Getting Along

Interesting term when one stops to look at it a moment: getting along. To get is to have or hold or receive something, but what are we getting? Along means to move ahead on some type of path. When the word was created the idea was that it was to take and, and long, and push them together into one word. So essentially the word means that you have found a way to continue to move forward.

Of course, the fancy word for this is diplomacy. This is when we take two or more perspectives that are in deadlock and they are jostled and realigned and adjusted so that all of the parts that can align, do align. This creates a greater unification of needs and that removes friction and that’s what gets things further along. So with people you like and enjoy, you simply go. But with people you find challenging in some way, some getting along is required.

In school it’s easier to align yourself with people like you because you have so many chances to mix and there’s so many of you. But at work you’ll often be in smaller teams, so figuring out when to concede and when to hold ground is more difficult because you can’t just join another group. And at work your boss won’t give you a low grade–they’ll fire you. At work the problem might even be with your actual boss.

A lot of people were raised by a parent to start off with demands. But if everyone only made demands how would anything get anywhere? Obviously everyone has to enter into a negotiation or discussion or debate with the idea of some concessions automatically built into the premise of the meeting, otherwise you’re just re-meeting to re-express previously stated demands.

Negotiation, debate and discussion require flexibility on everyone’s part. When things are stuck, what people get through some concessions is… along. They can back away and keep things as they are, or they can move forward by trading absolutes for acceptable losses.

I’m not sure if they still do this there, but I’d been told while living in Budapest that one of the nearby governments (Czech maybe?) had a process whereby unions and companies had to submit a closed, fixed bid on their arrangement. Then three judges would pick one of them, without alterations. I suspect the story is true in some way because, in principle, what would happen for most people’s minds is in alignment with what the storyteller told me, and that is that invariably the two sides would make extremely similar offers, which just goes to show they both knew where starting from extremes would lead anyway.

We don’t need to be forced to do these things. We don’t need to be left with no options before we consider another path. When we’re in conflict with someone else’s needs, rather than our own objectives, we’re better to share the objective of getting along. That means instead of finding a statement that represents your own interests, you state something that moves things forward; something that leads towards peace, or cooperation, or openness, or eventually, agreement.

Interestingly it appears around the 1700’s before someone puts get and along together to form the notion of moving forward in unison, and that is sometimes referred to as living harmoniously. That’s a good term, because in a harmony everyone still has their own individual note; everyone’s just made some adjustments so they blend well with others so that the whole can equal more than the sum of the parts. And that’s the secret. Adding each individual position in any conflict will not total as much as if each part surrenders something to a larger whole.

Next time you’re in conflict, spend less time asserting your position and more time looking for ways to align it with the opposing views. Sometimes it’s true, it cannot be done. But far too often people fail at finding a compromise simply because no one was willing to compromise on principle. Winning might get you everything. But compromise does get everyone something.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Appreciating Kindness

1105-relax-and-succeed-a-persons-actionsWelcome to the last day of the month and to the end of your first two months of micro-meditations. You can take pride in your dedication because exercises like these absolutely do have an impact on how broadly you’re able to view “reality.”

It feels good to have a positive impact on the world around you. Here at Relax and Succeed I’ve encouraged people to engage in March Kindness Month, a creation based on a program in Singapore I was aware of from the 1990’s. This program was taken up by a variety of teachers around the world and the students in their classes helped add to the total amount of human compassion and kindness that was expressed over the last few years. That kind of thing generates a tangible impact in the world.

Leading up to those micro-kindness goals it’s worthwhile for us to take a good look at kindness more attentively so that we can appreciate its actual impact in the world. Our understanding of it often ends with the belief that it’s a good thing to do, but rarely do we slow our minds down to truly understand why.

1105-relax-and-succeed-spiritual-practice-is-not-just-sittingIn today’s meditation your goal is simply to tune your awareness radar to acts of kindness. You can hear about them on the radio or a podcast, you can see them in a video or program, or you can note them live and in-person at work, in public, and at home. It’s not only healthy to be tuned to these events, moreover your careful observance of these moments will demonstrate the resonating power behind simple acts of kindness.

