I genuinely believe that focusing on the positive, leaving the negative in the past, and cultivating gratitude will make anyone happier. I also genuinely believe that most of the stress and pain people feel during their lives is optional and avoidable. It’s hard for me to see suffering that I think could be ended with a shift in perspective and world view, so sometimes I have to remind myself that everyone is entitled to write their own story.
Not everyone wants to work on themselves, or even believes that a major change in world view is possible. Some people have made anger, sadness, stress, fear, and helplessness their closest friends, and the idea of a life without them is downright terrifying, or impossible to imagine. The loss of daily drama and the idea that we are all responsible for the way we feel is threatening to a lot of people, and instead of feeling a sense of possibility and empowerment (like I do) they feel defensive and attacked.
Small things good is, in some ways, an advice blog, and because of that I often use positive and negative examples to illustrate points. However, I think it’s important to note that, in general, I try to focus on correcting my own behaviors, reactions, and outlooks. Everyone is on their own life path, and everyone is at different points emotionally, intellectually, experientially, spiritually (or not), and mentally. It’s easy to get so excited about something that we want to convince everyone around us to try it too. I’ve seen this happen when someone adopts a new diet, a new religion, a new workout routine, or even a new hobby!
Since I am all about self-improvement and optimization, I have to be extra careful about keeping my judging with myself. If I start to analyze the behavior of everyone around me, and judge them the way I judge myself when I want to fix my own reactions or feelings, I’ll start to become exactly what I want to avoid. I know intellectually that it is impossible to change someone against their will, and I believe that part of finding personal peace and happiness is accepting the fact that other people don’t have to have the same goals, beliefs, or ideas about the world as I do.
Nagging, convincing, and not-so-subtly hinting at things when you’re around other people is pretty transparent, and it doesn’t convince people of anything, it just irritates them. It might be that you’re friends with a smoker, and you’re a non-smoker, or an athiest, and you’re religious, or someone who shops like crazy, and you’re a super saver. I try to take the same line regarding my world view that I took back in the day when I was a vegetarian: if someone asks me about it, I am 100% honest, otherwise, I say nothing. The reason? It’s not my life! The beautiful thing about being privileged enough to live in a free place, and have the resources to craft your own life, is that you can do whatever you want with it!
I write this blog primarily for people who do believe in change and personal responsibility, and who feel inspired and empowered by what I write. Years ago, I personally went from being a rage-filled, seriously depressed, toxic individual, to the happy camper I am today. It was not easy, it was not an overnight transformation, in fact, it was emotionally grueling and it took years, but it was worth it. I think it’s natural that I would want to help other people, or at the very least provide one more positive voice in a negative world. Of course, I’m not perfect, and I still struggle with judgment.
When I start to feel myself slipping into the judgmental mindset, I remind myself of this fact:
The most inspirational people in my life have not been people who talked a big game, tried to convince me that their way was the right way, or tried to sneakily gift me things or tell me things that reflected their own views, and not mine. The most inspirational people I’ve ever met are people who just walk their own walk. Everyone loves people who make them feel comfortable, and who genuinely seem happy with themselves and their lives. I truly think leading by example is the most powerful thing any of us can do. I often think about a friend of mine who is generally upbeat, and adventurous to her core, she’s always looking for a new challenge to conquer, but not out of competitiveness. A past employer I had also set a great example, she exuded peace and compassion even during incredibly stressful circumstances dealing with volatile people. Another good friend of mine does incredibly demanding work in the health care field, and, by the way, has never once said a negative word about my comparatively vain line of work. It’s just who she is!
It’s actually a good thing that we don’t all value and prioritize the same things, because the world needs all different kinds of people!
I will probably never be a super career driven person. The idea of spending 12 hours in an office every day is nauseating to me, and I’m just laid back by nature, but some people love chasing achievement, notoriety, and wealth, and the truth is, we need people like that. Money driven, success driven, people have done a lot for the world, and without them our entire culture would be different, and not for the better. We also need people who love routine and sameness, because they can happily clock into the same jobs, day after day, year after year, and get the repetitive tasks done that need doing. We need people who are adrenalin junkies, because they’re fantastic at high stress jobs that other people wouldn’t be able to handle (EMTs, firefighters, military, etc.). We need people who are intellectual, and somewhat detached, because they can operate on another human being without having an emotional breakdown and freaking out!
As far as I can tell, the biggest flaw in the human design is that we’re limited to our own life experiences, and we’re designed to be ego-centric and selfishly protective of our own feelings (above everyone else’s feelings). However, I think reminding ourselves that everyone is simply living their lives and attempting to reach some sort of happiness is a helpful way to build compassion and understanding. Our time on earth is limited, and each of us is allowed to live life the way we see fit, and it’s ok if our lives look drastically different from each other! In fact, I think that’s kind of beautiful.
When I find irritation and judgment growing, I repeat the elementary school teacher standby, “keep your eyes on your own paper,” and then I just move on.