I saw a lot of tributes to MLK Jr. yesterday. This one inspired me the most. The first element of his instruction for having a life “blueprint” was to have a “deep belief in your dignity, worth, and somebodiness.”
The word is odd but it hits the spot for me.
Especially when circumstances kick me around.
Especially when “everyone else” seems more successful and more…everything.
Especially when the world seems to be an unloving place for so many.
What is weighing me down and keeping me from sailing?
What do I owe others so I know for sure which direction to sail?
What good can I do as I sail along my way?
These questions and the actions I take to answer them determine how I live.
Even with the best of intentions, when someone starts talking about “positive thinking,” I cringe a little inside…
Not because I am an advocate of negative thinking, rather, I have learned that productive thinking works better for realists than positive thinking.
For realists, who find it difficult to continually “look on the bright side,” positive thinking often feels like ignoring reality, pretending, or spinning the real truth, while, productive thinking pulls us into an action mode; What is my next step? What can I learn from this experience? etc.
For realists, positive thinking generates a guilt trip; I’m not thinking positively. You shouldn’t be so negative, etc, etc. Productive thinking reminds us to stay away from thoughts that paralyze or steal energy.
The objective for “positive thinking” is commendable: stay out of negativity.
Some of us just need a productive word swap to pull it off.
Today, I heard myself thinking, “I don’t know what my life is about.” This thought is always accompanied by a sigh and maybe a little depression. But, today, right after the sigh, someone asked me to help them. As I did, my confusion cleared. “Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m here to be kind.”
Emily Dickinson said so.
On the rare days when I come face-to-face with my own mortality, my first cynical thought is…Why bother doing anything if I am just going to die? My second thought is…The plants need watering.
That pretty much sums it up for me. Even though nothing lasts, there are needs all around that I can meet and, there is that sobering awareness of other mortals who have used some of their fleeting moments to make my life easier to live. Where would I be if they hadn’t taken their short lives serious enough to use them wisely?
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t know the why for what I have to do, I don’t have much energy to figure out the how to get it done.
In the book, Drive, Daniel Pink reminds us that the big motivators in work (and in life) are mastery, autonomy, and purpose. He says the best bosses remind employees why their jobs matter, becoming “purpose maximizers” (as well as profit maximizers).
Those bosses give hope. And, most of us really need it…anywhere we can get it.
Because of that, I’ve gotten into the daily habit of asking myself in reference to the people in my life, “Am I a hope-giver or a hope-taker?
Power to the hope-givers!
Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath is well worth reading, not just for the inspiring tales of underdog victory, but also for useful insights into history, medicine, industry, education, sociology, and human survival.
Books as Gladwell’s remind me that…
- I know so little about things I assume I know so much
- unlikely heroes are in every walk of life
- my weaknesses can bring me the greatest victories
- every story counts
- courage and audacity change the world
Thank you, Malcolm Gladwell, for reminding me that things aren’t always as they seem.