Random Events and The Kindness of Strangers: What Makes The World Go Round

No mean feat, pondering what makes the world go round. It’s what I do when I’m not at work.

Yes, I do lots of other things too, but I like to think there is a little wonder in us all and for me, it’s just busting to get out.

So like a good pop song whose chorus hits you in the first two bars of the song, I too feel the need to instantly divulged the answer to this very deep question.

Random, chance happenings and the kindness of strangers seem to be the axis on which our earth keeps on turning and relatively smoothly, all things considered.

Facing Facts

When we stop to think about the fact that there are over 7 billion people on this planet, 196 countries, 4200 different religions and thousands of different ethnic groups, it’s amazing we function as a collective at all.


Yes we’re far from perfect, no not all of us get along and yes life is not all roses, but on the whole I’m damn well amazed at how random and yet wonderful life is.

I read this brilliant book recently that in part, explains the series of random events that allowed life to even exist on earth. Surprisingly the two conditions needed to allow initial forms of life to flourish, were in fact the absence of oxygen in the atmosphere and the presence of cosmic radiation.

Ironic hey?

The transmutation of mono and multicellular organisms encouraged photosynthesis to occur, which in turn led to an oxygen rich atmosphere; thus permitting the evolution of animals that could breathe, as well as protecting life from harmful cosmic radiation.leaf

Yup, pretty cool!

In a process that has taken 3-4 Billion years of evolution, chance and a series of random events has allowed for the continual evolution of species, including our own and I can’t help but feel awed by the series of random events and ripe conditions that brought us to where we are now.

Our part in it all

If we take a slightly more personal approach to this topic of random events, its pretty cool that we even exist, at all.

From two people meeting, in the right circumstances, at the right time, to an act of conception that alone apparently only has around about an 11% chance of success in any given month, to being born, having safely navigated our way through childhood, faced the trials and tribulations of puberty and arrived here at adulthood.

I reckon you could say a hell of a lot of random events led to you being here right now, in the solid state that you are….. and that my friend is epic!

So if we are all here and living The Life, in all its randomness, its quietly comforting to know that as a collective species we all pretty much get along.kind-people

Yes of course there’s war and history has shown that we are capable of truly dreadful things, but I still like to think that as individuals there is this deep seated, quiet acknowledgment that we need to get along and that we want to (for the most part).

It is one thing to naturally treat our family, friends, colleagues and loved ones with kindness, but it is perhaps more admirable that we are capable of treating strangers with kindheartedness.

And before you label me a naive optimist, this is something each of us experience everyday, in varying ways; some obvious and perhaps overt, others in more subtle and unobtrusive ways.

The driver who lets you into the flow of traffic, the coffee shop guy who brings a warm smile with your cup, the lady at the park who helps pick up your child when they fell, the person who offers to take your trolley back for you, the dog-walker who greets you with a ‘G’day’ as you jog by.

We make up the everyday people who are capable of giving and receiving such kindness and in turn, I wonder, of possibly setting off that spark forspark a series of random events to follow.

Just a thought.

Overcoming Our Issues With Commitment

I’ve thought about going in gently with this topic. It’s one we tend to pretend doesn’t exist, but this issue needs to be exposed.

Like the festering sore that it is, it requires the swift removal of a sticky long worn out band-aid. So I’m just going to say the word …..Commitment (Rip!)

Why is it so hard?

Yup, commitment; dedication, a pledge or personal promise, sticking-to- the-plan, call it what you will, is hard even when we know it’s good for us! WHY?

I’m not talking relationship type commitment, I’m speaking in general terms here folks.

Whether it’s a need for a lifestyle change, a shift in diet, completing a course of study, a new exercise regime, a will to work at anything and stick with it, especially when we know we would naturally benefit from it in the long run, has proven time and time again to be tricky.

The Righteous Struggle

How is it we know what’s right for us but we struggle commiting to it all the same?right-direction

Let’s just say this seems to be an ongoing issue I have with commitment and I’m guessing I’m not alone.

The idea that anything we willingly commit too, naturally benefits us in some way, goes without saying. It doesn’t mean we’re overtly selfish, just interested in bettering our lives and those around us.

So in nearly all cases then, you could argue that commitment should be easy, a sinch, seeing as we get something back in return.

A healthy body, a new skill, kicking an old habit and just as importantly, that awesome sense of satisfaction at actually achieving it.

A dear friend of mine knew he needed to give up smoking, not least because it was slowly killing him. Despite major health scares related to this habit, and several attempts at committing to do away with the cigarettes, he just couldn’t.

He knew it was a simple choice, but the act of committing to it, was the challenge.

Likewise, I have this addiction to bakery treats and coffee. Hardly life threatening I know, but without a doubt, my body and emotional stability would greatly benefit from less of a sugar and caffeine roller coaster ride.bakery-treats

For years now I’ve tried to commit to avoiding these ‘treats’ (which incidentally aren’t really ‘treats’ precisely because of their everyday consumption) and struggled time and time again.

Yes, I could and have easily some up with any number of reasons/ excuses for why they’re ok, but at the end of the day, I KNOW I would be better without them.

I found myself willing on some dietary ‘intolerance’ in the vague hope that this might finally put a definite stop to such an addiction. What was wrong with me?!

I tried going cold turkey….. Ugh! That wasn’t pretty. I’ve tried simply pairing back; a coffee 2 days a week, a bakery treat 1 day a week. But those days began to bur into one another and the habit to continue on as before was more powerful than my will to commit to change.

The Norm of Commitment

There are moments when we have all committed whole-heartedly to a project; made a mental pack with ourselves, set up the parameters for success to flourish, and yes ….told friends or the world, signing up for what psychologists call ‘The Norm of Commitment’.girls-talking

This is that great idea we all have to broadcast our latest attempts at commitment in the hope that social and internal pressures hold us accountable. Well in theory.

But despite all this, the fumbling fizz of failure often prevails. WHY is that?

I feel this constant tug-o-war type struggle with commitment; reason facing it off against irrationality; sensibility versus impulsiveness. ‘I don’tchocolate-cakes need that cheeky chocolate cupcake BUT why the heck not’.

But does it have to be ALL or NOTHING? Right or wrong? Black or white? Can there be a little grey, a happy medium, some balance?

I think it’s fair to say that consistency, motivation, dedication, are a given when making a commitment of any kind, but are easier said than done.

According to Maneesh Sethi ‘Hack The System’, the number one reason people fail and don’t stick to their commitments is because ..

‘We can’t change our behaviors by thinking about them. Willpower doesn’t work. The answer is habit change. To get better results, you must become a better you. And you have to AUTOMATE this process.’

A study published in 2009 in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found it takes more than two months for a habit to become just that.

So in reality, trying to build a new behaviour or routine in our lives requires a two to eight month level of commitment.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.”

So I reckon this means it’s ok to fall off the wagon every now and again. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process.

A comforting thought for a throw-in-the-towel gal like me.

So where does that leave us with commitment?

Firstly it’s clear we’re all in this together at least.

Commitment is hard; not least because it takes a significant amount of time to make any worthwhile change in our lives. But more so because we’re so keen to set ourselves up for failure it would seem.

So I’m going to use the KISS principle here and Keep It Simple Stupid:

  • Just take ACTIONsuccess-on-beach
  • Remain where possible on the straight-and-narrow confident in the knowledge that it’s ok to mess up occasionally
  • Remind myself regularly of the reasons for why I’m choosing to commit to this change or direction
  • and HOPE like hell that I break in a new Habit…..eventually.

Holiday Angst and 3 Ways to Avoid it

Why is it that holiday time always flies by so fast?

