Do you buy into the myth that success alone brings happiness and fulfillment? The techniques 95% of Americans use to strive for success, growth, and personal development guarantees they won’t be fulfilled in the long run.
There is a completely different and unique way to approach success. And it’s imperative you discover this way to gain personal happiness, success, and insane amounts of growth in your life.
In today’s episode, you’ll discover how to experience success and growth — while also being happy, fulfilled, and not having to wait until you succeed in order to be happy.
Show highlights include:
- The polar-opposite method to build a financial empire comparable to Rome (without stress, anxiety, and depression) (1:20)
- How your parents lied to you about the concept of self-worth (and how this lie keeps you mired in a state of loneliness and poverty) (3:26)
- The counter-intuitive way dreaming of “sipping pina coladas on the beach” will force you to become a desperate workaholic who never spends time with your kids (11:15)
- How immersing yourself in “flow capital” will scientifically unlock a never ending state of high happiness (13:28)
- Why you’ll chain yourself down with concrete in the Hudson River if you wake up with nothing to do on Monday (14:25)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Get access to all my current and future online coaching courses by applying for the Platinum Partnership program today at:
Listen to the episode on your favorite podcast platform:
Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. This episode is all about how you can experience success and growth, while also and, more importantly, being happy and fulfilled, specifically not having to wait until you have succeeded in order to be happy, in other words, not buying into the lie, the myth that success alone brings happiness and fulfillment. [00:47.4]
The way that most people strive for success and growth, and even personal development, guarantees that they won’t be fulfilled in the long run and that they’re often not happy. Many of them feel anxious that they’re not on track to meet their big, ambitious goals, and that if they don’t attain these big ambitious goals, then they’re not enough, they’re not good enough, they’re not worthy of admiration or, really, what’s at the core of it, not enough for love, not good enough for love, not worthy of being loved. There is a completely different way to approach success, and even more important for you to understand is why you want success in the first place.
Now, it’s possible for you to become successful, in the sense that most people mean that term success, as in worldly success, it’s totally possible for you to become successful by accident, sort of just along the way because you’re doing something you enjoy or you enjoy, even if it’s challenging or because it’s challenging and you’re in flow doing it, and as a result, you achieve success.
But you don’t really notice the success until you look up and see that you’ve attained these goals and these accolades or whatever, but you’re not doing it for those reasons. You’re doing it because of the intrinsic enjoyment, meaning and value of the activity itself. [02:11.0]
That’s one way that it can go and I’m going to explain more about it in this episode. It’s dedicated to helping you to see how that can happen for you. But how most people are striving for success is a kind of tortured way, a way full of anxiety and stress, and pressure and fear, that if they don’t achieve these goals or if they’re behind in their long-term progress on these goals, then their life would fall apart—they would not be enough. They would not be a man, for the guys out there, or they would just not be worthy of connection, love, and significance.
There’s another way besides the stressful striving approach that most of the world takes, and that most life coaches and personal development gurus champion, and if you do it this way, you’ll not only have growth and success, but even more importantly, you’ll have happiness and fulfillment, because that’s what you get at the beginning. [03:10.0]
You don’t need to defer your happiness until some far-off goal, 10 years down the road, if you exit from your company or you sell your company or whatever, until you finally can rest and finally experience this far-off nebulous thing called happiness—and you can finally rest because you’re finally enough, and all this striving is because you bought into this lie that you picked up from your parents or your teachers, or your community or society, where they were burdened by their own limiting beliefs and their own generational trauma that required them to earn their self worth, to earn their value that they had to achieve and do stuff in order to be worthy of love, which, of course, means that they didn’t know what love meant the whole time. [03:57.0]
You don’t want to waste your life in striving for this feeling of being enough or of happiness, of lasting happiness, or of fulfillment, and to waste all of these years, decades of your life to get to the end—and for so many people, they don’t even achieve their big ambitious goals, so then they just feel like failures their whole lives and then they die—or the minority of people who hustle and grind, and strive and sacrifice so much of their personal happiness and of being present with their loved ones and so on.
