Little notebook of wisdom [Part 2]

DSC_0481

Previously, I posted about how I had decided to utilise one of my (many) empty notebooks as a place to record snippets of practical wisdom. It would be a place to return to and remind myself of useful nuggets of truth whenever I’m in need of a good kick up the arse. This is another selection of the wisdom that I have jotted down.

Link to Part 1

Why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Yes, this a much-overused quote from a certain bat-themed superhero movie but, if you subtract the pop-culture and t-shirts emblazoned with this quote, you will find that it remains an incredibly useful piece of advice. We seem to be petrified of failure, whether it’s due to being afraid of letting ourselves down or losing face in front of others. It also doesn’t help that our society and the media are set on punishing failure. However, failure is absolutely necessary in order to facilitate growth because how else are you going to learn what does and doesn’t work? It is only through failure that we can let go of our fears and learn to take risks. It is only through failure that we learn to analyse what went wrong, modify our approach(es) and become more adept at something. It is only through failure that we learn how to take the punches and move on from setbacks, rather than dwelling on them for prolonged periods of time.

Ask yourself: who is really living their life? Person A who takes risks and sometimes fails, but is at least trying new things and amassing experience, or Person B who stays inside their self-limiting comfort zone and devotes time and energy to mocking or criticising Person A’s failures?

Never ask advice of someone whom you wouldn’t want to trade places with.

This one seems obvious but we all do it from time-to-time, myself included. We ask the wrong people for advice on our problems and wonder why we get no closer to solving them. We need to learn to surround ourselves with the right people and not imitate those who are crashing and burning or hurting others for personal profit. As an example, a player of a man might be shagging multiple women and walking around with a big grin on his face right now, but would you want to be in his shoes when it all (inevitably) goes horribly wrong and his wife/girlfriend finds out?

Action > Inspiration > Motivation

Do something – anything

I – like many people – used to believe that you had to be inspired first in order to gain the motivation needed to take action. This isn’t entirely false as we all occasionally find ourselves struck by inspiration while going about our everyday lives. However, subscribing to the “Inspiration First” method is far from guaranteed to yield results. It’s why so many people don’t accomplish anything or better themselves; because they are sitting around waiting to be inspired – waiting for somebody/something else to come to them. It puts you in the passenger seat and can lead to a self-victimising attitude where you blame the world around you for not providing inspiration, when you should be out there hunting it yourself.

This isn’t to say that you need to become a larger-than-life go-getter who travels the world and seeks crazy adventure. “Taking action” means doing anything, as long as it’s something. For example, if you want to write but feel as if you are lacking inspiration, just resolve to write something – anything – to get the wheels turning. If a big essay needs writing but you aren’t feeling motivated, or are intimidated by the figurative mountain of work before you, simply decide to write a single paragraph. You may well find the pressure on yourself lifted and one paragraph will become two, then three. Before you know it, you could have filled several pages with words without noticing how long you have been at it.

Even with this blog, I’ve sometimes not wanted to write but I say, “okay, I’ll just type out the introductory paragraph.” More often than not, I’ll go on to produce the entire post or, at the least, a good chunk more than that opening paragraph. Often, it’s the act of getting started that is the most difficult but any small step towards achieving something can be enough to stoke your boiler, build up a strong head of steam and find forwards motion.

Book Review: The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy, 2010)

compound-effect-1Year: 2010
Author: Darren Hardy
Publisher: Da Capo Press (version reviewed)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 172
ISBN: 978-1-59315-724-1

No gimmicks. No hyperbole. No magic bullet. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will take you either to the life of success you desire or to disaster by default. Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine, presents The Compound Effect, a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond.

I’m always interested in self-development books, especially if they promise to be something different. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy did just that so I decided to give it a go.

It’s a good book with some practical ideas but I can’t say that it had the same sort of lasting effect that Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck did. I guess I prefer a straight-talking, cut-the-BS book that tells it like it is and forces you to realise and accept uncomfortable truths.

