John Persico, at his blog Aging Capriciously, writes thought-provoking and often provocative posts. I enjoy thinking about what he’s said and “listening” to his perspective to understand where he’s coming from. Recently he’s been posting a series about his four favourite things. (Well, to be fair, since he’s in the US, he calls them his favorite things!) His 4 favourite books of non-fiction, his 4 favourite books of fiction, his 4 favourite readings, you get the idea. Actually, I couldn’t think of any readings that sustain me, favourite or otherwise. That one stumped me.
The most recent post in this vein was his 4 favourite ideas. By this he means the ideas, philosophies, or principles that he uses as guides in trying to lead a good life. See, I told you he could be provocative. His four favourites were:
- There is no truth
- Everything will change
- Love is the only real purpose in life
- You can’t take it with you.
What do you think? He has very long explanations for each of them. My only difficulty was with the first one, but as long as I kept reminding myself that he wasn’t talking about our current world of post-truth (if someone tells you known lies and you choose to believe them because you prefer them to the truth) I could see his point.
Always being up for a good challenge, I thought I’d think about what I would call my four favourite guiding ideas for life. In thinking about it I realized that a few of these would probably have been different at earlier phases of my life, but some have been abiding. So, thanks to John Persico for getting me to think about this. Here we go:
- Win-win is always the best approach. I first encountered this principle at a Stephen Covey workshop nearly 30 years ago. It has never stopped speaking to me. As many of you will know, win-win is one of the patterns of human interaction that people can use in dealing with others; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose are the main ones. Win-win is a strategy that always looks for a solution that will allow everyone to feel that they have won, that there are mutual benefits to the solution. It requires listening from all sides and it usually requires some compromise, but it can also result in surprising results that wouldn’t have been thought of without the expectation that everyone’s voice should be heard. And at the end, everyone should feel part of the solution. [Win-lose means that I win and you lose. That’s obviously the case during any kind of competitive situation, from sports to bidding for construction contracts to beauty pageants, and good sportsmanship is the preferred and usual approach for the winner. In the WH at the moment we find an extreme example of someone who believes in win-lose; he believes that you haven’t really won unless everyone else has lost and that your opponent hasn’t really lost until you can rub his or her face in it.]
- Concentrate on what you can control. Too often we worry about those things over which we have absolutely no control and no chance of changing, and wear ourselves out from that worry so that what we really can do, and do well, doesn’t get the energy it needs and deserves. It’s a vicious circle, because if we don’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish because we’re using up all our emotional energy on things beyond our control, we can even lose faith in our ability to shine at what we are good at and care about. So, putting our priorities on what we can control is important. There’s a caveat in this. Don’t underestimate what can be under your control. Don’t let fear of trying something new or challenging get wrapped up in whether something is within your control. Which leads me to my next “idea”.
- Always leave the door open to new opportunities. In my 30+ years as a worker bee I watched a lot of people being given opportunities to try something new. A move into an administrative position, an offer to change from part-time work to full-time work when you weren’t expecting to even think about such a change, a move to a new part of the country. It’s been interesting to see the different thought processes people go through, depending on their family situations for sure, but also on their personalities, their self-confidence, and their risk tolerance. Some people have more self-confidence than is perhaps warranted, others less. Some have more risk tolerance than is perhaps warranted, others less. Everyone has to make their own decisions. But it is important to ask yourself whether you’re thinking of saying no just because of fear of failure. You don’t know what you are capable of if you don’t try. And you don’t want to end up years later with regrets. You’ve been offered the opportunity because someone sees something in you that you didn’t see yourself. Think hard before saying no.
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule is part of every world religion. Every one. We all learn it, even if we aren’t observers. Isn’t it remarkable that we all learn the message – from an early age – that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated and yet that sentiment is rarely to be seen in public discourse? When we voice distress at the nastiness, even cruelty, in the way politicians speak about opponents and more and more about people not like their “base”, we’re told that it’s OK, the “people” are really very kind. Why is it OK for kindness just to be found in neighbourhoods and not from leadership? But I digress. The important point is that in being kind to others, not only is it most likely that they will be kind to you, but also it makes you feel better. Smiles are so easy to give and so nice to receive, no matter how busy you are.
That’s it from me. Do any of you have “ideas” or principles that guide you in life, maybe, like me, ones you never gave much thought to before?