We learn from the unlikeliest of places.
(That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind)
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I picked up three of Life’s biggest lessons, and I mean huuuuge lessons, from a panda, a turtle, and a goose.
Life Lesson #1: Be true to yourself. It will work out.
If you haven’t seen the movie, this is the part where Po (the panda) is trying to get in to the temple so he can watch his fav heroes do KungFu (by tying a bunch of fireworks to his chair to be propelled inside). His Dad, the Goose, was asking why he was doing something so silly.
Being true to yourself and being authentic to who you are isn’t always easy.
You might feel like the odds are against you, or you might tell yourself “how could you possibly do that?”
But let me tell you something… those excuses are lame!
They’re just our ego trying to protect itself. You feel fearful because your ego is trying to protect itself from being hurt should you fail. It’s trying to protect itself from feeling disappointment should you fail.
But the thing about failure and disappointment is: it’s not as bad as we think it is!
We live in a culture that celebrates success and casts shame on failure, but what we don’t realize is that success and failure are not different paths. They are actually on the same path…
and success is the step before the next failure.
When we see someone succeed, we see “oh how glorious”, but we are blind to how many times that person might have failed before they reached that point. Before you can do something, there’s always a period of time where you cannot. As a society we don’t celebrate the efforts so much, we only celebrate the positive results.
It’s time to break away from this outdated way of doing things!
Societal conditioning in this area is not healthy. Failures are not terrible things to avoid at all costs. If you have a young child who is learning to walk and they keep falling over for weeks or months, do you put them down for trying? Do you think they’re worthless little critters undeserving of your love until they can finally walk? Of course not! They are brilliant little humans for their tireless efforts and their determination to get up and try again after the 100th time they fell. That’s what’s worth celebrating. Who cares about the results, it’s inevitable that they will succeed with that kind of moral fibre!
So… Be courageous and be authentic. Be true to yourself and be who you want to be, not what others expect of you.
Being true to yourself is the only path to your freedom, happiness and fulfilment. Might there be failures and disappointments on that path? You bet. But set-backs are are part of life anyway, and they’re not as bad as we blow them up to be. Feel the fear, do it anyway. That’s what courage is. That’s what it takes to be true to yourself.
I think lack of authenticity is ultimately the source of all our pain. We let our fears of failure and disappoint shackle our full expression, and as a result we feel immense pain. This pain might show up in our lives as illness, excess weight, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, negative body image, digestive problems, or any other unwanted symptom you can imagine. Believe me, I’ve been there before.
In Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, the Number 1 regret of those on their deathbeds is:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
So guys, take it from Po (and me), and be true to yourself. It will work out.
Life Lesson #2: Be in the present, it really is a gift!
You might think this “being present” thing has been repeated ad nauseum by now. Yes OK, be in the present.
But it’s bloody hard isn’t it?
The human mind has the amazing (or not so amazing) ability to wander… We might be sitting on a busy train and someone’s talking loudly on their phone. If we don’t like that we can easily distract ourselves with something else by taking our attention away from the present moment – maybe to a pleasant time in the past, maybe imagine something nice in the future. Wherever it is, we’ve stopped being present, because we don’t really like facing what is in the present.
You might think this is fair enough – if you don’t enjoy it you shouldn’t have to be present for it. But this is a slippery slope.
We can check out from the present moment during a long meeting, a presentation we’re not particularly engaged in, we could (unwittingly) do it while we’re with a friend in need, or we could do it while we’re driving.
Mind wandering is a habit. And like all habits, if you do it for long enough it becomes an automatic reaction. And that can be dangerous when done too often.
Believe it or not, all addictions (whether it’s to substances, experiences, activities…) stem from trying to “numb out” from the now.
Don’t like how you’re being treated at work? Let’s have a drink to forget about it. It always starts out fairly harmlessly, but we can all tell when it becomes a problem right? And then you think it’s the drinking that’s the problem, but it’s not – it’s refusing to be in the present that’s the problem.
If we chose to deal with whatever issue that we needed to deal with in the moment, even if it was difficult and painful, we would have been able to move on. But because we chose to escape, the problem just stays where it is (perhaps festering). And meanwhile we’ve compounded the situation by adding an unwanted habit on top.
This might surprise you, but our obsession with:
- our bodies
- counting calories
- our appearance
- taking photos of our food to post on Instagram
- obsessing over how many “Likes” our selfies got
- junk media and junk ideas
- being on our devices while we’re out with real people…
These are all distractions that we use to numb us out from the present.
