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Everyone has an opinion, and quite often people enjoy sharing (or forcing) their opinions with others. However, opinions are tainted because they only exist in each person’s own frame of reference. That is, each person forms their own opinion based on their own experiences and their own observations of the world. What is “right” for one person is not necessarily right for another. In fact, when it comes to opinions, this is rarely the case I believe that other people’s opinions are not that important to me, and particularly so when that opinion is about me. Other people simply do not have the same level of experience or knowledge about my life as I do and thus their opinions will never be as accurate as mine. I will ultimately know the most about my life, my thoughts, and my desires which means that only my opinion of myself matters.
Which leads me here – writing about how other people form their opinions of us, why these opinions are irrelevant most of the time, and why only your own opinion of yourself is what matters.
Opinions are just a matter of perspective
The first part to the consideration of other peoples’ opinions is to think about how they actually form these opinions. In general, all opinions are formed by a person using their own set of life experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts as the basis. That is, they form these opinions from their own frame of reference, which is completely different to our frame of reference (which is where we performed the various thoughts and actions that are being judged).
Example: The CEO and the guitarist
To make an example – imagine a successful and happy CEO of a small company walking down a busy street and running into a dishevelled looking man (long hair, beard, no shoes) who is playing a guitar and singing for the passer-bys. From the CEO’s perspective he judges the guitarist as a “bludger” and forms an opinion that he is homeless and in need of a job. He might even give him some money to help as that is what the CEO, from his perspective, thinks the man needs.
Now switch perspectives, and consider the guitarist. He’s not a bludger at all - he actually has a very nice home and enough money that he has chosen not to work. Instead he travels the world and plays his guitar. He looks at the be-suited office workers (including the previously mentioned CEO) as they pass and he feels sorry for them. He believes they are missing out on their life and forms the opinion that they must be greedy and unhappy because those are the only reasons he can think of for why they would continue to work.
Neither perspective is right, but neither perspective is wrong. Each person has a very different set of circumstances which has led them to their current situation and their frame of reference. Their perspective is built from their life journey and as such they can only make judgements and form opinions with that information. Hence why the CEO thinks the guitarist must be a homeless beggar because he simply cannot fathom someone “rich and successful” quitting their job to live a semi-vagrant lifestyle.
And the guitarist suffers the same folly. Because he was never happy at work he cannot believe that other people could possibly be happy at work. He looks at the CEO almost with contempt, believing that he is willing to exchange happiness for money even though he knows nothing about the CEO, his job, or his happiness.
The way opinions are formed
When someone forms an opinion on you they are doing so based on the extremely limited set of information they have been presented with. They align it to their past experience and knowledge and form an opinion that they think suits the situation best. This opinion has no relevance to you because it does not factor in anything else about your life and what you have gone through previously to arrive at this point. Their opinion only considers what they have recently observed.
Look at the (pretty crude) sketch I’ve drawn above. Consider yourself to be the circle on the left. The outer part is what you allow to be seen by others. This is known as your outward-facing "persona". Inside your circle is everything that defines you. That is where your past is stored. That is where your emotions live. That is where your thoughts happen and where your decisions are made.
Now look at person A and person B (the circles on the right). They exist completely outside of your circle and they have their own outward facing persona and their own internal elements. These are what they use when they form opinions of others.
The two coloured cones represent these people looking at you and your external persona to form an opinion. But as you can see, these opinions never consider the full you. These opinions that are formed by others can only look a very limited set of your external persona (remember that is only what you let them see) and they can never reach inside your circle and understand all those internal drivers in your life. As such, the opinions of others are formed solely by them assessing the limited information they can access – the small outward-facing part of your persona they have witnessed.
Of course this means that their opinion is never going to fully align with you. They never know exactly what you know, or what you have seen in your life, so they can never fully appreciate all your internal drivers and why you think, act, or do certain things.