The premise behind The Compound Effect is sound. Hardy explains how positive, constructive actions stack up (or compound) over time and how the opposite is also true when we fill our faces with bad food, waste money on crap or slack off. Realistically, it’s all very basic stuff that we should already know but, to the book’s credit, the so-called ‘Compound Effect’ is illustrated with some particularly eye-opening examples. One that really made me sit up and pay attention was the cost of a $4.00 take-out coffee over an extended period of time. Assuming that you bought one of these on your way to work every week day (so five days), that’s $20.00 a week, $80.00 a month and almost $1,000.00 a year. Over a twenty year period? $51,833.79!

We all know that this is happening. It’s basic maths after all. But the sheer scale is pretty terrifying when it’s laid bare like that. This is Hardy’s Compound Effect in action and the point of the book is to get you to apply this to your own life in order to improve it.

This book is all about building consistency and momentum in your life in order to harness the power of the Compound Effect. It also goes into detail on adjusting the influences in your life (the people you associate with, the news you consume etc.), discovering what your “why” power is and not giving up in the face of adversity.

It’s all positive stuff but I felt that there were a few core points that were being dragged out via endless examples and figures/charts that were a little unnecessary. Also, despite the fact that this book is billed as a way to improve your overall life, it often seemed to be coming from a career/business/money-making angle, assuming that you – the reader – measure your success and self-worth by your status and bank balance. If, like me, you’ve already decided that this isn’t how you are going to define success or happiness, then it could be a deal-breaker.

Also, the book contains some worksheets at the back to use in conjunction with the different exercises that Hardy prescribes. The problem is that these aren’t the full versions and you can only obtain those by getting onto a mailing list at the book’s website. Once I did that, my email inbox was regularly spammed with advertisements for Hardy’s seminars and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the guy isn’t going to give up his time for nothing (and shouldn’t be expected to) but I would have thought that purchasing a full-price physical book was enough.

The Compound Effect is a decent book with some good ideas and messages that I will certainly take away with me. However, I don’t feel that is does a lot to dig deep into the human psyche and really help you overcome stubborn problems. It’s surface-level positivity that essentially tells you what you need to do but not necessarily how to remove existing mental roadblocks or explain why they are there in the first place.

As with all self-development books, however, this may have a greater impact on you than it did for me, depending on where you are currently at with your life and where you want to go.

 

 

Balance is everything

When I am cobbling together a post that falls beneath the umbrella of “self-development” or “life”, I frequently find myself including the word ‘Balance’ somewhere in said post. Maybe I’m exploring ways to have a balanced life, or perhaps I’m making a point then presenting the counter point in order to maintain – yep, you guessed it – a balance. After all, an actual legitimate discussion has little (if not zero) credibility if it is entirely biased with no tolerance for opposing points.

Balance has to be applied to everything in life if you wish to live it well. The Yin and Yang symbol might be a cliche to wheel out these days but it really does symbolise Balance better than anything else. It depicts two opposites in perfect harmony.

YY-1

To me, it also illustrates that you can’t have black without white; light without dark. And, to take it further, good without evil. This last one can be a particularly thorny discussion because there are millions of people in the world who believe that our ultimate goal, as a species, should be world peace – a world without war, hatred or division. It’s undeniably a good goal – a noble goal – to aim for as a race but it’s ultimately a flawed goal that will never be achieved for the simple reason that it is impossible to fully eradicate evil, just as it would impossible to cleanse the planet of good.

After all, if one “side” were to fully dominate the planet then its very identity would cease to exist due to the fact that the nature of good cannot be defined without the existence of evil as a comparison and vice versa.

Dark versus Light

More importantly, we ALL have good and bad within us, as uncomfortable as that may be for some of us to come to terms with. Nobody is a 100% saintly individual. The bad parts of said people may be buried deeply and they may rarely surface but they ARE there, just as even the most callous and evil amongst us will have some goodness somewhere, even if you may never see it. Take the London Bridge attack that occured last year (2019), for example. One of the heroes who attempted to stop Usman Khan was in fact the convicted murderer, Steve Gallant, who was serving a sentence for his part in bludgeoning, kicking and punching another man to death. Before the bridge incident, many would have looked at a man like Gallant and branded him as an irredeemable individual who should be locked away forever and not given a second chance. Now, I’m in no way excusing Gallant’s crime or trying to say that he “balanced the books” (no pun intended) for his part in stopping Usman Khan, but his actions last year show that we, as humans, aren’t simply either black or white; good or bad; light or dark.

