How To Develop More Intelligent Self-Interest

“One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self. In brief, this is dharma. Anything else is succumbing to desire.”

— MAHĀBHĀRATA 13.114.8 (CRITICAL EDITION)

It’s ironic that the fictional character Joey from friends, who everyone laughed at for being a bit slow, was also the character to come out with one of the most profound statements of the entire show when he argued with Phoebe that,

“There is no such thing as a truly self-less good deed.”

I agree with him.

Whether you’d care to admit it almost every action we make is motivated on some level by selfish intent. Even a charitable act is motivated on some level by your desire to feel good.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with this – in fact, quite the opposite – it’s just something to be aware of. After all, if we weren’t motivated on some level by a desire to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad, then why would we do anything? We need something to motivate us. For that reason there has to be an element of self-interest behind our actions.

Anyway, why do I bring this up?

I heard the expression intelligent self-interest mentioned on a podcast a while back. This got me thinking about what this means and how we can make our self-interests more intelligent.

When I dug a little deeper I came to understand, although they are described/defined somewhat differently by various articles on the subject we can, broadly speaking, look at self-interest on three different levels.

Those are unintelligent (or stupid as I like to think of it), intelligent and enlightened self-interest.

This post is going to define each and look at how we can cultivate the latter two.


What is unintelligent self-interest?

Unintelligent self-interest is the personal interest of an individual that, if pursued, hurts others and/or themselves.

Some obvious examples of unintelligent-interest include binge watching NETFLIX, drug abuse, smoking, mindlessly scrolling on social media, etc. 

You know, all the things you shouldn’t be doing that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. (All the things I’ve done before, and in some cases still do…)

These are unintelligent forms of self interest because they satisfy a desire at the expense of our longer term health and happiness. 

We also tend to think because I’m only doing these things to myself that’s ok. I’m not hurting anyone else. 

But that’s wrong. 

What hurts you ultimately hurts others. By not working to resolve past trauma or avoiding negative emotions instead of doing what you ought to, you can trust me when I tell you this, not only does this hurt yourself it also hurts those around you. 

How then can we make our self-interests more intelligent and what does it mean?


What is intelligent self interest?

Intelligent self-interest is still about acting in ways that suit you, however, it also considers the ways in which it helps others.

It is about thinking of the other person while acting for yourself, i.e. you’re not acting without regard for others.

Some obvious examples of intelligent self-interest include meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, plentiful sleep, etc.

You know, all the things you should do that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. 

These are intelligent forms of self interest because you’re acting in a way that not only benefits your own longer term health and happiness, it also benefits others.

After all, a happier and healthier you is a happier and healthier world. Further, you cannot look after others without first looking after yourself.

One of the problems that proponents of such activities have is the way in which they frame their motivations. They talk on and on about the benefits they have for you. How meditation, exercise and a balanced diet helps you

Often they over emphasise the benefits these activities have for you without considering the larger reasons beyond the immediate. 

If you want to make mediation a habit, as an example, it’s far better to consider how taking the time to cultivate mindfulness is of benefit to your family and friends, as well as yourself. 

One way to do this is by asking yourself the following question:

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

I believe one of the major reasons our motivations stall is because we don’t feel we’re good enough (fear) and so give up far too easily. This is a problem many of us have when focusing solely on ourselves. If you take the focus away from yourself and instead remind yourself of the other people in your life for whom you’re doing these things (love), you’re far more likely to stick with it.

At least I know I am.

Instead of beating ourselves up for not being good enough and metaphorically whipping ourselves to do something about it, why not focus on feeling good about doing the things that ultimately help others too?

It’s a win win.

This brings us to the final level on the self-interest scale that I made up. The question I have is how can we act in enlightened self-interest that helps others? How can we see that helping others does in fact help ourselves? Let’s first explore what it means.


What is enlightened self-interest?

Enlightened self-interest is acting for others without expecting anything in return.

Some obvious examples of enlightened self-interest include donating to charity, volunteer work, saving someones life, etc.

You know, all the things every blogger and his dog probably should be going on about everyday but don’t.

These are acts done from the goodness of ones hearts. They aren’t done in expectation of gaining anything personally. 

