man and his shadow on a cheer mood

The opposite of seeking reality is avoidance. The person who avoids finding out what is true may be doing that for a variety of character reasons. Think about it… avoiding to seek out what is causing major problems in your life at home or work can lead to a loss of time, money, relationships, market share—the list can go on and on. Knowing this is true, why are we so blind sometimes?

It seems simple when we see it in other individuals, but everyday, we can all find ourselves doing the same kinds of things out of basic character problems. Here are two most common examples:

  • Emotional investment in some other reality
  • Fear of dealing with the ramifications

Basic pride, omnipotence, arrogance, grandiosity, or narcissism—this is the person who sees himself as above others, better than everyone else, knowing all things, and in touch with all reality. To admit he is wrong about something does not even come up on the screen.

A truthful orientation

When most people think about being a truthful person, they think of someone who does not lie. And that is true. But that is a very elementary level of being oriented towards the truth. Having a truthful orientation means that one lives in truth, period. It means that they see it, understand it, want it, seek it, and benefit from it. It is holistic, a life about, and “in” the light. Ultimately they succeed because that is where the good stuff is, in reality, instead of fantasy or deception. If you want love, you have to find “real” love, not fantasy love. If you want success, you have to find “real” success, not pipe dreams. So, real fulfillment only comes to those who live in reality. And that is a lot more than just “not lying.”

But… we have to start there. No one who is an intentional liar ever discovered deeper reality. So, if you want to have the kind of character that succeeds, you must put all deception away from you, in any form.

Usually, the consequences of lying are worse than whatever was lied about. When people are honest about what is wrong, it is usually fixable, but the covering up is what ultimately does them in.

When people are honest about what is wrong, it is usually fixable, but the covering up is what ultimately does them in

Whatever the fears or reasons, it is about someone’s basic makeup. An orientation to the truth is a stance that people take in life. It is the way that they are on the planet or, as existentialists said, their way of “being in the world”. They lean into the truth and reality as a direction of life, the way a compass points north. It is the way they are.

This seeking of truth tends to be balanced in three directions, also. First, they seek it about the external world. They want to know what is true around them, in their company, in the market and in the universe. They want to be intimate with the ways that things are. They know that that is the only way to ultimately succeed, and they have given up the pride of “already knowing what is” in exchange for the profit of finding out what truly is.

As Peter Drucker says in The Daily Drucker: “One constant theme is, therefore, the need for the decision maker in the individual enterprise to face up to reality and resist the temptation of what ‘everybody knows’, the temptations of the certainties of yesterday, which are about to become the deleterious superstitions of tomorrow. To manage in turbulent times, therefore, means to face up to new realities. It means starting with the question: ‘What is the world really like?’ rather than with the assertions and assumptions that made sense only a few years ago’”

Second, they seek this kind of feedback about themselves. They don’t only wait for others to give them feedback, they also go after it themselves. They desire it and see it as an opportunity to grow.

I was doing an executive retreat one time with a small group of CEOs who had gathered for three days to process things. One of them was an up-and-comer in the industry, a rising star. The rest of the group had been around longer and were much more experienced. On the first night, they all went around the group and shared where they were, what they were up to, how they were doing it, and what they needed from the group.

When he finished, one of the more experienced guys looked up and said, “Want some feedback?” He said it in a way that led you wondering whether he was going to give sage advice or rail at the young man for being out to lunch in some way. There was just no way to tell from his poker face. But I will never forget the young superstar’s immediate response: “By all means. Give me a gift.” He saw the feedback, whatever it was, as a gift because it could give him some reality he did not know. I remember thinking, “We will be watching this guy’s accomplishments for a long time.”

Seeking reality, not flattery

Girls discussing with a man
While seeking feedback, it is important to discern flattery from truth

The good ones want to know the reality of who they are and are in tune with the fact that we do not see ourselves accurately. They “seek” out this knowledge in a variety of ways. Some commission 360-degree feedback projects to see how they are doing. Others submit themselves to a mentor, accountability group, therapist, or someone else who has a good view of them. But, when they do, they are not looking for flattery. They are looking for reality. They ask others to tell them what they see.

If you want to know your comfort level in this matter, think of going to the people you are close with and give them 100 per cent permission to be totally honest with you in answering this question:

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A version of this article was first published in the April 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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