Could this be why you’re stuck in a rut?

by | May 5, 2014

I couldn’t help but think of the movie “Groundhog Day” when I recently encountered a toxically skeptical woman.

We were in a financial seminar. She sat with her hands folded defensively across her chest, her face drawn in a cynical frown the whole time. Towards the end, she belligerently belched her suspicion and disbelief about everything the presenter had taught.

It doesn’t matter what she disagreed with, but why she disagreed and how she did it. What matters is what she revealed after tainting the air with her bitterness: She was sixty-three years old, she had recently botched an investment, and she had not a penny saved for retirement.

I watched the train wreck of her sour comments — which had nothing to do with what the presenter had taught and everything to do with her own baggage — and thought, “Of all the people in this room, shouldn’t you be the most open to learning?”

It’s funny (sad, really) how the people who need specific advice the most are the least open to listening to it.

I pity the woman because, like the main character on “Groundhog Day,” every day she’s going to wake up with the same poisonous attitude, every day she’s going to get the same dismal results, and every day she’s going to feel the same bitterness about her life until she can learn her way out of that rut.

I wonder how many of us are in a similar rut. I wonder what ruts I’m stuck in that I don’t see because of pride or bitterness.

What kept this woman in her rut, and indeed what keeps many of us in our own ruts, is this: a skeptical attitude.

The word “skeptic” comes from the ancient Greek, referring to a member of the school of Pyrrho that doubted the possibility of real knowledge. A skeptic is “one with a doubting attitude.”

As far as usefulness goes, I hold Pyrrho’s philosophy — that we can never know the truth of anything — right down there with Murphy’s ridiculous Law.

Truth is what works.

I don’t know a lot about the skeptical woman I encountered, but I do know this with absolute certainty: Her financial philosophy is broken. How do I know it’s broken? Because it’s not working.

And why does she stick with her broken philosophy? Because of her skepticism, which closes her mind to possibilities.

We don’t learn and progress by being doubtful and closed. We learn and progress by being hopeful and open.

The default attitude for people who learn and progress in life is one of openness — honest inquiry untainted by pride or bitterness, receptiveness to new and higher truths. The default attitude for people who stay stuck in their ruts is closedness — suspicion of anything new, automatically mistrustful of the motives of others, cynical towards anything that offers hope.

The funny thing is, skeptics call themselves wise “realists.” But skepticism is a far cry from wisdom, and the perspective it renders isn’t anywhere close to reality. Thus, to tweak Paul’s words, skeptics are never learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

So let me ask you this: What are you trying to achieve? Is what you’re doing to achieve it working?

Are you trying to achieve financial freedom? Is what you’re doing to achieve it working? Are you financially free? Are you closer to it today than you were last year?

Are you trying to launch, build, and manage a profitable business? Is it working? Is your business profitable?

Are you trying to become a well-paid artist? Is what you’re doing to become that working? Are you getting paid for your art? Enough to be a full-time artist?

Because I can tell you this: If what you’re doing is not working, the only way to fix it is not to stay skeptical and closed, but rather to become honest and open.

Openness isn’t about being naive and gullible. It’s about being humble and teachable.

In ancient Zen literature, the story is told of a new monk arriving at a monastery. He approached Joshu, the head of the monastery, and said, “Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied, “I have eaten.”

Joshu said, Then you had better wash your bowl.

Openness is about washing the bowl of our mind of our wounds and prejudices so that we can receive knowledge and wisdom that will help us progress.

Contrary to what Pyrrho and his gloomy band of skeptics would say, we can know truth with certainty by what works.

And if something isn’t working in our lives, we have two choices: stay closed and continually relive our brokenness in a loop of Groundhog Day insanity, or become open and learn what we need to learn to get out of our rut.

(For tools to get unstuck and live your purpose, click here to download my free toolkit now.)

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