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.

The 912

Life will deliver disaster, it’s simply a byproduct of existence. Since it cannot be avoided, and since every happy person you know has faced some, what’s really important is our ability to respond to life’s big tragedies. At those times we need to pull together. We need a new rallying point. We need to share a common idea that we can all participate in as citizens of the world.

9/11 now represents a disaster that literally altered the course of humanity. Recently I heard a woman talking about Gander, Newfoundland, and the stories that are the basis for the Broadway hit and Tony Winner, Come From Away. This was the small maritime town in Canada that had an airport big enough for all of those US-destined planes to land when US airspace was closed.

Her point in noting it was that it was a grand example of the natural spirit of humanity. As the best was drawn out of people by the needs of others, we saw an example of how the vast majority of human beings feel about each other: we’re naturally connected. For this reason she called the Gander experience a 912 moment.

I like that. I like that she not only noticed that heroism follows disaster, but that she flipped the names of the days to make her point, because that’s really what all of us need to do. Disasters are inevitable. Our reaction to them is flexible. It would do all of us good to move through our own 9/11 moments watching for the inevitability of the 912 reaction.

The faster we spot that reaction the faster we’ll feel better and be able to amplify it. Sympathy is people joining us in pain. Empathy is them remembering their own pain. Assistance requires sacrifice. Dedication requires love. These are all 912’s. Let us all make this a part of our personal list of experiences.

The Buddhists talk about there being no single sided coins. So if we call up tails and lose a toss in life, the 912 moment shall be hereby described as the moment in which we begin to see or recognize the horizon–it’s that moment when we can see that there is another side, that part of tragedy itself is the response of love in whatever form. It is in recognizing and accepting that relationship that we find internal peace.

Accept that you will have your alarming and painful days. But just as readily accept that there will be a response, both within you and without you. You will find strengths that would not have emerged without the tragedy, and people will demonstrate love in ways you could not otherwise have known. Do not live in hope and fear. Instead, accept the duality of life by not only accepting its 911’s, but in doing so you also guarantee yourself the reality of the 912.

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.

Your Life Story

There’s debates about who said it or who said it first, but somewhere sometime someone said that every writer has to write a million words of shit before they’ll write anything any good. The number itself is largely a metaphor for the fact that in everything in life, we get good by doing. And the more we do (either in intensity or duration or both), the more skilled we get at that thing.

Just as in life, every writer wants to be good because they know the tools. They know the alphabet, so they have their hammer; and they’ve read sentences–which is like watching a house being built–so that’s where they start. But it’s absurd to think they’ll be as good of a carpenter on that first job as they’ll be in 25 years.

That logic applies to anything. The conscious person who learns with intensity learns more than someone with less intensity, and someone conscious who puts in more time also learns more than someone who puts in less time or who uses less consciousness. This is is true of writing, cooking, raising kids, teaching, or–yes–living.

Living is a skill. So yeah, physically and mentally you eventually deteriorate, so maybe your life-work gets a bit sloppy near the end, but by then everyone’s forgiving you. But otherwise you just get better and better at living life every year you live it, and the more conscious you are the more your learn. That’s all well and good. The problem comes in when you want the wisdom before you’ve even had the experiences that teach it.

Your expectations of yourself and your life start off pretty wacky. Because you can edit your writing you think you can edit life. And because of that you’ll go through these periods where you’ll feel like you’re totally failing because you’ll be nowhere near your targets and you can’t fix your past. But it’s not your life that’s the problem, or your ability to edit; it’s your expectation that you would know things before you learned them. You do that all the time and yet it’s truly crazy.

Graceful living requires only one thing: live the moment you’re in fully and presently. That means being in it and aware of it, rather than thinking about what-ifs or regrets. Things going in challenging ways aren’t failures, that’s just the texture of the surface you’re climbing. And when you reach the summit of your own peak–your own death–you’ll have a better understanding that you weren’t supposed to climb the highest mountain or the hardest–you were just supposed to climb. Which mountain you started on never really mattered.

You will know more tomorrow than today, and today you know more than you knew yesterday. If you go back and rethink and rethink over and over, re-editing all of your life’s work, you’ll never get much writing done and you won’t get much living lived.

