I'm not talking about girl scouts or Christmas charity collections (among others). They tend to be more laid back about what they're doing. I'm talking about someone representing a business who is using the entrance of a grocery store as a means of generating business. They're out to make money, and that's why they're in ambush-mode.
I recently encountered such a person at the local grocery store. Presumably her purpose for being there was to generate sales-leads for some company. (If you don't know, a sales-lead is basically the contact information of a potential customer or client.) This is usually how it works: You have people fill out a card with their contact information; address, email, phone number, maybe all of the above. In return, the person filling out the card is given some incentive to do so, such as "your name will be entered to win a free vacation or $1,000 shopping spree," or something like that. Thus, the company representative is able to generate a list of potential clients/customers for her company to follow up with, while the potential client/customer feels satisfied with being entered to win the moon. What I have just described is exactly what I encountered. But how do you suppose this woman approached me to fill out a card?
It's been my experience that people will generally begin by telling you who they represent and what the heck they are doing cornering you in the partition between the electronic sliding doors of a grocery store. It should be no surprise that they have a better chance of your cooperating if they treat you like a person. There is another school of thought, however, which basically says that people will do what you tell them to do, so just tell them what it is what you want them to do and most of them will do it without question (I know this because I have worked in sales and studied sales extensively). The woman I encountered opted for the latter.
It seemed like she was already in my face before I even had time to breathe. She didn't look me in the eye at all, she didn't tell me who she represented, she didn't tell me what she was doing there. She simply pointed at me and, handing me a card, said rather impatiently, "Here, fill this out!" She acted like I was under arrest and she was charged with taking down my personal information, almost like it was my duty to fill out the card and that I had better hurry up. "Here's a pen," she added. "Put down your name, address, phone num..." "No thanks," I said, and walked away.
Now I'm normally pretty polite to these people, and, depending on what the situation is, will often fill out a card. It all depends on how they approach me. You're probably the same way. Maybe you won't always do what they ask, but sometimes you will, and it probably comes down to how they treat you. This woman treated me like I was a robot, like I was inhuman. I wasn't told what was going on, I was told to fill out a card, a card with my personal information on it. As a result, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with whatever it was she was doing. Suppose instead that she politely told me what she was doing and then asked for my cooperation? Maybe I would still have said no, but wouldn't she have at least treated me like a human being?
Regardless of who you are interacting with, always remember that you are dealing with a person, a person who has their own life circumstances, their own struggles and hardships, and their own hopes and dreams. And you can never go wrong by treating them with dignity and respect.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
This is the second post in “The Deception of Positive Thinking” series. If you have not read the first post, I encourage you to do so before continuing. Picking up where we left off, let us now examine exactly what “positive thinking” is:
A proper understanding of positive thinking is based on the following concepts:
- What currently exists. i.e., the reality of a given situation.
- What could exist. i.e., the reality that could or should exist within the context of a given situation.
- The knowledge that one has the ability to alter or change one's circumstances.
In light of these concepts we are better able understand what it means to think positively: First, we must consciously accept and acknowledge the truth of a given situation or reality. At the same time we must understand what could exist in place of such a situation or reality, especially if it is not what we desire. Lastly, we must realize that our ability to act enables us to potentially change such circumstances from what does exist to what could exist. Hence, positive thinking is the ability to accurately discern the reality of a given situation, irrespective of how “negative” it may be, while simultaneously apprehending what could or should exist in its place, and further still understanding that one has the ability to alter or change such situations for the better.
It is a sad fact that many people are not willing to come to even the most basic understanding of a negative situation before (perhaps subconsciously) seeking to avoid it and shift their focus to something of a more pleasant nature. But positive thinking does not seek to avoid reality, even if it happens to be negative. Rather, it seeks to expose the true nature of reality: that despite negative situations, all individuals, through action, have the ability to alter or change their circumstances. People may not be aware they have this ability, nor believe they possess it. But the fact remains: if there is a part of your life that you are not satisfied with, it is within your ability to change it. Truth will be truth, regardless of any one persons ignorance or refusal to believe.
