Nothing, and I mean nothing, works for everyone

Be certain only for yourself, not for others. Yes the world would probably be better if everyone believed the same as you but that is not because of what you believe but because it's the conflict between beliefs that causes suffering. Don't help create that suffering by believing things to be true for others.

If you are good with a hammer you may treat everything as if it were a nail

We tend to rely on what we are good at and yet sometimes that is not the best approach and we need to venture into areas where we are less competent. There are many first rate business people who find that business skills are not much appreciated by their family. There are many deep thinking people who leave it too late when speedy decisions are required. Many a good giver of dinner parties has lost a lot of money when trying to run a restaurant.

Sometimes our best skill is not the most appropriate one for a particular situation. 

You cannot not communicate

There is a big difference between talking and communicating. You can certainly choose not to talk but that's a communication. You can smile, frown, opt out, opt in, be neutral, show prejudice, not return a call, turn your head away, they are all communications. Not communicating isn't an option.

Since you are going to communicate anyway why not take charge of the process and take responsibility for all your communications. Express yourself, verbally or non verbally to the best effect and in the best interests of everyone involved, particularly yourself.

What you think of me is none of my business

We cannot control how other people react to us and our response to them is a good measure of our personal freedom. If we are over concerned about being liked we are choosing to be trapped in a world made by others.

Very few people will see you as you want to be seen and the differences are almost always about them and hardly ever about you. It's largely outside your control how people see you. Your job is to be you and allow others deal with being themselves, including the views they have about you.

Just because someone asks you a question does not mean you have to answer it

I guess we all know that is true but how often do we act that way?
Here are some other examples:-

Just because someone asks you to do something - does not mean you have to do it.

Just because someone asks you to contribute - does not mean you have to give them money.

Just because someone asks to borrow something - does not mean you have to lend it to them.

Who runs your life, you or other people? 

Don't try to be perfect

Two good reasons:-

1. If you get there it leaves you nowhere to go next.

2. You will make those around you feel inadequate.

There are no justified resentments

At the simplest level resentment damages the person who holds it more than the person towards whom it is felt. Not a smart move.

There is a Chinese proverb which says,

"If you're going to pursue revenge you'd better dig two graves".

Not all problems can be solved

But that doesn't mean we can't improve things. One of the signs of flexible approach to life is a willingness to accept partial solutions to problems that can't be solved in their entirety. So when you're faced with something you feel you have to accept don't stop looking for areas where you can still make improvements.

A week of making a difference

Each day for a week take one action outside of your normal routine that will give someone else an unexpected benefit.

Pay someone a genuine compliment about something you would not usually mention.

Give someone a small gift for no particular reason other than you feel they deserve it.

Reach out with a reassuring touch or even a hug when the are having a difficult time.

Most important, at the end of each day write down what you did and the response you got back. After seven days take some quiet time to review your list and think about the difference you have made to others and how it has left you feeling. This is an exercise that's meant to be fun. If it feels like a burden then don't do it.

Fixing process or outcome

In general you can't fix both process and outcome but a lot of people, myself included, waste a lot of their life trying to do this. If you want to fix the outcome e.g. an athletic achievement, a house purchase, a relationship goal, you will usually have to develop flexibility in your approach in order to get where you want to be.

If you want to fix a process e.g. the way you react to people, a set approach to business then you can expect to experience variable outcomes.
There is no "right answer" here, just a need to select an appropriate process or outcome and waste time trying to force the way things are into a mould of your making.

Carrying the raft

A traveller comes across a swollen river that he needs to cross but the current is too strong for swimming. He builds a raft that carries him safely over. On arrival at the far bank he picks up the raft and carries it on his back for the rest of his life in case he has to cross another swollen river.

Let's look to see what we are still doing that served us once but is no longer appropriate and yet we hang on to "just in case". The way we had of dealing with a childhood fear which we still practice although the fear, and our childhood, are gone. The attitudes we had when we were poor which we no longer need now we are more financially comfortable, or perhaps the reverse now we have met harder times.

Don't do it then

A woman goes to see the Doctor, lifts up her right arm and says, "Every time I do that it hurts". The Doctor replies "So don't do it then" (Tommy Cooper)

Old joke, bad medical advice, but consider the following:-

Every time I drink too much I feel terrible the next morning:-
So don't do it then.

Whenever I think about my divorce I get very upset and cry:-
So don't do it then.

Each time we talk about your mother it ends up in a row:-
So don't do it then.

Fill in our own examples. Not all of life's problems can be solved this way but some can, it can be that simple, sometimes.

Falling in a hole

A woman is out for a walk when she falls into a deep hole from which there appears to be no way out. She cries out for help and a passing academic leans over and offers her advice on how to avoid such holes in future.

Later a religious leader hears her cries and suggests she thinks about the true meaning of her predicament and says that there is a being somewhere who cares about her. Subsequently a therapist responds with an offer to help her explore how she allowed herself to get into this situation. Various other professionals offer advice as the woman sinks into deeper despair.

Lastly a friend comes by, realises what has happened and jumps into the hole with her. The woman is pleased to have the company but also wonders why her friend has put herself in the same situation. The friend replies "I have been in this hole before, I know the way out"

I am not suggesting the professionals cannot also be friends but often they are not. True empathy can involve more than listening or advice. Friendship requires someone who is willing to start from where you are rather than from where they are and who is willing, and able, to travel the road with you.

My English teacher

When I was 12 there was in my class a boy who was very badly behaved. One day, after his lesson had been disrupted several times our much respected English teacher lost his temper and to the shock of the rest of the class hit this boy several times before sending him to the Headmaster for the cane (this was many years ago). We talked of little else that day.

