We have all heard the saying If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? The premise being if there is no receiver, does the action still matter? The quick answer is “yes”. According to the laws of physics, the sound still happens. Dynamite does not silently explode because the workers have retreated to a safe distance. That should seem quite obvious.
This had me thinking of the flip-side of this equation. What about the creative side of things? What if you were to plant a tree and nobody was around to see you do it? Would it still matter? The quick answer again would be “yes”. The tree would still grow. People would enjoy its shade and any fruits if it was that sort of tree. The birds would still be able to use its branches to rest or perhaps even build their nests. The tree would still filter the air to make the world better for everyone.
What does all of this have to do with living a more amazing life? Plenty. I am not just speaking to the arborists that read this blog. This question came up during an absolutely wonderful heart-felt conversation between the love of my life, Margie, and me. The question was – If you do an act of kindness and nobody knows about it or benefits from it in the moment, is it still worth doing? The quick answer, much like our tree analogies, is “yes”. This can be as simple as picking up a piece of litter as you are walking. In the long run it may not change the world, and may seem insignificant, but it is not. Many of you may be thinking “Why should I go out of my way to pick up someone else’s garbage?” Really, you shouldn’t have to. It is their responsibility and their fault it is on the ground.
So why do these things? The reasons are plenty, and I would really enjoy hearing some of the ones you think I may have missed in the comments below. On a personal level, doing kind and right things when nobody is watching is what developing a strong character is all about. If you do what is right when there is no one watching, you will do the right thing when people are watching. This holds true for many aspects of life. Healthy eating comes to mind. If you tell everyone you are eating healthy, but then go home and eat half a dozen doughnuts your waist will resemble…well…a doughnut. The same is true for gossip. If you talk well of others in public, but still gossip with your coworkers about this person or that, your spirit will not be at peace.
Another reason is simple, yet very important – you never know if somebody is watching. At my day job at the post office we have a poster reminding the carriers to handle each package with the care and respect it deserves. There is a not so subtle reminder that everyone has cell phones and even if you don’t think anyone is watching, before long the whole world may be watching. I have heard people say things such as “Well just because somebody does something once, it may not be who they really are.” or the very insightful phrase, “They wouldn’t have done that if they thought someone was watching/listening.” The point is this – we are what we do whether someone is watching or listening or not. We are what we repeatedly say and do. Of course we all make mistakes and that should be understood, but it is important to cultivate our character by acting consistently whether someone is watching or not.
Also, doing something good when we know, or at least think, that no one is watching gives us a good feeling inside. If you are new to this blog it we often stress the importance of keeping our state positive. Being in a positive state helps us reduce stress, increase joy and just feel better about ourselves. When that happens the ripple effect is our treatment of others and the attitude we bring to our jobs, family, friends and the world at large.
Lastly, like in the tree example, this has an unknown ripple effect. Later, by picking up that littler, we may bring a person joy when they see a clean street instead of one filled with garbage. We may have helped prevent an animal or child from picking that garbage up and putting it in their mouth. We may have had a great impact and never know it. Is doing something good or right worth doing if nobody ever knows or we can’t see the positive impact? The answer, as you may have deciphered, is a resounding “YES”.
Today’s post is more opinion than strategy. It is a way of looking at things that I found to serve me. I invite you to take it in for consideration. It has made my life a lot less stressful at perhaps the worst times imaginable.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have been putting extra effort in at work, maybe even skipping sleep and working weekends. You show up for work one morning determined to do a good job only to find a note on your desk from the boss explaining your job has been eliminated do to downsizing. How about this lovely situation – You found that special someone. You finally have let your walls down and put every once of energy into creating the most loving and romantic relationship possible. You found out they have been doing the same exact thing… with your best friend. Maybe you have scrimped and saved to buy that new car you have been dreaming about. You even updated your insurance. Then your car is totaled by a hit and run driver, the day before your new insurance kicks in.
I think in life we have all faced situations where we have given it our all, with the best of intentions only to have life hit us on the blind side. Let me tell you from a motivational and inspirational perspective – it sucks. This can leave us scratching our heads or even laying on the floor in the fetal position searching for the answer why. It can even leave us jaded with the opinion, “Why bother to try, things will just go wrong anyway.” I recall when my car was totaled in front of my house as I was inside taking a nap things going from bad to worse. The gentleman was elderly visiting from Greece without a license. It was a cold January day in Wisconsin. I could see blood coming from his head and invited him inside to stay warm. After his son came and we exchanged information I mentioned maybe taking him to get checked out. As I waited for the insurance to get ironed out, I even sent the gent a get well card.
What was the result of my remaining cool and compassionate in the face of such a challenging situation? Well, even though we have the same insurance company it took weeks for them to settle. I ended up buying a car from a dealership down the street that sold me a lemon. After spending thousands of dollars to try and keep it running I gave in and sold it at a huge loss. Times like that can leave us angry at the world. Luckily I have learned some things to help me along my journey of life. One of them is to place motivational quotes where I can see them when needed. I happen to find this quote in the middle of all the car chaos.
Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.
I thought of some of the people I have known who have faced challenges far greater than I was going through at the moment. They remained positive and I was determined to do so as well. It reminded me of the ugly world of politics. Before an election you see advertisements attacking opponents. Do they attack the opponent who is last places in the voting? Never. It would be a waste of money and resources. It is always the person closest to them in votes. Life is that way too. I have learned people usually attack you or try to bring you down because they view you as some sort of threat. I have seen that with negative people attacking my writing because it is a threat to their pessimistic, blame oriented view of life. To consider that they have a good deal of responsibility for, and thus control over their life is a threat to their way of thinking.
It is when you are getting closest to achieving your goals that the challenges become the greatest. It is as if life is both testing to see if you both really want what you are chasing and if you are prepared to receive it. The old cliché that it is always darkest before the dawn holds some truth to it.
Next time life has you up against the ropes remember two very important things. One, life wouldn’t even bother challenging you if you were weak. There is no joy in defeating a weak opponent. Two, and this may be even more important, if you manage to make it through whatever situation you are facing, you will come out stronger and more likely to be able to kick some ass at whatever will come your way in the future. Much like working out, the heavier the weight, the bigger the muscle gain. Keep in mind you are never alone. There are others who have been through challenges as well and we stand with you.