“I saw injured people.

“Khan was stood in the foyer with two large knives in his hands.

“He was a clear danger to all, so I didn’t hesitate.”

It’s my personal view that it is healthy to be aware of our dark sides and to acknowledge them, while we are striving to be better people. Suppression or denial doesn’t solve anything. Accepting that we have these bad urges, selfish desires and perverse fantasies is the way forward. Understand and manage them because that balance needs to exist. Anybody who believes that they are a whiter than white and above it all are probably full of bullshit. It brings to mind one of my favourite snippets of philosophy from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest

It’s better to be honest. This can be difficult in a society where saying the wrong thing or making a controversial admission can make you an outsider or even land you in prison. However, you can at least be honest with yourself, in your own mind. If an unsavoury thought or dark idea pops into your mind, don’t think, “why did I just think that?!? That’s not who I am! I’m such a terrible person!” It’s better to simply be aware of the thought, acknowledge its existence and allow it to drift away of its own accord. You are a human being. You are a flawed, imperfect creature and, as such, you will have dark thoughts from time to time.

It’s acting upon bad notions and violating another person’s rights that is the real problem. There are many, many reasons why some people cross this line or believe it to be acceptable but I’m no psychologist or expert so I’m not going to delve any deeper into these reasons. All I will return to are the acts of suppression and denial. It’s my belief that denying thoughts only makes the individual more curious about them. Further, suppressing a thought draws greater attention to it because you must be consciously focusing on them in order to force them to the dark recesses of your brain. This is why letting them breathe and float about innocuously in your head is a good thing to do.

The Scales of Balance

Away from the heavy, existential exploration of Balance, we can all benefit from looking at our everyday lives and identifying areas that are not balanced. You’ve probably heard of the phrases, “Everything in moderation” or “Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” These nuggets of philosophy are thrown around all the time but they are on-point. Most things are perfectly harmless when they are consumed or enjoyed in moderation, and that includes items that are widely considered to be harmful or “bad”. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, videogames, junk food…all of these things are okay if they are enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Unfortunately, a lot of us get a taste of some of these vices and throw control out of the window, indulging excessively until we are slaves to what we consume. There is a self-control epidemic in our society and it has resulted in millions of people eating themselves into obesity or watching so much extreme porn that their perception of women and sex becomes dangerously warped. In both cases, there is a major imbalance involved and it can destroy lives as well as those of others close to the person.

Worse still, it paves the way for pleasures being considered problems. Authority steps in, bans or censorship are introduced and a whole bunch of other problems then emerge as a result.

scales-1

I like to think of Balance as a set of scales. Any pleasure that we put on the scale – alcohol, unhealthy takeaway dinners, blowjob compilation videos on Pornhub – has its own unique weight. To get that healthy balance in your life, you must place an equal amount of weight on the other side of the scale. The problem is that we tend to have to do more work on the other side of the scale in order to make it balance and most of us simply aren’t prepared to do it. For example, a quick Google search reveals that it will take approximately twenty-five minutes of non-stop, moderate effort freestyle laps of a swimming pool to burn off a single Mars Bar. Most of us probably aren’t aware of this seemingly ridiculous price to pay for enjoying a quick treat. That two minutes of eating weighs a lot on the Scales of Balance, though, so it means that the other scale needs to be absolutely fucking loaded with effort in order to maintain that healthy balance on the dietry front.

It’s the same with everything. Going out on the town for a big night out involving a load of drinks is fine but do it too frequently and your life will be affected by the growing imbalance. I don’t see anything wrong with watching pornography now and again but if it gets to a point where you are binging on it every single day then there is a problem and it WILL damage your mind.

Look, I’m not making this post in order to tell people what to do or how they should live their lives. Nobody likes a preacher after all, and if there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s people telling me what to do or how to live my life. This is just my interpretation of Balance. I believe that it’s important to get to grips with and utterly essential if you want to get the most of out of life in the long term.

Imbalances inevitably come with consequences regardless of whether you agree with my views or think that I’m talking a load of old bollocks. You always reap what you sow in the end, after all.