I would make a point that this is very different to acting out of a sense of responsibility or obligation – because you think it’s the right thing to do. 

It’s far deeper than that. 

Enlightened self-interest understands that although no obvious attributable gain for oneself has been made, a bit like the beautiful philosophical idea of karma, what comes around goes around.

People who act in enlightened self-interest understand we are all part of the same world. That by hurting another you’re ultimately hurting yourself.

This is why it’s heavily related to the Golden rule: To treat others as you would like others to treat you.

Or, to put it as a question, one can ask themselves,

How would I want others to help me if I were in their position?

This isn’t rocket science of course.

If you look deeply enough, you’ll find how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness to others extends inwards as well as out. The same is as true for anger or hatred. You give fuel to those feelings within yourself by acting on them. 

Enlightened self-interests come about as a by-product of truly wanting to help this world, as you would like it to be for you. By thinking in terms of how your actions will affect others we can, bit by bit, develop enlightened self-interest naturally. It’s simply a matter of acting in the interests of your heart. 

(As always I welcome ALL comments and ideas on this blog. If you have anything to add or any other suggestions about how develop more intelligent self-interest I’d love to hear from you in the comments sections below)


SOURCES:

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/unselfish-act.htm

https://hbr.org/1989/05/how-selfish-are-people-really

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JULY 2020 – The Importance Of Crying, The Dangers Of Hoping, My Worst Landing As A Pilot and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter. Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus some closing thoughts from this month. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

This post challenges the narrative that only girls should cry and why we need to stop telling our young boys that men don’t. It goes further to talk about the harmful narratives partially responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I hope you can join the debate and be part of the change in narrative we need.

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

This follows on from the above post. It gives a few of my thoughts about why we need to be careful with what we tell ALL our children and how we, as parents, can manage the evolution of feminism more mindfully. As I stated,

“There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move.” 

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person

The following is a personal story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from. That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person. If anyone has suffered from depression, anxiety or PTSD, it also tells the story of how I overcame some of these personal struggles.

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

A rather one sided piece designed to challenge our perception of hope as an emotion. I believe that if hope doesn’t inspire action it can actually do more harm than good. Of course you have to take this one with a pinch of salt, but much of what I have to say is about challenging ideas and beliefs – not changing them. Even if I don’t completely agree with the argument, I still want to write ideas in such a way they start a dialogue/debate. I hope (ha) you enjoy.

The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

Can you guess what that is? This post gives my thoughts on how one might better approach a conversation. This was actually my most popular post of the month. Hope you enjoy it too!

A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life

The CLEAR model is an easy-to-use, structured approach designed for problem solving on the flight deck of an aeroplane. Thought I’d share it with you lovely readers and apply it to problem solving – specifically dealing with depression and anxiety – in everyday life. Had a lot of fun writing this one.

If Honesty Isn’t The Value We Look For In Our Leaders Then What Does That Say About Us?

I’m not sure whether I want my blog to be overtly political or not, but with everything going on I decided to vent some frustrations. I mean for most of my words to come from the heart but this one is very much from the gut. I remember feeling angry as I wrote this and decided to go with it. I actually wrote it back in early June following the death of George Floyd but was hesitant to post it then. In the end I decided it’s that very awkwardness we all need to be confronting more regularly. At any rate, I think it brings up a very good point about the need to look for honesty in our leaders.

The Simplest, Most Effective Way To Overcome Writer’s Block

A fun little post to finish. This one’s a doozy. Hope you enjoy.

Motivational Mondays

My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

So I decided to purchase this e-course called Blogging Bootcamp from the genius behind The Art Of Blogging. To say this was money well spent is a massive understatement. If you want to further your blog, be a better writer and grow as an all round human being, Cristian’s blogging bootcamp has it all and then some. I highly recommend anyone remotely interested in being a better blogging to sign up. I promise you won’t regret it.


WHAT I’VE LEARNT:

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about the time we’re living in? Why I’m so optimistic? It’s because change is happening. Change that is necessary to ensure we don’t go back to what normal was because normal has stopped working. I believe we are about to embark on the great global revolution of our time.

