If events change so your original plan doesn’t work out, you change the plan. The way you get there matters, morally, but in terms of fun and interest? There’s plenty of ethical ways to get to your goals, we just can’t always see them. That’s why its good to keep our minds open! Many successful people are successful because they’re able to connect with other people.
The bottom line is that socializing may always be hard for some people, but think about how much that difficulty can be minimized! Talking with anyone is a matter of knowing their language. You should hopefully be speaking the same language broadly, but I also mean in terms of understanding your perspective and ideas.
Some people need a short story to see how you emotionally came to a conclusion. Other times we need to introduce a foreign topic that’s deep inside a discipline in a simplified manner. Or, we may need to pick up what the other person means. Does “in a minute” mean in 30 seconds, after I’m done with this other problem, or never? They may say vague things that you’re not sure are relevant to your task. That’s why it’s so key, in the ambiguous and challenging art of conversation, to be tactful, respectful, but also honest.
If you don’t know, ask them what they mean. Ask for an example! Explain where you’re coming from and be willing to work to understand where they’re coming from. The magic skill in conversation? Listening. Pull out the major point they’re saying and ask them a thoughtful question about it (make sure its something that they haven’t answered, or haven’t discussed in great depth) on their take of it, or why they think it’s important. Somehow reaffirm what they’re saying, maybe repeat it back to confirm you’re thinking the same thing. Ask questions and then truly listen. Make social connections! Plans change, but good friends are constant.
I was a strange kid. I felt this constant frustration when I was a child because I didn’t have to ability to do what I wanted to do, or to know what I wanted to know. I don’t mean staying up watching tv and eating ice cream for every meal, but wanting to have a job, travel, and be respected for my opinion. There is a huge, defining factor that looms above us throughout our entire lives, something that we rarely talk or think about: constraints from age. I don’t mean physical contraints, but social ones. Again, I was a strange kid, but I don’t think it’s uncommon at all for people of any age to desire respect.
The young are naive, the old are too stubborn to change. Young people should be happy and ambitious, old people should be wise and good teachers. There are both negative and positive stereotypes for most ages, but we are heavily strapped in by them on all sides. Talk to a 40 year old and they’ve already decided that they can’t change. They can’t learn or take risks, they’re too far gone. Talk to a 14 year old and try to understand the constant undermining of the validity of their emotions. Imagine, or recall the time when you had lots of emotions you couldn’t control, life is hard, and yet no one takes you seriously but you can’t complain because people chalk it up to your age. Think about people in their 80s and 90s, who have experienced so much and now have to deal with people treating them like babies not just physically, but emotionally too.
At certain ages, we need to be cared for physically. Still, our physical and our psychological situation do not always align. Children don’t have the experience to give advice like a 70 year old, but both deserve respect. Even if their opinion seems crazy or irrelevant, they might share something that can shed light on the situation. Or, maybe it is completely insane and useless, but it isn’t to that individual who desires communication and connection like the rest of us.
Ageism tells us that we are too young or too old to change. We can’t make a difference, we’ve not the experience or too much in that one area to make a revision now. But screw it, even if it seems ridiculous, you can always start living better. You can always do more than you think. The most important part is just taking the leap and going for the gold. Go for this! You can do it.
We often think of people in two disctinctions: attractive and ugly. However, the more we learn about aesthetic preference, the more we see how beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Two strangers, on average, will only agree on what is attractive about 50% of the time. Furthermore, our huge disparities in preference don’t arise from genetics, but mostly our environment. Even world famous models, praised for their looks, still receive negative feedback on their appearance because of people’s variance in opinion. There are some people who are always going to be seen as incredibly attractive, but for the most part, our appearance doesn’t fall into a binary so easily.
Mentally, humans simplify situations in order to understand them quickly. A friend talks to you for an hour about a complicated relationship, and you can sum it up in, “what a jerk!”, or perhaps other choice words. It’s our habit, in order to compile lots of information. However, there are a few things that we need to be careful to not oversimplify. One of those is identity, of ourselves and others.
Everyone is a work in progress. Everyone can be considered attractive, even if you don’t personally agree with another’s opinion. Respect is an incredibly important thing to have, for both yourself and others because it’s how we carry ourselves in our interactions. If you ignore someone’s opinion because you don’t like it, you might miss out on that tiny piece of truth you can learn from. Nor should we ignore ourselves. If we are miserable and don’t see the point of it, we are wasting our time, and we only have so much of it. So don’t oversimplify the important things and be respectful. And P.S. the more kind we are, the more likely we are to become more attractive to other’s over time.
