|« May||Jul »|
This is a note to myself and who knows maybe you do it too sometimes: using the ability to express yourself well as a weapon. Making good arguments is usually thought of as a strength. People admire if you can make arguments well and frankly it feels satisfying to do so. The arguments that are the best for political debate and other kinds of fights are the ones where your argument is so good, that no matter how the other person reacts you are right. These arguments make us feel smart and up to the challenge. However on a human level they are like caging or even choking the other person. If they can make a good rebuttal the debate will go on, likely in the same spirit of trying to land the next blow. If they can’t make a good rebuttal we feel that we were right all along. On a human level though that doesn’t matter: the person will not remember the facts but that you tried to cage and choke them. They will remember that you use your intelligence as a weapon. If they have a shot at this game they will come back better prepared if they’re ever in the mood to fight again (if they don’t feel like fighting chances are you will feel smug that your argument was the better one). If they’re not up to the challenge they will just register you as an enemy in their memory and possibly fight back on a completely different level, let’s say by saying fuck you to everyone who reminds them of you (like for example politicians who make smart arguments).
We are constantly monitoring ourselves and comparing our behaviour with the people around us. I had believed that the lunatic joy and disbelief while watching soccer had left me. I had blamed meditation for that. Turns out when I watch it in a crowd but without people I know the crazy is there alright. Maybe I didn’t outgrow those teenage emotions. Maybe they outgrew their tolerance for it and I just complied without ever thinking about it.
Ideas are seductive: they give us little dopamine bangs and make things look easy. Everybody follow this idea and we’re good to go. I love the rush that a good idea brings, the excitement when you explore something that might not yet exist but could. But if we want to see those ideas come to life we have to be prepared to do more than share a few articles and give a few victory speeches. We need to unite the best ideas into a process that we implement. That is the only way anything has ever been achieved.
The ‘problem’ with democracy is that you actually have to convince people who don’t agree with you. Not addressing problems and fears because we think they’re irrational to begin with is not going to work forever. Calling everyone who doesn’t agree with us a fascist and a racist is actually quite helpful – for people like Donald Trump. He’s a symptom not a cause. Taking him down (or the leave voters) only postpones the problem. Words can persuade for a while but in the end people who lost their jobs and were steadily ignored by politics for decades will make themselves heard. The earlier we listen the smaller the earthquake.
When we suffer from analysis paralysis even the smallest decisions seem impossible. Keep in mind though that most decisions are not irreversible. Generally we know this yet often, we feel we can’t move on unless all our questions or reservations have been addressed. If that is possible that’s great. If not chances are you can re-evaluate when you have more information.
Last year after having written blog posts every day (except vacations sans computer) I suddenly had the compulsion to write two books at the same time. And then something happened: they lost all appeal or energy. The manuscripts feel like corpses as if nothing I do can possibly put back any life into them. Two half-finished drafts sitting there. I found this extremely disappointing.
Now I am taking a humor writing class. Whenever I am not writing about psychology but merely do the exercises the writing is often fun and more polished. I could be frustrated but this is the winding road. Books, movies and quotes all prepare us for the obstacles, the set-backs and the illusion of smooth sailing from A to B. While I don’t believe in the suffering artist or workaholic entrepreneur myths the hiccups are to be expected. I have to grow from writing short excerpts to big ass books. No surprise there. Everything is okay.
All too often not even one idea will show up for this daily blog post for the longest time. It’s like they move in scared little packs, terrified of being spotted alone. Then suddenly you manage to pin one down and it will bring all its little friends.
We all hear compliments or maybe even receive written positive feedback. Write it down when people say something nice about you. Keep it in once place. And no doing this will not make you a complacent arrogant jerk. It will probably make you feel valued and connected with the world.
We have this cultural narrative that being adopted means that you are always supposed to feel a hole, to feel incomplete. Often people expect them to have abandonment issues. There’s evidence to prove that you were abandoned, after all, if you weren’t given away, you would be with your biological parents. Nobody could blame someone for feeling this way. Yet because we see some variation of this in books, movies and soap operas it’s easy to believe that this is the only way we respond to it. Kristin Chenoweth decided to think of it in a different way. See she decided to put herself in her biological mother’s shoes. Isn’t it the biggest sacrifice to give up your own child? Don’t even the most immature mothers know that they might feel incomplete and guilty their whole life yet that if they would hold on to the child, they could not provide, either physically, psychologically or both? So Kristin came to the conclusion that to give your baby away so that this baby could have a better life is a loving sacrifice.