They sacrifice all of this hoping in the back of their minds it’s all this unconscious drive that came from their childhood or formative years that is haunting them, torturing them, giving or filling them with anxiety and stress and pressure to become someone that they are not currently—because the way that they are currently is not good enough, so they have to transform themselves to become somebody worthy of love and connection and significance, finally—only to get to the end of their lives, even if they do achieve their goals or more, they attain their dreams and beyond, only to discover that there is no fulfillment as a result of that. [05:04.1]
This is almost an impossible message to pass down to people in their twenties right now, and maybe 20 years from now, it will be like the thirties where you’re still in this immature stage of striving and believing the lie. But for those of you who are more mature and maybe there’s some very mature 20-somethings whom I have met—age is just a number that is not pegged to emotional or psychological maturity. There are young people who are very mature and old people who are very immature—but, generally speaking, hopefully, if you’re in your forties and fifties and sixties, you have already experienced what it’s like to attain a goal that you thought was very ambitious that you sacrificed for, only to experience the next day, the next morning, the next week after obtaining this big far-off goal that that didn’t bring that level of happiness, meaning, or fulfillment that you sacrificed so much for. [05:56.8]
You don’t want to get to the end of your life having sacrificed so much to the lie that you have to earn your self-worth, that you have to earn love, only to sacrifice all that to get to the end of your life to find out it still isn’t enough. At least it’s not enough for very long, because there’s the next day and the next week, month, year, where you have to do it all over again.
When you’re successful as a means to find happiness, fulfillment and love in your life, and you’re relying on worldly success to get there, you have to continue always to be successful, and if you’re relying on striving to be successful, then you will have to strive and sacrifice and beat yourself up, and grind and hustle your entire life. So, I really hope you’ve figured out how to enjoy the process along the way and the “sacrifices”, quote-unquote, weren’t real sacrifices to you. [06:46.6]
But in the quiet of the night when you’re all alone and you wish that you had spent more time with your daughter or with your wife, or enjoying that sunset or just being present with your life, you know the truth—the stressful approach, the striving approach, that “beat yourself up until you get there” approach, hoping that you’ll finally feel those feelings that you’ve been waiting for your whole life, happiness, fulfillment, love, being enough, being significant, that those will finally come after enough sacrifice and enough late nights at the office, and enough saying no to things that you would love to do, only to discover that it was all a lie. It was all a collective myth that your schools, your society, your family bought into. But then it’s too late.
Not only is it probably towards the twilight of your life that you discovered this finally the hard way, but you’re also burnt out and you were probably burnt out quite a while ago. You were tired. You were exhausted. You were wondering, “When does this treadmill end? When does it stop?” In fact, if you continue down this road of beating yourself up, the striving, the stressful approach, the grind and hustle, now you’re even worse off because now you have a mental health issue, because you fed this beast that always haunts you and won’t let you get off the treadmill, what I will be calling the “inner critic.” [08:11.5]
Very likely, if you are a high achiever who has used the stress approach, the striving approach, the beating yourself up and sacrifice approach to getting worldly success, you probably have multiple inner critics that won’t let you rest, that won’t let you enjoy life, that won’t let you relax, that won’t give you the luxury and freedom to be present with your loved ones, your son, your daughter, your aging parents, for very long, for more than an hour, say.
Then you start to get antsy. You start to check your phone, check to see if there are any work emails or messages that you need to get onto, because in the back of your mind, there’s always more that you can do, because there always is more that you can do, and you have to keep doing it because time continues. You can’t rest on your laurels. [09:03.7]
So many of us growing up in the middle class, like I did, have this idea, maybe this dream, that it is possible to make $100 million, a billion dollars or whatever—this number has to keep going up and adjusting with inflation—whatever that big number is for you that you can then say, “Then it will be enough. Then I can retire on this. Then I can invest this payout into a capital fund that will just pay me out 2% and I can live off whatever 2.55% of that,” and you have this number in your head.
I have so many friends who still do this, and in a way, I do it because it’s important to know what level of quality of life you would like to lead and have in your old age and you’ve got to plan ahead. You’ve got to figure out, if I weren’t able to work or if I didn’t want to make a living, putting in time for money or whatever, how much would I have to have saved in capital to safely have this living stipend as a dividend from that capital to get that number? [10:02.7]
So many of my friends just keep ratcheting up this number, because most of my friends are achievers, and that number keeps increasing because their needs for their living and their lifestyle, and their living expenses, keeps going up. Then the capital amount has to keep going up, and then there’s inflation and then they just double it because they want to be safe in all this. That’s fun to plan and to have a number in mind.
