Tag Archives: improving life

INSPIRING PEOPLE

I was watching an interview with Greta Thunberg the other day, and as ever found her inspiring. I have met several inspiring people in my life and they have influenced how I think and act. It makes me wonder what differentiates them. It is not their educational background or particular interests or viewpoints. So what is it? people who inspire us seem so diverse, yet clearly have some things in common.

I would suggest that the first thing they have in common is that their ‘causes’ are heartfelt. They believe with all their being in what they are supporting or doing or being. They have adopted it because they can’t not.

This is confirmed by the fact that they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the talk too. Think of David Attenborough for example, who could have retired from public life years ago, but chooses to continue to come out and support anything that may help to save our planet from climate change and diversity loss.

And they express their views in ways that we can relate to. They make it simple, clear and relevant to our own lives.

Finally, their ordinary humanity shines through. However serious or important their topic may be, they have a sense of humour, and an admittance of their own human frailty. Whether we agree with their particular viewpoint or not, they can inspire us to adopt these behaviours , to find our own ways of inspiring others.

THE BASICS

It is impossible to enable people to thrive and be the best they can be without the basics that allow us to live to our universal values. I can’t quite believe that we haven’t found a way to ensure that everyone has these fundamental needs met in our so-called civilised democracy.

We take these things for granted if we have them, but they are pre-requisites if we want to be able to move beyond mere survival as being all we think or care about.

  1. A place to call home. Everyone needs some form of shelter where they can be safe, keep their belongings, sleep, cook their food, keep themselves clean and be warm.
  2. Enough to eat and drink. There is an excess of food in the world, yet people are going hungry and doing without a warm drink.
  3. Access to healthcare. When the NHS was set up in this country, it transformed people’s lives. Now it is under-funded and over-stretched. Yet access to healthcare enables people to stay healthy and earn their living or care for their family.
  4. Education and training. It is proven that people will use their talents to improve their lives if we ensure that they have the opportunity to develop in their own way. Again, we have a good education system, but it is biased towards those who are academic, rather than those who have other forms of talent.
  5. Work that gives people recognition for what they can do and a fair wage. In this day and age, no-one should have to do two jobs with no security of tenure and still not be able to have a reasonable standard of living.
  6. A benefits and care system that supports those who can’t make their own way. There should always be a strong safety net for those who, for whatever reason, cannot be totally independent.

All this may sound like a utopia when we look at it from where we are now, yet it is both possible and essential, if we are to be a place where people have hope and can thrive. It is proven to be possible because all these aspects of thriving as a society have been put into practice in small pockets at different times and places. We could all learn well from some of our history.

It is also essential because without these fundamentals, we cannot hope for a thriving economy, where people can have the opportunity to make their contribution and have dignity and respect.

We live in the 21st century. It is time we learned how to be truly civilised and compassionate, and give everyone a chance to thrive.

This feels like common sense to me – isn’t it time we started to ask our governments to sort out the basics, so we can all thrive?

WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL VALUES PART TWO

In my last blog I explored the values and principles that drive our thoughts and reactions. In this one, I want to look at those which drive our behaviour with others.

There is one principle that underlies everything else: treat others as you would wish to be treated. This gives us all a simple guide to our behaviour with others – we all know how we wish to be treated. Just applying this principle would put an end to unfairness, nastiness, disrespect, discrimination, injustice, because none of us wish to experience these behaviours from others.

There are four main values it implies. He first is fairness. This means giving others the opportunity to be the best they can be. It is often called a level playing field, and that means being able to start with the same advantages and disadvantages as everyone else. It also means, on a direct personal level, giving others the chance to explain, express their views, be heard.

Secondly there is respect. This means appreciating differences rather than criticising them. It also means what my parents called ‘manners’ – not being rude or dismissive.

Thirdly there is trustworthiness. This means doing what you’ve said you’ll do, keeping your word. It also implies keeping confidences and not being a gossip.

And finally there is compassion. This is when you bring your heart into the situation. It is offering kindness rather than judgement.

And all of these require that we communicate with others. This word means finding what we have that we share, by talking, listening and observing, our common humanity. We do that by real face-to-face conversations, not through texts or emails. Everyone has a story, and we enrich our world by hearing each other’s stories.

Al this is obvious, isn’t it? We almost all intend to live by these principles and values on a personal level. Yet this is not how our world seems to work.

It is time we translated all this into demands for a better world, one that would work for the majority, not just the few.

