There’s a lot of clichés in the personal development space. I will often repeat them because clichés are often overwhelming truths that we should pay more attention to than we do. One such idea, which doesn’t get nearly enough attention, is that empathy and forgiveness is the root of happiness in yourself.
If I could impress one personal development lesson it would be this: Have empathy for yourselves and others because we are all doing the very best we can.
It’s at this point that you are inevitably thinking about the co-worker you hate, your sexually harassing boss, your ex best friend who has been long written off, or any other number of people that you absolutely DON’T think is doing the absolute best they can.
Believe me, I know the feelings you have towards those people. The feelings are dark, cynical, and seductive. They will take over your life and leave you alone if you allow them to live in your head or your heart.
What’s worse is that I see quotes being passed around Instagram or Facebook telling people to dismiss that person or cut off that guy and they are always gathering countless likes and praise and choruses of “amen” in the comments.
This takes a good idea – sometimes limiting association with people who cause you harm or make your life worse – and plays on our worst instincts as humans of wanting vengeance and dehumanizing other people to feel stronger – striving for the significance stolen from us by those who makes us feel less than. Most importantly, it takes away our best virtues of love and understanding – expressed in its highest form when it is expressed for the “worst” of us.
So how do we increase our empathy towards ourselves and towards others?
1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli
3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed
4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding
6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others
3. Recognize that some people don’t know how to meet their needs in a healthy manner. For significance it is easier to tear people down than to build yourself up. It is easy to create a feeling of safety and certainty by stepping over someone else. It is easy to create uncertainty in your life by abusing drugs which can also build social rituals that create a feeling of connection. Without people having access to good coaches, therapists, or the right books, they might not change the patterns that are holding them back and hurting those around them. Now that you’re reading this, you’ll be able to pinpoint the root of their behaviors and thus understand why they are doing what they are doing. And that’s at the heart of empathy. If you’re serious about changing your life, it starts with empathy. I want to reiterate that by NO means do I mean you should tolerate people who hurt you with their behavior. However, when you strengthen yourself by understanding the rules of life better than everyone else, you are far less likely to be hurt by the behavior of other people. You become stronger and YOUR need for certainty is met which opens you up to stop playing the game on level 1 (just trying to secure safety and certainty).
Take this new understanding into your life where you will be a happier, stronger person who can see people for their well-intentioned core and not necessarily as the sum of their behavior.
Your life coach.
The Andrew Warner Podcast: