Can you analyze what’s going on in your life without judging it as good or bad, right or wrong? If, like most of us, you can’t, then here’s what you’re giving up.
The impetus for this post was Terry Gross’s interview of Molly McCully Brown, author of The Virginia Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded. Terry is the host of Fresh Air on NPR.
During the interview Ms. Brown, who has cerebral palsy, made an interesting observation. She noted that the same brain that creates her physical challenges is responsible for the creativity and artistry of her poetry.
Her statement reminded me of something that I occasionally overlook…that nothing is all good or all bad, unless we assign it these values.
The value of non-judgment
As Molly McCully Brown points out, there is no challenge that doesn’t also bring opportunity.
But that’s true only if you choose not to judge the situation. Any judgment you make biases your outlook on life.
When you judge an experience to be good, you want it to last forever…for life to be one, long, continuous pleasurable experience. If ever there was a way to create disappointment in your life that’s it.
Conversely, when you judge an experience to be bad, you waste time and energy bemoaning your plight while missing out on countless opportunities that would have produced joy.
When you avoid judging experiences as good or bad, right or wrong, you avoid riding the emotional roller coaster. Instead you recognize that each experience has some pleasant and some less pleasant aspects to it.
That doesn’t mean that you forgo the joy of pleasant experiences. By all means enjoy it, just don’t forget to learn something in the process. All too often we bask in the joy without realizing that there’s a lesson to be learned, one that will help us experience even greater joy in the future.
When the experience isn’t pleasant, you can mitigate the unpleasantness by focusing on what you can learn from the experience including what it was that you did that contributed to the unpleasantness you’re experiencing. This simple technique can help you avoid creating the same problem for yourself in the future.
All experiences are neither good nor bad, but a combination of both. The key is to focus on what you can learn from the experience, how it can help you in the future, how you can use what you learned to help others lead a richer, fuller life. Then the experience is always a joyful experience…even when you experienced some pain along the way.
People who are confident know, as Ms. Brown reminded us, that each and every experience can help us grow. In other words, each experience brings with it a gift. The question is “Are you paying enough attention to recognize and enjoy the gift life has given you or are you blinded by the judgments you’ve made?”
Retrain your mind to analyze situations without judging them. When you find yourself judging an experience or a situation, pause a moment and remind yourself that nothing is all good or bad. Then explore what you can learn from the situation. You’ll be amazed at the knowledge you gain.
This simple technique will not only help you avoid the emotional roller coaster, you’ll find that you learn a great deal more, as Ms. Brown did, about yourself and your abilities.
For our kids
You can teach your kids the same technique. As you hear them judging, ask them what they learned from the situation. Then point out to them that every experience brings the gift of new knowledge…consequently, there is no good or bad experience, just learning opportunities.
Another way to teach your kids this lesson is to live it. As you catch yourself using judgment language in front of them, pause, correct your language in a way that acknowledges that all experiences bring the gift of knowledge. Your kids will mimic your behaviors more quickly than they embrace what you tell them.