The news of late is even more energy-sapping than usual - and has been glum to even dampen my levels of optimism!
Well, I'm glad to say that my normal levels of optimism returned after reading Rutger Bregman's latest book, "Humankind, a hopeful history." Bregman is a Dutch historian and writer and his book explores the idea that contrary to common perceptions, most people are deep down, good and decent. The book explores the reasoning and rationale why and how mankind has survived and evolved and their predisposition to avoid violence and killing. The book is filled with fascinating stories and facts from history - e.g. half of all veterans from World War 2 never fired their guns and killed anyone.
It's a well well-argued book and extremely well written - I would recommend it as an illuminating and powerful insight into human nature. It is also uplifting! I'll let you read the book to grasp the rest of the analyses but I thought it would be useful to share Rutger Bregman's own principles for daily living - summarised as his own top 10 Life Lessons.
1 When in doubt, assume the best
Most of us are cynical and have a natural aversion towards trusting people, assuming to do so will inevitably result in being cheated. However, facts show that very few get cheated and that even if it does happen, it is a small price to pay for the luxury of a lifetime of trusting other people.
2 Think in win-win scenarios
Basically, the optimum solution is NOT as Trump describes in his book "Think big and kick ass" that " in a great deal you win - not the other side". Rather, the best deals are those where everybody wins.
3 Ask More Questions
Essentially, don't assume we know what other people want just because that is what you want or like. As George Bernard Shaw states "Do not do unto others as you would that they do unto you, their tastes may be different".
4 Temper your Empathy, train your compassion
It is far better and more constructive to have compassion rather than empathy. Whereas empathy involves sharing the pain and distress of the other person, being compassionate recognises those feelings of the other person and energises you to act. Neurological studies have proven that being compassionate fires up more energy levels whereas empathy saps us of energy.
5 Try to understand the other, even though you don't get where they are coming from
Understanding the other person's viewpoint at a rational level is a skill. It is a muscle that you can train. Bregman argues that our powers of reason are an essential feature of who we are and what makes us human.
6 Love your own as others love their own
Humans have a tendency to care more about those who are most like us, share our looks and language or background. But, if we choose a path of compassion, we will realise how little separates us from the stranger.
7 Avoid the news
The news on TV or social media skews your view of the world. It tends to generalise people into groups as politicians do, e.g. elites, racists, refugees etc. Social media taps into our negativity bias, pushing up the feeds which attract our attention, enabling platforms such as Facebook to profit from the bad behaviour grabbing our attention.
8 Don't punch Nazis
Bregman uses the example of the townsfolk of Wunsiedel in Germany to show that there's much more benefit in trying to win over others than by being aggressive and confrontational. The annual Nazi march through their town by extremists was not met by aggressive anti-Nazi demonstrators. Instead, the local people set up a charity event to help people leave extreme right-wing groups. This novel approach proved to be hugely successful.
9 Come out of the closet, don't be ashamed to do good
Every good deed is like a pebble in a pond, sending ripples out in all directions. Kindness is catching. And it's so contagious that it even infects people who merely see it from afar. Studies show that a single act of kindness makes people feel warm and tingly - even if we hear these stories from someone else.
10 Be realistic
This is Bregman's most important rule. "Be courageous. Be true to your nature and offer trust. Do good in broad daylight and don't be ashamed of your generosity.
I really hope that at least one of these lessons can make a difference to your thinking. I would love to hear your comments and views on the book and the article. Please email me at info@XtraClarity.com