The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
If someone offered you a completely safe space full of love and no judgment what would you bring to that space?
As a big fan of self-acceptance and self-compassion I struggle with advice that goes along the lines of “just choose happiness”. After all it’s important to take our feelings seriously and honour them instead of brushing over them and pretending everything is fine.
However I find that neutral or slightly pissed off moods are not always the result of an underlying problem. Rather they can be influenced by all kinds of random things like weather, hormonal fluctuations or simply giving ourselves the space to brood.
If we mistake these random things for our authentic self it means that a more true version of us cannot shine through at this very moment. And this means that strategies of distraction or simply choosing different activities and thoughts absolutely have their place without meaning that we are faking it.
We live in a world rife with uncertainty. We make assumptions that often morph into certainties because we can’t focus on anything if we question everything everyday. Yet if we don’t want to risk betting our whole life on something that turns out to be wrong we should ask ourselves “what would happen if I were wrong?”.
To me I have placed my bets and everything else has taken a backseat. My bets are that “understanding your psychology can make your life better”, “we can change for the better” and “humans are basically good” (maybe the most risky of them all). But what would happen if I were wrong? What would happen if studies came out, not just one or two, but a huge number of replicable studies came out which showed that optimism levels can’t be increased, the human brain is fixed as it is and even though we are good sometimes, it clearly is selfishness that drives everything.
Well I have thought about that. Because the sunny days, time with friends, money and possibly more care-free life that would be available if I backed off of spreading what I believe to be the truth in this world I can never get back. I can never get back the time I spent alone in my room or at Starbucks drafting podcast episodes or writing course materials.
But here’s the thing: there’s margin for error because to me there’s nothing more interesting to think about than how more people can lead a fulfilling life. There is nothing more worthy to me than being able not once or twice but reliably support people who are going through hard times and giving them hope, knowing that this work makes a difference.
If you don’t have that margin of error in your life I don’t want you to feel bad about it. But I hope you realize it and do something about it before it unravels you.
What is the most random and unlikely thing that has inspired you?
I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
The darkness that we’re fighting is the fabricated kind that is caused by erroneous or at least super unhelpful thoughts. The darkness we are sitting with is of actual loss and misfortune.
I work in whatever medium likes me at the moment.
-Marc Chagall (artist)
What medium, what work is liking you right now and beckoning you to come over and dive down the rabbit hole? What seems to choose you?
Sometimes two good things can contradict each other. Having a solution focus means coming up with ways of moving forward while the most self-compassionate thing we can do sometimes, is to not rush ahead, but instead recognize and acknowledge inner truths. If consistently take the one or the other we will eventually pay for it. If on the other hand, we see them as part of the same process we can resolve the tension.
People don’t like radicals and extremists. This doesn’t just concern terrorists but also vegans, vocal environmentalists or activists of any kind. It occurred to me not that long ago, that with the exception of violent people we don’t have to like some extremists but we should give them credit for how they change society. Personally I don’t like to hang around extremist people either because it feels like unless I join their cause I will always be immoral, irresponsible or ignorant.
However we have to acknowledge that our society does not exactly reward polite people making reasonable cases. “Ahem excuse me, but I noticed that there are chemicals in our food which cause cancer, would you mind saying no to your profit and replace them with something that is more expensive and might change the taste please?” That usually doesn’t cut it. Instead we need the people who decide to live completely without plastic, or animal products or find novel ways to pay for life or whatever else their mission is. They may succeed, fail or both at this but they are blasting the path for all of us, who are less willing to invest as much energy as them.
And if we cut people some slack by acknowledging, that while we might not want their vision 100% to be true, society adapting some of their ideas could be a very beneficial thing, they might even relax a bit in our presence and stop annoying us all together.
There is niceness as a survival strategy: if I am always nice people will like me and I will be fine or even loved. That’s the kind of niceness that burns people out.
Yet there is niceness that comes from the genuine desire to make the world warmer and friendlier. It’s not so much an obligation as our gift to the world. We are free to not give it on days we feel we don’t have anything to give. Guilt free.
Everything we read, watch and hear has been edited. When you compare yourself you compare your unedited life to very polished messages.