In Education, Family Support

“Martyrdom, drudgery, testiness, suffering, tension have nothing whatsoever to do with the effort you must make.”

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David K. Reynolds is also one of the authors we will work with at Mindset Shifts U.

Reynolds calls his method of improving lives constructive living. In his Audible program of the same name, Reynolds humorously conveys that life’s rewards are in the doing, not in the outcome. Reynolds explains the false mindset:

Some people believe that if they undertake constructive living as a lifeway, life ought to improve for them. A fella came to me once complaining of this: I’ve been trying this constructed living stuff, and it doesn’t seem to work. I get to the office earlier than usual. I do my work better than usual and all that’s happened is my boss gives me more work to do. I’ve been taking gifts home to my wife and thanking her; she doesn’t treat me any better.

Reynolds asks us, “Can you see the misconception in his thinking?”

[The client] believes in what I call lollipop living. When you were a kid and you did something properly, well, something your mother approved of, maybe she gave you a lollipop. He believes that if he does things right that, life ought to reward him. He hasn’t learned yet that it’s in the doing that we live constructively, whatever the results.

Reynolds provides the story’s moral: “That the way to win life’s game is not to count on getting some rewards for our behavior but to count on doing our life well. It’s the doing itself. “

Reynolds is not saying that hard work or being a loving partner won’t be recognized. He means that if you are looking over your shoulder for a reward, you are not present to the real opportunities in front of you.

And then Reynolds adds: “Nothing surpasses the ordinary. That’s all there is.” There is a difference between being ordinary and our ordinary way of doing things.

Our ordinary way of doing things may be much like lollipop living.  Hugh Prather (another author we will work with in Mindset Shifts U), in his book How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy, challenges us to change our ordinary way of doing things:

It will take enormous effort for you to walk past your ordinary way of doing things. And yet, once you have decided to make the effort, and have committed yourself completely, all of it will eventually become surprisingly easy. Martyrdom, drudgery, testiness, suffering, tension have nothing whatsoever to do with the effort you must make. (emphasis added)

In his autobiography, co-written with Taylor Branch, Bill Russell, the legendary center of the Boston Celtics, describes times when he committed himself completely to the opportunities in front of him. In that state of mind, he experienced a state of flow that on rare occasions, permutated both teams and even the referees:

Every so often a Celtic game would heat up so that it became more than a physical or even mental game, and would be magical. That feeling is difficult to describe, and I certainly never talked about it when I was playing. When it happened I could feel my play rise to a new level. It came rarely, and would last anywhere from five minutes to a whole quarter or more. Three or four plays were not enough to get it going. It would surround not only me and the other Celtics but also the players on the other team, and even the referees. To me, the key was that both teams had to be playing at their peaks, and they had to be competitive. The Celtics could not do it alone.

Experiencing the flow, Russell describes a state where all that mattered was using his gifts fully. The less he cared about the outcome, the better he played: “The game would be in a white heat of competition, and yet somehow I wouldn’t feel competitive.” Anything that broke that state of flow was an irritant: “Once a referee broke a run by making a bad call in my favor, which so irritated me that I protested it as I stood at the foul line to take my free throws.”

Notice this: The more selfless Russell became, the better for his game and for the Game. In such a state, Russell says he “literally did not care who had won. If we lost, I’d still be as free and as high as a sky hawk.”

Can we relax our investment in outcomes? Notice I said relax, not eliminate. We are not looking for perfection. We are just looking to be more aware of when we are looking for a lollipop. As we will see in Mindset Shifts U, awareness without judgment begins to shift behavior effortlessly. Hugh Prather writes,

Dare to be ordinary and you will concentrate better. There is precious little courage involved in striving to be special, since this universal “need” is what makes the world go ’round. Or, more accurately, chase its tail. It obviously is not a need at all but a tired old love affair that has never found home.

A lollipop life is a second-hand life because between you and reality is, as Prather put it, “martyrdom, drudgery, testiness, suffering, [and] tension.”

In his book Constructive Living for Mental Health, Reynolds writes, “The feeling focus of modern culture masks laziness, sloppy thinking, rationalization and self-indulgence.”

That may be the ordinary way of doing things. Yet you can dare to be ordinary: Giving your all to use your gifts—while not looking for a lollipop—sets the stage for the extraordinary to emerge.

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