The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.
Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.
When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.
Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763
Fear is a part of our lives. As Americans, we don’t like thinking about that: “We’re free independent people! We do what we want because we want to do it!” But even if we say the only thing to fear is fear itself, we don’t apply that to our everyday lives. We fear being judged, failing, being embarrassed, and more. Then it stops us, freezes us up from taking risks.
However, fear is also a powerful motivator, if you’ve heard any villian-monologue. True in a lot of cases, fear is an influential emotion. It can even be a healthy motivator. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another, but it’s a matter of what scares you that drives your actions. If we fear remaining the same, we can strive to make a change. If we teach ourselves to fear the risk of doing nothing, we can convince ourselves to take risks that help us in the long run.
And it’s okay to be afraid! Fear has such a negative connotation around it because it seems like only cowards get scared. However, fear is very real. It’s even a wise action to be afraid; it means you know the risks and are alert for your safety. Being afraid means being on guard in dangerous situations. If you are afraid, you can prepare yourself, it makes evolutionary sense. When we experience this fear, the key isn’t to try and ignore it, but push through it. Be afraid and take the jump anyways.
Today is a good day. Sometimes that doesn’t even have to be true, but you have to say it, and furthermore, you have to believe it. There’s this kind of advice: even if you feel bad, don’t look bad. Its this idea that if you feel aboslutely horrible, if you take the time to put effort into what you wear, you’ll feel better. It’s a battle cry of effort, I will not be defeated by my exhaustion! Even if it doesn’t come out through physical apperance it’s important to care about living your life, especially when it’s hard.
One of my favorite songs is Nat King Cole’s “Smile”, and one of the lines is this, “when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by”. As to say, sure. Life isn’t perfect. There are so many people who are hurting and struggling. However, if we give up when the going gets hard, we’re letting our true potential slip by. Our ability is not determined by talent alone. Honestly, at the end of the day, talent means very little. What you can change is the part that makes the most difference: your effort.
You can’t live at 100% all the time, but we can usually give at least 5% more. And if we decide to not put in that effort, we find ourselves in a cycle of stagnancy. If it’s difficult, you’re getting somewhere, so keep fighting. Today is a good day.
Our instincts aren’t always the same. The concept of “Fight or Flight” is pretty common, but it’s actually not the full story. True, most people either run or try to take on danger when it comes up. However, some bodies’ react by becoming paralyzed. A few people want to change the concept’s name to, “Fight, Flight, or Freeze”. That’s why there are those few ‘idiotic’ people in thriller-apocalyptic disaster movies that just stand there when buildings are crashing down all alongside them. When it comes to these certain core reactions to danger, we don’t really have a lot of choice. If Godzilla really attacked, you probably wouldn’t be carefully deciding what to do. Luckily for us, most of our interactions aren’t controlled by instinct, but rather by a filter of thoughts.
The Myers-Briggs test is a popular personality test, and one of the items measured in a person is their tendency to be either a ‘feeler’ or a ‘thinker’. Feelers tend to value their emotions over logic, the feelings of others and themselves are a primary concern. Thinkers tend to value logic and reason over emotions, with reason as a primary concern over emotions. It’s a spectrum rather than a binary, so one ‘Thinker’ may value logic more than the other. This thinking/feeling spectrum basically describes how much logic is in the filter you process your emotions through.
Instincts are different, our filters are different, our behaviors and thoughts are all different from person to person. Yet we are all similar in that we operate using both emotions and reason. We are heavily biased to change our thoughts and justify our emotions rather than fit our emotions to logic. Living is hard. Existing takes a lot of effort. You can be a feeler or a thinker or something in between, but it’s important to remember that most situations are not fight or flight (or freeze). We aren’t animals, our instincts aren’t the be-all, end-all, nor are even our more common emotions. Our self-control gives us an incredible ability to fight instant gratification so that we can make our future better. Use it.
Being able to learn is a gift. One of your common phrases of conventional wisdom is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The idea someone would purposely do the same thing over and over again is absurd because who would ever want to live that way? Stagnant? A common horror trope is having someone live the same day over and over again. Even if it’s a wonderful day, over time it becomes a miserable prison. The real question, however, is why we let ourselves remain stagnant when we’re not even caught in such a loop.
I’d argue that we are mostly held back by our fear. It’s easier to fear the unknown, so we tell ourselves its okay to live without ever really moving forward, even if we’re miserable there. It’s not that you don’t want to be an artist, it’s that you fear being able to support yourself. It’s not that you don’t want to write a book, it’s that you fear no one will like it. It’s not that you hate strangers, it’s that you fear they will hate you. The core destroyer of dreams isn’t some parent or teacher or reality even, but the fact that we are afraid of what we don’t know.
