Embracing What Is

Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.”
Seneca

Scott, I’m afraid I need translation here again. Can’t seem to wrap my brain around this one.
signed,
Needs Translation

Dear Needs,

Imagine that I was an angel that watched over your every step. You are absolutely certain that I know every detail about your past and your future. And imagine that I explained to you that you were in for a wonderful life experience. I would explain that the route is crazy and bent and seemingly chaotic, but I would assure you that as lost or nutty as it might seem at times—you truly were on your way to great things. Can you see how you would see things differently?

282 Relax and Succeed - Let us train our mindsThe difference might seem semantic but there is salvation hiding in that subtle distinction. You could say when you saw the stairs in the photo, “Oh my God I can’t believe the beach is at the bottom of this huge staircase! What was uncle Benny thinking when he told us to come here? I’ll sure give him an earful when I get back.” But because I whispered in your ear and told you that every step of your life was necessary for you to enjoy greatness, you wouldn’t blame anyone. You’d be happy to walk down those stairs.

Sure, you might have a moment, but it makes all the difference in the world if—instead of saying the self-talk from before—you change it to, “Whoa. That’s a long way down there. Well, if this is the path to joy and riches at least it’s on a gorgeous day to a beautiful beach. All in all not a bad way to earn a great life.” That’s it. Just like the kid said in Life of Pi. Just pick whatever story makes you feel best. Because in reality life is not made of staircases, in reality life is made of stories about staircases. An awareness of that distinction is all that is required for your enlightenment.

A while back I wrote a blog where I referenced some magnate from the turn of the century. (Optimism vs Pessimism) He felt the world was always conspiring in his favour, so even when a deal went bad he was 282 Relax and Succeed - Flow with whatever may happenhappy. In fact, he immediately would shift to what he could only presume was an even better deal. Like an airplane, can you see how his attitude took him higher and higher, to greater perspectives. Other people would have a negative attitude and they’d end up diving at the ground and then they would say they crashed because they’re unlucky, rather they’re unfortunate because they think they’re unlucky.

Trust me, when you’re on your deathbed you’ll think every step of this was worth it. The trick is to do that before then. Way before then. So start really getting conscious about your thinking. And if you can’t quiet it, at least re-direct it toward a nice, better story for you to experience. Because that is by far the biggest factor in determining whether or not you have a good or bad day.

Good luck with it. And thanks for starting us off for the New Year.

peace. s

Your Happiness Potential

Logic, reason, and scientific method are useful means by which we can reliably make our way through the world. But despite what many nihilists purport, I am proof that those tools can exist simultaneously with the conscious choice to be optimistic. Healthy skepticism doesn’t need to be cynical or negative. In fact, there is no better skepticism than optimistic skepticism. And optimism’s superiority is entirely logical.

81 Relax and Succeed - Always believe that something wonderfulLet’s say you’re working as a researcher for the Center for Disease Control. Clearly you’re better off being optimistic. If you’re looking for a solution and you believe that trying won’t be worth it, then you won’t even begin any more experiments because you have essentially said that you don’t believe the patient has a chance.

If you’re interminably optimistic you will still recognize the same challenges, but you also know that there is only one way to achieve a long-shot victory: the person who finds the rare victory is the one that continues trying past the point of reasonable or apparently logical limits. They continue to search for solutions no matter how long they go without finding one.

The optimist works under the general premise that their time will not be wasted. And that’s just another way of saying that they perpetually believe they can save the patient. And if the patient does die, then the optimist can know that at least their efforts did lead to more knowledge, which in turn might save future patients. In this way the optimist lives in a perpetual state of a kid before Christmas—you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re confident something awesome is going to happen eventually.

81a Relax and Succeed - Keep you eyes openIf you consciously choose to live in an enthusiastically optimistic state of mind, you will view everything as though it is pregnant with potential goodness and enjoyment. When your team’s behind with only a little time left, then the situation is perfect for an exciting come-from-behind win. If you don’t get this job, you’re free for the next one—which might be much better. Or maybe you failed a course, but when you re-took it you met the person you fell in love with. Simply put, if you look for reasons to be grateful—if you assume that the world is constantly offering you amazing gifts—then those gifts will suddenly become visible to you. Assume they’re not there are they won’t be.