COVID has been one almighty wakeup call but this is just the beginning. Look at how united and politically involved the younger generations are! The change that is coming is inevitable. It’s no longer a debate. We ALL need to change our ways and the way we think about each other. We need to stop thinking as individuals and start thinking as a collective.

As sure as shit one person can eat a bat in a wet market and bring the world to its knees, you best believe that every single thing you do matters. Every single moment, every single action you take has a ripple effect that extents far beyond your immediate self. We are more interconnected than ever before. This isn’t a bad thing provided we can see how hurting another ultimately hurts ourselves. Provided we can see how important and precious each moment on this earth is.

I believe we are nothing if not the people before us and we will be for nothing if we don’t fight for those who come after us. There’s still an almighty storm to weather but together I strongly believe we can get through it. If you don’t want to sink you need to be on the ship.

Thank you for reading guys and gals. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I’m very interested in having my beliefs and thoughts challenged so I can grow as a person. If you want to stroke my ego I won’t object either of course… Love to all. X

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

Following on from my previous post – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do – I want to talk a little more about how that relates to feminism.

I feel we need to be very careful about what we tell ALL children, including our young girls. To make sure the false narratives that have so visibly divided the sexes throughout history, doesn’t continue to be the narrative that writes our children’s future.  

It’s a well worn discussion that bears repeating, and for that reason I’ll keep my thoughts and this post short. That said I do want to raise a point that’s maybe been missed in our attempts to rewrite the story for our future girls. 

With regards to the feminist movement in particular, we need to be especially careful about how we manage its evolution. 

When I think about the way in which mainstream media has started to reflect this changing narrative, I wonder if we are unwittingly going down a dangerous path. 

Not because we are telling young girls to stand up for themselves more. 

Not because we are telling women they’re every bit as capable as men. 

Not because we are telling them to be their own heroines – not to expect that they will be saved by some bullshit knight in shining armour.

No!

These are undeniably good things to teach our young girls in order to find greater equality going forward. 

What I’m taking about is something more subtle.

The well worn narrative of what it means to be a man – macho and independent – to not need anybody’s help. Specifically that asking for help is a sign of weakness (Something I talked about at length in my previous post).

This is exactly the kind of narrative responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. For the undeniable fact that us ‘macho men’ are actually less emotionally resilient than women.

I think it’s this narrative that has put distance between many of today’s male leaders and their own hearts. It’s acting in the pretence of what society believes to be strong that is, in no small way, dividing nations and destroying our earth.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move. 

The way we teach girls to have greater emotional intelligence. To pick them up and hold them when they cry. To let them understand the importance of knowing their emotions intimately. 

This is a great thing. 

We need to teach and show our boys more of this. Not women less. 

To teach them not to cry and be like a man, or grow a pair, so to speak, would be a disaster. 

A world in which neither sex is able to properly process or access their own emotions – where girls are told ‘not to cry’ – is a world we cannot allow. 

We must stop denying our children their true nature.

(As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts. I’m always keen for a dialogue and to be told where and in what ways I’m wrong so I may grow. Thank for taking the time to read.)


SOURCES:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190313-why-more-men-kill-themselves-than-women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035568/

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 brilliant thoughts from me, 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have made me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my 2 regular readers: you’ll notice I’m playing around with the title to see what works best to attract more readers. If you have any ideas about a good title for this weekly post please do leave them in the comments at the bottom. I’d be grateful for your suggestions.)


4 x Brilliant Thoughts From Me:

Why it’s helpful to think you’re not a good person: A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You believe you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person. We should drop the notion of what we think it means to be a good person. The way I look there is no such thing. You’re either trying to be a better person or you’re not. Don’t try to be a “good person.” Just try to be better one.

We are nothing if not all those who came before us. We will be nothing if we don’t act for those who come after. A better tomorrow has to be the spirit by which we all live.

Just remember when you think you hold the moral high ground, that even Hitler thought he was doing the right thing. 

A deliberately easy life makes us unhappy because it makes us bad at dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties, however small. Conversely a deliberately difficult life makes us happy because it builds emotional resilience. It also teaches us appreciate and enjoy the everyday most take for granted. 


