It takes a village

Humanist parenting – collectively – even when the other parents aren't humanists.

I live in a nice neighborhood. We have a lot of kids, they all run around playing together. My son has the requisite scrapes and bug bites one would expect of a kid who spends time playing outside with friends.

And, as is to be expected, not all the kids are nice and wonderful. It happens.  And I think my approach as  humanist has really helped. Not just me, but the kids and the other parents.

You see, I don’t assume that just because a kid is acting inappropriate that there is anything wrong with them or that their parents are horrid and teaching them to be bad. I assume, instead, that they are a little kid who may have picked up some bad habits. Sure, it could be caused by bad parenting, but then again, that’s an assumption.

Whenever we have had problems, I go to the other parent and talk to them.  I realize this is a shocking thing to do but here’s what happens. We, together, end up making plan to help their kid learn how to behave better.  I know I would want to know if my son was being a horrid little shit to other kids. And so far, the other parents have appreciated knowing what their kid has been getting up to while they are out of sight.

It really does take a village and it takes compassion and trust and a willingness to reach out and help one another to help these kids learn how to maximize their strengths while learning how to be fair and kind to other kids at the same time. Because in every instance, the problems were a result of a highly intelligent child learning they can manipulate others.  That’s heady power. And with great power comes great responsibility. Our jobs is not to shut energy and talent down but to help the child learn how to channel that power for good.

And isn’t that a much more proactive and powerful way to think about interpersonal dynamics your kid is experiencing?   Will this work every time?  No. But unless you reach out to the other parents to see if that is what they want for their kid, you will never know. Don’t write off the obnoxious kids without learning more about them and their families. Just don’t.  Extend to them the same compassion you would want for yourself.

A Guide to Happiness

The search for happiness is a lot like the search for the Holy Grail. We don’t even know what exactly it is we are looking for.

I realize I’m probably the last person to lecture on why seeking happiness is a silly idea. After all, I wrote a book called, The Humanist Approach to Happiness.  Check it out – it’s a good book and your purchase of it will make me, very happy.

Anyway, it seems to me that a big part of the reason people struggle with being happy is because they don’t recognize it when they experience it.  Is happiness the state of being happy?  Is it a state of contented bliss? Can you be happy even when you are sad?  Is it a feeling of pleasure? Or something different?

Because we don’t really know exactly what happiness is, our search for it is elusive.  And this search prevents us from being happy and experiencing bliss.

I think my son has it right. Today he told me. Life is pretty good.  I said, I agreed because it sure beats the alternative. And that is how you find happiness.

Don’t look for it. Appreciate the fact you are alive, despite the odds, despite the problems, you are alive and that sure beats the alternative.  What more exactly were you hoping for?  Life is filled with pleasure and pain. Sadness and joy.

To me, happiness isn’t a feeling, it’s an experience of contentedness and to experience that requires a little bit of reflection, that despite it all, life is pretty good. I don’t need to experience utmost bliss all the time to be happy. I just have to be alive so I can experience bliss when I am lucky enough to experience it.

How do you define happiness?

Stop Making Bad Decisions

2 strategies to learn how to make better decisions.

We all make bad decisions. Some of us more than others.  Being the uber rational person I am (stop sniggering), have rationalized WHY it’s worth the effort to learn how to make better decisions.  Here it goes.  We all make a ton of decisions every day. These decisions add up.  It’s a numbers game really.  If we can make a slight improvement in our decision making process, the impact of that improvement, over the course of our life time will have a exponential effect on the quality of our lives.

Sure, any given decision might not have a huge impact on our lives, but the cumulative effect of all our decisions will.  Which is why it’s worth learning how to think better and make better decisions.

Which is why I loved this article by FastCompany – on 7 ways to make better decisions: There 7 tips are:
1) Get better information (obvious good idea)
2) Avoid pitfalls (learn the logical fallacies and try to avoid them in your thinking – again – good advice)
3) Look at your history – don’t repeat mistakes
4) Check in with yourself (ie: don’t make decisions when  hungry)
5) Take care of yourself (don’t make decisions when tired)
6) Make time to think. (you have to practice thinking to think well)
7) Analyze well (ie: learn from your mistakes)

This is a great list – and it’s a long winded way of saying – learn how to think critically.

Here is my way to make better decisions.  I’m not saying don’t do the FastCompany way.  I’m just saying, my way will complement their way and you will have more fun at the same time.

Think of Three.

The biggest fallacy we fall prey to is the false dichotomy. We limit our decision making to either or scenarios.  Either we are awake or we are asleep. Either we eat in or we take out.  Either I date this person or that person.  Our natural tendency to think in duality hinders our decision making.

So the next time you find yourself thinking either or. Think of three.  What are you going to do for dinner, eat in, take out, or .. go out to dinner.  Maybe you can skip dinner and just have dessert!

The point of this is to expand your options so that you don’t limit your solutions to the most obvious choices. Once you open yourself up to the other possible solutions to your problem, you will often find that one of those other options is actually a really good choice and will give you the best chance of success.

The world is not black and white and you should not limit your decision making to only the black and white options.  Think of three and then maybe four or five and then choose the option you think is best given – what’s real, what’s moral and what’s likely to work.

This little trick is easy, it’s fun and it will definitely improve your decision making.

So, which decision making framework do you prefer?  Mine or FastCompany?  Or both – ok there is three again.

Applied Humanism

After you decide what you believe about life the universe and everything, you now have to figure out how best to live your life given what you believe. That’s where Humanism comes in.

It turns out that deciding whether you believe in a god, gods or no gods or some amorphous deity or, that you just refuse to even think about it and make a decision on what you think (the apathetic agnostic option), is the easy part.

Once you know what you believe, you now have to get on with the business of living life, hopefully, in accordance with your beliefs, or in my case, lack of belief.  How do we make decisions?  How do we live life fully? Heck, what do we mean by living life fully?

These are the hard existential questions that aren’t actually answered when you decide how you feel about the god/not god question. Which is why Humanism is so important. Because Humanism helps us to not only find answers to these questions, but the answers are REALLY satisfying and very practical on a day to day basis.

Yeah – it’s not as sexy as a good old god off – but that’s ok.  Because learning how to life your life in a way you can feel good about and that can do good for others, is a lifelong task.  We never stop learning.

So, how can Humanism help you?  Well, you can decide to be a good person. Just because.  You can decide to try and make your impact on others as positive as possible. Again, just because.  To have a positive impact requires you to make good decisions and that requires you to learn how to think well so that you can make good decisions.

Having trouble with interpersonal issues, Humanism can help you there too.  The other person is human, just like you are and they can’t read minds.  This means, you should be compassionate with them and stop assuming that just because they weren’t acting in a way you think is perfect doesn’t mean that they are a horrible person incapable of compassion.

Struggling with fears of death?  Yup, Humanism can help with that too.  You are going to die. Stop wasting what little time you have alive worrying about the inevitable and get on with living life to the fullest while you still can. And if you still can’t stop worrying, go seek professional help!  There is a reason why early Humanists were active in psychology.  We realize that living isn’t easy and almost everyone needs help to maximize their potential and to be reasonably happy and satisfied in life. So don’t be afraid to seek out help when you need it. It’s the Humanist way.

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