But here’s the mistake we all make. I’ll include myself in there so you know I’m not just preaching down at you. “We” make this mistake thinking that we can make that huge amount of money or get that goal, these monetary goals are just substitutes for whatever it is. Maybe it’s the gold medal, the World Series or whatever it is for you.
We think that we can get to that huge ambitious goal and then relax, not realizing that in order to get that huge ambitious goal—which we don’t have now and probably aren’t on a current trajectory that can safely just put into autopilot and get there, but we’ll have to inject lots and lots of extra hard work and creativity and so on, and inspiration and motivation, to get there—that what it would take to be the type of person that could achieve that would mean that that person that you become in order to achieve that goal would not be able to rest. [11:15.2]
I know whoever shares with me this life plan that I’m going to make 100 million, 500 million, and then retire on the beach, I know this guy came from the middle class or the lower middle classes, because he hasn’t been around people who have already done that. He didn’t grow up with a dad who is worth a billion dollars, because if he did, he would know what type of person, what it would take to be the type to create that amount of value in a capitalist system.
If you claw your way up from the middle class to create that, you will have become the type of person who won’t be able to just sit on a beach or rest on your laurels, or go surfing all day. You will be restless once you cash out. You might be able to take six months off, a year off, yeah, especially if you’ve sacrificed 20 years of your life for this company that you finally sold for a billion bucks. But I have friends who have exited at the billion-dollar level who could rest for maybe three months, four months, and then they were desperate to find the next thing. [12:19.2]
Again, the caveat is if you’re loving the journey, if you get hit by a car and in the middle of your so-called sacrifice of your late nights at the office and so on in pursuit of this ambitious goal, and just as you’re about to get hit by the car or maybe you’re still conscious but your body is draining of blood or whatever and you’re like, That was time well spent, I would not have spent it in any other way, then power to you.
I’m not talking about cases like that where, in fact, none of what you did was really a sacrifice. It might be considered a sacrifice from somebody looking from the outside, but if you fully enjoyed your time and you were in Flow—and, again, Flow doesn’t mean it was easy or effortless. Flow means it was a challenge, but you enjoyed the challenge, right? You don’t want to play a game or a sport that’s really easy. You’d be bored, so, of course, it’s got to be challenging—but, hopefully, here’s something that a lot of guys listening can appreciate or understand. [13:10.4]
Like Playing a video game and you actually enjoyed the time playing it, even though it was hard, or playing a sport with an opponent or against an opponent who challenged you so you had to really rise to the occasion and at the end of that you enjoyed it, and then you think back and you enjoyed the whole time.
But, of course, you were unselfconscious while you were doing it and you’ve lost track of time while you were doing it, so you were never asking yourself, “Am I enjoying this?” because you are completely focused, because the activity required you to have complete concentration and the activity, so you lost yourself in it and you immersed yourself in it.
Of course, you must know by now the science of Flow, “capital F” Flow, that shows that this is one of the most reliable ways to enter into a state of high happiness. So, there are, of course, people who are able to attain great levels of success, and then completely change direction and do something that doesn’t bring monetary success, though I have not yet met anyone who has attained a high degree of success who just stops and just sits on a beach and does nothing. [14:10.8]
Almost always, these people, after a certain period of recuperation and recovery, and going to wellness retreats and things like that, we’ll find a new thing that they become passionate about and spend all their time focused on, and they get really, really good at that thing, as a result. They just repeat the same plan or method, the approach that they had in the other thing that brought them worldly success into this new area.
A lesson to take away even from that, even from those rare cases, is that you better have the right approach in the first place, because that’s the approach you’re going to take later on to all the other things. Imagine that the striving, stressful, “beat yourself up” grind-and-hustle approach, what got you to where you were, and then you cashed out and now you have nothing to do on the Monday morning after that. [14:58.1]
I know people who were almost suicidal because they found no meaning in life anymore and they forced themselves back into their company that they just sold and made themselves a really big nuisance, and then lawyers had to get involved. They actually did it, not because they really enjoyed doing it, but because that’s the only thing they knew. They fought to get back on the treadmill.
It’s like a lab rat who his whole life doesn’t know any other way to be, and then he’s finally released into the wild, or into, I don’t know, the sewers or whatever, and he doesn’t know what to do and he thinks this freedom sucks, and all he knew was just running the treadmill for those pellets that their lab technicians gave him.