3 x Admittedly Better Quotes From Others:

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis 

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ― C.G. Jung

“The fact that we are connected through space and time shows that life is a unitary phenomenon, no matter how we express that fact.” – the great evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis


2 x Things I’ve Been Listening to &/Or Reading This Week:

1 – This brilliant Happiness Lab podcast episode: How to Be a Better Ally with Dr. Laurie Santos. In this final episode of season 2, Dr Laurie Santos examines why we are often so reluctant to act against the bigotry and injustice we claim to be against, and ‘how we can match our moral beliefs with concrete action.’ (Featuring James Barr and Dan Hudson, co-hosts of the podcast ‘A Gay and a Non-Gay.’)

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Why do well intentioned people who believe in the good often do nothing? How can we deal with these parts of psychology so we can overcome our insecurities over acting? 
  • Any comment however awkward is better than silence. 
  • Beliefs do nothing by themselves. 
  • You’re meant to feel awkward – if you’re standing up for marginalised groups of people and you’re afraid of getting for saying the wrong things. Maybe feeling awkward- putting yourselves in those awkward positions and having those awkward conversations means you’re doing the right thing. 
  • We need to accept we are not good people yet. We need to aim for being slightly better (slightly less horrible) human beings. 
  • It’s actually a higher standard. By never assuming you are good you are always looking for how you can be better. By admitting you’re not a good person you can understand where your blind spots are and work on fixing them.
  • When you’re in a fixed mindset and you make a mistake research shows we actually shut down and withdraw from the mistake. It’s a state of non learning. This is because we don’t believe we can change or get better. We are who we are so why bother trying to learn and change. 
  • To become better allies we need to switch to having a growth mindset
  • Simple three letter word for developing growth mindset:  YET 
  • I’m not a good person yet but I can be if I put in some work. 
  • Reminding ourselves of our capacity for growth can have a profound effect on our willingness to engage in difficult social situations. To own up to our mistakes and our motivation to become better people. It helps us break through the discomforts that come with trying to be an ally. 
  • It’s morally wrong to leave the burden to speak out with only the marginalised groups. Science shows that it’s more effective when some one whose not from the marginalised group points out bigotry. 
  • We have far more influence than we realise. A study found that a white person speaking out against racism was looked at more positively than a black persons using the exact same words. The recipient also showed more willingness to apologise and make amends if it was a white person who had spoken out against them. 
  • We need to use our white privilege to end white privilege.
  • If I’ve learnt one thing from BLM movement its that silence means death.
  • Not everyone has to or can be on the front line but everyone needs to get off the sidelines. 
  • If Nelson Mandela -A political prisoner of one of the most racist regimes of the second half of the 20th century – can become its leader, than anything and everything is possible. 

2 – This New York Times Article titled, ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ Is Really a Thing about how children’s behaviour may suffer from lack of access to outdoor space, a problem heightened by the pandemic. The following quotes are taken from the article:

“Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” – Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

Ming Kuo, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois who studies urban greening, said parents, like Shore, have described how their children are “completely different” when they have access to green space. Dr. Kuo’s research has shown that access to green space decreases aggression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms, and boosts the immune system. But she also was quick to point out an unequal access to green spaces across socioeconomic and racial lines.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I went to see a Physio this week about a recurring back problem I’ve been having.

He asked me to take my top off and stand directly opposite him so he could examine any imbalances.

Comparing my triceps he commented, “You’re seriously right handed.”

We were in ear shot of a couple of good looking ladies working out in their gym.

I tried to think of something witty to say.

“Let’s not jump to any conclusions about why that is,” I replied.

While smirking I continued, “I hold my boy with that arm.”

The physio laughed.

The girls did not…


Till next week,

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One Bonus question for you all:

What do you like to hold in your arm?


PREVIOUS HAPPY MONDAY POSTS:

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JUNE 2020 – On The Value Of Honesty, How To Move Like A Winner, The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! 

Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus a collection of thoughts from my journal. 

