“I understand,” I say to them. “But you have dead people’s goals.“
Dr. Susan David, TEDWomen 2017
And clients tell me I am direct! Clearly, they have never listed to Dr. Susan David’s TED talk.
From minute one of her talk, I knew I was going to like this woman and her thinking. With great compassion she lets you know that she sees you, she gets you, and you may be a bit rigid in your thinking. She then suggests that your rigidity just might be making you a master of denial.
A Master of Denial
Of all the things I want to be, and I want to help guide those I work with to be, a Master of Denial is not one of them. I will admit that when I heard Dr. David say the line about ‘dead people’s goals’ even I was taken aback. She then clarified in the same calm and steady voice she had used throughout her talk. David was asking us to look at our lives from the standpoint of false happiness and artificial positivity.
- What happens when we pretend to be happy when we are not?
- What happens when you pretend we don’t hurt when we are dying inside?
- What happens when you say you are okay but your current version of ‘okay’ is no one’s dream of the ‘new normal?’
What happens is you end up pretending to live as only a dead person can. No pain, no anguish, no challenges. As David sums up at 9:58, “Only dead people never get unwanted or inconvenienced by their feelings.”
A Master of Journaling
Journaling was the path that David walked to face life’s hardships and you know how much I support that behavior! Her book, Emotional Agility, takes the reader through the science, the life experiences, and the path of responding to life without denial so you can recapture your state of happiness and positivity quicker.
I know I teach that when you explain a situation you should do so using the 3 N’s: No shame, No blame, No rationalization. I want to be clear about that direction. That is only after you have written the most shameful, blame-ridden rationalization of what has occurred to cause you to sink into a state of grief or stalled you from moving forward. Your journal is for you and your most trusted confidant.
The Business of Flourishing
A cornerstone of flourishing in life is positive emotions, not false positive emotions. Positivity is a tool to help you focus on what you can manage during difficult times, it is not a suggestion to deny the challenges. David’s work shows that the more you face your difficulties and not deny the emotional impact, the faster you can begin to heal. #DoNotDenyDefy is not just a hashtag, it is a way of becoming increasingly more agile and responsive. When you stop wasting your time covering up the negative emotions caused by things that happened in the past, you actually free up more time to create better, more positive, current moments.