One absurd practice we could all question…

As I see it, the sentiment is quite widespread.

• Offered to someone starting a new chapter, whether it’s a new year of life (hello, birthdays!) or an exciting travel adventure.
• Thought by many a well-intentioned parent, guardian, and friend.
• Hand-written in cards and notes of all sorts.

I feel like it either (a) comes from a good place or (b) is expressed ‘just because’ – it’s socially acceptable, essentially expected at times.

Either way, I propose we all immediately put an end to this ‘polite practice’ of wishing one another “nothing but the best“.

"I wish nothing but the best for you."

Sounds good, right? (Source.)

Why?! It seems appropriate. Kind. Certainly polite. Generous, even.

Yet having and living “nothing but the best” robs us of context – without which we cannot really truly understand, cannot grasp reality, and cannot truly empathize. A life without context is absurd, to me.

Life without context is living in blindness, ‘blissfully’ unaware. If “the best” is all we know, then our perspectives are uni-dimensional, inexperienced, untethered, out-of-touch, unintentionally ignorant… Frankly, I think these skewed perspectives are an insidious danger, to both ourselves and for those around us.

So instead, I propose we all do one another (and ourselves) a favor and take to the habit of wishing one another “enough“.

•  •  •

“(This is) a wish that has been handed down for generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” (…)

“When we said ‘I wish you enough’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them”.

“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
//
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
//
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
//
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.”

(Modified and abridged from this post.*)

•  •  •

“Enough” reflects reality. “Enough” gives us a well-rounded perspective, encompasses a spectrum, keeps us in check. “Enough” helps bring us to what I consider an ‘ideal state’: head in the clouds & feet on the ground.

Otherwise, we human beings have this pesky tendency to habituate, to compare up, to take things for granted, and fall into the bottomless pit of entitlement. ‘Nothing but the best’ can (and does, as I’ve seen it) spoil us.

Seems like sound advice. (Source.)

Seems like sound advice. (Source.)

So I leave you with “enough”, as a suggestion. Wish yourself enough instead of ‘the best’. Wish enough onto others. Swap out the vocab – swap out the sentiment – and see where it leads.

Humbly,
~ H

What do you think? Is moving towards wishing for ‘enough’ something that you agree with, or is this all crazy-talk? Do you see any applications in your experience? Any ‘exceptions to the rule’?

Connected:
Ivan Illich – To Hell With Good Intentions
Nurture vs. coddling – on a.musing.
How to make everyday great

~ ~ ~

* In curating my inputs over time, I’ve amassed quite a few online resources that inspire me to spontaneously reflect, question, rethink, pause, innovate and integrate. I’ve designed these habit triggers into my everyday, via all my social media channels. My Twitter feed, Facebook news feed, Instagram roll, Tumblr dashboard… each constantly delivers value and interesting content whenever I log on — it’s a cross-pollination haven. I have The Idealist on Facebook to thank for the discovery of this little tidbit.

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5 simple steps to: push uncomfortable, make a connection, and grow empathy.

Intentionally or not, we rob ourselves when we overlook the challenges others face in those situations that we find ourselves breezing through. As a complex and incomprehensibly diverse society, growing ever more connected, this is a consistent issue that none of us can afford to ignore.

The solution? Empathy, of course!

empathy-300x211

Empathy: give me a dose of that. (Source.)

Cultivate empathy. Ok. Got it.

… How?

Here’s an everyday exercise, in five simple steps.* Feel free to put this into action immediately. 

Inadvertently invite a conversation for which you are not equipped. 
Prerequisite: Barely know the language.
Bonus points: If your appearance / position makes it an “obvious” assumption that you would be fluent in said language.

Struggle.
Search for words and terms. Be at a loss. Apologize. Smile lots. Feel awkward.

Understand.
How frustrating it can be to truly represent yourself & communicate in a foreign language. Know in your heart of hearts that you know so much more than what you’re able to articulate.

Hope.
That people ‘get’ and appreciate that you’re not some bumbling idiot. That your stammer and struggle does not overshadow the fact that you’re actually extremely interesting, inquisitive, insightful, and witty. Usually.

5 Be humbled.
By how hard others have to work to be understood in even the simplest of contexts, when outside of their element. By how much we don’t know, when things can’t be communicated. By the untapped – separated by a chasm, inadequately bridged by broken phrases.

•   •   •

Whether the unfamiliar language is English, Mandarin, Portuguese, professional jargon, Python, or an underlying cultural narrative – not knowing how to communicate in a certain medium can make things frustrating. Difficult. Awkward. Staccato.

Yet as native speakers, our fluency, ease, and command can make these struggles easy to overlook;  easy to take for granted.

These five simple steps are an exercise in empathy, broken down. Of course, there are countless permutations, nuances, and opportunities to practice empathy on the daily. Yet sometimes, a good old break-it-down-for-me list is a good reminder of how these imperative human skills aren’t restricted to workshops and grand situations for learning.

It’s in the everyday. It’s the little things are the big ones.

Humbly,
~ H

Have you been in a similar situation – hoping for a bit of understanding and compassion for your little struggle? Has someone else recently looked to you with that same hope? Did you notice?