That’s so many striving, stressed out achievers and they don’t even know it, because all of their other family, their schools, their peers were also lab rats running their treadmills, and even worse than lab rats because lab rats probably can’t do a whole lot of future projection and meaning-making, but we humans do, and part of the lie, the great myth, the collective myth that so many of us have bought into is that success leads to fulfillment. That’s a total lie. Success on its own does not lead to fulfillment, happiness, or love. [16:13.8]
If what you want is not just worldly success, but also fulfillment, happiness and love, your best chances are to start from a place of fulfillment. Starting from self-acceptance is the only way to healthy growth, and fulfillment more often leads to worldly success. It’s just that so few people are fulfilled. But if you’re already fulfilled, if you’re already fully accepting of all of the parts of yourself, then you are actually free. You’re free to ask yourself what you want to do with your time.
So many of us are not free. Achievers who use the striving approach are not free. They’re constrained by what they believe will lead to worldly success and very often it might have started with this sort of naive idealism that they really enjoyed this major in university or something. [17:07.7]
But if they relied on the striving approach to success, the stressful approach, the “beat yourself up” hustle-and-grind approach, then they will inevitably arrive at a point where they feel trapped. But it’s the only way they know, so they’ve got to keep running that treadmill because it’s the only way they know to achieve happiness, fulfillment and love, to earn it through achievement.
Now, this other way to worldly success comes from healthy growth. The way to do it is not to make worldly success your main goal. Hopefully, by this point, you’ve understood that that is never the main goal, that it’s always an intermediary. Worldly success is going to bring some kind of feeling, a feeling of being enough or being significant finally, or something along those lines, of being enough for love, of being worthy of love. [17:58.2]
Instead, for the moment, you can focus on this concept of healthy growth, growing in a way that’s not toxic or doesn’t have downstream negative mental health consequences, but is, instead, healthy growth, and healthy growth starts from self-acceptance, not self-criticism. It can’t start from criticizing you that you’re not good enough the way you are now, that you have to hate some part of yourself.
Take it as an example, as a simple example, someone who just wants some fitness or body transformation. They hate how they look in the mirror and they just hate that enough that it gets them off their ass and they start this extreme dieting or whatever workout, right? That can actually work in the short term and that is what this striving approach to success is, relying on self-criticism. [18:48.2]
But that’s already where you go wrong. Healthy growth can’t start from self-criticism. It has to start from self-acceptance, and that means that when you look in the mirror, using our example, when you look in the mirror and you see all this excess fats and you don’t like the way you look, if you want healthy growth and part of what that means is, as you are growing or as you’re going through the growing process, or as you are attempting to take on this challenge of this ambitious goal, you are enjoying the whole process along the way. Not that it’s easy, because then remember for you to experience Flow, it can’t be easy, it has to be challenging but it’s an enjoyable challenge.
Now let’s give an example that a lot of guys originally found me for, which is the dating context. Of course, you might hate parts of yourself or be ashamed or embarrassed of parts of yourself, the parts that are shy or nervous around women or that are socially awkward or have anxiety, social anxiety, approach anxiety or something along those lines, and you want to just get rid of them. You want to cut them out of you. You want to exile them. At the very least, you want to transform them so they’re not the way that they are now, this weak, lacking-confidence type of personality. That’s how most of the world goes about it and this is why they end up in toxic growth, if they grow at all. [20:05.5]
But, instead, healthy growth has to start from self-acceptance where you look in the mirror and you accept that this is the way you are and that you love this version of you, this body, because it’s you. You losing the fat, you looking better or you becoming better with women doesn’t actually make you more worthy of love. It’s just something that you want, and that, in and of itself, could be a fine reason to go and get it right.
You’re not generally needy towards ice cream, but if you’re feeling like some ice cream and it can fit within a healthy diet and you know it, then go and have the ice cream. Because you want it and you’ve already gone through this process of checking to see that there aren’t going to be any negative long-term effects, then you can say yes.
Now already you can see how some people are so used to that striving treadmill that they can’t even ask themselves that question. They can’t even think through that question of whether it’s healthy, because, to them, they’re perfectionists. It’s either black or white, right? [21:09.3]
They won’t even allow themselves the metaphorical ice cream, because no amount of relaxation, slacking off—or they call it slacking off or being lazy, right?—none of that will be acceptable because they already have indulged fully. They’re already fully immersed in self-criticism, so there’s no room for understanding or compassion or love.
