It is difficult to give part of ourselves away without expecting to be offered something in return. Sometimes we even believe we are entitled to things without having to give anything of ourselves. When we walk down the street and smile at a stranger do we expect them to make eye contact and smile back? It might not be for us to know the reasons why they offer their particular response. When we get to the supermarket checkout and attempt conversation do we expect it to be returned? They may have had other difficult interactions or it might be a day when conversation is difficult for them. When we are attracted to someone do we expect them to feel the same way? People are allowed to feel the way they do, and us feeling a particular way does not change this. When we spend time with anyone, at work, home, on holiday, even on the phone, we are but one part of a many faceted interaction.
Recently I have become conscious of having certain inbuilt expectations to how I think people should act. I harbour no negative feelings when someone does not interact the way I expect, but I have these expectations all the same. I believe we all do. There is no switch I can turn off to enter a conversation without bias. Where I have come from and how I have been brought up are part of who I am and what I bring with me. What I can change is my willingness to acknowledge erroneous expectations I have and be prepared to change my behaviour if it negatively impacts someone else. Change begins by reflecting on who I am and working towards being a better me. This will give me experience and information to draw on when I offer advice to others.
I aim to leave everyone I interact with feeling better when we part than when we met. Whether passing someone in the street, having a conversation while buying movie tickets, or unexpected time spent with friends while waiting for an accident on the motorway to clear, there is opportunity to pay positivity forward. It is has taken several years for this to become my default mindset, but it is a good one to have, and has helped me pull through some difficult days. When I am in the midst of a difficult day I feel encouraged to send positive messages to friends and family and do not expect anything in return. Receiving unexpected positive affirmations of friendship and kindness is something I like, so feel it is a good thing to offer others.
At Christmas last year I took this a step further. We had extra food in our flat so I cooked a large pan full of spaghetti bolognese and split it into several meals. At church that Sunday I delivered the food to a few people I thought would appreciate having ready-made meals to heat up. For me it took only a small amount of energy to increase the size of the dish I made. For them it may have saved energy and allowed them to put it towards something else important.
In the society we live at the moment I may be an outlier. I always think about how I can leave something better for those that come after me. As a flatmate I leave the kitchen cleaner than before I started using it. As a tenant I leave the house in as good condition as I possible for the next people that will move in. As a friend I understand plans sometimes change, even at the last minute. As an employee I take initiative and look to improve efficiency as well as do my job. As a human I seek to be better every day so our planet can survive and prosper.
Sometimes I fail. I own up to this, learn from it, and improve for next time. I am not seeking positive affirmation for ‘good work’ that I do. It sounds cliche but I believe as humans we need to set a good example by being the good we want to see in the world.
It takes energy, but if we set good expectations for ourselves, we can make ‘putting in the right kind of effort’ the choice our brain automatically makes.
Be good, keep good, and sleep good, dear readers. Peace.