Lowering Your Standards

1229 Relax and Succeed - The difficulties of lifeTeams talk about demanding the best from their athletes. Companies talk about excellence and enthusiasm from their employees. Spouses want the partnership they agreed to in their wedding vows. Parents want the sort of children that don’t get into trouble. All of those things are achievable. Just not all the time.

First off, the world is three quarters of the way to its 10 billion person maximum, so the rest of us would wonder why any one person would think that it should be their standards we’re all living up to. Of course that person will argue that it’s not their standard, it’s society’s, and they’ll use their friends as examples. Except their friends are their friends because they share similar standards. It’s what everyone knows is right…? Right…?

Two things: What gets defined as the right thing to do will depend on a lot of things, most certainly where a person’s from and how they reacted to their upbringing. Secondly, how anyone behaves will always depend on how they feel at that moment.

1229 Relax and Succeed - Try being nice to the next personEveryone has their worst days. 365 days a year, a 75 year life, that’s 27,375 days. At least 30 of those are going to be horribly agonizing, and about another 1,000 will be pretty awful too. That’s not bad in a full lifetime. Despite some long stretches of sad, that’s still way way more happiness than sadness.

The problem starts when things are out of balance–when we’re doing either really badly or we’re doing overly well. Those states lead us to start over-thinking the reasons for each, which means our ego is given almost constant existence. As a result of us thinking too much, our own standards get rigidly imposed on the world. But expecting others to operate at our tightest standards during their toughest times–that’s simply unrealistic. Get two people in that same self-righteous state at the same time and that’s where the worst conflicts happen.

It makes no sense to expect the best from people if we know we all have really bad times where our behaviour is definitely not good. We should fully anticipate that way may meet people during our day that are in the midst of one of their 1,000 worst days. That isn’t a day to add our standards to their list of things to think about. That’s our day to improve the world with our grace; to create the sort of emotional space for that person that we wish existed when we’re in that vulnerable state.

1229 Relax and Succeed - The world would quickly improve ifPeople will be amazing beautiful generous beings without us needing to punish or entice them towards that. We don’t have to worry about making people better, but we can make it easy for them to be at their best. So today, let’s all take the most difficult person we meet, let’s set it as our goal to improve that person’s life at least a little through our behaviour.

Even if they fail to see it, let’s let our actions help enact the very greatest parts of ourselves. That way we most certainly benefit, and whether the person we helped or offered patience to notices or not, they will have too. So think about having a friend or co-worker join you in this endeavour, because these are the simple daily changes that, done en masse, change the world.

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.

MoK: Acknowledgement

There are a lot of ways to take action in this world. Some people do it through clubs they belong to. Others do it casually, as circumstances arise, while still others become formal volunteers or contributors. Even if it’s in small ways, most people contribute to the world around them in a generous and thoughtful way.

People hold doors, do favours, offer money, or engage in labour all for the benefit of someone else. Today in the March of Kindness our job is simple: we want to watch life for these acts. We want to openly acknowledge the act as being generous and kind. It’s one thing to think inside your own head, Wow, it was nice of that lady to carry that older lady’s bags to her car, and something entirely different if you thank her on behalf of the world.

The impulse to be kind is already alive and well in the person, but we all know how it feels to get criticised. It makes us feel smaller and weaker. Using the same mechanism, getting acknowledgement for doing helpful positive things helps us feel stronger and more capable. But too-often the acknowledgements are silent. Why would we stay quiet about delivering such good news?

Today your job is to notice the little things people didn’t have to do and to acknowledge them. The gratitude feels good for us to experience, and every one of us would be motivated to do even more kind things if we were more consciously aware of how it helps us to feel like we belong. Being valuable to the group is a win-win for all involved.

It’s funny that we can be afraid to say nice things to people. Do we really think people are going to get angry and upset with us for bringing up their niceness? Most people light right up. It’s a nice connection between people and it’s worth developing. But for that sense of unity to exist in your community, people need to be able to sense their bonds. They can’t be silent and uncertain. We have to speak up and offer praise more than we offer criticisms.

Just yesterday I had a grocery store clerk help me load grocery bags into my arms, a tech support person was particularly helpful, I had a woman hold a door for me at an office building, I had a friend drop by to offer some expertise on an important family issue, and I got a welcome invitation to an event. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Today is about acknowledging those good things in life, whether we’re the benefactor or someone else is. The idea today is to focus our grateful attention on people who are taking action. Before the day is out try to offer at least three different acknowledgements. Turn your radar on to how kind the world is and you’ll see that it’s better than you might have thought.