Do you struggle in your interactions with women or in your intimate relationship? Are fear, shame, or neediness sabotaging your relationships or attractiveness? In my Platinum Partnership Program, you’ll discover how to transform your psychological issues, improve your success with women, and uncover your true self.
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Now let’s go back to the original metaphor because that’s actually more helpful, especially for you guys for whom your real problem or the real problem that you have in the forefront of your mind is actually related to your dating life or your or women. You already can’t think objectively about it, so I’m going to just use—and, hopefully, you can understand—analogical thinking. I know there are plenty of guys who can’t. Analogical thinking is one of the best ways to bypass these critical parts.
By way of analogy, and if this is your real issue, then that works, too, you’re looking in the mirror, you want to lose all this fat. You don’t like yourself the way you are. Get into the therapeutic process either through my courses or getting a really good therapist to help you to arrive at a place of self-acceptance, a place where you can fully accept that you or that part of you that led to being fat and or whatever it is that you don’t like or ashamed of. [23:07.4]
Get into a place of fully accepting that part of you or those parts of you, and then moving forward into appreciating those parts of you for their positive intent. There’s a good reason that those parts of you, in this analogy here, this example, overate and didn’t exercise. Even more so, for those cases where you already have a genetic predisposition to accumulating more fat, and in the current culture, that’s not considered physically attractive so you beat yourself up for that.
Even more so then, anything that they did, it was just part of what you were born with, and until you can come to a place, truly, sincerely, of fully accepting those parts of yourself that you currently don’t like or are hating, or are very critical of or want to just go away, or want to fix or change or transform, until you can come to a place of acceptance, you cannot go further in the growth process, because if you do, by overriding them or exiling them, or disowning them or banishing them, you have now stepped into toxic striving. [24:20.3]
And this will really blow your mind. You even have to come to a place of acceptance for the critics. Right? We start off with you’re blended with, you’re identified with, you’re embodied by, possessed by these critical parts, and they too need self-acceptance. You don’t say, “Go away, inner critic,” because that would just be a part that’s polarized with the inner critic, and instead, you get to a part, a place, a state, where you have full acceptance of all of your parts, even the parts that are criticizing you, even the parts for which they’re full of self-criticism.
For all of these parts, whether it is the ones that are getting beaten up and blamed or that other parts want to fix, or if it’s for those parts that are trying to do the fixing, they’re the ones that are driving this agenda, and you turn to them with compassion and understanding and acceptance. [25:13.3]
No doubt, if you’re at the beginning of the process—and the beginning could be, for some people, lasting months or years—in the beginning, you’re going to have other parts that keep jumping in and you’re going to notice that you still have this agenda that you believe that these parts need to be fixed or changed, and they’re not good. You’re not okay with the way they are right now. In other words, you don’t accept them fully.
It’s a great paradox, right? Because you get into therapy or you begin the therapeutic process, or you get into personal development in order to make a change, in order to fix some part of you, and the first thing you’re being told in the therapeutic process when it’s done properly is that the first order of business is to come to a place of acceptance of the things that you originally wanted to change. The very agenda that you had coming into it is what you will need to drop to move away from, to let go of, in order to get past the first steps of the therapeutic process. [26:11.3]
Maybe it’s hard for you to see how you could possibly accept a part of you that you see is obviously deficient in some way in your perspective. Here’s another analogy. I have friends, male friends who are not good with women, and I’ve got no problems with that and they don’t need to become good with women in order for me to accept them as friends. I don’t look at them interacting with women and doing poorly, and seeing that, and I don’t judge them for being bad or needing to change or fix that part of themselves or their results with women in order for me to consider them worthy of love or worthy of my friendship, if they’re good people, because I don’t see it as a requirement to be good with women in order to be a good human being or a good man. [27:00.0]
Now, if they are in pain, as a result of not being good with women, and they come to me asking for help so that they can remove this pain so that they can get out of the pain, then that’s another issue. It’s not that I need them to become good with women or I need them to fix that part of themselves, or to improve that area of their lives, in order for me to accept them into my life, or for me to love them or for me to keep my connection with them. But, of course, because they’re in pain and because they’re asking for help, I can help them.
