“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was an American author and illustrator who sold more than 600 million books from 1927 to 1980. If you were a child during any of that era, or beyond, it’s likely you are familiar with his work. You probably read some of his books as a child, or at least had them read to you. (What child hasn’t had Green Eggs and Ham read to them?) His books were a smorgasbord of humorous words and silly phrases, nonsensical characters, and subtle, yet definite, life lessons. A lot of these lessons are lost on the target audience children up to the age of 10. The reality of Dr. Seuss is that he was a brilliant scholar, Dartmouth and Oxford University educated, and a philosopher in his own right. Maybe it’s time some of us adults reviewed a little Seussology to see some of the lessons that we may have missed the first time around.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!
I’ve been a practicing psychotherapist, coach, and educator for over 30 years. If I had a nickel for every person I’ve known in these capacities who was not content with themselves I would probably be the richest man on the planet. Almost everyone who has emotional issues is not content with who they are or where they are in their life. Quite frequently, their problem stems from a lack of self-esteem and an unrealistic, negative, self image. They have lost their sense of purpose and their self-esteem. In most cases, the lack of self-esteem has been lost because of some long standing view that they are somehow less than other people. They’ve lost that sense of uniqueness, that all of us innately have. Therapy, counseling, and the work that we have to do as client and counselor is to restore that sense of uniqueness that Dr. Seuss is referring to in this quote. His words, although simplistic, are undoubtedly true.
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss
Many of the problems that people have that become the focus of attention in counseling or coaching are due to the fact that many of us overthink things. In the confines of our own minds, things can get murky and confusing. Phrases like “Yeah, but…” “what if,” “I can’t,” and similar negative projections prevent us from not only succeeding, but often not even attempting a lot of things that, if we took a rational, logical approach, we would have a fairly high chance of succeeding. When you get inside the logic of a negative thinker, it becomes pretty obvious that they are their own worst enemy, imagining horrific, embarrassing, and often devastating events that virtually never happen, or if they do they are nowhere near as bad in reality as they were in the imagination. Paralysis analysis kills more dreams than virtually anything else. The doctor is right, sometimes the answers are quite simple.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Often people who come into counseling or coaching have forgotten that they, and they alone, control their own destiny. True, many of them have suffered some very negative events in their lives, usually not of their own making. The challenge is to get them back in control of their own lives. It is a process rather than an event, but the critical realization is that they need to get back in touch with their own personal power. Like Seuss says, we are the ones who ultimately decide where we go with our lives and we are the only ones who can change. Suggestions will be made, undoubtedly, but ultimately every person has their own walk of life. As Seuss says, you will decide where you will go. Too many people live their lives passively, waiting for the right opportunity, the perfect situation, the perfect partner, or the planets to line up and miraculously give them what they are seeking from life. The doctor’s argument here is that it doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t have a remote, if you don’t like it get up and change it yourself.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”- Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
A negative consequence of the information age is the tendency of people to sit back, observe the events, complain about them, and do nothing. There is so much news and information that it becomes very difficult for individuals to decide what to care about, which causes to support, which political and social organizations to get behind, and to take action on issues of importance. These same people often have a tendency to complain about these very same issues, all the while doing nothing. Caring and involvement are one of the ways that a human being can get more deeply involved in their life. Involvement leads to connections, connections lead to being a part of something that is greater than yourself. A life of purpose and connection is bound to be a more fulfilling one. The doctor thinks we should get more involved. Think about the things that are important to you. What are some of the ways that you can get more deeply involved in causes, events, and activities that are important to you? Take the doctor’s advice.
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
How do you typically start your day? What are your morning rituals? Do they set you up for success, or do they start with a negative thought and things only get worse from there? One of the most important times of the day is those first 30 minutes after you wake. Naturally, people have different preferred styles of getting into their morning. Some are fortunate, and are “morning people” who wake up easily ready to take on the day and anything that it may bring. Others are slowburners who need to warm up before taking on the challenge of the next 16 to 18 hours. Regardless of which one you are, your thinking and self talk are a critical component in how you take on that day and ultimately what kind of day you have. Seuss’s morning pep talk, or some similar positive self talk is one way to set yourself up for success. What you say to yourself about what’s going on in your world is important to the day’s outcome, creating feelings of self efficacy and mastery. Each day there is some kind of “mountain” waiting to be scaled. Seuss’s suggesting tackling it with a “can do” attitude. There’s no other way to climb a mountain. Get on your way!
Dr. Seuss’s words are worth revisiting, holding hidden gems of advice for us adults. His philosophy of life can make you smile and just may make your life richer.
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
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