The next day our English teacher came into the class and publicly apologised both to the boy and to the rest of my class for his loss of temper and for hitting out. We talked of little else that week.

This is one of the best lessons in my life. This teacher taught me many things but, unknown to him, this was his best lesson as far as I was concerned.

1. When you are wrong you need to acknowledge it and apologise.
2. You can grow in the eyes of others by how you handle your failures.
3. You never know what it is that you do which makes the difference.

The two wolves

After the 9/11 attack a man was heard to say to his son "I feel like I have two wolves fighting inside me, one is angry and full of vengance while the other is still determined to be gentle and loving." "Which one will win?" asked the son, "Whichever one I choose to feed" replied his father.

Feelings, good or bad, don't survive without care and attention and it's our choice as to which ones we feed when we feel a conflict within us. In the end the negative feelings tend to feed on us but the positive feelings tend to feed us.

If I only had one hour to live and one call to make, who would I phone, what would I say, and why am I waiting?

None of us lives forever and none of us can know when our time will come. So if there is something that needs to be said, particularly if it is loving and supportive. Then say it. NOW! 
The partner, parent, child, brother, sister, towards whom you have loving feelings you have not expressed for a while...just tell them...why are you waiting?

How could I see this differently?

Perspective changes experience! Problems viewed when we have slept well can feel very different from when we are tired. We have choice over how we see things and it pays to look at situations from a number of different perspectives, even if, at first, we have to play 'make believe.'

Is this important or is it just urgent?

It's very easy to confuse important with urgent and the result can be that we spend most of our time dealing with things that are urgent and rarely get to the things that are important. Sometimes those close to us, important people, suffer because we are taken up with 'urgent' trivia.

An alternative question we could ask is:

"What would happen if I did not do this thing I think of as urgent and instead did something I consider important?

"Can I live with the consequences of this decision"?

What do you want? : How can I help?

The first question is about clarity, both for ourselves and for others. Once we are clear on what we want, our chances of getting it are greatly increased and yet sometimes it is so hard to be specific. We are usually more clear on what we don't want or find we just want to feel differently about something or somebody. It is good to recognise this is about our internal state and that therefore it makes more sense to seek internal change than to look outside for things to be different. (see Stories No 16)

The second question is a great one to ask others. It makes no suggestions, offers no solutions but simply states our willingness to be there and be of assistance. It is not an offer to be made lightly and sometimes the fact that we offered is enough in itself.

What's different about the good times?

Here is an interesting exercise. Write down five good times in your life (or less bad times for those of you who don't yet view life in positive terms) and look to see what, if anything, they have in common. Whatever shows up you might consider trying to get more of in the future.

Who can put you down?

Well, almost anyone, its a hazard of being human. People who think badly of themselves inside often try to boost their fragile egos by trying to put others down. It's good to remember when it happens, that it says far more about the person doing it than it does about you. 

There's a difference between being put down and feeling put down, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"

Who or what is on your "LTS" list?

Since our time here is limited it's worth having a "Life's too short" list of things and people we can best do without.
Here are some thought starters:-

Life's too short to do things that don't make you feel good.

Life's too short to be in places you don't feel comfortable in.

Life's too short to be with people whose company you don't enjoy.

Why not use these ideas to draw up a list of things and people you really don't have time for, and then act on it.

What is commitment?

We have probably all had the experience of promising something in the heat of the moment. New Year resolutions are a good example, but that's not commitment.
Here's a good definition:-

 "Commitment is still doing something long after the emotion which caused you to start has faded."

What gets remembered?

In the long term few people are going to remember what you did, even less people will remember what you said. Everyone will remember how you made them feel.

So in a world of plans and objectives, in a world of financial and business achievements, in a world of competitive education, in whatever world you inhabit, just notice first how people feel when they are with you, that's your real legacy.

Does this free me or restrict me?

Personal freedom is not important to some people but for those to whom it has a high priority this is a good question to ask, particularly about relationships and possessions.

Most things do both, e.g. a vehicle gives freedom but also demands financial resources and maintenance, so perhaps the true question is "Does this give more than it demands?"

It's particularly relevant when looking at the relationships is your life, either existing or proposed. Make a list of say five people in your life and ask if the balance works for you.

Assumptions are like termites

Assumptions are like termites, unchallenged they can erode your foundations.

Think for a moment about the inaccurate assumptions other people make about you. Here are a couple of examples:-

"You always seem so calm"...(Like a duck, underneath I'm paddling furiously and it's hard work.)

"You don't contribute"...(Actually I do but you just don't notice.)

Now turn this around and list some assumptions you make about other people, particularly those close to you. Make the assumptions into questions and check then out with the person involved:-

"Do you always feel as calm as you seem on the outside?"

"Do you feel your contributions are acknowledged and appreciated?"

It's interesting how it's easy it is to feel misunderstood and how it's more difficult to to think we might misunderstand.

Using "and" or "but"

This isn't and English lesson but a simple way to improve communcation and change experience.

"But" shows an exception to a rule, e.g. "I love vegetables but I don't like beetroot". Beetroot is the exception to my love of vegetables.

"And" shows two things can be true at the same time; e.g. "I enjoy running but sometimes I like to stay in bed a bit longer". My preference for a lie in does not make me enjoy running less.
Lesson over. Here's where it gets interesting.

"I love you but sometimes you make me angry"

"I love you and sometimes you make me angry"

The first suggests, perhaps unconsciously, that when I'm angry I don't love you. The second suggests I always love you and sometimes I'm angry.

Today notice when you use each word and just check it's appropriate. The change might make a difference.

© 2019 David Mills