In today’s world of self-help gurus, celebrity help shows, and spiritual masters, we are inundated with all kinds of advice and preaching about how we should be in this world. We should be fearless. We should be authentic. We should be ethical. We should never be angry. We should always be peaceful. We should have purpose. We should have goals.

Instead of following a guru, celebrity, or master, I have chosen to take as my guide on this journey through life my once-abandoned, still slightly wild dog, Harry. He constantly reminds me of what is natural in this life, how vital real freedom is, and what authenticity truly is, but mostly, he taught me the gift of true acceptance. Not acquiescence, but acceptance. Acquiescence is when we comply with something or give in to something that is not necessarily what we want or in our best interests to elevate our lives. True acceptance is when we discover the deeper patterns and rhythms of nature, when we know deep inside who we truly are (without the overlaying of cultural, parental, or authoritarian beliefs or the suppression of our true natures as loving, connected beings).

I can’t tell you how many people come into my practice feeling as though they have somehow failed the current spiritual tests of being fearless, never angry, and emotionally, even like a Zen monk. Others have successfully suppressed all excitement and energy in their lives to appear in total emotional evenness, yet they wonder why they feel little joy in their lives. How sad that we have unwittingly placed more ways for us humans to deny, control, or manipulate what is natural to ourselves and to this world and become ever more alienated from our true selves. Let’s dispel just four of the common myths and misconceptions one by one. Doing so will make a world of difference to the richness of your life.

1. Be fearless. Fear is a natural response to dangerous situations. Without fear we cannot adequately protect ourselves from potential accidents, fraudulent or mean people, hungry, people-eating beasts, or other life-threatening experiences. Fear becomes a problem when instead of managing fear, it begins to manage us. When our fears reside in our imaginations, beliefs, or emotions, fear is managing us, and we can limit our life experience to comply with our perceived fears.

Instead of denying fear, we could develop courage to face our fears. We would stay in contact with our natural defense mechanism, and we could take our courage by the hand to walk through our emotional fears. At first, it may feel like walking through a ring of fire, but knowing that our denied emotions are playing tricks on us, we can learn to develop our capacity for courage.

2. No anger. Anger seems to be one of the least understood of our emotions. Any social change of any importance in this world has come about because of anger: the American Civil Rights movement and the end of apartheid, the Berlin Wall, and British rule in India were all accomplished through the anger generated by social injustice. Anger does not necessarily mean violence, though when anger is experienced as hopelessness incapable of impelling change, violence often becomes fused within it. Anger separate from violence and bitter resentment is energizing. Anger is life-changing. Anger is a very powerful emotion that when understood can suffuse a depressed person with life-giving energy, vitality, positive purpose, and happiness.

Like any other emotion, anger has its natural role in our world. Anger’s duty is to inform us of social and personal injustice, inequality, and abuse. We need our anger to inform us when our world is not in harmony so that we can take action to ensure proper boundaries, safety, and equality. Anger also infuses our sense of obligation to protect those who are weaker, defenseless, or whose voices are not being heard. We need to understand anger, to listen to those who are angry and find ways of empowering change in their lives or in the lives of those they care about and to tease apart the coupling of anger with violence. This alone could cause significant world change.

3. Be happy, not sad. When we exchange our feelings as if they have no more relevance than exchanging currencies on a stock market, we risk denying emotions that contain vital information about how the self is experiencing and perceiving the world. These emotions then go underground and become distorted, making healing more difficult. An emotion that may have begun as a simple expression on the surface of the self, once underground can become a deeply imbedded pattern of unconscious behavior, or worse, a somatic illness. Emotions do not deliver reality, but they do hold keys to how we are experiencing the world and what we can do to heal a fractured self to become whole, energized, and engaged again.

4. Be authentic. Most often, the demand for authenticity comes along with the demand for what I call the emotional flat line. How can we be authentic when we are busy denying, repressing, or changing our real feelings for those feelings we believe are more desirable ones? Being authentic is just being real. We need to get real, with real feelings and with a real understanding of the human condition.

5. Commit to a guru or expert. What we need is true freedom, that which requires us to be accountable for creating our own lives and living them fully in keeping with the values that serve to elevate all those with whom we share the planet. All too often, today’s charismatic gurus and experts generate income off the vulnerable backs of people eager to submit to a “higher authority,” promising that any dream can come true. I have nothing against making money from a service, talent, or product offered, but when the service, talent, or product manipulates others through grandiose promises that create dependency, it is a problem. We all need help and support, to learn new things, and we need to pay for this, but what we don’t need are more experts and gurus claiming to deliver people to their full potential through accountability couched in a militaristic demand for conformity and compliance. Let’s develop free thinkers: people and leaders who are in touch with themselves, their humanity, and our world. It is the deeper pattern of nature to allow each of us to unfold naturally to our own rhythm of life.

Accepting “who we are with all of our insecurities and vulnerabilities, without limiting ourselves to who we think we are” (The Incidental Guru) frees us, allowing us to be real and to find our own true path.

Author's Bio: 

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Cindy Stone, MA, is a practicing psychotherapist, executive coach, speaker, and the author of The Incidental Guru; Lessons in Healing from a Dog (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2002) and the upcoming Leader of the Pack; Enlightened Leadership and the Responsible Use of Power (http:// Joe van Koeverden, MBA, teaches at Ryerson University and is a professional speaker, workshop facilitator, and business consultant with experience as CEO of a large crown corporation. Cindy and Joe work with organizations, corporations, executives, entrepreneurs, and exceptional individuals to create meaningful conversations for authentic collaborative leadership, alignment of purpose, and sustainable economic ecological development. Cindy and Joe are principals of vanKoeverdenStone & Associates (