Reality Check: The Company We Keep

Depending on who you talk to, the world is either on the brink of destruction or it’s approaching a golden age of peace and prosperity.
Yes, both perceptions exist. You might not have realized that, because we seem to hear a lot more about the destruction aspect. Crisis is more exciting than peacefulness, and an exciting message, even a fear-filled one, gets attention.
To be clear, I’m not referring to any one situation that’s happening right now. By the time you read this, any current crisis will likely be replaced with a new one anyway.
Rather, I’m noticing an ongoing beat of negativity, horror, panic, and finger-pointing. Different crisis; similar responses.
We’re social creatures, so we talk to each other. When surrounded by a cloud of, “We’re doomed!” it’s not just talk. There’s also worrying, blaming, criticizing, complaining, even threatening.
In choice theory, Dr. Glasser lists some deadly habits that destroy relationships. Among them are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, and punishing. Notice the similarities?
Choice is a fundamental premise of choice theory, so we can choose how we respond to those behaviours. However, choosing to resist the popular message isn’t easy.
People are ridiculed or ostracized when they don’t go along with what “everyone knows.” As we all need some degree of love and belonging, choosing an outlook outside the mainstream can be unappealing, indeed.
Here are two suggestions toward a more positive direction:
1. Choose your influences. If you find yourself angry, worried, or resentful, ask, “Is what I’m hearing or discussing making my life better? Is it helping me to contribute to anything in a positive way?”
2. Choose to appreciate the many people who contribute to positive developments. I’ve listed a few of mine below in case you find it hard to get started.
I’m grateful for the many students who stayed in school and worked hard at subjects such as math, engineering, medicine, technology. They develop cures for diseases; innovations toward clean, efficient energy; and machines engineered to improve our lives.
On the world scale, I’m grateful that there are smart people working toward peace among nations. Maybe it will pan out; maybe it won’t. Negotiation is hard. But the direction of the effort to negotiate differences is positive.
Closer to home, I’m grateful for the friends and neighbours that all of us have. Communities of people who genuinely care for and about each other are truly the glue that holds our society together.
I’m also grateful for farmers and woodlot owners who respect and care for their land and their forests. These valuable resources, managed by owners who care deeply about them, will sustain life for generations to come.
Each of us has our role and can create our own purpose for our lives. Whether it’s as a scientist, doctor, farmer, or math teacher, many people deliver a product or service that makes lives better.
In my experience, it’s more gratifying to be in the company of people who are making positive contributions. Contributions can be simple; we might not even think they matter. But they do.
Taking good care of your family, taking pride in your property, your community, your country, and doing any meaningful work, whether paid or unpaid, are all real contributions.
Glasser said, “To be happy, I believe we need to be close to other happy people.” The company we keep, the messages we listen to, the influences we choose to believe, all contribute.
A happy attitude that looks for opportunity is more likely to see opportunity when it appears. When one is perennially resentful, anxious, or blaming, it’s difficult to make real progress in a positive direction.
Happiness isn’t everything. Is it worth making an effort, for ourselves and others? I think so. What do you think?

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