When someone asks you "How are you?" do you answer honestly or are you always "fine"? I met a lovely woman today who answered honestly and gave us both an opportunity to make a difference in each other's day.
It takes courage to say "meh?" in response to "how are you" because we're not conditioned to care if someone says something other than "fine." I heard her conundrum in her struggle to understand why she isn't always HAPPY! So I asked her what makes her laugh and she told me a story about a child with a smile on her face. And I asked her what the best part of her day has been and she thought about it for a moment and said: "I'm alive." How powerful! For that moment she experienced more than "meh." And my gift was seeing the transformation in her perspective. Because of her honesty and my curiosity, we were both able to find gratitude for a brief yet powerful connection.
Human emotions ebb and flow and unfortunately, we have a propensity toward a negativity bias. And it's completely normal! To find our way back to positivity, all we need to do is look within ourselves. We don't need to know why we feel unsatisfied when life seems to be only "fine," we just have to accept that that's our reality FOR NOW. Once we recognize it, we can ask ourselves what's going well or what we're grateful for or talk to someone that cares or move our bodies (which will release energy giving hormones).
So, if you read this, Tanya, thank you for your transparency and allowing me the pleasure of seeing you smile!
Putting our spin on reality is what humans do; life is more comfortable that way. So, what's your tendency? Are you aware of your filters and biases?
At one end of the spectrum, some experience most events as negative or burdensome and seem comfortable lolling in misery. At the other end, some refuse to see what might be painful or difficult and choose to redirect their attention to everything positive; they prefer to wear rose-colored glasses.
Ignoring the truth is a game of pretending. You're doing a disservice to yourself and others by rejecting possibilities that might not fit with your worldview or your style. There's something to be learned by those that lean into reality. It takes courage to observe what's happening without hiding behind melodrama or Pollyannaism.
You're not as evolved as you think you are if you're stepping over the truth.
How often do you notice yourself labeling others? How about when you label yourself? Why do we do it?
Our brains like predictability and continuously scan for patterns that indicate a collective group. Once we identify a category or group, we assign labels.
The problem, of course, is that we make an awful lot of assumptions and judgments based on our "intuitive" labeling. We might look at someone and think to ourselves "she's smart" or "he's funny" or "he's Type A" or "she's dramatic." Or we label according to race, career, income, etc. It seems we are always categorizing.
Moreover, what are some of the labels we assign to ourselves? How about "I'm stupid" or "I'm fat" or "I'm ineloquent." Too often the labels we attach to ourselves are negative. How often do you suppose self-labeling is accurate and honest?
One of the problems with labels is that the minute we do, we compare ourselves to a generalized definition we assign to that name. However, what if each of us has a unique definition? What happens if the definitions are incongruous?
What if we shift from noticing categories and labels to noticing strategies? The behaviors we present ourselves with, whether authentic or inauthentic, are strategies; strategies we use them to get through life. Perhaps that perfectionist is trying to get things "right" so everything runs smoothly; they're not just trying to make your life difficult. Maybe that person who is indecisive is seeking to keep the peace by letting you make the decision. And maybe that self-deprecating person is anticipating disapproval and avoiding rejection by beating you to the punch.
I find compassion in being curious about strategies. All I have to do is consider the strategies I use and the labels others might assign to me to appreciate our creativity and resilience. And so, what if we pay attention to the labels we assign to others, both good and bad (a label is a label is a judgment)?
What if we listen to the labels people use to describe us and consider the strategies behind our behaviors?
What if we've put ourselves in labeled boxes through patterned, predictable behaviors?
Maybe it's up to us to get ourselves out of the boxes we've strategized as comfortable.
Though I meet with resistance on this opinion, I believe it to be true.
During a race, at times I felt I could push no more — while biking for example — and I gave myself permission to quiet the voice telling me to go faster. Then when EVERY race is over, I tell myself I could have done better if I had ridden faster. It turns out both of those thoughts are true — at the moment I had them. So while I'd like to critique and dismantle my effort on the bike, at the time, I was doing the very best I could with the tools I had (that includes the mental support the body requires).
If I had the physical stamina to speed up but my mind thought not, I did not have all the necessary tools. Next time, perhaps I'll have the mental stamina because I'll have a previous inner dialogue to recall. And maybe next time I'll have the mental stamina but will be plagued with an injury. Either way, I am doing the best I can.
How many decisions have you made that you regret in your lifetime? Too many to count, probably. And yet, at the time, they were the best decisions you could have made — at that point. To look at them in hindsight and determine you could have done better is to add skills and knowledge that you didn't have before.
The third leg of the tripod that needs balance to support our best decisions is emotional. Regret is an emotion, as is elation, gratitude, pride, and fear. It's an emotional response we experience after a job well-done or a missed attempt. And it is feelings that guide us to future choices — feelings we advance toward and those we avoid — adding and subtracting skills and knowledge along the way.
Doing your best requires practice and insight, both of which take action. If your best doesn't yet include self-reflection, your toolbox will remain limited. And, this is still your best because of course, if you were able, you would add tools that give you growth options.
What of the people we judge as making bad decisions? What will it take for you to see that they, too, are doing the best they can with the tools they possess? How does judgment represent your best? And where does compassion fit into your best self?
Learner and sharer of all things healthy, active, esteem building, growth promoting, witty and Hawaiian