I love NPR. I was listening to it last night on the way home and Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity was on talking about his no complaint for 21 days program and the purple bracelets he passes out to help people to remember not to complain. This morning on my way in they were talking to David Allen, the author of “Getting Things Done”. More than productivity David Allen the gist of Allen’s interview for me was perspective.
Allen talked about how important it is to maintain perspective in life. At times we are forced to work with people we don’t want to work with. Our relationships may not go the way we want them to go. Many of the parameters for our life are set for us so it is up to us to decide what to do with what we have. He made the point that many human beings in the most dire of circumstances still maintain a hopefully, happy perspective – it is the thing we have control over and the thing we can change. As we improve our perspective guess what, our lives improve. Call it Kharma or call it positive energy whatever. Positive people tend to have positive lives. (I don’t count myself as a positive person generally).
A concrete example of someone in dire circumstances who has inspired people the world over is Randy Pausch. He is a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. They have a
last lecture’ series. The point of which is for faculty to give a lecture as if it is their last. Unfortunately, Randy’s last lecture really is his last. He is retiring because he has pancreatic cancer.
He recently gave his last lecture. You can watch it on Google Video here. The reach of Randy’s optimism is amazing. I know that millions of people have watched the lecture online, but I was really surprised to read about him in a local newspaper. Randy’s positive perspective obviously has an impact and I think makes the world a better place.
You can find plenty of contrasts, watch the news, read the latest gossip on the internet, there are plenty of people in the world who have no shortage of resources – money, friends etc, but who still find little joy in life. In spite of their great success their perspective leaves them in a negative state. Which is why I started out talking about purple bracelets. Many of the participants in the purple bracelet story started out by … complaining. “How can you go 21 days without complaining,” and “it can’t be healthy to keep all of that in.” The interviewee pointed out that the point of the exercise isn’t to bottle up anger it is to change perspective. It is easy to complain that someone did something to you or that you can’t get along with that person. It is much harder to change your perspective and learn to work within the parameters that are part of your life, but he also said that generally people don’t like to be around those who complain. The experience is negative for hte listener and will others will turn away from that. In contrast, we enjoy being around those who are positive. I remember in college I had a buddy that always had dates even though he was not especially remarkable in looks, money, brains etc. His greatest asset was his ability to be positive in any situation and that served him well.
I won’t be getting a purple bracelet for myself or anyone I know. Bowen mentioned that it is common for individuals to buy the bracelet for people they know to get their friends to stop complaining, only to find out that they are the big complainer. I don’t really need to find out what I already know that I need to stop complaining and be more positive.