Yesterday on a news panel on how to celebrate Christmas, one of the commentators asked: Celebrate what? He then proceeded to argue there is nothing to celebrate this year. It’s been a shitty year, and Christmas is miles away from what it would typically be, but…
Do you really have nothing to be thankful for?
Is there nothing in your life worth raising a glass?
My past few Christmases haven be awful. Last year was cool because we were in Mexico with family. But the previous year, six days before Christmas I broke my collarbone, and the one before that I had a terrible, terrible argument on Christmas Eve.
I had little or no say in these events. But this year, I have a choice because we have all known for months that things would be different. I get to choose what to focus on:
Will I count my blessings or my problems?
This is not about my subjective opinion in seeing the glass half full in my life. Instead it is about objectively noticing that I have a glass to begin with. Christmas this year will be spent with my daughter, Irene, and with luck, a few true friends. This is blessing enough for me — other than the fact that there will be plenty of red wine and, hopefully, sense of humor.
My wish for you is that you may be inspired to notice some of the blessings in your life, so as to savor Christmas Day with a profound sense of meaning. Merry Christmas!
“Assume ignorance before malevolence.”
JORDAN PETERSON (1962), Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, author of the #1 International Bestseller 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
Gratitude is powerful because it is virtually impossible to be in a bad emotional place and feel grateful. When we’re grateful we don’t feel angry or fearful or anxious or depressed.
However, it is sometimes hard to summon up the past experiences we are grateful for, or we struggle to remember that we’ve been through worse. In these cases, we can use the present to get into a state of gratitude.
1. Comparison: This can get SO much worse
Acknowledging that things can get much worse, that there are many people much worse off will blow away the clouds of our shortsightedness of the negative to let the sun of gratitude shine on all the other things we do enjoy in our lives.
2. Perspective: This will make me grateful in the future
Another way to use the present to feel grateful when we are going through a tough time is to bring to mind that my difficult present will become a memory I will be able to use to feel grateful for in the future. Strangely enough, this allows us to feel grateful today because it will be a source of gratefulness in the future.
Love the good and the bad of the past
Love the good and the bad of the present
For it is this love what makes for a better future
“The problem is not the problem.
The way we see the problem is the problem.”
STEPHEN COVEY (1932-2012), author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
“The person is not the problem.
The problem is the problem.”
MICHAEL WHITE (1948–2008), Australian social worker and family therapist, founder of Narrative Therapy
The Golden Rule — treat others as you would like others to treat you — is well intentioned in that it asks us to extend fairness and respect to others. But the outcomes are not necessarily good.
The problem is that it is based on a fundamentally flawed assumption.
The assumption that you want what I want, that fairness and respect mean for you what they mean for me. And this is rarely true. This is particularly relevant given the evils caused by the racism and the violence we’re seeing these days.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of assuming my way is the right way, and then to treat others as I think I should, without taking into account what they want. This is dangerous because it can make them feel disrespected and I might end up resenting the fact that they are being unappreciative of my efforts.
And we don’t have to go halfway across the world to make a difference. This applies to how we treat people at work, at home, on the streets, and in social media. Lest we come across as jerks, we want to be careful NOT to treat others like we would like them to treat us, unless we’re sure that is what they really want.
Never assume you know what others want. The alternative is to practice empathy.
The golden art of putting ourselves in their shoes to figure out how they would like to be treated. And we will probably be surprised by how much that can differ from what we expected to be appropriate.
If we are going to build a more fair, generous and compassionate world, we’re going to need a better rule. Here’s an iteration:
THE GOLDEN RULE 2.0
Treat others as THEY would like to be treated.
In uncertain times, everything can seem to happen fast and at the same time.
How can we deal with the sense of missing out on opportunities?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks. How resilient are you? False modesty aside, I must concede I am tougher than I usually give myself credit for. Here are three questions to help center our focus and boost our resilience in tough times.
1. Past: What misfortunes have I overcome?
Misfortunes are a normal part of life. Shit happens. Life has knocked us down so many times, and yet, we are still here, we are still in the game. This question helps awaken our ability to get up and fight back.
2. Present: How could this be worse?
In bad times, it’s easy to notice the things we were taking for granted that are no longer here. “How could this be worse?” turns our focus to what we might be taking for granted right NOW!
This sort of negative visualization helps develop a sense of gratitude and tranquility amidst difficulties. This is powerful because gratitude and tranquility cannot coexist with fear, frustration, anxiety or anger.
3. Future: What can I learn from this?
Every trial is temporary, which begs the question: How will we emerge from it? How do we want to emerge from it? Most of life’s important lessons come from tough times. If we choose to, painful situations can teach us.
What does this situation show about you, other people, and the world that was unseen to you before? How can you use this to grow and improve?
So how resilient are you? If I had to guess, you are tougher than you usually give yourself credit for. You are a badass. Be a badass.
Have you heard of a technique that helps with tedious tasks and stressful situations?
One that can be practised at any time, in any place, and by anyone, including children?
Today I read a post on LinkedIn written by John Ford about the difference between sympathy and empathy. I decided to comment on it, but the amount of text seems to be limited. So I wrote this post instead.
Words matter. Agreeing on what words mean matters more.
The Ancient Greek words for sympathy and empathy (which then found their way into Latin) can provide insight into to their meaning today.
They have a common root, the “pathy” part. It derives from the Greek word “pathos” (πάθος), which means “pain, suffering, passion”.
Prefixed to the root are conjunctions: “sym” meaning “with” (from “sun”, σύν) and “em” meaning “in” (from “en”, ἐν). This adds up to:
Sympathy is “pain with”: to feel the pain with someone.
Empathy is “pain in”: to feel the pain in someone.
Sympathy, in its positive understanding, means we identify with the person’s pain because we’ve experienced the same or a similar situation.
Empathy takes it up a notch: we feel the person’s pain, even though we do not personally relate to their situation. In other words:
Sympathy is putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling:
“I know what it’s like, mine feel the same.”
Empathy is putting yourself in someone’s shoes and feeling:
“I don’t know what it’s like, mine feel nothing like that. But I relate to how they make you feel.”
Empathy is priceless when we’re incapable of identifying with the person, for instance, when people do things we could never picture ourselves doing.
Empathy allows us to connect with them by identifying with their feelings and emotions, even though we consider their actions and behavior unacceptable.