On Wednesday, I listed the eleven common irrational beliefs enumerated by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper in their book, A Guide to Rational Living. This book served as the launching point for a recent discussion at Ask Metafilter. RapcityinBlue asked, “What have you been wrong about, realized it, and it changed your life?” This question generated sixty quality responses.
While many of the respondents had (knowingly or not) managed to overcome one Ellis and Harper’s irrational beliefs, each answer is unique. Plus, many other folks unique pearls of wisdom gleaned from years of hard knocks.
I’ve taken the time to collate some of my favorite responses, little pieces of insight that ring true to me based on my own experience. (I’m quoting excerpts below, and linking back to the extended answers at Ask Metafilter.)
- Ruthless Bunny wrote: “I thought being dour and sarcastic and always finding the problems with things was the way to go through life…Actually, solving problems, being upbeat and helpful to others is a MUCH better way to go through life.”
- ottereroticist wrote: “I thought I was lazy and inherently broken when it comes to getting things done…I learned that unconditional self-friendliness is a much more effective productivity tool than a harsh and accusatory inner monologue.”
- phunniemee wrote: “Most people aren’t out to get you. Most people aren’t sitting in silent, seething judgment of you. Most people are too busy worrying about themselves, just trying to get through this.”
- rpfields wrote: “I thought I had to please everyone around me or something terrible would happen/be done to me. Conversely, I also thought that being “nice” to everyone meant they were “obligated” to do the same to me. At the same time I craved some kind of permission to pursue my goals, and harboured tremendous resentment for those who “got to” do things…I am a much happier person now that I allow myself to do as I please (within the bounds of kindness and legality, of course) and recognize that others have the right to do the same.”
- sevenofspades wrote: “I thought that if something was hard work, it meant that I wasn’t good at it. Not true. If it’s hard, it just means I’ve never really worked at it before.” and “I thought that you had to impress people, win them over, or flat-out buy them somehow in order to get them to be your friend. Woah was that wrong. True friends just love your company.”
- rabbitrabbit wrote: “I have learned that minding my own business has made me happier and made people like me more.”
- kimberussell wrote: “If I mess up, I admit it. I’m human and make mistakes. That’s okay. If I don’t know how to approach a project, I’ll ask for help. If you think I’m stupid, that’s not my problem. I’m not going to get hung up on what people think.”
- telegraph wrote: “There is nothing protective about pessimism. I was convinced for a long time that if you expect a poor outcome, it hurts less. It’s actually easier to cope with failure if you spend most of your time celebrating and expecting the positive, building up your reserves of happiness and strength, instead of creating huge unceasing loads of psychic stress based on assuming things will go wrong.”
- changeling wrote: “I have learned that I don’t always need to prove I’m right, especially in casual conversation, especially about dumb crap that doesn’t matter.” also “I will change in ways I can’t even anticipate.”
- St. Peepsburg wrote: “I was too prideful to listen to others, especially their feedback of me. I assumed they really didn’t understand, and if only I could explain it clearly they would see it as I do. Now, I love feedback.” also “I also believed other people caused my feelings of fear or anger, and that they needed to change in order for me to feel recognized and safe. Now, I don’t need people’s validation as much. I don’t need their constant reassurance. I know who I am. And when I feel angry, it is my anger. When I feel insecure, it is my insecurity.”
- mono blanco wrote: “I learned it’s ok to be a dilettante. Nobody’s grading you. Since then I’ve learned how to play tennis, speak a smattering of languages, put up shower rods, draw sketches, and play some blues. All half-assed, but with huge enjoyment.”
- still_wears_a_hat wrote: “I learned that I don’t have to prevent every possible thing I can from going wrong. That I can deal with stuff when it goes wrong instead of trying to prevent every possible problem. It’s made a huge difference.”
- Sullenbode wrote: “Feelings don’t obey logic. Having no good reason to be upset doesn’t magically make me not upset anymore. Rather than argue with myself about my emotions, I’ve learned to recognize when they’re just passing clouds, and let them pass.”
- JohnnyGunn wrote: “I have become much more transparent in my old age. I tell it like it is when it comes to how I am feeling and what I am thinking. That does not mean I get to be mean, but rather life is too short to play games. Here is what I am thinking. Love me for who I am because that is exactly what I will do for you. Accept you for who you are. Also, I try things now. Be it food, a book, an idea, a trip, whatever, try it once.”
- FauxScot shared several gems, including: “I discovered that if I took my time, my quality really would go up.” “I also discovered that something was finished when I decided it was.” “Help people out. Even if it costs a buck or some time. Don’t always insist on a financial payoff or even acknowledgement or appreciation.”
- sonika wrote: “The minute you realize that yours is not the only plot that is going on around you, it truly changes your outlook. I’m oddly much more ok with doing things that others might perceive negatively (such as distancing myself from unhealthy relationships) because I’d rather be “that bitch” in someone else’s plot than make my own more difficult.”
- Turkey Glue wrote: “I’ve learned to ask questions about things I don’t understand.”
- talldean quoted the Buddha: “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” talldean also shared this nugget: ” Lucky people aren’t as locked into a goal, so if something great happens to them, they accept it; it’s luck. Unlucky people pass by the great things to get to a more specific set of goals, but don’t always get where they wanted to go.”
- Athanassiel wrote about the sunk-cost fallacy: “The falseness of continuing to do something which it becomes clear you should stop doing, simply because you have already invested a lot in it…Sometimes you really just have to cut your losses and walk away.”
- Jandoe wrote: “I learned that staying in relationships out of a sense of obligation or pity was not a good reason.”
- sio42 wrote: “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and what you need, especially if it’s help.”
- GorgeousPorridge wrote: “Status and money might make some people happy, but not everybody. If you’re not one of those people, it can be hard to live in a society where you are judged by your wealth or job title. But in the end, if you decide those things don’t matter all that much to you (and sometimes it’s hard to really conclude that they don’t), you’re wasting the only life you’ve got in order to fit in, and ultimately it’s a pointless sacrifice.”
- Autumn wrote: “If someone is having a horrible go at life, you can’t swoop in and “save” them.”
That’s nearly 2000 words of great advice. In these responses are a lot of the themes we’ll cover at More Than Money in 2014.
What about you? What things were you wrong about? What have you learned during your sojourn here on earth that’s caused you to change how you think and act? What lessons can you add to this list?