Like a desert oasis you trek through a barren wasteland of work, schedules and commitments, only to reach this much needed refuge, briefly bask in it, before it dries up and you have to move on.

Back to the daily grind and routine.

Maybe the old line ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ is fitting and holidays are certainly what most of us live for. They are a time to relax, recharge, enjoy the fruits of our labors and de-stress.

But, strange though it may seem, sometimes holidays invariably bring their own levels of stress.

I remember once excitedly planning this holiday abroad but the ordeal to get organised, packed and to the airport on time, left me feeling frazzled A photo by kychan. unsplash.com/photos/CCFO0O_LTSYbefore the plane had even taken off. I watched families around us at the airport all with similar looks of stress and I wondered why we do it to ourselves?

Yes, it is good once you ‘get there’ (and I’m including the stay-at-home holiday here too) but then there can be the built up expectation to ensure everyone has a good time, it’s your holiday after all. Something you’ve been waiting for, yearning for with such anticipation.

So naturally with all this going on, sometimes you end up feeling that little pang of stress, frustration or even angst?

Frustration at not having done all the things you’d planned? Frustrated at the kids whining, or frustrated at even being frustrated on your holiday!

‘Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory’.  Dr Suess

Yes, I’m a fan of The Holiday as much as the next person.

Yes, it’s wonderful to even have them.

Yes, I love a good mix of slouching about with a few arranged activities.

So I figure in order to cure any aliment, it’s important to work out what the potential triggers are first.

3 Potential Causes of Holiday Angst

1. Overestimating the time you have to do things.

At the beginning of the hols I inevitably put together (either a mental or paper copy) a ‘to do’ list. You know, things like; sort out the vegie garden, read this, that and some other book, go to the movies, plan some unit for work, take the family camping etc.

The list of course gets added to during the hols and items get removed butholiday-reading swiftly replaced. I figure if during my working weeks I can’t accomplish any of these things, surely in my holidays with all this free time, I can do it all!

Yep, we all know how this ends.

2. Underestimating your ability to be motivated.

Yes, holidays are considered special days of rest and relaxation and so my body and mind are quick to commit to that premise. This means that bloody ‘to do’ list hasn’t a hope in hell from the get go really.

I’d rather watch crappy TV than tick off another ‘I should’ do item on that damn list. So now guilt stealthily creeps in too, just to add salt to the wound.

3. Factoring in family.

I love them with every ounce of my being, but damn they require attention. Throw out the window any visions you have of enjoying some R&R with little ones about and a husband who can’t sit still.

We’re a unit, so there are going to have to be compromises made, yet that old nostalgia for the days of just lying on a beach or quietly reading a book uninterrupted, still lovingly haunt me.

3 Ways to Avoid Holiday Angst

So now these curious causes are acknowledged, what the heck can we do to avoid holiday angst returning time and time again.

1. Obviously throw that bloody ‘List’ out the window!

Easier said than done if you’re a planner like me by nature or sneakily allow that mental list to tally just the same. So to keep it real, lessen the list at the very least. Factor in lots of freetime and be realistic about what needs to be done as opposed to what you would like to do.Ice cream

2. Allow yourself to be non-committal, sluggish, settled and just a little selfish.

Holidays are exactly for that purpose really. A break from the 9-5, the daily grind, the routine or as I like to say ‘the expected’. Make as little plans as possible, live day-to-day and mix things up a bit.

3. Finally, family time matters.

It’s life, it’s real and it’s going to make any holiday interesting, that’s for sure. Go with it. Kids especially have this uncanny ability to commandeer all your free time, food supply and patience. But it is their holiday too.

So maybe none of this is news to you. Maybe you’re a ‘panster’ and love going totally feral in your holidays; dread locks, bare feet and a recluse.

I get that….I am coming round to this idea.

But if for the meantime, you’re like me and just want to enjoy a holiday for all intents and purposes, then maybe it is possible to avoid the angst and give ourselves a bit of a ‘break’ too.