That glass with water in it to a 50% capacity mark

There is almost always an opportunity to be unhappy. Life can be brilliantly beautiful and yet an individual can still choose to find how horrible things are or will become. I’m not talking about depression, but rather the poor cognitive habit that people can develop that turns them into pessimists.

Often, pessimists might claim they are not pessimists but realists. They understand the risks that may come in a particular situation and want to be cautious. They might feel that optimism is for the young, naive, and delusional. However, being realistic is an interesting claim to make, because optimism and pessimism aren’t about the facts but the interpretation and desire behind those facts.

If we were being realistic, the glass that’s either half full or half empty exists in a context. Maybe you filled it up to the top and have drunk half of it. If you want more of the drink, you’d be more inclined to call it half empty. If you wanted less of it, you’d be more inclined to call it half full.

There’s also social convention at play; how many people legitimately refer to a cup as half full? The statement may or may not actually reflect the optimism/pessimism of the individual who says it.

In order to be ‘realistic’, one has to acknowledge both the opportunities and risks with a course of action. A pessimist might miss the opportunity, an optimist might miss the risks. It’s rarely a boon to be on the extreme either way in the long run.

In some ways, the question of glass-half-full or half-empty is a question of trust. It’s an indication of how a person feels the world around them is worthy of their trust. Do they want to blindly trust others or shut themselves off? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

However, my focus is on pessimism because people are rarely consistently too optimistic. It’s good to be careful, but fear can go overboard very easily. Gratitude is the best way to help temper our habits of becoming too shut down. Of course, things can go wrong. At least one thing always will, life is unpredictable. The truth of the matter is that we need to be careful in watching why we’re being careful.

Are assuming the worst because you are afraid? Are you assuming the worst because you’ve been hurt before? For those who claim to be realistic, are you actually taking probability into account, or are you making an interpretation separate from the stats?

 

not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

the ability of responsibility

My spring break was nice, but deep in my heart I had zero intention of updating the blog over it, and so I didn’t. I’ve been having a little revolution inside of me, perhaps for the past year, that keeps poking out from time to time. The revolution is simple: I’m going to do what I want, and I’m going to own it.

As a young adult in an environment of uncertainty, anger, and fear, it’s easy to shut down. The world seems too much, so why deal with it? It’s the strain of defense that drives people into obsessions with TV shows and celebrities or leads people to dive headfirst into their job and ignore the rest. With our growing understanding of how psychology works, there’s plenty of ways to make compromises.

It is here that another person might begin a rant against “snowflakes” and argue about the nonsensical nature of safe spaces and so forth. I will not, partly because I’m a liberal snowflake myself, but also because the issue isn’t that people need to just “suck it up”. Frankly, ignoring emotions and stonewalling communications leads to serious mental health issues and broken relationships. Mental illness is rising in prevalence, partly due to social media that brings in a ridiculously high level of standard to compare oneself to.  We face problems in a new age, and we need to adapt to them.

Yes, our families, friends, environment, these all mess us up. No matter how wonderful the circumstances are, there are always problems. One of the strongest things we can do is realize that we are flawed. Things out of our control have brought a flurry of issues to each of us. However, those issues do not define us. As little or at great as we can, we can make a difference in our lives. There are things out of our control, but there are also things that are in our control.

Hopefully, my advice feels bipartisan: what makes the difference is taking responsibility. This is in both our accomplishments and our failures because we each have both. That rude comment? That was your fault. That awesome shot? That was your practice. That missed assignment? That was your decision. That fulfilling relationship? You are a part of making that relationship what it is.

We cannot assume others have the same capabilities as us. Some demons are bigger through another’s eyes. If someone is struggling, it doesn’t matter if you don’t see it as a big deal. It is to them. The same is true for our accomplishments. If you think you are a horrible person who has done nothing right, you’re wrong. Everyone has done a good deed, made someone happy, made this world a better place in at least one small, important way.

If you have made a mistake, congratulations! You are a human being. Maybe you were awkward. Maybe you were mean. Maybe you were even cruel. If you ignore the flaw, it won’t go away. Instead, we have to deal with it. We have to look it straight in its face and try to get up the courage to ask why it’s there in the first place.

Taking responsibility is hard, and sometimes it’s difficult to see where the line is between your fault and external events. However, whatever small part of the issue was yours, own it. If you did a tiny corner in a beautiful mural, that is your corner. We can often live our lives passing on the blame and recognition because we don’t want the responsibility of our actions, but it matters. You’re doing your best, recognize it in all its glory.