As I’ve written about before, simply waiting a bit longer than average to hold a door for someone will often elicit the same behaviour from the person who the door was held for. Their odds of looking behind them for the rest of the day goes up. Their odds that they’ll be willing to hold a door just a bit longer than average will go up, and by these small gains the world can change.

We’ll save your action for March, but for today, in watching these examples, your assignment is to simply try to see the echo of the generous and thoughtful behaviour. Note the person’s emotional reaction, which will be demonstrated through their facial expressions and body language. Maybe they’ll even offer some words of thanks, and then echo the action with someone else. Whatever it is, big or small, recognise those gains as real things in the universe; things that never would have existed were it not for the original act.

Gandhi wasn’t kidding when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The change in the world is literally made of massive collections of these tiny acts. People are naturally generous, connected and compassionate, but without us modelling that behaviour for others, they have little chance of breaking out of their egocentric thoughts to the point where they can even recognise their ability to impact the world in this positive way.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Ego’s Tools

1101-relax-and-succeed-ubuntu-is-very-difficult-to-renderThis is a particularly good exercise. If you’re reading this then it’s likely that you generally like people. Some socialised peopled can behave anti-socially on, ironically, social media, but most feel the tug to be tribal. We know deep down that being separate from the group is more dangerous and less enjoyable. This is why prisoners describe the lack of freedom as most painful, even when their conditions might otherwise seem good.

Jail is our modern equivalent to shunning. Before you got kicked out and had to find a way to survive by catching 100% of your own food, making 100% of your own clothes and 100% of your own fire-making and socialising. In prison you get your jump suit and your food that’s heated over a stove, but it can still be a dangerous place unless you become a high enough ranking person to have protection, but even that pits you against other similar-strength people. We’re all really better off getting along.

Of course living with others does require a compromising approach that seeks something that works well for everyone, and yet at the same time if we have to sacrifice too much of who we are then we’re better off finding a group that matches us better. That said, adaptations on our part also expand us, so learning to get along with those you don’t get along with is an actual life skill.

1101-relax-and-succeed-teach-your-childrenOver the last couple decades there has been an increasing amount of judgment in the First World. Fed, watered, sheltered, the lower portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is covered, meaning you’re looking for things to do. Those things used to largely be actions, not idleness.

Actions would be things like developing yourself, enhancing your environment, playing games or sports with others, being artistic through music or dance or carving or painting or weaving or whatever. Even at the turn of the last century it was an activity for a family to actively sit around a radio and listen. Yes, listening was an actual activity. It was something you completely did, not something that was on while you did other things.

Today there are a lot of people doing none of those things. A lot of people watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of time on the internet, and what’s there is what’s here–lots of words. I write professionally, but words are the ego’s tools, so that’s why when I’m healthiest I make the time to drag race, play drums, garden, or play some type of strategy game. These things are very involving and yet they involve little or no words. It’s why lots of kids have taken up knitting.1101-relax-and-succeed-we-are-just-an-advanced-breed

All of the judging people are doing is done in words. They think their judgments inside their own heads and then either say them or write them, or they don’t. But the judgment’s happened either way. That judgment is an ego-action inside our heads that separates us from our human tribe.

You might find it unpleasant imagining giving help to someone you don’t like, but imagine being able to get the help normally associated with a friend, from literally everyone. That’s what Star Trek imagined and that’s where we’re generally headed. A whole bunch of us want fewer borders and a greater emphasis on saving Earthlings, not just Earthlings like us. So that is where we’re going. The question is, what will you do to get yourself there?

Today’s meditation is easy, and yet it’s one of your most challenging yet: find gratitude in a place where you’d least expect it. Ask a few friends or people you see regularly: what sort of people do you complain about most? Maybe they’re rich, maybe they’re poor, maybe they’re intolerant of other cultures, maybe they’re from another culture, maybe they vote differently from you, maybe they’re in jail, maybe they have a temper or are boring–it doesn’t matter, it all works for the exercise.