I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

A Story For My Children About The Value Of Honesty, Love And Forgiveness

A letter I wrote to my son, 2 years ago now, before he was born. It shares a difficult life story demonstrating why I believe honesty to be such an important value. I posted it as a reminder after finding out my gorgeous wife is pregnant with our second. Although it’s addressed to the first this letter is for both of them. I also hope the rest of you lovely readers might gain something from what was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn…

The Ultimate Form Of Taking Responsibility

Inspired by the following quote: “Enthusiasm is worth 25 IQ points” from Kevin Kelly‘s viral post ‘68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice.’ As I wrote, “We don’t alway get to do what we want to or, indeed, choose what life has in store for us. But if we make out that these things are what we wanted. That the struggle we find ourself in is what was meant for us, so we can learn and grow into the resilient mother fucker we were meant to be. Well, I suspect that such an attitude might just be the ultimate form of taking responsibility for your life.”

Move Like A Turtle, Move Like A Winner

Been experimenting a little on the blog this month. This is one example of a short post I had a bit of fun with.

An Apology To My Heart

Another short/experimental post inspired by my struggle with depression in the past.

People As Mirrors

A post inspired by my reading of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it I explore the idea of viewing people as mirrors and how that can help us reflect the best in each other.

What Does It Take To Find Inner Peace?

Another short ramble from yours truly.

Happy F***ing Mondays

A new weekly newsletter I’ve started putting together in an attempt to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. It contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to during the week. It finishes with something silly to hopefully make you lovely readers smile. 

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is Every Step is a beautifully written book on the power of living mindfully, being fully engaged with the present moment. Whether sitting at traffic lights, eating, sitting, or washing the dishes, Nhat Hanh demonstrates that peace and happiness is available to us at any time. He provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. It’s the second time I’ve read this book. I’m currently in the process of turning my notes into the subject of a future favourite toilet book post. Stay tuned!

This BBC article: A letter to our newborn American daughter.

Written by a foreign correspondent living in New York for his newborn daughter in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. It resonated with me for a number of reasons, in particular when thinking about the future our children will inherit from us. As he summarised, “It’s not your job to fix the world’s problems for us, it’s our urgent responsibility to fix them for you.” I hope we can all heed this message.


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM MY JOURNAL:

Why parenting is good for you: You become comfortable covered in piss and shit. 

Every human mind should come with a warning label: Easily Infected With Bullshit 

When thinking in terms of being right you’ve lost. When thinking in terms of trying to be better you’re a winner. This is true regardless of the outcome. 

Forcing your views on others doesn’t make them right. 

Let’s not say we don’t believe in god because of science and then only choose to acknowledge the science that suits us. The truth is what matters, not your beliefs.

People reflect the world that surrounds them. They often act like mirrors. If the world stops paying attention to them they lose interest in it. If it treats them harshly they act out in anger. Pay attention to all those you encounter. They deserve it. Treat all with love and compassion. They need it. We all do.

Forget to-do lists. Make a get to-do list instead. 

The change the world needs from you is for you to change. Not for you to change the world. 

What if instead of asking our children, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’, we asked, ‘How do you want to help the world when you’re older?’.

The arguments you have in your head are pointless if you only have them with yourself. Speak up or let go.

There is a lesson for us in acceptance every time it rains. 

Sometimes you can stand in the rain, and be bathed in sunlight all the same. 

Laughing at someone else shows your own insecurity. Conversely laughing at yourself demonstrates confidence. 

Isn’t it funny how the most judgemental people are also the ones least capable of laughing at themselves?

One of the best ways to honour life is to love your own. 

A good time is worth far more than any material possession. 

What happened in the past no longer matters because it’s already done. What matters is that we make amends for our past in the present moment for the future world. 

Don’t allow the world to make you “normal.” You’re better than that. Trying to be “normal” like everyone else requires far too much effort anyway. Your natural self is far more interesting. Let him/her free instead.

If you want to be an expert at something it’s best never to consider yourself one. That way you’ll always be open to learning and growing. 

Why we need to give ourselves real problems – if you don’t have any real problems your mind will create them. Those problems – the ones created by the mind. They’re the hardest to solve. Give yourself real problems – to help others and the world at large – and your mind won’t be concerned with creating problems for itself. 

A good person implies something black or white. You either are or you aren’t. This fixes your mindset. You belief you’re a good person and go at lengths to avoid being proven otherwise. You also become defensive about that belief. You feel threatened whenever this comes into question and so avoid any sort of discussion or activity that might call that into question. You avoid the very conversations you need to hear so you may become a better person.

