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Thoughts About Life

When we are in any type of relationship we hold a set of expectations for the each other. We are constantly doing this without thinking too much about it. I decided to try to break this process down into its elements to get a clearer understanding. I think if we better understand this, we can be more mindful of our expectations and thus significantly improve all our relationships.

What do we usually base our expectations on?

They are often based on what we are used to from past experience and our idea of what is ‘normal’ in any particular relationship category. For example, if someone has a childhood where they are abused or neglected then they might go on to live their lives expecting this from everyone. The same goes for spoiled children who usually grow up expecting a lot more from others than they end up getting and at the same time not really doing much in return.

In close relationships people with low self-worth generally have lower expectations (they don’t feel they deserve it) and those with higher self-worth have higher ones (they know they deserve it). However, I have noticed that in many cases the same people with high self-worth will have lower expectations for loose ties than for those with low self-worth. Probably because people with low self-worth want everyone to like them where as high self-worth people only care about the love of their inner circle.

What to do when expectations are not met?

There will be cases where one holds higher expectations of someone than they are either capable of or willing to meet. This will lead to conflict and various emotional responses and can put the whole relationship into question. It is important to reach an understanding of what you expect from each other and if these expectations can be met.

If someone lets you down or “hurts” you, the first question you have to ask is, “Is it fair for me to place this expectation on them?” If the answer is “no” then you should no longer feel let down. If the answer is “yes” then you have to ask yourself, “Do I need to lower my expectations for this person?” Maybe it is just a one off event, you can solve it through communicating your feelings and thoughts and sorting it out. But if this is a serious issue or something that keeps happening repeatedly then you have to consider lowering your expectations.

The next question you have to ask yourself after lowering your expectations for this individual is, “With this new set of expectations, what role do I see this person taking in my life moving forward?” This is where you have to decide how much distance such a person should have from you. Lowering expectations will create distance because closeness and expectations both move in the same direction. This could range from a slight downgrade of the relationship to a termination of it.

Other thoughts…

Usually I try to match my expectations for someone with what they are capable of from the start so there is never an issue. People who I have low expectations for stay at an appropriate distance and those that I have high expectations for remain close. But sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I put higher expectations on someone than I should. Usually because of some sentimental reasons leading me to wish better from them to justify my attachment, thus avoiding the inevitable result of having to break that attachment and redefine the relationship to a lower level. That is a painful thing to do but an important thing to do.

It is also important not to just focus on your expectations of others but on their expectations of you. Throughout life people may put various expectations on you which you will not meet. It is your responsibility to help others manage their expectations of you by communicating clearly.

Most people go through life unconsciously assigning expectations to people and not really understanding what they are doing or why. If we aren’t mindful of this we can look forward to a lifetime of relationship problems which may result in becoming a hermit with an unhealthy passion for cats.

– Please comment if you disagree with something.

Why do so many people fail to improve themselves when they are presented with solutions which they themselves agree with? They see the problem and solution but seem to be unable to use it. Their minds seem stuck in a recurring pattern which takes too much energy to break. They make excuses and delude themselves, they convince themselves that something won’t work, something will be too hard, it is just the way it is, it is someone else’s fault, they don’t really care about it (even though they do).

I’ve come to realise that for most people the knowledge of a weakness and even its origin is not enough to break out of the pattern. The barrier to breaking out of these thinking patterns is fear and lazy thinking.

The solution is to start doing things, any things, that are either difficult or frightening for no other reason than that they are difficult or frightening. It doesn’t matter what it is. The point is to get used to overcoming fearful feelings or realising that the hard things are actually quite easy if we make them a habit.

I think if we get used to overcoming fearful or difficult situations in one aspect of our lives then this attitude can transfer to other aspects. We can use this to our advantage by starting off with little things to overcome and gradually lead up to the bigger ones.

Many people want to improve themselves but it is usually just an aspiration. A nice idea. I like the idea of playing the piano and I would love to be able to play the piano. But really I don’t care that much because I am not putting any time or energy into doing so. I mustn’t care that much if I am not even taking basic actions to achieve my desire.

Getting from aspiration to action can require realisations or inspirations which we have never been exposed to by reading a book or seeing someone else’s example and then really being passionate enough to do it.

Sometimes it takes a serious life event: A smoker who has always desired to give up but never put the energy into doing so gets diagnosed with cancer and gives up instantly – although for some people, even that isn’t enough.

So to conclude with a ridiculous cheesy metaphor: I think that forcing yourself to do difficult or frightening things for no other reason than that they are difficult or frightening is equivalent to learning to play the piano of life. We just have to put in the effort.

There are so many opportunities presented to us every day. It is quite amazing. They always come from other people.

We live within a huge and complex social network. Almost everything we achieve in life is through other people. Whether it be a job offer, a close relationship or a great idea. This is why building relationships with other people is the most important skill you can have.

