As a preschooler, my daughter had a picture book by Mo Willems called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. It’s a sweet, funny and clever book that captures the endearing side of a preschoolers temper tantrums. The takeaway as an adult though is equally funny as it is profound. Don’t get fixated on what others want from you and allow that to drive your decision-making. More importantly, don’t fixate on what your ego attempts to validate as rational choices based on the immediate irrational demands of others that only serve to validate their behaviors and choices.
Pigeons occupy cities in great numbers. They are everywhere, pecking about and scavenging for food. Their actions are selfish. Their actions are for their own survival. They don’t care about us. Feeding a pigeon may put a smile on your face, but rest assured, that it’s a non-reciprocal relationship. To keep with metaphors of the winged, comedian Mitch Hedberg has a brilliant joke, “I find that ducks’ opinions of me are very much influenced over whether or not I have bread.” There’s sound philosophy in that statement.
Our paths are all unique. When searching for the right path, the path paved by reasoned choice and a non-egoic existence, our decisions simply won’t make sense to a vast majority of others. The world is filled with pigeons and ducks. Don’t let the pigeons drive the bus, and don’t seek to be loved by ducks when you are not carrying bread. Neither will serve to get you where you want to go, nor feed you along the way.
Core is defined as either the tough central part of various fruits, containing the seeds or the central or most important part of something. If we view our minds as our cores, containing the seeds (the choices) that drive us, aiming to strengthen our minds is then essential to achieving stability. It simplifies every daily to-do list. Of all the things we “need” to accomplish today, of all the things that occupy space in today’s calendar of events, meetings, and errands, how many blocks have we devoted to developing our minds?
Expectation is the root of disappointment. In terms of expectations of others, the hard lesson to learn is that we don’t just have to lower the bar, we have to put that bar down. If we expect others to do anything or act in any way that is outside of our control, we are holding space for disappointment. When it comes to ourselves, realistic expectations rely on what is in our power to control – how we choose to act and react.
Agreements are the root of accountability. When others choose to agree to do something, they are entering into a contract of accountability. When we agree to do something, we do the same. What’s made simple here is that if someone else is failing to uphold their agreements, we can help them notice this in an objective manner. The birds-eye perspective is that they agreed to do it – we did not expect them to do it. It’s a means to support someone else like a spotter does in weight-lifting. If we are fearful of how we will be judged for calling someone else out when they are failing to meet their agreements, then we are the ones not demonstrating accountability.
When we operate from a place of objectivity, if others respond with fear, do they fear us or accountability? Although in these situations we may at times receive the brunt of others’ frustrations, in reality it’s not personal. However, reality doesn’t always make being on the receiving end of ignorance easy. The reason for this is that in order to care enough about wanting others to be the best versions of themselves, we must be operating from a place of compassion, which involves being sensitive and vulnerable. We must also be holding ourselves up to our agreements. Our agreements to choose to be in humble service to others, to doing good, and not being in service to our egos.
Ignorance isn’t always kind, and arrogance fueled by ignorance is a vengeful combination. When operating from a place of reasoned choice opposed to emotion, we may appear to others as unemotional. It’s difficult to care enough to say something knowing that even if we choose our words perfectly, we still have no control over how it will be processed and received. Accountability can feel like a place of isolation. When we care enough about taking right action, we too have to accept to not care about what is out of our control.
Tractor beams, as often described in science-fiction stories, are beams of energy used to either move objects, such as spaceships, or hold them stationary. They are typically pulling a spaceship back into peril, preventing it from escape. It’s symbolic for immobilized freedom. When we indulge in food or spirit, gossip or idleness, we often do so at the expense of ignoring our reasoned choice. Indulgence is a powerful force we allow ourselves to be distracted by, typically for the purpose of enjoyment. Enjoying a nice meal or a good spirit is fine in moderation, however, our bodies are processing the food all the same regardless of its expense. Enjoying gossip to share a laugh at someone else’s expense may feel good in the moment, but it’s an excuse and distraction from our own accountability. Disguising over-indulgence in idleness as relaxation is also an excuse. Indulgence is the tractor beam of progress.
The expression “haste makes waste” means doing something too quickly causes mistakes that result in time, effort and resources being wasted. The same can be said for how we choose to spend our days. It’s amazing how quickly the nights go when we get home from work and just sit on the couch watching TV. Idle hours pass fast! The cost of “relaxation” is expensive. We’ve wasted our most valuable resource: time! We don’t get to purchase, bargain, beg, steal or borrow more time. The more we choose to be productive with our waking hours, the more we get out of our days, and the longer the days feel.
Inevitably, a good deal of the hours we have each day are predetermined for working and obligation. If we spend our free time choosing only to “recover” from the energy spent on obligation, fulfillment will always be out of reach. When we put effort, even small effort, into choosing to make our bodies, minds and relationships stronger, our days are extended by the experiences we create for ourselves. Hospitals are filled with people forced to be still, and what is the most common wish? To get better so they can get back to doing. They don’t wish to be better to go home and be idle. They wish to have the time to be active. Being present and in the moment cheats time because the present is always, while the past is gone and the future is uncertain.
When we handle stressful situations with calmness of mind, others that let emotions get in the way have a tendency to perceive our calmness as an emotional deficiency. What they miss is that we are not unable to feel; it is not a problem a lack of emotion. It’s knowing that bringing emotion into the act of coping makes us unable to act accordingly. To cope is to deal effectively with something difficult. Synonyms are, to manage (to be in charge of) or to survive (to continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship).
To deal effectively with our emotions and to be in charge of our emotions as a means of continuing to live. Or, to choose a form of escapism to avoid living in the moment and let our emotions decide for us how we deal. Which one of these demonstrates a deficiency?
There’s a “Chicken and the Egg” scenario that seems to occur in people with therapeutic training. Part of being an insightful therapist is being perceptive, but that’s putting it kindly. What it really means is that good therapists have strong BS meters. They can sense bullshit, call others out on it, and do so with compassion and empathy. So the question is: Do therapists learn to develop good BS meters in training, or do they innately have good BS meters that draws them to the profession in the first place?
Perhaps the greatest flaw for those with strong BS meters is being unable to get whiff of our own BS. This seems to be one of the most profound human user errors; being able to see the errors in others, but not ourselves. Our good friend, the Ego, is responsible for this. The Ego is roof and umbrella, constantly sheltering us from our own BS. Ironically, the more sophisticated the BS meter palate, the more it’s seemingly unaware when focused on the self. The fools we suffer most end up being ourselves. Like any other conundrums, awareness is the first step in finding a solution. Focusing our BS meters inward towards the choices we control and accepting that’s where the primary problem lives.
Inquiry is the birthplace of any progress. As Einstein beautifully stated: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This is why therapy exists for most; to help us see our problems from different angles. Good therapists simply know how to ask the right questions to help us discover new levels of consciousness in ourselves. To wake the ability to see and think beyond our egos. Some people are fortunate enough to have minds gifted enough to do this through self-inquiry alone. Others may have strong enough trusting relationships with family, friends and/or loved ones to help them grow. There is no right way, but there is a wrong way. To choose not to do anything to help ourselves grow to be better people.