Watch the last few minutes on a really good advice. How do you measure your life purpose?
Standing on the bottom step of the ramshackle porch outside my single-wide trailer, beer in one hand and cigarette in the other (side note: I quit smoking almost a decade ago), our conversation rambled from one topic to any number of unrelated others. It was me, my wife, and one of my good friends from college, who was in town to visit, and we were getting together at my place for a weekend of debauchery, which sounds much cooler than it really was. In reality, all we did was network our computers together to play first-person shooter games, drink cheap beer (since it was all we could afford at the time), and bond over the experience.
As the wind chill cut through the haze of smoke, I listened to my friend rattle off another story about what was happening back in the old college town, when suddenly, he stopped, mid-sentence, and said, “You know, Josh, I hate it when you do that.”
My mind was shaken off track, as I was taken aback by the sudden critique. “Hate what, exactly? What did I do?”
“You do it all the time,” he continued, “I can tell that you’ve checked out of the conversation and now, you’re thinking of the next thing you want to say.”
I was shocked and bewildered. “No I wasn’t,” I persisted!
“Yes, actually, you were,” he snapped back. “You get this glazed-over look in your eyes. Happens all the time, man.”
Still confused, I turned to my wife for support, only to be met with her nodding head and a quick, “Yep. He’s right. You do it all the time.”
Thinking of a quick comeback, I fired off the only thing I could muster, “If I do it all the time, why is this the first I’m hearing of it?”
My friend was the first to speak up, “Because whenever anyone criticizes you, you get all defensive. You’re kind of an a**hole, man.”
Ouch. That remark cut deep. Turning again to my wife, her head still nodded in agreement, as she remarked, “True story. You really are a jerk when criticized.”
For the remainder of the evening, their concerted attack on my identity was all I could think of. Had I really been like this all my life? If they knew, but didn’t want to tell me, how many other relationships had failed because of this? I decided that the next morning, I was going to find some answers, so I called the friend who had known me the longest, only to be met with the exact same reply.
This newfound truth rocked me to my core, and not in that hyperbolic hipster sort of exaggeration that is so prevalent in today’s social media. I was facing a side of me I never knew I had. From that point forward, I started paying more attention to the sound and tone of my words, particularly when being criticized, whether large or small, and sure enough, criticism was my trigger to turn from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde. And boy, was it ugly.
What I had experienced in this tale was opening myself up to what is called the blind spot. In communication studies, we frequently reference the Johari Window, a concept that suggests we have four areas of our identity: a public self that is known to ourselves and others, a private self known only to us, an unknown self that is neither open to the public nor us, and a “blind spot,” which is that which others know about us that we are not yet aware of ourselves.
A blind spot can be dangerous. A blind spot, as in my case, could be the potential cause for many a failed relationship. For the better part of my young adult life, I could not, for the life of me, figure out why I was driving people away after a certain and consistent amount of time in a relationship, but once I learned about my ego defensive tendencies, it all became clear. A blind spot is also dangerous because of its power over our subconscious behaviors, to the point where, as the blind spot is discovered, it could present a serious threat to one’s identity. If we are not flexible and resilient enough to face the impending change presented by learning of the blind spot, we may very well build up walls to keep others away.
Within the context of many of my communication courses, I have the following activity as an assignment in confronting potential blind spots:
Contact a close friend, family member, or mentor, but I suggest someone who knows you well, and invite this person to share a meal with you. During the meal, ask this person to share with you the one thing that annoys her or him most about you. Before the response, tell the person that nothing is off-limits and that you are not allowed to respond defensively–only to listen with an open heart and mind.
As you can imagine, this is a gut-wrenching, potentially life-altering exercise in self-awareness.
First of all, the other person is someone important in their lives, so the opinion matters a great deal, presenting a threat to the asker in the exercise, because, what if the other person reveals something earth-shattering? How might we see ourselves differently after that moment, knowing that something potentially serious bugs one of these people who matter most to us?
Second, not being allowed to defend oneself during the exercise opens the other person up to being more honest and forthright, but it also causes the asker to listen more deeply. Rather than listening and gathering information to use in a strategic defense of the ego, the asker must sit and dwell on the information, looking at it in terms of the other person, which is the core of empathic listening.
In the near-decade that I have been employing this exercise, I have heard a wide array of responses reported from people taking part in it, but never once have I heard someone come back from the activity with anything but a profound learning experience. Allowing others to shine a light on our blind spots, particularly with respect to our faults, teaches us how to become better conversationalists, better listeners, and ultimately, better people in general. What we learn about our blind spots may not always be pleasant, but it can open up a whole new world we never even knew existed.
A few months ago, I assigned this exercise to a class, and as always, I would never ask them to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, so I partook in the exercise as well. This time, I asked my two youngest children the question, on the drive home from school. They hesitated at first, but then they spoke, openly and comfortably with me:
From my seven-year-old son: It makes me sad when you yell at me, Dad. It makes me feel like you don’t love me anymore, and it makes me want to go hide in my room.
From my ten-year-old daughter: I don’t like it when you get mad at me, either. It hurts me and makes me cry. I don’t want to make you mad.
At that point, I couldn’t concentrate on the road, so I pulled the truck over, and on the side of road, unbuckled my seat belt so that I could hug them both, embracing them tightly. Swept up by a moment of pure clarity and raw openness, we starting crying, which then erupted into sobbing together for what felt like an eternity.
Slowly, as we calmed down, I pulled away so that I could see their faces. Wiping my eyes and theirs, I replied, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I had been yelling so much lately, and even though I get frustrated with you two at times, I don’t want you thinking I’m mad at you. I promise that I will do better.”
I could have told them that my yelling had a purpose.
