” For a life worthy to be lived is one that is full of active aspiration, for something higher and better; and such a contemplation of the world we call meliorism.” — Paul Carus, Monism and Meliorism , 1885

Meliorism – (noun): the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort.


I remember a day when I met a Dear friend of mine for lunch in the Waltham area of Massachusetts.  They have several wonderful eateries there. We were a bit short of time and it was smack in the middle of the day so I anticipated that parking would be difficult.  I mentioned that to Leslie and she said ” Oh, don’t worry Jim.  I have just the thing for us to get a parking spot!  When we get close to the restaurant say out loud with me ‘ Parking Karma’  three times and it will help us get a space.”  So there we are, driving up into the neighborhood where the restaurant is located and Leslie said “OK repeat with me” and we chanted  “Parking Karma! Parking Karma! Parking Karma! ” and suddenly we see a person come out of one of the nearby establishments, getting into her car and driving away!  There it was !  Our parking spot !!  I said ” Leslie that was so cool !” and she responded  ” See Jim ?…. Intention matters ! “.    Certainly Intention does matter and that will be the primary topic here but recent news  items I’ve selected  make me want to flip the words around and also discuss Matters of Intention.   I think you’ll understand better as I write on.

What I’d like to share today is something I usually don’t enjoy talking about at all;  the topics of racism and discrimination. I don’t like talking about it because it makes me feel uncomfortable.   I was brought up in a household that didn’t allow for it, did not condone it , and it was very clear that we would be punished for acting in a manner that expressed or supported racism (and every other form of discrimination for that matter).   When I read and hear about it in the media, or I hear someone condoning it,  it distresses me.    Unfortunately, over the past month we have seen quite a bit of racism discussed in the media. Almost everyone is aware of the matter with present day NBA team-owner Mr Sterling and his not so private discussion. We’ve seen the police chief of Wolfeboro, NH resign after making a derogatory remark in reference to the President of the United States. We’ve read of Hank Aaron’s distress during and after  his baseball career  regarding discrimination;  “…that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, (then) you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”   Even recently , he received hate mail surrounding the anniversary of his record setting home run career.   We also saw the taunting of soccer player Dani Alves during a Villareal v Barcelona game when a fan tossed a banana on the field as he was preparing to execute a corner kick.

This last instance is especially noteworthy for what Mr Alves did next; he picked up the banana, took a bite out of it, and then went about the business of playing the game.  He did not let the matter interfere with the game or give it any acknowledgement for what many interpreted as a taunt toward him about his race. Happily, a short while later one of his teammates, Neymar Júnior,  tweeted a picture of  his son and himself  holding bananas under the hashtag #SomosTodosMacacos or “We are all Monkeys”.

Alves’ and Júnior’s action were both a reminder and call to action for many of us.  First, Dani  reminds us that we can rise above negativity (not limited to just racism) that surrounds us and not let peer pressure or outside influences dictate our actions.  Secondly, Neymar shows us that Actions speak louder than Words and his actions went a long way  heralding to the forefront his support for his friend Dani.  Another example of such courage is Pope Francis’  visit to the Middle East with his Jewish friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.   Among other things together they will pray at the Western Wall and  visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.  All together, these are premier examples of taking action and improving the world around us.  Rising above a collective dogma, responding professionally and peacefully to negative outbursts, and coming together enjoined in a demonstrated measure of intention.  Fortunately, any improvement we seek to make on our own doesn’t have to be so profound or magnanimous to result in a positive and effective change.  We can ALL be Meliorists !

So along that line I throw this out for thought:  Since we’re all human , without question, we all do something repeatedly that we are not happy about and honestly admit to (at least) ourselves that we’d feel better if we modified or totally eliminated it.   Can you call to mind something now?  Something about the way you think or act which you would like to change?.   Most of the things which come to our minds likely fall under a category I’ll call Matters of Intention i.e.  something not part of our genetic make-up but rather something we’ve acquired, learned or otherwise adopted over the years.  It is the way we choose to behave, proselytize, judge,  etc.

