Mission: Better World #1

Some people will hardly ever be cruel in their entire lifetime. A few will use cruelty a lot, as a tool. But I think we can all agree that only a sliver of any society would ever go so far as to say they’re actually in favour of cruelty–and most of those are politicians, not warriors. Likewise we all love the feeling of a genuine compliment—especially regarding something we feel particular proud of being good at. Usually things we worked really hard to master. So we can agree that no one wants to promote cruelty, but we can all agree that we would like to promote compliments. That sounds like an excellent place to start.

624 Relax and Succeed - Start where you areOkay are you ready? Here’s how this goes: when someone makes you really angry. Even really really angry—still, your limit is to be really mad, but you won’t dip down into cruelty. You’ll be mad at what they did, you will not exhibit cruelty toward that person. Actions are actions, people are people. No one wants more cruelty in the world so we each as individuals have to avoid encouraging or participating in it. Day by day, experience by experience, we develop a new habit.

What will make all of this easier is that we won’t just drop the cruelty and leave a gap that you can feel like some phantom limb. No, we fill your life with added awareness so you can watch people and situations to look for good reasons to give sincere compliments. Some people give lots of compliments every day and some never give any. But just think about this: let’s say each person in the US and Canada committed to giving just one sincere compliment a day. That’s it. Just one. In just those two places (but do it everywhere). One—I like your hat, or wow that is some nice guitar playing, or do you ever have a beautiful smile, or I want to thank you for your excellent work this month, or that’s the best service I’ve had in years! Just one. Just the US and Canada. That’s 350 million compliments a day or, put another way, that’s 131 billion compliments a year from two relatively small populations. That would absolutely make the world better. Can you imagine just listening to that? You would be hearing them all day!

Who’s in? It’s super simple. No cruelty—and if you read this blog you probably weren’t the cruel type anyway, so that might be surrendering one or a few chances every few years. And in return, if there’s 131 billion compliments being given out, in one year you’ll give out 365 compliments, but who knows how many 624 Relax and Succeed - The words of the tongue should haveyou might receive? You might surprise yourself. But what I love about this is that compliments not only feel great to get, they also feel awesome to give. So no matter what happens, we’re all guaranteed one more happy moment per day—365 per year—than we had before.

Now remember, these duties include intervening in whatever practical—but not cowardly—way with any cruelty you witness as well. And also if someone is having a day so bad that they can’t give out their compliment, you give it out for them. Or maybe think about taking up a collection and get the sad person a dozen compliments. As long as they’re sincere they will be healing.

This is written with my tongue half way in my cheek, but seriously. Why would any of us invest our short lifetimes in bitching about how crappy the world is and then go from that conversation to the bank where we then ream out the teller-in-training for wasting our day, like we spend it curing diseases anyway? Everybody’s got to learn. Compassion. The same thing we would want. Today at the bank the poor kid—who’s served me twice and done a great job—was literally shaking by the time I got to him. When I was done I just said, “Hey Carter, I know you’re new here and so I see you’re double checking all your work. I appreciate you doing that while you get your legs under you. It’s very responsible. Just what I like in my bankers.”

Don’t be careless with your compliments. Place them carefully and strategically. Get used to watching people less for how they affect you and more for just how they are. And if someone’s down, then maybe the compliment would get twice as much mileage for them. Win-win. Don’t forget small children and oddly enough, those closest to us. Even save a few for yourself.

624 Relax and Succeed- If you change yourselfBut seriously do this. Put up a post it note on your bathroom mirror with 31 numbers on it and give a compliment a day and cross one off for every day of the month. If you like it and want to give more compliments that’s awesome, but those are amatuer compliments. Only this one per day will count against your professional total. Don’t skip a day two years in a row and you are a Master Complimenter and you’re prepared to take on even the most promising apprentices.

All kidding aside, I’m seriously going to do this. And I seriously hope you not only join me, but I hope you all convince at least one other person to join you in this very rewarding endeavour. (If anyone sends in a list of their compliments I’ll post them in the comment section.) Maybe you’re at a university and you can get it going throughout your campus, or if you’re at a large company see if you can get it spread there. Or maybe your child can spearhead a plan to do this at their school. Just the few of us—and some of you are parents and you will be influencing your children—you will have an impact.