As time goes by and you repeatedly interact with the same people, they will experience more and more of your outward persona. This will enable them to modify their opinion of you but it is still only an opinion that is formed on based entirely on your outward persona. Eventually you may “open up” and allow these people to see parts of what is inside. You may allow these people to look behind the social mask and see what actually drives you.
We do this with our loved ones, but even so we never give them the full picture. We might turn part of our persona into a window that allows them to see inside to understand what drives us. But just like a window on a house, you can never see everything that is inside from a single window. There a rooms hidden from view, and as such, even our dearest and closed loved ones will never have a complete understanding of our internal drivers. The will know far more about us than anyone else but they will still not have the complete picture.
This is not a bad thing but it is just the nature of being human. In the end we are essentially individual creatures living in a coexistent environment, sharing parts of lives through language, emotion, and action. This means that others will only ever understand what we choose to share and then only if we are skilled enough to express ourselves accurately.
Your opinion of yourself is what matters most
Therefore, what truly matters most is your own opinion of yourself. Only you know what your life has been like, what you are capable of, and what you want to achieve. Only you can see all that and form an opinion that has taken everything from your life in to consideration.
But too many people hide from themselves and avoid making assessments of their own actions. I believe that these people are functioning in a purely reactive and “stressed-out” way. They are not living in the moment, they are not aware of their own actions, and they are not consciously in control of their own life.
If you are one of these people then you need to start being honest with yourself and start forcing yourself to assess your own actions. What have you done so far in your life? Have you treated others with respect and equality? What sort of person have you been? More importantly, what sort of person do you want to be? When you start asking yourself these questions, don’t be afraid to answer them honestly for that is the only way that you will initiate positive change in your life.
Remember, your opinion of yourself is what matters most so what do you really think of yourself?
Across all facets of daily life we have interactions with other people in which we can shape their future. And sometimes we do not even have to specifically interact with a person to bring changes into their life. But no matter if it is through indirect or direct interaction, it is obvious that our individual actions have the ability to dramatically change other peoples' lives. Every action we take can be grouped into four simple categories based on the potential impact it has on our life and the lives of others. The four categories are: lose-lose, lose-win, win-lose, and win-win.
These are the four types of “offers” we can make whenever we interact with our surrounding environment, and although it may seem obvious to some that win-win is the best possible choice, too many people fail to take this option regularly. Some people simply do not think this deeply about their actions and their respective consequences, others do not care, and some are not even aware that they have a choice.
But there is always a choice and this article is going to show you why you should always try to create win-win situations.
Four Offers You Can Make The World
This is a no brainer. Not only is it the obviously bad choice but it is also the most destructive and negative option. Offering (or accepting) a lose-lose situation in life is the worst possible action you can take as it can destroy everything - friendships, careers, and relationships.
Examples of lose-lose situations include “taking someone down with you” when you get in trouble, backstabbing your friends, and making a relationship turn sour because you do not have the balls to breakup.
The lose-win situation is when you are willing to accept a disadvantage (i.e. a loss) in your life so that someone else can gain an advantage. It may sound noble but unless you have utter and complete happiness in your life then offering a lose-win situation actually has a very negative impact. In fact, it is often worse than the lose-lose situation because you can convince yourself that you’ve done something good, even though the result for you is anything but.
Examples of lose-win situations are "being there" for someone when you know they wouldn’t do the same for you, giving someone the shirt off your back (literally), and not speaking up when the jerk at work eats your lunch.
The win-lose situation is generally exhibited by those that like to take advantage of others. This option results in you reaping great rewards (i.e. the win) for yourself but at the expense of someone else. Sometimes the win-lose can be offered to you (i.e. by someone else who lets people “walk all over them”) but this does not mean that you have to accept it. In fact you should definitely not accept it. It is up to you to make a little bit of effort and create something positive: a win-win situation so that everyone can benefit.
Examples of win-lose situations are all forms of stealing, bullying someone (in the workplace, friendships, or relationships), and...being the jerk at work that eats someone else’s lunch!
