Sunday, August 31, 2008

I Don't Think Any Women Are That Stupid, Sarah Palin.

John McCain announced his choice for vice-president this week. In a blatant attempt to win over disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters, he chose Sarah Palin, an inexperienced running mate who stands opposed to women's reproductive rights, gay marriage, and doesn't have a great track record with the environment either. The obvious logic behind this choice was that some Hillary supporters would say, "Hey, I want a woman in the White House one way or another, I'll take this one over none at all."

Will this strategy work? Time will soon tell. I just can't believe that female voters who supported Hillary Clinton would be swayed to vote for a candidate so diametrically opposed to the issues she cherishes. The McCain camp are clearly counting on female voters to ignore these differences and base their vote purely on gender. But I don't think any women are that stupid, or that easily duped. Do you?

I must admit that politics are a wonderful opportunity for me to use the tools of living life Absolutely Should-less, especially when things are not going the way I prefer. The last eight years have provided nearly daily challenges to choosing peace over bitter righteousness. I have decided to stay on that path regardless of the outcome of this election. Are you with me?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Liquid Shoulds

I was in an environment this week in which drinking a liquid of any kind, including water, was banned. After the initial shock of forbidding water in 85 degree weather wore off, my shoulds took over. See, after an unfortunate encounter with dehydration last year, I learned my lesson about the value of drinking water, constantly. It is not only important to me now for medical reasons, but the implementing of an anti-water policy appeared random and petty.

So when this gauntlet came down, my knee-jerk response was anger and outrage. Fortunately, I have learned that when my righteous indignation is kicked up, it is much to my benefit to ask myself some questions outlined in "Absolutely Should-less" before acting up. I focused on the should: They shouldn't be trying to stop me from drinking water.

"How did you learn they shouldn't try to stop you from drinking water?"
I learned this from my doctor. But I also think there has to be some sort of law that protects you from being dehydrated. I can't think of any other place where I am told I can't drink water.

"How does it feel to think this should?"
Angry, stressed, and rather thirsty.

"Who profits or benefits from this should?"
I suppose Dasani water does pretty well from my water consumption. But when I get angry and stressed like this, it definitely affects my sleep. So I'm sure Starbucks also profits from my righteous shoulds. Eventually if I get upset enough then I'm sure my doctor will end up profiting, as well as the company that makes whatever medicines he may need to prescribe, (which would defeat the purpose of drinking lots of water anyway).

"Who would you be without this should?"
I'd be much more at peace, much more relaxed, able to actually take appropriate action effectively instead of ranting aimlessly.

"And do you want to be right or happy today?"
After indulging in some righteousness, I decide to have happiness.

And with this last question, I was reminded I have a choice. I could be that angry stressed out guy, or I could access peace at any moment I wanted to. I chose the latter. And with that peace, I went to my doctor, got a note, brought it back to the environment, and have been happily drinking water ever since.

Many mistakenly operate under the notion that being at peace means you do nothing when approached with conflict. I have known plenty of political activists who believe the only way to bring about social change is to constantly should others. The only problem is, shoulds NEVER are effective in opening up people's minds, or their hearts.

In my case, it was clear that my shoulds were leading to more suffering. So I chose an easier path. I chose to be happy. And from a place of happiness, not anger, I took the appropriate steps I needed to take to stand up for myself and my right to hydrate.

Now I'm going to enjoy a tall glass of ice water. Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Sized Shoulds

I'm just going to say it. All the media coverage of the Olympics for as long as I can remember has one underlying unquestioned "should": America should win. But I can't help but wonder, WHY?

Now let me clarify something. I'm not against America winning -- I honestly couldn't care less. What I am concerned with are the psychological consequences of such unquestioned values in our culture. What does winning really mean? Will it help our failing economy? Will it prevent more unemployment? Will it mean we'll live in a country where people are happier and treat each other with more kindness? History would suggest not.

Which brings me to the individuals who face the brunt of these beliefs. Sure, if you go along with the "shoulds" of winning you get wonderful media press, and maybe your face on a cereal box. But if you have the audacity to compete and lose, forget about it. You are then challenging the status quo; the American notion that, "We are a country of winners only." And you WILL face the consequences of going against this oppressive viewpoint.

Don't believe me? Check out the coverage of Alicia Sacramone's performance today on Google. This 20-year-old is being raked over the coals in the nation's leading papers for failing to win first place. Never mind that the United States still came in SECOND place out of eight. Never mind this is a human being who has devoted every day of the past four years to representing her country proudly. Never mind this is a young woman who has feelings.

Because she made an error she must pay. Because she failed to fulfill the mandated "should" about winning, she will face the judge and jury of the media. The same press that puts Michael Phelps on a throne is now spiritually tying Ms. Sacramone to the stake. Let's all try to be mindful of how this preoccupation with victory leads to "shoulding" and scapegoating others, before more spirits get sunk.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Should-less Publication Date

Having a book published has been one of the most exciting experiences of my life. When I learned that "Absolutely Should-less" was going to be released by Morgan-James Publishing in September, 2008, I started counting the days.

Then I learned it's being pushed back to November 1.

Immediately the should came to me, "no, they should publish it in September!" I noticed myself starting to feel frustrated. So I used to tools in the book to explore some thoughts:

"How do you know it should come out in September?"
Honestly, I don't. And actually, when I think about it, many of the positive things that have happened in my life did not happen when I thought they "should." I have no way of truly knowing when anything "should" happen, so there's no point in arguing with what is happening now.

"How do you feel when you think the book should come out in September?"
I feel frustrated, impatient, bummed out.

"What would one day be like without this should?"
It would be much easier because I wouldn't be controlling things I have no control over.

"Replace it."
I would have preferred for the book to come out in September as originally planned, but I'm so glad it's coming out at all, and I am determined to enjoy this process either way.

When I think that last thought I feel at peace, much more accepting with what is happening around me. And because I prefer this feeling, I know I'll be using this tool again.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Problem With Shoulds 7: Using fear to control

"Shoulds" demand that we essentially play cop while monitoring our actions and the actions of others. They require us to spend great amounts of time and energy reviewing behaviors and determining how they should be done differently.

Historically, individuals in society were motivated to act in ways which would avoid incurring the wrath of a king or a god. Today, people are more motivated to act in ways which would avoid incurring the disapproval of their friends and family.

Shoulds lead to extreme fears of embarrassment and social exclusion. We know that we will not get struck down by a god or legally exiled by a sovereign if we get fat. But the internal shame and social stigma can be far more powerful. It is this self-other regulation that causes us to walk around feeling anxious, alienated, afraid, and exhausted. Our bodies will not be put in prison for gaining weight, but our minds will.

This is the 7th and last of my "Problem With Shoulds" blogs (until I can think of some more!). From here on I intend to use every day examples to demonstrate the principles outlined in my book. Keep coming back and reading!