Personal Responsibility – Make a Difference

Is the main problem in our society as simple as a lack of personal responsibility?  How often do you see people acting irresponsibly and think “that is wrong?” But how often do you see yourself acting irresponsibly and just make an excuse? Again, this comes back to being complicit. Just because others have no personal responsibility does not mean that you should give in. If you take on personal responsibility then you will help make the world a better place. You can lead by example.

It really is not a surprise that people have lost their sense of personal responsibility. Just like civility, personal responsibility has slowly eroded over the past hundred years. As society gets more complex, people drift away from one another, and we see less direct impact of our actions. Perhaps we are at a point where we feel that our actions are so meaningless that we no longer feel the need to be personally responsible. The problem is that if we all feel this way, then nobody will act responsibly. If we are all complicit, we will all fail.

Another cause of decreased personal responsibility could be that we have too many laws and too little enforcement. I honestly believe that we need to cut back on laws, simplify them, and concentrate on the laws that are most important. And those important laws must be more fully enforced. A law that is neither followed nor enforced is no real law at all. All it does is make the honest fearful and the dishonest succeed. When laws exist to control our behaviour but aren’t enforced, how can people keep, or develop, their sense of personal responsibility?

We talk about problems but not nearly as much about solutions. Most of us worry about global warming, corporate takeover, government meddling, war crimes, hate crimes, and many more things.  These are really huge problems. “I can’t solve it, I am just one person,“ yet all these problems are caused by people. Sure, large groups of people, but people nonetheless. How can we expect all those people to change if we are unwilling to change ourselves?

So what is the solution? Fighting corporations or government is a really big deal, and I believe that is not the best way. Taking on personal responsibility and worrying about your own life and your own enjoyment is the right way to go. Limit your dependence on corporations and government. Live the way you want to, but be responsible about it. Don’t infringe on other people. This is the right way to fight back. If we all did this, then the corporations and government would have to listen to us. Eventually, they would be run by people living this way.

What does Taking on Personal Responsibility Mean?

You can start by taking responsibility for your driving, and be safe and courteous. Or be nice and do your job well. People around you will notice and appreciate it.

Personal Responsibility can be applied anywhere
District

Taking on personal responsibility also means seeing something that you know is wrong, being in a position where you can make a difference, making that issue your own, and correcting the wrong. I’m not saying you should be an advocate all the time, especially in situations where you cannot make a difference or where it is dangerous. I’m saying that if you see something that you know is wrong, and you are in a position to make a difference with little or no risk to yourself, then do something about it. Make a difference. Lead by example. After a while, you will start to appreciate how just one person really can change things for the better.

There are people who readily take on personal responsibility. But if we don’t step up once in a while, then that person will get exhausted very quickly. They will get disillusioned. They will stop. And we will all suffer.

If you take on personal responsibility and move up in the corporate or government ladder, you bring personal responsibility into your job. You can run for office and act responsibly. You can run a company and act responsibly. You can enforce responsible rules and eliminate needless and confusing laws and rules. Individuals form government and corporations, and only responsible individuals can fix them.

Addiction – We Are All Hardwired for Addictions

There are many definitions of addiction out there. The one that I prefer is this: if you are doing something that you know is hurting you, either physically or emotionally, and you just can’t stop doing it, then you have to consider whether you are addicted to it.

Addiction
Martini

This can apply to many things.  Obvious examples include drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol. It also applies to pornography, social media, gaming, over eating, and gambling. Surprisingly to many, it also applies to working, money, and power. Anything that makes you feel good, in any way, can be addictive.

Many people think that addiction only affects those who are weak, impressionable, lazy, or otherwise not like the person making this assertion.  The reality is that we are all susceptible to addiction.  The thing that makes us so adaptable also makes us hardwired for addiction. Our adaptability makes anything enjoyable fade in intensity the more we do it – this is called tolerance. When we get used to it, we want more. Eventually we increase it so much that ‘side effects’ start harming us.  At this point, if we cannot stop despite knowing it is harming us, then it is likely that we are addicted.

You may start hiding in the comfort of your addiction to escape the reality of your life being turned upside down by the addiction. As things get worse, and it can always get worse, it gets harder to stop.

Most people stop early in this process, for one reason or another.  A good support system of friends and family helps immensely.  Alternatives to the addiction, like hobbies, help too. Balance is key.

