Storytelling hasn’t changed much since the Brothers Grimm. A hero faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge – for example a dragon, an evil witch, or his own weakness. A decisive struggle demands everything of the hero, testing him to his outer limit. Only when he has passed his test, does he get to live happily ever after. A similar narrative thread is used by motivation trainers and esoteric gurus. However, there is a dangerous difference.
In fairy tales, only those who survive the arduous, grueling battle against inner or outer demons reap rewards. Today, however, the message that the crown, the princess or any other longed-for prize is only granted to those willing to work hard and take risks, is not popular. So the mind coaches and gurus simply leave that bit out.
Modern heroes face real and overwhelming obstacles – failure, stress, loneliness, obesity. The motivation gurus would lead us to believe that shouting “Tschakka! I can do it!” solves everything and leads to an instant happily ever after, while the eso-faction promises the same with sulpher pills or aura cleansing.
As appealing as all this might be, the core problem is that it abdicates the individual of any personal responsibility, discipline, courage, hard work or a change of lifestyle. Far too often these instant recipes for happiness lead straight to dependency, disappointment or depression.
If you are chasing the Tschakka high, you need the next kick. If continuous, all-encompassing happiness does not materialize, you are a loser who simply cannot get their mind-set straight or keep their chakras clean. Setbacks are no longer a natural part of life, but an expression of your own spiritual-esoteric inadequacy.
When it comes to dealing with challenges and obstacles, one is better off with the uncomfortable stories of the Brothers Grimm. For those who like it more modern, I recommend the wonderful storytellers Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein and leave the last words to these gentlemen.
If the track is tough and the hill is rough,
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
(Shel Silverstein, The Little Blue Engine)
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
(Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)
What are your favorite motivational stories?