On learning a basic equation


Now that I’m a certain age, I get surprised less and less. Fewer things stop me in my tracks and cause me to take stock of what’s around me and appreciate all that I have…and the saddest truth is that the older I get the things that tend to stop me all too often are tragic.

Sounds like getting old is a real bummer.

Only it isn’t. If you keep your mind and heart open to new possibilities.

This morning, an Aha! Moment happened to me, and it was when I was doing a morning scan of social media no less. So the first lesson here is to always be paying attention, because you never know when you might find something.

Anyway my epiphany came thanks to a Facebook post by “Becoming Minimalist,” a health and wellness website that I follow for the occasional feel-good nudge. I’ll read something pithy, something that makes me go hmmm… and whatever it is serves to provide a gentle, necessary, and all-too-often short-term attitude adjustment about whatever it illuminates. Today was different. The post (which was not of great interest) included this quote by Brennan Manning* (which made my morning):

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

Let that sink in for a second—there is no neutral exchange—and then think of the implications.  100% of the time, this “rule” applies to us. And 100% of the time it gives us the power to choose.

That’s huge.

This mindset isn’t limited to either our professional lives or our personal lives. It presents an unbounded challenge to each of us, to be aware of our role in every interaction, and to acknowledge that every one of those interactions has consequences—both seen and felt by us and seen and felt by others. And often times our actions have consequences that are entirely unbeknownst to us.

So while I get (kind of) the ongoing debate about whether one can choose to be happy or not, this is a little bit of a twist on what and how we choose. As a rule, I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume negative intent…yet they still seem to drain my battery or suck the life out of me. However, reflecting on that quote reminded me that while there’s nothing I can do about them, I can do everything and anything about me. And maybe, someday, it will influence them. Maybe. Maybe?

I urge you to consider this emotional equation when you have your next encounter, be it conducting a big deal at work, facing a personal conflict, or undertaking an innocuous everyday event like buying a coffee…and remember that there is no neutral exchange. Challenge yourself to step up and to give life in whatever form it takes for you. Whether you give extra energy, a smile, a hug, a thank you…whatever it is…you’re giving life…and everyone who is part of the exchange will come put on the other side with a fuller tank…no matter what.

*Brennan Manning, American author, is best known for his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. To find out more, a Google search is a good way to go.



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