Some New Life Philosophies I Recently Picked Up

1. All choices have consequences: Just like the phrase, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”, there is no such thing as a consequence-free choice. Even our positive choices hold consequences. We make an infinite amount of choices on a daily basis–which routes to take, where to park,  which pictures we upload to our InstaGram. All of these choices come with consequences. The scenic route to work might cost me some minutes of precious sleep. The main parking lot might have a longer stretch of walking. Pictures on my InstaGram might cost me my reputation.

The trick is to figure out which of those consequences we are willing to live with, and which ones are utterly detestable. While I may have to wake up a few minutes earlier, the scenic route always starts my day off in a good mood. While I might have to walk further, parking in the main lot allows me to greet more people on my walk in. And, posting that super cute picture on Facebook and my best friend’s ex-boyfriend might cost me a friendship.

2. Jealousy is a dangerous, dangerous emotion: Shannon L. Alder once said, “Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.”  Psychology research says jealousy is similar to the emotion of anger: jealousy actually begins with an unrealistic image of perfection we set for ourselves; when that image isn’t reached, we get mad at ourselves, and because that anger is too detrimental for our ego to handle, we end up projecting it on other people. From jealousy, we get habits of needing to control and manipulate situations and other people. We react in emotional ways, and then continue to beat ourselves up, because we are getting further and further away from that iconic image we set for ourselves. It’s a vicious, savage cycle.

The ironic thing is, since jealousy come from insecurities, the more we allow ourselves to fuel from jealousy, the worse we are probably going to feel about ourselves, and the more harrowing our self-image becomes. I realized a couple years ago that I was an Excuse-Maker. Whenever I was going to be late to work, as I was driving in, I would make up these elaborate excuses: Oh, my sister hid my keys and I had to search the entire house until I found them in the barn; oh, I realized on my way there I was wearing a shirt with cake splattered so I had to turn around and change; oh, I ran into a pack of man-eating zebras, ransacking the road?; oh, my mom accidentally put the trash can behind my car and I ran it over (that one actually did happen, though). And, I felt the need to tell EVERYONE my excuse, just in case someone was going to criticize me later for it (They really didn’t care why I was late, though). Then, I spent the entire day, feeling guilty for the fact that I was just late, and none of those elaborate, exciting things actually happened. So, when I started just owning up to the fact that I was late on my own accord, and started taking personal responsibility, and stopped making excuses, I ironically started feeling better, and didn’t need to beat myself up anymore.

In yoga this week, we have been focusing on ahisma, which means ‘non violence’. Violence on ourselves includes feelings of guilt, shame, resentment, disappointment–all stems of jealousy. The good news is, since we are in control of our emotions, there are things we can do to prevent acting from these jealous reigns. Someone once told me that, whenever she feels jealous of someone else, she tries to do something nice for that person because it makes her feel better. So, maybe she write someone a card, or gives them a candy bar, or offers to cover a class, or whatever. Whenever I feel jealous of something someone else has, I first ask myself if it’s something I could obtain, and if so, I figure out how to obtain it. If I can’t, then it’s a waste of my time to worry about. Like, I will never be 5’2″, have beautiful, long, luscious eyelashes, or win the Superbowl. But, I can obtain things like a fun and exciting trip to Europe, a Master’s degree, a new pair of fleece lined yoga pants. Those are the things I should focus my energy on, not the things I can’t change.

3. If it makes them happy, and it’s not hurting anyone, then I shouldn’t care: Especially as women, all we do is judge, judge, judge, judge, judge; “So and so wears those really hideous glasses”, “I think it’s so weird she only drinks white wine”, “I would never let my boyfriend open the door for me like that”, “I can’t believe she stands like that” (and, relating back to jealousy, we judge because we are insecure about ourselves).

As I get older, I am realizing that happiness comes in all different kinds of packages and wrappings; the things that make me happy certainly may not make someone else happy, but that doesn’t mean I should take away from their enjoyment. For example, painting my nails brings me NO enjoyment, and often becomes an annoyance to me. I think it stems back from the fact that my family never did ‘girl’s weekends’ where we have fond memories of getting ‘mani’s and pedi’s’ together, and also because I talk with my hands and often get distracted if there is color floating everywhere. So, when I see all these Pinterest and InstaGram pictures of people painting their nails, my natural inclination is to judge, judge, judge, judge, judge, and scorn at what a waste of time it is. However, I then have to remind myself that painting nails is probably similar to my version of climbing trees in my backyard or fishtailing on the dirt road or standing in front of my bookshelf and reminiscing about my favorite stories, and that it’s not really my place to say what should and should not bring people joy.

So, if it makes them happy, and no one is getting hurt, then I shouldn’t care.

4. Why make others suffer for your bad mood?: Bad moods, being sick, not getting enough sleep, having injuries, etc. There are those people who just emit negative energy whenever they are in these states. Because we are all selfish by nature, wrapped up in ourselves, and also have our own issues we are dealing with, I am not sure it’s fair to bring other people into our suffering. Most of the time, it’s my fault I didn’t get enough sleep (because I stayed up late, reading RealitySteve discussions regarding The Bachelor). It’s probably my fault that I hurt my knee, because I was trying to show off while skiing and ending up eating it. And, I probably got myself sick, because I stood outside in the cold for two hours in order to ride Crush’s Coaster.

