Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.
As a companion to yesterdays Does This Smell Funny podcast I would like to go a little deeper into the concept of defending your bandwidth. I’ll begin with a question. How is it that two people who live in the same area, make similar wages, and have had a similar set of experiences can view the world in two completely different ways? Two people who sit next to each other at the same job, grew up in the same town, and have effectively lived identical lives can live in two completely different worlds. Person A reads books, travels on their vacations, and practices kindness and patience when having conversations with people. Person A’s friends would refer to them as optimistic and curious. Person B only watches specific news channels, only engages in specific conversations with people who agree with their beliefs, and avoids any and all conversations and information that opposes the beliefs they have.
On a fundamental level there is little reason to believe that these two people should view the world from polar opposite perspectives. However, they do, and they do to a significant degree. Certain symptoms of an optimistic, growth mindset such as the one shown by Person A are beliefs that change in the presence of new information and constructive conversations with people that hold varying positions. Person B is dismissive with a more fixed mindset. This person holds the same views regardless of any new perspectives or information they encounter. Things like confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, and an echo chamber effect emerge. The only information sought is that which is predetermined to agree with established positions or it is rejected. Whenever information is happened upon that contradicts established positions and opinions these are reacted to with pretty consistent strategies. Either a dismissive disqualification of either the information, or the person providing the information is established. Often lumping them into a group or other method of invalidation (liberal, globalist, dumb or naive kid) or simply reacting with hostility (ad hominem). One thing is for sure is that rarely will the components of the actual topic be discussed, and if they are it will not be with any open mindedness or chance of constructive progression.
None of this is meant to be an attack on those with fixed mindsets or uncompromising belief systems. People often develop these positions either out of privilege (no not that kind of privilege), example, or necessity. It is the example that was set for them, or the tool kit that has helped them navigate their lives up to this point. Optimism is not safe and being open minded is not always accepted or comforting. If your parents hold uncompromising views and have fixed mind sets there is little opportunity for you develop an optimistic, growth mindset. An adolescent expressing progressive beliefs, or any belief that does not align with their authority figures will often be met with the same response that they will end up using in perpetuity, or until a better example is set or growth occurs.
The reason I am discussing this is because one consistent observation I see is the difference in the quality of life and the level of peace. So what is the most important decision a person can make? It is the decision to be happy. This is truly the only decision that matters. No single person has influence over every circumstance they encounter, but your reaction is completely up to you. I am not suggesting anything akin to self delusion or deception. I am simply suggesting to allow yourself to be at peace by controlling your perception. Problems will inevitably arise, but getting angry about something you can have zero influence on is simply spinning wheels with the parking brake on. Lots of smoke and damage but no distance is covered. Cut yourself a break and take a moment to asses a situation using a simple two step test.
Step 1: Can you do anything about it?
If not then let it go immediately. If yes proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Do something about it and then let it go.
No value is created through division and contempt for people who hold different views. If you find yourself in combat with an idea, I urge you to allow yourself, or even force yourself, to deploy kindness and patience, and take a moment to realize we are all just doing the best we can. Regardless of the scorecard at the end of any given day, we are all we have, and an open mind allows for unity and strength where a closed mind is simply stagnant. Please allow yourself peace and try to seek to understand those you are at odds with, before trying to convince them of anything.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”
-Stephen Covey (soft attribution to Habit 5)