To Engage, or Not to Engage: That is The Question


The worldAre you happy with things the way they are? Do you believe that things could be better?

Are you satisfied with the state of the nation? Are you pleased with how things go at work? Are you happy with today’s world? Are young people too brazen? Are old people too stubborn? Are politics BS? Is hell “other people”?

In this week’s blog post we examine some of our frustrations and sources of stress. As we’ll discuss, we have more power over the dysfunctional elements in our environment than we think.

To believe there is nothing that we can do to stave off the negative influences of the things that displease us is not only a fallacy, it also contributes to the issues we wish to dissolve.

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DeploreFrom noisy neighbors and aggressive drivers to global politics, each day we are exposed to a plethora of issues or circumstances that conjure feelings of disbelief and lead to outright frustration. Furthermore, things we find troublesome awaken our fears, discouragement or anger, contributing to our stress.

Some things bother us, plain and simple. And when they do, they cause emotional reactions. Those reactions, in turn, affect our ability to focus and operate at our best.

The question is: to what degree do we let things bother us, and how do we react when we become aware of it?

RUMITo whine; to deplore…

Our natural reaction is to disengage or dissociate from the things bothering us. When we see or hear about something with which we are displeased or are radically against, we keenly distance ourselves from the position that is contrary to our beliefs. We do that mostly to assert our individuality; we align ourselves with things and positions that we relate to. Much of this is controlled by our ego.

Sometimes we feel we can’t weigh in on the issues; that our opinions have no impact and we are unable to affect the outcome. We can then keep our discontentment bottled up and remain silent.

At other times, we voice our displeasure and are eager to point out the perceived errors in logic, efficiency, morality or justice. However, by speaking up to assert ourselves, we also fuel the debate, which never helps in the resolution of the problem. We judge and criticize, and by expressing our animosity, we accentuate the chasm separating one viewpoint over the other. It’s like a form of child’s play: how feverishly can we argue to have the last word.

Whether we voice our displeasure or remain silent, our disengagement and dissociation don’t move the issue toward a positive and constructive resolution. By whining too much and giving these issues more attention, we may actually cause them to propagate and escalate.

NegativeThe more negative energy we feed into something, the more it has energy to survive and perpetuate.

Even when we are silent about our displeasure or frustration, we feed that which we perceive to be wrong with more oxygen to live on. The issues get to us and preoccupy our minds, alter our attitudes, our belief systems, our decisions and our actions. This depletes our potential by way of the attitudes and thoughts we foster toward the things with which we are displeased or in disagreement.

Firstly, our potential is affected because of the time we squander thinking, listening or talking about these issues, and our attention is no longer allocated to engaging with the things we’d rather be doing, that can bring us satisfaction, or that could help in addressing the issues with which we have a problem.

Secondly, the negativity and resistance that we harbor toward that which we loathe also affect our disposition pertaining to other things. Sometimes directly: we get worked up and our ability to focus diminishes; sometimes indirectly: we become more cynical, feel that our thoughts or initiatives are inconsequential, and our sense of purpose spirals downward, all of which resulting in a diminished focus or effort to succeed at what we would really want to accomplish. It’s the cost of our passive-aggressiveness.

So, what is the alternative?

To engage; to thrive…

Positive MindChange begins within us, in our beliefs and attitudes.

  1. We can begin by not letting anything of which we disapprove interfere with our dispositions or thought processes, including the thought of disapproval itself; start by eliminating expressions like “I hate this…” or “I don’t like it when…” from your discourse (and your thoughts).
  2. We can view the things bothering us as not worthy of our consideration and time, even when others love to fuss over them.
  3. We can consider why an issue is really bothering us. Sometimes, the answer we find reveals more about ourselves (insecurities) and our biases (upbringing and prejudice) than about the issues.
  4. We can educate ourselves on the issues to understand how something that seems so wrong can actually come to be; start imagining how we’d rather have it be and how to get there.
  5. We can accept that there should be room for other views, choices and preferences than only ours. Our disinclination to embrace such things shouldn’t be a reason to be bothered by them and reject them. Learn to accept and co-exist.

Positive interactionsChange begins with us, in our interactions.

