Reasons for Optimism

954 Relax and Succeed - Be the lightBecause the news trades in fear, anger, sympathy and titillation you have been innocently lead to believe that the world is much, much worse than it really is. The news is one hour long: a couple minutes for the intro intro, a few minutes of flashy graphics interspersed, a few minutes for what’s going on in your city, a few for your country and then huge chunks for what is essentially entertainment: weather and sports. Over a quarter of it is advertising, which means you see almost nothing about what’s actually going on around you. That’s hardly enough time to encapsulate even a tiny fraction of humanity’s achievements each day.

Every single day a huge number of friendships get made, degrees are earned, citizenship is obtained, freedoms are gained, and things are learned. Much joy is felt and there are many very good reasons to be optimistic. Everyone imagines everything growing worse and there’s many signs that won’t happen the way people are imagining.

We invented terrible bombs in the 40’s and put treaties on them and started dismantling them within 50 years. Pollution was a byproduct of the work-saving era of the Industrial Revolution. The point was to save people from backbreaking work, not to create pollution. So that was generally our first big worldwide issue but there was no internet so the world couldn’t get organised as quick as it can now. By the time we hit acid rain we got on it and fixed it pretty quickly. We tackled the ozone layer, CFC’s and now we’re on carbon. We’re doing pretty good. We actually fix things faster than we break them, not to mention that disease treatments make important advances every day.

954 Relax and Succeed - Everyone thinks of changing the worldThe news makes its money selling fear and uncertainty, not confidence. What’s wrong with our world isn’t that big stuff because that’s clearly going better than the news will ever give it credit for. What’s wrong with our world is that we talk to ourselves and others about what we don’t like but we don’t actually do the things we claim we like.

Politeness isn’t something for chumps or losers. Maybe a gangster would say that but gangsters live to about 25 so…. Politeness is simply the acknowledgement of the presence and value of another human being. It’s odd that politeness ever got perverted into being something we shouldn’t prioritise for our own sake. We win in that exchange.

How many calories or milliseconds does it take to hold a door for someone? And yet how nice is it when someone takes the time to hold it for you? It’s not like you needed to use a lot of calories on the door either, but this way you both acknowledged each other in a society whose primary sickness is its self-centred focus. Despite the fact that the connections consistently feel good you often choose to do things that then prevent you from making more of them.

954 Relax and Succeed - Today will never come againYou do a lot of very active things to cut yourself off from other humans. Have you looked at those things to see if you want to keep all of them? Yes, you need down time and alone time, but most people are starved for more contact. Stop making that a problem of the world’s and start creating your own personal solutions by actually taking opportunities to make just the simplest of connections; smiling as you walk by on the street, saying good morning to co-workers, buying the person behind you a coffee, holding a door.

The world does not get better because we’re smart and know what other people should do. The world and our own lives get better because we’re just plain nicer, more patient, more tolerant and more loving than we’ve ever been.

peace and love. 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.

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

Partly Cloudy Partly Sunny

The reason you have difficulty realizing an enlightened state is because you see it as some high-level guru-inspired nirvana-achievement. It’s something special. Something you don’t normally do. But that’s the trick—you do do it all the time. You just don’t account for it.

499 Relax and Succeed - When things are going wellYou hit some super long putt, or a free throw in basketball or a wrist shot in hockey—and you know know know you’ve scored the moment it leaves your control. Sometimes you’re busy doing something mundane and you look up and you can’t believe how much time has passed. Or when you were just enjoying yourself so much that you felt entirely secure and therefore your ego had no reason to perform. In each of those cases you were in an enlightened state.

In those cases you’ll note that you weren’t investing much or any energy on creating a you. Instead you were busy taking in the world. You were an input aspect of the universe, not an output aspect. You were enjoying the universe itself. And that can take all forms. You can be mesmerized and thoroughly absorbed by baby pandas, and you can be just as riveted by a pride of lions taking down a baby gazelle. One thing is cute and one thing is natural but very harsh, and yet both experiences are equal in that they are fully engaging; meaning they leave us with no space to insert our egos. There is a great lesson in this. To improve your daily life, you simply have to apply this same response to less compelling aspects of life. Stop reserving this skill for mountain-top sunsets and baby animals. Start using this with frustrating co-workers and stressed spouses.  Because even those things are ultimately not about you.

A499 Relax and Succeed - You simply have to acceptccept that there will be days when people who are usually reasonable will suddenly be difficult. This is not the secret-them coming out. This is not some gross miscalculation of character on your part. This is normal human existence. How’s our diet? How about sleep? Are there challenging and unavoidable things going on in life and how good are your support systems? These are things that will impact a person’s reactions, not to mention big shifts in hormone changes that can be the result of everything from bodybuilding drugs to puberty, to menstrual cycles and menopause and changes resulting from drugs or diseases and their treatments. There’s a lot of reasons for all of us to occasionally get snippy. We’re better to learn not to be so quick to judge. Watch people over the long term. That’s the closest thing you could call who they are.

The world isn’t perfect when everyone’s unnaturally polite. The world’s perfect when everyone is compassionate enough to let themselves and everyone else be a fully realized human being leading a full and rich life. Because even the greatest life includes frustration and agony and doubt and struggle. So we must let those moments be. Those are merely clouds hovering over the landscape of our life. They only obscure the sun. They do not actually make it go away. All we have to do is wait and when we see rays shining through up ahead, we must set that course as our destination. Because it is by moving toward the light, that we realize our own path through life.

Accept not everything feels good, then as soon as possible move toward what does feel good. That’s pretty much the whole secret to life in a nutshell. Go for it.

peace. s