Monday, 23 April 2012

Thinking For Ourselves

I saw an interesting little article on Facebook a few days ago. It was called 'The Mayonniase Jar and Two Cups of Coffee' and the moral of it was that you should concentrate first on the big, important matters in your life, and then find room for the smaller, less important things, because if you do it the other way around then you won't have any space in your life for things that matter.

I liked it. I read it and I smiled and agreed and thought 'yes that's a beautifully simple way of explaining it'. And then I thought some more, and I changed my mind. The thing is, it is beautifully simple... and life isn't.

I remember being told as a teenager that I needed to concentrate more on the important things because I was only causing myself problems by getting all caught up in the details.

I spent years trying to work out what exactly that meant! I thought I was concentrating on the important things. So when I was told I needed to concentrate on the 'important things' rather than the 'details', I started looking at what was important to me, wondering if I had it wrong, wondering what exactly the 'details' were in comparisson to the 'important things'.

The trouble with pieces of advice like these, is that they are taken from another person's perspective. I think advice of this sort comes from a caring place, but (as with so much 'helpful' advice) neglects the fact that everybody is different and we all have our own agendas at the end of the day. It's all very well to say 'you're ignoring the important things' but what if my 'important things' are totally different to your 'important things'?

The moral of the Mayonniase Jar story was that you should first concentrate on family, friendships, beliefs and passions. Then you should fit in your job, your house, your car around those things. And everything else is the little things, or the 'details' I guess.

But look at this realistically now... Let's imagine that you're having a stressful week. You've got a big work project that needs finishing. You haven't seen your mates in ages and maybe someone's organised to meet up on a day that you've already put aside for work. Your car's broken down and you need to get the funds together to fix it. You haven't been food shopping so you've only got, I don't know... a tin of tomatoes and a box of eggs in the cupboard, but what you really fancy is homemade lasagne. You've been wanting for aaaagggeees to spend some time on a passion of yours... let's say you love to mix but you haven't had the chance to get your records out in a few weeks now. You really want to put together a set list of tunes that make you feel happy. The garden needs watering and weeding and the new seeds you've planted need a bit of TLC. Your rooms a tip, you haven't done the washing up and all your clothes are in the laundry bin. So... what do you do? What are the 'important' things' and what are the 'details'?

Let's assume we're living by the Mayonniase Jar theory. So we first take care of the things that are important to us according to this theory: we say 'fuck it' to work, that's second on the list. We go out with our mates instead, after all, we haven't seen them in ages. We then concentrate on our passion for mixing, and we put together that set list. We even decide to buy some new tunes that make us feel extra specially happy! We feel great!

Then we get to tackling the second most important things. But now we've got ourselves in trouble. That important work project didn't get done and because we bunked off work and went out, we didn't make enough money to cover the cost of getting the car fixed and we've spent what we did have on records.

No matter how good we felt about our playlist and our new records, we probably feel pretty crap by now.

Ok, so let's take this from a different angle. Let's assume that the 'important things' are the things that must get sorted. So then work would come first. Everything must be put aside for work because if we don't do that important work project then we won't get paid and then everything else on the list will be impossible. But of course, that means we can't hook up with our friends, so we feel pretty sad about that. But at least we can get the car fixed, and get some food shopping in... we can't live without food so I'm guessing that's an 'important thing'.

What comes next then? Well, if 'important things' are things that must get sorted, then I suppose the washing up would need to be done, and the garden would need watering. Oh but now we're running out of hours in the day and we still haven't done anything we actually enjoy. It's been such a stressful week with this work project, and now we've spent all our free time doing things that 'must be done' and totally neglecting everything that we love. We've probably given ourselves such a long and strict mental 'to do' list that we feel even more stressed!

I think what I'm trying to get at is that we need to resist giving ourselves rules like these to live by. We all have brains and we all have the ability to use them wisely if we just trust our own judgment. Maybe one person would be happy to bunk off work and hang out with their mates and deal with the consequences later. Another would maybe do a bit of work then get their records out. And another would prefer to get work out of the way and then concentrate on having fun. Whatever works best for you is what's best.

We don't give our brains enough credit. We don't use them enough. We seem to find it simpler to live by other people's rules. I can't count the number of times recently I have turned 180 degrees on rules; rules I had given myself years ago without ever thinking the thing through at the time!

And I'm talking about DETAILS here, not just the 'important things'. (Really, what is the difference anyway, other than personal perspective?)

Here's an example of a rule:

"It's important to look good. When you look good, you feel good. When you look good, men will find you attractive and people will take you seriously." 

So here are some things we (women) do to look good: we shave our legs and our armpits, we dye and straighten our hair, we get piercings, we wear high heeled shoes, we wear fake nails, fake tan and maybe even fake eyelashes, we pluck our eyebrows, we diet to try and get thin enough that our hip and collarbones show through our skin because it's considered elegant.

But we're not using our brains when we do these things.

You shave your legs so they look good, but then a day or two later, your bloke might run his hand over your leg and he won't be thinking 'that leg looks good', he'll be thinking 'ouch, stubbly'.

You dye and straighten your hair so it'll look good, and then you have to deal with frizzy, dry hair. You used to be able to run your hands through it. Now it's more like sticking your fingers into a bail of hay.

You have your ears pierced and you wear big eyecatching earrings. They look really cool but then you go to hug someone and you spike them in the cheek.

You put yourself through misery and hunger pangs to loose that extra weight, then you mention your 'wobbly bits' to your bloke and he tells you he loves your wobbly bits. You don't believe him because your rule says the opposite. But the truth is- he does love your wobbly bits- they're the bits he doesn't have, and to him they feel great!

The whole beauty thing is one example of only thinking things through with one perspective- on this occasion, the perspective of sight. But sight is by no means our only sense. Touch is such an important sense and we don't pay it enough attention when beauty is concerned.

There are so many other examples of rules that we tend to live by without using our brains to work things out for ourselves. It infuriates me that it's so easy for us all to follow by example rather than to stop and think things through for ourselves. In many cases we may even find ourselves ostracized for not following the rules that are in place. And in some, it's damn near impossible not to follow the rules, and thinking for ourselves only leads to feelings of frustration and helplessness. But I would still say that I think we should all try. If you're looking for self confidence, then you have to learn to trust your own decisions. And if nothing else, it is a really good feeling when you work something out for yourself!

Incubus- Drive on YouTube

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