At last we’ve reached what is the only true option for living a happy and wonderful life: the win-win. Making this your default option should be your top priority as it promotes an environment of mutual advantage, where everyone can prosper.
The problem is that creating win-win can often be a damn sight harder than win-lose or lose-win. It’s easy for one person to gain an advantage but to ensure that everyone involved has a win requires a great deal of awareness, self control, and the ability to enjoy delayed gratification.
Examples of win-win situations include setting up a babysitting rotation with your friends, providing emotional support for a close friend or partner going through a tough time, or maybe taking on an extra workload so that your partner can quit their job and start their dream business.
Why You Should Only Create Win-Win Situations
When your actions have a direct influence on the outcomes for you and others around you, it is important to be always striving to create win-win situations.
You deserve more than a loss
If you are willing to accept a losing option, one where you are put to a disadvantage, then what does that say about you? What image of self respect does that convey to the rest of the world? How could you expect others to treat you well, and offer you advantageous opportunities when you don’t even do that for yourself?
By accepting a losing situation in your life you are essentially saying “I am not worthy of positive outcomes and I do not deserve to have good things in my life” and once you start thinking this way, your brain will try to find proof that it is true and other people will automatically align with this view of you.
Your life will become a perpetual series of lose-win (or worse, lose-lose) situations because that is all that your mind will be capable of seeing. Worse still is that you will only attract other people into your life that will also fulfill this arrangement. That means, in all aspects of your life, you will naturally find people that want to take advantage of you or people that want to feel sorry for themselves by creating destructive lose-lose situations.
Neither of them is a positive influence and neither of them bring any happiness to your life.
And your happiness is the most important part of your life. It is the key factor underlying your confidence, your relationships, and your success in life. Therefore, making someone else happy at your own expense is counter-intuitive. It may yield a superficial short-term burst of positive energy but the long-term effects are disastrously negative for your happiness.
Others deserve more than a loss
The same applies for allowing losing situations to occur for other people. If you like to take advantage of other people, or maybe just do not care about their outcomes, then what does this say about you? What sort of relationships will you create in your life?
The attitude of willingness to allow (and worse, purposefully create) losing situations for other people is rife with problems. Firstly, you create vicious cycle where you establish a connection with someone new and you coexist in a negative win-lose environment for a small period of time. But it is not sustainable in the long-term and your friendship/relationship/acquaintanceship will end, often badly, and you move on to the next person.
Which leads to the second problem with being win-lose oriented – you only attract negative people, emotions, and energy into your life. The action of taking advantage of other people (intentionally or not) never attracts a positive and happy person that can bring improvements to your life. These people are busy interacting with other positive and happy people, leaving you jump from one negative situation to the next trying to take your advantage.
The “wins” that you get from a win-lose situations are not good for you or your life because they are laced with the previously mentioned negativity. They are not real wins in terms of you progressing your life towards happiness. They do not provide long-term fulfilment, establish positive relationships, or lead to successful outcomes.
It is actually quite common for the win-lose oriented person to look back on their life with many regrets, simply because they filled their life with negative wins rather than positive ones. They are unlikely to establish close friendships and even less likely to have successful long-term romantic relationships.
Win-Win is the only positive choice
To avoid such negativity in your life it is imperative that you always aim to create win-win situations.
The win-win attitude is like a barrier that prevents negative people from entering your life. With this mindset you will only attract like-minded (win-win) people who will have a positive influence on your life. No self-hating lose-lose people, no self-wallowing lose-win people, and definitely no self-obsessed win-lose people.
Your life will become filled with positive people, emotions, and energy. You will be rewarded with fantastic opportunities, wonderful experiences, successful business ventures, and great long-term relationships. You will achieve far more than you could ever have imagined just by always working towards win-win situations.
Win-win is the only real choice for a happy and positive life.
