When things get tough

How do you keep going when the going gets tough?  We all have this problem from time to time.

There are a multitude of problems, big and small that can trip us up. Like, what should you do with your life?  What if you find out you made the wrong choice?

The heart of the problem of how to keep going when the going gets tough is the stress of uncertainty.  And while I’m a big fan of seeing a psychologist when you need one, these are largely philosophic problems, not psychological ones. (Though – psychology can help if you response to these problems is severe).

The philosophic problem is how to be ok with uncertainty.  Instead of trying to gain certainty, or taking drugs to reduce the stress caused by uncertainty – which if you need them – get them.

Another option is to philosophically come to terms with the fact that life is uncertain.  Here is how I approach these common problems humanistically.

What if you are putting in all this effort – for nothing? Well – maybe you are and maybe you aren’t.  The point is – you don’t know. Accept that you don’t know – and then decide – what you are going to do about it.  Do you want to keep going – and see if you could succeed? Or will you quit and never find out if you could have succeeded?   Asking whether I will succeed or not is not the right question to ask. A better question is – if I succeed, will it be worth the effort?   That’s a question I can answer that will help me to decide whether to keep going or not and to feel good about the answer.

What if you are headed in the wrong direction?  You may be headed in the wrong direction. Then again, you may not be. Do some thinking and figure it out. If what you are doing isn’t working, then perhaps it is time to change course.  If you do decide to change direction, here is how to do it without too much emotional stress.

Sure – you have invested a LOT of time and energy into whatever it was you were trying to do. But, if you are pretty convinced that what you are doing isn’t going to work, it’s ok to abandon it. The only thing worse than being wrong, is continuing to be wrong out of bullheadedness.

Don’t know what to do? Only know that what you are doing isn’t working?  Take a time out.  Time outs – are ok and are allowed.  Sometimes, timing is everything.  I find that allowing myself to take a break often gives me the emotional distance I need to see my problem more clearly. I did this with my business plan. I started working on a speaking career – realized, I really didn’t like it. Took a break for a few months, without knowing what I was going to do – and my current business plan – just sort of came to me.  Taking breaks doesn’t mean not working. It just means  - not working on one particular project right at this moment.

Regarding the lure of magical thinking. I think we are all prone to this. It would be really nice to have a way to see into the future.  Or to use magic to solve a problem. I myself have attempted magical solutions – like the time my friends did Wiccan ceremonies to rid me of a stalker.  My feeling on this is indulge yourself a little. These ceremonies can be great are relieving some of your stress, or to act as a way for you to take a break without taking a break.  Why? Because magical solutions don’t work. They are a way to spend time and money – on nothing. But that may be just what you need – a break.  Just remember to get back to reality and get back to work.  Otherwise, you will be in limbo for a very very very long time.

The Humanist approach?  Instead of wishing things will change, we make things change.  Decide on a course of action, and do it.  And if you make a mistake, correct it. Just remember, in the grand scheme of things, all these hugely important issues, aren’t all that important. So don’t take yourself so seriously. Relax and enjoy the ride and the mistakes you make along the way. And when you need to – apply the effort you need to scale that hill to see the sights beyond.  You are living your life, you might as well enjoy it.

Bad Relationship Signs

My friend Hemant Mehta – the Friendly Atheist ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/)  – posted this video – about how to tell you are in an abusive relationship.

Interesting – having been in an abusive relationship – I literally didn’t catch on until the very end what he was getting at. I thought I was odd that Hement kept referring to the abuser as a “he” as both men and women can be abusive in relationships. But then I thought – how brilliant that Hemant is talking to women being abused by men. A woman can’t do this because we need to hear it from a nice guy – that yeah – our guy is in fact abusive and we should dump him.

So – the end shocked me.   View the video here:

Now – let’s discuss.  It’s interesting for me – because I was never indoctrinated. But I saw a presentation by Sarah Morehead – with Recovering from Religion (http://recoveringfromreligion.org/)  Her presentation was all about how religions groom people to need them in the same way abusive people groom their victims to “need” them.  It’s frightening really.

I don’t normally post about religion and I don’t normally post stuff I consider to be anti-religious – because – I am only anti-religious when religion is anti-human and most religion seems to me to be fairly benign. However, the indoctrination techniques, precisely because they are abusive – are abusive.  And I think we all, non-believers and believers alike – should own up to that and perhaps – say – it’s not ok. If a religious belief can’t stand on it’s own and it has to abusively groom and indoctrinate it’s adherents – then perhaps we should stop calling them adherents and start calling them victims.

Good news about happiness and purpose

Research shows that doing good deeds, makes us feel happy.

I am a Humanist educator. I teach people how and why to be moral and why being moral will help lead to happiness.  This is philosophy. Humanist philosophy.  But it turns out that this approach is backed up by – science.

YourMorals – is a empirically based blog about morality.  They publish and comment on research into morality. They recently published a wonderful article about every day moral life – see (http://www.yourmorals.org/blog/2014/09/some-good-news-about-everyday-moral-life/)

This article is about a study of 1,252 participants who were asked 5 times a day if they had experienced any moral or immoral acts and how they felt.

Their main findings?

Participants reported committing and receiving more moral than immoral acts but learned about twice as many immoral than moral acts. In other words, we definitely experience more good than bad, but we like to gossip about the bad.

They also found that most moral or immoral acts were about three dimensions: Honesty, Liberty/oppression, and Self Discipline.  The first two is how people interact with you – the third is how we ourselves decide to act.

Finally, it’s not surprising to find that “being treated morally increased one’s happiness and being treated immorally decreased it. What is more intriguing is that the greatest increase in a sense of purpose and meaning in life came after reports of having acted morally oneself.”

What can we take away from all this?  Well first, that I am right and you should read my books on Humanism.

2nd, that morality really is all about how we ourselves want to be treated.  And that the best way to ensure that others treat us well is to do and be good ourselves.

But most importantly, if you want to be happy, you have to have a purpose in life that involves being good and helping others.   Or as a Humanist would say – life a life of ethical fulfillment that aspires to the greater good of humanity!

Or to quote the article: “our moment-to-moment happiness depends on (how we are treated by) others, our larger sense of purpose in life is our own doing.” Be good my friends.

Why Neuro-diversity in the workplace is important.

Why the British Intelligence Agency hires neurodiverse individuals and why you should too.

GCHQ – which is the British spy agency - has over 120 neuro-diverse employees. These employees were chosen specifically for their neuro-diversity. (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11111584/GCHQ-employs-more-than-100-dyslexic-and-dyspraxic-spies.html)

They hire these individuals because, even though they may not have a full range of skills, they are spikey – which means, while they are below average on some common tasks like reading and writing and perhaps tying their shoes, they are well above average in other areas, like problem solving.

Working with neuro-diverse individuals is a challenge. My son has dyspraxia and he’s highly gifted, which means he sees and experiences the world in a profoundly different way than his neurotypical peers.

Getting him to work on things he isn’t interest in is a challenge. Helping him to stay organized is a challenge. I’m his mom, so I worry about what sort of work he might be able to get given his challenges.

And yet, he’s endlessly fascinating and has skills the rest of us don’t. Like his sense of smell is really acute. He may have a photographic memory.  Can he write – barely? Can he remember the song lyrics of a choir piece he heard once? Yes.

Hiring and working with neuro-diverse individuals is a challenge, but it’s precisely what makes these people different that make them so valuable.  So the next time you interview someone “challenging” instead of thinking about how difficult they will be to work with, think about how much value their unique insight into the problems your company faces. You may just find they are worth the effort.

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