Today seems as good a day as any to start, so I will find a more personal one to give in a moment, but for now I will say that I think you’re an awesome person to want to participate in something that it would be so easy to dismiss and ridicule. It’s very much appreciated. Now let’s go change the world.

peace. s

Liars

I dropped into a coffee shop near my home where there were four ladies seated together. The only other open seat was right next to them. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation, but I would have preferred it if that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t the sort of talk I enjoy.

439 Relax and Succeed - When someone is nastyIt involved four grown women that ranged in age from late twenties to maybe fifty. They all worked together and the “boss” lead the group in a discussion about what a bad person so-and-so was and that made it okay that they were going to misrepresent her in an effort to get her transferred or fired. The most civilized thing they said was that they wouldn’t out and out lie—but they would flex the truth to the point where the other person very likely misunderstood.

So what do you do if you’re the victim of such an attack? Okay, let’s first look at what you control. Do you control their behaviour? No. Do you control what other people think about you? No. So why are we even having this discussion? Look, I’m sorry that this stuff hurts when it happens, and I’m fully aware that there can be “unfair” and very painful social prices associated with such attacks, but as long as this isn’t career sabotage or violence, this is just a part of living in society for all of us. Unlike the fairy tales we get taught in school and exposed to by our parents, this is the real world. And it’s just fine. In fact it’s amazing. You just have to be able to see it. But to do that you have to surrender.

People will say things whether they are true or not. But that doesn’t mean other people believe them. Bottom line, everyone creates their own sense of reality with their thoughts. Everyone will have an opinion because that’s all an individual is: a collection of opinions. Opinions about food, about identity, about culture, about history, about conduct and ethics, etc. etc. And that view colours every single thing we intake. Which is why you cannot even hope to control what other people think of you even if you are the most powerful person on Earth.

439 Relax and Succeed - Take others opinions lightlyI’ve had an extreme example of this sort of situation happen to me so I have a lot of familiarity with the kinds of feelings that can emerge. It packs quite a wallop. Most people find the hardest part is that it shakes their faith in their ability to trust overall. Because when someone you trust so easily changes their opinion of you without even giving you a chance to defend yourself, you’re suddenly left realizing that they did not have the same commitment to you that you had to them and you wonder about your judgment in having a one-sided friendship like that. This is usually extremely humbling. Add to this the fact that the sudden change in your daily domestic life can be very jarring and painful and it’s one of life’s bigger experiences to traverse.

It feels strangest at the start. You used to have coffee with person A, B and C, but now because of the lies they won’t go with you so you have to experience the awkward feelings of creating a new pattern for coffee breaks or whatever. But that’s just life. No need to worry about that. For all you know your new coffee partner becomes a best friend. There are seven billion people on the planet and the vast majority are awesome potential friends, so we don’t really have to harbour attachments to those that are gone. Don’t be lonely, replace the time with lost friends with time with new people. You’ll even find that you’re better at choosing friends based on character more than interests, and that generally creates a richer exchange between you and them.

My heart goes out to anyone experiencing this, but it’s just a part of life with language. There’s so many routes to happiness in life there is no need to use words to give any thought to the few stories that will close you off from experience. Your salvation—your freedom—lies in your ability to choose from a fantastic number of paths through life. Every moment is a decision—a choice. But we get so focused on wanting something specific that we start to get attached to it and then we expect it. Do these words seem familiar? Like Buddhism-familiar? That’s because that’s what we’re talking about here.

439 Relax and Succeed - What you think of yourselfYou have to let go of your attachment to your expectation of what people will think of you or others. We were always wrong anyway. We just lie to ourselves that what we think of ourselves is what other people think of us too. For all we know someone’s bad stories could be improving some people’s views of us. Lots of people smile at people’s faces and then stab them in the back the moment the person turns around. That’s just people. And that’s always been happening to us too. Your job isn’t to dispel anything, it’s to accept that this is the true nature of reality and the best course of action is simply ignoring all of the stories as insignificant because in general that is what they are.