What does that mean? I have some suggestions – next blog…

CAN WE BECOME SANE AGAIN?

Over the years I have worked with thousands of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, in all sorts of jobs. When asked about the values and principles they believe would bring out the best in them and others, they almost always came up with the same things – what I would call the universal values and principles.

Yet we live in a world where these values and principles are not the driving force. Instead, we have developed culturally an ethos of greed, inequity, discrimination, short-termism, deceit and self-interest – the opposites of what people say would allow us to be at our best.

It doesn’t match what people would prefer and it brings out the worst in people – it’s as if things have turned upside down. I think that it is the result of capitalism gone mad. I’m not saying that capitalism is wrong – just that it has led to a selfish, greedy materialistic way of doing things, and however much people would prefer a different way, we feel as if we have to behave similarly if we are going to ‘get on’.

But most of us are no longer ‘getting on’. More and more people are struggling just to get by, while the rich 1% get richer. More people are homeless while a few have several homes to choose from. More people are working harder than ever for not enough reward or recognition. And most of our systems to support people are crumbling from chronic underfunding.

None of it makes sense. We thrive when there is kindness, co-operation, fair treatment, support when we need it. so how can we thrive in this insane world as it stands?

I think it is time we reasserted those values that help people to be the best they can be. We need to stand up for common sense, for the general good, for a chance to thrive.

It is surely possible to revert to our true nature and live in a world where everyone’s basic needs were met, where people were treated with respect, where fairness and honesty were the rule, not the exception.

Over the next few blogs I want to explore what those universal values and principles mean in practice, and then ask you: will you join me in standing up for them and help to make the world sane again.

LOOKING FOR THE CHINKS OF LIGHT

We are living in tough times. There is far more bad news than good – one thing after another seems to pile on the agony, in the world, in our country, even in our own lives.

It is easy to feel despair, but that doesn’t help anything. We need to look for the chinks of light. And in the midst of all this, they do still shine through.

In the world, the West is still supporting Ukraine, which may be politically motivated, but is better than has been managed in the past, when countries under attack have not been helped in any significant way. And the problems with gas supply have pushed many countries to move more quickly on installing renewable energy, which will help our planet.

In this country, the government is doing some terrible things, but at least it has stepped in to help with the cost of living crisis. We may not agree with their method or their philosophy, but it will help people to have more of a chance of paying their bills.

And above all, individual people bring chinks of light into our lives, with their kindness and thoughtfulness, their sense of humour despite everything, their warmth and affection.

Let’s keep looking for these chinks of light, and giving them to others whenever we can. It’s what will bring us through

DISRUPTION AND DISTRACTION

I am in the midst of disruption in my personal life – having a new kitchen fitted! It has made me think about what disruption is. The word originally means something that breaks you away from your normal patterns and routines.

I am not good at dealing with disruption, and I don’t know anyone who is, but on reflection, I realise with hindsight that often a disruption in my everyday life has had some positive outcomes, breaking some of my less useful patterns and making me reconsider what really matters.

A good example of this would be the lockdowns during the pandemic, when all our lives were disrupted. At the time it was difficult for most people, but it certainly made us aware of how important our connections with others are, and of the simple things in life we can get pleasure from.

On the other hand, there is distraction. I have been using distractions to help me cope with the disruption. Distraction means originally something that pulls you away from whatever is going on.

I have done jigsaws, worked on the garden, watched movies, because they all take up my attention and give me space from my busy mind. So distractions can be very useful for alleviating the effects of disruption and it is worth having that list of what works for you.

And of course, they can also have a downside. Sometimes we use distractions to avoid things we know we need to confront or get on with.

At present I am using distractions to help, and I hope to find the positive outcomes – besides a new kitchen! – in the coming weeks. I also hope that I will remember the plus’s and minuses of disruption and distraction so that I use them well in the future.

What about you? How do you manage disruption and use distraction?

EUREKA MOMENTS

It’s one of those stories that we hear but don’t really register: when Archimedes realised, as he took a bath, the principle of buoyancy, and ran down the street yelling, ‘Eureka!’, which means ‘I’ve got it!’.

We may be impressed that a brilliant polymath discovered a major mathematical principle that way, but we don’t notice the important message about how our minds work that lies within it.

Going over a problem in our minds, using all our logical thinking, is often not the way to find a solution. Good as our logical mind can be at working out the detail of something, it is not particularly good at identifying the insight that will set us on the right path.