I could have brought up all the fights they had, all the times they forgot their chores, all the things they’ve broken, and any of the other plethora of mistakes they’ve made.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I gave them their moment to vent.
Instead, I gave them the gift of listening without judgment.
I did this in an effort to teach my children humility through example, to show them that it is possible to hear others’ critique, absorb it, and then actually do something to change that which necessitates change out of a spirit moved by love.
But mainly, I did it because, as with the first time I confronted the demon in my blind spot, it wasn’t so much that I cared about what others thought of me, but how I saw myself reflected back.
A farmer grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon.
One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know?
The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbours grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbours grow good corn.”
So it is with our lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.
Call it power of collectivity.
Call it a principle of success.
Call it a law of life.
The fact is, none of us truly wins, until we all win!!
Once, a Junior School teacher asked her students to bring some potatoes in a plastic bag to school. Each potato will be given a name of the person whom that child hates. Like this, the number of potatoes will be equal to the number of persons they hate.
On a decided day, the children brought their potatoes well addressed. Some had two, some had three and some had even five potatoes.
Teacher said they have to carry potatoes with them everywhere they go for a week.
As the days passed the children started to complain about the spoiled smell of potatoes. Students who had many potatoes complained it was very heavy to carry.
Teacher asked, “How did you feel this one week?”
Children complained of smell & heavy weight of the potato.
Teacher said, “This is very similar to what you carry in heart when you don’t like some people.
Hatred makes heart unhealthy and you carry that hatred everywhere.
If you can’t bear the smell of spoiled potatoes for a week, imagine the impact on the heart that you carry throughout life.”
Heart is a beautiful garden that needs regular cleaning of unwanted weeds.
Forgive those who have angered you.
This makes room for storing good things..
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you…” he told them.
“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”
Written by Smita Malhotra, M.D.. Original post here.
These are eight lessons I want to teach my daughter. I have learned these through many mistakes, periods of introspection and learning in my life.
My hope for her is to live authentically, passionately and gracefully.
1. If someone hurts you, don’t take it personally
Chances are, they have been hurt themselves. In fact, never take anything personally. Don’t let compliments get to your head and don’t let criticism get you down. It is a known fact that most people can only give others what they have received themselves.
All your actions and words should come from a place of love. But not everyone will be loving back. And that is OK.
As Miguel Ruiz explained in his book The Four Agreements, when you do not take anything personally, you are in a place of liberation. You can interact with the world through the lens of an open heart, not having to worry about what others will say.
2. Keep a portion of what you earn for saving and another for giving back
Learn to see money as a tool with which you can achieve your greatest dreams. But it is also a tool that can be used to do tremendous good in the world. If you are blessed with a lot of money, do not waste this opportunity. Use it to change a social condition, to uplift a community and to inspire others.
Someone once gave me some great advice about money:
With every dollar that you earn, keep one third to spend, one third to save, and one third to give back to the world.
3. Live every day as if it was a Friday
Speaking of money, do not trade money for meaning in your life. Hopefully you will find a career that gives you meaning and all the money that you need. Finding meaning is the only way to live every day as if it was a Friday.
You cannot live your life just waiting for the weekend. Find something that excites you. As Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “Do not die with your music still inside of you.”
Your job in this life is to find your music and go about the business of sharing it with the world.
If you have not found your music yet, keep searching. Do one thing everyday that makes you happy. Make it a Friday, every single day.
4. You do not need anyone’s approval
The need for approval is like an addiction. If you base all your actions on the approval of others, ultimately you will sacrifice your own happiness. Don’t put the key to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. Learn how to say “no” to people and obligations that do not add value to your life.
Your time on this earth is precious. You must invest your time like you invest money. Invest in people and activities that uplift you. As the saying goes, “What you do today is important, because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”
5. In every tough situation, try kindness first
People may make ugly comments. The airline may lose your bags. Another driver may cut you off. These situations will happen everyday. How are you going to respond?
Although your first response like many others will be to get angry, why not try a different approach? Anger in these situations rarely solves problems. People are more likely to respond to kindness. And you can be kind and be firm.
Get your point across without sacrificing your integrity. It is the only response that you will not regret later. No matter how upset you are, always treat others with respect. You will be surprised at how much can be accomplished with kindness.
6. Do not complain unless you can suggest a solution
Do not be a constant complainer. No one likes that person. If you do not like your current situation, work towards changing it. But don’t sit and complain about it. Complaining will get you nowhere. In fact, it will only make others not want to be around you. Be someone that looks for the positive in every situation. And if you do find a problem, be someone that can suggest a solution.
You will never get to where you want to be by complaining about where you are now. Each step in your life is preparing you for the one that comes after it.
7. Learn to be present
While technology can be life-changing in many great ways, there is an aspect to technology that interferes with our relationships. Do not be so addicted to a screen that you miss enjoying real life happening in front of you. Learn to disconnect everyday.
Learn to slow down. Give people your full and un-divided attention. Do not seek mindless stimulation on a screen and learn to make real human connections.
8. Don’t let the world make you bitter
The world can be a difficult place. You may experience suffering, heartbreak or the loss of a loved one. All of these things can take a toll on your soul. But do not lose hope.
Think about the Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy, which states that opposite forces are often interconnected. In suffering, you can find great strength, in heartbreak you can find resilience and in loss you can find a renewed appreciation for life.
Life comes with Yin and Yang. The two opposites are interdependent and interconnected. And you do not need to be afraid. In every difficult situation, you are being tested. If you become bitter and angry, you have lost.
Stop to notice each flower, each weed that is breaking through the cement to find the sun and each butterfly that has found it’s wings. Learn to see the beauty around you.
Iaian Thomas wrote:
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still know it to be a beautiful place.
Keep your sweetness. Be soft. And know that the world is a beautiful place. Always.