  1. We can choose not to participate in gossip and voice negative opinions.
  2. We can resist other people engaging us in discussions about frivolous things, especially things we feel negatively impact society or contain some sort of bias or prejudice.
  3. We can steer our dialogs and interactions toward subjects where positive and constructive energy can be added.
  4. We can encourage others to take a positive attitude toward things they seem displeased with, and challenge them to think of resolution rather than criticism or abolition.
  5. We can support others’ initiatives, even when they’re not “our thing”.

Way to goChange begins with us, in our choices.

  1. We can discipline ourselves in not spending time watching or discussing things we disapprove of, even when we think it’s only to make fun of it or to see how stupid it can really get.
  2. We can change our environment (including who we hang out with) to contain more of the issues and topics that we believe are of significance and have positive effects on our environment and the world.
  3. We can choose how we vote with our ballots and our wallets. How we express our principles and how we entertain ourselves is an opportunity to support the things we value.
  4. We can choose to be original (ourselves) and guide our choices from the heart, rather than by popular opinion or by fear of how others would perceive us because of our choices.

EngagementChange begins with us, in our actions and engagement.

No matter what our charter is or what we do in life, our actions can be directed toward effecting the change we desire in the world. Be it what we make or do, the opinions we cast, what we buy, or the philanthropic and charitable initiatives we support or start on our own, everything we do bears an influence and has consequences.

grand canyonCertainly, our engagement in doing and behaving in ways that we deem are right will tilt the scales of society only slightly. But think of it as the making of the Grand Canyon. Every single drop that passed through the brook, the river, then the gorge, contributed to creating one of the largest geological wonders of the world. Our actions are those drops. In addition, each drop that erodes further compels other drops to fall within the path that is previously carved. By our actions, we influence and lead others to adopt the attitudes and behaviors of which we wish there were more.

Positive ChoicesPassive-aggressive behavior isn’t the way to go. It poisons our souls, erodes our passion and turns us into hypocrites. Why choose this route for our lives, when we only have one life, and when we secretly wished we could become heroes? Choosing the right course doesn’t mean we’ll get the hero of the year award; it means that we can sensibly contribute in crafting the world in ways that we want it to be. Without getting the hero-award, we can still enjoy extraordinary lives.

sarcasmBut most importantly, we should never fall for sarcasm or cynicism because this prevents us from adopting the right behaviors and reacting positively. Doing the right thing is the only way to instill in us a greater sense of purpose and direction. It helps us build character, set the course for a brighter destiny and forge a legacy we can be proud of. When things seem desolate or pathetic, this is the way to brighten our path in achieving our personal success and happiness, and to contribute in making the world a better place for us and future generations.

better world

Thank you puppyThank you for reading and leaving your observations on the issue in the comment section below. Different points of view will help others get clarity on the question. Feel free to drop a question or suggest a topic that I may use for a future blog post in discussing the achievement of success and happiness and inspiring you to add “A Dash of Greatness” to your lives?

I wish you and yours much Success and Happiness, ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere in paperback and e-format and at http://www.OurXFactor.com.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it Count.

The text is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things.

Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions! Our X Factor guides us through an exciting, informative and enlightening journey, and shows us how to be GREAT!

We were all born ordinary people. Yet we can lead extraordinary lives!

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VICTORY! Do this, get that, and be HAPPY…


money cant buy“Money can’t buy happiness.” We’ve heard it before, and at this dawn of “mindfulness” era (yes, the world and our perspectives are changing), people are less and less inclined to argue this statement.

It remains, nonetheless, that we would like to believe that there are certain things that make us happy. Is it a fallacy to think so, or is it more commonly our figures of speech leading us to confusion about our true state of happiness?

Happy PharrelHello everyone, and welcome to my blog. My name is Xavier Van de Lanotte, strategy consultant, writer and speaker. My interest resides in “strategy” and “success and happiness”, which isn’t coincidental.

From my perspective, both subjects spawn from a same logical approach, which is about making sense out of what we, humans, do, whether it is to sustain our existence through our professions, or to manage other aspects of our lives. If a corporation creates customer value to rationalize its existence, then we, individually, rationalize our lives through our purpose. My focus is to help optimize the processes that lead to the achievement of the best possible outcomes for both, people and companies.

