There’s a difference between living the life you think you should live and living a life you want to live. When we follow numerous social norms we can easily lose our true selves in the process of conforming to what we think we are supposed to be. But in adapting to these norms, could we be missing out on a path to living our happiest lives and becoming one of the happiest retirees on the block? New York Times bestselling author, life coach, and speaker, Dr. Martha Beck, drops by this episode to share how to live a life full of integrity and truth.
Dr. Beck explains how we are born with a genetic destiny of what makes us happy in life and how we get divided internally early on. She also shares her story and experiences of living outside of her integrity, reveals her journey of becoming a life coach, and discusses longing versus yearning. Additionally, Dr. Beck unveils the lasting cure to happiness and lists the signs if you are lying to yourself and are living out of alignment.
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Read Show Notes From This Episode (click to expand and read notes from the full interview)
- W: We’re looking for people and experts who have a real grasp on anything around purpose or core pursuits that can help lead to happiness. I think you have such a fascinating look at integrity. It’s right in the fairway for what a happy retiree means. Yours is the first non-fiction book to be on Oprah’s Book List. Can you describe to our listeners what your version of integrity is.
M: I mean integrity as in structural integrity. If an airplane has integrity all the pieces work together. The airplane can fly. If the structure gets aligned incorrectly the plane crashes. Our lives work like this too. If we can have the different pieces of our life work together we can fly.
W: What are the different components of having harmony/integrity?
M: We’re all born with the genetic destiny of what will make us happy in life. But there are people that don’t agree with what makes us happy, maybe we’re too loud. We’re pushed back by culture to fight against our nature. We’re immediately pushed into duplicity rather than integrity. Then as we’re fragmented more we’re pushed into Multiplicity. We lose track of our destiny because we don’t know who we are anymore.
W: Dr. Raj was told growing up that there’s two choices growing up; doctor or lawyer. Imagine growing up with that! If you were to chart it, how do we get divided internally early on and it gets worse as we get older? Or does it really show up later in life?
M: It shows up early in life for everyone. I have one child who was made of integrity and he won’t change. As my kids were growing up, I decided to allow my children to grow up as who they are rather than forcing them to act differently. When we split there is emotional turmoil. As kids, they don’t push back and they just go with the split, but then as they continue to grow they act out.
Personally, I was 29 when I finally broke.
W: The more in harmony we are, the more we fall into the “weirdo” camp.
M: The way the human social brain is structured, it’s focused on being part of the group and conforming. I have an example in my book of a guy who quit smoking and his social circle imploded because the culture of his friendship group was suddenly gone.
W: I wanted to ask about your story. You were really living the ruse.
M: I was in deep outside of my integrity. I grew up as a Mormon, but I went to Harvard at 17. It was a very different culture and I tried to fit into both cultures. In Mormonism, everyone thought I was a good Mormon whereas in Harvard they thought I was an atheist. When I got pregnant with my first child who had down syndrome I had to step back and actually ask myself what I actually believed. I made the decision that felt right to me which was more in line with Mormonism, but then I moved back home and realized I was a lesbian!
W: If you’re listening to this, you’re thinking about the fallout of actually having integrity.
M: I’ve worked with thousands of clients and it’s never been as bad for others as it was for me, so don’t think it’ll be this difficult! I moved home and then researched all these different theological codes and found what worked for me. Then one year I decided that I would not lie for an entire year.
W: How did that go??
M: You find new ways to communicate kindly.
W: So you thought, I’ll try being totally honest for a year. So what happened? Are you still doing it?
M: Yes, but I’ve gone on and off it. There are times when I think it can be ethical. But telling the truth helped me recognize my own truths. I lost my religion, my original family, my husband (realized I was gay), my career. Roughly everything but my children and my teeth.
W: What happened with your family? Was it related to losing your religion?
M: That happens, but mine was more related to how I claimed abuse.
W: That seems like a brutal year.
M: It was horrendous, and I wouldn’t recommend you do it. But I wouldn’t take it back for all the tea in China. First you feel bad emotionally, but then your body gets sick. I was chronically ill because I was living in multiplicity.
W: How long did it take you to get your life into harmony?
M: I immediately felt like my life was back in line. Boom.
W: Yours was a big deal, so let’s look at a one step less extreme. You help people find integrity. Let’s just talk about it on a practical level. The Gartner Group has a study about how many people are engaged with their work. 80% of Americans are take it or leave it on their job. What’s the practical intersection of finding integrity and allowing your life to match up to it? It’s scary!
M: there are these exercises, so let’s do a brief one.
I’ve been all over the world and coached billionaires in America and homeless people in Africa, and I always ask them, “What statement feels most true to you?”
The most powerful sentence that I can get them to say, “I am meant to live in peace.”
Take 10 seconds and repeat in your mind while breathing in a relaxed way.