Assuming one want’s to change, the question is what action do we take to make that change?  Woody Allen said ” 80 % of life is showing up” so  I’ll offer that if you’ve said once that you’d like to change something about yourself then you’ve already  “showed up” so to speak.

Okay, what next? Well, if you want to go about changing what you are DOING then you first have to want to change the way you are THINKING.  While there is disagreement about exactly how long it takes to create this new habit (some say as little as 21 days), it will definitely require an ACTION on your part.   Many people rely on prayer.  Some find motivational speakers helpful.  I remember listening to Brian Tracey coach listeners on how to change the way you think so as to get through tough times and feel better about your future. And when you feel better about yourself it will positively impact those around you.  It was great to get his perspective and some mental exercises to push me forward.

If those methods don’t appeal to you I’m sure you can find something that will.  Fortunately,  there are tons of resources out there.    And with the right amount of time and effort you WILL be successful!   As Leslie puts it so eloquently “Intention Matters!”.

I hope this has been thought provoking and motivational. I believe our world can become better through our individual efforts.  I hope you believe that too.

” I think the world is going to be saved by a million small things. ” – Pete Seeger







” Action is the enemy of thought” – Faunia Farley

I first heard this phrase watching the movie ” The Human Stain” based on the book by Philip Roth.  Faunia Farley is one of the main characters and she had many odd jobs. When someone asked her why she had so many jobs she replied  “Action is the enemy of thought”.   What a truism!  If we just stay busy doing this then we don’t have to think about that.    “That” may be something as simple as a chore we don’t want to do around the house or it may be something much worse; something that distresses us so much that we seek to occupy every minute of the day to distract us from thinking about it.

Faunia kept herself busy to distracted herself from her innermost thoughts.  But the reverse can also happen.   For example, we can find ourselves so busy at work that we don’t even take a lunch break never mind concentrate on how, or perhaps even why we’re conducting our daily routine.    I too found myself in those situations where things were just too busy; with all the driving around, seeing clinicians, documenting the activities completed, etc. And though I was getting work done, I also had a strong sense that I could be doing better work.  The opportunity was there to thoughtfully improve on my productivity,  but as long as I was running around at such a hectic pace there was no way I was going to improve on my results.  My actions, or rather my activities were the enemy of my thoughts.   In those instances, I reached a decision point; I needed to change my approach if I wanted to see different results.  But what choices did I have?

It turns out there is research and experience that suggests if you take a period of time to take no action at all, your outcomes may be better.  One example is a study Eckhart Tolle cited examining the goal scoring performance of soccer players during a penalty shoot-out.  The study reported that those players taking immediate action after the referee blew the whistle actually performed much less well than those who took a period of time between the whistle blow and when they attempted to score a goal. (1)

Another example is described in an interview with Ray Scott, the founder of B.A.S.S. ( the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society). Ray spoke of a day in March 1967 when his fishing plans were cancelled due to rain and he had quite a bit of free time on his hands. Being forced to go back to his hotel room,  “his brain was freed, and it kind of opened up.”  And it was then when he had his “Brainstorm in the Rainstorm” and the concept of tournament bass fishing was born!  Today B.A.S.S. enjoys a membership of more than a half-million fishing enthusiasts!    In both examples we see that the benefit was not truly in “not doing anything”.  Instead, these two examples demonstrate that when we’re not distracted in an activity, we give our minds the opportunity to be creative and the freedom to contribute to what we are trying to accomplish.

 Activity can be the enemy of thought.  When you feel you’re not in control of things and/or you have an opportunity to improve on your performance, one option is to clear a half day, maybe even a full day in your calendar and dedicate it to no specific activity other than to sit and clear your mind.  Give yourself the time to relax, taking your mind off of everything and letting your thoughts come freely. Ideas and solutions will come almost of their own accord.  You’ll then find yourself prioritizing your commitments, redefining your strategies and  reallocating your resources. In the end you will see better results and gain more personal satisfaction no matter what it is you’re working on.

