Tunnel Vision

Do you remember the last time you were really hungry? Not just peckish, but actually ‘missed out on lunch, breakfast was small and now dinner is late’ type of hunger. It is painful, but probably the hardest thing is that the only thing that you can think about in that moment is food. You can smell it, taste it and imagine how it would feel just being close to a meal that is ready to eat. Sure, you try to distract yourself and think about something else, but when the image of the perfect hamburger pops up in your mind then it’s all over. It’s food and nothing else that has your attention.

If you have experienced that, or something like it, then you are not alone. It is the psychological phenomenon of scarcity. There was a study that was done on the impact on people when they live on a starvation diet. Over time they grew so weak and thin, as you would imagine, but the impact on the mind was what caught researchers by surprise. They discovered that all the participants could talk about was food. They memorised recipes, compared food prices and shared about their favourite meals. So they decided to distract them with a movie but all they could focus on was the meals that the characters in the movie were eating. They were so consumed by what they didn’t have, their lack, that they couldn’t focus on anything else. They couldn’t see the big picture.

Not having enough of what you need can become the only thing that matters to you.

That is why the work of Opportunity International is so powerful. Providing a small loan to mothers who can start a business and create an income overcomes the scarcity problem, allowing people to shift their focus to other important things and make wise decisions.

Heaping Coals

I grew up in a home of Christian faith, and I distinctly remember a part of the teaching about treating people who are against you; your enemy. It said,

“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

I remember reading as an adult too, and, you’ve got to admit, that is a pretty weird statement. The image that this created in my mind was that of an antagonist and that God was actually suggesting to people who have enemies, ‘treat them nicely so that they get really angry and fume, that will be pretty funny’. I could never work that out.

I recently discovered that there was an Egyptian custom in which a person who had made an error and was wanting to make an amends, would carry a pan of coals on their head as a sign of their remorse, and the above teaching is likely to be in reference to that practice.

That changed some things for me. It turned an antagonistic philosophy and transformed it into a message of returning good for evil in the hope that someone who was actively out to harm you would be in a restored relationship with you. Now, I don’t know that repentance and restoration is a guaranteed outcome of giving food and drink to someone who hates you. There is always a risk in any act of generosity, especially one as this counter-intuitive (eye for eye, remember? That’s a whole other conversation…). But the possibility that you could bring something amazing out of something awful is worth it. Even if it only means that you don’t have to live with an active resentment towards the person, because the act of generosity towards them can shift your perspective.

Death & Taxes

I don’t hear it much anymore, but it was colloquial for a long time – the only two certainties in life, being death and taxes. Both of which we still try to avoid.

We try to avoid one by hiring great accountants and we try to avoid the other by not talking about it…

The internet tells me that I am not alone when it comes to talking about death. It can be quite the scary and uncomfortable topic, and somewhat strange to discuss whilst we are still healthy.

There are numerous benefits to openly talking about a time when we will no longer be around, including gaining a greater perspective of life, what we value, what we have achieved and what we still wish to accomplish. It is such an important conversation as we will all die, although we can’t control how or when, we can control what impact we can have after we have died.

One of the greatest impacts we can have post-death, is to leave something to a charitable organisation in our will; a bequest. We are on the verge of the greatest inter-generational transfer of wealth in our history, so it makes sense to allocate some of that to the causes and charities that mean something to us.

It is very easy to do – as you arrange your affairs, mention to your lawyer that you would like to leave a certain amount or a certain percentage to a charity and they will take care of the rest. If you already have a will, you don’t have to re-do the whole thing, you can add a codicil which serves an amendment to your will, recording your wishes to leave a gift from your estate. Again, chat to your lawyer and they will help you out – also your favourite charity may have a copy of the codicil to get you on your way.

A bequest is a simple way to be generous when the terrible happens.

How To be Generous to Yourself (without letting yourself off the hook)

I love personal growth. I love consuming books, podcasts and videos about growth. I find it exhilarating. But I realised a little while ago, I must be exhausting to live with. I am always searching for the reasons why I do the things I do, how I can do life better, and how I can find the blind-spots that I have. Nobody wants to live with that, and to be honest, sometimes I am exhausted by it too. So I am slowly learning about what being generous to yourself. I have been reluctant because previously I have been very good at letting myself off the hook for something and calling it ‘generosity’. It was really just laziness and a lack of integrity.

But now, I have three sayings that I use which help keep things in check.

We are all a work in progress

This is helpful for me and for when I am dealing with others. Sometimes I can get frustrated with people who don’t seem to be trying to improve and this saying is a great reminder that I don’t know other people’s journey, and I certainly don’t know where they will end up. It helps keep me in check too, as I realise that I am a long way from where I want to be.

I am better than I was yesterday (but not as good as a I will be tomorrow)

To stop me slipping into the depths of despair and frustration when I make the same mistakes or fall into the same victim racket in my mind, I think of how far I have come and I can have confidence in my trajectory of growth. If I can keep doing to small things each day; reading, learning, keeping fit, then I know I am moving forward. Progress is slow, but it is still progress.

In this moment, I am enough

With all that said and done, I can know that right here, right now, I am everything that I need to be for this moment. I can’t do anything about any work or preparation that hasn’t been done because it is too late to change it, so I can own who I am and what I am doing.

What are your best sayings?