Cancel Your Insurance (Mentality)

Insurance is built on an interesting premise: the more you suffer, the more you gain.

If someone leaves a tiny scratch on your car while parallel parking, insurance might cover enough for a paint touch-up…but not a brand-new car. If a doctor accidentally scratches your finger, you probably won’t be able to sue them for as much as if they had transplanted the wrong organ.

In this way, insurance seems very fair. The compensation is (in theory) commensurate with the amount of suffering, loss, or hardship endured. Insurance also provides peace of mind that, if worse comes to worst, you can still hope to receive something to mitigate whatever misfortune may befall you. This is quite a benefit — not to mention, in many cases (e.g., auto insurance), a legal requirement!

So, no, I am not recommending that you cancel your insurance of any type…except for one: your insurance mentality.

“Insurance mentality” is the mindset that says…

  • Suffering is rewarded. (In fact, suffering is a prerequisite of reward!)
  • Only if you’ve experienced sufficient hardship do you deserve to experience joy.
  • Life is a zero-sum game in which blessings must be “paid for” by commensurate deprivation, loss, or struggle.

In short, insurance mentality says: no pain, no gain.

This approach might work while settling an insurance claim, but it’s no way to live your life. It means that every pleasure must be balanced out by an equal amount of pain. It means that you can never simply be happy. It means there’s always a catch.

Even if you consciously reject insurance mentality, it can still show up in your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s behind the compulsion you might feel to justify your blessings by citing how you’ve “earned” them (through some form of suffering). It’s behind the tendency you might feel to rationalize your joy by citing previous sorrows (almost as if they were ticket stubs you presented to an usher/bouncer in the “Theater of Joy” in order to prove that yes, you have paid for your seat — you didn’t just sneak in the back!). And it’s behind the twinge of guilt you might feel if you experience success without struggling mightily to attain it.

(It’s also, I suspect, behind talent-show contestants’ lengthy explanations of the hardships they’ve suffered — whether or not they’re related to their talent — presented as “Exhibit A, B, C, etc.” of why they now deserve to experience success.)

As absurd and illogical as insurance mentality seems to me, I’m still susceptible to it. Even within the privacy of my own mind, I’ve often noticed my thoughts acting like defense attorneys, explaining to the (imaginary) jury why I deserve the blessings I’ve received (because I’ve struggled enough). I’ll dredge up all sorts of evidence to support my case, even if it’s completely unrelated to the matter at hand. (E.g., my wife’s car accident caused her years of physical pain, so she really deserves to live by the beach and be happy.)

I’ve also noticed other well-meaning people acting like insurance-mentality lawyers defending us, explaining to others that, yes, they’re now experiencing some professional success and personal satisfaction…but they worked very hard for 10 years and struggled a lot in order to get where they are. The implication here is: …so now it’s OK for them to finally just be happy and enjoy their lives.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this tendency. In a recent Facebook post, Elizabeth Gilbert describes how, after the publication of Eat Pray Love, she spent 10 years answering questions about her “selfishness” (e.g., getting divorced, traveling, writing, and being happy) and justifying her joy:

I’ve even tried to show how my journey from depression to joy has involved suffering, in order to make people feel better. (“Don’t worry!” I would say, “I was punished with three years of despair and anxiety for leaving that marriage, and I lost a lot of friends and all my money in the divorce, too!” Because some people can only trust joy when it has been earned through sacrifice and pain…and that’s a little weird — both that people would want evidence of suffering, or that I would feel obliged to offer it.)

Yes, it is weird that we carry around these “inner insurance-mentality lawyers” who demand evidence that we’ve earned our “settlements” of joy, success, or other positive experiences. And the greater the joy/reward, the greater the suffering these “lawyers” demand! This odd logic is on full display in my all-time favorite essay, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” as David Foster Wallace overhears many of his fellow passengers’ justifications for going on a luxury cruise:

Everybody characterizes the upcoming week as either a long-put-off reward or as a last-ditch effort to salvage sanity and self from some inconceivable crockpot of pressure, or both.  A lot of the explanatory narratives are long and involved, and some are sort of lurid. Two different conversations involve people who’ve just buried a relative they’d been nursing at home for months as the relative lingered hideously. A floral wholesaler in an aqua MARLINS shirt talks about how he’s managed to drag the battered remnants of his soul through the Xmas-to-Valentine rush only by dangling in front of himself the carrot of this week of total relaxation and renewal. A trio of Newark cops all just retired and had promised themselves a Luxury Cruise if they survived their 20.

(To this observation, Wallace adds one of his trademark footnotes about “the subtle universal shame that accompanies self-indulgence, the need to explain to just about anybody why the self-indulgence isn’t in fact really self-indulgence.”)

But why is any shame, justification, or rationalization necessary at all? Why can’t they simply enjoy themselves without feeling the need to “pay in advance” through their suffering? My reply is, once again: insurance mentality. They are presenting evidence to the “jury” that they deserve compensation — that they have made an equal trade: their current/forthcoming happiness is offset by their past unhappiness; therefore, the cosmic balance of joy and sorrow remains undisturbed.

Except here’s the thing: The universe isn’t going to be any worse off if you’re simply happy (or healthy or successful or blessed in any way…or in many ways). In fact, the universe will be better off because of your joy, success, health, and other blessings!