PurposeToday I’d like to examine what the “act” of “being happy” may, or may not entail, as it doesn’t always add up to what we believe it is, or, at least, the way we talk about it. Why should this matter to us? It matters if we care to have a greater awareness about ourselves and our environment and put what we do with our lives into proper perspective; i.e.: to have a deep understanding of our purpose and our process.

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Yard workPeople say the darnedest things sometimes. What they say may sound great or quaint and innocuous, sometimes even uplifting. Yet at a deeper level, does it make sense?

I’m retired, Xavier. I take care of my home and garden, and I visit with my grandchildren, and that makes me happy,” my always-jovial neighbor told me, recently.

At the end of a day at the office, I’m happy to get home and pour a glass of wine for me and my husband, and I cook a meal we enjoy at the table with our kids ,” I overheard a woman say at a cocktail party, two weeks ago.

MarriageGetting married! Soooo Happy…♥♥♥☺” a friend posted on Facebook, just this weekend, to share the news about her engagement.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are my source of happiness…, I’d do anything for them. But this is my ‘me’ time I get to enjoy three times a week,” a member at my gym told me last month.

Man, I’m so happy! I’ve finally fixed up my boat and I’m taking it out to go fish on the bay with some friends, this weekend. You should come sometime,” an acquaintance told me, earlier this summer.

Money can't buy happinessMoney can’t buy happiness… but it helps,” is more often what we really hear people say.

All of these quotes sound marvelously exciting. They bring us joy. They help us get through the day. They illustrate all the wonderful things for which we are grateful. They testify to the fact that life offers more than the daily grind at the workplace and the headaches we put up with, day after day, year after year. And they remind us that we have others in our lives to love, to connect with, and to share things with, the good and the bad. It’s great! We could have been much worse off…

Fishing boatSadly enough, they are also indicative that something may be missing. There isn’t enough money (ever—LOL). We can’t spend all of our time with the grandchildren or the children—they have lives too. How much time of our year are we actually fishing in the bay with our friends, floating on our prized possession? Will the change in marital status really fill our lives with bliss? And aren’t we a bit too old to have moved into a fixer-upper, if our homes and gardens take up this much of our time in retirement?

At some point, we could admit that these wonderful things in our lives provide necessary breaks in the lives we live the rest of the time. And when we consider it this way, can we still say that we are truly happy? Can we be happy just part of the time; certain times of the day, certain periods of the year, or from the time we get engaged until sometime after our honeymoon is but a distant memory? Can our happiness really be contingent on our affections for other people, key events or achievements, or our possessions?

Pursuit of happinessI came across a thought-provoking post from a friend and coach this weekend that reads: “The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.”

Well, if we removed all those wonderful actions or possessions from our lives, would we still be happy?

Why can’t we be happy without those things?

We should be Happy all of the Time, with or without those Things.

In a survey, the following question was asked: Which one of these brings you the most happiness?

  1. Helping others
  2. Following your dreams
  3. Making the world a better place
  4. Caring for loved ones

The answers to choose from are suggestive of the nature of the things we believe are embedded in our purpose. Each entails wonderful things to embrace, but none are sources of happiness, per se. However, the pursuit of our purpose can in fact be a source of happiness.

Actions, people or things cannot be sources of happiness, nor can their absence be sources of unhappiness. Happiness resides in our satisfaction with what we do with our lives; the fulfillment of a purpose, elaborate, humble, noble or commonplace it may be. If we do what is required to achieve that level of satisfaction, in effect, we choose to embrace our happiness.

Grand kidsWhile it is conceivable that owning a boat, fishing, raising kids and grandkids, getting married or caring for our homes is the single most important thing in our lives right now, it is unlikely that our purpose and principal reason for our entire existence can be reduced to that and that alone.

The concept—and feeling—of Happiness is profoundly rooted within our capacity to love and our ability to be at peace. But love and peace do not procure happiness; they are necessary ingredients of it. Only with the added fulfillment of our purpose can we embrace true happiness, through the knowledge that what we spend our time doing effectively satisfies the achievement of what we are supposed to do with our lives.

In reply to the survey question above, the answer choices are indivisible, from my perspective. No matter how I cut it, what I do in the fulfillment of my purpose, transpires in my achievement of all four objectives.

