It's been my experience that people begin to get angry when things don't go as they expected. Whether their children didn't behave as they wished, their belongings weren't where they left them, their project didn't proceed as planned, or other drivers didn't drive safely around them on the road... everyone has expectations. When circumstances circumvent our expectations, it can annoy us and lead us to anger, if we let it.
Think about that the next time you find yourself steaming... what expectation of yours went awry?
Which is why, I think, that so much of life tries to set things on a course for an expected outcome. We give our children rules, our belongings a place, our projects a project plan according to the guidelines of project management, and laws for driving. It's all about leading our expectations.
Let's call that civilization - a coherent set of rules upon which most of us agree to live. Civil-ization: the polite society. A world without anger.
My son asked me the other day about what makes for happiness. It was a discussion he'd had in class at school. When he asked me for my definition, I told him:
Happiness is a choice.That threw him because it wasn't like the answers he'd heard in class from his peers. So I explained.
What are the worst conditions you can imagine - those in which no person can possibly be happy?
How about 2,420 days spent as a POW in North Vietnam?
Human potential has no limit as long as you believe you can do it and are willing to work hard enough, said a former POW who spent nearly seven years in a prison camp during the Vietnam war, only to emerge to be fluent in Spanish, a world record holder in jump roping and with the ability to do thousands of sit-ups and over 300 pushups continually, all from experiences in prison.How would you be in that environment? Pissed? Depressed? Suicidal?
The crux of Hubbard's speech was that anyone can overcome adversity and reach beyond the loftiest of goals by developing a positive, focused state of mind.
"Without a focus and a game plan to improve myself a little more each day, I would never have survived in a North Vietnamese prison, much less life after prison," Hubbard said.
Living on only 300 calories a day, consisting of a bowl of rice and a bowl of green food that was commonly called "weeds," served twice daily with two cups of water, Hubbard worked his way up to being able to do 300 push-ups and 2,700 sit-ups, and six hours of jump roping continuously. Also, using a tapping code on the wall of his cell, Hubbard, who had never known any Spanish, learned the language fluently and memorized a 46-verse poem without ever seeing or hearing any words.
For the first 150 days in the prison, he sat around feeling sorry for himself, but then decided to make a change. "At that point I decided no matter what happened I would never, ever have a bad day again," Hubbard said.He said that he "decided." It was a choice for him to not have a bad day - amidst the worst of human conditions.
Rules won't make people happy. It won't make society polite. Despite all of the laws, divorce still usually ends in bitterness, people still kill other people, and politicians - the lawmakers themselves - steal on a regular basis from taxpayers.
Happiness doesn't come when all of your expectations, needs, and wants are consistently met. Happiness comes when you find yourself unlocking your own human potential and you see the world through eyes of thankfulness. If you have that, chaos can abound and it won't matter. Like Ed Hubbard, you'll stay positive - because you choose to be happy.