That’s the big distinction, this big shift between fixing parts because you can’t accept them because you can’t stand it that they’re deficient in this way versus going to them with full acceptance of how they are, not needing them to be any different from how they are, in order for you to love them, in order for you to feel their intrinsic worth and for them to be enough for you. [27:58.5]
Then seeing that they are asking for help because they’re in pain, and then going to them to help them because they’ve asked for it and because they’re currently in pain. Not helping them because you have an agenda to fix them, but simply because you see them in pain and you want to alleviate that pain. It’s a subtle distinction that even many therapists mess up, because when the client or patient comes into the therapy room, there’s already this assumption that you’re broken and you need fixing, and the therapists themselves sometimes buy into this.
Often, the ones who are trained in traditional standard psycho or psychiatric approach take that view, which is called the pathological approach, where they consider it to be a pathology, as if they’re treating some disease or sickness or illness, and the view being that the client or patient is sick and needs to be fixed. That’s not the view that will lead to healthy growth. [28:55.7]
Healthy growth starts from radical self-acceptance and the therapeutic process done properly starts from accepting all of the parts that are there in the client fully, not needing them to be different from how they are in order for them to be enough or worthy of love. Of course, we still help them if they are in pain, but we don’t need them to be different from how they are in order for us to accept them as worthy of love, connection and significance.
As you go through the therapeutic process properly, you will get to know all of these different parts of you that are causing this inner conflict within. This includes, of course, your inner critic parts or any parts that are critical of you as well as all of the parts that are being criticized. [29:47.1]
Let’s for a moment focus again on the aggressor, which for now I’ve been using the term “inner critic” for. The more you get to know the inner critic and you get to see, witness, understand the sources of how it got to be this way, of how it came to this coping strategy of criticizing you, of harsh criticism, in order to often make you work harder or achieve, in order to earn or keep the love or connection of the people that you wanted it from the most, your parental caregivers, in most cases, and being driven by that fear that unless they succeed or achieve at this high level, unless they do that, this fear that unless they do that, they’re going to lose the love or have less of that connection, or be unworthy of significance, and that if they’re not significant enough, then the ones that they crave the love from the most will cease loving them.
When we’re born and when we’re still very young, we equate being loved with our survival, because, in fact, of course, that was the case that if there was no one there to take care of you, you as a little baby can’t survive on your own and that’s why survival and getting love are so deeply embedded in our psyche from the moment we were born, and it’s deep in your unconscious, this connection. [31:13.6]
That’s why that fear is so intense. In fact, there’s even fear around having fear, and this is especially common in men because there’s a lot of toxic masculinity in the wider culture and in history all around the world, and this is not to say that all masculinity is toxic, of course, but that, of course, there are versions of masculinity that are toxic and part of the messaging of that is that you can’t even own up to the fear. It’s too scary to even admit being afraid, because that would make you weak, and then you’re afraid of appearing weak, so there’s fear heaped on top of fear.
Of course, toxic masculinity, just like Red Pill and incel and all that, is just many layers of fear and reactions to that fear. But because there’s so many layers of fear, and then the fear itself, you cannot mention it or own up to it, you have to shove it down deep beneath you’re unconscious so it’s suppressed, and then, over time, that gets repressed or you even forget about it. [32:08.8]
So, if you are actually working with an inner critic part or achiever parts, you generally won’t even use the word fear, because then they will be triggered by it and they’ll deny it. “No, I’m not afraid of anything.” Instead, you just say worry or concern. Of course, stress, the stressful approach to success, that word “stress” is so resonant with achievers and people driven by inner critics. Of course, “stress” is the achiever’s word for fear. I think I first heard that from Tony Robbins, that phrase that stress is the achiever’s code word for fear, because they’re too afraid to own up to their own fear.
The key to accepting them, to coming to a compassionate understanding of how they came to be and how they are is by staying with them long enough until they reveal to you how they took on these roles in your inner system, how they became the critic and why, and what the childhood events were that led to them taking on this role and adopting this coping strategy in an effort to get that love or connection, or that worthiness, from the parental caregivers or those people that they crave love from the most. [33:21.2]
The more and more deeply you understand the sources of their strategies of becoming a critic, whether that’s because they had to internalize the critical parent or the critical teacher, or the peers or the bullies or whatever it was, or maybe it was a coach on some athletic team when they were growing up, wherever that came from and they adopted the strategy as a way of coping with that, the more that you can learn about it and witness it, and understand it, the easier it will be to come to a place of acceptance for how they are. [33:53.5]
It will be a lot easier to enter a state of loving acceptance for the inner critic parts and for all of your parts, when you recognize, when you can understand their positive intention. You can see that the positive intent they had behind their actions, behind their words and their modus operandi, as a way of protecting you from further hurt or loss.
