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So often we end up chasing goals that don’t deliver what we hoped they would. Let’s stop and think whether what we are trying to achieve has any history at all at making people feel like the feeling we are chasing.
Sometimes it’s the tiny simple things in life that make a small difference. Small differences can add up to eventually make quite big differences. One of the things I am experimenting with right now is paying more attention to my posture. It’s one of these things we know but rarely apply. Yet the more we ignore what we know the more we train ourselves to be helpless. If you need a little big of inspiration why it makes sense to pay attention to your posture check out this TED talk by Amy Cuddy.
We don’t know other people’s stories. So our brain plays a trick on us: it pretends there are none, that unlike us, the people we pass and don’t know anything about, are in fact just what they are to us: a pleasant distraction, invisible or an annoyance. But all of them love somebody, don’t want the people they care about to be hurt and have suffered in the past or maybe in this very moment. We can’t process everybody we pass by as a complex human but when we find ourselves being annoyed we can remind ourselves of this simple truth.
The moment we think we’re experts we become less knowledgeable about stuff. This is not only true for domain experts but also for life. The moment we assume we know how things work chances are we stop being curious about them. That’s not necessarily a tragedy: I am quite happy to never find out how engines or dishwashers exactly work. If we fail to see everyday miracles it might be because of our assumptions.
Rainbows are not rainbows. If you look down on a rainbow from some elevated perspective you will see that they are perfect circles (physicists might point out that they are actually cones. As far as I know there’s no vantage point where rainbows appear as cones to the eye, but hey I’m no rainbow expert and would be thrilled to be staring at a colourful cone one day).
What else might we be delightfully mistaken about?
When we begin doing something like meditation or exercise we do it as a practice: we have expectations as well as a time and a place when we do it. What practices in your life could benefit from expansion by turning them into a way of life? That doesn’t mean you abandon your practice. It’s the cornerstone. It just means that you take the attitude and lens from that practice and view life through that lens.
There are many nice, uplifting and positive things you can do to have more peace of mind. But there is also an element of self-defense involved against default negativity from the news and possibly the people around you. This doesn’t mean that you never read the papers or never talk to people who utter a negative word, rather that you are mindful of the information you consume and that even if someone tends to complain a lot, most people can be gently (not necessarily directly) encouraged to talk about other things, if we take the lead, by responding more to other topics and bringing them up ourselves.
Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.Ansel Adams
Life is so rich you can find evidence for almost any claim in your own life. ‘I am the kind of person who…’, ‘he always….’, ‘she never…’ As Gretchen Rubin points out in Happiness at Home you can find just as much evidence for the opposite claim. Finding evidence for other people’s strengths and helpful actions will make both you and the other person happier than pointing out flaws.
Having done good things in the past and imagining the good things we will do in the future can keep us from acting according to our values today. Let’s not fall in this trap today. Let’s act on the good as it occurs to us.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou makes an interesting point here: maybe what we call negative emotions are helpful in the short-term but can be devastating in the long-term.
Where do you feel these emotions a lot?
No I am not going to point out all his secret flaws, he was a great man. The problem is not about him but that we have a tendency to admire him so much, that we basically give the entire credit of the South African reconciliation to him. Nobody, no matter how great, can ensure that the whole country complies and follows his lead. Mandela was a great leader but the South African people had to do the hard work, namely facing their wounds and transgressions and forgive. They did this not once or twice but daily for years and even decades.
The thing is because we enjoy the feeling of inspiration we get from a figure like Madiba so much we don’t examine the process that made the change possible. Questions like ‘how did you resist the temptation to take revenge once the tables were turned? How did you even manage to sit down at a table with someone who made your life miserable? What do you do when the feelings of hate or anger got too intense? How did you see the good in the other person or group even though you grew up believing there is no good in these folks?’
Inspiration is great. Role models are great. But not if they keep us from understanding solutions. This doesn’t mean that we think less of them: actually the more I know about the process the more I can admire both the sung and unsung heroes.
I had to do something that was urgent for a client. The last thing I wanted was to hang out and chat although I am usually always game for that.
Then I bumped into someone from work. And she was distressed. So should I either listen to her or get my work done?
To my delight there was a third option: listen, respond and then be so inspired about what happened that everything else comes more quickly and easily.
‘No excuses!’ If you want to get things done do them. That’s what we’re told. But what instead of this hard approach we ask ‘what are the things that I do and my brain is peacefully complying instead of coming up with excuses?’ Where are you when that happens and what time of the day is it? Partnering with your brain in that way is often more pleasant and productive.
The Ten Commandments are an utter failure. If God’s message didn’t stop people from stealing, committing adultery and murdering each other your message won’t either.
What does help is to engage in the actions we want to see in others. Goals and actions are both contagious.
-Dr. Art Markman
We like to obsess about our bodies. But what about our body of work? What kind of portfolio do you want to be able to show someone in 1, 5 or ten years?
We all have a long history in discounting our own courage.
As a counter measure try to write a personal courage history.
Could you run a marathon now? Could you run a marathon if you trained properly? How about if you had to run 500 metres for 85 days? Would your fitness level permit that? This is why tiny steps work. Break it down and if it’s hard break it down some more.
What we don’t do defines us as much as what we do. We feel that when we don’t do what everybody else expects. However more importantly what do you not do (yet) that is part of the person would like to become?
Central to the fear of losing control is the deeper seated fear that we can’t deal with unpredictable situations. No matter how hard we try we can’t control everything. But we can work on building the kind of resources that help us deal with unexpected situations:
- physical stamina
- tolerance of discomfort
- eating and sleeping enough
- emotional intelligence
- strong relationships
- financial cushions
As you build these resources the need for control can be safely reduced because you know you will be able to deal with lots of things coming your way.