First we need to see the opportunity. This is where most people stop. They just don’t see it. We need to see almost every decision is in some way linked to following or creating new opportunities.

Second, we need to pursue the opportunity. We need to have the confidence to fully explore this path. Sometimes this requires some (real or perceived) risk, sometimes none at all. We need to assess whether the risk is worth the potential reward. But most of all we need to throw away fears and counter mental laziness by being mindful and putting in our energy until we are satisfied.

These days I find myself constantly looking for and trying to create new opportunities. When I see them I throw myself fully into them.

For Example (not perfected all these things yet):

  • When meeting a new person who could become a close friend I can be a bit more full on than is the social standard. Go go strongly for them, I don’t muck around. I give them the picture of who I am and allow them to respond as they desire. I will continue to follow up with them until a solid connection is made or I am satisfied that this path is not going anywhere.
  • Not saying no to an invitation just because I lack some energy at that particular moment. You never know what amazing things could eventuate.
  • Always trying to engage in a positive way with every person I meet even if I am deep down disinterested. You never know what hidden surprises there could be.
  • Reading and looking for great ideas in books and other media.

This forceful continuous search for opportunities has lead me to amazing new friends, a great career and opportunities for living in a few different countries so far.

Don’t forget that you are also a provider of opportunities for other people as well, so be generous!

We make our own luck!

I was thinking about what I am trying to achieve at any single point in time – How do I live my life?

Everything I think, I say, I do is governed by three broad principles which I guess is linked to my “Three Ls” idea:

I am continuously pushing the limits of my mind. I find opportunities to expand my comfort zone – to broaden my horizons. I find opportunities to increase my capacity of mental energy – to destroy mental laziness and replace it with mental stamina. I find opportunities to increase my empathic capabilities – to improve my relationships with my fellow humans. Increasing the stamina of my mind by forcing thought when it tires.

I ensure my actions are right and good. Right thoughts flow into right words and actions. I minimise pain that I cause to others – it is impossible to cause no pain and sometimes it is necessary. I do not do to others what I do not wish to be done to me. On rare occasions where I find my conduct unethical I will do my utmost to correct the wrong and ensure it is not repeated. I aim to be source of goodness to the people and world around me.

I ensure that every day has value. Time spent with loved ones. New, positive and rich experiences. Reflections and learning. I recognise the scarcity of time and vigorously optimise the way that I spend it. I clutch on to my past because that is my life, I optimise the present while looking to the future because the present will soon be my past and the future will soon be my present.

There is a big difference between knowing and understanding something. Knowing something only gets you to the start of a possible long journey. A long journey that must be taken to reach complete understanding.

When you are a child in the passenger seat you gain knowledge of how to drive. You know how to turn the wheel, accelerate and break. Pretty simple stuff. Then you go get your learners permit. You know the rules of the road. You “know” how to drive. But there is a big gap between where you are now and actually being able to drive properly. You will get in the car with one of your parents supervising. You will put the theory into practise. You will begin the process of understanding. Only after some time will you really understand what it is to drive.

Probably the hardest thing about this is that it is difficult to know yourself if you have reached the point of understanding or if there is a long way to go. For it is easy to think you have understood if you compare yourself to how you used to think previously. But you have no conception of what it is like to think at a more advanced level until you have actually reached it. This is why many people often assume they have advanced quite far down the road when in reality they have barely even begun. This is why we sometimes need a teacher who is further ahead to show us the way.

You may know a lot of great things. But the point where knowing transitions into understanding is the point where it becomes part of you, it becomes fully entrenched in your thoughts, words and actions. It is automatic.

This is why you can hear great words from someone who may genuinely mean them. But there is a gap between what they say and what they do. If you fully and genuinely understand something then you actions will always conform to it.

I’ve developed a framework for thinking about the depth and quality of relationships and came up with a kind of “relationship spectrum”.

Why do I develop these frameworks? What’s the point? I find it helps me see things more clearly particularly in the blurry area of interpersonal relations. You can plan a path forward with the current and new companions in your life. You can decide if the quality of your relationships is good enough and what to do about it (try harder or step back). You can better prioritise who to devote your limited energy to.

From the first meeting you gradually advance through these levels eventually settling on one. Sometimes the level can recede. Sometimes it can fluctuate up and down. Often we will think we are on a higher level that we are due to certain illusions.

Which level the relationship is on can be analysed using the 4 Elements framework.

Level 1 – Apathy: You either don’t know them or you know that you don’t want to know them. If someone stays at this level then they have probably shown signs of significant incompatibility.

Level 2 – Sympathy: This person seems “all right”. You care and feel some compassion. You genuinely wish the person well from a distance. You don’t make time for them but aren’t adverse to small doses. They might even make it to your facebook.

