Instant Counterattacks

One of our first impulses when someone criticizes us is to automatically look for reasons they are wrong.

Oftentimes, like a little kid in a name-calling argument, we try to just turn it around on the other person.

“You’re a booger face.”

“You are.”

But, what if, just maybe, they are right?

What if, as small as the probability may be, what they have to say is valid?

What if we really are the problem sometimes?

I am the worst about this. I think my mind really hits optimal performance levels when it is working to prove that criticism of me is not valid, and planning a counter-attack. It’s like a quantum computer in these moments.

Speed of light fast.

Luckily, I’ve learned to shut it down before it hits my mouth.


I often find that there is a at least a twig of truth in what the other person is saying, and it’s a chance to change something in me that is not useful.

Criticism makes us defensive.

It makes us throw up walls and start boiling oil to dump down on the unwelcome invaders. This is natural and serves a purpose, but can also prompt us to kill the messenger who brings us news of a critical flaw in the way we are doing things.

Our instantaneous response is not always helpful.

What are your first thoughts when criticized?

How quickly do you go on the counter attack?

What would happen if you took a moment to consider what the other person was saying?

Dead Bodies Stink

“It seems like mindfulness will make it where I don’t really like things.”

I’ve heard this, or some version of it, a couple of times, and I get where the fear comes from. I think a lot of us have this picture of Zen monks who aren’t bothered by anything and don’t really like or dislike anything, everything just is.

There may be people out there who meditate themselves into complete neutrality and numbness, but I would have to say they are doing it wrong, and that it’s not healthy.

Mindfulness, when practiced genuinely and properly, does not detach us from the world and everything in it. It connects us to everything on a deeper and more honest level, but it lets us do so without attachment.

Attachment is not love or enjoyment. Clutching and clinging and trying to possess something does not bring us happiness.

We can enjoy the things we enjoy without holding on to them so desperately that we break our fingers.

There is a great power in being able to allow things to come and go in their own time.

There is power in recognizing that things are not permanent and that we don’t really own anything at all. I think this actually allows us to enjoy them more because we aren’t wasting time trying to make them last forever.

I deeply enjoy my life and many things within it, and a mindful lifestyle has allowed me to do this without the anxiety I used to have about preserving it all forever.

It has allowed me to let go of things that no longer serve a purpose and give away the things that someone else might enjoy.

Hanging on to something past its expiration date will never bring us happiness.

We can enjoy things in their time, and let them go when it is over.

This is really the only way to enjoy anything at all.

Choosing to Have Choices

If you read much about our hunter/gatherer ancestors you will inevitably see a discussion about how much free time they had. It certainly doesn’t feel like this is the case anymore.

Part of the difficulty of living in our modern world is all the stuff we have to do.

We have to get out of bed, make breakfast, take a shower, pack a lunch, drive to work, go home, mow the lawn, clean the kitchen, do laundry, feed the kids, straighten the house, attend weddings and birthday parties and social functions. We have to pay our bills and prepare our taxes and get our phone fixed and go to kids’ soccer games and plays and recitals. I could fill up dozens of blog posts just talking about the things we have to do.

Except that none of it is true.

We don’t have to do any of these things. Not a single one of them.

There is only one thing we have to do, and that’s die someday.

All these other things are choices, no matter how coerced or forced they feel.

We choose to go to work so that we can be productive or just to pay our bills.

We choose to take care of our house because we care about our living environment or because it’s a habit or because we think it’s the right thing to do.

We choose to participate in social events because we realize they are important or because we let ourselves feel obligated or because deep down we enjoy them.

We choose to feed our kids because it’s our job or because we don’t want CPS at our house or maybe even because we love them.

The why doesn’t so much matter, the fact that we are choosing these things does.

It’s important because when we start to feel like we are forced or controlled or that our whole life is dictated, we become unhappy and depressed and anxious.

Recognizing our power to choose changes our relationship to everything.

Have a great day.

Follow Through and Fragility

“I don’t know Marge, trying is the first step towards failure.”

Homer Simpson

I think this is the last day talking about follow-through for a while.

The earliest blogs I wrote and my first podcast were about how seeking perfection will keep us from even trying something new, much less following through on it.

Perfection stops us at the gate because there is no way to succeed if we are seeking an unattainable ideal. It creates fragility and can stop us dead in our tracks if we are not careful.

The need to be perfect so as to be above reproach and criticism used to paralyze me and kept me from trying a lot of things. It halted my progress and caused me to give up on quite a few ideas and projects. Any sort of criticism or pushback was enough to shut me down.

It is impossible to do anything in the world without facing some sort of criticism or negativity from someone.

Some people will not like what you do, some people will not get it and some people are just unhappy and they spread their misery around as much as they can. It’s just the way the world works.

Some people, however, will have legitimate and valuable criticisms of what you are doing, and these need to be considered in order to improve what you are offering.

The idea that we are all ok exactly the way we are and that everyone else can go to hell is poisonous and stupid, and is actually more of a defense mechanism than quitting is. The key is to be strong enough in who we are and what we are doing to be able to honestly consider other people’s criticism in order to be better. It’s not easy, but it is the only way to grow and evolve.

What stops you from doing the big thing you want to do?

How do you deal with criticism and hardship?

Can a speedbump derail your entire project?

Is perfection an attainable goal?

Gratitude for Enemies

A majority of the best things that have happened to me have not been by my own doing.

I often say that we have no business getting what we want because we don’t know what is best for us, and we really have no business classifying someone as an enemy because we really don’t know what will come out of the relationship with them.

Instead of calling people enemies maybe we can see them as oppositional forces or unintentional teachers.

Enemies are useful because they help us learn things about ourselves and force us to develop new ideas and strategies for being alive and dealing with difficulties. Just because this is not their intent does not mean that we cannot be grateful to them for the help in growing.

I can see a great number of cool things in my life that only happened because someone else’s actions jarred me into making a change or trying something new.

Sometimes we need someone to betray us to help us see that we are accepting mediocrity from our relationships.  Sometimes we need someone else’s unhealthiness to become so unbearable that we are willing to leave our comfort zone and do something new.

A story is really only as good as its antagonist, because it is the antagonist that sparks everything.

Without Voldemort, Harry and Hermione and Ron have some cool adventures and a neat high school experience, but we don’t get the same story about friendship and loyalty and life and death.

Looking back, I can see where the people I identified as villains and enemies have been my greatest teachers, and have forced me into many new things that turned out to be good. In this respect, I am indebted to them.