On Wednesday the train I normally jump on for my commute home was delayed. Or to put it more accurately, all trains going in the direction I wanted to go were cancelled due to a major signal failure. Although I’m reassured that this is not a regular occurrence, it’s the second time in the three weeks I’ve been commuting that it’s happened to me. People get a real bee in their bonnet about the failings of the transport network (roadworks, traffic jams), but public transport in particular is the victim of much anger venting. If it is late, we are late; for work, for home, and for connecting services. It eats into our time. It creates wasted time. Some people find this very annoying.
Having found a comfy seat on not one but two alternative services, only to have it announced at the planned departure time that the train was now being terminated and we all had to get off, I was left a little confused. This is disgraceful people were saying. And then, on looking around – Wait a minute, why are those people running? Clearly these were the people with the knowledge of a train that may actually leave the station. Everybody followed suit (me included) and almost everyone also started to run (I employed more of a fast walk). Everybody squeezed like sardines into the departing train and almost everyone started to grumble about our predicament.
This monotony was shattered by a couple of Chinese students (these facts were ascertained from the ensuing conversations) excitedly taking selfies of the number of people on the train. The two women in closest confines with the students started to talk to them, about travelling and all sorts of things. This is such a beautiful part of the World one of the women said, you only live once, there’s no point being miserable! Life is too short! It made me smile just listening to them – that’s how infectious positivity is! And although the women revealed they were employed at our biggest rival university, I had to admit I just loved their outlook on life.
It got me thinking about individual perspective being the key to happiness, closely coupled with expectation. What unlocks healthy and positive amounts of both these psychological actions I believe is a decent dose of selflessness.
On the train to work yesterday I sat next to a woman reading a trashy magazine article about “Why losing weight isn’t everything”. It was a reminder of how often we expect happiness to materialise once we reach the next milestone we’ve set ourselves. The danger of the if only. If only I was thinner, if only I had a better job, if only my train wasn’t late – then I would be happy.
Happiness is important. People who are happy at work achieve things. Those who are happy at home can relax and find peace. Yet positivity can often be elusive, and easily drowned out by the groaning and complaining. This is why we must nurture positivity wherever we find it.
The first time my train was delayed there was a rumour that it was because of a suicide on the track. I had to jump in my car at a very early hour to endure a much longer commute as a consequence. All the way to work and throughout much of the day I thought, not about my own predicament, but the poor person who had decided to end their life. Thankfully this turned out not to be the case. In the workplace, caring and nurturing are often dismissed as “soft skills”, or pushed aside by performance driven cultures, when in fact they are very important to ensuring a happy and productive workforce.
If we can change our perspective, lower and justify our expectations and indulge in a good dose of selflessness – then we can open the doors to positivity.