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What We Can Discover in Other People’s Worlds

June 19, 2015 by  
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I don’t know about you but I absolutely love to travel, especially to foreign countries and places I’ve never ventured into before. It excites my mind and does good things for me physically as well. Psychologists have told us for years that the human brain craves and thrives on novelty and also that a brain that gets excited can many times coax or persuade the body to maintain or even create better health. It sure seems to do that for me!

My wife and I just got back yesterday from Europe. Even though I have visited the Netherlands a few times before this last trip, this visit still stimulated my mind and body quite a bit. I am sure part of that was that I’d never taken the high speed train from Paris to Amsterdam and viewed that marvelous scenery. We also stayed in an old and quaint yet very different hotel right on one of Amsterdam’s famous canals.

A few days later my wife and I again took the train but to a city I’d never visited before. Just outside the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (commonly known as Den Bosch) we were privileged to watch from our nice fourth row seats a great tennis tournament played on grass as a warm up tournament for the renowned Wimbledon tournament. Interacting and getting to know a few of the wonderfully friendly Dutch people was tremendously fun as well as interesting and mind expanding. I even learned that the Dutch are, on average, the tallest people on the planet.

I’ve thought many times how different the world would probably be if virtually everyone could travel and visit dozens of different countries and cultures. I can’t help but believe that if this were to happen and we all took the time to really study and get to know and understand other people, we would grow to be so much more accepting and sympathetic. It would, no doubt, greatly diminish and maybe even halt the huge conflicts and wars of the world.

Just think about how you try to help one of your kids or friends that are having problems. Most of us try to understand the causes of those problems and the more we discover, the sympathetic we are and the more we can help out. Getting to know and understand other cultures makes it more likely that we will be able to accept, and when needed, help these others people that previously we may have thought were rather strange. Next time you travel to a new place you might want to keep that in mind and see what you might discover.

 

A Lesson From Tragedy

November 1, 2013 by  
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There are a lot of great lessons to learn in life and if we are paying attention–being acutely aware of what’s going on around us and inside of our heads–then we just might see what life is trying to teach us and learn some great lessons.

Two weeks ago my dear wife’s sister Susan and husband Val lost their 33 years old son Brad to cancer. It was a huge smack in the face for the whole family. My wife, Kimberly, quickly flew to North Carolina for the wake and to be with her sister and Brad’s wife and kids. I stayed home but became overwhelmed by my own grief as young Brad’s tragic death brought back the memories and sorrow I have surrounding my own daughter, Kristin, who passed at the age of only 16.

During my time alone I happened to open up my own book How to Ignite Your Passion for Living to page 159 and three lines of bold face print jumped out at me like a bright light. Those three lines were what Nando Parrado said many years ago after surviving that horrific plane crash in the Andes mountains. He and a companion climbed over one of the highest peaks during a grueling 11 day trek to civilization and the chance to rescue the remaining crash survivors who only survived because they ate the flesh of their dead rugby teammates. The life lesson that Nando wrote was this: “There may be only one good thing that can come from great human tragedy and that is tragedy can make you so much more human than you ever were before.”

When I think back and look at myself after Kristin’s death, I can see how it changed me and intensified tenfold my empathy, caring and loving of other people. I was especially empathetic towards those that had lost a loved one and, in particular, if they had lost a child. I can’t put into words the huge change in my feelings towards those people and their families.

There is not one of us 7 billion humans that are going to make it out of here alive (although I’ve thought about totally boycotting death!) and if we live long enough we are bound to encounter our share of tragedy. So given that probability, doesn’t it all just come down to how we handle those terrible tragedies?

As I see it we have 2 choices. One, we can totally give up, throw in the towel and lay around feeling sorry for ourselves until we die.  Or two, we can learn a lesson about life and go out in the world trying to help others survive and even thrive as well as help them make it through their tragedies.

We do have a choice here. I think if we chose the first option we are bound to drag ourselves into depression, misery and sadness for the rest of our lives. But if we chose the second option, I think we’ll see brightness and light not only fill our own lives but just as important we will see that light in the minds, souls and bodies of those we seek out to help.

So what do you choose?

The Power of Empathy

July 20, 2012 by  
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Most of the time, when a couple or friends get into a fight, it’s because one of them is assuming they know why the other person is acting the way they do or reads into something they are saying. The thing is our assumptions are primarily based on how we think or what we would do or say which is not going to be an accurate reflection of the other person. If you try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes first, you might come to a completely different conclusion and misunderstandings can be avoided.

There is a great book, written a couple decades ago but still so very relevant, called “Love is Never Enough” by Aaron T. Beck. The one thing you really take away from this book is the power of empathizing. Beck’s book is full of great advice. Here are just a few points of his to keep in mind:

Ask questions rather than just assume and act on what you “think” the other person is thinking. There is no better way to come to an understanding of someone’s position than to let them tell you what they are thinking.
Try to figure out where the other person’s thoughts are coming from rather than focus on the words alone. What a person says and what the message really is can be quite different.
Don’t’ react defensively. This can just make things worse. Stop and try to figure out what they are feeling and respond to that, not the words themselves.

Remember, just making a sincere effort to understand the other person can do wonders for the relationship. The effort you make shows you care and is also commonly followed up by the other person trying harder to understand your point of view as well.