How is it that so many people make a living convincing us that we're not living the best lives we can possibly live? We'd be happier/more fulfilled if only we invested our money and time in their sure-fire program to improve our selves/homes/yards/clothes/bodies/faces/attitudes. And if we question any of the steps of their particular program or mention that our life experience doesn't jive with the brand they're trying to sell us, we either didn't understand the book, there's another set of DVD's we should purchase that addresses that VERY thing, or we're just DOING IT ALL WRONG.
Hint: Most people who make a living telling you how to live your life don't make money if you don't buy the line that they know better than you how to become happier - more popular, more successful - more authentic/creative/better-looking/ thinner/ curvier/taller/hairier/less hairy.
I've noticed too that many Important People who make a living selling you their ideas don't like having their ideas questioned or hear about the ways in which your life experience doesn't match up to their "program." If you got in a car accident and you were depressed, you must have manifested it or you just didn't work the program right. If you didn't make a fortune after the first three months of following their Internet Miracle Marketing scheme,you just need to invest more time (and money) in their product in order to achieve the promised success.
Its not that these writers, geniuses or gurus don't have something to offer -- they do. They all do. But not a single one of them is the end-all, be-all of life. No book or DVD or system is going to solve all of your problems or turn you into somebody else. And you need to know that the people who write these books and sell these programs don't have all the answers. Maybe they have the answers for themselves and their own successes, but they don't have all the answers for YOU. They each carry with them the assorted baggage of their internal belief systems, their life experiences, their particular biases. They all prefera certain way of doing things and would like you to believe that they offer you this wisdom only as a way to "help" other people. That's easy to believe so long as you don't look at the man behind the curtain - or the price tag on the next set of DVD's.
And maybe some of the things they espouse will work for you. But likely as not there will be parts that aren't a good fit. That's where you have a choice. You can accept what works for you and not worry about the rest, you can reject the entire philosophy because it has to be 100% perfect for you to accept it, or you commit to it anyway and try not to worry too hard about pretending to agree with the parts of it you aren't convinced about.
You get to live with whichever choice you make, but please know that you don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and you don't have to walk around in clothes that don't fit.
I relate it to the way I go about learning with my horse. There are a LOT of famous trainers and clinicians out there. In the same way as some people feel compelled to convert you to their new religion after a deeply moving spiritual experience, people who've had a breakthrough with their horse after learning from a certain trainer want to introduce you to the Next Best Thing to happen to horse people.
Since I'm open to learning new things and new and better ways of getting where I want my horse to be, I'll glady invest in lessons or a clinic with that trainer, or audit a clinic if its out of my price range for me and my horse to participate. If I'm open minded enough to try that trainer's suggestions, I might find something that works a lot better for me and my horse. But if I find that the thing I was already doingt that I learned from someone else works better, I'll keep doing that instead.
A good trainer won't insist you do things his or her way. In fact, a really good trainer will watch what his students are doing and be willing to ask about something if they see it and they think its working as well or better than their own techniques. But you don't have to believe any trainer that insists if you're not doing it HIS way you're doing it WRONG. The proof is in the results you get with your horse, no matter what the trainer says. You don't have to keep doing something that just doesn't feel right to you.
You don't have to stay in a relationship that doesn't feel right or where you don't feel safe. You don't have to stay in a job that doesn't fulfill you. You also don't have to engage in a personal/spiritual/self-help program that's not working for you just because the person who happens to gain from your participation tries to make it sound like you're just not doing it right and you need to try harder.
Just because someone is successful and an "expert" doesn't mean they're going to be any better at living my life than I am. They just get paid to convince me that they are. Just because they wear a certain kind of clothing or use a certain kind of household product doesn't mean that my jeans don't fit me just fine or my countertops are any less sanitized. Just because I don't agree with their dogma doesn't mean my own faith is wrong for me.
Look, I KNOW when I'm doing the right thing and I know when I'm not. I know what fulfills me, what charges my battery. I know who I'm supposed to be. There's an inner voice and a feeling of well-being that comes when things are as they should be. I think that's God talking to me, other people may consider it their conscience or the manifestation of spirit within them. Whatever works for you.
I know that spending time with my family and my friends feels good. I know that helping other people feels good. I know that riding my horse feels good. I know this about digging in the dirt, playing with my dogs, petting my cats, working in the barn, swimming in the river, making music and writing words. Being thankful to God and trying to develop as a person who is loving and compassionate feels good and right. But you know what, these things are authentic for me. No conference, retreat, keynote, book or CD is going to change these things about me. And I don't need the approval of a life coach or a guru or anyone on the internet to know that I'm OK.
The list of the people whose opinion I actively seek on whether I should do this or that is short. You're probably not on it unless you're my husband, my mother, my close friend or my horse trainer. It doesn't mean I don't love you and it doesn't mean I don't value your opinion. I do. It feels good to be liked, to be agreed with, to receive support and cheers and have like-minded people share with you. But it also means that if do something or write something that you don't agree with, I won't be crushed or feel rejected or bad about myself. It means that if some famous "authentic living" guru insists that I couldn't possibly be happy because I'm not doing things their way, I'm going to somehow feel that I must change my beliefs to suit their agenda.
Maybe you don't feel confident, maybe you don't feel like you're "ok." Well, that's fine. That's your own voice letting discomfort drive you into doing things differently because what you're doing now doesn't seem to be working. When you seek new wisdom and new approaches, keep in mind that there is no program in this world that will make you or your life perfect. Remember that everyone has a different perspective on the words "best," "ideal," "correct" and "true." Seek answers everywhere you go. Take what works for you. Leave the rest. Seek the approval of your own conscience and those who matter most. Don't believe everything you read on the internet, in the newspapers or in the pages of a self-help book. And remember always that we are never, ever "finished" learning or growing.
The journey, the moment, the now, they REALLY ARE the point.