1101-relax-and-succeed-god-created-our-skin-tonesThe idea is to stretch your own definition of what kind of person meets the definition of an acceptable person. As an example, personally, the biggest challenge I have is watching people with helpful power withhold it for personal reasons that have little to do with expanding the entire tribe.

I find it difficult watching an executive allow his staff to be abused; watching a wealthy person not take action to improve the world; watching someone be grotesquely self-centered, things like that. I’m mostly upset that they steal the joy of connection that goes with helping others. They’re stealing from themselves.

So to challenge my own judgments, I went out and found an example that proves my definition is one dimensional. You do the same. Take the type of person you don’t like, and then find a person who meets that description that you do like. Like I said, easy, and in a way quite the challenge. Find your type. Genuinely accept someone from that group into your group. That’s it. Because that will be a lot.

1101-relax-and-succeed-bill-gates-is-better-that-batman

http://www.frugaldad.com/

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Being Liked

1052-relax-and-succeed-open-your-handsLikes on social media are no different than likes in person. They’re given out rather casually and they’re taken away with little notice. This is because no one is responsible for the fair dispersal of likes, they just tumble out of whatever conditions naturally form them, with the landscape being made up of moment to moment opinions.

It isn’t frivolous to seek likes to some degree. We need them to survive. Even covering the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs is difficult when we’re alone, and achieving procreation and the other higher stages is effectively impossible. So partnerships and group pursuits are key to our survival both physically and emotionally.

That said, we also don’t want to live entirely for others. Our cooperation must in a way be selfish. Each individual must live and look out for themselves. At the same time if an individual who is struggling to contribute, or in cases where they’ve done something wrong and they require forgiveness, if they’re liked enough then popularity can act like a get out of jail free card.

1052-relax-and-succeed-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-usThe idea of stored value in the form of good feelings can’t be sought for their own sake or that is a shallow, ego-driven life lived for others. But if they are done as part of an actual, active awareness and understanding that we really do need these other people, then even if a person is a child or elderly and therefore less useful in obtaining food etc., they are still safe.

So why can’t an office be like that? The problem in the office is that if the company’s goals cannot incorporate normal human pursuits then everyone is working for pay and not as a way of pushing the group forward, and that sort of shallow motivation simply will not last.

If we’re not interesting in being liked then the company society deteriorates. People start having wants that are out of sync with their contributions. Because bosses are seen as hierarchical over employees, we learn the very unnatural lesson that someone’s likes have bizarrely been made more valuable than other people’s likes. Now someone can just have one key person in a company like them and that can be enough for them to advance even though that would make zero sense to all of us other apes.

1052-relax-and-succeed-without-the-taoUltimate we must be balance being free with our natural desire for likes, because there is no point in having more likes than you need. In that case you would be seen as greedy and that would then result in less likes. Rich people the world over are seeing this now too whether they were generous or not. Overall we’ve now reached the point where the average world citizen has seen their internal scale tipped and they now see the group’s sharing of value is out of balance. Entire groups are now jostling to reorganise to see the sharing of resources be more equitable.

Why don’t we always act this way in homes and schools and companies and societies? Because now we no longer have the Tao holding us together. We’ve substituted our natural comprehension of our need of others and we’ve attempted to codify that into laws and rules and guidelines, but these are inhuman concepts that will often not match the actual temperament or feelings of various people.

In some cases there are revolts. Apes are killed, spouses leave, company employees start sabotaging the group, governments are removed, people are arrested or shamed. And this hardens divisions, and yet divisions themselves are fine. Sales shouldn’t really love accounting, they’re two different roles in the group that require different kinds of brains. But you need each one. If I didn’t get any wild pig today then I really need your berries and likewise. But when I convince myself your berries are worth less than my pig because I worked harder to get mine rather than me noticing they’re equal amounts of food, then that is the start of trouble: disrespect in the group.

