Discover more from Life Intelligence
Disappointed, sad, hopeful, and positive.
Lessons from emotionally resilient people.
This week’s Life Intelligence meanders around a bit. Enjoy. If this is your first time, subscribe and join the Life-Intelligent Tribe 😊. It’s one easy way you can make the world a better place!
Next week I’ll be connecting from Baltimore. I’ll be in a hospital donating “my data” to the BLSA. I feel excited and impatient. I’ll be live streaming videos and doing write-ups on what they are doing to me and why it matters for you and for science. If you miss the live stream, I will link to it in my write-up. This is contingent on what they let me film. If you are a subscriber to my YouTube channel, I believe you will receive a notification when I go live. Yay! I revived my YouTube channel.
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Last year I read Steven Pinker’s latest two books, (Enlightenment Now and Rationality) in which he optimistically tells us that the world is a way better place than it used to be way back when people clubbed each other with brute force in endless wars, plagued by disease, and starving, and that with a little training, we can become more rational and solve the rest of our problems in an intelligent way. I admire his optimism. I’ve been thinking about everything he wrote for over a year now.
I live in the age of a senseless war raging in Ukraine while people starve worldwide due to extreme drought brought about by climate change. Massive disinformation destabilizes even the world’s most stable democracies. Politics divide populations to extremes.
OK, I admit. I’ve been doom-scrolling daily. I track what is happening in Ukraine, the EU, and NATO. Also, following US politics concerning the 2024 elections, economics, and the homeless crisis. Grrrr.
I feel disappointed that despite all the moral progress made, humans, apparently, have made only minimal tactical gains (to use a war term)—too many casualties to our unskillful living, inconsiderate treatment of the environment, and selfishness.
I feel sad watching homeless people trash my town -for them and for the town. I ask myself daily, “What can be done about this?” I know what not to do – don’t encourage bad behavior by enabling addicts with food and money. Don’t judge (but I do). Don’t park the car where someone can break-in, because it did get broken into once. I also volunteer to clean the highway once a month. Beyond this, I am stuck with nothing to offer. The homeless situation is absurd, overwhelming, and devastating.
I am also sad that 60% of Americans can’t come up with $1000 in savings to cover an emergency, which means that millions of people are only an emergency away from possibly becoming destitute. Do they care? So many barely survive paycheck to paycheck.
I am confused as to why US politicians limit women’s rights under the pretext of “pro-life” policies while continuing to tolerate some 20,000+ gun violence deaths (in 2022, and in 2023 the number is already 19,000+, in case you were wondering). Why do they cut school art programs to save money in the budget but not tax the mega-rich by closing the loopholes of their tax-efficiency schemes?
There’s more, but I don’t want to ruin your day. It doesn’t take a genius to notice the burden of negativity.
I can see how most humans may be living with existential anxiety with all this negativity in the background. The WHO says that mental illness is rising worldwide, 13% in the last decade. “Depression is one of the leading causes of disability. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.” Good thing I don’t have children.
Yet, some seemingly ordinary people thrive. I am hopeful we can learn from them how to be more psychologically and emotionally resilient. But we must want to. Do you want to? I want to.
Probably the first thing to do is to stop doom-scrolling. It’s one thing to check on things to remain informed. Another, keeping your eyes on the feed for hours and hours. I set my limit to about 20 min per day. Even with 20 min per day, I manage to ruin my mood. I can’t imagine what it would be like to spend hours fixating on what I couldn’t do anything about.
The Buddha would tell you to practice acceptance. The Serenity Prayer will spell it out better for you, “accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the ones I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” No, I am not a recovering alcoholic. I just know wise words when I see them. I live by these.
Acceptance goes a long way because it frees up emotional resources and time to deal with what you can change. As you progress in areas within your control, you feel better, more hopeful, and build your self-efficacy muscles. That way, the next time something comes up you can tackle it with more self-confidence.
I balance my diet of bitter news with sweet knowledge of cool stuff, such as advances in understanding the human mind, health-related science, financial independence strategies, good news from my community, inspiring podcasts, and cute animal videos. I know misery loves company, but I don’t like staying in miserable company for too long. I’d rather be learning something that can make my life better.
Because of that, I am positive that my health will not ruin my financial situation and that my financial situation can support my health, even if something terrible is to happen. I even have life insurance for my doggie Lulu because, let’s face it, the little ones will always be financially dependent. I am also hopeful that just by being who I am, doing what I do, and writing about it, I can educate and inspire others. Hence, Life Intelligence.
Another balancing act – the macros and micros of life. On a macro scale, the world is full of strife, conflict, and senseless death. On a micro scale, there are beaches and sunsets, mountain paths, precious moments with friends and loved ones, play, good music, dance, and my container garden. Therefore, gratitude!
For everyone, life happens wherever we are and whatever we do at that moment. Usually, that’s a pretty good place to be, even if you’re stuck in a cubicle at work. You could be stuck in a train wreck in India instead or in a flooded trench in Ukraine with artillery fire over your head. Therefore, perspective!
You can tell resilient people by their gratitude and perspective. Try it yourself.
My personal daily mantra is, “Something amazing is about to happen.” Guess what? Something amazing happens daily. In psychology, we call this “priming the subject.” By waking up with this in my head, my mind is “primed” to notice the amazing things that do happen every day. It becomes a “goodness” radar that doesn’t miss, and I am busy all day counting the blessings as they happen.
You know the one, “The energy flows wherever your attention goes.” In the same way, your subjective life experience daily is determined by what you focus on. So, if of all the things you experience in a day, all you notice are the bummers, your entire existence will feel like a bummer. Do yourself a favor and widen the lens. That’s what resilient people do.
In fact, resilient people always find the silver lining in every situation, and that’s what they focus on and talk about. It may seem annoying to some, but they pump themselves up instead of letting themselves get dragged down. Clearly, it’s a choice.
Back to the war in Ukraine. It’s close to my heart. If you don’t know what I am talking about, read this. I can’t fathom the devastation there. I watch buildings falling, people losing everything they have, and dying. I can’t comprehend the pain, suffering, and struggle. It literally hurts my heart when I try. I feel incapable of doing anything. And yet, I see how the lives lost can pave the way to a better future for everyone, even people outside of Ukraine. I hope the conflict will cost Putin his reign and, hopefully, his life. I am impressed at how the democratic world coalesced together and stood up against Putin’s aggression. I am certain that Ukraine will rebuild and will probably be one of the best countries to live in post-war. With so many talented people, bravery, and world resources on their side, the future Ukraine will look amazing. The Russians demolishing towns also demolish the Soviet-era atmosphere they left behind in the 1990s. Everything will be new - streets and buildings, infrastructure. The people will be proud, stronger, and more determined to make their country the best it can be. Hopefully. That’s the silver lining.
Meanwhile, there’s a war inside every one of us. Some small, more like a conflict. Others, raging and devastating. I am hopeful that surviving these makes us better people, to ourselves and to others. These are an opportunity to figure out what needs to be demolished and how to rebuild ourselves better. If we don’t, we suffer. If we do, we grow, live better, and have more fun!
Thank you for reading.
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