‘That’s unfair!’, these were the words I would say when something didn’t go my way. I was a child at the time and thought by being ‘good’ and doing the right thing, lessons I had learnt from family, school and Disney movies, automatically meant life would treat me fairly in return. My parents however, tried to teach me the reality of life. They would explain that good and bad things will happen, no matter what. It’s taken a long time to realise this truth and one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is there are no guarantees.
Fairness & Guarantees
Like myself, some of us tend to think life will treat us fairly because we do the right thing and we play by the rules – why not we tell ourselves, I’m a decent person and I’m good to others. We also think in terms of guarantees, that certain things in life are ‘guaranteed’ – I eat healthy and exercise, therefore I’m guaranteed a long healthy life. But here’s the problem with this type of thinking:
Life can be very short and unfair for some, just look at any children’s hospital. It’s only when we get knocked down that we really understand life doesn’t function according to fairness or guarantees. That’s why it’s time to stop playing by the rules and allowing your life to be ruled by fairness and guarantee thinking, here’s why;
We’ve all heard that ‘if we want to get anywhere in life we must work hard’. A friend of mind did exactly this. She never had time for anything apart from work – to the point where some of the best years of her life passed her by.
A pay rise and a promotion had been promised to her since starting with the company and due to her exceptional performance and dedication, she thought it was a sure thing. It was only fair, right? she had worked so hard and made many sacrifices in exchange.
On her team was a colleague who was well liked by higher management, but did the bare minimum – turned up late, left work early and spent hours online shopping while the rest of the team picked up the slack. When it came time for the promotion guess who got it? not my friend or someone else in the team. Yes, it went to the slacker. Unfair – you bet!
Upon reflection, my friend mentioned that if she had known life was going to happen this way, she would have lived her life very differently.
Everyone seems to be on some sort of diet or health regime with the aim of increasing their lifespan. While I’m not disputing the evidence that a poor diet and limited physical activity can have negative consequences to your health, I’m simply saying that with anything in life – following the rules doesn’t always guarantee fairness.
Take Steve Jobs, he lived a relatively healthy lifestyle, wasn’t a heaver drinker or smoker and had access to some of the best healthcare professionals in the world. So, it was fair to assume he should have lived to see his elderly years.
Then there’s Keith Richards he’s 73 years old. Apart from The Rolling Stones, he’s known for living life in the fast lane – drug addictions, drinking, smoking, several near-death experiences, and his somewhat surprising longevity.
When looking at the two, you would expect Keith Richards to have lived a fast, but short life. Yet it was Steve Jobs who didn’t see his 57th birthday. Although these may be considered extreme examples, it goes to show life doesn’t always provide the outcomes we expect.
“I mean some doctor told me I had six months to live and I went to their funeral”
Play it Safe
This is a BIG one, the belief that if you play it safe, somehow, you’re never going to experience hardship. If this were true, then every risk adverse person would be protected from financial difficulties, relationship problems, illness and death. I’m yet to meet such a person.
While taking the leap can be scary, life comes without guarantees, so even if you play it safe you can still end up failing. Jim Carey famously explained this point in a commencement speech to the Maharishi University of Management;
“My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him….Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
The importance of living your life
Living your life the way you want is extremely important – I have only met a handful of these people. They are people who truly live life without the lingering fear that something will go very wrong if they choose not to follow the conventional path – they aren’t worried about living their life according to the expectations of others, they do the things in life that bring them joy and happiness. These people understand that no matter what choices they make, they will still experience the good and the bad. That’s why they life their life anyway.