Four objectives

We can all think of our purpose in such fashion, as all things done, rooted in love and with the aspiration to be at peace, will result in the betterment of the world, will be of use and service to others, and will support our desire to care for our loved ones, materially, emotionally and spiritually.

To choose only one reply to the question of happiness, I must say: “2. Follow your Dream—Final answer.”

Follow your dreams

Thank you for sharing your answer to the survey question and providing your perspective about what makes you happy in a comment, below. Different suggestions will help others develop their view points. Also, please, think of this blog as my advertisement of what I do (my purpose) and let me know whether my marketing efforts (this being my Vth entry) are of value to you. How can I improve my posts to be of greater value and use to you, and inspire you to add “A Dash of Greatness” to your lives?

I wish you and yours much Success and Happiness, ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere in paperback and e-format and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

cropped-xavier.jpg

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it Count.

It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things.

Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions! Our X Factor guides us through an exciting, informative and enlightening journey, and shows us how to be GREAT!

We were all born ordinary people. Yet we can lead extraordinary lives!

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“Non-Stop”… Life is


nonstop digitalOur lives are “non-stop flights” of which we determine the plans and are the captains.

Once we determine what is important to us, do we board the right planes and read from the right procedure manuals to ensure we get to the destiny of our choosing?

Watching the latest Liam Neeson movie, Non-Stop, granted me the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of essence and trust with respect to choosing our path in life.

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Attention GrabberIt happened again…., I was writing a blog entry when all of a sudden something else caught my attention and inspired me. I am very familiar with the topics I prepared for this blog. But when a new idea comes along, I start to work on it right away, such that it doesn’t evaporate into thin air. Besides, the focus of my book Our X Factor is on positive constructive principles. So, when I identify noteworthy situations told from a different perspective, I enjoy exploring them outside the framework of my work, such as in this blog.

Liam CalmLast night, I rented the latest movie with Liam Neeson, Non-Stop. However, I worked late; then, barely ten minutes after I popped the CD into the DVD player, I drifted off. I wasn’t expecting much because, although I’m a Neeson fan, his last few movies have been anticlimactic for me.

Wake upThis morning I got up early as I had some work to finish up and wanted to go ride my bicycle with a group leaving at 7:30AM . I decided to play the movie in the background, but as the action began and the plot thickened, I was drawn into it. I decided to watch the whole thing and went biking later, on my own.

NonstopIt was a winner, non-stop! Here’s the story of a guy that has everything pointed against him, yet he doesn’t let it faze him and perseveres in what he must do against all odds, and against 150 angry and frightened passengers. The plot of this situation became thought-provoking…

Yes, the New York-to-London flight, which I took on numerous occasions and was the setting for this movie, was a non-stop flight. Yes, once they were in the air and the suspense caught on, the unraveling of the plot was non-stop and so were the action and the rebounds in the storyline. Yes, as people began rallying against him, there were non-stop-attempts in trying to foil the man’s plan to save the plane and its passengers, and it got darn ugly—Non-Stop!

Liam DullBut the character impersonated by Liam , Bill Marks, an air-marshal, had quite a history to reveal and baggage he lugged around (and I’m not talking about his carry-on, his side arm, or the bottle of whiskey he smuggled on board the airplane). A bitter divorced, fired, alcoholic man and seemingly washed-up and unreliable guy, Bill Marks had also a heart-breaking story to tell about how he cowered at work while his five-year-old daughter was dying of leukemia at home, ten years prior to the telling of the events in the movie. (I admit, as a father, I choked back some tears at Bill’s gripping revelation of his agonizing fate.)

nonstop banner

During the movie, it occurred to me that people tend to be cynical and suspicious. We put more credence in stories that discredit others, than in stories about why they deserve to earn our trust.

trustWhy is that? Simply, it is easier for us NOT to take a risk on someone, than to live with the consequences of our fears coming true. As a society, we are mostly unforgiving and distrusting. We want there to be records about people and companies’ performance tracks we can rely on … and we seldom give others a second chance. How they look, what is said about them, where they live, who they hang out with and even the gossip about them is enough for us to raise our antennae. Our trust is hard to earn in part because we feel it would reflect negatively on us if we misguidedly grant it to someone seemingly not trustworthy and, if things turn out wrong, we would beat ourselves up for having “trusted” someone else—shifting blame; we do it, no matter how much we despise it.

better safe“It’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” can be construed as an attitude that masks our lack of taking accountability for our decisions. This approach, in fact, holds us back from exploring new opportunities and venturing away from the well-worn path. But face it; most of the wonderful and rewarding things that we will ever accomplish in our lives depend on the help and support of others. Hence, because we are reluctant to trust others about the fulfillment of our goals, we choose to forego many of the opportunities that come our way, and then are left with only regrets…., but we’re safe alright.

