Life Lessons to Unlearn

Martha Beck
Self Improvement 2 Comments

Two years ago, in the May 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there was a piece written by Martha Beck that stuck with us. In fact, part of it is still hanging up on our office wall (a bit yellowed and curled with age at this point). In the piece, the Oprah columnist and renowned life coach shared her “10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn”. Some made us laugh, some made us think, some made us say, “duh.” But the whole idea of UNLEARNING was a novel concept to most of us and we soon realized it is much more difficult to unlearn than to learn, however the payoff for both can be equally rewarding. We’re sharing a few of our favorite “Martha’s life lessons to unlearn” here, but we encourage you to read all 10 (thank goodness for digital versions of print publications).

2. It’s important to stay happy. Solving a knotty problem can help us be happy, but we don’t have to be happy to feel good. If that sounds crazy, try this: Focus on something that makes you miserable. Then think, “I must stay happy!” Stressful, isn’t it? Now say, “It’s okay to be as sad as I need to be.” This kind of permission to feel as we feel—not continuous happiness—is the foundation of well-being.

5. Success is the opposite of failure. Fact: From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.

10. Loss is terrible. Ten years ago I still feared loss enough to abandon myself in order to keep things stable. I’d smile when I was sad, pretend to like people who appalled me. What I now know is that losses aren’t cataclysmic if they teach the heart and soul their natural cycle of breaking and healing. A real tragedy? That’s the loss of the heart and soul themselves. If you’ve abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home.

  • Anne

    Love #5. You can take that lesson anywhere. It’s like the old adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” All we have to do is keep trying. As Martha says, “Success is built on failure”.

  • Gargouille

    I just read a little about her story: ex-Mormon who publically accused her father of sexual abuse and divorced from a man with whom she instead decided to come out of the closet (they are both gay!). Boy does she know what she’s saying when she talks about how towing the proverbial line will make you crazy!