As we continue our exploration of “Rules for Being Human,” a short treatise by an anonymous author on the perils and promises of life itself, we come to Rule #6, which reads:
There is not better than here. When your there has become a here, you simply will obtain another there that will again look better than here.
When I first read this rule, my first thought was, “I don’t know this author, but they sure know me!”
I wasn’t too thrilled about it either.
None of us want to think (or at least I personally don’t want to think) that the “there” I am busting my butt to work towards today will become tomorrow’s discarded afterthought.
Frankly, just the thought of it makes my couch and that stack of unwatched DVDs look pretty darned good.
But this is the truth – at least for most of us having the human experience today.
In my last post I shared in interesting insight from a new book I am reading called “Stumbling on Happiness”. The author, Daniel Gilbert, claims that our future selves are seldom happy with what our current selves produce.
I am not finished with the book yet, so I can’t say for sure how it is going to turn out.
But what I am starting to realize is that, in mentoring as in life, impatience is a big driver for why we are so pigheadedly set on defining a “there” while we are still “here.”
We don’t like uncertainty (people with eating disorders more than most, but this basically applies to all people who have a primitive limbic “fight or flight” brain stem system, which is all of us).
We don’t like the ruminations our bored brain can produce when we are not busy “doing something” – ruminations that seem to suggest that we will be doing nothing tomorrow or a year from now if we don’t get busy today.
And we definitely don’t like the “not knowing” part of how it is all going to turn out. For me, even watching a movie I haven’t seen before is stressful because I want to know the ending before I start watching it. If it is not going to be happy, and according to my personal definition of “happy,” then I don’t want to watch it.
The same could be said for my experiences of being mentored in the early years, and the experiences of many of those whom I have mentored since.
If our lives aren’t going to look “pretty” and “happy” to our future selves, as defined by our present selves’ vision of those states, then our present selves don’t want to live in them. We want to be “there,” later, when (we are sure) pretty and happy have finally become real and now.
This is why the trick in mentoring is to make here look as palatable as we think there looks. We have to convince ourselves first, and then we have to convince our mentees. We have to stop, breathe, notice.
For instance, how amazing is it that I can type in this little box and it automatically capitalizes words like “I” for me – and I don’t even have to think about it!
That is something to marvel at, something that keeps me in the now quite effortlessly for as long as it holds my attention, and it isn’t even personal to me (data supports that, in general, we have a much greater interest in unfolding events when they directly concern us – witness any “great conversation” you have had where you have done all the talking).
So when we are mentoring someone, we have to redouble our efforts to help them stay grounded in the here and now – in their PRESENT successes, their “here” successes. We have to help them to connect with the experience they are having right now, here, in the present moment, of what they are striving for in the “there” or later.
In the same way, to stay encouraged as mentors, we have to hold in our minds the bigger picture perspective of what we already know and our mentees are just now discovering – that “there” is just a future version of “here”, and thus is a mirage, just as is that thing they are now being mentored to recover from, be it a layoff, an eating disorder, a dependency on the bottle or pill, a need for a specific person, and so on, and so on.
Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been allowing your good dreams of “there” to distract you from creating good dreams of “here”? Have you perhaps been using the future like a drug, to take you out of the present, away from the hard work to be done, and removed from the burden of having to learn how to celebrate your heres as if they were theres? Today, consider the minor and major miracles of the day and bring them into your here, and sit there with them, grateful, quiet, and connected. See how you feel at the day’s end.
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Last reviewed: 7 Oct 2011