What would you do to escape reality? A friend shared his daydream with me last week and it gave me a new appreciation for the realm of make-believe. I know we should always strive to function within our realities, but I think spending time daydreaming may be a short-term escape that helps us through difficult times. My friends’ daydream was as simple as associating a road sign with a far-off fantasy about owning a quaint restaurant, and it goes like this, “…as I was driving home last night, I passed over North Rocky Creek. Every time I pass over it I think of it as a really cool name for a restaurant. So, for the next 50 miles or so I tried to completely plan out what type of menu, ambiance, clientele, etc. North Rocky Creek would have. It’s not that I’d want to run a restaurant, necessarily, I just think it’s a cool exercise to give my brain; to fantasize about a world that seems much simpler than my own. I can see and almost smell the rainbow trout almondine served over a bed of saffron rice with a side of steamed asparagus (I don’t do broccoli)…”
After reading his thoughts, I realized that it is not at all about owning a restaurant but very much about the exercise; taking something everyday and ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary at least in thought. It keeps you thinking, challenged, and gives you a place in your mind to escape to when things get overwhelming.
I often use the technique as a way to spice up a boring luncheon speaker or mandatory cocktail hour I’m not at all interested in attending. I imagine that I’m dining with royalty as I make up storylines for all the people sitting at adjacent tables to help complete my fantasy. I think it’s healthy to play make-believe, but I think the healthier part is in knowing the difference between truth and fantasy. Escaping reality because you can’t handle it is different than escaping reality because you need a break…very different!
Twice last week I found myself dealing with people who had selective amnesia. It’s not even fudging the truth or little white lying, it’s flat out, change-the-truth-to-fit-your-agenda kind of amnesia. I’ve heard and seen politicians lie but I’m astonished at the level of people that would lie about what they ate for breakfast if it provided them an escape route from the uncomfortable. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again…if you think my baby’s ugly, TELL ME! I can deal with the truth; it’s the untruth I have a difficulty processing. I’ll give you an escape route, just don’t lie to my face.
Why do people lie in the workplace? I’ll give you two good reasons why, confrontatoin and pain.
Confrontation is not a bad thing; it is the thing that leads to change which in turn leads to liberation and progress. I’m not saying that I like confrontation, but if we’re not willing to deal with even the slightest discomforts in the workplace, what does that say about what we’re willing to face when challenged with real life stuff? People also lie to avoid pain. I say that without pain, how do we know when things feel good?
After some research about dishonesty in the workplace, I discovered that sometimes it happens because policy doesn’t allow for integrity. Not always, but sometimes. If team members seem to be habitually lying in your business, HR consultant, Roberta Chinsky Matuson, suggests having a good, hard look at your company policy. “Sometimes, unfair rules back people into corners,” she told Kathy Thomas-Massey on an Inc.com website interview. “If a company has a policy that penalizes people for staying home with their sick kids [for example], they’re going to call in and lie about why they can’t come to work. Fix the rules and you’ll probably fix the problem.”
Fixing the rules sounds easy, but how do you convince people to act on integrity not on self preservation? My father-in-law always said telling the truth was worth taking the risk for, and I like to live like that. It’s a great philosophy…and I share that philosophy when dealing with confrontation, “give me an opportunity to help you through the discomfort and we’ll find an answer, any answer.” A lame answer beats dishonesty and cowardice in my book.
So, what does that have to do with escaping reality into the world of make-believe? There is a healthy place to take your mind on a day when you just want to well, escape…and there’s a place you don’t want to go when you’re trying to avoid the truth or an uncomfortable situation; that’s when it becomes unacceptable.
My test to you today is this: when you’re tempted to tell a little white lie to spare some embarrasement or discomfort, just lay it out there in truth and sit with it. Watch how people respond; let them feel the discomfort of your raw integrity and then breathe. It feels good. It takes practice because avoidance is easier. Steering around a topic can prevent hurt feelings. Nodding when you don’t agree circumvents further questioning. But all of it builds up and chips away at your integrity. So plan your daily escape to North Rocky Creek or Buckingham Palace if you must, but don’t run from your realities no matter how tough they may be to face. Tell people their babies are ugly, but do it gently, with integrity and above all because it feels good.