 

Positive Practices: Doing the Right Thing

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, but it’s a new year and time for Unfiltered Opinion to rise from its festive slumber…

Zombie Hand Rising Out Of A Grave

So, let’s kick 2020 off with the first in what will hopefully become a series of posts about positive practices. In this post, I want to discuss the art of doing the right thing. It may sound patronisingly straightforward and completely undeserving of being a discussion point but, if that truly were the case, the world and the people in it wouldn’t feel so utterly fucked so much of the time, would it?

But how do I define “doing the right thing”, then?

As always, I am only sharing my personal take on life, but “doing the right thing” in my book is all about being selfless and doing right by other people regardless of whether your actions and decisions will benefit you personally or not.

It’s about treating others the way you, yourself, would wish to be treated.

It’s about putting aside greed, selfish preferences or personal gain to do what you – deep down – KNOW is the right thing to do.

It’s about being honest and virtuous, and treating other people as the ends rather than the means.

It’s about doing things that are right without trying to (consciously or subconsciously) calculate what sort of “trade” you will be doing in the process i.e. only doing somebody a favour because they will owe you down the line.

It’s about striving to protect something higher than our individual selves.

I was inspired to make this post by – of all things – an ebay transaction last week. In a nutshell, I purchased something for the approximate value of £25-£30 just before Christmas and it still hadn’t arrived nearly a week after New Year. I messaged the seller and explained that I understood that the post was sluggish around this time of year but that I was just a little concerned that the item I’d ordered wasn’t coming. I asked them if they had any tracking information and they got back to me to say that they couldn’t find said information but that, yes, I should have received the item by that point. They apologised and issued a full refund. I was content with the solution and that was that.

Two days later, the item arrived in the post. According to the post marks, it had been posted on the nineteenth of December with a “Special Delivery” next-day service.

Whoops.

At first, I thought, “Get in! I’ve got a my item plus all of my money back”. It seemed like a major score.

But then I thought about it some more and remembered one of my all-time favourite philosophies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I contacted the seller, informed them that the item had turned up and offered to reverse the refund.

They were grateful for my honesty with the situation but it wasn’t their thanks that I was seeking. I just wanted to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. I wanted to preserve the value of honesty.

Yes, I could have easily gotten away with my free purchase, and I’m sure that many would have done just that and lost no sleep over it. It is, after all, a dog-eat-dog world at times and any unexpected bonuses we become the beneficiary of aren’t easy to relinquish. At times, we even feel that we deserve these moments of good fortune for the suffering or hardships that we’ve faced. Or as compensation for the times that we’ve been screwed over by somebody else. And that’s fine but I try to draw the line at plussing at the expense of somebody else, especially if they haven’t done anything to warrant it.

Now, I’m not trying to put myself across as a saint. After all, I did initially feel pretty fucking good about having my (very tasty) cake and eating it when it came to that particular ebay situation. That I cannot deny.

But I did question my actions and arrive at the conclusion that I’d rather do the right thing, even it meant forfeiting my small splash of fortune. I sacrificed a chance to “plus” and did right by the ebay seller because that’s how I’d like to be treated myself. After all, you can’t really roll around bitching about how people are so dishonest these days or always out to screw you over if you are going to behave the same way.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy and for a good reason: it usually means going out of your way for somebody else – or making a sacrifice – with no expectation of a reward. It means being selfless for the sake of preserving important, high-level values such as honesty and charity. There are a lot of people who will only do the right thing because they are – in effect – bartering and doing good deeds so that they can call in favours down the line or extract something from another person in exchange for their help. This doesn’t count as “doing the right thing” because you are doing something as a means to your own, personal ends.

baretering

Doing the right thing becomes doubly hard when we are surrounded by people who are only interested in themselves and think nothing of doing whatever it takes to get ahead, regardless of how their actions affect others. It is, unfortunately, an attitude that can lead to much material, superficial and financial success – you know, all those shiny things that we want in our lives – and so it becomes an attractive way of life.

And that’s why adopting high-level values and doing the right thing is such a difficult thing to do. You might not get the fat bank balance. You probably won’t get to bang all the hot girls. And you likely won’t have such an easy, comfortable time of it.

Nevertheless, I still believe that it’s a positive practice to always question yourself and your actions – so that you can analyse whether you are really doing the right thing or whether there are some selfish motives lurking beneath the surface of your consciousness. I feel that if you want to surround yourself with the best, most genuine of people, then this is one big way to move forwards in that direction.

