The Perils of Being Tricked by Our Perceived Wants
Have you ever imagined yourself being an actor, or maybe a sports figure? What about being a successful business person you know and admire? Many times, we trick ourselves in believing we know what we want because it will give us a sense of self-worth, of importance. It happens to me all the time. I look at some people I admire, like… let’s say… Simon Sinek (author of Start with Why) and think how great it would be if I had their life. How cool would it be to be traveling the world, talking to people about their Why’s, being interviewed all the time. My book would be on the bestseller’s list, I would have the most watched Ted Talk of all time. It seems so magical and enticing. How could somebody NOT want a life like that?!
However, when I take a step back, I wonder… is that what I really want? I have three kids, a wonderful wife, and a nice community of friends and family I see consistently. I also like to take the foot off the gas every once in a while and try to live in the moment. If I had Sion Sinek’s life that would be almost impossible. For me. I am not saying that Simon Sinek is a workaholic and that he does not spend time with his family, or that he doesn’t have work life balance. However, I do know that he had to sacrifice a ton to be where he is today. The question becomes, would I be we willing to face the same sacrifices for the same returns?
In Dax Sheppard’s latest episode of Armchair Expert, he was having a conversation with Lena Dunham about the same thing. He said he looks at some work that he is incredibly jealous of and thinks he would give anything to be in such a prestigious and noteworthy piece of art. His example was the movie “The Revenant” with Leonardo DiCaprio.
If you have not seen it here is IMDB’s description of the movie: “A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left dead by members of his own hunting team.” It is a pretty brutal movie. Leo won an academy award for his portrayal of the frontiersman and The Revenant went on to win TONS of awards. What is interesting about the movie, is the grueling process everyone (especially Leo) had to endure for 6 months to shoot the movie. Diving in and out of frozen rivers, sleeping in animal carcasses, being constantly on the verge of hyperthermia were only part of what the cast and crew had to go through. So as much as Dax would have loved to be involved in “The Revenant” and have received the accolades that ensued, if he is honest with himself, he knows that he would have not been willing to go through that for the final payoff. It was his mind tricking him to think that is what he really wanted, when the truth was it was not.
This self-reflection happens to me all the time when I go to concerts. My dream in life was to be an artist. I wanted to be on stage, playing my songs to people and reveling in the glamour of being a successful musician. However, when I go to a show of an up and coming band on a Tuesday night in Ferndale, MI, it makes me realize that it is probably not what I truly want. Do I really want to be on the road in February, playing in a dingy bar for 30 people who are more interested in their overpriced drink than in my art? Do I want to play the same songs over, and over, and over, and over again night after night? The reality is that my mind is tricking me to think that is what I want when the reality is much different.
This happens in business all the time. We look at different roles, or different opportunities and are seduced by pay, glamour, creative expression, the works. We typically jump in head first because it seems like it is what we really want. But is it?
I have a degree in Advertising and late in my career I had the opportunity to work at a fantastic creative agency. They had what seemed to be my perfect job. They worked with experiential marketing and video production, they had high profile clients, an interesting and creative team, a cool office and a cool vibe. At this agency I was able to be involved with some pretty cool projects, meet some famous people and traveled all over the country. It checked all the boxes on what I thought would be the most rewarding job of my career
After a year I realized it was not what I really wanted. The frantic pace and constant evaluation of work was a bit much for me. The traveling took a toll. The cool projects were still cool, but the financial pressure to execute them at a profit was pretty gnarly. Ultimately what seemed to be a perfect job was just not the job for me, and at no fault of the agency. It was my mind tricking me into believing that what I wanted was one thing, but in hindsight, I really wanted something completely different.
So… riddle me this Batman… When you look at your hopes and dreams, and when you feel bad for not being involved with the high accolade opportunities out there, is that your reality? Or is that the reality that your mind has created? Let’s all take a step back and define what is really important to us so that we are not feeling bad about our current situation or taking on challenges we might not even want.
Andre Mello is a Business Coach and is not ashamed to say that he had to look up what revenant meant (one that returns after death). He has been in Marketing and Leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre, please visit www.wysecoaching.com.