There’s always light at the end of a tunnel. Remember that when it’s at its darkest. 

A Story For My Children About The Value Of Honesty, Love And Forgiveness

The following is a letter I wrote to my son two years ago, shortly before he was born. I thought I’d share the story this Father’s Day in the hope others might also gain something from what was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. For a number a reasons I also wanted to remind myself of the importance being honest has in holding all of us accountable. To remind myself to be honest, not only with myself, but my family too. The major reason is my most gorgeous wife is pregnant with our second child. This letter is for both of them. Before I continue I’d also like to acknowledge my own father whose love and forgiveness has helped save me from the brink on more than one occasion, including this example. To him and everybody else, have a very Happy Father’s Day! I hope you all enjoy reading. This one is truly from the heart…


Dearest Son,

I am writing this letter with the purest joy in my heart as we anticipate your arrival into the world. Your mother and I can’t wait. We love you and will continue to do so indefinitely…

I’ve decided to write this letter in an attempt to work out exactly what kind of role model I want to be for you going forward. Of course much of I what I’m saying won’t make any sense for a long time. And in truth I’ve written this for my own benefit as much as yours, so that I may better become the father I want to be for you. The father I need to be. That said I hope that one day you’ll find some strength in these words – that by defining some clear values to follow they can serve as a moral compass for when life becomes more difficult. If nothing else when you do come to read this perhaps you’ll understand that your mother and I have only ever wanted the very best for you.

I should say much of what I’ve written is a critical analysis of my life. A reflection on the mistakes I’ve made in the hope that by highlighting some of them, you may avoid the same pitfalls. Of course struggle is a necessary part of life. We often have to make the mistakes in order to learn from them and my hope is not that you avoid the same ones. That is unrealistic. I only wish that you work things out a little quicker than I did and that you never allow your problems to consume you as I have. Hopefully these words will help.

Given the colossal number of mistakes your father has made, I have a great deal I want to share. For that reason I’m going to split this into a series of letters covering twelve values that I hold close to my heart. Twelve values that I wish to honour you by and help raise you with.

For this first letter I felt it appropriate to start with my feelings about honesty and why I believe it’s so important. Honesty, like all the values I plan to cover, is still very much a work in progress for me because the truth is, I still have a great deal to work through. For now, at least, I hope by opening up, it will help hold myself accountable to the very values I say I believe in. The values I wish to teach you. I have shirked responsibility for far too long during my privileged lifetime. It’s no longer good enough for me to simply say the right things. I have to act on them as well. I have to be the best father I can be. It’s my responsibility to you. To honour you through my values. That starts with being honest. Here I go.

(I might add that I’m not sure exactly how my words are going to be taken and to my family and friends who read these letters, I’m sorry if what I say offends you. I only mean to be honest but that means saying the things I haven’t. It means being honest with you as well. I’m only trying confront my own demons here but if they help you too then great. That’s all I mean to do. I’ve refrained from using names in my stories but I think a number of people will be able to work out who I’m talking about. A number of family members including my mum and dad I have referenced directly as such.)


BE HONEST WITH THOSE YOU CARE ABOUT

I believe that honesty forms the basis of any meaningful relationship. It’s what builds trust. Without trust relationships break down and lose their meaning. I’m sure you’ll have heard of a story called the boy who cried wolf. It’s a classic example about how a boy’s deceitfulness cost him the trust of the very people he depended on. What I want to stress to you is to the importance of being open and honest with those you care about. Especially to your family. We’re here to help but It’s difficult for us to do so if you’re not honest.

Allow me to tell you a little story about four adolescent boys.

Once upon a time four adolescent boys were caught smoking at boarding school late one evening before their bedtime. The teacher who found them confiscated their possessions including a small tin that one of the boys had used to store his tobacco for rolling cigarettes. Unfortunately for that particular boy, he also used this tin to store cannabis where he still had left a tiny amount.

The next day the four boys were called to the principal’s office where they were confronted about what the teacher had found. “I’m going to give you a chance to be honest with me”, the principal said calmly. “In this box belonging to you we found some cannabis. Now we can’t prove the rest of you have also been smoking but if you have, I want you to tell me now. If you have, I will respect your honesty and try my best to help you. I promise you your punishment will be far less severe if you’re honest with me. If you really haven’t been smoking drugs, you will be free to leave. I’ll give you a moment to have a think.”