We all have eureka moments in our lives: times when we suddenly see how we can handle something, or solve a problem. And they usually occur when we’ve stopped thinking about it in an intense way and   are dong something else: going for a walk; having a shower; watching something unrelated on tv. It’s as if we need to switch off our thinking minds to allow our intuition or insight to come through.

So let’s use the process. If we’re puzzling over something, let’s distract ourselves for a while, with something that occupies our conscious mind in a different way, to allow some space for our innate wisdom to show itself. It is how our minds work. Many geniuses through the ages have used it. Let’s follow their example and make our lives easier by allowing space for eureka moments.

OUR ENERGY IMPACT

I was complaining about feeling old, and was given this phrase: ‘We are not our age, we are our energy.’ At first, I was not sure if I got it. After all, I know I have less physical energy than I did when I was younger, and I know that I do sometimes feel my age!

But then further conversation made me realise that this relates to the energy impact we have, on others and ourselves. This is our energetic field, an invisible aura of energy around us, generated by our overall state. It is not our physical energy levels, although that can have an effect on it.

You know how some people seem to carry negativity around with them, whilst others give off a ‘buzz’? And of course, there are variations: an aura of kindness or gentleness; an aura of humour or lightness; an aura of busyness; an aura of life being difficult – you get the idea… And we are all affected by others’ energetic fields – we feel them and react to them, even if we’re not conscious of it.

Once we do become conscious of having that energetic field, we can do things to affect it positively in the way we want it to be, regardless of whether we are feeling energetic or not.

  • We can make a change physically: stand up straight, dance, smile, go for a walk
  • We can make a change emotionally: think about things and people we love, enjoy
  • We can make a change actively: do something that lightens our mood

I know what energy impact I want to have on others, not because I’m a ‘good’ person, but because I’m selfish. If my energy impact is positive, I will usually get positive energy back. And that’s a bonus for my own energy bank, helping me to be my energy, not my age.

LETTING GO

My friend Rebecca sent me a copy of a poem by Safire Rose called ‘She Let Go’.

https://safire-rose.com/books-and-media/poetry/she-let-go . As I read it through I could feel the relief, the lightness of being that just letting go creates.

It is not easy to stop worrying something through. We go backwards and forwards in our minds, we may talk about it with others, we allow whatever it is to affect our behaviour, our mind. Yet at the same time, this poem reminded me that we can just let it go: say ‘Oh well,’ and let go.

It is easier to do with something in the past. After all, there’s nothing we can do about it now, so revisiting it in our mind changes nothing except our own mood and behaviour.

Letting go of something that’s in our present reality, or that we are predicting in our future is harder. Yet if we think about it with a form of logic, it becomes easier,

If it’s in our present reality, then it’s here, so the best thing to do is accept it, and decide what we can do about it, or at least how we can alleviate the situation. Wishing it away just doesn’t work!

If it’s future and certain, we can plan what we will do to handle it. If it’s not certain, we need to recognise that we don’t know if it will turn into reality, and that worrying about it now may be an unnecessary weight.

It rarely helps us to sort something out when we worry at it like a dog with a bone, and we all have evidence of that truth!

From now on, I’m going to see if I can emulate the ‘she’ in the poem: ‘She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go… It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.. In the space of letting go, she let it all be’.

WHOSE APPROVAL DO YOU SEEK?

I saw an interview with Whoopi Goldberg, where she was asked this question. She replied without hesitation, ‘Only my own.’ It made me think about how much approval from others can shape how we behave.

It starts when we are little. We seek approval from our parents because that is a good way of making sure they look after us when we need that care. If they approve of our behaviour we are praised for being a good boy or girl, rather than scolded. And that can be a massive hangover in our adult life, where we mirror that behaviour without even being aware of it. Even now, on the day my cleaners have been, I often say, ‘ Look Mummy – my house is clean and tidy like yours always was.’ (The rest of the time of course it’s pretty chaotic – I didn’t exactly adopt the habit!)

Then there are teachers who give us better reports if we behave well. And peer groups who let us be part of the gang if we follow their norms – and these two influences can be quite contradictory!

As we begin to grow up, we do tend to establish our own norms and values, but we often still seek approval, from partners, friends, family, and those we admire.

It is hard to separate out what our true own values are, and which we just try to match for the sake of approval from others.

I do believe I could answer the question as Whoopi Goldberg did, although I had to think it through first! I enjoy and appreciate it when I do get approval from others I love and admire, but it doesn’t drive my behaviour – it’s an added bonus rather than something I aim for.

What about you? Whose approval do you seek?