150 soulsYet in the movie, Bill Marks was the only possible salvation for those 150 passengers’ souls. As spectators, we saw this, but the passengers couldn’t. They were blinded by their fears and hid behind their inherent response not to trust—framing Bill for hijacking the plane helped foster their belief, granted. Yet had it not been for Bill’s resilience, they would all be dead because they chose to play it safe.

Later, as I left for my bike ride, a more profound thought dawned on me. Life is really non-stop

24-7We may compartmentalize our schedules all we want and believe that we complete certain things, or that some aspects of our lives and business are behind us; our lives and all that relates to them keep going 24/7 until it’s over, and we have reached the end. Our hearts tick and our lungs draw air, even if we are unaware of it most of the time. Our minds work all the time, even when we sleep. Our relationships run their course uninterrupted, even when we are not in the presence of others. The stock prices are constantly moving, whether or not we watch the ticker-tape. It’s five o’clock somewhere, but it’s also the other 23 times-of-day elsewhere. Time, as we have come to conveniently track it, is merely an illusion as life is a continuum, with successive sequences of before-and-after.

Above the stormNow let me tie this back to the main story and the more profound message in this post. Our lives continuously entail the things we undergo and many relationships on which depend the realizations of our goals. By the sheer unpredictable nature of things, we should expect turmoil every once in a while. Yet when we take stock in our lives and proactively pursue our goals, this equates to boarding a non-stop flight. In this analogy, the more we focus on our goals and important things we strive to achieve in life and the greater our ambitions, the bigger the plane we build for ourselves. As the plane—of which we become pilot—becomes bigger, it gains greater momentum, longer range, and more cargo hold.

Liam ActiveFrom that perspective, Bill Marks commands a very large non-stop plane (even though he doesn’t like flying—LOL). He built himself a large plane through his persistent and unwavering pursuit of goals, despite needing to put up with much, being let down often, and being challenged many times in his life. This reflects the quality of the grounded person Liam portrays as the lead character of this movie. When it came to stepping up to the plate, Bill would simply not let anything stand in the way of what needed to be done. The headwinds that he faced over the course of his life helped him build his resistance and his resolve. The distractions during his mission (the non-stop flight in the movie) could not knock him off course, or derail his determination about what he felt compelled to do.

If we want to be the heroes in the stories of our lives, it behooves us to build bigger planes on our non-stop flight-of-life. We must engage all the resources that are required and focus on what we need to do and do best. Judging other people or distrusting them isn’t really part of our vocation or our charter and leads us continuously on a flight of doubt, one where we don’t focus on expanding the momentum, range and cargo hold of our planes.

Large planeA big plane is hard to veer off course. When we make mistakes about trusting the wrong people, we experience some turbulence, but it won’t burn us to the ground. Only small planes are prone to storms or changes in atmospheric pressure and easily drop out of the sky. Small planeInstead of steering our lives at low altitudes through misty clouds on bumpy flight paths, we can focus on our goals, our ambition and our essence and build a larger plane to soar high above the clouds, reach much further destinations with greater comfort and fill our spacious cargo hold with a lifetime of achievements collected along the way.

Dare to dreamWhen it comes to trusting, we shouldn’t use lack of trust as an excuse to curtail our ambitions. We will get burned from time to time, for sure. But it won’t take us off-course as long as we trust our dreams, persist on our path and have faith in our goals. Our essence and determination establish the limits for each in building an adequate vessel to carry us to our destinations. To fare safely and carry with us the many precious things we collect along the way, it is entirely up to us to determine its size, its range and its flight plan.

Thank you for reading and for posting your personal comments on this topic, below.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor

Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows us how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add ‘A Dash of Greatness’ to your lives.

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