This post is inspired by a podcast I listened to where the person had a stroke that affected his brain and the process he went through the re-train his brain. During that process he learned to meditate with a female Buddhist monk, who passed this insight on to him
Our stroke victim wanted to grow in his compassion for other people and he said he thought he had a lot of compassion. The Monk gave him some advice: She said he had empathy, but not compassion. He indicated that he thought it was very similar.
And this is the insight that followed:
No, she said: ‘Compassion is Empathy with a View.’
By that she meant that empathy had to be accompanied by ‘perspective’ or a view of the world and how it works.
The perspective or view of the world IS THE SILVER BULLET that puts the things you desire in context and makes you understand how to ‘view’ that outcome and to ‘appreciate’ it for what it is.
Having a clear view/ sense of purpose or a life plan helps explain what happens and helps direct your choices towards something in a cohesive manner.
On a personal lever your ‘view’ matters: The Christian sees God’s plan, the Hedonist sees pursuit of pleasure; and both of those views will inform how you experience everything. In the one instance pain must be endured and in another it must be avoided.
The Monk understood that empathy was something the individual experienced (internally) but that compassion was something that someone else experienced (externally). Empathy is a warm and fuzzy feeling, but compassion is something that reaches out and touches people.
If you want to be able to make sense of the world or have the ability to be resilient in the face of adversity or to be focussed on a specific outcome, the silver bullet is finding your sense of purpose.
Now for the part that most people miss.
Everybody HAS a view of life. And it DOES shape how you experience life. Only, most people don’t realise what it is nor how it works. Their view of life was formed by accident instead of by disciplined reflection.
Now for the sad part of all of this.
The DEFAULT view of life for most people is their own personal survival. And under the term ‘survival’ I include psychological survival, social survival and the like. We default to do that what is in our own best interests. Or more specifically, we default to what we THINK is the best for us.
The world is a much better place for all those people who purposefully choose to serve their Country, devote time to their Community or serve God – for instance – than for all the people who simply pursue their own personal happiness.
Not only is the world a better place, those people who choose an external focus for their lives are much better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, and consequently are happier.
There are many stories of people who won Lotto who, within a few years, end up exactly where they were before. (You of course believe you will be different.) The best view of these things was summed up in a Forbes article:
Achieving major life goals, including winning the lottery, or the more basic goal of getting married, doesn’t wind up making us as happy as we expect. (A) big positive event like a lottery win can impact happiness, but its effects diminish over time Why? Because while a lottery win can make a difference, it won’t affect the other conditions of your life, like who your siblings or parents are or your basic disposition.
There are many stories of people who suffered serious setbacks – for example by becoming disable – yet went on to live full and meaningful lives. Nick Vujicic is possibly the best example of what I am trying to say here.
On a corporate/ business lever your ‘view’ matters: A company with a clear sense of purpose – with a strong ‘view’ in the Buddhist’s terms - is one that can direct itself purposefully.
Let’s say you are struggling to be a successful entrepreneur. Your ‘view’ will determine what you do and how you cope and what eventually happens.
If you see business as a game, you will adopt different tactics, maybe hire a coach or even try and bend the rules. Or of course you may simply practice harder.
The MISSION you have for your business is the director/founder’s attempt to articulate the VIEW of the business. It is the answer to the question: “What is this (business) all about?’
To have a clear sense of mission (a ‘view’) makes the present problems and opportunities so much clearer. In fact, unless you have the lens afforded by a clear and powerful vision, you won’t SEE the opportunities when they present themselves. And you will see insurmountable obstacles instead of challenges.
I have written elsewhere about systems thinking in the post ‘Why you can’t have what you want’. In that post I explain how the pursuit of outcomes is misguided, and why we should measure and focus on the Inputs and the Processes.
Your takeaway is to contemplate the inputs and the processes that will produce the outcomes you want – and to focus on that.