Brighten Someone’s Day With Some Feedback

Positive words to another person can really go a long way. Humans are social beings and our words are powerful things. In fact there are entire fields of psychology and philosophy dedicated to language and social interaction. When we are talking to people we can make ourselves and the other person feel pretty good, sometimes with a few simple words.

Research shows that compliments stimulate the part of the brain associated with performance and according to CARLA (Center For Advanced Research on Language Acquisition) compliments can have a variety of uses:

A great majority of compliments are addressed to people of similar age and status to the compliment giver (Knapp, Hopper, & Bell, 1984 [©]).

The way a compliment is received is dependent on the context in which it is given and the self-esteem of the receiver. People with a low self-esteem aren’t as receptive to compliments as people with a normal or high self-esteem.  Culture and upbringing can also affect this. For example there are cultures where it is more acceptable to compliment children or cultures where it might not be acceptable to compliment a person’s spouse…etc. Depending on upbringing, ideology and circumstances compliments may or may not be well received.

However when the situation allows it a compliment can go a long way to helping ourselves and the other person feel great. One study shows it stimulates the part of the brain responsible for a feeling of reward

Compliments are little gifts of love They are not asked for or demanded. They tell a person they are worthy of notice. They are powerful gifts.

Hara Estroff Marano

Even constructive criticism (i.e. You are doing it too fast, slow down a little and you will notice more detail or you’re soup will taste a lot better with a bit more onion…etc.) can be very positive. We must be careful to keep this kind of feedback positive but when carefully worded constructive criticism is often a practical way to help someone improve their job or life somehow.

Never be afraid to give someone a compliment. Even if the compliment is not well received no one in their right mind would ever get or stay angry and we have a much greater chance of brightening their day and your own.






Pick Your Battles

Some call it stubbornness or pig-headedness , a determination not to change your mind or attitude no matter what. Some admire this, especially on ethical grounds. Someone who will also do what’s right even in the face of danger or death is someone worthy of respect indeed. However, when does being stubborn become unreasonable? A tough question to answer, it would depend on the circumstances of each specific situation. There are however some rules we can follow. There are truly some things that should stand above all else. True courage is not letting our ego stand above them and wisdom is knowing what they are. For example:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Job
  • Safety and Security

By not letting another person have last word or win the argument we can damage our relationships, put our livelihoods at risk, ruin a family get together, get into a physical confrontation and may other things that really aren’t worth it.

What comes next after this short list requires an examination of what’s important to us. An honest examination will put being right pretty low on the list for nearly everyone. We also need to ask: What will being right do for us? Unless letting that other person be wrong or win the argument puts one of you in danger than the answer is usually not much or nothing at all. Much like don’t sweat the small stuff needing to be right often just wastes energy and causes us unnecessary stress.

Of course on the other end of the spectrum letting others be right all the time allows them to push us around and take advantage of us. It can be a tough call to make and, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, knowing when to walk away or end a discussion requires a clear picture of what is truly important to us. We wont always make the right call but at the end of the day most of us can agree that putting our relationships with friends and family or our job at risk is not worth trying to make someone see your point of view.

Save your sanity and pick your battles wisely and you will be happier for it.

It’s All Small Stuff

For longest time I didn’t know ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all small stuff’ was actually a book by Richard Carlson, I just thought it was a common expression. I always liked the idea because I was fortunate enough, through personal experience, to believe that it was true. I had been lucky enough to have gained the perspective of just how insignificant our problems are. Understanding why ‘it’s all small stuff’ gives us a tremendous ability to tackle our problems knowing that everything will be OK. Achieving this perspective can done by understanding the size of and age of things that most of us never actually think about.



Humans: Tallest person ever recorded was  2.72 m (8 ft 11.1 in)

Trees: 10 feet (3.048 m)- 379.7 feet (115.7 m)

Boeing 747:  Length 250ft (76.25 m) and weight 306 Tonnes (403, 000 pounds)

Empire State Building: 1454 feet (443.2 m) tall

Mount Everest: 8,848 m (29,000 feet) tall

The Earth:  Circumference 3,963 miles (6,378 kilometers) and surface area  of 510.1 million km²

The Sun: Approximately 864,400 miles (1,391,000 kilometers) across.

This is how small pour entire planet is even from just outside our tiny solar system

To put this all in perspective our sun is considered only a medium sized star and our galaxy (the Milky Way has about 100 Billion stars.) It is also 100,000 light years in diameter ( one light year is 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) and that is small for a galaxy. This really great interactive scale of the universe tool helps us understand these scales a bit better.

