Why You Need To Abandon Your Rescue Fantasy
Somewhere on one of my old Brian Tracy CDs, there’s this great line he says about how in order to really take control of your life you have to first realize that no one is coming to your rescue. If you want your life to be different, you’re going to have to get up off the couch and make it happen.
Steven Covey also talks about the dangers of the “rescue fantasy” in one of his books, saying how too many people think that some magical solution will solve their problems in the future. We’ll get that raise, and then we’ll be able to get out of debt. Someone new will date us, and finally, things will go smoothly. Someone will offer us a better job, and then everything will be okay.
Except life doesn’t work that way. Nothing is going to make your problems “go away.”
No one is coming to your rescue. And that’s good news.
We buy into all these little “someday” ideas in our life – “Someday, when I have this, I’ll be happy.” Or “Someday, when this circumstance changes, everything will be better.” We’re unhappy about something now, and we fall for the scam of external happiness – the idea that something outside of us has to change before we can actually feel happy and fulfilled.
But here’s the cruel thing – even when that circumstance changes, or when you get that thing you’ve been angling for, you won’t be happy. Things won’t be okay, because there will be a new circumstance you want to be changed or a new thing you want.
There will always be another external factor for you to be unhappy about because if you’re miserable, it’s because you’re not cultivating the practice of gratitude and happiness in your own life.
The good news is that when you accept that no one is coming to your rescue, you can finally work on rescuing yourself from the stress and unhappiness you’re generating inside you.
I speak from experience.
The last two weeks have been absolutely miserable for me (again, this was in June 2009), because I’m trying to make a major change in my circumstances right now, and it’s extremely difficult and it’s not happening fast enough. (If only X or Y or Z would happen, then everything would be okay!)
I’ve spent two weeks living in almost paralyzing frustration looking for a quick-fix solution to my situation. And then I get blindsided with this, from Mahala Mazerov:
At the most basic level, the definition of suffering is wanting things to be different than the way they are. I live with a brain injury that significantly influences my life energy. In addition, I’m dealing with new health challenges that have left me extremely limited since January. In Buddhist practice, we are reminded again and again we can take adversity as the path. In other words, we can face adversity, bow to it, and use it as a means of cultivation. My daily challenge has been to embrace the shifting experiences as best I can take the hardship as fuel for love, compassion, and patience.
You really need to step away from this blog and read this post of hers, right now.
Mahala goes on to say that a lot of our suffering comes from getting stuck on our desire to have things be different right this instant and that taking adversity as the path is far easier than creating suffering in the name of desire.
And I have to say, I agree.
When we cling to our rescue fantasy, we make life more difficult.
One major change I made this weekend was to stop wishing that my circumstances were different right now and to start focusing on the question how can I grow as a person through the process? Maybe the reason I’ve been so damn unhappy isn’t that I’m not at the finish line right now, but that the waiting is revealing weaknesses in my attitudes, my self-discipline, and my willingness to push myself harder in the areas that matter.
We all want “things to change and be better” when perhaps we should be focusing on becoming better in the process of moving towards that change.
Otherwise, when things do get better, we’ll still be carrying all our current baggage into the next job, the next relationship, the next whatever … and we’ll be just as unhappy.
I’m not feeling the frustration of last week right now because I’ve abandoned my rescue fantasy. I can see some personal shortcomings I need to address between now and that near-future tipping point, and I can also see how the waiting period can give me the much-needed time and incentive to become a more balanced, relaxed person.
The “pain” of waiting is actually a pretty damn good gift if I just choose to unwrap that sucker and use what’s in the box.
A change in circumstances does not equal a rescue (it’s more of a bailout, and we see how well those work).
You need to rescue yourself from your frustration, right where you are, right now. People with far worse circumstances than you are refusing to play the victim every day – step up and join the ranks.