"Your body hears everything your mind says."-Naomi Judd
Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat?”
Of course you have.
Well, what about, “You are what you think.”
Let me tell you something about the human condition… you become what you think.
No, this isn't hooky, hippy stuff. It’s fact.
As you sit there secretly judging the beautiful woman with the Chanel bag waiting in line for her latte—she is totally a shallow bitch, you think—you have now become a shallow, judgmental bitch yourself.
See how that works? You become the very thing you judged and condemned.
When you flick the guy off in traffic because he cuts you off, you are now become someone who ‘flicks’ people off—and really, who does that? You become as much of the problem as the guy who doesn’t know how to drive.
When you respond to a hostile world with hostility, you become hostile. You contribute to the problem instead of reducing it, like you could.
There is a concept known as “frame.” Frame is the backstory to a person or situation.
Let’s look at the same two examples through different frames.
- The beautiful women with the Chanel bag is stuck in an abusive relationship with a husband that beats her and threatens to kill her if she leaves him. She tries to mask her insecurities (and pain) with external appearances like clothing, jewelry, and expensive purses. She is miserable and lives a life of fear.
- The guy who cut you off is rushing to the hospital because his wife and unborn child were in a car accident and are in critical condition.
Now, had you known the “frame” for each person, would you have thought or respond the same way?
Of course not!
You never know what goes on behind closed doors. Judging makes you a jerk. Period.[/caption]
Unless you are a psycho/sociopath, you would have responded with understanding and compassion. You would have reduced hostility and hate and promoted compassion and love. You wouldn't have judged or condemned.
This is why frame is so powerful.
Frame applies countless situations in life. Let’s look at a few more examples:
- The child steals food because he hasn’t eaten in days.
- A girl gets an abortion after being raped.
- The barista is rude because her mother died the day before.
- And so on.
Do you see how frame can completely change your thoughts about someone or something? Not knowing frame gets us into trouble. It makes us look like a jerk. In some cases, a mega-jerk.
Here’s the thing about frame: You never know the full story!
I remember hearing a quote from someone about people. I’m going to paraphrase it. It goes something like this:
If you lived the same life as someone else, and dealt with all the same things that person did, you would probably end up doing the same exact thing as that person.
The quote I heard was more eloquent, but that was the gist. This always stuck with me and I now try to understand people before moving to judgement (and I aim to eliminate judgment completely). Think about it: If you lived someone else’s life, you would probably be doing, saying, and thinking the same things. You would probably be the same exact person.
And if you think “No, I would never be like that,” you are wrong because you are forming your opinion based on your life and how you grew up. You would be a completely different person if you grew up differently. It’s as simple as that.
You never know the full story of another person. You don’t know what they are struggling with or how hard they've had it.
This is why we all need to respond to the world with understanding and compassion. Not only will this make us happier and less stressed people, it will also rub off on other people and end up making the world a better place.
Each person is the person they are as a result of the life they have lived.[/caption]
This reminds me of the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is a theory that states that the smallest changes, like that of a butterfly flapping it’s wings, can influence large changes farther away, such as a hurricane weeks later.
The concept is more commonly known as it relates to time travel and has been popularized in movies like Back To The Future and The Butterfly Effect. The theory goes: If you travel back in time and affect the smallest change, the future will end up completely different from what it was.
I believe in this concept as it applies to time travel and as it applies to everyday life and the choices we each make on a daily basis.
Every action we take as human beings, even the tiniest, have a ripple effect that causes changes and events most of us will never see. We don’t realize it, but the smallest act of goodwill can save lives, while the smallest act of hate can kill.
Let’s look at some examples...
Let’s say the barista at Starbucks is having a bad day and you are able to cheer them up with a simple smile and compliment. Well, you will never know what effect that may have for her. Maybe she was on the verge of suicide and this minor touch of joy that you brought into her life was enough to change her mind that day. Then maybe, a few days later, she decides to get help and ends up living happily ever after. You would have literally saved her life and you’ll never know it.
And it is my contention that this kind of thing happens countless times on a daily basis all around the world.
Now, let's look at the flip side. Let’s say, instead of bringing joy into her life, you brought hostility over some trivial like your coffee taking too long, and it ends up being the final straw to push her over the edge. Then, she (or more commonly, he) goes on a killing spree. Lives are lost and families destroyed. Who knows what could have been prevented had you brought compassion instead of hostility.
Here’s something scary to think about: For every school shooting there has ever been, there was always a "last time" that someone brought hate into the shooter’s life. And if this “last time” had been full of compassion instead of hostility, it is very likely the the worst could have been avoided.
This is life.
Life is full of random cause and effect that we will never be able to understand or predict. All life really is, is a series of millions of tiny events that lead you us all down an eventual path. If you understand the power of exponents, you will see the sheer number of possibilities (unfathomable) that can go one way or another by the smallest incidents.
If a butterfly flapping its wings can alter the course of a hurricane weeks later, imagine how your actions can affect the world. The possibilities are limitless.
Because the tiniest events can have enormous life-changing implications, you can literally save lives by bringing compassion into the world. Make this your default.
Always bring compassion because 1) It’s healthier for you 2) You might save lives 3) You never know the frame so you might as well respond in the best way possible.
If those 3 reasons aren’t reason enough, then I don’t know what else to say to convince you.
I know there’s a lot to think about in this piece. That’s good. Never shy away from using your brain and forming thoughts of your own (most people are too lazy to do just that).
The fact is, if you change your thoughts, you can change the world around you. You will make the world a better place for everyone, including yourself. Do this long enough and you will literally save lives, although you probably won't see it so you have to just know it.
You will never be able to see or know the complete effect you have on the the world, but you can be confident that if you keep bringing positivity and compassion into it, the world will end up a better place because you existed. That’s a pretty cool thing to consider.
Never pass judgement. Always assume that there is a realistic frame to explain a situation (there usually is). Respond to the world and yourself through compassion and understanding.
Be cognizant of the fact that the smallest energy you bring into the universe will have a ripple effect. This effect will cause a bettering of the world or a taking away from it. It all depends on what you put out.
Try the no 21-day “no complaining” challenge. I heard about this from Tim Ferris. You wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it every time you complain as pain-based reminder to stop complaining. If you find your wrist bruised and swollen after a few days, you can take that as a sign that something needs to change because your “frame” of life is skewed to the negative.
Change your thoughts and you change yourself. Then, you change the world.
Remember, a butterfly flapping its wings can affect the world to epic proportions. Now imagine what you are capable of.