‘thank you’s are a little awkward, so this is how you do it

There is no shame is needing someone. Turning down offers may seem polite in certain circumstances, but if they offer food and you want food, who benefits from that situation? Giving makes us feel better, and encourages us to be even better people. Accepting a gift or a favor from someone makes them feel like they are generous, kind people, and you get a gift or favor in return! But the awkward part, the part that gives us the most grief, is what to do afterward.

Gratitude is strange. It makes us tense, because we have these emotions, and yet we might not always know how to express them. ‘Thank you” on it’s own may seem too short. In order to remedy the situation, here’s a quick crash course on how to say thank you:

1. Start out with thank you, and/or some sort of exclamation like, “WOw!” or “Oh wonderful!” This first part initiates your response and if it seems like their gift has made an emotional impact on making your life better, the first reception of the gift should be exciting.

2. Explain why you love the gift. If you don’t really know what it is, ask in an interested way about some details of it. Even if you know what it is, pointing out some immediate details that catch your eye that you like. Some situations are more difficult than others, but do your best and practice will makes things easier over time. Noticing the details makes people feel like you are going to use every bit of it.

3. If you can, directly say how this will improve your life. Lay out a difficulty you have that this problem will solve. Again, people want to know that what they are giving you matters to you.

4. End with another thank you. It’s hard to get angry at somehow for being overly thankful, because generally we tend to not be thankful enough.

If you can, the best way to show gratitude, is to do something kind back, especially further on down the road. Remembering and helping them when they need it means something. Hopefully receiving gifts should make us more gracious to other people, and a consistent show of love helps all of our relationships.

escaping your head

We get in our own heads so much that we don’t realize how difficult we make things for ourselves. Spending 80% of your energy criticizing yourself for being indecisive about something, means 80% of your energy taken away from making a decision. A lot of times, our own dread makes our responsibilities 10× more difficult. At the core, we tend to make a huge fuss emotionally and mentally, when it’s really not that big of a deal.

But it can be a part of your wiring! How do you suddenly not care about things when you’ve been in the same mindset and same pattern of thoughts for most of your life? It doesn’t matter if it isn’t a big deal if you make it a big deal. We can’t let ourselves think that there’s no escape, however. Probably, we will always be inclined to thinking too much. However, what we can change is how we react to things, and in the process, our own thought patterns.

We can change. We can always change, even if it feels like we won’t ever. Furthermore, we can always change for the better. There is always hope as long as we are alive, but the point is to capitalize on that. The first step is to be thankful. Forcing yourself to be grateful puts you in a mindset that looks for the good things. Make a list of ten things you are grateful for every day! The second helpful step is to meditate or pray, getting yourself away from the small picture problems and putting things into context. Then, trying to be positive. It’s hard. It takes practice and it doesn’t come easily, but forcing yourself to be positive is the practice that helps it become easy. If you need, therapy is helpful to anyone and everyone. But for things you can do on your own, be thankful, put things into context, and be positive. It’s weird, and it’s hard at first, but it really does make a difference in your life.

thankful for an abacus

My brother got me an abacus for Christmas, this massive nicely painted black one from the thrift store. It was a symbolic gift more than anything else. But it was interesting that out of anything he could have found in an antique thrift store, he felt this abacus was the thing that represented me the best. I can’t help but think that I must come across as calculating.

It’s interesting to get those glimpses into other’s perspectives on you. Parts of your personality that you view as dominant might not be so to others. Who we are is dynamic, fluid, yet constant in some ways. That’s why is so very important for us to be thankful. In the changing seas of life, having people by you is something really amazing once you think about it. Being able to grow together, or even being able to open yourself up to new sorts of people, these are all incredible events.

It can be frustrating because we may work hard and not get acknowledged. We may go through times of great change and no one may notice. But those changes will be obvious in how we act, and over time, the right people will take stock of it. But it is our opportunity and joy that we get to help other people. If we want to be acknowledged, we should help turn the spotlight on others. As counterintuitive as it may feel, we are more ourselves when we’re focused on others. Our relationships are so important; we should be thankful for every gift we’re given, physical or not.

happy 5th of July

Yesterday for Americans, we had our Independence day. It’s the day we celebrate our nation and being a part of it, but it’s independence specifically from England. We’ve been split up now for about 200 years, yet the English impact was great upon us; we still celebrate taking the leap and becoming something new on our own.

Most of the colonists, however, didn’t want to become a new country. They were unhappy with the taxes, but they felt loyalty to King George. The slaves might have hoped for freedom under ‘America’ instead of ‘English colony’, but high were their hopes really? The slave trade was a part of our culture at that point, a disgusting practice that systematically destroyed generations and families. As we know too, even if they had hopes, slavery wasn’t abolished at the beginning of our country. The Native American tribes were mostly struggling to survive, destroyed, or oblivious to the colonists’ existence.

