“There are plenty of miserable millionaires all over the place.” – Peter Mayle, author
“…there is something not quite right…there is a negativity in me…”
Alain was a tall, big boned, muscular man about 40 years of age and tipping the scales at about 200 pounds. He arrived with his business cheque book under his right arm, seemingly ready to pay his way, right away, what ever the cost.
Alain told me he owned three separate companies and employed over 200 people in the small community where he lived. He had a small fishing fleet of four boats; a fibreglass boat building shop and his most recent venture, a upscale seafood restaurant in a nearby city. He said he usually worked long hours at least six days a week. He told me he had three children and a devoted spouse, named Giselle, who did his accounts, while raising their children.
When I asked how I could serve him, he replied with a sad, confused demeanour, “Ken, I have considerable wealth, I love my work, I love my family and yet there is something not quite right…there is a negativity in me…there is a pierce of dissatisfaction I don’t know how to deal with.”
“Alain, tell me about your last memory of having that experience. Where were you and what were you doing at that very moment?”
He thought for a moment, staring into space and then replied, “I was sitting on my deck with a cup of coffee staring out at the sea on Sunday morning. Everyone was out and I had a few moments to myself and this recurring thought came into my head again, ‘I’m a millionaire and still miserable!’”
“In my experience, it is rarer to find a really happy person in a circle of millionaires than among vagabonds.” – Thor Heyerdahl, explorer
“… I don’t need to be second guessing myself all the time…”
“Alain, what did you do next, after having this thought?” I asked.
“Well, nothing really…I just sat there drinking my coffee!” he replied.
“But, Alain, where did your thoughts go at that moment?”
“Well, I noticed I was sitting in my beautiful home, I had a loving family who would return soon, and I enjoyed excellent health and have had good business success!”
“Why was that so important for you to notice these things at that particular time, Alain?”
“I’m not sure, but Giselle says, I don’t take the time to appreciate what I have already! She is always going on about how lucky we are and stuff like that!”
“Well, what do you think? Do you consider yourself fortunate in life?”
“Ken, when I stop and think about it, I really do! But I don’t need to be second guessing myself all the time with these negative thoughts…I want to have a steady stream of positive thoughts, so I can feel good about me and my life.”
“Alain, that’s what street drugs are for…to give you the temporary illusion of pleasure without pain. But, in the un-drugged, real world, you get both pleasure and pain at all times, and in equal measure!”
“I once worked it out – after $12 million, all millionaires are the same. That’s because we’re all humans, confined to human scale. How many homes can you live in? How many meals can you eat? You can have a living room the size of a cathedral, but you won’t live in it. It’s too big.” – Ricardo Semler, businessman
“What did you do, Alain?”
“Do you mean I have these negative thoughts to remind me of how lucky I am?”
“Alain, let’s check it out, and see if this might be true. Go to another memory of when this same thought came into your head?”
“Ken, it occurs most often when I’m drifting off to sleep at night. It happened just last night. I was reviewing my day in my head, and then, this thought about being unsuccessful and miserable appeared out of nowhere.”
“What did you do, Alain?”
“You know… what I did was kind of strange, Ken! I slipped out of bed and went down the hall and peeked into the kids’ bedroom. They were all sleeping! I just watched them for a few minutes realizing how perfect they were, and how much I loved them. Then, I went back to bed, and the next thing I knew, it was morning.”
“So, without that negative thought about being unsuccessful and miserable you might not have taken those few moments to appreciate your children…is that true, Alain?”
“Does that mean we are always thinking both ways?”
“Yes, I guess it is…but why does it take those negative thoughts to startle me into a state of appreciation? That seems very strange to me.”
“Alain, have you noticed it is only because of pain that we appreciate pleasure…without the absence of pain there can be no pleasure, and without the absence of pleasure there can be no pain…so they are interconnected.”
“Are you telling me my negative thoughts help me generate appreciation for my life?”
“What do you think, Alain? Can you see the connections within your own memories? If we didn’t have winter, we might take summer for granted. If we didn’t have challenges, we might take our supports for granted. Can you see that pattern in your life?”
“I’m starting to now! So without negative thoughts there is no motivation toward the other, positive side. Does that mean we are always thinking both ways?”
“…spend half their time feeling self confidence, and the other half, feeling the lack of it!”
“Yes it does! It’s nature’s efficiency at work! That’s why it takes so much energy to be exclusively, either positive (elated) or negative (depressed). It’s really exhausting! An excellent example is found in the universal appeal of Winnie The Pooh children stories. Their appeal are their close ties to the natural world of both the positive (Tigre) and the negative (Eeyore) displayed by these two characters, Tigre and Eeyore.”
“So, I can expect to have negative thoughts regularly in the future…is that it?”
“Let me offer the idea to you another way, Alain. The wisest person you will ever meet…if they are truthful…will tell you, they spend half their time feeling self confidence, and the other half, feeling the lack of it! This is how human are designed to optimize their learning, and so their survival…at the border between order and chaos; support and challenge; pleasure and pain.”
“Ken, when I realize my negative thoughts help me appreciate my life…I start of appreciate them as well…I guess they kind of keep me on my toes…keep me more balanced!”
“Alain, that’s exactly what they are designed to do…keep you on track, appreciating who you are, what you do, and what you have. Does that sound like a fair price to pay for appreciating your life…regular negative thoughts? You can’t have Tigre without Eeyore or Eeyore without Tigre! They both are essential to make Winnie The Pooh a real and worthwhile story.”
“I get it now, Ken…Thank you!”
“Optimists attract pessimists, so each can learn the truth, from each other!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
So, now go find the when and where you experience negative thoughts. Then, notice how they motivate you, and so enable you, to notice and appreciate the people and events in your life you have been ignoring or neglecting. Then, you will start appreciating the value of the “Eeyores” in your life and stop infatuating the “Tigres!”
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