Illusions of the corporate life
Let’s take a look at the most common illusions we create and cling to in our professional lives.
I am not good enough. I have to prove myself constantly.
This is the main one. We inherit this from our school years and we take this with us into our working life. On a deep level somewhere inside us, we feel we are not enough and only constantly proving our worth keeps us safe. We strive for a good review, for the next promotion, for public recognition, in a desperate attempt to feel good about ourselves. See this for what it is: an illusion. No matter how much appreciation you receive from outside, it will never compensate for your own lack of it. Look inside, sort out your own self-worth issues and you will have a much more balanced life.
What if I fail? What if I lose it all?
This terror often accompanies us throughout our professional lives and it’s linked to the “I am not good enough” illusion. Failure is seen as something bad, to be avoided at all costs. This is another illusion. Failure makes us strong and teaches us lessons; failing enough times means we have tried enough. A life with no failures is a life not fully lived and what you lose sometimes is worth losing. Recognise this fear for what it is: an illusion. And then go out there and fail a few times, just so you can get used to the fear of failing and get over it.
The company cares for me.
No, it does not. The ‘company’ does not exist in reality: it is just a concept. Some people who work there might care for you, others might not, some might wish you well, others might wish you ill. Some will actively try to sabotage you if it benefits them. Most of the people working in your company, though, will be neutral towards you and it won’t matter at all to them what is happening to you. There is no such thing as the ‘company’. Don’t identify yourself with an illusion.
One day, I will do it.
The illusion of ‘one day’ in the future is a very powerful one. It helps us carry on not doing what we feel is good for us; it helps us buy time. The ‘one day’ usually never arrives and on some deeper level we know it will not, we know we are fooling ourselves at the very moment of saying it. Trust that knowledge and let it come to the surface. It will lead you out of the vicious circle of not doing what is right for you and postponing it to an imaginary ‘one day’ in the future that never arrives.
I have not got enough time to do this.
Time is what we make of it. Time in itself does not exist; it is a fabricated concept, a social convention and therefore an illusion. You simply can have the time that you chose to have. Playing polo has taught me that seven and a half minutes which is the duration of a period of the game also called a chukka is in fact an eternity. Lots of things can happen in seven and a half minutes. A lifetime of events can unfold. You can lose or win a game, have a fall and break your arms or stay healthy. You can score many amazing goals and have the game of your life. Seven and a half minutes is not really just seven and a half minutes. If you find your hours in the day quickly disappearing under countless appointments and things you have to do, question why you do this.
I need to work hard to succeed.
Says who? Your education? Your socially acceptable paradigm? Your group of friends? Your parents? Your boss? Who says that you need to work hard, to feel like you struggle every day and that this is how things should be? Just question this as you question the rest of the beliefs you were fed by your family, your education and your society. See if it’s right for you. Maybe you need to work smart to succeed. Or maybe there is no such thing as success. Maybe doing what gives you pleasure already gives you a feeling of having succeeded. Maybe the concept of work itself is outdated and you can just think of it as finding what gives you joy and doing it. Simply question this belief and see what is left behind as you start to break it down piece by piece.
I have sacrificed so much for this, I cannot give it up now.
This is when your past decides your present. In economics this is called the concept of the sunk cost. A sunk cost is a cost you have already incurred. It’s done. You have spent that money. It’s in the past. Nothing you can ever do can bring you back that money. Accept this and let it go. Persisting in a bad investment means throwing good money after bad, losing more in the present because you have already lost in the past. Resist this illusion. Nothing you do in the present can turn your wrong decisions in the past into right ones. Simply judge a situation for what it brings you now. See if it’s good for you or not in the present moment.
I don’t like what I do now but it will take me to a good position later.
This is when your future decides your present. The problem with the future is that it’s unknown. It’s hypothetical. It might happen, it might not. We may have a car accident tomorrow and die, and then there is no future. Or the person you are when that future finally arrives has no resemblance to the person you think you will be, looking ahead from this moment in time. I am not saying that we should live oblivious of the future. All I am saying is that we need to check if what we are doing with our lives right now makes sense for us or not. If the job you do today gives you a level of excitement, knowledge or passion you are happy with, do it. If you absolutely hate it and you simply do it because you believe it will give you something in the future, just know this for that it is: an illusion.