Forget your reputation. Just go be yourself and the people truly worth impressing will notice the real you anyway. Just breathe out any ugliness. There is nothing to be gained by thinking about it. Simply live your life. Don’t surrender a bunch of time to fighting ghosts. Your life is worth too much for that. Don’t worry about things you only you imagine. Focus on the verb of your life.

peace. s

Kicking Habits

We have a Nun on my ladies soccer team and I’m sure she’s got a good heart but she is driving us all crazy. She’s a wonderful woman in many ways but she is constantly telling us about how hard her life is and how unfortunate she is. To us she keeps describing a pretty normal life. She just bitches about hers a million times more than anyone else. How do we make it stop before we all hate her. We play outdoors and we don’t want to get hit by lightning.

signed,
Kicking Habits

Dear Kick,

🙂 I liked the lightning joke. You must be excited about the World Cup. Good for you for playing a team sport and for staying active and healthy. And I appreciate you sending in the question but it’s challenging because we’re talking about changing someone elses behaviour and they’re not in this conversation—unless you’re planning on leaving this in her stall in the dressing room? Yes, maybe you can influence her, but I would ask, why not be direct?418 Relax and Succeed - Kindness has a beautiful way

Personally I would just talk directly to her. Why not? The whole motivation is to stay close to her and like her. Why would someone be offended that someone else wanted to know how they could accomplish that? And frankly, if she is that negative maybe you can be a catalyst for personal change and spiritual growth for her. But right now you and everyone else is just being dishonest. You’re looking at her and smiling and you’re giving her all of the social signals that she’s succeeding and yet in truth she is failing but cannot do anything about it because no one has even told her it’s happening.

If you do or say nothing then you’ll eventually grow to despise her. Who wants to listen to negativity all the time? To avoid that happening I would simply say something along the lines of, “Grace, I need to talk to you about something delicate. It’s delicate because your feelings may be hurt and I don’t like that idea at all. But if I don’t say anything I’ll like what happens even less. Grace I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but it’s quite pronounced to the rest of us that you’re extremely negative. You’re always sick, sore, worried, over-worked, disrespected, and unlucky. You are constantly lamenting your existence. It seems odd for a nun to have such a bleak view of the world. Almost everything you say is a complaint or a request for sympathy and the rest of us are finding it exhausting.

I don’t want to speak for others but I’m extremely confident that most people you meet would quickly be aware of this quality. It’s quite a downer. But I don’t want you mistaking this behaviour with anyone not liking you as a person. The whole reason no one wants to tell you this is because they’re afraid your feelings would be hurt and no one wants that. You are fine as a human being. But it’s just a simple fact that this constant claim on so much suffering negates the experiences of the people around you. [Obviously, use your own real examples:] Rose’s mother has Alzheimer’s, Linda’s and her husband just broke up, and Hilda’s youngest got diagnosed with cancer. But even though you’re a nun you never ask them about their lives or ask if you can help with their issues. You always download yours on top of the ones 418 Relax and Succeed - Lonely Angry Depressedthey already have. I’m sorry to be so blunt Grace, but it seems quite cruel when it happens. And I simply can’t believe a nice person like you would be doing that consciously. 

Grace, are you sure you’re not locked into a negative frame of mind where you’re thinking about your own troubles too much? What percentage of your conversations are about hardship or pain or suffering? Because if there’s a lot of time spent with negative things then your psychological, physical and spiritual health will suffer. Is there any way I can help, or is there a way your spiritual life can contribute to resolving this? Because we can’t just leave it like this Grace. People will grow to hate you and that’s ridiculous because you’re a nice person. So what do we do?

Keep in mind this will be brutal for her to hear. I feel for her already. It’ll feel like a Pele-bicycle-kick to the stomach. It’s a world-view-changer. Those are pretty huge. So go with her to wherever she needs to go. Guilt, apologies, tears, angerif she yells at you or if she runs away and needs space then okay. Whatever. Just be present in that moment and be the caring person you naturally are and you will be fine. Just don’t over-think it. Tell her the truth and then let the universe percolate. You’ve done a loving act. Still, maybe she’ll hate you. But even if she does, you might not get many nice passes in soccer from her, but at least you won’t have to listen to her either. 😉

418 Relax and Succeed - Lifehas no remoteYou can endure what you’re enduring and slowly grow to hate her but that feels pretty inactive. Why not make your life good by making the kind of choices that will naturally lead it to being better? Be conscious. Be open. Be honest. And then let the chips fall where they may. There are many routes to happiness for all of us. Your route doesn’t necessarily have to have a super sad nun on it.

Good luck, and good for “Grace” for having friends that care. Big hugs for both of you.

peace. s