Be nice. Someone might be looking.

CC: Austin Kleon

I was recently talking with my partner, Anya, about some of her coworkers and their interactions with each other.   We were talking about one particular person who is not the most skilled at communicating things to her colleagues.  I said, If for no other reason, she should be a little nicer because one of these people could end up being her boss.    I started thinking about that idea.  What if we all treated our coworkers as if tomorrow they could be our boss?  What would happen?  Some folks, good or bad, wouldn’t change their behavior at all.  Others, I suspect, would be more thoughtful in their dealings.  Instead of snapping at a coworker for doing something wrong, they might take more care in communicating their thoughts.

The quote in the image above is from Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist.  His book is about “creativity in the digital age”; but, this particular idea is really a riff on the golden rule and a motto that would serve a person well should they adopt it as a life rule.

I’m a fan of personal slogans or mantras.  I’ve talked before about how the phrase “empty boat” became a life changing slogan for me.  The key to using these ideas is to use them immediately following the behavior or thought pattern you wish to change.  Reflection is great; but, in this case, immediacy is greater.  The reward is that the bad feeling is released sooner.  You are forcing yourself to divert your course from obsessing negatively over something and move to a place where you can figure out the best, positive course of action.  This is classic mind control.  You are redirecting thoughts.

In Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight, the author describes the 90 seconds it takes for an emotion to run through our body.  After that, it is only remaining through cognition.  What that means is that if you can train yourself to let the emotion come and then pass without rerunning it in your mind, the discomfort leaves.  If you continue to think about the stimulus that brought on the emotion, you will continue to suffer.

It might seem like you are tricking yourself or that the only reason you’re being “nice” is because you are pretending the person is your boss.  You know what?  So what.  It’s not harming anyone for you to use these techniques and eventually they become more and more a part of your natural pattern of thinking.  At some point, you cross a line and are no longer pretending.  It might sound implausible; but, it does work.

Anger, jealousy, irritation.  These emotions don’t feel good.  Why would you fuel them and make them last longer if you don’t have to?  What if you could train your mind to let the 90 seconds pass and then let it go without dredging it up over and over?  It’s an appealing thought isn’t it?

I’m always asking you to try things.  Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  If you only try one technique I’ve introduced, try this one.  Come up with your own spin on it and keep at it until its a habit.  Pen your own mantra and use it.  I still occasionally use Empty Boat.  It works for me.

Good luck!

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