As my good friend from Nigeria often said: “There are many roads to market”.   Do you have an example(s) from home or work when too much activity interfered with your goals and you developed tried and true techniques that have produced better results?  It would be nice to hear what has worked (or what has not) .  Please share your comments. There are many roads to market.  It would be great if we could all learn from the fruits of our labors.   Thank you in advance for sharing.


(1) The Wisdom of Compassion.  Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights . His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan. Riverhead Books. 2012

(2) S.Rushin. Up to Your Ass in BASS. Sports Illustrated, March 17,2014

“..Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts. To be able to see ourselves as others see us… “ – Robert Burns

    Can you remember a time when you absolutely, categorically disagreed with something someone said, did, or was planning to do?  You may have been critical, judgmental, or even gotten into a heated argument with this person because of it.  Well I sure can.  I recall a time years ago when my daughter told me that she was going to do something with her friends at a time and a place that I didn’t approve of.  She was young at the time, in her teens.  I can’t recall the specifics of the argument but I CAN remember this: At closure, my rationale for her not having the freedom to do what she wanted to do ended at  “Because I’m your Father and I SAID SO!  That’s it! No more discussion!”   And, of course, with that she stomped off to her room and we both took a long time before we got together to discuss THAT matter again.  Sound familiar anyone?  Anybody who has a parent and lived any period of time in the household has been given that ultimatum at least once in your life!   Which, I think, is essentially everyone.

So,  about a year later, I had a very unique opportunity to do some role playing at a training seminar.  The presenter pretty much posed the same question I posed to open this topic, asking that we identify such a circumstance because we were going to use it in a role playing exercise.  After some discussion and a brief training around how to put one’s self in another person’s position, I then joined a colleague of mine at a small table in the corner of the hall.  I took the role of my daughter Keri and my colleague took the role of me; the adamant parent.   Well, words cannot express how much this exercise affected me. Here I was, quite effectively taking on her role, vehemently arguing the position she had taken; what I wanted to do, how I told all my friends I would be there with them, demonstrating in a way that showed, while not exclusively spoken out loud, this matter meant so very much to me and by not allowing me to do it was tremendously hurtful . “How could you do this to me now?????  I’M READY TO LEAVE !  NOW!”.  That part of me, the teenager that was trying to “grow up”, learn independence, show my friends that I had some control over my own decisions was being challenged!  My emotions were clearly coming to a boil.  I was so involved in my role as a teenager that I saw my colleague more as a dictator; not A FATHER!   None of the reasons he was giving even made any sense to me!.  He was being immature and irrational! (I even remember stepping back into my own self asking “Why wasn’t he trying to negotiate this out with me?  Isn’t there a compromise that we could arrive at ???  I’m only thirteen years old, so I can’t expect to be carrying a lifetime’s worth of coping methods and the best you have is ‘Because I’m your Father….. and I SAID SO ! ‘ ?.” You’re an IDIOT! )

     And then it struck me… along with the ever so important appreciation for what Keri was arguing for, I had another equally important realization.  My colleague was SO good at taking on his role as me that I acquired a veiled contempt for him and the position he took;  and I didn’t like what I saw at all….. I didn’t like what I saw of… me.  On reflection I really performed quite poorly, I didn’t have a very cogent final argument for her not to go…I surely had some reason to not allow her to go out but the issue was that I didn’t manage the matter in an adult and mature fashion.  And I didn’t really see it, in fact never even dwelled on it at any time, until I was involved in the role playing.

     The quote I originally selected for this posting was the (Native American?) adage “Don’t judge a man unless you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins” and the original destination of the role playing exercise was to put myself in the other persons shoes to better appreciate his/her position. But I ended up using Robert Burns’ piece because, while I did walk away from the role-playing exercise with a much better understanding of a teenager’s values, the other destination, (the self-realization of how poorly I handled myself, my composure, the immediate outcomes of the argument with Keri) was a much better one, albeit bittersweet.   There certainly is an incredible unreplaceable value in gaining a better understanding of one’s self.

     The last portion of Burns’ poem “To a Louse” translates as:

Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us
It would save us from many mistakes
and foolish thoughts
We would change the way we look and gesture
and to how and what we apply our time and attention.