Functionally Dysfunctional

A Shift of Focus

business man watching his business finances growYesterday I spent some time with a bloke who wants to shift his life focus, change his career and begin doing some work with people who are struggling with certain challenges in their world. Over the last year he has had a few significant experiences which have given him a different perspective on life, a better understanding of certain things and a much greater level of awareness, consciousness and empathy for other people; all good things.

Here’s part of our conversation:

BLOKE: “When I’m a little more organised and I’ve got all my crap together, I want to be able to help people turn their lives around and make a difference in a real and practical way – kind of like you do.”
CH: “In that case, you’ll never help anyone.”
B: “What?”
CH: “You heard.”
B: “Why do you say that?”
CH: “Because you’ll never have all your crap together.”
B: “What do you mean?”
CH: “I mean everybody has issues and if you wait for personal perfection before you start to help others, you’ll never help one person. It’s simple.”
B: “Hmm…” (thinks deeply)
CH: “Nobody has all their crap together, everybody has issues on some level and we’re all works in progress. It’s called being human. In fact, the person who tells you that they have no issues is usually the one with the most!”
B: “I guess so.”
CH: “What many people don’t understand is that it’s in our efforts to help others – despite our own issues – that we begin to help ourselves also. By investing into something bigger than us, we stop being so self-focused, paranoid and egotistical and we begin to see the world – and us in it – from a healthier and more balanced perspective.”
B: “But I would feel like a fraud helping people while I still have my own issues to deal with.”
CH: “Welcome to the I-feel-like-a-fraud club; it’s a whopper.”
B: “Are you a member?”
CH: “A foundation member.”
B: “You?”
CH: “Yep, I have felt like a fraud many times over my journey but I arrived at the point where I realised that being human and being perfect are incompatible. Doesn’t happen. I have issues and I always will. Sometimes helping others is less about ability and more about availability. I have simply made myself available. Despite my flaws. Far too many people inhabit the I’m-not-good-enough paradigm and that – not their ability- stands between them and their potential to impact the lives of others in a meaningful and positive way.”
B: “But what about the things I’m dealing with right now?”
CH: “Keep dealing with them but don’t be obsessed with them. Do you think that someone like Oprah might have a few issues of her own? Imagine if Miss O waited for perfection before she decided to impact the lives of others or seek to do good in a tangible and practical way. Just because she has some personal challenges doesn’t mean she can’t help other people – clearly. She’s been a very public work in progress for decades and along the way she’s managed to help a lot of people – despite her imperfections.”
B: ”Yeah, that makes sense.”
CH: “A few years back I mentored a dietician for about six months, helping her work through some issues. She is a very successful and competent health professional, she consistently produces great results, she’s in high demand and at that time… she had a major eating disorder. Specifically, she was bulimic.”
B: ”Really?”
CH: “Yep and despite her own challenges, she consistently produced great results with other people. She’s better now, but that challenge in her life has made her an even better dietician and teacher.”
B: “Hmm..”
CH: “Every mentor, teacher, coach and personal development guru (whatever that means) has secrets, insecurities, doubts, fears and destructive habits. Every one. Every outwardly-strong person has fears and internal struggles. Don’t necessarily assume that the shiny cover of the book is a reflection of the pages that lie within. In order to know the book, you need to read the pages…. all of them. And most people will never allow that.”
B: “You have those same fears?”
CH: “Of course.”
B: “When?”
CH: “Every once in a while when I’m about to do my regular television segment, the insecure, fourteen year-old fat kid drops by before I go on air just to remind me that I really shouldn’t be handing out advice on national television; being a stupid fat kid and all. I thank him for dropping by and do my segment anyway.”
B: “Okay, I’m in.”
CH: “Good for you.”

There’s a big difference between self-improvement and self-obsession and sometimes in our quest for “better” we actually create worse. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t consciously and consistently work on “us” (natch), but I am suggesting that sometimes the best way to help ourselves, is to help others. A little holiday from your issues might be just what you need. Works for me. Give it a bash.

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