Sometimes disrespect is what teaches an out of line group member the value of being in line. But this isn’t some rigid law-based line. The natural line has more flexibility. It has more understanding. It would look less to the rules and more to the moment. Hopes and expectations of others would be altered according to the situation whereas where laws always apply and there is only leniency in sentencing.

How are you in your groups? It’s fine for people in different groups to dislike you, or even for some people in your group to dislike you. But being cared about and for is a key part of enjoying life so we want to nurture that. We just don’t want to go so far that we surrender our core values and beliefs for ideas or groups that we do not truly believe in.

Find a group that encourages your participation and input by respecting you, and that respect should include compassion and the assumption that the relationship will be managed according to the Tao. That’s why even monkey’s recognise this elemental value in life. Selfishness for ourselves is essential in that our best behaviours are naturally driven by wanting to help provide for a generous and caring group.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #123: Female Leadership

983-relax-and-succeed-you-dont-need-a-reasonWhat if women ran things? Would government run differently? Would business run differently? Would their natural inclination be toward more cooperative efforts? I’m sure there’s advantages and disadvantages to each perspective but I would welcome giving more women a chance.

There are some signs in nature that this could work well. There are also signs that our natures are quite flexible given healthy circumstances. But even the most natural creature can break down if it has to live an unnatural life. That’s probably what happened to us. When we lose our reliance on each other we destroy ourselves.

It’s fascinating to listen to this remarkable story about the strange circumstances these baboons found themselves in, and how that lead to them being lead by the females which in turn lead to their culture becoming kinder and more compassionate. They thrived. It’s a good lesson for any family no matter what gender heads it.

Radiolab is always well done. This story is hard not to find fascinating. Enjoy.

Violent Baboons and Female Leadership

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Inspired Living

959 Relax and Succeed - Our culture has bred consumersNarcissism, at least in the psycho-spiritual realm, is not about beauty or appearance, it’s about immobility. When we imagine someone thinking about themselves too much we imagine someone losing weight or wearing pretty things or someone staring at themselves in a mirror thinking, look at me, look at me, but the damaging part of self-centeredness isn’t the part that says look at me, it’s that by doing so it says: do not pay attention to others. What’s painful in the life of the narcissist is their lack of true connection to others.

I met a nice young woman a few years back. Smart, funny, very creative. She wanted to talk to me about feeling fulfilled. She had a tremendous amount of trouble motivating herself and she wondered how that could be improved. She had way above-average skills and the time to use them, but she was stuck in her home office endlessly wondering why more wasn’t happening. She had been immobile for a few years trying to figure it out.

959 Relax and Succeed - That horrifying momentSo what was she doing? She was spending her time thinking about how to make her own life great. That was her version of Narcissus and the reflecting pool; she sat and stared all day at her own life and wondered why she couldn’t figure out how to make it more impressive. That was the action of her life. That was its verb: wondering. Instead of doing things she wondered. She was trying to wonder her way to a better life.

Meanwhile everyone has Maslow’s Pyramid to deal with. We need food and shelter before we can do anything else. So does someone like me want to take a hard-won client and lose them by telling them something I know they really don’t want to hear? No, but I always do anyway. I do pay for it in lost clients, but that’s still an easy trade compared to my success rate. Because if people make it through the responsibility part they do fine every single time. And if they bailed they weren’t ready yet anyway and they need to go suffer some more.

In a healthy person the inspiration isn’t some magical bolt of lightning that tells someone how they’ll feel fulfilled. Inspiration is created when we feel connected to others, just as narcissism is thinking about ourselves instead of others. So she was thinking about herself, endlessly looking for some motivation that was truly hers, and I was suggesting she think of her spouse and that her motivation could be how she could make his life easier. If she loved him didn’t she want him to have a good life? Wasn’t he missing out on holidays and things for himself if he was paying her to be idle?