W: You’ve found that it universally helps people.
M: How does it feel to you?
W: Peaceful, warm, a good place to feel. So stop lying, think of that phrase, what next?
M: That feeling aligns with your sense of reality. You’re in integrity the second that you’re feeling that.
My life blew up, but then my life centered around my interests. I had integrity! In a short period of time I was able to find ways that appealed to me. I was teaching business school, which I loved, and love sells better than hate. If you’re doing something you love in a place you love with people you love. There was no profession of Life Coach when this started, but my students asked me for help.
W: You’re the founder of that profession! When did that start? Becoming full time?
M: Around 2000, but earlier because it’s been around 30 years.
W: I wonder, is it ever too late?
M: NO, never!
W: I’ve worked with a family for a long time, and they’ve got cold feet around retirement. Sometimes you can’t really cure that, but they’re interested in the retirement greyzone. It requires part time work. The problem she was having was she didn’t think her employer would allow her to go part-time. So I suggested she look around at the 25-year-olds that she worked around and how they worked just two days a week.
When you talk about practically, what do we need to do?
M: If you can’t fathom something then it’ll never happen! Studies show that most people don’t make any drastic changes in their lives after 23. But Millennials have a more fluid idea around what information transfer can look like. There’s research showing that kids who play videogames are open to the idea of dying and getting another life. They’re open to taking risks.
My generation, Boomers, has to adopt that mindset. Everything is changing so fast!
By 25 most people are like, “okay I think I know how to live.” so people usually set themselves there. A lot of people decide that they’re never going to change again. They won’t change much but the world around them does.
W: Longing and Yearning – everyone has several things that they feel these things
M: Think of it this way – I have people list things that they want. Then I ask them, when you wake up at 3 AM what do you yearn for? Yearning is something that you want and not the culture. And it will take the shape of your destiny if you can find it.
Longing = practical
Yearning = human instinct towards something
What do you yearn for?
W: I’m a parent of 4, so I think it has to do with my kids being in a good place. I don’t think I spend as much time with them as I’d like.
M: It’s the yearning for connection. You come to a place where you recognize that, and you can decide what steps you need to take to get that. Then you have to ask yourself if you’re comfortable with taking a hit to your income to achieve that.
You can’t find that if you don’t risk it a little bit.
W: What do you find to be the pillars of yearning?
None of those things are objects! They’re all places of mind. Not money or status. The truth is that if someone brings you in from the woods and gives you a room, soup and a blanket you’ll be happy. The lie is that if someone brings you in and gives you 10 rooms, a vat of soup and 10 blankets you’ll be happier!
It’s like Putin, there’s never enough. There’s only ever enough whenever you feel there’s enough. ***Good story about Catch 22 author I didn’t capture
Our culture operates on fear. All the things in the brain about creativity can’t operate when you’re scared.
W: The culture around the financial industry is like you said, it’s focused on earnings and growing. There’s never enough. They’re so powerful and so good at marketing that it permeates our entire society.
You mentioned a lasting cure to happiness. Is the cure simply getting into alignment?
M: Yes, look at it from Dante’s Inferno. I think it’s actually about finding happiness.
He finds every place he’s not being true to himself. Then he gets to the other side and then he has to climb a mountain.
If you start to live your truth things afterwards really align.
The inferno was letting go. The climbing was finding the alignment. The moment I started finding my own truth I found peace.
W: As we head into retirement we worry about money, healthcare. When you went through your year of truth, your health got better.
M: Yeah, I got clipped by a car while out running, and my doctor said I’d be fine after a few weeks. It got worse and worse. I was in terrible pain.
W: I wonder how many people are rotting from the inside out.
M: It’s catastrophic to the body to lie. Every time you pretend it’s okay when it’s not, it’s a lie you’re telling with your life. The best people are the ones who suffer the most. So to say I’m going to stop lying might be hard on those around you, but it can be SO good for yourself.
W: Signs for you lying to yourself. Being out of alignment.
Loss of purpose. Purpose is the silver thread of life that keeps us moving forward
Feel bad emotionally. Depression.
Feel bad physically. Brain fog.
When I was out of alignment I realized I had more energy when I stayed home. People think it’s about having your job no matter what it takes, but no, having alignment no matter what it takes.
W: I heard you have a great sex tip that translates to life.
M: I think you’re thinking of advice for men. If you’re trying something and it’s not working, don’t try it harder!
W: Parting wisdom for our listeners for finding integrity today.
M: it has to be simple to get started. Slow is fast. You’ve got to make some small changes persistently to make a big change.
W: Is there a cultural confinement to what is expected from what we’re supposed to do in retirement?
M: I heard a story of a woman who saw her mother die at 60, so at 60 she moved into a nursing home and waited to die, but she had to wait 30 years! She died at 90.
Instead of being older, be elder.