This blog post was written by Bert Jacobs, Life is Good Co-founder and CEO (Chief Executive Optimist)
At Life is Good, we believe that what you focus on will grow. We acknowledge that there are tremendous obstacles that can sometimes obscure the view, whether it’s dealing with bullying, insecurities, or family challenges. But we believe that we all have a choice: to either focus on what’s wrong with our world, or focus on what’s right. Life is not perfect, and life is not easy, but when you focus on what is good, it becomes clear that the keys to happiness are all around you, and when put into action, that empowerment can in turn, lead to a kinder and braver world.
Our community shares a simple, unifying mission: to spread the power of optimism. Optimism empowers us to experience and explore the world with open arms, and enables us to access the ten most important tools we have for living a happy and fulfilling life. We call them the Life is Good Superpowers. Unlike X-ray vision, bullet speed, or Herculean strength, these Superpowers are accessible to us all, and can help you overcome the personal obstacles you may be facing. The Superpowers are: gratitude, creativity, authenticity, love, courage, compassion, simplicity, openness, fun, humor, and today’s focus: compassion.
Just Like Me
The words “Just like me” can be a strong tool in cultivating our compassion for others. It’s a traditional Buddhist practice of framing our interactions. Friend, foe, or stranger—each person we meet is dealing with some level of struggle in his or her life. The practice reminds us “Just like me, this person wants to be happy . . . Just like me, this person has known sadness, suffering, and despair.”
This perspective comes pretty easily when we engage with loved ones, and less so when such relationships are strained. It can also affect ordinary exchanges with strangers. How about the checkout woman overwhelmed by the long, impatient line of customers? Are you the one sighing your frustration from the back of the line, or the one who can lift her with empathy and a kind word when you reach the checkout? Just like you, other people can use every dose of compassion they can get. By lifting others, we can lower the shields many of us raise against the outside world as we grow older.
When it comes to our most contentious relationships, “Just like me” can help us break down barriers, avoid sliding into combative positions, and find common ground and resolution.
Three Ways to Practice Compassion
1) HELP YOURSELF. Remember, compassion begins with kindness to yourself. Make peace of mind a priority. Take time for yourself. Learn to disarm your internal critic by accepting who you are today. Be patient with your stumblings, and don’t dwell on past mistakes. Forgive yourself and move on, with a positive eye toward the future. If you’re struggling through difficult stuff, you may want to enlist the help of a personal coach or a counselor, or give one of the healing arts—like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices—a try. Develop self-awareness as a foundation from which you can genuinely understand and empathize with others.
2) JUST LIKE ME. Cultivate your compassion with that simple phrase “Just like me . . .” Just like you, everyone else is fighting some battle, big or small. Just like you, others want to be happy and free of suffering. Keep this in mind as you meet friends and strangers alike—and especially if you’re working on a strained relationship. Remember that even those who seem to “have it all together,” and those who simply drive you nuts, face challenges you don’t fully understand. This broad view enables you to rise above petty squabbles, break down barriers, and more easily seize opportunities to help others.
3) GIVE PRESENCE. Don’t feel as though you need to have all the answers to be of help to someone who’s hurting. Just be yourself and take the time to be with them. Your presence can be more powerful than you think. The action of physically being with someone when they’re hurting can make all the difference in the world.
We’re excited and honored to join Born This Way Foundation at the Emotion Revolution Summit this month to spread the power of optimism in your community. Please continue to focus on the good in yourselves and in each other. For more thoughts on compassion, as well as the nine other Life is Good Superpowers, check out our new book, aptly named Life is Good: The Book.
A portion of this article is excerpted and adapted from the book Life is Good by Bert and John Jacobs, published by National Geographic on September 1st, 2015. Copyright © 2015 The Life is Good Company.