How do you know what’s real?

Well hello there! Or in the words of Truman Burbank, “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya: Good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!”

Now here’s a question for you, how do you know what’s real?

The ultimate reality show

In the 1998 movie “The Truman Show” the star of the story, Truman Burbank, appeared to be leading the perfect all-American life, whilst being completely unaware that in reality his whole life had been a TV show watched by millions.

How could this be?

As the show’s creator Christof explains:

“We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.”

Christof – The Truman Show

Truman had no other version of reality than the one he was experiencing. His wife, friends, co-workers, in fact everyone else on the gigantic soundstage in which he lived his life were actors playing a part.  In addition, as a means to deter Truman from ever thinking of leaving by sailing off into the sunset, Christof even ‘killed off’ the character of Truman’s father by drowning him at sea which the young Truman witnessed, in order to instil a fear of water into him.  These guys were serious!

Eventually the constructed reality began to crumble when a studio light fell from the sky, and Truman heard a radio show that precisely describe what he was doing.  The actor who played his father infiltrated the set as a beggar and was hurriedly manhandled onto a bus before he could speak to him, and an ‘extra’ who Truman fell in love with whilst at college returned to try and free him from the show, having been removed from the set for trying to do the same thing previously.

Truman understandably begins to question his reality.

Why am I sharing all this with you?  What does it have with your life, or with coaching? It’s just a movie right?  Just make believe.

Sometimes truth and fiction are closer than you think.

Let me ask you this, have you ever felt that something ‘isn’t right’?  On the outside it seems that you have a good life (or at least not a terrible one) but deep down you feel something is missing?  It doesn’t make sense, you should be happy but you’re not.

Perhaps when you talk about it with your family or friends they don’t really understand and tell you not to worry, everything will work out.  And if you do actually try to make changes it creates tension and arguments because in reality they need you to stay as you are, so that they can stay as they are.

That would never happen…

You might say The Truman Show could never happen in real life yet how many reality shows are on TV right now?  Yes, people are volunteering to appear on them so hopefully know what they’re getting into, unlike Truman.  But people watch those shows in their hundreds of thousands.

Maybe you believe that real life is more important than a show’s ratings, but what is social media all about if not encouraging us to strive for more likes, comments, and shares? How much of your ‘curated’ life are you sharing through your posts?

News channels and newspapers provide us with a regular diet of what’s going wrong in the world, why it’s not safe, who we need to worry about – not so different from Christof creating Truman’s fear of water.  How often do they inform you of any of the millions of things which are going OK?  What’s reported are the outliers, the stuff outside the norm, because every day life is just that, happening every day without incident.  The problem when all you get told about is the stuff outside the norm, is that’s what you end up perceiving as reality.

I’m not trying to be sinister here and tell you there’s some great conspiracy going on, that you can’t trust your friends and family, that it is all a big lie to keep you stuck where you are.  It’s not.

What I want to do is encourage you to do is to find out what’s real and true for yourself, and to understand that when you decide you want to change something in your life you will come up against challenges.


The Truman Show takes this to extremes when Truman decides to ‘escape’ his non-reality.  Nevertheless it’s true that change requires courage, those closest to you may need you to stay as you are because if you change, they may have to change too.  This is why it is important to seek the support of someone on the ‘outside’, someone who does not have a vested interest in you staying as you are, someone with whom you can share what’s making you unhappy or frustrated without worrying that they’ll take it personally, who has a different perspective, a different experience of life.  Someone maybe like me.

Change isn’t always easy

Change can also bring up your fears and self-doubt, it may not go smoothly, or as you expected, there may be a domino effect.  Change always requires you to let something go, maybe an old belief, way of thinking, a relationship etc.  This is why many people dislike, or even fear, change, they know they will have to give something up – even if it’s their preferred desk at work.

In “The Hero’s Journey” Joseph Campbell describes the challenges we all face when making significant changes in our lives as the ‘dark night of the soul’

“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed”

Joseph Campbell

In the Truman Show, Truman faces his dark night of the soul when he decides to face his fear of water and cross the ‘ocean’ in a small sailboat, Christof throws every sort of stormy weather he can at him trying to make him turn back.


Truman is being tested, does he want to find out what’s ‘outside’ enough to keep going?  Watch this clip to find out.

And do you know what happens after Truman makes his life-changing journey? The viewing public move on to the next interesting thing. They’re no longer interested.

Time to be the hero

If you want to change your life you too may need ‘outside’ help, you too will be tested, people will want you to stay playing the role you’ve been playing all these years. Coaching can provide that outside help. The tests are simply part of your journey, there to teach you just how strong you are.  Embrace them, learn from them. And yes, other people have their own lives to think about and will move on to the next interesting thing.

At the end of the day you are the hero of your story,  you are the only person who can create your own new reality.

Maybe now’s the time for you to start writing a new ending.

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