My father used to tell me, “Every morning, when you get up, you have a choice. You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution.”
Recently, I heard a NPR story about email, and how its widespread acceptance has changed the way we do business…often, not for the better.
Regardless of the job we do, we’re more plugged in, turned on, linked up, and connected to one another than any previous generation. Instead of communication taking a week (by mail) or happening face to face (or voice-to-ear, in the case of the phone), the good, the bad, and the ugly all now happen at instant speed.
It’s easy, when something bothers you, to type up a post or a status update, or Tweet it into the void, receiving instant gratification for the need to sound a barbaric yawp to the world.
It’s easy to forget that “the void” is actually composed of people–real humans–on the other side of that pixellated box at which we scream.
Depending on the study you read, it takes somewhere between 5 and 15 compliments to erase the sting of a single negative criticism. How many positive images does it take to erase the oppressive feeling of someone else’s angst? That study, I haven’t seen, but I see the effects of the negativity every day–we all do–and it impacts us in very real (and very negative) ways.
Conversely, sharing positive thoughts and images actually helps our mental state, both when we share them and when other people share, comment, and enjoy them too.
It’s harder to share the positive than the negative. Many times, we focus on the things that bother us, leaving the positive things to the side or letting them wash over us like the air we breathe (necessary to stay alive, but rarely noticed–unless there’s something wrong).
The woman who smiled at you in the Starbucks? The warmth and delicious taste of your coffee? coffee? Forgotten, in an artificial snowstorm of angst over what does-or-doesn’t appear on this week’s cup.
The cat or dog that waited for you to come home, anticipating your return and greeting you with a waving tail and a happy bark or mew? Ignored, in the frustration that someone didn’t remember to take the garbage out and now the kitchen smells like ancient meatballs and rotten chicken feet.
The friend whose debut book released? Or the one who got a contract today, after years of struggle and angst? Overlooked, because his joy and her success made you afraid, and you focused on your failure instead of releasing your fear and sharing someone else’s joy.
Each day holds tens of thousands of moments, and each of those moments represents a choice. Some lie more within our control than others, to be certain, and some are easier than others to make consciously or wisely. The ones we make deliberately–the ones that involve creating, posting, updating, Tweeting, pinning, and otherwise acting online–are opportunities which, once taken, ripple out from our personal space in never-ending waves.
The question is: are your ripples adding to the tempest or soothing the storm?
Are you part of the problem? Or part of the solution?
The next time you start to publish, or tweet, or update, reconsider. It isn’t just a barbaric yawp into a mindless void. It’s a chance to hurt, and a chance to heal–a chance to add to the stress and dissent around you, and also a chance to lessen it.
Sometimes, we have to speak truth to cupcakes (or power, if that’s your thing) but even criticism works best if it comes from a logical, considered foundation rather than ranting rage.
Every moment in your day represents a choice that you alone can make.
You can let the send button go down on your anger if you choose. Or you can take another path.
The world has plenty of problems. I’m aiming in the other direction.
Who’s with me?