We tell ourselves that we will have happiness after we lose the weight, after we find the perfect diet, after we get the job promotion, and after we get 5000 followers on InstaTwitFace.
So in the meantime, we just settle on feeling unfulfilled, unexpressed, and “not OK with ourselves as we are.”
Think about it. Are those 3 pounds you’ve been trying to lose from your midsection for the past 5 years really your problem? Are those 3 pounds really stopping you from doing the things you want to do now? If you lost the 3 pounds what would it be next? The shape of your thighs? Perhaps there’s a deeper issue at play. Perhaps there’s a toxic belief in your head that’s telling you “you’re not good enough as you are” and putting you down at every turn…
It’s hard enough as it is to practice being present and not letting our minds take over the show, and then you throw on all the modern day distractions we have…
That’s why it’s more important now than ever before in history to practice being in the present – especially if you don’t like it.
Sometimes, Life will throw unpleasant curveballs at’cha which demands that you deal with pain and discomfort in the moment.
If you can be there for the lows, then you can also be there for the highs. That is what Life wants you to experience: the full embodiment of life on Earth. To be deeply happy and fulfilled you must also know what it’s like to feel deeply hurt, uncomfortable, and terrible. Where there is light there will also be shadows. Don’t favour one over the other. Embrace them both and embrace all of what it means to be alive.
If you’re not convinced, or you’d like to see some proof that this “spiritual” stuff is true, scientific studies can show you that by not being present, you are less happy in the long term.
Life Lesson #3: The “secret ingredient” is Believing in Yourself
Simply put, there is no objective reality, it all depends on how you see things.
A piece of steak is not inherently good or bad – it depends on who’s looking at it. If you believe that animals should not be eaten, or that the way we raise animals for consumption is abhorrent, or any other reasons you believe is important, you might find the sight of that steak sickening. If you believe that meat is nutritious and that it’s natural for us to eat other animals, or any other reasons important to you, you might find the steak appealing.
Our beliefs are the foundations of our inner thought infrastructure, which is what drives our behaviours, our actions, our choices, our responses, and how we show up in the world.
We really are what we believe. Beliefs go to the core of our existence.
So what do you believe in?
- Do you believe that you are inherently whole and perfect exactly the way you are, and that you don’t need to change a thing about yourself in order to be “OK”?
- Do you believe that all your shortcomings or “imperfections” are not really shortcomings, but doorways to becoming a better you?
- Do you believe that all the difficulties you’ve been through (no matter how horrible) were not mistakes, but challenges that have shaped who you are today?
- Do you believe that the problem is never with the other person, but always a reflection of yourself?
If that’s what you believe then Hallelujah!… You’ve reached a level of enlightenment and self-acceptance unparalleled by many.
But chances are, if we’re spiritual warriors on this journey of self-actualization, we’ve all got a tonne of negative beliefs and mindsets that hold us back from being the truth of who we really are.
We all want to believe that it’s someone else’s fault that we failed; if only that terrible thing didn’t happen in the past, it wouldn’t be like this now; if it wasn’t for our shabby genetics or circumstances, we’d be achieving what we really wanted to achieve; or that there’s just something about us that’s not “perfect”, and until we can “fix” that, we won’t get what we want.
And you know what, this comes back full circle to Life Lesson #1: Be true to yourself.
We’re deeply afraid of failing and feeling shattering disappointment, so we make up these beliefs that “it’s always someone else’s fault”, “it’s because of some inherent defect in me”, “it’s because I’m just not cut out for this”, and “what if other people laugh at me?”… Sound familiar? It’s our delicate egos trying to protect themselves from being bruised.
Now that you’ve seen through this, can you see how simple (not the same as easy) it is to unravel it?
Don’t buy into those fear-driven beliefs!
Believe in yourself!
Believe that you have absolutely everything you need to get exactly what you want. And you’ll be right. We really do manifest in our lives what we believe to be true.
are both usually right.”
And again, if all this is too “spiritual” for ya, there is again science to prove it (pay special attention at 6:50). The only thing separating those who lacked a sense of worthiness from those who strongly felt a sense of worthiness was simply – those who felt they were worthy believed that they were worthy of love and belonging.
So there you go.
3 of Life’s biggest lessons made fun and enjoyable to learn through the adventures of an ordinary panda who followed his dream. If you haven’t seen KungFu Panda, I highly recommend that you do.
All images are from the movie KungFu Panda and property of DreamWorks (thanks for making this awesome movie!)