Bill Cottringer

"I wouldn't give a fig for the simplicity that comes on the near side of complexity, but I would give my left arm for the simplicity that comes on the far side of complexity." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I just finished writing another book, Reality Repair: Fixing a Lot by Knowing a Little. The idea behind the book was to propose some simple ideas for dealing with the current overload and nanosecond speed of change, which are both getting in the way of fixing realities we don’t want and creating new and better ones we want. But like all the other books I wrote, the problems that I learned how to solve well enough to write about, always seem to come back to haunt me with fury and vengeance, maybe just to put me to a deeper test with applying my own answers in my own life.

At any rate, in my perpetual quest to get to the Land of Simple (Oliver Wendell Holmes’ simplicity just on the other side of complexity) in my own reality repair journey, I am left with four lingering questions that need to be answered:

1. How do you know what realities need fixing?

It seems as though we start out thinking just about everything under the sun needs fixing and then end up realizing mostly everything is probably okay just the way it is, without needing our puny, needless interventions Some say this is old age laziness and others say it is hard-earned wisdom from the trenches. Regardless of which way it is, and having survived 6 decades still intact, the only things I worry too much about these days are the those ‘tragedies’ I think bring tears to God’s eyes, like war, child and animal abuse, environmental destruction, homelessness, poverty, starvation, political tyranny and the like.

And so I guess the answer to this first question partly depends upon where you are in your journey and what you really believe about your own power to influence realities from what you don’t like, to what you do like. How much influence can you have in getting from where you are to where you want to be? When you can question how you arrive at these distinctions themselves, you are in a much better position than before you were when you start questioning your perspective about this.

For example, I am getting frustrated about not having a best-selling book. But if I stand back and really take a close look at things, I see I am right where I am supposed to be—three quarters the way through the continuum of e-publishing, first tier mainstream publishing, foreign publishing, major American foreign imprints, and the elusive NY market. In the end I will see Reality Repair was a great start on understanding the problem and beginning to arrive at practical solutions, but there is still some work to do. I am right where I need to be and should want to be—seeing reality clearer and more completely.

2. How do you separate the fixable realities from the unfixable ones?

Again, it seems as though we start out being much more confident in our abilities to fix most things only to end up being much more conservative in our estimate about which list—fixable or unfixable—is longer. This is mostly trial and error and even great counselors aren’t much help because each new situation is always different enough to make an existing solution obsolete. This is the meaning of being a perpetual learner.

In order to discern what is fixable from what isn’t, you have to start reducing the chaos to know what matters most (oddly my last book title). And the quickest way to do that is through forced, painful necessities like devastating natural disasters, sudden death and serious illness. Since you can’t orchestrate these combination fast ball-curve balls on you own, you usually have to opt for the traditional method—taking a long hard look inside and reorganizing your main values and priorities and then start living your life around them. And that is what is usually called the second half of life, or restoring some order to the chaos you created (some on purpose and some not).

Of course what gets in the way most in the above discernment process—separating the fixable realities form the unfixable ones—are three key mistakes. These mistakes are: (a) not taking enough time to really understand all the ins and outs of a reality you are trying to fix or accept as unfixable (b) believing that the investment of time alone buys you this knowledge (c) not being aware of the subtle negativity that over-taints a partially fixable reality as being a totally unfixable one, inhibiting any possible resolution.

3. How can you be most successful in fixing the fixable realities?

Once you whittle your fixable list down to a manageable one, a few good things start to happen. Mainly you have more time and energy to understand what needs fixing and how to best accomplish it, from inside-out instead of the way you first approached it and failed.

Then you are right back to the interaction between: (a) what you believe to be the extent of your power to repair realities you don’t like and create new and better ones you want, and (b) the actual results you get from your efforts and the return effect they have on your confidence and expectations in this vicious circle. The only known solution is to carefully pick your battles—doing the small things well that get the biggest results with the least side effects.

For instance, if you were to force yourself to slow down and start noticing what you have been failing to notice all along, you will understand a very important connection that you are so close to that you usually don’t see it. This connection is the one between what you are thinking, how that makes you feel and what results you get from those thoughts and feelings, and how that whole interaction returns to influence each component of the pretzel process in a vicious circle interaction.

Lets say you are in a relationship that you have serious questions about where it is going. You and your partner aren’t really that compatible with your interests and values, you aren’t very compatible with how you prefer to handle differences, you can’t communicate about all this, and not enough trust has been established to make a 100% point of no return in commitment to each other. Lots of important things are missing that you probably sensed from the beginning.

This dilemma is probably already moving down to # 4 below. But what generally keeps this situation so hopeless is the longer it goes on the more investment you have to need to get to the point of deciding to fish or cut bait but not being able to do that; unfortunately that time and effort hasn’t really been focused on doing something to get the needed results—changing something about yourself in your approach to trying to change these perceived fixable realities. The real questions are, are these things actually fixable, what would it take and do I have the stomach for it?

4. How do you deal with not being able to accept the unfixable things?

This is certainly one of the most difficult challenges in life. Consider being in one of these dreadful situations

• Your business is failing despite all your best efforts to survive and it is happening because of something outside your control.

• You have been in a relationship for a long time that lacks any semblance of commitment, communication or compatibility and these are the most important things to you.

• You were in an accident and have a serious physical handicap that keeps you from being able to do what you love most.

• Your teenage daughter is hooked on drugs, has a police record because she stole your credit card, and is in an out of costly treatment programs with no lasting effect.

First of all accepting something as being ‘unfixable’ requires exhausting all the hoped-for fixing possibilities to get to the point of even considering the situation as being truly unfixable and then accepting that reality as being 100% true. More useful information that will ‘prove’ things one way or another, is just around the next corner. But when is enough truly enough? And, no matter how little belief you have in your own power to influence things in your favor, this is not a point you get to in a hurry. Las Vegas and other gambling towns have exploited why this is so.

Of course, a legitimate short cut to this realization is at the end of a different path—coming to grips with why you are convinced that the situation needs fixing to begin with. That kind of openness and honesty isn’t easy to come by. That’s because many seemingly unfixable problems are covered by a much different time scheme that the typical impatient human one.

What reality repair is all about is knowing how you feel about a few critical things:

• How much influence do you really have in changing things from what you know you don’t like to what you think you would like?

•Is it more important to get what you want or what you need? Can you get both?

• Have you really done all that you could have done to fix the ‘broken’ reality or is there something you haven’t tried?

• How do you feel about giving up because it just isn’t worth it anymore?

• What would it take to accept what you think is unacceptable, i.e. violation of the three A’s in a relationship (adultery, abuse, addiction)?

• How are you deciding by not deciding and what does that really mean?

The main obstacle in the way of stress-less, effortless success in reality repair is the tendency to want the simplicity on the wrong side of complexity. That is a reality repair truth you can take to the bank.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA. He also engages in photography, sport psychology counseling, business success coaching and writing in his home in the scenic and peaceful mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several personal and professional development books including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence Publishing), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), “P” Point Management and Do What Matters Most (Atlantic Publishers), and Reality Repair: Fixing a Lot by Knowing a Little. Bill can be contacted with comments and questions at (425) 454-5011 or