Unfortunately some people are more susceptible to addictions than others, for many reasons.  Poor supports, especially while growing up, and trauma are very common.  In these cases, therapy for the underlying issue is essential, as it is likely the root cause of not being able to manage our natural addictive tendencies.

CAGE Questionnaire for Addiction

A simple way to approach the concern of addiction is the CAGE questionnaire.  Although it is a bit dated, and much more simplified than a full assessment by a professional, it is a private way to explore the issue.  But you need to be honest with yourself.

C – Have you ever felt the need to Cut down your behaviour?
A – Do you ever get Angry when someone tells you that you have a problem?
G – Do you ever feel Guilt about your behaviour or its effects?
E – Have you ever needed an Eye opener?

Although the last one (Eye opener) is a bit of a stretch, these questions can be applied to almost anything. The questionnaire remains the same.

 

This is just an introduction to addictions, and I will post more later.  If you feel you may be addicted to anything, and cannot stop by yourself, please see a professional.

 

Adaptability – How Rude People Get Elected

As human beings, our biggest strength is adaptability. When faced with hardship, survival instincts kick in and we rise to the challenge. Within a relatively short time, we start seeing this new situation as being livable, leading to acceptance of a new normal.  Eventually, we forget our past life and adapt so well that the new environment is nothing special.

Adaptability
Life on Mars

We see this in wartime, where people have demonstrated over and over again resilience and ability to survive under any circumstances, as when kids play in dangerously destroyed streets just like in playgrounds months earlier. As a more common example, after just one year of minimal snow, I adapted and totally forgot that it is normal to have to shovel every few weeks during winter.

The same adaptability has led us to accept the rude way that people treat each other in public. We see it as normal. We even act rude ourselves, often without even knowing it, because of this adaptability.

Over the past 100 years, face to face interaction has slowly decreased.  At first, cars kept us off the streets, leading to hostility towards one another in traffic.  The phone line removed the need to travel in order to speak with friends or family, resulting in even less interaction with the public.  Many more modern advances have lead to a life where the public is seen as something to avoid.  For example, mobile devices allowing us to watch videos and listen to music (among other things) in public.  This sets up, whether consciously or not, a wall between ourselves and those in our immediate surroundings. We have become, and often desire to be, socially isolated while in public.

As a result, social skills have eroded, generation after generation.  Small talk and social niceties are gradually being seen as unnecessary. We interrupt each other. We speak over top of each other. We allow ourselves to be raw with others.  As others act this way towards us, we feel justified in acting this way towards them. We act rude and accept others’ rudeness as normal. Most of us are complicit in this.

Adaptation has lead us to accept poor social behaviour as normal.  Comedians used to make fun of it.  Now, comedians use rudeness in the presentation of their material.  Regular people follow by telling jokes using rudeness. Rudeness is now totally normal and even expected.

So, when we see a politician acting rudely, and totally unacceptable for the ‘normal’ of decades past, we are not shocked. We may be surprised about the supporters of rude politicians, but in the end, we don’t vote these rude candidates out of elections.  We actually listen and consider them for office.  This would not have happened decades ago. Remember, I am not talking about what these politicians stand for.  I am only talking about their behaviour towards other human beings.

Is this a problem?

Sure, politician rudeness is a reflection of rudeness going on in our society. It may even be a strategy some candidates use to get votes, thinking it helps people relate to them because “they speak just like I do.”   But elected officials are role models for all of us, and most especially the youth.  Kids grow up with rude behaviour all around them, online and in person.  But when they see figureheads acting indecently, they model that behaviour.

Elected rudeness is a symptom of, as well as a catalyst for, the decay in public decency that has been occurring over the past 100 years. But it all comes from us. Act decently and turn back the tide.

EWS – Accept the End of the World Scenario

When you’re walking down the street, or in the park, having a good time, and you see someone approaching you in the opposite direction and you say “good day,“ do you ever get a negative response? Perhaps they avoid eye contact or stare at you with no emotion or reaction.  They may even give you a scowl. It is really unfortunate when this happens because it will probably make you feel bad, decreasing the likelihood that you will make further effort to greet a stranger. I have been working with a process to help deal with these situations for more than a year now. I call it the End of the World Scenario (EWS).

