Here’s a simple trick that will lead you to better relationships… will boost your health… and may even put some extra money in your pocket.
But let me warn readers in advance. Some foul language lies ahead.
We can’t help it.
You see, there’s a best-seller finding its way into the hands of millions of Americans. It’s a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
It’s a decent read. It’s well-written and has some fair points. But there’s a reason the author (or publisher) decided to litter it with foul language.
Without that jarring title, Mark Manson’s hit book would be just like any other self-help book these days.
Life’s hard, the message goes, so stop hurting yourself by caring so much.
Readers love it. It pats them on the back and says, you’ll be just fine. There’s no need to work too hard.
With a message like that, it’s no wonder well over a million copies of the book have sold.
But here’s the thing… it’s pure bunk.
We argue we don’t need a book that tells folks not to care. Our culture is doing a fine job of spreading that message all on its own.
Nobody “gives a f*ck” that Washington has all but stopped functioning.
Nobody cares that our schools are failing.
Nobody cares that our kids are addicted to technology and can hardly hold a conversation.
And nobody cares that our food is poisoning us and is threatening to put our youngest generation into the grave at a younger age than their parents… for the first time ever.
We don’t need a book teaching folks how not to “give a f*ck.” Sadly, that mission’s long been accomplished.
No, we need a book that shows folks how to give a damn. Because when a person cares, all sorts of research shows their relationships improve… they feel better… and they’re much more successful.
We Feel for You
It’s all about compassion.
It’s not a word we hear bandied around all that much. In this age, somebody is either right or wrong… either for or against us.
But the notion of compassion – and its cousin curiosity – change that.
We may not agree with the other side, but we must care enough to listen. We must be curious enough to hear why the other side feels that way.
Imagine if just that single idea were used more often on Capitol Hill.
We can all agree our nation would be better off.
But this is about far more than politics. The effects of a bit of compassion are profound.
We recently read a piece from Harvard Business Review that showed how compassion is a far better managerial tool than anger. When we show that we care, we don’t need to use authority to have power over somebody.
It’s an idea that works in an office and out on the nation’s mean streets.
We use this “trick” all the time in the law enforcement world. The easiest way to get a bad guy to comply isn’t to grab his arm and yell at him. No, it’s to say something like “I hear what you’re saying. I get it. We’ve all been there. But I don’t want you to make it any worse.”
If the person is remotely rational, voila, he’ll do what you say.
But this notion goes deeper still. It’s much more than simply using some empathy to get what we want.
Done right, the idea of living a compassionate life means we’ll think differently and ultimately be happier.
Not Wrong, Just Not Right
Again, our culture seems to have just two labels these days – good and bad. Folks either fit our mantra or we don’t like them.
It has nasty effects on our brain.
We soon believe that half the world is out to get us… that half the world is wrong.
Of course, that’s not the truth.
Freeing our minds of the idea that the world is black and white is not easy. It takes training. The first step, of course, is not taught in a book focused on “not giving a f*ck.”
No, the very first step is giving a damn.
The problem is that technology is making it harder and harder for our society to feel any sort of compassion or emotional curiosity.
We text friends. We email our colleagues. We spy on our “social” networks through the internet.
The whole time we’re making mental decisions about those people.
Without ever truly conversing with them, we decide what bucket they fall into – do they agree with us or not?
But here’s what’s most important. This isn’t some sort of feel-good, hippie mantra. And it’s certainly not about accepting every idea or belief that’s thrown at us.
Compassion doesn’t require us to change our core beliefs.
That’s where our culture has gotten it so wrong. Understanding why somebody feels the way they do is not the same as accepting it. Far from it.
No, what we’re talking about is much deeper… with much more psychological power.
A study led by Princeton’s Joshua Greene, in fact, proved that helping others lights up the parts of the brain associated with pleasure and reward, and that understanding their suffering affects the part of the brain related to pain.
It’s important because it shows that compassion is hardwired into our brains.
In fact, many doctors believe it’s been put there as a survival tool.
In other words, the folks who can master this simple idea are likely to be healthier and more successful. They’re survivors.
How to Be More Compassionate
Fortunately, it’s not hard to brush off our society’s doings and train your brain to be more compassionate.
The research we’ve studied shows it takes only two weeks.
Meditation, dare we admit, is one of the most effective techniques. Guided meditation that aims specifically at compassion has proven to be one of the most efficient tools. It takes just 10 to 20 minutes each day.
Another technique is to simply pay attention to your thoughts. Stop automatically putting folks or ideas into one of two buckets.
Instead, take in the idea, be curious about it and let it go where it may. It doesn’t mean you have to change your mind.
And, finally, give back.
We’ve long said volunteering our time is one of the most powerful things we can do. (It’s why we volunteer roughly 300 hours each year.) Science has proven that giving our time for nothing – especially if it’s a cause we’re passionate about – fuels compassion like nothing else.
The idea is especially true for the wealthy and the influential who tend to trade their compassion for power. There’s a reason so many rich folks are eager to admit that money does not buy happiness.
We know we’re bordering on the fluffy and light with the idea. We know our culture says it is not at all “manly” to talk about compassion.
But we argue that’s what’s wrong.
There is nothing wrong with giving a damn.
It’s been proven to lead us to better, happier lives.