After a while the principal turned to each boy and asked them one by one if they had ever smoked drugs. Of course the first boy who owned the tin had no choice but admit. He had been caught red handed. The second boy however was conflicted. He felt guilty for he had helped pay for the drugs in his friend’s tin. He also wanted help. Help he hadn’t known how to ask for but that was now being offered. The problem was he was sacred. He was scared of the repercussions. More than that though he was scared of what his parents would think. The thought that he would be a disappointment to them broke his heart. He looked up at the principal while struggling to fight back the tears and admitted the truth.

A little later on the second boy was left to sit in front of the the principal while he called his parents to inform them what had happened. Afterward the principal handed him the phone. The boy was petrified. He had expected his father to yell. To be angry and tell him what a disappoint he was. He trembled as he answered the phone. What followed however took the boy by surprise. His dad wasn’t angry or disappointed. He didn’t shout and tell him he was a disappointment. Instead his father simply expressed concern. Concern for the well being of his son who he loved so dearly. His message to the boy was one of love and understanding. He had even expressed pride about the boy’s courageous decision to be honest. What the boys father gave him was reassurance and love when he needed it most. It took everything in that moment for the boy not to break down in front of the principal. I remember it well. You see I was that boy.

My honesty in that moment got me out a hole I’m not sure I would have escaped. My father’s love in that moment was the hand that helped pull me out. A helping hand that couldn’t have existed without my being honest. It took the extremely difficult decision to be honest to get the help I so desperately needed. It was one of the most courageous decisions I ever made. I also believe it was one of the most important.

I often look back at that moment in my life and wonder how different it would have been had I lied. What the repercussions would have been. I’ve no doubt I would have been caught eventually and expelled.  In fact that’s exactly what happened to one of the other boys in the story who had denied taking drugs. He was later caught purchasing them in full view of another teacher outside the front of the school and then expelled. As for the rest of us we were suspended. The principal made sure there was no permanent record after we left. He rewarded our honesty by protecting out future. By giving us a second chance.

Of course my problems didn’t go away overnight. They’ve taken much longer to overcome. However I believe it was that moment that ultimately set me on the right course. It was that moment that taught me the importance of being honest with those you love as a means to help yourself, even if I didn’t see it right away. Of course that’s not to say I wouldn’t have figured this out eventually but I can assure you I wouldn’t be where I am now had I lied in that moment. The courage to be honest, especially when you need help, is one of the most important lessons I could ever teach you.


HONESTY HELPS YOURSELF AND THOSE YOU LOVE

One of biggest obstacles to being honest is that it often requires having difficult, uncomfortable conversations. Whether being honest with ourselves, our loved ones or someone we just met. It is for this reason we often shy away from it. Most of us politely agree with someone we disagree with, or deny our own problems or wrongdoings out of fear of the social ramifications. We’re often afraid of upsetting someone or confronting a difficult truth about ourselves and then having to deal with our own emotions. However you’ll help no one, least of all yourself, by being dishonest with those you love. We might not like to hear what you have to say, but your honesty is ultimately the kinder thing to do, whether you’re opening up about your own mistakes or wrongdoings, or whether you’re confronting someone about theirs.

When you’re honest with someone you let them know why you believe they were wrong (or you were). Whether you’re right or wrong, what follows is an honest conversation where both of you are forced to think about something differently. Right or wrong, you will learn something and, if nothing else, you will have gained further trust from the person you’re confiding. If, for example, you avoid being honest for fear of upsetting another person or worse, for fear of being wrong, one of two things will happen. Either you won’t learn what you need to, or the person you’re talking to won’t learn something he or she needs to. You, or they, will continue to think you, or they, are right, potentially reinforcing damaging beliefs whereby neither of you learn anything. I’ve seen this so many times during my life (in fact I’ve been guilty of this on countless occasions while I’m being honest…), where avoiding difficult conversations because ‘it’s easier’ has only led to the reinforcement of negative behaviour over the years. By avoiding that difficult conversation it becomes increasingly difficult to have that often necessary conversation the later you leave it. Believe me!