Trust that as the writer writes, the writer improves. Forget the early pages. They’re both written and read. Because that’s the other important thing; other people will only glance at your book just as you’ll only glance at theirs. You might read deeply into maybe half a dozen books in your life. Because it turns out these weren’t being written to be read, the were written for the writing’s sake.

Stop worrying about your mistakes and just write–just live. You were never supposed to be perfect. You were just supposed to be here. That in and of itself, is perfect.

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.

The Friday Dose #117

953 FD Relax and Succeed - This is why the dog is happierYou’ve got big problems. You need big solutions. It can feel like that, but there are no problems and there are no answers. There’s just stuff you can’t work on or there’s solutions you are working on, the rest all happens in your consciousness.

A while back I put up a video somewhat similar to this one. It ended up having one of the highest share rates of any video on my blog. There are now very few opportunities for your mind to do truly mindless things. I know it can feel like that’s all you do at work sometimes but there is actually a lot of mind in all that mattering. What you need is something meaningless.

Watching and listening closely to something that has no purpose and no point can at first seem strange. We’re not used to focusing on things that don’t immediately have meaning to us, but what if that’s the equivalent of staring into a fire after a long day? What if that’s the meditation all of us sacrificed as we prayed at the altar of efficiency? What if mindlessness is actually the answer to creating the opportunities for mindfulness?

Empty your mind. Watch it. And listen to it. All of it. It’s a measly 1:23 of your life. Keep watching it until you can relax watching it. Keep watching it until you lose your sense of your Self and all of your troubles and instead just be here, now, and observe and listen. You have no dog in this race. Your only job is to be:

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.

Setting Limits

808 Relax and Succeed - Self care is not selfishHow far should you let people push? How much should they get away with? How much should you be accommodating them? And how are your feelings about them playing into that? Would you put up with as much from your neighbour as your boss? Or what about your children or a spouse?

May I suggest you begin by setting some limits on the idea of setting limits? Because we’re talking about how long (how much time) we should put in before it’s too much. So can you see that the very idea of setting a limit traps you in time? You’re upset because of what’s happened again which means there must have been a before and you’ll be worried it will keep on happening which means by setting a limit you’re trying to alter your future. It’s like your mind colours in a section of your life stretching from a point in your past to a point in your future and you call that your relationship.

Fortunately one thing that actually does impact the future is what we do today. And even if we live in the moment we still have access to all of our knowledge. So we can make a decision today that we’re going in a new direction, but as soon as that person approaches us again we either have to re-make that same decision or we cave in and double back to our old decision. You can use the moments of now to plan your future but that future will still happen one moment at a time.

808 Relax and Succeed - Bent pots need bent lids

This isn’t to diminish what’s happening in people’s lives. This can get serious. If you’re dating a drug addict or someone that gets violent then these can be some of life’s most important decisions. But important and unimportant decisions are all made the same way. You can say whatever you want but your life is ultimately made out of what you do.

We all have those friends who keep going back to the same agonizing relationships over and over like a drug addict visiting their dealer. And it’s a good analogy, because the person really is addicted to the source of the drug they want (anger, sadness, victimization, whatever). So they see this person and they make them react in this predictable way and voila–they get the brain chemistry they came for and you have a perfect co-dependent relationship.

If this is something small it’s easy. You decide you don’t like this person or that activity or whatever and you just quit. You’re not setting a limit so much as realizing something doesn’t suit you. But setting a limit implies that we want to be close to a person (remember–be wary of that word want), but the person’s behaviour makes being close to them impossible or difficult. If it’s not something small and easy like an acquaintance or co-worker–if it’s a child or a spouse–then you still have to make your decisions one at a time and your only recourse between decisions is to accept your situation–which means don’t re-think a past choice.

