At this time of year I often find myself in a contemplative mood. It’s because of Thanksgiving, I’m sure. Don’t misunderstand, I’m a food lover and as such Thanksgiving ranks right up there as one of my very favorite holidays because of the food factor alone! But I also embrace, or try to embrace, the more spiritual meaning of the holiday: thankfulness.
These are three life lessons I’m thankful I learned along the way. I am going to try to write this without sounding preachy. I’m not implying anyone else should follow these rules or live this way. I’m just thankful I have been taught these lessons, even if I’m still learning.
1. Never assume intent. A former manager’s boss mentioned this somewhat offhandedly at one of those boring departmental meetings no one really wants to attend. For some reason, though, this hit me hard and stuck with me. What does it mean? I’ll give you an example. If someone cuts you off in traffic, don’t assume they did it to be nasty. Maybe they got a call from the school nurse letting them know their child is ill. If a co-worker doesn’t happen to say hello while you pass in the hallway, don’t assume he was being unkind. Maybe he just got disciplined and can’t talk about it right now. The point is, if you don’t assume someone is wronging you on purpose, it allows you to de-personalize the hurt and not react defensively or unkindly in return. And, nine times out of ten, it really has nothing to do with you. Which brings us to:
2. It’s not all about you. We hear the opposite all the time: “take care of yourself,” “be independent,” “look out for number one.” But I have found the less I concentrate on myself and try to live toward others, the more rewarding life is. The very best way to be interesting to others is to be interested IN others. Let someone else have the stage. Often, they deserve it. And your stage will build itself without you constantly hammering your own nails.
3. Almost 20 years ago I joined a service called eWorld, which was one of the very first online communities to spring up even before the rest of the world was aware of the Internet. It had chat rooms and message boards just like America Online and Compuserve, two similar communities. I was talking with an online friend in a chat room full of people enumerating their many virtues (most of which, I’m sure, were false. What are the chances ten of the world’s most beautiful, gifted, and alluring people would all be in the very same chat room at the very same time?) and my friend said, “Confidence is knowing you can do something. Arrogance is saying so.” He didn’t make this up. I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt or someone like that. And of course, none of the world’s most beautiful people in the chat room paid a bit of attention to it. But I did. And it has stuck with me ever since then. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re good at something. They’ll figure it out.
As I mentioned, I’m still learning. I have plenty of days where I’m selfish, bossy, and downright annoying to myself and to others. But these three things tend to keep me grounded even when I’m at my worst. And let’s face it, we all have days when we’re at our worst.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving season.