Then she decided to look at the folks who adopted her. They wanted her more than anything. Not only were they ready to do all the things that parents do, they were ready to do it for someone who was not their flesh and blood. Someone who might one day break their heart by yelling that they are not her ‘real parents’ and don’t have anything to say to her. Yet they took that risk. They put in the loving and hard work of raising her. Feeling unloved under these circumstances just made no sense. She could struggle yes. She could have dark days and wonder. She says “I’m not saying it’s not hard or that it’s easy for people to understand. But it really isn’t for the world to understand; it’s for the people who are involved.”
Yet she could never rationally say that she was not loved. As she put it, “I know that I came from love, and I know that I have love.”
All of you will make their own conclusions based on this story. To me it means that sometimes we don’t have to accept the pain that society wants to put on our shoulder. Sometimes we can examine the facts ourselves and reframe for the better.
I love the science of happiness dearly. But if we need a scientific justification and a success guarantee to value things like gratitude, creativity or positive emotions we should rethink our values. If we can only engage in these things because they help us succeed we have elevated success above all other values.
Infinite options equals infinite prison.
Every once in a while there’s a discussion around whether living according to your strengths and showing your authentic self is good or damaging. Often in these discussions people hide behind labels such as authenticity or strengths: I screwed up because it’s not my strength. I didn’t do it properly because I didn’t feel like doing it in that moment. The moment you start using your strengths and your authenticity as excuses you will probably walk into trouble.
Because of my innate interest and strengths I prefer soccer to say ballet. However if I am serious about improving my soccer skills, I might have to do things which temporarily drain my energy such as practicing to juggle the ball with my feet. Your strengths exempt you from doing ballet but they should never be the excuse to shirk the stuff you need to do to gain mastery at something that is important to you.
We have a lot of conscious and unconscious expectations about how long something is supposed to take. Once this expectation is not met we get impatient and frustrated with ourselves and others. When we understand that this is where our negative feelings come from we can let go of the idea about how long something is supposed to take and instead focus on what we can do to help the process along (not speed it up). If we can’t do anything, like for example when we’re waiting for the bus, we might as well observe that feeling rushed until it dissolves. Alternatively we can decide to do something else with our energy all together.
We are taught early to reciprocate: if someone does something nice for you, you do something nice for them. If someone inspires you, you wish to inspire them. Reciprocity is important and great but it can be constraining: it means that we limit our focus on those who we do good for. Don’t try to impress the people who inspire you: turn around and inspire others. If someone sends you a surprise postcard do the same for someone else. That way goodness spreads and is not finished after two interactions.
It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.-Anne Frank
The majority of our life is consumed with routines. Since the same activities and thoughts repeat themselves constantly we likely only experience a narrow emotional range. Which three emotions do you experience regularly? Which ones do you experience rarely? Can you pump those up and do a little fire drill, just to see if they’re still fully functional? Soccer tournaments are a great opportunity to do this.
I had an awesome topic for today’s blog post. Something that I was truly excited about and had never put in those words. But because the idea came to me through a conversation and I was polite I didn’t write it down. Write it down. It’s not going to stay around forever, even though most ideas would like to make us believe that to be the case.
When you are working on a project and are stuck I have found that engaging with some class or other content in a related but not the exact same field can be really helpful. So say you are trying to figure out something related to coaching. Taking a teaching class for example is not so closely related to coaching to allow the block to continue but it has enough overlap to stimulate a couple of novel ideas.
I know how pointless it is to rage against things that are inconsequential in the long run and that I have no control of changing. However every so often I do get really pissed off at things calling themselves names they aren’t. For example customer service is usually a barely disguised attempt, to take the customers money and never talk to them if possible. While the automated emails are efficient for the company they are maddening for anyone who actually needs to get hold of a real human. So after figuring out clue after clue on how to actually find an inquiry form and then getting a ‘do-what you already did-even-if-it-didn’t-work’ email ‘do you still have a problem?’ of course I do you ******. So I wrote back an answer which wasn’t offensive but deviated substantially from the tone I choose to use in regular life. When I got emails from that company I was weary of opening them. So here’s a way to decide whether to blow up or not: are you prepared to take it further and have this stupid issue spoil another day? Sometimes the answer is ‘hell yes’. In this case the poor sausage handling the inquiry had nothing to do with designing their non-customer-service experience.