If they’re inner critic parts, I can guarantee you, especially if you’re older, in your thirties or older, that they have got to be quite tired. If you have been striving for success using the stressful approach, which is how most of the world tries to achieve success, then I can guarantee you that they’re exhausted. If that resonates with you, then you can see, you can experientially know why success on its own does not bring happiness or fulfillment or love, and that, in fact, starting from fulfillment is a much better road to success. Success doesn’t lead to fulfillment. Fulfillment is the most effective way to attain healthy success, success that’s sustainable and that has healthy outcomes. [35:07.2]
Why? Because you won’t burn out, because if you are already fulfilled, then that means that you’re doing that activity because you enjoy it, because you want to do it, not because you are beating yourself up and are afraid that, if you don’t do it, then you won’t be enough, which you will obviously equate with survival and you’re going to be in a kind of trauma response.
That kind of “whip on your own back” type of approach might work, especially in the short term, for mindless activities, like typing out something or some forms of simple, repetitious manual work, because they don’t rely on creativity. But if you are using pressure, a pressure approach and it’s feeling stressful, and you’re trying to do an activity that requires any amount of creativity, you’re going to be locked up. You’re going to have too much tension and it’s not going to be enjoyable. [36:02.2]
As a result, people who use this or rely on the stressful approach to success end up losing out in the long run, and often even in the medium run, to those who are doing it because they love it, who are doing it from a place of already being fulfilled and then choosing that activity to do because they enjoy it. If you’re starting from fulfillment, you will outlast and outwork all of the strivers who are relying on the stressful approach on the grind-and-hustle “beat themselves up” approach that is fear-based.
Okay, so to recap, I covered the myth that success leads to fulfillment or happiness. It doesn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite that is true. Fulfillment is a much more effective road to success, and I covered how healthy growth starts from self-acceptance, not self-criticism. [36:53.6]
Then I looked at the way to do it, of turning towards even the inner critical parts, all of your parts, in fact, and arriving at a place of acceptance of them before continuing in the therapeutic process, because it’s a necessary step. The best way to do that is to get to know them better, to learn how they got to be the way they are, and then that will allow you to see the positive intention behind their behavior, their action, and their strategies.
Very briefly, I’m going to tell you a story about a client named Tom. When Tom came to me, he was quite stressed. He was in a C-level position in his Fortune 500 company. He was divorced and dating, and he wasn’t able to relax very easily. He was very stressed out, not just at work, but also in his dating life. Even keeping up with his fitness regimen was causing him stress. He was just stressed in every area of his life, and he was on the verge of just quitting and, in his mind, just blowing everything up and starting his own company that he had barely an idea of what it would be, but he just wanted to. He was exhausted. He just wanted to end it. He was in his mid-forties by this point. [38:03.6]
We started on the therapeutic process, and as he went through the therapeutic process, he was able to accept these parts of himself that were running him haggard, that were exhausting him, and as he got to know them better, he got to understand their history of how they came to be, the way they are, taking on these exhausting but highly-successful and effective roles up to this point in his life. He was able to find a lot more compassion for them and, of course, enter a state of acceptance for who they are and how they are. Because they were exhausted, they just wanted to rest, but they were driven by fear for decades and they felt like they couldn’t rest.
As he got to know them better, he gave them permission to rest, and because he took the time, the weeks to get to know them, they trusted him enough that he would be able to lead and their lives wouldn’t completely blow up, and they were able to rest in his love for them and able to trust him, himself, his true self in the process, and they were able to relax back enough. Of course, he had to remind them regularly about who he was, let them feel his confidence and his courage and so on, and of course, his compassion and love. [39:15.3]
As he built and reinforced this relationship with them over the weeks and months, and got to know the vulnerable parts of him that they were protecting and got to know more of these parts that actually enjoyed these workouts that had become stressful, that actually enjoyed many parts of his work that he had ignored and neglected and taken for granted for so long, as a result, he didn’t actually blow his life up and start a small little company.
