When Does Different Mean Better?

We all know someone who views the world differently than we do, don’t we? There is always someone in every group who tends to be the funny one, the sensitive one, the logical one, the illogical one, or something else that differentiates them. Does the fact that they are different, in whatever way they are different, matter? It takes everyone to make the world go around, as the saying goes, yet the news is full of people fighting each other because of differences, so is being different good or bad?

It is human nature to notice the differences between others and ourselves. From a sociological standpoint, it is quite clearly demonstrated demographically, geographically, culturally, and otherwise. Having grown up in Europe, lived in different parts of the US, and traveled rather extensively around the world, I may view the world a bit differently than many. That experience has taught me, not only about the differences in people around the world, but I believe more importantly, about the similarities.

quo_gandhiWhen we notice differences, and if we then create an “us versus them” mindset, we foster a competitive, and potentially alienating environment. When all we see are differences, and when those differences are viewed as “bad” or “wrong,” it is impossible to create an environment of trust and goodwill. Clearly there are some beliefs and political systems around the world that are difficult for us to agree with or even comprehend. But this isn’t about that. How do we, as the kind and generous people we are, live our lives genuinely and joyfully? Think about people you know, and think about what you know about them that differs from you. Then think about what you and they have in common. Which makes you feel more connected with them?

We have all felt joy, pain, sorrow, adoration, anger, jealousy, and more. We all love our children and want them to be happy and healthy. We all want to feel valued and to be treated with respect. Our blood is red, and we need food and water and shelter. From Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we know that we all share the same needs. The difference is where we are in the hierarchy. The truth is, we have much more in common with each other than differences that drive us apart. What might happen if we all concentrated on the things that we have in common, those things that connect us all? When we realize that we share more than just the air we breathe, that we share feelings and dreams and needs, then we can begin to feel more connected, more a part of the good that we share. Once we embrace that, the possibilities are endless. How cool is that?

The Greatest Job in the World

If you are a parent, you have undertaken to do the most important, challenging, and rewarding job anyone can ever have.  It is likely that you have had days when you wondered what in the world you got yourself into.  Have you ever thought that you weren’t going to make it as a parent or that you weren’t doing a good job?  Did you ever wonder how your children would turn out considering the mistakes you thought you made?

If you are a typical parent, chances are there have been times when you wondered whether you were really cut out for that job and if your kids would be okay.    What I believe is that you have done a good job, and if your kids are still at home, you continue to do the best you can at all times.  Chances are that you have actually done a pretty darn good job.

Even though there isn’t an instruction manual for raising children, and even though we swore we wouldn’t make the same mistakes our parents made with us, we have instilled certain character in our children that, though they may not always exhibit it, will serve them well as they grow into adulthood.

A teacher of mine who practiced Family Counseling for decades shared with me that when parents came to her with a “problem child,” she would meet with them all, then the child, but she would spend more time with the parents in counseling sessions.  In business we know that culture is a top-down phenomenon.  The same holds true for families.  The most important part of our job as parents is to allow our children to be who they are (not to mold them into some facsimile of ourselves or to be their friends) and to teach them to be caring and responsible adults.

You have in you everything you need to make good decisions, and it is most likely that, especially related to your children, your decisions have been, overall, good ones.  In doing “the right thing” by your children, they will grow up to be good adults.  When your children accomplish something that brings them great joy and you beam with pride, remember that you really did do a great job.  How cool is that?

You Can Change Your Mind

Have you ever made a decision that didn’t turn out the way you hoped? Perhaps you felt as if you had failed, yet again. Were you repeating a pattern of behavior and perhaps sabotaging yourself because of a limiting belief? Were you making a decision based on your feelings and intuition or based on what others were saying?

One of the presuppositions of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) is, “There is no failure, only feedback.” As a recovering perfectionist, I really like that saying. I had allowed myself to get to a point where I hesitated to do anything out of fear of making a mistake. There are some other reasons for my having gotten that way, but suffice it to say, that was how I was. More than 20 years ago, when studying NLP, I began to realize more about why I was behaving the way I was and about my limiting beliefs and their impact on my life. I realized that I could change by changing what I believed about myself. There is new science to back this all up in a big way, but at the time, I just had a sense (call it an intuition) that I really could change myself and my life by changing my thoughts and beliefs.

I was right, and my life changed for the better as my beliefs about myself changed. Along the way, I still made some choices based on old, restricting beliefs, and as I looked back at those decisions, I realized that none of them were based on my true feelings and intuitions. They were based on “shoulds” and fears. I wasn’t quite at the point I could simply shrug off those decisions and go on, because I still felt as if I had failed, somehow. But the great thing was, I did realize that I could make new decisions based on what I knew to be right for me (based on my intuition, my heart) rather than staying stuck in the consequences of the former decisions. I began to realize that I could change my mind and my decisions to ones that would support what I really wanted.

Each decision that we make results in some information to analyze. We don’t really need to do much analysis to assess certain outcomes. It isn’t like a scientific experiment or an engineering project or mechanical process when we have to measure outcomes with sophisticated equipment and do statistical analysis and calculate standard deviations. Many decisions, likely most decisions, can be assessed rather quickly and easily with how we feel, how much joy we have in our lives after the results are in. Few if any good decisions will result in our feeling miserable or being unhappy. This is not to make light of making certain tough, life altering decisions. It is simply to say that we have the ability to make decisions based on what is best for us and others (for the highest good of all), and the results can be assessed rather easily by paying attention to our bodies and by listening to our hearts.

It is not a failure when we make decisions that don’t turn out exactly the way we would want. Doing so allows us to learn, to grow, to become more of who we are. It allows us to learn to pay more attention to our selves – to our hearts, our intuitions, and to that which brings us joy. So when you make a decision and it doesn’t bring the joy you thought it would, make another decision. You can change your mind.

All the best, always,