I’ve been in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland for the past few months, partly to work with some of our team there and partly to catch up with friends and family.
Europe is an interesting place these days. Lots of public discussions about refugees and terror attacks and so on. From talking with people, I got the general sentiment that they think they are in a threatened position; that they are in a bad spot and need to fend for themselves, otherwise strangers will take away what the locals deserve.
Strange times indeed. Germany has its lowest unemployment numbers in decades, and the government has made so much money they’re currently discussing what to do with the surplus. The refugees they fear so badly add much-needed skilled labour to the starving labour market, and still people complain that they’re taking work away from the locals. How did we end up in this paradoxical situation? It’s most bizarre to me, looking at it with fresh eyes from a distance.
I tried to have fact-based discussions, but I realised that the reality many people are living in has nothing to do with actual data. However, it is their reality and, as such, it’s very much real to them. I have no solution to this problem but wondered why I have such a different view.
Ten years ago I left my life in Germany behind and moved to New Zealand, learned English properly (well, good enough I guess), and learned what it means to start with no networks, no friends, and no family. It was a very intense time, but it taught me that I had to rely on other people to make it, and after some time they’d start to rely on me. It didn’t matter that I was a strange long-haired German guy. The only thing that mattered was what I could do for people and what they could do for me.
This profoundly changed me, and it’s taught me a few traits that I try to cultivate. One of the most important ones is that I try not to complain. If a problem is big enough for me to care about, I work to find a solution. If it doesn’t bug me enough to make me work on changing it, what’s the point of complaining?
Second, I try to think positive. Knowing that reality is only what my brain believes was a big realisation. It means that I have to feed it more positive than negative things to make my life a happier one. Happiness doesn’t come from the world I live in or the politics around me – I’m happy because I choose to be happy and because I choose to feed my brain with enough happy things.
Happiness is a choice. Too often people outsource happiness to third parties, but for me, 2017 is simply another year to work on the happiness around me by changing things instead of complaining.