Instead, he naturally was able to move into a fresh perspective on his role in the company, which took up a lot of his time, and he found a lot more meaning in it and was, in fact, spearheading new approaches within the company, within this very big company, so it was a big deal for him to make these cultural shifts of changing the way they do things. [40:04.7]
He was really passionate about it and it gave him a lot of meaning, and there were parts that didn’t feel this was work anymore. He was able to see these new fresh perspectives, as a result of allowing the achieving and the critical parts that were driving things before to trust enough to relax back, so that he could see the positives of the life that they had built for him.
He replaced many of his daily routines that were just driven by a fear that, if he didn’t do them, then he wouldn’t be good enough and that he would be less of a man. He replaced them with things that he wanted to do, which included gratitude, daily gratitude practices, daily kindness practices where he was looking for or where he was kind of requiring himself to do a kind act each day and it caused him or forced him to be more creative about it, and he loved that. Now he’s investing in charitable initiatives that he discovered, as a result. [41:02.8]
You can imagine that, if somebody is driven by gratitude and kindness in their lives, because that’s something that they want to do, how much more meaning and joy and fulfillment they’d have on a daily basis, and that’s what’s happened for Tom. Tom’s life, even though on the outside, somebody, from a superficial point of view, might not see that much change, if you get to know him and from the inside, it’s been a complete 180, and Tom is now even more successful in his career and professional life.
I’m giving Tom as an example here because I know that, if you’ve listened this far and you’ve clicked on this podcast, then you must identify to some degree with inner critic parts or achiever parts that are running you ragged. One of their greatest fears is that, if they stop, if they relax, that then they’ll fail and they’re afraid of being a failure, because if they’re a failure, then that means they’re going to lose worthiness, and if they lose worthiness, then they won’t be worthy of love, and then they’re not worthy of love, then they’ll die. This is a survival issue for them and there’s this great fear that’s repressed, so they can’t even really admit to the fear. But, hopefully, if you follow this long enough, you will clearly see that it is driven ultimately by these fears and you’ll be able to relax. [42:15.5]
Now, I’m giving this as an example of, here, this person is more successful, as a result, but sometimes success doesn’t work out that way because the person, as he discovers love and joy and fulfillment, already not needing to defer it to some far-off goal of that won’t even be realized for 10, 20 years, but instead is already happy and fulfilled, and full of love and joy and connection in his life, he now chooses to spend his days doing something he really enjoys and finds a meaningful.
That might mean maybe less money, maybe even less recognition in society, but he’s happy and successful in that area, that activity that he’s doing, because he’s doing it, because he loves it. When you love something that you’re doing, you’ll keep doing it and you’ll end up outworking and outlasting others who are doing it out of stress, out of fear and pure striving. [43:09.8]
So, often you can experience an even higher degree of worldly success, as a result of starting from fulfillment, but when you already have all the stuff that you think success will give you, that is the love, the fulfillment, the sense of worthiness and significance, and all that, you’re already starting from that. Then this need for worldly success just drops away and it’s just a nice add-on, a side effect, a byproduct of a fulfilling life.
What you don’t want is to be stuck running that treadmill, going after those meaningless pellets out of fear that, if you stop running the treadmill, then you will die, and being caged up like a laboratory rat like so many people are, just buying into the lies that they were told by other people who were weighed down by their fears. [44:01.2]
This can stop for you. You can be the first in your line, in your generational line to say, “Thus far. No further. I will now do it properly. I will turn to the therapeutic approach and find love, fulfillment and happiness on their own immediately, and from there, I’ll see clearly, finally, and from there, I’ll be able to see what I want to do with my days,” and it might be different from what you’re doing already or it might be the same, but you are going to approach it, but from a fresh perspective as Tom did, and it remains to be seen. What is exciting is embarking on the therapeutic process, because you’re going to be transformed, as a result, and have a much greater clarity around who you are and what life can be about for you.
Thanks so much for listening to this podcast. If you liked it, let me know. Hit a like on whatever platform you’re on. Let me know your comments, too. Give me your feedback. I would love to know what you thought of it. If you benefited from this in any way, please share it with anyone that you think could also benefit from it.Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, David Tian, signing out. [45:06.4]
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