Of course, you have to strike a balance, because there are so many people who will – consciously or not – take advantage of another’s honest, charitable nature. “Doing the right thing” doesn’t mean that you should be permanently bent over and taking it up the arse from users and those looking to use you as a stepping stone. Saying “No” and recognising where to draw a line is just as important as doing right by others.

Bear in mind that this is just my viewpoint. It is not my intention to get preachy or encourage anybody to do as I do. I’m no master of doing the “right thing” all of the time, after all. I mess up constantly and always try to remind myself that I’m likely wrong or incredibly ignorant about most things. But pausing to question what I’m doing is one of the big things that I intend to keep working on going forwards.

 

New Year’s Resolutions are (still) bullshit

Almost a year ago now, I wrote about new year’s resolutions and why I believe that they are a waste of time. You can read that post HERE

It’s almost that time of year again: time to make your new year’s resolutions. Or not. It’s been nearly a year since I wrote my previous post on the fallacy of making resolutions for the upcoming year (see the link above), and I have to say that my opinion hasn’t changed. We’re still in December 2019 at the time of writing (December 17th to be precise) and I’m already hearing the rumbles of, “…that’s going to my new year’s resolution for 2020.”

newyearmeme-1

These people are, essentially, announcing that they will fail at upholding said resolutions. After all, if they haven’t got the resolve to quit something harmful RIGHT NOW, then their chances of succeeding in 2020 are slimmer than my chances of enjoying a threesome with Kate Upton and Kelly Brook. If they can’t stop doing something immediately, at the time of deciding on a resolution – because they need to get as many ‘hits’ of their particular vice(s) as possible between now and January 1st – then what realistic chance is there of suddenly ceasing in the new year and resisting for all of 2020 and beyond?

This aside, it’s also unrealistic to expect to quit something and be done with it forever. You ARE going to relapse. You ARE slip up. You ARE going to experience weakness and seek out a dosage of your chosen poison in order to satiate those insistent cravings. And as long as you are genuinely committed to changing and are tracking your progress, then there is no shame in this. It happens. If change or abstinance was as easy as making a resolution, clicking your fingers and suddenly being immune to temptation, then none of us would be facing our demons in the first place.

The problem with making a new year’s resolution is that, as soon as you slip up, you will feel like a complete failure. You were so firm about quitting whatever it was you wanted to be free of, and you proudly proclaimed your intentions to friends, family and co-workers. So when you stumble, and everybody sees it, the little set-back morphs into a major catastrophe. Friends might rib you for scoffing a chocolate bar – when you were supposed to be eating healthily – and, suddenly, your “failure” feels real and huge. You’ve failed so what’s the point in carrying on? May as well relapse back into your old ways because, evidently, you cannot succeed. There’s a monolithic neon sign, coated in flashing lights, hovering above your head that states: I HAVE FAILED. At least that’s what it feels like.

Perhaps you held out for the first few weeks of the new year or even a little while longer. Oh well, try again next January 1st, eh? Thing is, this isn’t how change works. Yes, you have to work hard at ditching bad habits and yes, you have to be truly committed to altering the aspects of your life that you aren’t happy with BUT faltering is part of the process. Pick yourself up and try again. Keep going. Analyse why you tripped up and learn from it. Were there any specific triggers or external influences that paved the way for your moment of weakness?

fall-1
An overused movie quote? 100%. Still absolute gold though.

New year’s resolutions are admirable in principle but I personally believe that they are actually counter-productive to genuine growth and change. They are an all-or-nothing desperado effort that place us under immense pressure to succeed or die trying. The new year takes on the form of a balls-hard level in one of those old-school arcade games that remorsely annihilated the player again and again, forcing them to keep feeding coins into the machine to continue playing. You are giving yourself one shot to hit that level and achieve a perfect run. Expecting to emerge victorious under such conditions is wishful thinking at best; downright foolish at worst.

And, unfortunately, this pressure we heap upon ourselves when setting our resolutions can make a small mistake feel like the absolute end. It exaggerates the reality of the situation and many will simply give up, telling themselves that they can’t do it.