959 Relax and Succeed - Me weIn short, instead of wanting even more for herself she could appreciate what she was already getting from her spouse. That gratitude could then be the valuable inspiration she needed to change that situation. But she couldn’t see that because she was too busy thinking about herself and her troubles all the time even though those troubles were all brought on by her lack of action and contribution.

Once she realised that her spouse was actually struggling and sacrificing his life for hers to be idle, she suddenly found motivation. His life could be improved significantly with her help. Suddenly she was motivated to get any job that would take that pressure off him. She no longer needed the job to be fulfilling to her soul in some abstract way, what was fulfilling to her soul was that she was actually contributing to improving the life of someone she loved.

There’s plenty of spouses running hobbies as businesses with little effort toward profitability, even though their entire life is being supported by a hard-working partner. There are plenty of children idly dreaming while their hard-working parents pay their bills because to the child, just earning a living seems unspiritual and uninspiring. But that’s only because the child has turned the work into money, instead of into a mechanism for benefiting a loved one.

959 Relax and Succeed - Dreams require actionThe money isn’t what counts, it’s the respect. Respect is a kind of connection. It says, I care about what you go through every day. So sitting around idly while someone else works for you ends up as a lack of respect, which is a breaking of the bond between one person and another; a spiritual bond. We’re all in this together. They’re there for you, but you’re not there for them.

If you spend all your time thinking, I don’t know what to do, then I would suggest looking around to see what others around you are doing for you and start with that. If your life seems bogged down then someone somewhere is making up for your inactivity because we all need food and shelter as our spirits take our bodies along this journey called life. So who’s doing what and how can you help?

A spouse or child could gain great personal satisfaction by simply caring more actively about the people supporting them. The same goes for any other scenario where someone isn’t carrying their own weight, from benefits from relatives, to friends to even our societies. Everyone has empathy for those in genuine need, but if someone can recover from a spinal injury in a year or two and go on to a fulfilling life in a wheelchair, then surely an able-bodied person can do it in the same amount of time if they care enough. The question is, who are you caring about?

959 Relax and Succeed - Integrity is doing the right thingStop living for yourself and start living for others. What’s wrong with society is the same thing that’s wrong with individuals: a lack of cohesion, a lack of attraction, a lack of responsibility to one another. You don’t need inspiration you need connection. Respect and awareness is all the inspiration and motivation a healthy soul needs.

Whether you’re a street person or a wealthy idle spouse, you will be in pain if you do not connect to and contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. Love is what love does. So you are never far from salvation no matter how bad it seems. All you need to do is stop thinking so much about yourself and start to think more about others.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #112

927 FD Relax and Succeed - Words are a pretextLiving life is first more psychologically peaceful and then a lot more spiritual if you only increase your awareness. Keep in mind that the things you think about each day are ego-related things. All your ego can do is pass around symbolic words but it is only thinking so it does not touch the world. To live you must be active about living. You must make choices that lead to happiness.

If you’re feeling low or stressed or any other feeling you don’t like, look around you and ask if that sense is appropriate. If you’ve just lost someone close to you then it makes sense to be in a state of despair shortly thereafter, but if you’re in that state of mind regularly and the reasons are far more general, then you will only feel better once you take action.

As I’ve stated many times, any stillness must be filled with internal spiritual activity or you will feel crushed by your lack of life. Likewise, if you strongly connect with the natural world–including other people–then you will feel larger than life. But this is a choice that only you can make.

Here’s a good example of how small changes can have a big impact over time. I know for anyone over 35 years old, taking advice from this young lady might even seem humorous and I do realize that before certain key life experiences our comprehension of what’s required for life is limited. While even early battles with serious childhood disease can’t fake that kind of perspective, I urge you to give her a listen anyway. The points she’s making remain entirely valid and they are worth your time. I do hope it helps you set yourself up for a really wonderful weekend.

Enjoy your days everyone!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.