Basically, the idea is to assume that the end of the world is coming. I am not saying that it is coming tomorrow (or even in a year), but simply that it is. Assume that the end of the world is coming far enough down the road that you are not freaking out, but close enough that it is real for you, say in five or ten years. The important part is to accept EWS as being correct. And again, I am not saying that it is happening. I am saying: assume that it is, accept it, and live the rest of your days until the end of the world the way that you feel is best. For example, when you do something that is stressful, ask yourself “Is this necessary?” “Is this what I want to do with my last few days on earth?”

Very quickly, the unimportant things fade away, and you are left with a sense of peace with the way you lead your life. I call this being an Embracer of the End of the World Scenario.

Now when you greet somebody who gives you an unfavourable response, you can call those people Deniers of EWS. They can sense the end of the word, but just haven’t identified or accepted it. They see the stress and hate and terrible behaviour in other people and society. They know something is wrong. The Deniers just don’t know what it is. They don’t realize that the end of the world is coming, and people are freaking out.

After you become an Embracer,  you may start to feel sorry for the Deniers. You no longer feel they are causing you grief.  Your anger and resentment go away.  Their behaviour may still be making the world around them miserable, but you understand why, and sympathize. You feel sorry that they are living their last few days in such misery.

The goal of EWS is to get to the point where you feel sorry for Deniers and actually want to do something to help them (and yourself). I’m not saying that you have to walk up to them and tell them about EWS. No, that would not work. What I mean is don’t be complicit with the problems you see around you. Lead by example.

If the idea of EWS freaks you out, then you have to deal with that first. You have to accept it. Remember this is an exercise, not a firm belief.  I do think it is more effective, and fun, if you do actually accept EWS. It gives you insight into how you live your life, and why people are freaking out.

Why not give EWS a try?

When you think about it, what are the downsides to EWS? You won’t change your future plans that much because we are talking about the end being in five or ten years, which is enough time that you still have to plan for the future. If you can accept EWS (and don’t have anxiety about it), you will start cherishing every moment and doing things that you find important or enjoyable.  And if the end doesn’t come, you will have had five to ten years of enjoying your life, and another five or ten to go. What’s the harm in that?

The best part of EWS is that when you greet a stranger, and you get a happy response, you feel that they are an Embracer as well. They are ‘in the know.’ They are part of your club, even though they don’t even know it. It makes you feel like you belong to the right side.

Say no to the Dark side. Say yes to the Bright side. The end of the world is coming, so enjoy yourself until it arrives.

Face-to-Face Contact: Live Healthy and Longer

Face-to-face contact is something that we are all missing, to some extent, in the modern world. I honestly believe this is one of the main sources of the societal crisis that we are experiencing. An interesting Ted talk addresses this issue. It is well worth the time to watch it. It seems that face-to-face contact is the most important factor in determining how long and healthy we live, even more than genetics, or even how you eat or exercise.  Sure, these are also very important, and I was quite surprised that face-to-face interaction even made the top five.

The Plot - Face-to-Face contact
The Plot

How did we lose our face-to-face time?  I think driving is a major factor. For the past 100 years we have slowly increased our daily driving time to the point where we live far from work, friends, and family. The telephone allowed us to keep contact while being distant, and lessened the blow of decreased personal interaction. Cell phones, email, texting, social media, and e-commerce have made face-to-face interaction difficult to obtain, and often unwanted.  I am sure you have noticed more and more occasions where all the people at a table in a restaurant are on their phones.

So, we have lost valuable health-maintaining face-to-face contact to our modern lifestyles. How do we deal with this? Changing the sources of the problem would be extremely difficult, and would require a large part of the population to turn it’s back on these modern advances that we both cherish and, at times, hate. I think it would be best to concentrate our efforts on adapting to the deficiencies that these modern conveniences have inadvertently inflicted on us.

Saying Hello Counts as Face-to-Face Contact

In early January, I enjoy saying “Happy New Year” to people because the responses are almost always favourable. As a child, I used to wonder why people would say this a week or two into January since that day was already over.  I now know that the phrase is just a short form of “I hope this new year will be better for you than last year,” or thereabouts. At some point, this greeting is no longer appropriate. People may start looking at you a little strange, especially if you’re saying it in May. It might be a good idea to switch over to a simple “Good Morning.” If you do this in early to mid January, you will more than likely get a favourable response. But as time goes on, and New Year’s fades into the background, the responses may begin to become less predictable.

