“May you live all the days of your life.”
“There were many times my pants were so thin I could sit on a dime and tell if it was heads or tails.”
Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish writer that lived a couple of centuries ago (1667-1745).
He is perhaps most known for classics like Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Propsal. The latter being the ironic and shocking essay where he suggested that impoverished Irish people should sell their babies as food to rich people. Such works has earned Swift a reputation as one of the finest satirists of all time.
Since Swift was a writer there is a ton of things to quote. He is 8 of my favourite pearls of wisdom at the moment.
1. Don’t fear being wrong.
“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.”
This is a great point. So much of what we learn in society is about how you should not fail and not make mistakes. In school we are taught to get good grades and play by the rules. And so always taking a safe route and not taking risks can become an ingrained behaviour as we learn to associate failure with shame and pain.
But one should really not be afraid of making mistakes. Or admitting that he or she has been wrong. By recognizing that you can release the negative emotions that may dwell within and move on to the next thing. Admitting that you have been wrong also makes it easier to clearly analyse what you did and what you can learn from the experience.
2. Money is useful. Love of it is hazardous.
“A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.”
Money is very useful. But if you let it take the wrong place in your life it can wreck havoc.
It can create greed and much negativity in your life. And if you love the money, you’ll probably just want more and more. No matter how much you get. And it may not fill you up and finally make you happy as you may have hoped.
The drive to always wanting more can become like filling a bucket with a hole in it. And as you slowly realize that this won’t work as you had hoped bitterness and negativity can start to fester in your life.
Now, it’s important to not let this reasoning lead you to believe that money is evil. Money is a tool. It can help you to achieve many positive things.
It’s just that a love of money can be destructive.
3. Dig where you stand.
“Although men are accused of not knowing their own weakness, yet perhaps few know their own strength. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.”
I think this is true. It’s very easy to fall into an addictive pattern of criticizing yourself and others. But what are the positive things in you and the people around you?
If you just look for things to criticize then that is what you will see. If you look for things to criticize in yourself that is what you will see in yourself and pay attention to in others.
So what can you do? You can start digging where you are standing. Instead of asking yourself those negative questions continually, ask yourself: what is good about me? Ask yourself where you strengths and talents lie. And don’t give up at once just because a negative mindset may initially not let you see what’s good and positive about you.
What you focus on most of the time is what you will see of reality. Knowing your weaknesses and learning from mistakes is helpful. But to dwell on criticism and the negative parts will just keep you in a loop where you create more of that for yourself.
At some point it’s useful to move on from that and start to shift your focus to the positive. And see what gold that will help you uncover.
4. Go further than you may think you can.
“I’ve always believed no matter how many shots I miss, I’m going to make the next one.”
One big problem with success is that you may want it right now. Or at least very soon. No wonder, advertising continually bombards us with messages of how we can become thin or rich in just 30 days. And when that promise doesn’t work we go out to buy a new product that “will surely be the magic pill that will solve the problem quickly”. And so on.
Now, I’m not saying that a lot of the stuff out there doesn’t work. It probably does. I’m just saying that it may take more time, patience and work than advertised to get you where you want to go.
It’s useful to take a break from advertised perspectives and let more realistic perspectives seep into your mind. Learn from people who have gone where you want to go. Talk to them. Read what they have to say in books or online. This will not give complete plan but a clearer perspective of what is needed to achieve what you want.
And then you plug away. You don’t let setbacks or failure discourage you. You go out and try again. And just when you feel like giving up you go on a little further. And a little further.
Because it’s often darkest before the dawn.
5. Be good to yourself.
“The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.”
It’s nowadays common to run yourself into the ground and then, as you feel like a shadow of your former self, to seek help.
But a big part of keeping your health – mentally and physically – in good shape is to prevent problems before they even show up and force you to go to the doctor.
Swift brings some common sense into this challenge. By doing simple things consistently, by making them ingrained habits one can avoid many problems down the line.
· Doctor Diet. Eat not too little or too much. Eat slowly to really enjoy the taste and avoid overeating, an upset stomach and added stress.
· Doctor Quiet. Always being around noise and other people can drain you. It’s important to find some quiet time for yourself regularly to avoid being overloaded. Being out in nature is one good way to reconnect with the quiet and stillness and is often forgotten in the busy daily life.
· Doctor Merryman. How happy and positive one wants to feel is often to a large degree a choice. You can cultivate a negative attitude towards everything. Or a positive one. A few tips for creating a positive and optimistic attitude can be found here, here and also here.
Now, this may sound like almost stupidly simple advice. And the information is very simple. Many very helpful things are very simple.
More advanced tips may sound intriguing because one may associate complicated with better. But everything has to have foundations. Without those everything you build on top of them will only work at a limited capacity or sometimes just crumble.
6. Put down the extra, unnecessary baggage you are carrying.
“The latter part of a wise person’s life is occupied with curing the follies, prejudices and false opinions they contracted earlier.”
We pick a whole lot when we are young. Some of it is helpful. A lot of it will hold you back and create a lot of unnecessary suffering in your life.
You may have learned things from society - or sometimes gotten stuff drilled into your head - when you were young. You may have taken what someone said or did to you once or repeatedly as an absolute truth about you and your life.
But as a grown up, as you start to examine your life and beliefs you may discover that those things was just things that happened. They are in the past. You are here now.
And by grasping that it’s you who are always in control of your life - that you are creating it right now - you understand that unhelpful beliefs or what happened doesn’t have to mean that much really.
You can choose to drop them and continue with a lightness in your step down a road that you are creating for yourself now.
7. Learn to create a connection.
“Good manners is the art of making those people easy with who we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.”
A big chunk of social skills seems to be making other people feeling comfortable and good about themselves. To create and exchange a stream of positive emotions.
How do you go about doing that in a practical way? A few suggestions:
· Like yourself. I think this is very important because a person who likes him/herself is someone people find appealing. This is however not something that may be that easy for everyone. People may see themselves as ugly, stupid, poor or something along those negative lines.
A few tips that you can apply - over a longer time-period - is to stop comparing yourself to other people, taking tip # 3 in this article to heart and start looking at the positive in yourself and following the tip above and start weeding out old beliefs about life and yourself that doesn’t help you anymore. You can also check out 9 Great Ways to Make Yourself Absolutely Miserable for more stuff to avoid doing to yourself.
· Be interested in the other person. This one is connected to the previous point about liking yourself. Because when you like yourself you don’t need other people to validate you all the time as you hog the spotlight. You may choose to stand in the spotlight, but there is less of a craving for it. And now it becomes easier to shift your focus from “me, me, me!” to the person you are talking to. It becomes easier to be genuinely interested and create a connection. Have a look at Five Awesome and Five Awful Conversation Topics for more on this.
· Be warm, open and positive. Well, people tend to like warm, open and positive people. And most people reflect back the behaviour they encounter. So creating such habits for yourself can go a long way in relationships with other people. A quick tip for going into an interaction in the right frame of mind is by assuming rapport.
8. Be open to the idea that you can always learn.
“No man was ever so completely skilled in the conduct of life, as not to receive new information from age and experience.”
Being open to this will open up your mind. If you think you know everything, great insights will just pass you by.
By being open you’ll see, feel and learn things you wouldn’t otherwise. But be careful of focusing too much on learning from books, blogs etc. They have a place and can help you correct things may have done backwards for all of your life.
But the most important thing is to live. And to learn from your experiences. Because it is there you find true understanding of things.