808 Relax and Succeed - We are all searching for someoneIn the end the closest thing to setting a limit would be to continue to make that same decision, each time, for the rest of your life. But of course many of you will end up waffling. You’ll set the limit and then have a low day or a high day where you’re a little needier or a little softer and you’ll let whoever it is close enough to hurt you again. But don’t beat yourself up for that even if you do end up with a broken heart. Because that’s what the you in that moment felt compelled to do–otherwise meaning you’re living your life wisely and in the moment because both decisions are equally fine, they each just match the state of mind of the thinker at the time, as they should.

Either accept people for how they are or you are doomed to a life of vainly trying to get them to be the way you want them to be. No one owes us any sort of behaviour so we certainly shouldn’t get attached to what we perceive as good behaviour. Other people live in moments too and they are always in a state of change. But it’s also very important to remember that we too are always changing. And as we change ourselves we also naturally change our idea of just what our limits really are. 😉

peace. s

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

Driven

“I have to work because if I was at home I’d be dead,” answered the old guy piloting the shuttle van from the hotel. “At home, I sit in a chair and it’s—what are you sitting in that chair for!?! And I say I thought chairs were for sitting! So I say I’m going to go look at cars and she says—you’re not going to look at cars in those pants! What kind of pants do you need to look at cars for God’s sake?” He looks at me and laughs.

729 Relax and Succeed - I love people who make me laughI offer him some hope. “I had dinner with a female friend. She kept shushing me while we were eating. It turned out she was listening to a table of guys behind her. They were about 20 years older than her. She noticed they weren’t complaining about how their spouses treated them, but listening to it, it sounded to her like they got treated like children.”

“Well thank God one of them noticed!” He laughed again.

“It gets better. She said she felt pretty embarrassed when she realized she had said a lot of the exact same stuff to her own husband.” Now he’s really laughing, but he also now has an empathetic connection to both me and my friend’s husband, which helps him feel better. “She said she had just never thought about her phrasing before but once she did she realized it was pretty thoroughly ungrateful.”

“Does she teach a class? Come on, there’s no hope. On the weekend I took the missus for dinner. I’m a picky eater, so I get my choice just the way I want it and she says to me—you’re not going to order the pulled pork again!? You always order that. Why don’t you try something different?! I told her I liked pulled pork, it’s on the menu and that’s what I came for. But she said I was boring. That I had no sense of… adventure. Then—get this part—the food comes and guess who doesn’t like hers? And now who suddenly wants to trade with the boring guy? I told her no way. I told her she didn’t want to eat a boring meal. She should go find one with adventure in it.

729 Relax and Succeed - I make myself rich“Afterwards she says to me, I’ll buy you some ice cream. My treat. So we get to the place and I’m scared already because there’s signs all over the place. A million signs. And her—she’s always reading everything in sight. If there’s a handwritten little note taped half way under the cash register she’ll yell at you for not seeing it. So I’m scared. Even the menu’s got a million flavours. But there it is, alphabetically it’s right near the top: C for chocolate—my favourite flavour since I was a kid.

“So we get up to the counter there and she looks at me and asks me what I’ll have and I say: chocolate. Chocolate?! She yells at me. They got a million flavours and you’re gonna order chocolate!? Do you realize how boring you are?” He looks at me for support. “Boring? Again I’m boring because I like chocolate? IT’S A FLAVOUR! It’s on the friggin’ menu! It’s a legitimate friggin’ flavour! I’ll have to ask her tomorrow if my shoes fit.”

I knew my job. I continued to establish connection. “A friend of mine used to manage a place in Australia that had 88 flavours. I asked him how they managed to stock that much. He said it was one tub of each flavour and 40 tubs each of chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch and vanilla.”

729 Relax and Succeed - I'm not arguing I'm explaining“You see? There it is right there. I’m right in the thick of it. An average person. I’m picking one of the four most popular flavours in the world but somehow that makes me a boring idiot. You know those dumb little plastic flowers? I don’t know why women like those fake things that have no smell but whatever okay. But this one’s got a tiny little base and it’s real tall and every time I put up the seat on the toilet the darn thing tips over and I’m constantly picking it up off the floor and balancing it on there like it’s a tiara. I’m 82. I’m not lookin’ to do a lot of bendin’ over. I’m tired of it. So I say to her, hey, let’s get rid of that plastic flower. That thing drives me nuts. And you know what she she says? She says it ‘balances the room.’ Balances the room? It can’t even balance itself.”  He howls again.

