Outlook

If you had to characterize yourself one way or the other, would you say that you’re an optimist or a pessimist?

There is a lot of territory in between, and there are other qualities that can affect our overall outlook: being realistic, for example.

Although I would generally consider myself an optimist, I aspire to be a “positive realist” (copyright pending). Having a positive attitude should not involve the denial of undesirable truths.

It’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well. On days when the sun is shining and things are going according to plan, it seems like everyone’s an optimist. It’s when things start to go off track that you discover what people’s real outlooks are.

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Surprise. A young man surprised at the wonder of the world.

Surprise

Surprise!!!

Some people love surprises. The rush that comes with something startling or unexpected can be a welcome and sometimes dramatic alternative to our routine existence.

Others hate them. They might dislike deviating from their carefully crafted schedules. They may feel uncomfortable with anything that alters their perspective or opinions. They may not like the feeling of being startled.

Whether we like surprises depends on what we focus on when we think about surprise. There’s the “surprise party” kind of surprise, which involves both being startled and an unexpected event and people. There’s also the kind of surprise that involves an unexpected realization and the impact of knowledge or information that is significantly different from what we previously thought. Which we focus on makes a big difference to our comfort level.

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Listen. Friends having a conversation.

Listen

On its surface, listening is not that hard. Someone is speaking, we hear and comprehend the words, and we gain an understanding of what he or she is conveying.

It’s that third bit where people often falter.

To really understand what a person is saying, we need to consider the context, the person’s background or history, and any emotional subtext. Also, we have to observe. Is the person’s speech rushed? Are they animated? Are they louder or higher-pitched that usual? For some, all of these things come naturally, but others barely hear the words, never mind consider the subtleties.

In interacting with other people, it can often be difficult to ascertain their points of view, their motives, or their agenda (if they have one). However, with an awareness of certain aspects of that person’s physical and emotional responses, it is much easier to know where they’re coming from. When speaking with someone, it can be revealing to pay close attention to what they’re doing with their arms or hands, the way they’re breathing, and any changes in the color of their face or the intensity of their eyes. It is often the case that these attributes can communicate more than words.

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Borders. Chainlink fence breaking in to links and flying away to freedom

Borders

Our life is filled with borders—those lines, both tangible and symbolic, that delineate our lives. Some of these are real, while others are imagined. Some are immovable; others are flexible. Some are imposed upon us, while others are self-imposed. How we behave in relation to these borders can have a great impact on what kind of lives we lead and how successful we are in achieving our goals.

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Connections. Female friends having fun on the sea shore.

Connections

The connections we make to people throughout our lives are our doors into the world.

Depending on the nature of our connections, we can have many doors leading to interesting and exciting places, or we can have only a few doors, but all leading to places where we love to be and where we want to spend our time.

As we live our lives we will always interact with people. We make friends in school, we talk to neighbors, we work with people, and we develop relationships. Some of those relationships are perfunctory or just a matter of convenience; others are deep and long lasting.

Connections can be developed and maintained in an ad hoc way, or they can be based on our needs and desires. Do you find yourself spending time with people because of obligations or because these people make you happy? How we define our connections to people can help us get the most out of our relationships. And like any of the factors that define our lives, the more we understand our connections, the better we will be at making and maintaining those connections that are meaningful and helpful.

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