- Religion and Philosophy
Risks To Take In Order To Live A Better Life
Bend the Rules with Discriminating Care
Bend the rules when it is within the realm of compassion. For example, let a sick child watch television when the other children have homework. A distressed child will benefit more from a ten minute longer story time than a strict 8 PM bedtime. Firing someone who is late to work without bothering to verify the traffic jam cited as the reason for being late is cruel.
However, balance bending of the rules with consideration for others. There is a saying that kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind. Bending the rules for those who are consistently late, rarely pay back their debts and have excuses for everything is a cruelty to those who are usually honest, loyal and considerate but receive the punishments for breaking the rules. Take a calculated risk to bend the rules for those who will reward the act with hard work and loyalty. And come down with full force on those who think the rules are made to be broken.
Tell People How You Truly Feel
In a private conversation, an elderly relative said that his greatest regret was not telling his daughter that he loved her until she was on her deathbed and he couldn't be certain she heard him. If he had told her this throughout her life, much of their animosity and love-hate relationship would have been prevented. Waiting until it might have been too late, he then lived years further with regret and doubt. While we rarely face such life-and-death discussions, it is important to tell others people how we truly feel.
One caveat to this is that it must be tempered, and we shouldn't say things when caught up in a bad temper. For example, you should never neglect an opportunity to tell a child or family member that you love them. Admit when you are wrong and sorry. Let others know when you are proud of them. Take the risk of telling the girl that you love her and being rejected instead of wondering if she is the one. In contrast, keep snide remarks and insults conceived in anger to yourself.
Accept That It Isn't All Sunshine and Rainbows - and That’s Not Bad
Depression, anger, frustration and grief are not mental disorders. We should not medicalize or suppress negative emotions and assume that they should be cured by psychotherapy and drugs. A wife of fifty years left widowed won't get over her grief in six months unless she feels relief that he's passed after a long illness. A man can and should lust after his wife; marriage exists to channel those impulses into a stable, loving pair-bond. It is lust after a stranger that leads to broken marriages and regretted one night stands, if not STDs.
Depression can be seen as a mental disorder if it sucks all of the life out of someone for months at a time. A temporary dark time after losses of a romantic partner, job, friends or missed opportunities is normal and may motivate someone to make necessary changes. Telling someone that they must miss out on a deeply introspective period, put on a fake smile and distract themselves from reality hurts them in the long run. Let yourself feel bad, sad and upset.
You'll do better in the long run if you save for emergencies yourself than assuming God or society will provide for you. You'll function better if you give yourself time to grieve over a loss than trying to put on a happy face and have the emotions seep into your life at inopportune times over the next months and years.
Accept that the world isn't all sunshine and rainbows, so that you'll be more rational in the long run. Then you will make better choices and avoid much of the misery irrational optimism causes.
Use the Opportunities You Come Across
If you are in the elevator with a perfect prospect, take a risk and give your ninety second sales pitch. You could land a deal. Failure to make a decision is a decision, usually to let the opportunity pass you by.
When offered an additional project or promotion, take it on unless you literally cannot afford it. Realize that, unlike the advice in "The Secret", wishing really hard and visualizing your dreams will not make them happen. Acting on the opportunities you see, despite the risk of rejection and embarrassment, is how you will succeed.
Balance Optimism with Pragmatism
Excessive optimism can hurt you. In the POW camps of Vietnam, those who were stoic had a greater survival rate than those who were excessive optimistic. Their high hopes were repeatedly dashed, leading to stress and even stupid acts that got them killed. In contrast, those who were stoic and focused on enduring these horrific events were far more likely to survive.
Day to day life is rarely so extreme, but you still need to balance optimism with pragmatism. For example, you should base your budget on the income you regularly receive today, not the money you hope to get in the future. Spending next month's Christmas bonus that doesn't arrive leads to debt. Planning trips you could not afford without a commission that may not come will lead to trip cancellation fees in addition to deep disappointment. Telling every child that they can go to college and become doctors, lawyers and star athletes is cruel in its set up, based on the assumption that we can't give children anything other than a vision of a perfect future.
Half of all children are below average, and they would be better served going to trade school and becoming electricians, plumbers, carpenters, diesel mechanics and other well-paying positions. While it isn't the ideal career path, it is far better than pushing those who cannot handle college level work who then drop out of school with $50,000 in student loans they cannot discharge in bankruptcy and work in a retail job they could have gotten straight out of high school. Balance optimism with pragmatism and make wise choices.
Take a chance on the opportunities that exist, but act to minimize the risks and within the realistic capabilities and resources you have at your disposal.
Take a chance and be yourself. How many comedy skits are based on someone acting like a rich elite snob when they are from far more humble origins? The person convinces a potential romantic partner or business partner to like them, and then they live with the fear that the person will not stay if the true person were revealed. Happiness will never come when you give up on your core beliefs or primary values. Be true to yourself.
Some people won't like you. However, many more will be reluctant to trust you if you pretend to be someone you are not.
One caveat to the “be authentic” rule is that we should not assume that our passion will be our career path. For example, a music lover should not necessarily become a musician. Whether he or she becomes a concert promoter, music blogger or an accountant who enjoys blues music is a personal choice. Someone who loves animals should not be pushed into becoming a vet or animal rights activist. Why not become a nurse and donate to animal rescue groups? We all too often assume that being authentic means doing what we love 24x7 and fighting for the elite jobs like classical musician, rock star or athlete.
A man who loves soccer would serve society just as well as a kids’ soccer coach or referee for an adult team than failing to join a pro soccer team. Be yourself, but realize that there are far more options available than we initially realize.
Take a Stand Against the Evil in the World
The darker impulses in our selves should be controlled, and it is the obligation of everyone in civilized society to enforce standards of behavior. We have a moral obligation to call out wrong-doing and correct those who do wrong. A child who beats up a sibling at seven could assault a parent at twelve and land in jail for assault at 18.
A child permitted to steal at eight could be in jail for auto theft at nineteen. Failing to both catch and then punish wrong doing will lead to someone escalating the behavior. Excusing excessive drinking or a slap to the face today results in alcoholism and abuse later if tolerated. All too often, the words “tolerance” means we are told we cannot condemn evil acts or dangerous behavior because those things are to be treated as “choices”.
Righteous anger against a man who abuses young children is not wrong; in fact, many great things have happened when people acted out of righteous anger. It is those who say we all have to act nice and just get along that enable evil to flourish, as if the fake smiles and silent worry is better than challenging a potential child molester or violent criminal. A girl who sleeps with every man who asks in the assumption that it will make her popular risks ruining her body as well as her ability to love a man in the future, given all the times she breaks her heart. Yet telling her that she can say no to a man and retain her dignity is condemned as interfering with her sexual liberation.
It is those who stood by quietly, unwilling to rock the boat and risk looking bad, who enable such evil to continue and even ensnare more victims. Take a chance and stand up against what is wrong, so that the world will become a better place.