The Lies We Tell to Fool Ourselves

April Fools brings to mind pranks, jokes, and humorous shenanigans. It gives us permission to take ourselves and our lives a little less seriously, if only for a day. But the truth is, we’re fooling ourselves all the time, with often harmful results.

It comes down to our thinking. We tell ourselves lies in ways that lead us to fall short of the full, vibrant lives we aspire to. They’re lies that permit passivity or bad habits. Here are a few of the most common culprits.

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

What are you waiting to start? There are the usual suspects—eating healthier, working out, or saving money. But there are other, less obvious options, too. Patching up a relationship. Going back to school. Addressing those relational patterns that don’t serve you.

Why don’t we just begin?

Sometimes, it’s the urgent getting in the way of the important. We focus on the demands of today and allow the improvements for tomorrow to slip through our hands. But frequently, that’s just the surface reason. What happens if you dig a little deeper?

Change involves work. It takes effort to start a different trajectory. Sometimes, just the idea is tiring. We might have to significantly alter our lives to make progress. The best things in life often require discipline and don’t offer us the kind of immediate gratification we can find elsewhere.

What’s more, change involves risk. We risk failure, disappointment, and looking foolish. The problem, of course, is that most things worth doing involve risk.

We can’t transform every area of our lives in a day. Some things you really might want to start tomorrow, or next quarter, or next year. But if there’s something you’ve been putting off starting, what if you attempted a different strategy? What if you decided: “I’ll start today with one very small step.” Goals might be risky, but the steps we take to get there are small and manageable. What’s the next right thing for you?

“Life will slow down soon.”

Who hasn’t said these words to themselves, if not out loud? Sometimes, there’s truth in them—the holidays or a specific deadline will pass, and things will lighten up. But sometimes, it’s like walking into a cluttered room and saying, “It’ll clean up soon.”

If our calendars are too full, they’re not likely to fix themselves. Like a cluttered room, they take some tidying—and the person to do that work is probably you.

Don’t wait until burnout. Feeling overwhelmed or spread thin is a sign that something is out of balance, like a check engine light coming on. If you need a break, honor your limits by creating one.

Triage your calendar. What is absolutely essential to your highest priorities? Can any of those things be deferred? What about everything else? What could you just not do? What could you automate, perhaps with the aid of technology? What could you delegate to someone else? (Asking for help is strategic.)

Life can slow down anytime. You just need to pump the brakes.

“I can’t do it.”

Sometimes, we can’t. If you haven’t played basketball since high school, you’re probably not making it to the WBA. But that’s rarely where “I can’t” gets us into trouble. The real danger typically arises in two key moments.

The first is before we even begin a valuable, risky endeavor. We look at the mountain and think, “I can’t climb that.” Less metaphorically, we think, “I can’t get out of debt,” “I can’t get that position,” or “I can’t break that addiction.”

Even if we do begin, there’s another time this lie kicks in. It’s when we hit that first challenging obstacle. We’ve weathered a few bumps. And then we hit the wall. We want to throw in the towel. We’ve arrived in the messy middle.

In these moments, saying “I can’t” holds us back. If we decide never to begin or give up before the finish line, we fall short of what we could have achieved. What are we to do?

“I can’t” is a limiting belief. We need to identify the belief—naming it to ourselves and capturing it on paper. We need to interrogate the belief, unpacking what’s really true. We need to imagine a liberating truth, one that takes our constraints seriously but remains hopeful. And we need to implement a new strategy that will improve our results. (Mind Your Mindsetunpacks this process in depth.)

We all fool ourselves from time to time. What lie have you been telling yourself? And what’s your next step to live more honestly and courageously?

We’re cheering you on.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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