Change is an ongoing, neverending process and you simply aren’t going to make it without faltering. As long as you are sincerely determined to get there and are legitimately trying, then there is no problem with “failing” every now and then. The only prerequisites I would add are:

  1. That you don’t use the inevitability of failure as an excuse or justification to intentionally plan a “day off” from your goal, purposely failing just so you can get a fix.
  2. That you learn from your slip-ups, analyse what went wrong and work on correcting behaviours or influences that may allow the same mistake to occur again.

And I can’t make a post about new year’s resolutions without mentioning those who announce their pledges via social media, purely because it’s a fashionable thing to do at this time of year, or because they want others to give them attention or ‘react’ to their status updates. Good luck with that.

If you’ve made it this far – and suffered through my waffle-y, poorly-structured post – then I’ll put you out of your misery reward you with the abridged version of the point I’m trying to make (the tl:dr edition, if you like). New year’s resolutions are bullshit because, if you are prepared to wait until a certain date to commence your efforts, then you aren’t serious about whatever it is. You don’t want it enough. Thus your chance of failure multiplies dramatically.

Don’t wait until January 1st. Start now.

 

Why does it always rain on me?

travis-1

Don’t worry; this isn’t a post where I’m about to head down the road of self-victimisation. It’s actually the total opposite!

I’m sure we’ve all been around that person, the kind of person that says…

“Why is it always me?”
“Knowing my luck…”
“Why do bad things keep happening to me?”
“It’s about time that I had some good luck.”
“Why can’t something good happen to me for once in my life?”

This kind of attitude never fails to grate on me and I have to bite my tongue whenever I’m around somebody who comes out with one of the above comments. To me, it’s just an incredibly self-centred, ignorant and blinkered perspective. I’m not saying that I’m always a super-duper positive soul that doesn’t get brought down by life. I have bad days on a frequent basis and I’ll get angry, morose and bitter about a great many things. I’m only a human being after all.

The thing is though, I’ll never shout up at the sky in frustration and ask, “why does this shit always happen to me?” I’ll never question why life keeps selecting me as the target for a slew of bad fortune. I’ll never demand to know why nothing good ever happens to me.

whyme-1

The thing is, there is no such thing as bad luck. Bad things are happening to us all the time, just as good things are always occuring in our lives. It’s a matter of perception. Some events are undoubtedly bad news – contracting a serious illness or experiencing the loss of a loved one, for example – but there are so many other, more minor things that can be perceived either way.

And there are many people who simply can’t help perceiving every little thing as ‘bad’. When somebody is constantly doing this, all of these ‘bad’ events stack up in their mind and can really affect their outlook on the day, their week or even their life. The irony is that so many things don’t even need to be interpreted as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They simply are. Why interpret rainy weather and getting wet as bad luck? It is just what it is. Sometimes it seems that people are actively seeking out ‘bad’ things to complain about.

It’s called self-victimisation and it makes people feel good. It makes them feel important and special because THEY are being singled out by life…apparently. And it’s easier to blame your “luck” rather that doing something about your problems, isn’t it? It’s so much easier to wallow in the comfort of your own self-cultivated misery, secure in the fact that you’re being kept down by everybody and everything else, and that there’s nothing you can do to turn things around in the face of such oppression.

Further up this post, I described this attitude as ignorant and blinkered because that’s exactly what it is. The entire “why is it always me?” outlook on life is massively flawed because, while something bad is happening to you, bad shit is also happening to millions of other people around the world at that exact same moment. Having a bad day at work? So are millions of others across the globe. Feeling under the weather for what seems like the umpteenth day in a row? Well, perhaps you should remember that thousands are being diagnosed with life-changing disabilities or terminal illnesses.