In common practice, positive thinking is often synonymous with simply focusing on the positive rather than the negative aspects of a given situation. Individuals, however, cannot ignore the reality that they themselves have the ability to change these situations to begin with. The woman from our story is obviously in a rather destitute plight. Yet, rather than choosing to focus on a very few positive aspects of a relatively horrible situation, why not change the situation itself? After all, while the vast majority of “positive thinkers” are running around avoiding the negative and focusing on the positive, they are not necessarily improving their lot in life. If positive thinking is concerned with results, why not work to create the results she wants? Why not work to create the life she desires? Why not take steps to improve her relationship, and if this fails—leave—and search out the love she desires? As far as anyone has shown, we only get one shot at life—why live so miserably? It may seem insurmountable for her to confront him, but is it not a small price to pay, especially after taking into account the probable future years of loneliness and sorrow?
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Recently I met a woman who is involved in a terrible relationship with a man. She deals with constant verbal abuse, disrespect, criticism and a plethora of little “rules” which she must abide by or suffer the consequences. This woman openly shows, through her words and actions, that she is extremely unhappy and has been for the entire duration of her four year relationship. But the worse her relationship gets, the more she seems to cling to and defend it. When asked why she allows her relationship to continue she quickly replies: “Well, I'm really starting to focus on the positive now. It's very important that I stay focused on the positive.” Any questions asked, which may have the effect of exposing her relationship for what it is, are quickly swatted aside in a torrent of “positive thinking” clichés.
My conversation with this woman illustrates a greatly misconstrued application of positive thinking, which unfortunately, describes many people I've met who espouse their commitment to it. After examining the facts of this story we find that:
- Due to the circumstances of her relationship, this woman is not happy.
- Questioning the quality of her relationship causes her to assume a defensive position.
- Her defensive position indicates her resistance to the reality of her situation.
- Her commitment to, what she calls positive thinking, allows her to quickly shift her focus from her reality onto more pleasant “positive” things.
- This constant shift in focus serves to perpetuate the circumstance that ultimately constitutes the primary cause of her unhappiness.
In the context of this story we see that, under the guise that “I must focus on the positive,” positive thinking is being used as a tool to blatantly deny reality. As a result, this woman's situation continues unacknowledged and unaddressed. Positive thinking, as she is using it, may serve as a temporary “band-aid,” but will inevitably, over time, only increase the magnitude of her difficulties. This is no way to live, nor is it a correct application of positive thinking.
Positive thinking is fundamentally concerned with one thing: results. Results are the measuring sticks of truth and likewise the effectiveness of positive thinking must be judged by the results it creates. And what is the result of this application of positive thinking? The preservation of her relationship, exactly as it currently exists, which is the problem to begin with. This is no different than the hypothetical situation of an ostrich burying its head in sand in order to avoid the unpleasantness of an approaching lion. In either case, both are moving toward a more detrimental end.
(Companion posts here, here, here, and here.)
(Companion posts here, here, here, and here.)
Monday, June 11, 2012
I don't care to comment on this politically, or polemically, for that matter. Rather, I wish to discuss something that humanity seems to trend toward in general. Let's call it "legislation over education." What I mean by this is that we as citizens have a tendency to observe things in society that we deem to be wrong, and maybe such things are wrong. However, rather than seeking to educate people in how and why something may be hazardous or morally wrong, it seems that our first impulse or response is to resort to some form of legislation. That is, we seek to pass laws--to ban things or force compliance.