I’m enjoying it. Because this is two guys connecting. He knows I can fill in all kinds of little details, just like when women discuss men they can say one phrase and it means three paragraphs. We know each other. Genders don’t have firm roles, but they have powerful predispositions. And it struck me that what this man was doing was bonding with me over that common knowledge.

If you were there, the tone didn’t feel like he was dissing his wife. Not in the sense that his intention was for me to not like her or to feel pity for him. He didn’t want me thinking why are you married to this awful person? I’m confident he wouldn’t have liked that at all. No, what he wanted was the connection. That empathetic—you’ve been there too, right?

729 Relax and Succeed - A prayer for the wild at heartWhen he dropped me off he finished off by saying, “Hey thanks for the conversation. And, you know, I say all this stuff about how they drive us crazy but still we go back for more, don’t we? We go back for more. And it’s because despite all that nutty stuff they do, they’re still so friggin’ great. She’s just so friggin’ great.”

“They put up with us….”

“Worse, she puts up with me.”  He winks and is off.

Now, we could look at that as a wasted 20 minutes where this guy bitched about something from the previous weekend and that would be true. If he was high-consciousness he might have wanted to talk about something happy. But it’s important to accept people where they are. That is true empathy.

He wasn’t bashing, but it was venting. And I didn’t add to or help prolong his emotional state because I knew my job was to get him some place better. What he and I knew was that conversation was about keeping his marriage healthy. He wasn’t saying he wanted his wife to be different. He wasn’t trying to change her. He wasn’t looking for me to join him in being against her. He could accept her just fine. He just wanted to connect with someone every now and then who actually noticed that in each of those stories he was describing how he loves her. He was describing the sacrifices he makes for love.

729 Relax and Succeed - People are weirdEvery couple has these little battles. But it’s worthwhile to ask yourself which side of that you’re on. Because if you’re the one that’s oblivious to how bossy or controlling you are, then you are missing out on recognizing the vast majority of the love that is being extended to you via patience and the voluntary surrender of most personal control. After all, it doesn’t get much more basic than choosing your own pants. 🙂

Love comes in many forms. Make sure you’re watching for the quiet, subtle versions like patience. Because they’re actually the most common.

Have yourself an awesome day. And maybe phone your partner and thank them for something nice they’ve done recently.

peace. s

The Agony of Expectations

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #3

Ouch. Yeesh. I recently overheard a woman complain that her daughter’s plane was delayed because they were worried about airport workers being hit by lightning. She said her day was ruined by it and she couldn’t believe they would stop her daughter’s flight for such a trivial reason.

728 Relax and Succeed - It is what it isTrivial? It’s lightening. They’re living people surrounded by lightning rods and fuel tanks. I’ve got an idea of what would help even more than a flawless airport: some empathy. And it’s way cheaper and easier to get too. This is how people ruin their own lives. Their egos think the world is about them.

Can you see how she does what all of us do? We make every event relate to our personal identity. That storm happened to her daughter and the airport impeded her plans and her day was ruined by these other people and things. With expectation goes disappointment and then the cycle shifts to blame and then the re-setting of another silly expectation. Because it is presumed the world happens out there, not in here.

I’m talking about all of us. The vast majority of people living in the modern world do this all day long with almost every aspect of their lives. If you really want your day to improve the great news is it isn’t hard. You just have to find your attachments like expectation or time and replace them with more flexible ideas like anticipation and experience.

728 Relax and Succeed - Each of us has a responsibilityKeep your mind open. Think of others rather than yourself. It really is better for you. If the woman I overheard had done that she would have undoubtedly been in a much better mood and been much better company to her beloved daughter.

Stay conscious. Make your days great because you have silenced all of the self-creating narratives that filter the world with your me’s and I’s. Instead be open and truly aware and awake to the world around you. That is the easy, fun and beautiful route to salvation. And you don’t even need a plane, a ticket, or to be struck by lightening to get there.

Now go create an awesome day. Love you.

peace. s

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