If there were self-improvers anonymous meetings I would be a permanent attendee for I am addicted to personal development. Now that I have started down this path I find that I cannot help but push myself to achieve more and improve more. One of my main hobbies has become the act of continually seeking to improve my life and the lives of those around me. I have noticed that other serial self-improvers "suffer" the same consequences, perpetually improving their lives and achieving more and more success as they do so. Through this observation, and my own experience, I have made a simple conclusion: self improvement is an addictive habit.
Self Improvement is an addictive habit
Addictions are generally bad things. The word itself has a strong negative connotation and the usage generally implies a lack of control and self-awareness. But not all addictions are bad.
Positive things with positive outcomes can also be addictive. Productivity, achievement and success all trigger a "natural high", a mental state of supreme happiness, awareness, and confidence. Self improvement just happens to ticks all these boxes.
The result of self improvement is a positive increase in all the above areas and so much more. It creates a positive aura, one that attracts more positivity and success, and it stimulates our mind and body and encourages us to start operating at a higher level. This is what makes it so addictive.
A friend of mine actually inspired this article when we were talking about home improvement. Here is his direct quote, and proof that once you start improving something, your mind begins to open up to see other opportunities:
Installing a new wardrobe was a bad idea...I now want to do all the other stuff on my To Do list. I'd kind of forgotten about all the things, but now we've started I'm remembering them all and when I walk around the house now all I see is things that need improving.
The beauty of self improvement is that it is never ending. There is always something else that can be learned and adapted to our lives. There are always new experiences, new people, and new challenges presented in our lives, and this is the only dangerous aspect of being addicted to self improvement - it easy to forget that there is no specific end goal in mind and that the simple act of self improvement is what provides happiness. This is summed up perfectly in the oft-quoted line by Souza:
Happiness is the journey, not the destination.
So for those just starting down the self improvement path, be mindful that it is the actual deed of self improvement that provides us with the happiness - the feeling of adding to our skills and knowledge, of making ourselves a better person, and of achieving more success. Do not get too hung up on thinking about the future and where you are going, but rather on living (and improving) in the present moment.
Or You Could Stagnate...
The alternative to this wonderful addiction called self improvement is that of stagnating. By stagnating I mean making the decision (conscious or not) to stay exactly as you are right now.
If you are not willing to challenge yourself, to grow, and to improve then what are you doing? Are you saying there is nothing in your life that needs changing? Are you saying that you couldn't be happier?
If you can truly answer yes to those questions (and I highly doubt that you can) then I have one more question: is there nothing more that you can do in your life that could help improve the life of others?
Even if you had everything you ever wanted, if you really were living your perfect life, I believe that you could still find even more happiness simply by helping others. And isn't the ability to sacrifice and be charitable, just one of the results of self improvement? See what I did there?
There is never a valid reason to stagnate in your life but, sadly, I see this as the default stance more and more people are taking. They are "giving up" and just accepting a life of mediocrity, anger, and unhappiness instead of trying to make a change. It doesn't take much. All you need to do is actually make a start.
Start Improving Today
I know that self improvement is an addictive habit because I am experiencing it first hand, but for those first-timers, and those who are trying to break out of their habit of stagnation, it can feel almost impossible to start. But don't worry, it's not impossible. You just need to start small.
Try being grateful for one thing, or giving a fresh compliment to someone, every day. Try some positive affirmations before you leave the home or just focus on observing your own thought patterns and living in the moment. It doesn't matter what you do, just as long as you do something!
Once you start down the path of improvement it will become near impossible to stop. The first time you work on self improvement is like the first snowflake that causes the avalanche - pretty soon the desire to improve is raging and the amount of improvement you seek is like a torrent of snow tumbling down a mountain.
But unlike the snow avalanche, this metaphorical one is not destructive. It is actually quite the opposite. Imagine an avalanche that only removed rubbish, beautified the landscape, and made the mountain an even more amazing place than it already was. That is what the avalanche of self improvement does in your life - it is a constant force that pushes away the negativity and stimulates the development of positivity. All it needs is that one snowflake to start it off...
Go forth and seek out self improvement. Your happiness depends on it.