As we go up the scale learn just how tiny we are. Even a tortoise or a sea urchin have longer lives we do. All we have to do is look in our backyard and the tree standing there could be five to ten times as tall as we are and decades older.

Nothing To DrinkAlso, how bad are our problems? Around 2011 the meme ‘first world problems’ went viral and helped everyone have a laugh at their insignificant problems.  The meme pokes fun at the complaints of individuals in the more affluent parts of the world. This includes complaints like having no WiFi, not being able to fly first class,  or not being able to book a favorite restaurant. This list a is a good example. The expression ‘first world problems’ quickly became part of regular language in the western world. Whenever someone says ‘first world problems’ they are pointing out that a complaint or frustration is actually not as bad we might think it is.

First world problems makes an excellent point when you think of figures such as the following:

  • Hunger: The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 815 million people of the 7.6 billion people in the world, or 10.7%, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Almost all the hungry people live in lower-middle-income countries. There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries(source)
  • War: 68.5 million people fleeing war or persecution worldwide (source)
  • Disease: AIschemic heart disease alone was responsible for about 9.43 million deaths in 2016. However, all cardiovascular diseases together cause over 17.8 million deaths annually worldwide.  (source)

Sad realities but it’s important to remember how lucky we are to have unlimited access to food, water and security in our lives. Most of us in the Western world have never lived in the kind of fear or desperation that millions do everyday. Even in supposedly affluent countries there are people in our own neighborhood who are going hungry, have been victims of violent crime or are suffering from a debilitating disease.

When one considers this our problems are truly insignificant. Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot speech is a beautiful example of this perspective. No one should ignore their problems, in fact, ignoring them often makes them worse but remembering how fleeting our lives and problems are helps us cope. Our lives and our problems are important but at the end of the day we know they will pass because time will pass and time cures all wounds.



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Journal Sunday August 26th, 2018: A New Resource Page

As ardent web surfer I have discovered so many great websites and resources I thought it was high time to start sharing them all. So this site will soon include a hope and happiness resource page.  I will likely do overviews of the really good ones individually before adding them because some warrant exploration and praise above and beyond others. The page will also include media resources such as books, movies and journals and links to people and organizations that can provide hope and happiness in some way.

It’s truly amazing the hope and happiness we can bring to each other and ourselves. We don’t need the external help of unproven entities, religious dogma or superstition. We don’t need the false promises of charlatans who lie and cheat and lighten our wallets. There are countless websites, people and organizations that can do that for us and in ways based on the sciences and the humanities. Bringing as many of these together in one resource page would be very useful indeed.





Duty to Love

Duty is such a great word. It implies that whatever that person is talking about is an obligation. Duty is something you must do or risk harm to your reputation or lose your job or lose respect or some other very undesirable consequence. As such it’s not a word to be used lightly but this particular meme is using it appropriately, Love, in whatever for from that is, is most definitely everyone’s duty.
Image result for there are more things to admire.

Acceptance and Action Part 2: Assessing the Possible

In part one of this series we discussed two possible approaches to a given situation: acceptance and action. The first and most important is action. Action is literally the only way to change anything, this is true on a physical and psychological level. As soon we have made a decision to act we have taken the first step in improving our situation. To take action we must first know what we can and can’t do and that is different for everyone but there are some universal rules to this:

What can you action and what can’t you?

  1. The Impossible: Some things really are impossible. Inspirational speakers and other motivators have been shouting ‘anything is possible!’ from the rooftops for decades. It is hard to go on the web these days and not see some variation of this somewhere. However, it’s not entirely true.  There are at least three things we can not do:
    1. We can not defy the laws of physics: This is common sense but warrants mentioning. There is no point wasting your time trying to invent a time machine if time travel is not possible according to the laws of physics.
    2. Human Law: Laws exist to help create a safe and peaceful environment. We can defy the law if we want to but we must be ready to face the consequences both legally and with our conscience.
    3. Ethics: Another we can defy but shouldn’t. This is listed as impossible because in ideal circumstances we would never defy our own moral code.
  2. Nearly Impossible: Even though we can not fly to the moon unassisted we could follow a career path that makes going to the moon a possibility. We could go to university, we could become a pilot or an astrophysicist and then we could apply to NASA, we could get accepted for a manned flight to the moon and achieve the goal of going to the moon. This is a good example of a nearly impossible goal. It is seemingly impossible but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
  3. Very Unlikely: The first stage within the scale of possibilities in which an idea, action or goal becomes achievable. When something is very unlikely the odds are very against a person trying to change a situation or achieve a goal but this can still become a reality with proper strategies and perseverance.
  4. Unlikely: This is the stage in the realm of possibilities in which have a very real opportunity to make something happen despite the odds being against it.
  5. Likely: At this stage there is no apparent reason to believe something won’t happen. We, generally speaking, don’t need to do anything to bring about the event or goal we desire.
  6. Very Likely: At this stage of possibility an action or circumstance has strong outside factors helping it become even a reality.
  7. Certain: Even external factors are unlikely to prevent this from happening. The sun rising or babies being born are good examples of things that are certain to happen everyday.