Be nice, you will feel good. Sure, you may be putting yourself at risk, and may get a negative response that can hurt emotionally. But if you don’t try, your physical and mental health will continue to deteriorate as you lose faith in humanity, which may lead to a descent into utter despair, giving up, and becoming complicit with the age of hate and moral decay.

But seriously, be part of the solution.  Be friendly with the people around you, and reap the benefits of face-to-face contact.

Nobody’s Perfect – Best Not to Expect It

How is your New Year’s Resolution working out so far? Don’t feel bad if it’s not, because getting started is the hardest part. Nobody’s perfect, and accepting that goes a long way towards attaining your goals. Persevere, and start (or continue), today.

I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s. The rush is over, and people start being nice to each other. New Year’s is approaching as people want a change. They are looking forward to the future in an optimistic way. During this time, it seems people are behaving their best.

After New Year’s Day, people slowly drift back to their regular routine and state of mind. I wonder if this happens after a number of encounters with those who are not being so optimistic. You may feel that your optimism is being eroded by other people‘s attitudes. It could be that you expect other people to behave as you would like yourself to behave.

A large part of being able to accomplish your goals of happiness and peace of mind is accepting that people are not perfect, and will not act the way that you would like. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. The only way you can change their behaviour is by improving your own, and leading by example. I really believe you can cause positive change in people, but only in the long run, not immediately.

Interestingly, you can use other people’s imperfection to help yourself. I am not talking about being complicit, giving up, and just doing what everybody else is doing. Rather, assume that they are working on themselves, and are trying to improve. They are not perfect, and you see that. Use this to accept your own deficiencies and imperfections. At least you really are trying. Accept your errors and keep on trying. Hopefully people will notice and try harder for themselves.

 

Perfect DesireThe idea of perfection in our society is all around us. You see it on TV, in the movies, on YouTube, and elsewhere. You hear it in parental expectations, children’s aspirations, client complaints, and managerial directions, to name only a few. In this post, I am only introducing the topic of perfection. It will come up again and again, in many forms. You may think others expect you to be perfect when they actually do not. You may be working in a field where most people really do expect you to be perfect. I will address all of this in future posts, but for now just consider this:

Expecting perfection, in yourself or others, will cause you grief.

Use the errors that you see in others to learn about yourself.

New Year’s Resolution

I have been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions for many years now. I have learnt that you need 3 things in order for the resolution to stick:

New Year's Resolution

1 – The New Year’s Resolution needs to be something that you want to do, and continue doing. For example, seeing old friends.

2 – The New Year’s Resolution must be specific, particularly in amount and frequency. Like seeing old friends for a few hours twice a week.

3 – You need to be realistic. If you try to do too much, you will probably have a hard time keeping it up, and eventually give up. Continuing our example, how about reducing it to seeing different local friends twice a month.

If you keep these in mind when picking a New Year’s Resolution, it is likely that you will actually follow through this year. If you have a partner, friend, or family member, try sharing the resolution. That way the burden of remembering to do it, and carrying it out, is spread out. But remember, now you both need to consider the 3 things noted above. Again with the same example, you can pick and set up one encounter with an old friend per month, and your partner can pick and set up the other one. This way, your chances of success is now quite high.

Here are some resolutions that I have used in the past:
No added salt for dinner.
Meditation 5 minutes, 3 times a week.
Running 3 times a week for 15 minutes.

Believe it or not, 2 of these stuck, and have become part of my daily routine.

In contrast, here are some of my New Years Resolutions that were doomed to fail:
Losing weight (too vague)
Exercising 1 hour a day (too much to start with)
Eat only healthy food (too vague, too much, and who wants to do that?)

So what does this have to do with complicity? Well, it involves change, and that is what we are trying to do. Starting slow and with low personal impact will help you succeed, which will encourage you later on. Also, eating badly, for example, can be considered being complicit, as we often make the excuse that “I’m not as bad as some people I know.” That is the root of complicity. Just because everyone else does it, or does not do it, is no excuse. You say that to children, and it applies here. Breaking this pattern, in any way, will help you in your future goals.

Another thing is that by improving your health, mood, social situation, etc, you will likely want to better yourself in other ways.

So, choose something fun or meaningful, and start specifically, slow and steady.

 

Please let us know your New Year’s Resolution in the Comments