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It’s easy to be a pacifist in peaceful times. It’s easy to believe in fair wages when you are not the one paying them. Exemplifying the values you care about is never more influential on others than in difficult times. Every single one of you can inspire other people if you uphold your values in times when abandoning them would be easier. In good times people often don’t feel the need to stop, reflect and change. After all things are going well. Yet when things go sour at least some people pause and look around. That’s your chance to spread the values you care about.
New ways of doing things are often rejected on the basis that there are some inherent flaws. Yet development can only happen, if we say yes to an alternative and keep making it better. Virtually every process has undergone this cycle of refinement. If we say no we say yes to the status quo which reinforces the existing flaws and problems. One of the easiest ways to maintain power is to stifle the progression of new ideas. This is done by exaggerating the flaws of the new and pretending that the existing thing is fair. If you want things to change don’t let people lock you into this either/or world.
Ideas live as people keep thinking, maintaining and spreading them. Whenever we say no to something new we strengthen and reaffirm the old idea. Do you want the idea that you are talking to others about really to spread? Do you want to keep it alive when at the same time you could energize dormant yet much more constructive other ideas?
This blog mostly talks about things that you can do as a person to feel happier and more connected to a meaningful life. However this individualistic focus doesn’t mean, that we should ignore the larger picture: yes we can learn to deal with stress at work but that doesn’t mean that this in any way absolves the responsibility of management to ensure that they take responsibility for how things are going. Similarly if a country does well on a happiness index doesn’t mean that this in any way justifies a government that doesn’t care about human rights or democracy. These ideas should help you to lead a meaningful and happy life. They should not be used to justify other crap that is going on and might need to be dealt with differently.
In school they bored the pants off of us with books or movies which they considered to be classics: things which are important and relevant through the ages. To be fair a precious few were interesting or fun yet the reason a lot of it is boring is because some greying white dudes made the choice and put all their gravitas behind that choice, making everybody else feel like they just don’t get it or are maybe not smart enough.
The idea of classic and timeless work however is actually a fun one. It doesn’t have to be high- minded at all. Which are the books, movies, quotes, music, TV shows or pieces of art that have withstood the passage of time and remain relevant in your life? When have you taken the time to revisit those gems?
Here are a few random personal classics that I care for:
- Yellow and Strawberry Swing by Coldplay
- Fields of Gold album by Sting
- She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
- Harry Potter books
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
- The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- The Nanny
- How I met your Mother
- and many more
The frequency with which European cities have been hit by terrorist attacks in the last 18 months has risen dramatically. It seems that we have to accept that this is part of our lives, which is not only sad but terrifying. Yet conflicts which seemed like there’s no way out have been resolved in the past. If you can’t help but read about these attacks and getting pulled down further and further I would encourage you to read up on past conflicts and how they have been resolved. Maybe it’s not the same circumstances and maybe the same solution doesn’t work everywhere. But feeling helpless, terrified and possibly hateful is not what brings about peace. If you know what does and how seemingly unsolvable conflicts have been solved you can not only keep yourself from despair but possibly the people around you as well. We can be honest about our fears and our sadness but still look to what worked in the past.
One of the tragedies of growing up is that we lose our fun delusions and then replace them with more-realistic sounding, depressing but nevertheless not true other delusions. It just seems that we can’t live life without fooling ourselves just a bit. So let’s have fun with it.
One delusion I like to hold on to is that there’s a slim chance, I have yet undiscovered magical powers. Mind you there is weird evidence to support this: like how the system at work used to crash whenever I was wearing my Hawaii socks (now thanks to cost saving measures the system achieves this feat without my socks quite regularly). Or some weirdly accurate dreams.
Anyhow a part of me knows that I probably don’t have these powers and that life is good without them too. But every once in a while, like when I find two identical hats in my pocket instead of just one, I can get really excited for about seven minutes, thinking I inadvertently multiplied the hat.
Now go have fun with your own delusions.
In terms of self-development it’s easy to lose track of how far we have come and what we have already done. Unlike fitness goals which can be tracked meticulously using fancy apps our memories behave like anything but an app. We adapt to what we have and forget what it was like. Take that into account when you evaluate yourself.
‘If I am self-compassionate I will rest on my laurels and never do anything productive for the rest of my life.’
‘If I become more confident I might turn into an arrogant ass.’
‘If I am happy all the time that can’t be good.’
These are the kind of problems people think about when being presented to change something. I am always astounded when people say these things because it means that they think that they will be so incredibly successful and changing themselves, that they will be confronted with the opposite of all the issues bugging them today.
The part of us that wants everything to stay the same forever can come up with many convincing tricks to keep us from attempting change but this is not very convincing.
If you happen to have been raised a Waorani the notion of covering your boobs is completely foreign. It would be just as weird as covering your chin would be for Westerners. It’s good to remind ourselves how many of the vast rules we live by are made up by people. I am not suggesting you go flashing any time soon. Yet it’s liberating to know that different ways of doing things exist.
Apparently Jesus said you shouldn’t just give a man a fish but teach him how to fish. Translated that means we have to help people to help themselves. Are you searching for the fish or do you care to learn how to fish? Likely it’s not one or the other but it depends on your interests. The important thing is that you don’t just take single fishes in every domain of your life.
It sounds like a virtue reserved for people like the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa. Yet even if you don’t plan on escaping the karmic wheel or knock on the doors of heaven being non-judgmental has a couple of benefits that are helpful for mere mortals:
- as you stop judging others you worry less about being judged
- people trust you more
- you free up space for more important or fun matters
We do the most harm when we believe what we do doesn’t make a difference.
-Colin Bevan (environmentalist)
That’s why it’s crucial to understand the difference between feeling bad and feeling helpless. Whatever feeds our helplessness not only fuels passivity but even harm.
To do something every day usually means that if you do it long enough you will not do so well on some days. Be half-assed. Half-assery will still get you further than doing things only on the days when you feel you can deliver perfect performance.
When something important is up like a negotiation or an exam we have heard for years to calm down. Interestingly those who calm down or attempt to calm down don’t do better, they do worse. High intensity emotions cannot just be suppressed rather the energy needs to be transformed. It’s more helpful to say ‘I am excited’ or ‘this is the energy I need to perform’ than to forcing ourselves to calm down.
Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.-Samuel Butler (British Poet)
What happened the last time you experienced unexpected joy? For me it was just yesterday and I was surprised by how happy I felt. The narrator of my all-time favourite audiobook The Help is also the narrator of the book I am listening to now (Everywhere, Everywhere). I felt like jumping up and sticking my earphones into anybody’s earholes who would listen. Her voice encapsulates so much generosity and goodness, I felt like curling up and just listening forever.
It’s fascinating: we have things like writer’s block or other blocks and we can’t move forward with a particular project. Or maybe we struggle visualizing something when told in an exercise but if someone talks to us about Aunt Sally, we see her face immediately. Difficulty is relative. That might not immediately solve your problem but it’s reassuring to remember.
We all think we are right. We all think the things that concern us are the most important or at least more important than other people’s projects. Since we know that not everybody can be right we assume we are. But actually this is exactly how it’s supposed to be: we all treat whatever it is that we care about like the most important thing in the world. That way we can help it progress. As long as we remember that others are exactly like us in this regard all is good.