I was dishonest with my family about my own problems for years. I was afraid of what they would think, so instead of turning to them I shut down and turned inward (and if you’re reading this Mum and Dad, I’m truly sorry). I think in some stupid way I thought I was protecting them by not burdening them with my problems. Ultimately it hurt them more. I made things worse for myself too.

I hope as a family, we will always be able to say what needs to be said to one another so that together we can grow. I promise that we will aim to be as open and as honest with you as we possibly can be. We will always be here to help you no matter what. But the hard truth is we can only do so, so long as you remain honest and open with us. It is the pain of honest confrontation that generates trust and respect in those you love. It’s also what’s needed for those you love to help you. It’s what’s needed for you to help them.

People As Mirrors

“Your perception of me, is a reflection of you. My reaction to you is an awareness of me.” Unknown.

What do you do when you look at yourself in the mirror?

Maybe you comb your hair or have a shave. Maybe you brush and floss your teeth. Maybe you correct your posture. Maybe you examine the look in your eyes and evaluate your mood. Perhaps you decide to put on a smile. Either way I’m guessing you pay attention. You take the moment to show yourself some love. 

When you smile in the mirror what do you see?

Your radiant self, of course, but is that all?

Can see your mum and dad? Your brothers and sisters? Your children and grandchildren? Maybe you can see your friends or strangers you’ve never met. Maybe you can see the eyes of millions, generations long since passed, staring back at you.

Look deeply enough and you’ll see far more than meets the eye.

If we look deeply at others we can see they reflect the world around them. If you smile at them, they often smile back. And if they don’t, we often drop our own. In this case we become their mirror.

This is something to be aware of. 

When we are mindless we become the mirrors of others. When others shout and harden their defences, we often do the same in response. Like a mirror image. So often in arguments you hear two people shouting with neither party listening. They might as well be shouting into a mirror. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that people don’t just act like mirrors to other people, they often reflect the way the world has treated them.

If the world stopped paying attention to them, they may reflect a lack of interest. If it treated them harshly they might act out in kind. The behaviours of someone often mirror something well beyond the person they’re interacting with.

This is something else to be aware of. 

This is one reason why we shouldn’t take what others have to say so personally. Other people’s behaviour doesn’t reflect in you unless you let it. Unless you act mindlessly.

On the flip side, when we are mindful we can influence what others reflect back at us and the wider world. When we are mindful we can disarm the anger thrown at us by others. When we are mindful we can stand firm and make sure all that is reflected is love and compassion. It is when others are feeling the most pain, and at their most vulnerable, that we have the best opportunity to act as mirrors to the good that exists in all of us.

We should pay the same care and attention we do ourselves in the mirror to all those we encounter. Show them the same love and compassion. Maybe don’t start flossing their teeth, of course, but show them love and compassion all the same. The love and compassion they need. That we all do. 

Showing love and compassion to others is one of the greatest acts of self love. This is because if you look deeply enough you’ll see that person is you. And you are them. As one. 

It’s nice when we see ourselves smiling isn’t it?


SOURCES:

I found the quote from the following article: Discover How Other People are Mirrors of Ourselves

An Apology To My Heart

I’m sorry I’ve been fighting you for so long. 

I’m sorry I repressed you. 

I was taught stupid things. Stupid ways. 

I could hear you screaming and yet I pretended not to. 

I’m so sorry.

I hope you can forgive me.

I love you. I’m here for you now. 

Let me feel what you have to say. 

Let me hear you. 

Let me embrace your screams with the tenderness you seek. 

I want you to teach me what words cannot. 

What you were trying to tell me all along.

My mind was lost. 

Somewhere along the way it was misled by the noises outside.

Fear drove it into isolation.  

It thought ignoring you was best. It didn’t understand.

It couldn’t stop thinking. 

It didn’t understand that thinking was the problem. 

Please forgive us. And please be patient. We are still learning to unlearn.

Still learning to let go.

To give back the power we so foolishly stole from you. 

The habits of a lifetime might take another to break them down. But I see clearly now that this I what I must do. 

I understand now that it is you I should have trusted all along.