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.

MoK: Compliment Day!

Three full weeks of positivity. A bunch of people, each doing a few kind acts per day. Both individually and collectively we have literally changed the world for the better. Stop and think about that. It’s like being a soldier in the Love Army, where you shot people through the heart and mind with acceptance, understanding and love. I can’t believe how amazing you are.

We never know who we caught at what time. There’s no way any of us could know it at the time, but with this many people, surely one of us caught at least one person on a really difficult day. Someone was heading toward suicide, or some other very negative act, and our little March of Kindness–likely without them even knowing it exists–may very well have saved their lives, or at least their day.

We’ve all had those days, weeks, months and years. Maybe we lost someone important to us. Maybe we got news that our dreams were not going to pan out the way we’d hoped. Maybe a relationship ended. These things happened in life. And yet just stop and think about those days where someone’s actions felt more like a life preserver than anything. Good for us! We made a difference.

So with only one week left, today let’s return to something from the end of week one; only then you were giving compliments as a way of shifting your thinking away from you and your thoughts, and toward someone else. Today we’ll act the same, but inside ourselves we won’t be doing it as a symbiotic act. This time we think about what we’ve done, we feel strong and capable, and then we give from that position of strength.

As the title obviously suggests, it’s Compliment Day. We stand up tall, we remind ourselves of our strongest times and then we turn on our awareness, looking for things and acts and people we admire. Today you’re a compliment machine. Today you make people around you feel good through your willingness to openly acknowledge them.

It can be their coat, their hair, their smile, their manners, sense of humour, work, or character. All compliments count. You are a fountain of strength and sharing today. Today you surprise and please people. And in doing so, between all of us we’re sure to incite someone to spontaneously join us. Without doubt, one of us will tip a positivity-compliment domino and it will keep tipping through a number of people as the good feelings pass like a wave.

I’ll start off by complimenting all of you and your willingness to work on your own mental health, resiliency and society. Even the kids in schools that participated had to buy-in. That was voluntary and as a fellow human being I really appreciate the fact that you did that. Thank you. Thank you–personally–thank you thank you thank you for having the big heart and great attitude that you have. I love that quality in you.

So today, get out there and give those compliments. Let your full cup runneth over into the lives of those around you. Make a co-worker or classmate feel great about their effort, or attitude or style. Make a stranger feel good about who they appear to be to others. Make those closest to you realise that you do notice the little things.

Thanks again for your participation. You’re all just awesome. What a great thing that a bunch of strangers would meet on a website and agree to be kind and generous to a bunch of other strangers and friends. Who does such a thing? Us, that’s who. Us, people who care. We’re the ones who are strong. We’re the ones filled with love. And today we express that love! And we enjoy every minute of it!

Have a great weekend everyone. For my part I’m going to carry this compliment thing all the way to Monday and our final week. You have a spectacular three days and I’ll see you all back here on next week. Until then, much love to each and every single one of you.

peace, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

MoK: Reaching Out With Awareness

Hey there beautiful reader, I’ve got an easy one for you today. You’ve put so much positivity into the world in March that I wanted to thank/reward you with something simple that can add as much to your life as it does to someone else’s.

Today’s action in the March of Kindness requires you to maintain awareness of the world around you. Your eyes and ears have to be on-guard for an opportunity. You want to watch and listen for your chance to be helpful.

This can be anything really. But the idea is that the person can tell that you’ve gone out of your way to help. Maybe you’re leaving a building with no automatic doors and you see a mother with a big stroller heading toward a set of double doors. Running back to help her is clearly out of your way–and that’s what helps her feel “seen.”

The point here is the “seen” part, not the favour. It would be like if someone at work was overrun with work, and you took half your lunch to help them and they’re not even in your department. That’s so rare it’ll feel weird for them that you’d even offer, which is sad in a way. That’s what this March of Kindness is about; weaving kindness more deeply into our lives, our days and our societies.

One of the best places to do these things is with people with whom you are the most familiar. How often does a husband just say to his wife spontaneously, Hey honey, I was thinking it would be nice if I expressed my love in same tangible way that eased your life. Is there anything I can fit into this half hour that I could do for you that would have a big impact on your day or life? That would be something she’d be likely to tell her friends about it would be so notable.

Even small acts like the ones referenced in this article are valuable for the very same reason that the woman being “seen” with the stroller is. It’s the recognition that makes people feel cared about more than the act. Literally, it’s the fact that they were even in your awareness that counts.

