Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Principle of Appreciation

My cousins played a lot of club Soccer in our younger days and as you can imagine followed professional Soccer on television.  Having only kicked a ball around a few times, whenever a match is broadcasted I see little more than a bunch of men who are proficient at kicking and pretending to get hurt at the slightest touch.  But as a result of playing many matches my cousins understand and appreciate better than me how difficult it is to muster the level of skill displayed at professional level.  They're also less dismissive and critical of the game than I am.

The level of appreciation we express for anything is strongly correlated to our involvement with the object of appreciation.  This principle of appreciation applies to anything in life.  These days for instance consumers and tech critics often decry the "lack of innovation" from some smartphone manufacturer or the other.  And how often do we dismiss what others do as "easy," or our country's government employees as "lazy and incompetent?"

But when you're the one working at the smartphone maker's research and development team trying to find revolutionary improvements on a phone that already does most of what a personal computer can do, you will see how hard it is to even incrementally improve the product.  If tomorrow you become a government employee dealing with never-ending lines of citizens at a licensing office, doing pretty much the same thing day in day out, you will start to see how hard some government employees do try.

It's easy to complain and under-appreciate anything from a distance, until you try doing it.

Deepak Chopra alluded to this principle when he furnished the sunset as an example of how the same thing can be experienced and appreciated on different levels by different people.  A busy executive may own a lavish home on the coast of Santa Monica yet may not even notice the sunset, because his mind is so preoccupied.  At the same time a couple may sit a few meters from his home on a public bench and remark at that sunset's beauty.  But the woman who pulls out her canvas to capture the sunset on a painting is the one who is extracting the most of that sunset.  She is creating something out of the experience; her appreciation is active rather than passive.

The artist has to look a bit deeper than the observing couple and capture more detail: the different hues as the distance from the sun increases, the warped reflection of the sun's silhouette on the ocean and lots of other peripheral detail you don't typically notice if you're observing in a passive manner.  The person who actively engages an object finds the most joy and appreciation in that object.

Of course you shouldn't paint a picture of everything or always try doing what other people get paid to do.  Have an opinion and complain when you feel you've been treated unfairly - it's your right.  But if you find yourself constantly writing off or criticizing what someone else does and it actually annoys you, then you should try doing it yourself.  When you resolve to respond in this way rather than only criticize, you could very well find yourself complaining less and appreciating more.

The Happy Uprising: A Passionate yet Pragmatic Approach to Fulfilment is available on Kindle
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