A mother sends her young son to the local grocery store to buy cooking oil. She gives him an empty bottle and a ten-pound note. He buys the oil and has the bottle filled. On his way back, out of carelessness he falls, drops the bottle, and spills half the oil. Picking up the half-empty bottle, he comes home crying: ‘Oh, mother, I lost half the oil! I lost half the oil!’ A very pessimistic boy.
The mother sends another son, with another empty bottle and another ten-pound note. He also buys the oil, and has the bottle filled. He also falls, drops the bottle, and spills half the oil. This boy picks up the bottle and goes to his mother, happy and smiling: ‘Look! I saved half the oil! I fell down so the bottle might have broken and I might have lost all the oil. Look, half the oil is saved!’
It is the same situation, but each boy has responded quite differently. One boy is pessimistic, crying that his bottle is half empty. The other boy is optimistic, happy that at least his bottle is still half full.
The mother sends a third son. He also falls, drops the bottle, and spills half the oil. Like the second boy, he comes smiling, saying: ‘I saved half the oil.’
He is not only optimistic, but also realistic: ‘The truth is that I have lost half the oil; my bottle is half-empty.’ He is not only realistic, but also a real worker He decides to work hard and earn five pounds to fill the bottle by the evening. Attitude is not merely optimism. It is also realism and also ‘workism'.
Each individual has to work and train their mind, always remaining optimistic. It is all optimism. There is misery—half of the bottle is empty: you have to accept that. Now how to fill it? You have a path now to come out of the misery.
Train and develop your mind to see there is a silver lining in every difficult experience, because even bad things offer an opportunity for growth. The stoics suggested that it's not events that cause our problems but it's out reactions or the "stories" we are telling ourselves. This in part is true because the mind and body are separable here.
Whatever their situation people who 'are happy and who live a meaningful life' have a story they are telling themselves and others that puts their pains and pleasures in a context that they feel good about.
Having spent most of my life growing up in the Rhondda Valleys I personally have had a lot experience and practice in mumping and moaning and complaining about things like the weather or the lack of employment opportunities etc. I have been fortunate to travel to parts of Asia such as India and parts of the Philippines only to find that there are people living in unimaginable circumstances, then having experienced other cultures and how some people live in other parts of the world it has definitely given me a new perspective and made me more grateful.
And it's true we all like to gripe and complain time to time and sometimes we feel entitled to. Yet it is our responsibility to develop contemplative discipline in order to straighten the way we think and act. At the end of the day we can only control our thoughts and actions, everything else is fine.
So how can we develop a better mindset? Three tips:
1) Habits: Develop a set of habits that are in line with your core values. Keep disciplined
2) Growth mindset: Wisdom is learning from mistakes, win or learn.
3) Meditation practice: https://dynamic.wakingup.com/redeemMonth/48561c
Make use of them because we all already know what it's like to have an untrained mind.
Of course we will never be perfect because it doesn't exist.
Working towards developing a better trained mind is not just an intellectual exercise, it's a practice that helps to develop skills in all areas of life.
Be the master of your own kingdom https://youtu.be/rd3yeX1-SaM