Be Considerate

I happened to utter that phrase this morning. I was thinking about where to place things and said that I needed to “be considerate” of the things that were already there and where they would go, specifically these were tools that had a purpose for their positioning. As I said it, those two words struck me as a parental phrase offered when trying to teach our kids to be decent human beings. Of course, I was talking about considering the environment, a totally different use of the words, but it still struck me. To “be considerate” is a very mindful thing to do.

To consider something is to think about it, to weigh the outcome. “Consider the consequences” when you are about to make some rash decision. This is very focused on you and the outcome of your actions. “Consider” in this case is to think about and weigh the results of an action. In the case of this adage, mindfulness is necessary to stop and think before you act. If you can “consider the consequences” every time you make a decision then you’ll be living mindfully with regards to yourself and how the choices you make will affect your immediate or even long-term future.

Being considerate of others, that’s still considering an outcome, but in this case, it’s more about walking a mile in their shoes. If you can be considerate of someone else, you can awaken your own empathy and start hopefully save someone else from their negative emotions. By being considerate of someone’s feelings, you’re stopping before being mean. By being considerate of someone else’s actions, you’re allowing that there might be some decision or purpose behind what they’ve done. Again, these are mindful acts. Empathy is one of the most mindful traits you can really embrace and luckily one begets the other. The more you consider how someone else will react to your actions, you give yourself a reason to continue to do that for other people. Especially when you see that your consideration has a positive effect. When you’re considering why someone did something, you can head down the rabbit hole of how it affects YOU or you can see that maybe there’s another side to the story that is completely based on them. By letting THEM have their own reasons, and accepting them at face value, you can save yourself from stress and anger.

There are so many things to consider about consideration. To my original thought, considering where you place thing is an art form? a science? a practice when it comes to interior design. The Chinese concept of Feng Shui is all about considering where things are placed for optimal flow of chi in your house. In my example, where I place a drill press may get in the way of placing boards when I want to use my miter saw. There is a flow, be it something as ephemeral as Chi or as literal as a board, and consideration is again a mindfulness when planning and when doing.

The big consideration, one that I’ve spent much more time considering in my 40s than in any previous decade, Death. Considering that you, your loved ones, your enemies all face that inevitability can sometimes bring consideration for how you treat them now, and how you continue to treat them. Either by considering that someday you may lose them or one day you’ll be gone, either is a heavy weight to let sit. I know it’s a hard one to think about but I’ve found tremendous strength in remembering that ultimate end. Some folks will do anything to avoid thinking about it, leading to different mindless pursuits as a result. By knowing that it’s always out there can hopefully give you some peace instead.

I’m adding some footnotes, a new thing for me, as I thought of examples through my writing and wanted to give some bonus reading.

Mindful or Emotional Purchasing

I’ll admit, I’m a fan of cars & trucks. If left unchecked, I’d buy new cars constantly and be spending all of my money on car payments. That’s an easy thing to be aware of and to check, finances don’t allow me to be so frivolous. That being said, I’ve had a bug recently and keep exploring the idea of a new vehicle, taking test drives and passionately exploring the statistics of whatever is catching my eye. Now, without paying attention, I start to get direction from my emotional center… I start to WANT this expensive addition to my life. I’m fortunate to have a car (a Jeep Wrangler) for me and a car (Subaru Outback) for my wife, both in great condition, both relatively new and both paid off. Why would I even consider putting myself into debt to feel the rush of a new car? Great question, one that I keep exploring as I go hunting in my desire to be ever mindful.
This mindful pursuit of big purchases is kind of new, the Jeep I have now was a bit of an impulse buy. I didn’t warn my wife that it was happening, I didn’t discuss the feasibility with her. To be fair, I know why I “just did it”, I was sure her response would have a solid no. That being said, when I arrived at home with a brand new Jeep, she tried to say No and I laid out a list of reasons it was good. Unfortunately, I’m one of the world’s best arguers (debaters, a debatable term in this case) and can make a pretty decent sales pitch. If I’m emotionally attached then I can really dig down and justify almost anything. I gave her an emotional pitch and it worked. On the day I signed the paperwork on this new chunk of debt I had more first panic attack ever… that was neat. I spent the next 2 years driving the Jeep (it’s fun, I still love it) and also learning about anxiety & panic. It’s possible my Jeep was a mid-life crisis purchase. So, this vehicle purchase has arguably shaped my past 4 years dramatically… I’m reaping unexpected rewards from that purchase.
How is this debt possibly a good thing? Well, the anxiety attack and following regular anxiety forced me to turn the spotlight inward and really look at myself, to become mindful. I’m coming up on the 5th anniversary of that purchase and you see me writing a blog post about mindfulness. I’m not sure if I’d be here right now without that focus… though maybe it would have been a motorcycle or a boat. In any case, for me, that purchase was good because of the forced life changes it brought. I do NOT recommend this method of life changes, it’s been a rough road in many ways.
Anyway, buying a new vehicle (another, brand new Jeep) has somehow made it into my mind again. I was actually going to write this post a few days ago but the idea of looking at that decision mindfully eluded me. I made excuses to myself about why not to write it, mostly because I knew as soon as I started to be objective then I’d lose the desire. I knew, in my core, it wasn’t a good time for me or my family. I did evaluate all of the purchase options, the costs, the reasons it would be a good purchase for the family and the bad. I had my pro/con list, I had a very honest perspective on this path. But I was still letting my emotional center sit at the helm, and it knew that a mindful pause would be catastrophic.
I’m not going to say I just took a breath and everything was Ok. I took it a short test drive on Monday and liked what I saw/felt. I went home, thought a bit harder, got a bit more excited… being in a new vehicle felt real and fun and possible. By Wednesday I had started to talk myself back down, but on Monday they had suggested I borrow it for a few hours so I could let my wife see it, so on Thursday I took it out for a longer drive, we went to the city, got caught in a March snowstorm on the way home and it handled everything brilliantly… you’d think that would have sealed the deal. It didn’t instead I realized that what I already have would also handle it quite well, for significantly less $$$. I went home afterwards, and the bug was gone. Well sort of gone. I’d still go back and buy it if unlimited funds.
So, what’s the point of this story? Well, I did keep myself mindful through the journey, I did make sure to evaluate everything. I did make sure to communicate with my wife through the entire process. Most importantly, I never put myself in the position to be forced to decide right now. While emotions were driving me along the path, my “mindful self” was there making small adjustments to keep the emotional self at bay. I spent time considering the best and worst outcomes, I evaluated if I could meet the same emotional need with what I have, I also talked through the needs & desires with my wife. In the end, I’m keeping what I have. I have set aside a small space for my emotional self that said we could look again later, but no promises. I’m confident in my process, I’m more and more confident in my mindful self to keep me from becoming too invested in expensive choices. I swear I have the angel on one shoulder (my mindful self) and a devil on the other (my emotional self.) My job is to let them both talk, let myself enjoy the emotional highs and temper the emotional lows all while being mindful of my head in the center.