We like to think that everyone rebelled against England and that everyone was excited when England decided to give up. That’s not wholly the case. Most people were concerned. Who were we to form our own country? How does one go about doing that? There were still wars in Europe, would we get involved with those? For the persecuted minorities, would anything change?

Independence was terrifying. We set up the Articles of Confederation and they were horrible. So we tried again and set up our Constitution. Like America, we are all works in progress. We don’t deal with the problems we have very effectively at first. We ignore our major problems and come to compromises that we hate with ourselves. We want to be our own individual, but we’re uncertain at times of how to go about that. We still have loyalty to being the old person we decided not to be. However, we need to become who we were meant to be. We need to have high hopes for ourselves, even as we continue to fail to achieve them, because even the pursuit itself is important.

the magic of doing something

Typically if you don’t sleep well one night, it doesn’t hit you until the day after. When it does hit, you feel it in your whole body. You experience how tired you are in every inch of yourself. When we’re awake and everything’s fine, our awareness of our bodies usually is zero or around that. It’s only when we’ve put our body through some level of stress that we are aware of it. It’s similar to how losing something makes us finally realize how grateful we were for it.

Telling someone to “Be thankful” seems to belong around some holiday table, or come from an angry parental figure. At different times, we may see the little positivity posts with the fancy script that talks about being grateful, but what’s the point? It’s easy to blow off the advice because it seems like something only yogi vegans genuinely aspire to. Being grateful however, is a habit. It’s a habit that improves your life, no matter what kind of person you are.

So how does one “become” a grateful person? How do you magically become peaceful minded from it?

There’s likely no one correct way to be thankful for what you have, but the key is to actually be thankful, and that can be difficult to achieve. Especially if it’s a new thing to you, make being thankful a task. Don’t just say you’re grateful. Write a long letter expressing how much you appreciate someone in your life. Go out of your way to buy a cup of coffee for someone you know needs it. Be nice to your cashiers, even when they have an attitude. All of this things may not seem like activities we associate with gratitude. However, if we are thankful, by definition we need to thank them. It can be through a gift, extra patience, time spent with them, or whatever you know they’d appreciate themselves. Yet, try to not take the easy route out and just say it. Words mean nothing if they aren’t backed up by action.

wait, I should shut up?

The best kind of people are those that know how to shut up and listen. They’re a rare breed. It’s so uncommon to find someone who listens well because we each want to tell our own stories.

Therefore, listening is vital to you, the listener. Shockingly enough, there’s always gaps in our knowledge, things we can learn about. Even the people we know, talking about things we’ve heard before– we can miss the details. We can also be reminded about what other peoples’ lives are like. No one’s life story is exactly the same, but learning about what other people are doing may help you learn how to deal with similar problems.

Listening is most important however, because it’s a core component of our relationships. You can tell when the other person isn’t listening, and that lack of respect isn’t easily forgotten. By paying attention and caring about what the other person says, we are watering the garden of our relationships. Most people are the sorts of plants that need to be watered every day. Shutting up and hearing what the other person has to say is a skill that helps make sure we don’t get too prideful– there are all of these other wonderful people we could appreciate!

There is a joy in listening, because we never know quite exactly what they’ll say; even the closest people to us can surprise us. We are living a life with so many unknowns, and the only way to grow and learn is by seeing what other people have seen.

friends are beds

Plenty of psychologists, economists, philosphers, and random individuals have tried to quantify relationships. There’s a MinMax principle that describes how we view relationships as what we give and what we get. Then you get poets and humanities based professionals who see relationships as immeasurable. Our actions and emotions are complex, afterall, and it seems to reductionist to judge all bonds off of what we directly get from the other person. However, most everyone agrees that friends are vital to living a full life.

Friends are like beds. You rest on them when you need the support, and you take care of your bed back. Afterall, we provide cushions and pillows and fancy sheets for our bed. However, the easiest test of how dear a friend is, is to see so effortless it is to trust them. It’s about feeling safe when the rest of life may not be. It’s about comfort when the conflicts of the day to day are uncomfortable. Things aren’t always easy, and the bed may prick you from time to time, but a friend is where you need them to be.

So appreciate your bed! Spend lots of money on blankets! Like our bed, friends are also not always acknowledged for how much they do. Its easy to take advantage of a comfy resting place. However, unlike a bed, people have feelings. No matter how friendship works, it matters. Friendship goes both ways, so think of yourself as some place that can be of solace them. Beds are amazing! But friends are even more so, don’t forget to hold them dear.