Last week I went to see the new Star Trek movie. On a Wednesday. In the middle of the afternoon.
It was lots of fun, even though we didn’t take the whole things as seriously as…other couples.
While I’m not a big Star Trek fan, it turns out that Hubbie is. And partnerships are about…compromise. (Which is why the lunch beforehand was at one of those organic, “what-do-you-mean-there’s-no-meat-on-this-menu?” kind of places. Give and take, my friends.)
As we made our way to the movie complex, the pesky mind game began. I felt incredibly guilty…like I was slacking off. Like I was somehow playing hooky from school or the office.
All of those beliefs I’d learned about being a “true professional”…the ones I was now defying…built up into a shame bubble inside of me. I ducked into the theater, afraid of running into a client or a colleague.
I couldn’t let it go until I realized something quite simple.
I wasn’t playing hooky. Because I don’t go to school. And I don’t work at a traditional office.
I’m a business owner…an entrepreneur. Which means I work with all kinds of people at all kinds of hours. Traditional office rules do not apply.
And those beliefs about work I’d learned since I was a kid? They don’t apply to me either.
And so I realized I had to let go of those beliefs.
I had to detach from my past.
(Now, even if you’re not an entrepreneur, stay with me. This lesson, and all those mind games that come with it, apply to you.)
Most of us have heard that a key to happiness is detaching from our future. We know the dangers of getting too attached to things that aren’t certain…new jobs and new partners and rain-free vacations.
Detaching from the past, however, isn’t nearly as popular of a concept. And yet it might be even more important.
Think about it.
We are all brought up learning lessons and beliefs that are stated as absolute truths. And we assume everyone else believes them, too.
…everyone believes that boys shouldn’t ever show fear….
…everyone believes it’s important to go to a certain church on a certain day…
…everyone feels that wearing designer clothes reflects success…
We learn these lessons from lots of people throughout our lives. Parents and teachers and friends definitively exclaim how things are in the beginning…then new colleagues and the media join in. And many of them mean well.
Before we know it we’ve got a whole bunch of beliefs about life…about the way things should be…that actually might not be true. At least not for us.
Sometimes, when we run up against a belief that no longer works for us, it turns into a horribly pesky mind game. We feel like we’ve done something wrong. Like we’ve failed.
We don’t consider that the problem might be with the belief itself.
Need a few examples? Here are just a few beliefs I’ve detached from over the last few decades:
- Everyone should have kids
- Taller is more attractive
- You must vote a certain way
- Failure means you just didn’t try hard enough (Read: You are LAZY!!)
- The thinner you are the better you are
And…true professionals work their butts off, 9am-5pm, every weekday.
Often, a belief is accompanied by that dangerous “should” word. And when we’re convinced we should do something in a certain way, but it doesn’t feel right, it can make us miserable.
We never consider that the belief itself might not be true. We never consider detaching from our past.
Detachment can be done in all kinds of circumstances. Even simple attitudes or judgments about something or someone are up for detachment grabs. We can choose to detach from them, to start fresh.
Of course, not everything is about detachment. There will be core values you have throughout your entire life. There will be hard lessons you want to hold on to. There will be a passionate belief in the soothing power of mint chip ice cream that will persevere from childhood to death.
But there will be other beliefs that will evolve and change over time. There may be some that, frankly, were never right for you in the first place.
The important thing is to recognize when a belief runs up against a different truth inside of you, to catch the mind game before it starts.
To understand that the truth of a lesson learned long ago (or not-so-long-ago) simply might not apply to you. Or it might not apply to you anymore.
And then? Challenge the belief head-on. Consider where it came from. Consider whether you might want to detach from it.
Remind yourself that life choices are different for different people at different times in their lives. That other people’s beliefs might not always apply.
I’m working on this one every day. Which I know, in the end, will make me that much happier.
Now, go live long and prosper.