ONE SUPER LIFE
"Change has a considerable
psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening
because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is
encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is
inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better."
- King Whitney Jr.
I was chatting with an old friend
the other day, who is also a long-time resident manager in New York City,
and he was relating to me the story of a relative of his who has kind of
become THE person to avoid.
He used to be much more upbeat and
fun to be with, but in recent years has become a habitual complainer.
Nothing in the world is ever right for him anymore; he finds the negative
implications in everything without effort.
Even more fascinating in a person
with such a negative, dour attitude, to hear him speak it would appear he
has the solution to all the world's big problems.
But what's most amazing is this:
he also seems to have the answers to everyone else's problems - large and
Everyone's, that is, except his
"Whenever I dwell for any
length of time on my own shortcomings, they gradually begin to seem
mild, harmless, rather engaging little things, not at all like the
staring defects in other people's characters." - Margaret Halsey
To be very kind, he has had severe
relationship problems for a long time.
Finds the inherent potential for
problems in everything. Is a true blue pessimist. And to top it all off,
in his own personal life his words and actions show he truly believes that
everything bad that happens to him (however he defines bad) is someone
else's fault - never a result of any mistake made by him. What are the
chances of that in real life?
These are the kind of people who,
if their energies are harnessed and channeled to work for good, can
literally change their own little corner of the world, and by extension
the greater world itself. And make no mistake about it, it is all about
harnessing those energies in the right way. ("My impatience leads me to
formulate solutions, not to bitch at the bureaucracy," wrote one bright
fellow lately on an internet forum I read.)
This is the kind of person who can
spot a problem and immediately decide that this should not be so for one
minute longer than absolutely necessary.
He will think long and hard about
who or what is at fault, then goes on to decide what can and should be
done to change it. If the rest of us are lucky they also have the ability
to follow through; they will immediately set about to put in motion a step
or series of steps designed to alter things for the better.
"They always say time changes
things, but you actually have to change them yourself." -Andy
In thinking about the problems
inherent in having the ability to find the negatives in whatever comes up
and blaming someone (else) for everything dire and dreadful in one's life,
I also got to cogitating on the other, opposite kind of person.
You might know the kind. They go
through life accepting everything exactly as it is, never questioning,
never complaining, never solving problems or working to arrive at
solutions to make life a little more palatable, a bit more livable, both
for themselves and for those around them. Acceptance and the ability to
deal with whatever life throws at them are the hallmarks of this type of
This, to me, is an amazing thing
to see, equally so as the preceding type of person. To deal with the crap
that life throws at you all without bitterness or blame and without
needing a change, this can be a huge asset. Just as great an asset as is
the ability to work for years at solving a great, seemingly intractable
problem that many have previously addressed at least half-heartedly, but
for which none have yet arrived at a real solution.
Because if the problem exists, so
must the solution also exist if we can find it, if one can have the
fortitude and patience to keep on searching.
Patience has its limits. Take
it too far, and it's cowardice. - George Jackson
It is truly an amazing (and
amazingly patient type of) personality who can fully accept all things
that come at you in life, no matter how dark the future appears, no matter
what happens, and deal with it just so, never questioning, never wavering,
never complaining. Cato told his listeners several thousand years ago that
"patience is the greatest virtue."
So the true question for life
seems to be: Where to draw the line? When is it most important to be
patient and accepting of the situation(s) one finds oneself in, and when
is it the right thing to work for change, either immediate or long term?
This, to me, is the great question
for the ages. When do I "go with the flow" and accept things as they
happen, both to me and to those around me I'm responsible for, and when is
it the right time to dig in and say, "This is where it ends, beyond this
point I cannot tolerate this condition."
I imagine that for each of us who
aspire to operate at peak capacity and efficiency in our lives, and try to
find ways to make a positive difference in our own little corner of the
world, we all have to find and define that point for ourselves in each new
situation that comes before us. How badly or how well we make that happen
defines not only who we are and who we are becoming, but also how the
world is changed for better or worse in the long run.
"Every cloud has its silver
lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint."
-Donald 'Don' Marquis
Think before you act. That is
always good advice, so long as you don't wait too long before making your
Don't be impatient to effect
change, but do finally make a decision, because if you don't, the decision
will sooner or later be made for you. Either by circumstances, by others
around you, or by default, but certainly, inexorably, things will be
decided - and acted upon - with or without your input.
Gather all the facts available,
weigh the facts on their merits, then act.
Make a decision. Don't look back -
much or often. Don't painfully second-guess your decisions. Rely on your
logical processes to make a decision, yet remain open to the possibility
of error and need for change.
Make sense? It does to me, at
least on paper - if not always in real life.
"The reward of one duty is
the power to fulfill another." -George Eliot