It can be difficult trying to determine how possible goal or action is but when that goal or action is important we really need to understand how possible it is. Once we know this we can use

goal setting

strategies to achieve our desired ends. The most basic strategy is to simply list obstacles

and use our critical thinking skills to determine whether or not those obstacles can be bypassed.  It’s also important to remember that time and circumstance can change how possible something is so even if it is impossible now we can always reassess later and so have no reason to give up something completely. That fact will keep us motivated and a little bit more hopeful.







Acceptance and Action Part 1

Determinism has it’s fair of supporters and deniers but what they all have in common is a desire to have a solid answer to the philosophical question of fate’s existence. Supporters say that everything, even our choices, are the result of some other cause or causes such as natural laws or our biology.  These causes can be explained or unexplained, understood or not understood but there is always a cause. In the extreme case fatalists believe that these causes are entirely out of our control, that our lives are at the mercy of the Gods or some other supernatural force.

Indeterminism or freewill rejects the idea of fate and predictability, especially so with our choices. Supporters of free will say that our choices are ours to make and that we have a moral responsibility to make the right choices as much as possible. Even in circumstances beyond our control such illness or the death of a loved one we can still choose how we handle whatever our circumstances are in some way (i.e. instead of mourning the death of our lost loved one we can choose to remember how lucky we were to have them in our life).

Most people accept that our lives are some combination of determinism and free will. What degree of determinism and/or freewill we have is a debate as old philosophy itself. There exists two ways of handling each situation we find ourselves in:

Action: The first and most important step in shaping our lives. This is what we do when we use our power to make things better. Even by deciding to take action we reject determinism and take responsibility for our own lives. This has three parts:

  • Knowledge: We use our cumulative knowledge to asses our situation.
  • Experience: Drawing on past circumstances to help us determine the best course.
  • Morals: Doing our best to be sure the decision we have made falls within our boundaries of what’s right.

Acceptance: When circumstances are out of control there is always one option: acceptance. Acceptance takes back our power even in the most unpreventable of circumstances because we can always choose to accept our situation. We must be careful with acceptance because it’s a dangerous slippery slope to apathy and so acceptance is a last resort but it is always a feeling that we can choose to have.

Free will most certainly exists when we understand that acceptance is always an option. Some things are extremely hard or impossible for us to accept for many reason but the choice is, at least fundamentally, ours. So we therefore always have some power to control how we feel. Choosing what to accept and when to take action is a complicated matter but will be covered in future articles. Just  remember you can always choose acceptance and take back your power to be content no matter what situation you find yourself in.


Journal July 22nd, 2018: Potential for Greatness

Another bit of a hiatus is over. Time to start thinking of moving the site to the greatness it could become. Work and family obligations have made it difficult to be as serious as I need to be in order for the site to reach as many people as I like. There are two great things that could come out of reaching more people:

  1. Giving Hope to People: At the very least providing a start to finding meaning in life and showing how it is possible to be a happy, productive person without the need for religion or superstition, a happiness based on the humanities. Sharing of information of all types is extremely important, especially when the information has so much penitential to positively impact people.
  2. Financial: The reality is websites aren’t free. I don’t mind paying because I enjoy doing it and I am lucky to be able to share something positive with the world, that makes me feel pretty good. The ideal situation would be to be making a profit and start giving to charity or be able to dedicate more time to the blog.

My personal situation changes in the fall so more regular posting should be possible, I hope so because there is so much potential for greatness.


Image result for there is no heavier burden than a unfulfilled potential



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