There are some very heavy days in life when happiness and a light view are not suitable. But for the vast majority of our days, if we simply watch for our good fortune we will see that it is perpetually present. If we stop expecting specific things, we can start focusing on the many fortunate things that already exist in our lives.

Even if days are tough, just keep going forward with a mind wide open to your potential good fortune. Do not look down the narrow, dark tube of expectation. Its limited vision almost guarantees your disappointment. But if you anticipate rather than expect, then you can find things to like in almost any direction you could look.

Now go notice the greatness in your day. 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.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

Skepticism is a very useful tool for a human being but a lot of people mistake cynicism for skepticism. There are obvious benefits to using your knowledge to test if something is true in your experience. But likewise, cynicism and pessimism have obvious downsides.

Pessimists will claim that optimists aren’t realistic—that they look at the world through rose-coloured glasses and they fail to see what’s really going on. But the same argument could be made for the pessimists. Certainly optimists may chase down some dead ends, but when everyone else has given up all 384176_495857223757951_177686374_nhope, it is the most optimistic person that will continue looking for—and keeping their mind open to—a solution.

If you were working on a movie, who would generate more quality work? The Cinematographer who’s in his trailer worrying about the fact that they can’t shoot because of the clouds, or the Cinematographer who’s outside his trailer calmly waiting and keeping an eye on the weather in anticipation (not expectation) of something useful coming? And because he or she is outside looking for an answer that can advance their objective, they have the opportunity to notice things the pessimistic Cinematographer wouldn’t even get the chance to see. Like maybe a clever, new, innovative way to shoot with the cloud cover. Because necessity very often is the mother of invention.

Like the previous post that mentioned the woman pining after her ex-husband, if we’re only looking for a specific thing to happen that we have defined as good, then we have a much lower chance of having our expectation met. But if we are instead focused on what we want to accomplish but we remain unattached to our potential solutions then our mind is free to bend and flex toward whatever surprise solution might present itself. Expectations not being met leads the pessimist back into his trailer. Anticipation that there is the potential for a solution is what keeps the optimist looking. And even if they fail, all they have done is delay the experience that the pessimist already had.

I remember years ago reading about a big turn-of-the-century US industrialist like a Carnegie, a Vanderbilt, or a Mellon—someone like that—who was said to have an affliction of always assuming the world was conspiring in his favour. Imagine that. Going through life literally feeling like the universe is secretly cooperating with you. (This deal fell through? Well then I 21 Relax and Succeed - Let us not look backmust need the money to invest in something even better!) What I’m suggesting is that this “crazy industrialist” was in fact on to something very real. Imagine the disappointment you avoid in life simply because when something “goes wrong” your reaction is to gleefully assume that it’s failed because something better is coming! And because you believe that you actually watch for it. And because you’re watching for it you see things no one else was even aware enough to notice.

Be like a child. They find tons of happiness every day in the simplest of things. Most of us would open an empty box and complain that it was empty. Give that to a small enough kid and they’ll enjoy tearing the wrapping paper off and then they’ll happily play with the empty box. A pessimist can judgmentally call the child unsophisticated and point out that it’s “just a cardboard box,” but the optimist could just as honestly describe the child as being open-minded, and that their choice of playing with just the box is “an experience of true happiness” just as much as any other the pessimist was hoping for. Life isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get.

Do not hope for hope is the opposite side of the coin from disappointment. Believe instead. Know that the universe is huge and made of many things, so if you keep your eyes genuinely open you won’t be hoping to find something good, you’ll be doing all you need to do to actually find it.

Enjoy your day by looking for what’s good in it. Make that a habit and you will have built yourself a very enjoyable life. And that is the ultimate success.

peace. s