Don’t worry — you won’t be committing insurance fraud if you enjoy blessings without suffering great pain for them! The universe is not litigious. The blessings you receive are not some cosmic settlement. They need not be commensurate with past pains.

We can simply be happy and enjoy our blessings without feeling the need to make a “co-pay” of unhappiness. We can experience success without staking out an enormous premium of struggle. And we can receive blessings without the curse of guilt.

So, by all means, let’s all keep our car insurance, our health insurance, and any other insurance that gives us peace of mind.

But let’s cancel our insurance mentality!

 

365 Moments of Grace

I’m so excited to announce the launch of 365 Moments of Grace!

This is volume 2 of the 365 Book Series, which my wife and I created in 2015 with the intention to inspire, uplift, and remind you of just how magical our world is and how connected we truly are.

This latest book contains true-life stories of grace, miracles, and transformations from beautiful souls all around the world. There’s one grace-filled story for each day of the year from over 250 authors, including Jodi Chapman, Kristine Carlson, Arielle Ford…and me! 🙂

You can learn all about the book, pick up your own copy, and […] Continue Reading…

99 Pounds of Bricks

I was recently talking with a friend who was weighed down by some pretty serious challenges with her family, her business, and her health. “I feel like I’m carrying around 100 pounds of bricks,” she told me.

My first inclination was to try to fix it — to make her feel all better. I wanted her to feel free and weightless — as if she were walking on air, bursting with joy!

So I started suggesting that she focus on joy — thinking about all the things she loved, felt grateful for, and filled her with vitality and zest for life. Approximately three […] Continue Reading…

I’ve Got Your Back

If you’ve already read my previous post, you know how much I’m enjoying my new house and town near the beach. It’s been an incredibly positive, life-changing move, for which I’m immensely grateful.

What I didn’t mention in that post, however, was how this dream-come-true move was almost a nightmare — and how avoiding it strengthened my faith and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

The dodging of the proverbial bullet came exactly one year before we actually moved: December 23, 2014. After months of fruitlessly searching for our dream house on the Oregon coast, my wife and I found one that […] Continue Reading…

This Stuff Really Works

For the past several years, my wife has regularly posted inspiring word art on Facebook. But of all the hundreds of posts she’s shared — others’ and her own — I’m most inspired by the ones she’s put up in the last two months. It’s not because her previous words weren’t inspiring (they were) or that the art wasn’t beautiful (it was); it’s because these latest posts are more than just words to me — they’re my own real-life experiences.

I’m living them.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an experience is worth a million!

For instance, I love the words she put […] Continue Reading…

The Anne Lamott Lighthouse

Do you have a word of the year for 2016?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced the power that comes from setting an intention (for a year, a day, or even the next few minutes) — whether it’s a specific goal or just a general theme. One of my favorite ways to set a general intention for the coming year is to pick a word of the year.

This year, my word is “lighthouse.”

Unlike my words for the past few years — finish, here, and flow — this one may require a bit of explanation. It’s inspired by one of my favorite […] Continue Reading…

A New Year’s Eve Ritual (for ANY day)

What’s your favorite New Year’s Eve ritual?

Do you watch the ball drop at Times Square? Do you wear silly hats and blow noisemakers? Do you kiss your sweetie and sing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight? There are so many wonderful ways to ring in the new year — and no one way is right or wrong (although certain rituals may be regretted the following morning).

This year, my wife and I are going to celebrate with a new ritual (which you can feel free to try for yourself, adapting it in any way you’d like to fit your personal style). Throughout the day, we’re […] Continue Reading…

365 Ways to Connect with Your Soul

TODAY’S THE BIG DAY!

Back in April, my wife, Jodi Chapman, and I got the idea to create a collaborative book. Now, after over seven months of planning, preparation, writing, editing, connecting, and behind-the-scenes work, this brand-new book has been “born” into the world! So, it is with great pride and joy that I introduce…

365 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR SOUL!

This special book is filled with over 400 pages of soulful practices, offering one tip for each day of the year from over 200 contributors — including me, Jodi, bestselling authors Arielle Ford, Peggy McColl, Christy Whitman, and many others — from […] Continue Reading…

Inviting the Vampire (or not)

Each year around Halloween, our thoughts (and decorations and kids’ costumes) often involve ghouls, goblins, and monsters. And the monsters that seem to be enjoying the greatest vogue in recent years (due in large part to the Twilight series) are vampires.

Although I’ve managed to avoid the most recent wave of vampire-mania, there is one bit of lore I’ve somehow picked up in this area: Vampires are only allowed to enter your home if you invite them in.

Now, before I go any further, I should clarify: No, I do not believe in actual vampires. And, as I’ve already mentioned, I have not been “bitten” […] Continue Reading…

What Are You Becoming?

Entelechy is a Greek word that means “the fullest realized essence of a thing.”

I love this word. Even more, I love this concept. And I especially love this concept when it’s applied to people.

I love the idea that within each of us lies the potential to become fully realized, fully ourselves.

The analogy that’s frequently used to illustrate this idea is the acorn. And yes, this is a great symbol of how much power and potential can be locked inside even a very small seed (or person or project). It’s a great reminder that even if we feel like we’re at […] Continue Reading…