This is the reason I have never done a cleanse before. Everyone I talk to who has done a cleanse will say, “Oh it was awesome, but I was a BEAR the entire time. I felt bad for whomever was around me”. Every time I start thinking about doing a cleanse, I spend all this time doing research, and I get really close to buying some super expensive detox system, I always think about the amount of people I encounter on a daily basis. And then I think about myself, when I haven’t eaten for two hours. Not a pretty sight, and I am not sure other people should suffer from my hangry-ness just because I “want to detox” and “cleanse”.

Of course, there are certain people that we do need to lean on when we are suffering. When we go through a relationship crisis, or we are debating a decision about purchasing a new car, or we are thinking about taking on a new job, we might need to ask for help. But, in asking for help, we are also stroking the ego of another person; we are saying, “I value your expertise to help me on this situation”, and in that mode, we are not necessarily causing them to suffer with us.

5. We all have different paths: Up until this point in my life, all of my peers have followed relatively the same path. At 16, we got our licenses. At 18, we graduated high school. And, four years later, we were supposed to graduate high school, get married, and have a baby shortly after.

However, what I am learning is that everyone takes a different path. Some of us get married right after college, and some of us don’t. Some of us stay at the same job for the duration of our career, and some of us don’t. Some of us stay close with our high school best friends, and some of us don’t. And just because some of us go off “the beaten” or “the prescribed” path doesn’t really mean anything; we are all just made in different ways, we have different needs and desires, we learn things at different rates, and therefore, we require different paths in our lives. What happens for me certainly won’t be what happens to you, but that doesn’t make us any better or worse as people.

6. I can’t save the whole world: I used to have this irrational desire that I needed to save every single being in existence. Like, anyone who walked into my life who had a problem needed me to save them. I think it stemmed from my need to manipulate and control all situations; I needed to have my sticky fingers in everything, all the time, which again, went back to insecurities, and my need to validate my existence. My least favorite thing in the world is to watch people suffer, and I am often really quick to try to put a band-aid on whatever that suffering might be, and try to alleviate whatever pain they are currently experiencing. However, what I recently learned is that it’s not up to me to save the whole entire world. That is impossible.

I have been into this idea of a collective existence recently. That, when we as humans work together on something, we produce a much better product than if we work alone. When I work with a choreographer, our energies bounce off each other, and we create something way better than what I would create on my own. When I work with a co-worker on a lesson, our ideas build upon each other, and we create a much better lesson than if I worked alone. I even notice this in yoga–the harder I work, the more I breathe, the harder the people around me work as well; it’s a synergistic reaction. I think the same is true with ‘saving the world’. It’s really not my responsibility to save everyone from every problem, every time. Sometimes there are people who just need someone different in their lives at whatever time, and that is fine; as long as someone is working on doing the saving, that is all that matters.

7. Be on the boat, or don’t be on the boat; honestly, no one cares: In high school, and sometimes in college, it’s really important to always be on the boat, because if you aren’t on it, then you probably miss out on some really important stuff. Like, if you don’t go to the Friday night football game, then you missed that awesome touchdown everyone is talking about. If you don’t go to the homecoming dance, then you have to wait to figure out who was crowned kind/queen, and you don’t get to be part of the conversations about the decorations, and how bad the dj was, and who broke up with whom. And if you missed the informational meeting, then you don’t understand why your friends are so excited for that trip coming up. But, as we get older, there are so many boats that we have the opportunity to sail on, that if we miss one, oh well, we will just catch another. Of course, people would prefer for you TO be on their boat, but if you don’t quite see to make it, oh well.

8. As soon as you talk about something, it becomes “A Thing”: I used to think that I needed to talk about every single issue that was ever bothering me, because I didn’t want to “repress it” and “let it build up”, so I might as well dump it and complain about it now.

We have this thing called “The Rhetorical Situation”, which basically means as soon as we make a big deal out of something, it becomes “A Thing”. This certainly happened with Ebola. Ebola itself is not a new thing. But, as soon as the media sensationalizes it, it suddenly becomes “A Thing” that we worry about. If someone wants to make “A Thing”, all they need to do is make a big stink about it, talk about it a lot, get really worked up, and suddenly, It exists (I also really loved seeing the commentary on Obama’s State of the Union Address this week–like, I didn’t know all that needed to happen was for Obama to declare we were no longer in an economic crisis; if that is all it took, he should have done that a long time ago). And, as soon as situations become “Things”, they become ground for us to ruminate on, to complain about, to drag out.

So, things like that snotty comment someone just made to me, or that backwards policy that actually doesn’t really impact me, or that driver who just cut me off–I am choosing to be very careful about what I turn into “Things”.

9. Always, always, always trust your gut instinct: If you think he is bad news, he probably is. If you think you are getting fired from your job, you probably are. If you think you should choose the playful puppy over the lethargic puppy, you probably should. Trust your gut instinct: there is probably something there.

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