This month my two wonderful niblings and my dad are having their birthdays. Geoffrey (aka the Puppy) is turning one, Gillian (I believe she is now calling herself Gyllyanna at the moment) is turning six, and my father is one year older than his last birthday. So I was thinking of relatives. But, as you know, the mind associates in many ways, so I was thinking of a law of the mind/nature called the Law of Relativity.
What is the Law of Relativity?
The law of relativity really is all about context. It’s the way we understand things based on the viewpoint from which others and we ‘see’ things. If we see a transport truck up close, from the ground, it looks big, but when we see it from an airplane or the top of a building, it looks quite small. A car driving beside us appears to be moving much more slowly than those that appear to be whooshing past us at high speed coming in the opposite direction. If you’ve ever been to a formula one race and been by the track, the experience is far different than the view of these speedsters going ‘pretty fast’ on TV.
How does it work in real life?
When the sun goes down it gets dark, right? Well the darkest of city nights is light compared to the blackness of the northern wilderness of Canada on a moonless night. When a small child is given a gift of $100 it seems to be all the money in the world (how much penny candy can you buy with that!) but to an adult, it might not seem so much. When we compare or contrast ourselves to others and their perceived situations, we are using the law of relativity.
You’ve got your own finish line
The problem with the way many people use this law is that they set up a moving target for themselves. It’s a bit of a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ situation, but one that shifts to whomever possesses the greater superlatives you are aiming for – the Chans are richer, the McGuinesses are more organized, the Khans are more beautiful. When we place ourselves in a lesser position by labeling others with positive –ers and –ests, then we feel like we’re continually falling short of the mark.
Dropping the relatives (on your father’s mother’s side?)
Often times we start with these concepts of what we ‘should’ be – our markers – very early on in life. Sometimes based on the desires, successes and failures of our parents and family, sometimes on the context of society at the time, sometimes even from storybook or fairytale wishes (where are you, prince charming?) And often these explicit or implicit comparisons to others seem to linger in our thoughts and actions in the present. And while we know intellectually we’re ‘a long way from being 6 years old’, we sometimes react just as we would when there was one too few skipping ropes or there’s a vying for top speller position in class. But now that you’re all grown up, there are a few alternative approaches you can take to the law of relativity.
How can you have it work for you?
Change where you’re looking – we often look at those in a better position than where we are at the time, and it is usually with longing that we tell ourselves that we’ve missed the mark in some aspect or other. Just by the mere fact that you are reading this means that you are in an enviable position in the world scheme of things. As I often suggest, now is a great time to be thankful for all the strengths, abilities and opportunities in your life (and look around at the people you love – you lucky thing, you)
Make it a race for one – I’ve heard when people speak about the golfer Tiger Woods, that he only seems to be competing with himself. Many people may posit that it’s because he’s in his own league. From what I’ve heard, however, he’s always worked on his game with a self-possession encouraging SELF-excellence. When we focus less on ‘them’ and more on ‘us’, it helps direct your energy to the motivation, inspiration and advancement of your own situation. The world may set guidelines but the stellar performers are those that discover the stars within.
Remember, you are superlative – Each of us is something-er than others, or maybe a-little-thing-est in our own lives, at home, at work, in a hobby or sport… Ask a family member or a good friend and ask them to give you a short list of your superlative qualities – you’ll be a bit surprised (I won’t be, though – it’s the truth) but it might be a needed reminder of how special you are.
Happy Birthday to all June-born – may this be the happiest, healthiest, most plentiful, and most enjoyable year yet.
Take care and have a great June,