A hypothesis of generosity

None of us suffer from a deficit of experience. In fact, “stuff’ happens virtually non-stop.

The daily rhythm of life is that we have ups and downs. Problems manifest, big and small. Complications arise, both profound and mundane. We encounter joys, concerns and everywhere in between. Items get checked off our to-do list. Or not.

Amidst the backdrop of our existence come the many challenges to our equanimity. Often these arise as times when we feel confronted, slighted, or disrespected, Other times we may feel shunned or even attacked.

Maybe we get get cut off in traffic or treated rudely by a stranger. A friend doesn’t call us back. A co-worker doesn’t include us in an important meeting. Perhaps we don’t feel truly heard by our partner. Maybe we even sense that we are being judged or harshly criticized by someone who loves us.

If you are anything like me, you might find yourself drawn to apply a strong filter of negativity, propelled by self-righteousness, defensiveness and anger. If you are anything like me, you might start to make up quite a lot about what’s actually going on and what it all means.

So what if instead we started with a hypothesis of generosity? What if our filter was set to kindness and curiosity instead of assuming the worst possible interpretation? What if we followed Brene Brown‘s advice in her book Rising Strong and we asked ourselves “what is the most generous assumption about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”

In choosing this path we have to challenge our ego. We have to let go of the need to be right. We have to stop getting our needs met through propping ourselves up by putting others down. We have to move toward connection, rather than run from it. It’s not always easy. And it means telling ourselves a fundamentally different story.

But as Brene goes on to remind us:  “What do we call a story that’s based on limited real data and imagined data and blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality? A conspiracy theory.”

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This post also appeared on my business blog at http://www.stevenpdennis.com

Is happiness a zero-sum game?

Why do we often treat happiness as a scarce resource?

Why do we approach our capacity for happiness as if it’s constrained, instead of wildly abundant?

Why do we frequently behave as if someone’s else’s success, joy or good fortune has anything to do whatsoever with our ability to experience contentment or equanimity?

Why do we let someone’s social media exploits ever make us feel bad about ourselves?

Your happiness doesn’t undermine mine. Nor does it limit it.

It’s never useful to compete on happiness.

The fact is there’s more than enough to go around.

Happiness compounds and expands. And we all rise with the tide.

Conversely, I should never derive happiness from another’s misery. There is no joy to be found in knowing the hole is on your side of the boat.

We’re all in this together.

It’s time to act like it.

What better time than now?

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h/t to Sharon Salzberg for inspiring this post.