Turn up your awareness. Tune into what’s going on. Watch your social media for opportunities rather than things to get outraged about, and then act. If everyone did this every day, the world would literally change. This is why this post from the facebook page yesterday was there. In poor places like Burundi, people need each other more and that need creates tighter, happier communities.

And do me one favour? Enjoy it while you do it. Imagine the feeling they’d have if they suddenly found out the thing you’re doing is taken care of. Because that lightness–that happiness–is really what you gave them.

Have a wonderful day 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.

MoK: The Rarest Kindness

By this point we will all have contributed a lot of positivity to the world through our actions in the March of Kindness. Congratulations. Collectively we’ve done a lot. Now it’s time we remembered to include ourselves in that process.

Just as everyone around us benefits equally from kindness, we do too, and in this often fast-paced world too many of us are either so focused on what we’re doing, or we’re too focused on caring for others, to have the time or energy left to care for ourselves.

The greatest kindness anyone can pay to anyone is simply to be present. These are those times when the person feels seen or heard or understood or that a strong connection exists. But most of us have a much better sense of when that’s happening with other people than with ourselves.

When we sense conflict with others we feel an automatic impulse to repair it because in the end, the deepest part of us knows we need each other. This brings the other person or people into focus our awareness and our impulse is to act. Unfortunately, when we have conflict within ourselves we attempt to resolve the conflict by trying to “improve” rather than by making a stronger connection.

You know that improvement feeling. That’s those times where you talk to yourself critically and talk about what you should have done or should do. You spend a painfully large percentage of your life doing that and it’s all for naught. You don’t get better by “improving” yourself, you expand by being present with the world and acting on your nature. When you help others is a great example of that. So today it’s time to shine that same light upon ourselves.

Your act today in the March of Kindness is very simple. Immediately after reading this (or as soon as you have at least 10 full minutes to focus on it), take about five to ten deep breaths. Fill your lungs. Oxygenate your mind and body. Give it part of the fuel that will power your perception.

First, look at your life. Not in that critical, judgmental way you usually do, but look at yourself like you would view a friend or relative you love a great deal. Now imagine someone loving you the same way you love that friend. Imagine that friend just got back from a year away and they’d been in a monastery or something–you couldn’t talk.

Now imagine that they’ve just heard about what’s been going–and I mean literally do this, not brush your way through it quickly like it’s silly. Caring for yourself is not silly. Remember, this friend just heard about your life and they love you. This person that loves you comes back from the monastery all peaceful and caring. They don’t have a lot of money available and they understand you have some real responsibilities, but they know and love you. What act of kindness do they suggest?

Maybe it’s simple–they take you out for your favourite meal. Maybe it’s that they convince you to skip the gym to see a beloved childhood movie. Maybe it’s extra sleep. Maybe they take you for a walk and they discuss with you all of your good times, all of your achievements, all the times you felt proud of yourself. Wouldn’t that be different from all of that self-criticism!

Or here’s a a couple rare ones: Say no to someone when you usually wouldn’t. Or here’s the most challenging one of all. They help you with something. But you’re thinking, Scott, there’s no actual friend. This is me and me. I get it. What I mean is that you find something you need help with and you actually ask for the help you never ask for. Now there’s a rare one.

That’s it. Easy. Be a present open, aware and loving friend to you. But you have to take this seriously. Do you get it? This one’s very important. You can’t shortcut it, cheat it, downplay it or dismiss it–this friend loves you and they’re wise. Take what they suggest you do and then do it. You’re worth that. I’m absolutely certain of it. Do it. I love you.

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.

MoK: Appreciation

Today’s post is late for the same reason that Friday’s was, and so I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude for your understanding. It’s really rather fitting, because that sort of appreciation is at the heart of any good life, plus it was today’s scheduled assignment.

Feeling grateful requires us to consider what it is we’re grateful for. Whether it’s avoiding an experience we dislike or attaining some experience we do enjoy, it’s a positive internal experience to engage in conscious appreciation. Additionally, because gratitude is fairly universally held in high regard, it’s also often displayed quite clearly and often even publicly, which makes it a very multidirectional form of kindness.

It’s a very nice feeling to be appreciated, and when accept it we share in another person’s sense that there is a connection between us. Something happens which leads a person or people to be grateful, and when they express it, that in turn feels good for the recipients of that gratitude. On top of that, any witnesses to the expression are also very likely to be impacted positively.

