Saturday, August 08, 2015

Practice the art of benign neglect

One of life’s most liberating realizations is, you cannot care about everything. That the heart has limits, and each of us only has so much emotional bandwidth to offer. 

And so, every chance you get, try practicing the art of benign neglect. Watch what happens when you try not caring about something small. Next time you feel that controlling instinct welling up inside of you, take a deep breath and ask yourself:

If I don’t do this, will life cease to exist? 

I promise you, it won’t. It never does. Years ago, the power went out in my entire neighborhood. But instead of calling the electric company in panic, I simply went back to work writing. A few hours later, I packed up and walked to my local coffee shop. And when I checked my email for the first time that day, something occurred to me. 

The world didn’t end. My business didn’t go under. And my readers didn’t line up around the corner with pitchforks. 

Why? Because as much as my ego would like to believe it, most of the world is not sitting on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating my every move. Nobody cared that I didn’t care, and that was a liberating moment. 

That’s the beauty of benign neglect. It’s not about being too cool to care, it’s about being discerning enough not to dwell. It’s about surrendering. Letting go of the things outside of your heart’s capacity. 

Here’s a helpful way to put things in perspective. 

Atlantic put out a fascinating study about history’s apocalypse theories that didn’t stand the test of time. Turns out, humans have failed thousands of times to predict how the world was going to end. From comets to tidal waves to zombie rapture to the sun engulfing the earth. And yet, not matter how cult leaders and prophesiers and luminaries and doomsayers tried to foresee humanity’s undoing, alas, we’re all still here. Mankind soldiers on. 

The point is, the world never ends. Even when you practice benign neglect. And so, you might as well dare to lose control and let the joy carry you. Release your grip on the world and try not caring. It’s good for the soul. 

Are you trying to control life or trusting your capacity to respond to it intelligently?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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