For those of us who don’t suffer from mental or psychological disorders, it can be difficult to empathize with those who are bipolar, manic depressants, or generalized anxiety disorder (just to name a few).
Before we judge and label people, it’s important to remember that these are actual (and in some cases un-treatable) ailments that these people didn’t choose.
This perspective can be helpful in cultivating empathy: We would never be quick to judge someone because they had diabetes or tuberculosis. Similarly, we can have compassion for those with other ailments for which they are essentially victims of biology.
Our need for approval has us pursuing unfulfilling careers and relationships, and saying “yes” out of obligation rather than desire. The culprit is the voice in our heads that says “what will they think of me?”
The pill for this is self-reflection, and a commitment to exploring your own operating system, and true aspirations.
Three perspectives that have helped me on this:
- Others’ opinions of me are not my business.
- My world revolves around me but everyone else’s doesn’t (people think of us far less than we think, or at least, far less than we do).
- The #1 deathbed regret globally is that people lived their lives as they believed others thought they should.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he presents 10,000 as the magic number of practice hours a person must devote to achieve mastery. This popular but simplistic view assumes that anyone can achieve mastery given the requisite number of hours.
Other books, such as the Art of Learning and the Talent Code, respect the enormous distinction between practice and deliberate practice.
The moral is that while the success of many experts can be correlated to a minimum number of practice hours, mastery can be attained much more quickly by optimizing practice/training for quality, focus, and intensity over quantity of hours.
Feelings aren’t always logical, but they’re always “true” in the sense that our emotions are whatever they are, for right or wrong reasons.
We can empathize with others by acknowledging that ALL of their feelings are valid, but not all of their behavior is acceptable.
This is not only true and useful in negotiating conversations with children, but also for us children who have lived through a few decades.
World-renowned former Navy Seal Jocko Willink coined the phrase “discipline equals freedom”.
It seems counter-intuitive that being more stringent leads to liberation. But financial discipline gives you more money and choices, a disciplined time-management system allows you to be spontaneous and more free with your schedule, and a disciplined nutrition and exercise regimen keeps you free from health issues.
We have adequate control over many of the variables we care about. The amount of freedom we have is simply the result of operational effectiveness of disciplined systems.
Is it better to rent or buy? Start a business or get a job? The better question is: What’s a better fit for me?
The truth is, your exes may never find anyone better than you. But they may find someone better for them than you. The company you applied to may never hire a better candidate than you. But they may hire someone who is a better fit for that specific role, time, location, salary, interest level, motivation, capability, control of their calendar…
You’ll stop judging so harshly, and will see the abundance of opportunities available to you, when you view life through the lens of “better/worse fit for me” and stop seeing the world as though there’s such thing as universally good or bad, better or worse.
We teach kids to share toys when they’re not using them, and to applaud their siblings and friends’ achievements. As adults, we can learn to be genuinely happy for people around us who gain or do things important to them, without fearing invisible adverse affects on us.
Part of maturing means recognizing that others’ progress is not our failure.
It’s so much easier to avoid anxiety about whether you’ll win the race when you realize that you’re not in one.