But why is it that we as a society tend to resort first to legislation rather than education? Is it not better to explain why something is potential hazardous or morally wrong than it is to simply deem it illegal? Does forcing or coercing a person to comply with a moral standard make them a moral person? Why are we more apt to ban a person's behavior than we are to teach them how to behave? Are we really solving problems by merely passing laws? I do not mean to imply that legislation is unnecessary. It just seems to me that a great deal of that which we seek through legislation could be better accomplished with the right education.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Monday, June 4, 2012
1. How often do you reflect on your life (decisions, thoughts, actions, habits, beliefs, etc.)?
Thinking about your life is one of the best things (if not the best thing) you can do to improve yourself. By developing an awareness of your thoughts, decisions, actions, habits, and the causal relationships they involve, you provide yourself with a better understanding of right action. You can course correct. You can learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. You can make better decisions in the future. But you must have the willingness to soberly look yourself in mirror and face your faults and failings.
2. Are you ever 100% certain that you are right and someone else is wrong?
Some things are certain. 2 + 2 = 4, for instance, is something that few people should dispute, provided they understand elementary mathematics. Many things, however, are not certain. They might be probable or likely, but not absolutely certain. The problem with being certain that you're right isn't that you can't know whether or not you're right. The problem is that you will soon begin assuming that you're right and the other person is wrong. The danger in assuming is that you stop thinking critically, opting to simply believe that your view is the correct one. Put differently, assuming we're right creates blind spots in our thinking, ultimately putting us in danger of deceiving ourselves.
3. Do you doubt your own abilities?
It's surprising how often we doubt ourselves when we have no good reason to. Was that low test score really evidence of your lack of ability? Are you so sure that it's not worth your time to go on that interview? Most people overestimate the abilities of other people while underestimating their own. Take a chance. You just might surprise yourself.
4. Are you honest with yourself?
Some people struggle a great deal with being honest with themselves. Fearing that, by honestly evaluating their life, they might find something they cannot bear. But if you wish to better yourself and your life, you must face the truth. If you don't, you merely prevent potential progress and keep yourself locked in check. If you do, even if it can be seemingly unbearable, you provide yourself with the opportunity to learn and grow.
5. Do you ever make excuses to yourself?
“There wasn't anything else I could have done!” “I wouldn't have done X if so-and-so didn't do Y!” The habit of making excuses is riddled with danger. When you start creating alibis to excuse your behavior, it can be very easy to lose sight of the things that you are responsible for. It's very easy to fall into the trap of avoiding responsibility, even when you're the one who is responsible. Regardless of the circumstances, you can convince yourself it's not your fault, and believe it to the core. But doing so will profit you nothing, unless you wish to be the perpetual victim of chance and happenstance.
6. Do you make decisions based on immediate or long-term desires?
Poor decisions are often solely based on immediate desires. Good decisions generally take into account long-term desires. You may think it will make you happy to eat cake at every meal. But it won't take very long for such consumptive habits to catch up with you. You may think that procrastinating is fine, right up until you regret your procrastination. Think about your actions and their consequences. And think about their long-term ramifications.
7. Have you ever thought you were better than someone else?
I'm not asking whether you have thought you were better than another person at something specific, like tennis or golf. I'm asking if you have ever thought you were better than someone else—period. If so, you're deceiving yourself. When you think you're better than another person, you tend to assume you're right and they're wrong. You inadvertently turn off your ability to think. You act and reason on the basis of assumption rather than fact. See also #2.
8. Do you ever try to run away from your problems?
If you do, you're deceiving yourself (surprise!). You're like the hypothetical ostrich that buries its head in the sand when it sees something it fears. Does ignoring your problems really make them disappear altogether? Or does it simply delay the inevitable? And though you try to force your problems from your conscious mind, are they not always with you? Quietly waiting, in the shadows of your mind? Would it not be better to begin addressing them? You are only cheating yourself by pretending they don't exist.
Friday, June 1, 2012
But many of the most important things in life do not share the same admiration in the public forum. Things like learning, wisdom, personal growth, confidence, and one's ability to deal with failure, for example, do not share the same social esteem. And though few of us would personally dispute that such things are indeed more valuable and beneficial, we, as a society, tend to ignore them. Why is this? One reason could be that while the former examples are measurable and quantitative, the latter are largely intangible and qualitative. It is less clear who ranks where, and what the real results are.