All this being the case, today your assignment in the March of Kindness is to do three simple things:

1) Take a moment to be personally grateful for someone you’ve never met. Maybe it’s the person who invented your mechanical knee, maybe it’s the surgical team that saved your mother after the car accident, or maybe it’s just the person who made your favourite boots; the ones that always make you feel better when you wear them. The point is to find someone who needed to exist for you to feel a specific joy and then take a moment to feel genuine gratitude for them.

2) Today, keep your awareness set on high and watch for a stranger to thank. Don’t do this and be half-hearted; really look them in the eye and make sure you both know that you mean it. It’s not just that they let you into traffic or held a door, they honoured your very being by noting your presence even though they don’t know you. That’s no small thing.

3) And finally, for the most meaningful example, slow your life down and find someone so obvious that you tend to take them entirely for granted. Just imagine one month without them and how that would impact you, and then don’t just thank them–really take some time to detail how they impact your life. This is the sort of person who, if they were missing, much of your future would change for the worse. Appreciate their contribution to your life.

Some of these might feel awkward at first, but all will be worth it. Three little moments of kindness expressed within us, and some of them externally as well. With each of us doing it, that’s a lot of kindness that wouldn’t be there otherwise. Feel good about that. A bucket is filled with many drops. So thank you for joining us on the March of Kindness.

Enjoy your day.

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.

MoK: Setting an Example

Most of us wouldn’t mind having an ego if it was nicer to us, but for some reason we often replay internal recordings of other people’s negative views rather than their positive views. This is really quite a remarkable tilt to your psyche considering the fact that you can get ten compliments and only one criticism and you’ll constantly replay that one criticism inside your own head while you ignore all the compliments.

Most people can’t even cite the positive views that others have of them because they ignore those. But they can remember criticisms from a decade or three earlier. People’s entire adult lives can be dedicated to trying to quash an early criticism. But you’re not supposed to be perfect. That would not only be boring, but it would also stress out everyone around you.

Of course, we don’t want to act as negative weight in our relationships, but your friends are people who recognise what you add to their lives and they’ve silently agreed to endure your more challenging aspects in return for the upsides of your company. That’s a form of unconditional love. They might occasionally be frustrated by one quality or another, but if they’re hanging around it’s not because they’re contracted to, it’s because they truly think you’re worth it.

Your friends are people you trust, so why not trust them about you too? If they think you’re worth hanging around then why don’t you? It’s not egotistical to be pleased that people love you and that you add good things to their lives. Being funny is no small thing, nor is being compassionate, or accepting, or supportive. So why focus on the few times you might lose your temper, or say something you later regret? Your friends have their faults too and you don’t look at them that way. Why do it to you?

So the point is to stop reciting your own weaknesses to yourself and to focus more on your strengths. Likewise, you want treat those around you the same. Once we’re all consistently modelling that behaviour every kid will grow up in that world and they’ll think it’s normal to give compliments and to forgive people for also having qualities that a few others might find challenging.

Well today I’ve got you cornered. The one thing I can count on you is for you to be self-critical, so if I tie your March of Kindness assignment to that addiction, I can be assured you’ll actually do a lot of kind things today, and since compliments are good for people this can be a really meaningful day.

Today, keep your eye out for any criticism of yourself or another. No matter who you directed it at, your job is to counter that judgment by focusing on a quality. This means that, following every self-criticism, you either note something you’ve done that had real value; and if it’s regarding someone else, then give them a compliment, and if they’re not handy, then compliment any other person. It all goes into the karmic pool, so no kindness is wasted.

Listen to your own thoughts and words. Every single time, pay the price and do something nice. If you were mean to yourself, remind yourself of something good you’ve done or do. If you attack anyone else, even if only in the confines of your own mind, then externalise positivity where your negativity once was.

This can mean complimenting someone on their politeness, or their humour, their helpfulness or their dedication to their family–it doesn’t really matter. The idea is that we’re training ourselves to be kind rather than critical. And if you want to see the world change fast, just get everyone to actually do that.

I’ll start us off. I’d like to compliment you all on reading this, because if you are it’s because you both want to be a better person and you want a better world. That is awesome. Thank you so much for just being that kind of person, because only the people who focus on positive change will make it happen.

Go out there today and compliment yourself and others. It can become quite addictive once you see the reactions on the people around you. And if you’re going to have an addiction, that’s the one to have.

Have a wonderful day everyone. And thanks for participating in the March of Kindness.

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.