why someone wished for the thing they did, it all comes back to internal circumstance, to happiness, peace, joy, and fulfillment. If you wanted to simplify even further, you could say that it all comes down to two things. People want to feel good now, and they want to feel good later. That’s the biggest struggle of our lives and today I want to share how you can start living that way for the rest of your life.
I think that most of the time, people know it when they are doing something that won’t help them achieve that goal of feeling good now and later. Think back to our discussion on instant gratification—usually when we do something that harms us in the long term, it’s because it gives us pleasure in the short term. In other words, we’re choosing to feel good now, just to get through the day, maybe, at the cost of feeling even worse later. So why do we do that?
I heard a story once about a martial artist who was putting on a show to demonstrate his students’ skills. At the end of the show, he had a young boy come out and break a particularly big cinderblock or something—I can’t quite remember what—with his bare fists. That was the end of the show, but before anyone could leave, the master stopped and explained what they had just witnessed. No one, not even the master or anyone in history as far as they knew, had ever succeeded in doing what that young boy had just done. For weeks, the master had been tutoring the boy in private, always telling him that this feat was well within his abilities and that he should have no problems with it, and the boy believed him. The lesson: there is almost nothing you can’t do if you know you can do it.
Now I would make one more observation about that story before we move on, I believe the master knew that his student could do it even though he himself couldn’t. I don’t believe he could have had the same effect on his student if he had been trying to deceive him, and I would not ask you to try and force yourself to believe things about yourself that are not true.
We start from the belief that it is possible for you to achieve this goal, to feel good now and, by and large, to feel good for the rest of your life. So what happens to make you choose something that you know will work against you in the long run? Most of the time, I think the answer is that you lose faith. You start to think that things will never get better, or that you can’t handle them anymore, and so you reach for the instant gratification because if that’s true, then you might as well feel good for just a little while right now.
So what’s the answer? I would call it humility, but what I really mean by that is simply believing the truth about yourself. The nature of that truth is a question you will have to answer for yourself, and I warn you not to simply be content with what you were told by your parents, or your church, or your friends. You need to make the search your own, but I urge you not to simply let it pass you by. Cultivate your beliefs about yourself and make a practice of putting faith in them. You can’t have balance in life without stability, and you can’t have stability without a foundation.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!