And yet! We long to grow. It’s the most satisfying part of every narrative. We are humans who love to learn, we’ve developed entire fields based on a simple question: “Why?” Maybe you feel 100% content with your life, but if you do, you are in a very small number. Everyone can improve themselves, everyone can learn to be better than who they were yesterday. Fear is always there. Courage, however, is being able to scream and crawl your way past it so you just get it done. Be courageous, learn and grow, even when you want to play things on repeat.
The thing about kindness is that you don’t have to really ‘mean’ it. If you are a human that exists, you have affected other people, thousands of people, even if only in some minuscule way. Each action says something about you, whether you want it to or not. While it would be amazing to able to care about everyone all the time, we can’t psychologically handle that. People across the world tend to be too abstract for us to care about. That’s why we have things like religion, belief systems, and morals in place: You don’t have to be emotionally involved to show kindness. If you work at a soup kitchen, being supportive and bubbly is awesome, but even being there grudgingly helps out too. We have this strange idea that if we can’t put 100% into something, we shouldn’t do it at all. However, we get excited by the things we do. If you never do something, you’re never going to be excited for that thing in the first place.
Our thoughts become our behaviors, we know this. If you expect the party to be horrible, you’re going to act more anti-social and won’t enjoy yourself as much. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy to some extent. However, it works the other way around as well. Our behaviors influence our thoughts. Sometimes you have to be at the homeless shelter to actually care about the homeless. Perhaps the greatest gift our humanity has given us is the motivation to do things we don’t want to do initially, things that don’t directly benefit us.
How many times do you turn on the news and witness horrible events? Now, think about how many times you’ve genuinely cared about that, how many times you’ve donated your time and money to help. Churches and temples and synagogues and other places of worship usually involve some amount of charity because it takes higher forces to convince us that giving our time and money to others is worth it. In Puerto Rice right now, they don’t have power. In many areas, there’s not enough water resources for thirst or basic hygiene. This isn’t some minor hurricane that the island is used to, there are 3.4 million US citizens who are struggling to survive and no one seems to be trying to help.
The basic fact is this: you probably don’t care. This doesn’t have an obvious affect on you in all likelihood. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help. You don’t have to care, you just have to do something. The act of putting in your limited resources is a show of strength of character. We can afford at least some small act of charity, some small thing that will bolster our own self-esteem. Donating for selfish reasons is better than not donating at all, don’t wait for your ‘heart’ to be in it, just help. The action will affect your thoughts, and your thoughts will affect your future actions; no small act of kindness is ever wasted.
It’s strange to consider that oranges, which are now commonplace in America, were once considered to be rare treats, gotten maybe one or twice a year. Oranges are sweet, but I doubt most people would consider it to be like a candy. We wouldn’t because we have actual candy to compare it to. Even though oranges themselves haven’t altered, they’ve been debunked from a candy to a sweet addition to a meal. The oranges didn’t change, the things around them did. If we consider ourselves to be an orange then, how do we take and utilize this principle? We start off by not comparing apples to oranges.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you have a generic person who has an IQ of 100, as that is the average. First, you put them in a room full of people who have an IQ of 90, learning a task the generic person already knows but the rest don’t. Then, you put them into a room full of people who have an IQ of 110, learning something that everyone else knows but they don’t. These situations aren’t fair. However, even if the generic person knows the situation, they are still probably going to feel brilliant in the first class and like a moron in the next. That’s considering the situation while knowing that it’s unfair.
We don’t know the situation a lot of times. We make attribution after attribution on halves of knowledge. Our sense of who we are and what we can do depends tremendously on who and what we are around. It’s not everything, of course, but the environment is a huge factor in our identity. Let me suggest this however; you might be an orange once a year or you might be the commonplace orange. If you think you’re all that, you might just be surrounding yourself with people who are less skilled than you. If you think you’re worth nothing, you might be leaving out a massive chunk of the real population. We don’t have glasses that tells us how much money, IQ, or how many friends each person has. We can’t see the details, we don’t know where people are coming from a lot of times. Your ‘sweetness’ is relative.
So what can you do? You can keep on being sweet. You can keep trying your best, because that’s the best you can do. Help others, be kind. Be ambitious and chase down your goals. Try to keep in mind that both fruit and chocolate bars are sugary and delicious but taste completely different. Keep going, you can do this.