“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Love is a choice. Choose to love … life, the good people who positively affect your lives, the forests that clean our air, the ocean that provides for and recharges our soul, etc. Go forth. Experience life. Extend yourself.
There are many whose advice is contrary to mine. Ignore them for their words come from fear. To them, the world is a dangerous place, where their feelings might get hurt, where they might get hurt, where they might be lead astray, etc. “Might” is the operative word here. All things are possible, but few are probable. Do you lock yourself away from the world and live in a cocoon for fear of something improbable?
Based on the above information, do you not go to the toilet because there is a 1 in 10,000 chance you could get injured by it? In other words, if you go to the toilet 10,000 times, you may get hurt by it one time.
Do you never step foot into the ocean because there is a 1 in 3.7 million chance that you could get killed by a shark? Do you avoid going outside for fear of dying from a bee sting … even though the likelihood of that happening is 1 in 6 million?
Bad things CAN happen. It’s possible. However, the bad things that most people fear are often unlikely to happen … if they take the usual precautions. For example, the likelihood of getting hit by lightning is 1 in 3,000. However, if you are foolish enough to go out during a thunderstorm and stand in a pool of water on an empty field while holding an umbrella or metal club, then you’ve drastically increased your chances of getting hit by lightning.
All of the good stuff happens in the little moments where you just say to yourself, “A heck with it, I’m going for it.” When you extend yourself beyond what you thought was possible.
You’ll never see what the Grand Canyon looks like from an eagle’s perspective unless you have the guts to step out onto the Skywalk.
Everyone searches for success, however it is defined by that individual. Often, social acceptance (e.g., being famous or popular), social rewards (e.g., making a lot of money), and happiness are components of how most people define success. Yet, they act contrary to their goal by contracting into themselves instead of extending themselves to others. You are unlikely to be successful sitting by yourself in a cave. Your chances for succeeding are better if you go forth into the world and try your best.
Empathy is also a key to success.
This article by Dr. David Tobin, Senior Lecturer in Communication at Rice Business, was originally published as part of the curriculum in his class, Leadership Communication.
In the business world, the problem with empathy is that too many people don’t understand what it really means and how big a factor it is in successful communication.
Houston Chronicle business columnist Chris Tomlinson sums it up well: “Surveys show that many managers consider empathy a sign of weakness or femininity, not the kind of thing macho businessmen embrace.” Quite simply, these managers are wrong. “Researchers who study leadership and corporate culture are turning up more and more evidence that empathic leaders build better teams, negotiate better deals and produce happier clients” (26 July 2015).
New York Times columnist David Brooks, who was the Rice University commencement speaker in 2011, makes the same point when he describes the rise of the “relational economy.” Computers are doing more and more of the cognitive tasks that used to be accomplished by lawyers and financial analysts–but they fail dismally compared to humans when it comes to handling a position of authority or accountability, or being part of a team. “Empathy becomes a more important workplace skill: the ability to sense what another human being is feeling or thinking” (4 Sept. 2015).
Here’s Tomlinson again: “Empathy is not mollycoddling, and it’s not a synonym for sympathy. It’s not solving someone’s problems for them or feeling pity . . . Empathy is an advanced communication skill that requires . . . understand[ing] the other person’s perspective by identifying his or her problems, needs, feelings, thoughts and values.”
Sound familiar? In Leadership Communication, we call it audience analysis. You know the mantra: “Business communication is goal-oriented and receiver-focused.” The best business communicators try very hard to know what their receivers are thinking, feeling, and worrying about. This knowledge (which, again, is not the same thing as sympathy) shapes how they communicate.
The last word on empathy I’ll leave to a Houston physician. Internist, hospitalist, and essayist, Dr. Ricardo Nuila spoke at a Rice TEDx event about the importance of paying attention to patients’ stories. Inevitably, empathy came up: “Teaching doctors to empathize,” he said, “is modern medicine’s Higgs boson [the elusive “God particle” of subatomic physics] – how do we keep our doctors competent and simultaneously empathetic? . . . This is the essence of empathy: using your brain to extend yourself into someone else’s story” (14 February 2015).
The problem with empathy is the assumption that it’s mostly about flexing your emotional muscles–but it’s not. It’s about using your brain.
https://business.rice.edu/wisdom/commentary/empathy-about-using-your-brain (emphasis added)
Empathy is the ability to share another person’s feelings and emotions as if they were your own.
the projection of one’s own personality into an object, with the attribution to the object of one’s own emotions, responses
of feeling; affinity between persons or of one person for another
a mutual liking or understanding arising from sameness of feeling
In other words, empathy is putting yourself into another’s shoes. If you are to reach your audience and truly understand the person you are speaking to, you must empathize with him/her. “Seek first to understand,” remember?
All my love, always,
I leave with one last article
The half life of an average new year’s resolutions is about a day or so. Just my guess, since that’s what this type of resolution usually looks like in my mind. “Tomorrow I’ll start to diet.” “Come Monday I’ll plan to go to the gym three times a week.” “I’ll meditate every morning.” “I’ll call one of my old high school friends once a week.” Blahblahblah.
It’s not about planning to get started. It’s about doing it. Right now. There is no time like the present time.
Our self improvement culture is relentless. We all get caught up in those muddled thought loops about what we should do and how to be a better person. It takes up an enormous amount of time and space – energy that could be spent to get up and just engage in whatever you think is good for yourself.
Engaging is not always easy for the Gentle Self. We get self conscious and are plagued by self doubts. It’s very tempting to just withdraw and avoid what makes us uncomfortable. We come up with all kinds of deals that we try to make with ourselves. Ok, I hid away all day behind my desk at work, but tomorrow at the family party, I’ll finally talk to uncle John. I’ll think of something to say, other than the weather…
Never mind that these plans mostly go unrealized, so we feel bad about it, and we come up with a plan how to make up for our failures. And fail again.
Engaging doesn’t have to be scary. It’s just a small piece of life we are looking for, and in order to get it we have to extend ourselves. Stretch yourself a little. Step out of your comfort zone, even if it’s just an inch.
All it takes is turning off your computer, pack yourself in some warm clothes and step outside the house. Breathe in the cold afternoon air. Notice the birds up in the sky. Touch the bark of a tree. Put your hands on your eyes and pay attention to how your senses sharpen. Play with your neglected cat. Meet the gaze of a person in the street, or at the supermarket register. Crack a smile. Make contact with the world.
There are millions of ways to engage, many of them too subtle for our clumsy minds to even recognize them. Extend yourself. Just a little. Again and again. Stop planning. Just do it.
https://blogs.psychcentral.com/gentle-self/2012/01/extend-yourself/ (emphasis added)