*Inspired by a simple encounter. This adorable elderly Punjabi lady – silwar kameez, oversized sweater, floppy touque, sneakers, and a semi-toothless grin – joins me in the standing-room only Transit skytrain car. No-one offers her a seat. My thought process: “I’ll ask someone to give her a seat.”

Immediately followed by internal dialogue. “Hold it. Agency. Dignity. No assumptions. Maybe she doesn’t want to sit? Ask her first.” I ask her first. In Punjabi. (A simple, single sentence I can do, no sweat. Before a conversation exists, there’s time to think, search for the right words, and rehearse.)

No, she’s good.

“Ok.” Smile.

“Busy today isn’t it?” she asks. In Punjabi.

Hmm… I had not thought this one all the way through. (Language comprehension outperforming speaking ability in this arena. By a lot. Neither of which are impressive.)

I stumble through my clunky conversation with her. No more than 3 minutes, our entire ‘chatty’ encounter, before we once again became two silent bodies riding in a metal tube towards our repective destinations. She made an impression on me, though. It was awkward. And it was worth it. For that, I thank her.

The tiny shift that changed my life

What’s this about? A simple little substitution with ridiculously disproportionate effects in my life – for the better. Will it change your life? Probably. What is this magic, you ask?

The shift

“I have to…” → “I get to…”

That’s it. It digs into one of the points from my last post – that our thoughts and words often play a bigger role than we sometimes realize (or admit to).

The effect
The power of this is that it re-frames… everything. It immediately takes something from obligation → privilege. This is what gratitude in practice looks like for me.

• I don’t have to pay my bills. I get to – because I actually have a smartphone, access to transportation & the Internet, a place to live, etc.
• I don’t have to figure out my life. I get to. How many people have this freedom to steer their life trajectory?
• I don’t have to go to the bank or the grocery store. I get to – because I actually have money of my own to deal with and easy access to food.

Note: I still complain about these things sometimes – I’m human. I’ve just gotten better at realizing when I am, stopping, and going through the reframe-for-gratitude process.

Fair warnings
Making this shift will change your relationships – and this can go either way.
“Ugh, I have so much stuff to do tonight” ← this is relatable. “I get to clean, cook, write a report for work, and do my readings; I’m so freakin’ lucky” – not so much. (It might earn you one of these.) Of course what it actually means is: I recognize that I have a home to clean, food to prep, a job to contribute to & earn from, and the privilege of education… But where I’m from, defaulting to misery & complaining is always a lot easier.

So expect a few feathers ruffled when you’re going against the masses. You might become irritating to some. Obnoxiously positive to the point of extremely annoying, even; any current relationships based primarily on co-miserating will have to adapt or die. But that’s what happens when you think different. That – and being viewed as someone with a rainbow stuck up their butt – was a risk I was willing to take. I’m just doing my due diligence to let you know some of the consequences of taking this advice. There are too many up-sides for me to do it any other way.

Putting it into practice
Still want to do it? Brill. It can be simple, but I found it hard to do at first. Assuming you’re coming from the same “woe is me” privileged sense as I, you’re up against re-programming a habit ingrained through years of practice. There’s no flick of the switch that will undo that – it just takes cultivating a new habit to override the old one.

Bad habits are overcome by learning new routines and practicing them over and over again. – Timothy Wilson covering Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit

While we’re at it, let’s step back from a quick assumption: that “tiny” = “easy” or “inconsequential”. See: butterfly effect.

Step 1
: Take a few days to just become aware of how often / seldom you say “I have to ___”. The toughest step is usually to recognize that. Count if you must.
Step 2: Start subbing in “I get to ___” instead, and go down the quick path of ‘what that actually means’. Resist the urge to roll your eyes at yourself. (It can seem ridiculous when you’re in the throws of an all-nighter to stop and think “I get to study for this, because I’m lucky enough to be in school. Do it anyways.)
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 & 2.

Don’t just take my word for it
I Googled “i have to i get to” after drafting this post and lo and behold – someone’s thought this exact thought already. Beauty. So if you’re on the fence about taking my word for it, perhaps backup from a New York Times best-selling author holds more clout for you (it’s a spot-on post, I suggest a read). Many others have thought the same, of course. Sometimes it’s not about who you choose to believe, as long as the message gets across. I always gladly connect people to other great thinkers if the alternate source will be taken more seriously. I’m just trying to make change happen.

So read. Believe. Do.

Humbly, ~ H

ps: Another wildly powerful “little swap” was when I got more deliberate about “I don’t / I won’t have time” → “I don’t / won’t make time”. BOOM. More on that next time…

The big dots of the post

Think in a certain way long enough and I swear you’ll start to believe it – for better or for worse.
Co-miserating is usually easier than co-marveling. The latter is way more worth it.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. It always starts small.
It’s about being happy with, and grateful for, “now”, even as we look forward to different things “one day”.
Yes, it might actually suck. Who said privilege was supposed to be easy?

What do you get to do? What do you make time for? Any other powerful swaps that have been game-changers for you?

Related:
#firstworldproblems
Everything is amazing and nobody is happy (start at the ~2 min mark)