Our Common Denominator
Bill Cottringer

“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” ~Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code.

One of the more important common denominators people have is: (a) being unique and different on the one hand with personal characteristics, skills, interests, thinking styles, motivations, beliefs, viewpoints, and the litany of other human behaviors, but also (b) being alike and the same in having many things in common with one another, like no escape route from all the problems, challenges and adversities that happen in life, and learning how to survive and eventually thrive in abundance. We all have the same amount of time but use it differently as we do with our lives.

Moreover, we all basically want the same thing from life—to get enough of what we want in the way we want it. But that is where the commonalities disappear and the differences start appearing—in defining “what” we want, determining “how” to get it, and knowing when we have enough. Like fingerprints and retina patterns, not very many similarities here.

In the pursuit of getting what we want, there are several rules that have already been pre-arranged, which in essence, take some of our sense of free will out of the picture. These are the realities that must be considered for you to be successful in getting enough of what you want:

1. Realizing the truth of the opening quote by Dan Brown can be a real wake-up call and aha moment. But human nature is persisting in something you need to resist, until you find yourself in a do or die situation where change is the only viable option. Changing such a basic perspective is as easy or difficult as you make it though.

2. It is a very good idea to be clear on what it is you want and why you want it, or what you expect to get when you have it. These two things are often not connected and that causes an annoying gap that begs to be filled until it is.

3. What we think we want and what life seems to know that we really need, always seems to be different. You really can’t make much progress until you learn to join these two drives into the same thing. Without learning from failures, that won’t ever happen.

4. Optimism—expecting to get enough of what you want—seems to be the most effective approach to actually getting it. However, it is wise to have a plan b or c in your back pocket, just in case Murphy’s Law turns out to be truer than not. That way you won’t get stuck holding an empty bag.

5. Common goals include happiness, power, wealth, good health, meaning, purpose, spiritual fulfillment, professional achievement, sense of wholeness, peace of mind, truth and many other things that aren’t easy to measure. At the end of the day, it may be your piece of mind—relatively free from worries, anxiety, problems and conflicts—that brings the most satisfaction and content. This is something you know inside and it shows on the outside.

6. Sometimes getting what you want, doesn’t come quick enough or seem to come at all. Ironically, the more patience you have and the less you struggle to get this missing ingredient, the closer it gets to you. This is not at all a matter of giving up.

7. Knowing the point of no return in anything is a valuable skill, like knowing when you have enough of what you want. Of course, it is very tempting to just change what you want when you think you are too close. Stopping all wanting is an ideal that is illusive because it is so contrary to human nature. Again, ironically, the less you want, the more you have.

8. Not long ago, the so-called “Law of Attraction” was the popularized quick way to get what you want. Supposedly, all you had to do was attract what you wanted with your mind. The trouble with this multi-million-dollar idea, was that attraction can’t work without eliminating distraction and all the other negative thinking that normally goes on, some consciously but most unconsciously. Reversing that process is a steep mountain to climb.

9. The traditional model for getting what you want has been to develop your personal strengths and avoid situations that exploit your weaknesses. But some self-help gurus today prefer to focus on building good strengths better and forgetting about the weaknesses. The jury is still out with this matter, as with understanding the connection and cause and effect interactions between thinking, feeling and behaviors—as to which causes which or which is the result of the other. One strength that seems to be the most closely related to success is mental flexibility, or open-mindedness.

10. Like this Margaret Mead quote below, human nature is very paradoxical. We all want our cake and eat it to and keep trying until we realize this isn’t possible until we stop thinking it is. And of course, we all want to be recognized and accepted for our unique differences when we are right, and yet want the same punishment that other get when we do wrong. Resolving paradoxes is an effective way to get what you want, although not easily or quickly.

“Human nature is potentially aggressive and destructive and potentially orderly and constructive. ~Margaret Mead.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Cascade Security Corporation in Bellevue, Washington, sport psychologist, and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, RealityRepair RX, Thoughts on Happiness, Pearls of Wisdom: A Smart Dog’s Tale. He can be reached at 425-652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net