Level 3 – Friendliness: You like the person but there isn’t a real connection. You might hang out now and then. Perhaps often. But there is a lack of depth. Most people start to use the word “friend” at this point. Conversation doesn’t get very personal and generally remains on a superficial level. These relationships do not rely on any high degree of mutual understanding and are usually just to fulfil basic needs of connection. They provide comfort and a sense of belonging. Some people who have problems forming close bonds with others will often have a lot of these with nothing much above. This relationship is generally reliant on regular contact and therefore as one goes through life many of these relationships tend to come and go.

Level 4 – Affection: This is where feelings of love begin. You “click” conversationally. You have decent chemistry and hang out quite a bit. You are “good friends”. You confide in each other but still keep a lot to yourself. If you move apart you will still keep in touch on occasion. People who you have a lot of shared history with but have drifted away a bit may sit here.

Level 5 – Attachment: You have strong feelings of love and attachment for this person. You miss them if you don’t see them for a while. You may Skype them regularly if you move apart. Most average marriages are at this level as are longer term friends.

Level 6 – Devotion: You are completely devoted. You think about this person a lot. This is a pretty high level of relationship except that complete understanding is not achieved but there is still a high level of it. Good marriages are at this level and so are most life long friendships. You can only maintain a few people in this category at any one time and some people will not have any.

Level 7 – Complete Bond: There is nothing between you. No secrets. No misunderstanding. You desire to know every little detail of each other. To be capable of having a relationship of this type requires both people to have a high interpersonal intelligence and be very outwardly focused. This kind of relationship is extremely rare and most people never have one hence the saying “we are all alone”. I can only think of about 3 people I know who are at a high enough level of development to be able to get to this point with anyone.

What do you all think? This seems to make sense to me. Share any adaptations you might make for yourself.

 

“I Disagree.” This has been said to me many times. All to often it just ends there. The person making the statement is unable to give any thorough, well thought out explanation as to why they disagree. They “just do”. When countered with a few “why?” questions they will often get uncomfortable or even upset that you haven’t merely accepted their disagreement and left it at that.

Don’t get me wrong. I love disagreement. I actually find it far more interesting than agreement because it is an opportunity to learn something new or get a different perspective which can influence my own. But the disagreement has to be real. It has to be based on a clear chain of logic.

If that isn’t provided all I see is someone who has heard something which conflicts with their reality. This raises uncomfortable and complex questions that may be accompanied by distressing feelings.

They don’t really understand why they disagree and often they don’t have any real interest in finding out. This is an example of operation on a shallow level of thinking – a realm of thought which is dominated by instincts, fears, preconceived ideas and prejudices. This is the land of simplistic thinking. The land of confusion. We need to cut through this to find the real answers.

Sometimes we may disagree with our interpretation of what a person is saying but not with what they actually mean to say. This is why there needs to be a lot of clarification so that everyone is aligned in understanding what is actually being discussed.

I think it is ridiculous to tie the concepts of being “right” or “wrong” to personal ego. We are all just seeking the truth. Let’s seek together. This attitude is a damaging and sometimes dangerous barrier to effective communication and empathy. Whether we discover ourselves to be “right” or “wrong” it doesn’t matter because either way we have discovered the truth!

“How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

Why be upset by a person’s words? If a person says what they genuinely believe, why be upset to hear it?

Maybe it is the intent that we should care about. Is the intent to help or to harm?
Maybe it is the actions we should care about. Don’t actions show what a person really thinks and feels?

The lower the self-esteem of a person and the more insecurities they have – the easier they are upset. The words are an assault on their fragile egos.

We need to be careful how we listen to and observe people. We often hear their words and see their actions through our own biased lens. We give our own meanings to them without properly interpreting theirs.

Instead we should focus on understanding “why” they are saying or doing something. What do they mean by it? Only then can we truly understand.

If we let insecurities and emotions get in the way we will have a communication break down – this is never a good thing.

If you are secure in yourself then a person expressing their perceptions of you or anything else should always be welcomed – even if you don’t agree!

The key here is to communicate until you can reach understanding. Not communicating with someone is not caring about them.

Imagine you are playing tennis. The ball gets hit right at you. You go to hit it back but you miss! You thought you were going to hit it. But your eyes deceive you and it smacks you right in the face. How strange. You thought you were going to hit it but you were suddenly shocked when your perceptions were brought into line. You just got hit in the face by reality.

Guess what? Reality is what happens outside of your head, outside of your little bubble. There are other people and other things. You may interpret and perceive them through your senses and your mind. But that doesn’t change the fact that what’s real is real.

Your perception may be your reality. But it is not THE reality.

There is only one objective reality, so try get in touch with it and end your suffering (that’s the tricky part).

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