There are several forms my friend Simon comes in. His girlfriend can’t figure him out. Not because she doesn’t love him or get him, but because she’s looking at him as an ego, through the lens of her own ego. She wants him to be consistent and yet she doesn’t notice she’s not either. That innocent lack of awareness will make their “problems” unfixable until they clear their heads.
Here are some of the personas that I’ve seen Simon exhibit: There’s Business Simon. When he’s around his boss or underlings he sounds almost like a radio-announcer he’ll have so much authority in both his word choice and delivery. Sports Simon is so foul-mouthed and debauched that I can’t even begin to tell you what he sounds like. With His Parents Simon is teasing and helpful. Stoned Simon is philosophical and yet terrified his life has no meaning. But under these and all the other variations of Simon there exists two fundamental states of Simon.
Whether he’s Business, Sports, Man-Cave, Husband, Father or whatever other Simon he is–he’ll either be Wanting or he’ll be Appreciating. Different people will like different personas, but what most people see as our base personality is whether or not we are fundamentally optimists or a pessimists. Because birds of a feather often flock together.
What’s important about that is that there are two fundamental Yous. The one that wants things to be different and the one that is appreciating how things are. Get that choice right and the rest falls into place. Because who cares how many people approve of your persona if you’re often in a state of appreciation? Appreciation feels good. What other people have going on in their heads is what they feel. You feel what you do–so practice appreciating.
Practice? I know, it sounds weird but that’s what all of those monks meant when they talked about practicing Zen. It’s not an achievement. It’s an action. You actively seek things to appreciate until you get to the point where it’s your nature. After that you’re one of the “lucky” ones.
Yeah, I know Wanting Simon. That’s the depressing version his girlfriend struggles to be around. He points out the jobs he didn’t get, his parents shortcomings, various injustices, the cruel nature of the world and he does all of that because he wants to make the world and himself better. But the world is the world. What Simon needs is to see it through his appreciative eyes.
When Simon first met his girlfriend he was crazy in love. All he talked to us about was how great she was. And she is great, but you know what? While he was looking at the world and expecting it to be great, he saw greatness all over the place. His dog got smarter, he realized his apartment had character whereas before it just looked old. His siblings were nicer people and his boss wasn’t so stupid. But then the initial high of meeting his still-excellent new girlfriend naturally wore off. And when it did he returned to seeing the world as ugly, himself as unfortunate, and the future as bleak.
Like all of us Simon always has the choice to want or appreciate. One will always hurt, one will always feel good. That isn’t to say the painful one doesn’t have some value. But you can also better yourself without a lot of suffering. The wise people aren’t in robes or speaking in Yoda-like language or capable of remarkable feats of self-abuse. Wise people are the ones enjoying their lives. Wasn’t that the point of gaining wisdom in the first place?
Don’t want a perfect history. Don’t want a perfect now or a perfect future. Just take what you have and appreciate that if what you want is a better day, week, month, year or lifetime. All you have to do is do it. Appreciate. You know you can. You can start right now.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.