We all have a choice

I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.

I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.

Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.

I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.

What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.

There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.

The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.

Thank you @thesumoguy for your inspiration.

Don’t let love, compassion and connection get lost in the rhetoric of protectionism, and difference.

I was having a discussion at work yesterday with with some wonderful people (Anthony Brookes and Janis Hostad) about resilience and how we can support people to recognise and embolden their resilience. We were asking ourselves what enables resilience and we started to dissect Coutu’s 3 behaviours of resilient people. As we were talking I noticed that we were talking about spiritualism, a sense that we are all connected. I said it out loud which now seems a bit ridiculous telling a Chaplain that what we are talking about is spiritualism, as if he hadn’t already realised. He was however very patient with me, and really rather excited about exploring how to create a message of connection, meaning, and compassion that does not appear to be wedded to one religion our other, but is accessible to all regardless of faith or lack of it.

This got me thinking about the latest video of Brene Brown with Russell Brand, where they discuss at length spirituality and where a seeming denial of it can lead to the blind pursuit of wealth without regard of wider society. This was something that really resonated with me. I spend a large part of my working life spreading the message of compassion, both self-compassion and compassion to those around yo, to create connections, which creates collaboration, which can create meaningful long lasting outcomes. But then I come home and turn on the news and hear the rhetoric of hate, difference, and protectionism. Lesbian couples being beaten up on buses, young women being racially abused on the tube, a father and young child drowning trying to get to a better life, politicians encouraging disconnection, politicians being physically attacked in the streets. I am sure I could create a longer list, as there is always something new reported everyday, reminding us of our differences, creating fear. It makes my heart sink, some days it feels like I am swimming against the tide trying to get people to view the world through another lens, that lets us see the connections we have with our fellow humans. A lens that encourages us to see them as human beings, to see them as mums, dads, sons, daughters, cousins, aunties and uncles, with hopes, dreams, fears, and optimism. As Brene Brown says it is difficult to hate someone close up, so move in. Move in and recognise your hopes, dreams, fears and optimism in theirs. We are all complicated, and flawed, we are all contradictions, so lets recognise, reconcile and appreciate.

Don’t get lost in the rhetoric of fear and protectionism as that denies our innate desire to search for and find connection with those around us. It is biologically necessary for us to nurture and support our species. Don’t fall for the de-humanising language used by people that want us to create disconnection in their desire to accumulate personal wealth. Connection and compassion creates more sustainable wealth for all.