Saturday, January 2, 2010

Let's Try to Remember the Silver Lining

Once upon a time, I was a young eager college student. No matter what happened, either to me, or to someone else, I was able to find some kind of silver lining. I would usually attempt to use the silver lining as a way to help the person affected feel better. I got rather fast and good at finding and pointing out the silver lining. The pinnacle of this occurred in the Acapolco's in Westwood over a dinner.

One of my Friends, Mario, had something bad that happened to him, or he lost some opportunity. I immediately came back with what was good about this situation or event. At this point, I don't even recall either the cloud or the silver lining. I only remember Mario's response. He was quite taken aback. He sputtered a little bit, and then said, "You. You and your damn silver lining." I guess he was not ready to feel better yet. He did not refute my positive spin on things. I hope that spin still helped.

In the grand scheme of things, I find two things really striking:
1. Things really seem to be going rather well in general. While there are lots of bad things going on (say war, repression, financial crises, ...) most people are living their lives as normal without too much effect.
2. People are far more gloomy than pretty much anybody has a right to be. I have encountered people that are very down because of things that do not directly affect them. It is good to feel for your fellow people, or for the environment. It is important to have empath.

It is critical to take a moment and remember what is going well and what you have. Focusing on the little slights, disappointments, and failings is the path to destruction. There will always be something wrong. There will always be something that could be better.

Too many people appear to be on that slippery slope. Today I watched a person screaming obscenities to someone else because she "stole his parking space". This one section of the lot was a little crowded, but overall, it was not too hard to find spots. What if she had actually maliciously planned her move, waited until the right second, and jumped in there taking his spot with glee at the mere prospect of his frustration? Would it be worth pulling to the side of the road, getting out of the car, and screaming obscenities at her? How about being thankful that you can breathe, are able to yell, have a car that can easily drive to the next spot, and presumably have enough money to shop.

I think we have somehow slipped into a culture where things need to be perfect for us to be happy. Once we reach that state in any area, we tend to raise the bar. One clear example of this was a goal that my wife and I set. We agreed that we would feel quite comfortable once we reached that goal. Now that we have exceeded that goal by 20x, I am hearing how uncomfortable the current situation is. What happened here? Why do we need more now than we did before? I think we are desperately questing after perfect and always raising the bar in life. I think continual improvement is important. I always strive to learn, grow, and be the best that I can be. I do not set the bar at perfect. People make mistakes, something always goes wrong, or something unexpected comes up. I will never be perfect. All I can do is be great, be myself, and handle the challenges of life with poise and confidence.

On the positive side, people are helping each other at unprecedented rates. The malls were packed with people purchasing Holiday gifts. I bet there were many wide eyed children fantastically happy when they opened their gifts. The stock market has made a pretty impressive recovery. Many companies are being started right now. Innovation is surging to amazing levels. It is easier than ever before to afford the necessities of life.

We need to support each other and work together. The future is coming and we will be there. Our kids will be there. Please take a moment and reflect on what is going right in your life. What is the best thing in your life right now. Mentally hug it. You will feel better. Not only will you feel better, everyone around you will feel better. Maybe, if there is a big enough effect, the people around them will feel better too.