So on the 4th of November I am 50. Seems like a time to reflect not so much on what I have done, good or bad but what I have learned. So, if your Facebook feed is a little empty perhaps you can allow me the self-indulgence of sharing my thoughts.
I have probably learned more in the last 5 years, perhaps even the last two than all the rest put together. Learned that is about the fundamentals of the human animal that is us all.
So in no particular order:-
Listening: very few people can truly listen. When I say listen, I mean to be aware of every single tiny nuanced emotion that is triggered within you when the other person speaks. To be truly aware of our biases, our assumptions, our generalisations and our ability to distort, even subtly, what the other person is saying to suit ourselves, without judgement.
That is listening. To be truly in the moment for the other person. Take that listening to another level and being able to see and feel how that other person sees and feels, even if what they say appears ludicrous or even insane to us, it is what they think. That person has a set of beliefs and biases that they may not even be aware of. It’s their model of the world. You can recognise it but don’t have to go along with it. However, it is them. I understand this may be called compassion. This is a new thing for me!
Communicating: more of the time human beings are probably miscommunicating. If we can’t truly listen, if we let our beliefs cause judgements then we can’t communicate effectively. At a basic level this leads to disputes or misunderstandings between partners or on a global scale, leads to wars. Waring over religion is such an example. One set of brainwashing competing with another.
We become the people we surround ourselves with: This is both positive and negative and probably quite a subtle and medium term effect. This has been a massive lesson for me in the last two years since I joined Glasgow Triathlon Club. I have not met a group of people so supportive, open minded and encouraging. No adventure is too mad or crazy. In no time at all this becomes infectious and you start to achieve more than you even imagined possible. You then share and support newer or less developed members.
A fellow club member is also the coach of a woman’s Gaelic Football team. He has instilled a very simple but hugely powerful ethos in that team: be positive and have fun. In no time at all they have become the Scottish Champions, The British Champions, beaten the European Champions and will now play against the very best in Ireland. They love being surrounded by such positive people.
Our body is amazing: If you give up on your body, it gives up on you but never lose hope, with a little bit of nurturing and patience it will repay you many times over. We often are in awe of the Olympians and para-Olympians but they are biologically no different from us. They have just put some time in. We don’t have to become super athletes but we all have an inner athlete which is bursting to come out. I was belted at school at P.E. I hated it, the teachers and sport in general but in the last year have participated and even won events.
There are 80-year-olds who complete marathons and Ironman Triathlons, who ski, cycle and run. My better half was told by her GP she would need one or perhaps two knee transplants. She took up swimming, then cycling and now running. She no longer takes pain relief for her knees or struggles with bad knees. Give our bodies a chance and it repays with much better health, better sleep and a longer and higher quality of life.
Our minds are amazing: For sure I am only on the early stages of this journey. Understanding where our motivation comes from or goes to. How our imagination works. What brings on depression and what improves it (exercise for me).
Facebook offers us great lessons: some of the above thoughts have been triggered by seeing the posts of so many people. We learn that our friends who seem so “normal” can have very, very different views. Scottish Independence, Brexit, Religious views, even Rangers/Celtic fans re-enforce in me every day that there is no absolute. It’s just opinions and mine is as ridiculous to some people as theirs can be to me. I was a pretty black and white guy for a long time. The world is grey and ever changing. Reality is just an illusion created by our cultural brainwashing.
Life is a series or stages of understanding: When you are a teenager you perhaps first become aware of what “childish” means. You have passed through “childish” and hence can look back. Then as you become a student you can look back at what being a “school kid” was. Same goes for your twenties, becoming employed, a parent etc. As we go through the various stages of life, up and down, we can look back and see what we learned and perhaps have some compassion for others in that “stage”.
What excites me is the thought that I am currently just in a stage and at some point, I will pass through to another level of self-awareness. Who knows how many stages people go though. I think many are stuck in one level or have very low self-awareness. I was stuck in a level of materialism for a long time. I now care far less for possessions and more for my health, adventures and a few close people.
If you got this far, well done. Here’s to another 50 years of learning and growing and of course our good health!