And here in the developed, western world, our problems and the things that we determine to be ‘bad’ are so trivial in the grand scheme of things. They are usually things that won’t bother us when we wake up the next day – things that can and will be forgotten. Certainly things that don’t deserve to be moaned about when our lives are paradise in contrast to the lives of others who are much less fortunate and live in extreme poverty or in dangerous, war-torn regions of the world. How do you think those people would view your complaint about it being “so unfair” that you missed out on that Black Friday deal?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “you make your own luck” and it really is true. If you’re blind to the good things in your life, because you’re so busy focusing on what’s wrong, then all you are doing is reinforcing – in your head – the notion that your life is rubbish…for no valid reason at all. You are perceiving your life as negative because you are only interested in seeing the bad things in order to maintain the victim narrative that you’ve created for yourself.

lucky-1

You forget that you actually woke up this morning and get to live another day.
You forget that you have your health.
You forget that you have family and friends (when so many people have nobody).
You forget that you have a job to go to (when others don’t and are struggling to pay their bills).
You forget that you don’t have to worry about having your house obliterated by an airstrike.
You forget that you have the luxury of being able to buy all of these material goods.

I don’t mean to come across as preachy but I think a vast majority of us are guilty of forgetting how great our lives really are. But maybe you still don’t think so and are STILL wondering when you are due some of that much-deserved good luck.

Well, let’s return to that phrase, shall we? “You make your own luck”. Many successful businesspeople will tell you that there is no such thing as luck. “Good” luck is simply the act of recognising opportunities and being bold enough to take them. And you don’t need to be all about business and financial gain to benefit from this insight. For example, you might look at that guy with the incredibly beautiful girlfriend/wife and think, “man, that is one lucky sonofabitch.” But was he really “lucky” or did he just recognise that there was an opportunity – sometime in the past – to get to know her better or ask her out on a date – an opportunity he was bold enough to take.

What I’m saying is that there is no mystical universal force flipping coins or rolling dice above our heads and determining what happens next in our lives. It is only us, choosing to perceive our situations in one way or another. It is only us recognising opportunities and taking them…or not. You are not being specifically targeted by life to receive misfortune.

More to the point, we need to be better at recognising what’s RIGHT in our lives and what we HAVE. That doesn’t mean that we should ignore the bad parts or pretend that the negativity doesn’t exist, but it does mean that we shouldn’t allow all of our attention to zero in on the shitty elements of life. We shouldn’t allow insignificant unpleasantries to be needlessly exaggerated in our mind’s eye.

And we certainly shouldn’t inflate our own sense of importance and believe that we alone – out of billions of people – are so special as to be on the receiving end of life’s attentions.

 

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong

If you’ve read this blog for a while, then you may be familiar with my posts on the subject of materialism. Unfortunately, it seems that I wasn’t completely sorted on my definition of materialism nor my use of terminology.

I’m not taking back anything that I’ve previously said on the burden of materialism, the fallacy of happiness being defined by material goods or the healthy practice of cutting down on materialism. All of that? I still stand by it. I still believe in it.

But I certainly put my foot in it when I accused my sister of being materialistic. I was being casual about it but she didn’t take it well and, initially, I couldn’t see what I’d said wrong. As it turned out, I’d got my terminology completely wrong. Y’see, she is easily advertised and sold to (by her own admission!) and can’t help spending, spending, spending on stuff that she really doesn’t need. Really, this is better described as consumerism.

From Collins:
“Consumerism is the belief that it is good to buy and use a lot of goods. “

Of course, you might still describe my sister’s actions as “materialism”…

From Collins:
Materialism is the attitude of someone who attaches a lot of importance to money and wants to possess a lot of material things.”

BUT, I specifically used the word “materialistTIC” and it slowly dawned on me that there might be some differences between “materialistic” and “materialism”…after being (angrily) informed by my sister of what it means to be materialistic. A great many of us are guilty of materialism after all, but a materialistic attitude is a bit different and not necessarily something that comes hand-in-hand with materialism itself.

She was upset by me describing her as materialistic because being materialistic is to put material items and possessions above people and experiences. By her own admissions, she can’t help spending money and buying excessive amounts of clothes and other stuff BUT she doesn’t put her stuff above the people in her life.

And I – of all people – should have known that.

But instead, I was an asshole, trying to throw about my “wisdom”.

So I was wrong, and that’s the big takeaway from this post. It’s important to be able to listen to the criticism of others and review your own actions/words. It’s okay to say, “you know what? I was wrong there.” But, unfortunately, it’s often much easier (and satisfying) to forge onwards and refuse to admit that you made a mistake; refuse to acknowledge that there is even the slightest outfield chance that you weren’t right.

Because we’re all wrong a LOT of the time. We just need to be open to this fact and be willing to take it on the chin.