Lessons from Dad (Or…What You Feel vs. What is Real)

What you feel and what is real aren’t always the same thing.

Golf SunsetAs the sun set on another Tennessee spring day, my father and I stood alone on the driving range at his golf course. I launched one more golf ball into the air like a streaking black bullet penetrating a breathtaking crimson sky. It had been a long day of practice and my golf swing felt horrible. I had a tournament in three days and I was beyond frustrated.

“What you feel and what is real are not always the same thing,” my father said, invoking a familiar refrain. At 17 years old, familiar parental refrains are usually met by a roll of the eyes. This moment was no exception.

What my father meant was that in the golf swing, what I feel like I am doing and what I am actually doing (reality) are not always the same. While I may feel like I, for instance, kept my right knee flexed perfectly during the swing, the reality is that it moved quite a bit.

Only by reviewing the video of my swing could I see with my own eyes that my father was right. Only then could I see the reality. At 17 my father’s word was not enough. I needed proof. At 33 I usually still do.

Once I felt like my boss went behind my back and intentionally cheated me out of my commission. The reality though is that he didn’t want to disturb my weekend with a technical problem and operated out of ignorance of how our system worked. What I felt was betrayal. What was real was entirely different. I felt like quitting but my wife calmed me down and told me find out his side of the story. (Men, if you have forgotten, your wife is usually right). I did find out, stayed, and was promoted four months later.

I once felt like a fellow team member was slacking off because he was leaving before 5:00 every day and not getting a particularly important daily task done before he left. As far as I knew it was never done until the following morning and he was just a lazy bum. The reality was that his wife had recently received a promotion and he needed to pick his son up from daycare by 5:30 every day. Every night, he got back on the computer and finished that task, hours before the midnight deadline. I just never saw it until I rolled in the next morning.

What I felt was not reality and my warped perception led to bitterness and a strained relationship. I later managed him and he was one of the hardest working guys on the team.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Anytime you feel, make sure you find out what is real.

When you feel cheated, impeded, or mistreated, get the facts before you pass judgment, get angry, and potentially destroy a relationship or look foolish. Find out their side of the story. Many times you will find that your feelings are not based on reality.

Question: Have you ever had a “what you feel is not what is real moment?” What did you learn? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

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  • I sometimes feel like I’m on a different side of this equation – my office mate and my mom both frequently go to the most negative place right away – and I find myself saying things like, “maybe that’s not what he/she meant” and “at least x didn’t happen” – but then in my own mind, I do the same thing. I’m having to learn to always pause and look at what is real. Great post!

    • I’ve found that I really, really, really like to just listen to my feelings. But they are wrong about 49.9% of the time. So I have to check them 100% of the time to be safe. That way, I can find out what is real and respond to reality, not my feelings.