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Notice People's Good Intentions

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Do you feel like you have a lot of happiness in your everyday life? Do you smile a lot? I don't know about you, but I can definitely use some more happiness in my everyday life! And in my observation, most people frown a lot more than they smile.

My mentor told me that our unhappiness comes from our over-focus on ourselves, which results in our countless thoughts, wants, and worries. If we redirect our attention to thinking about other people, to feeling their feelings, our constant self-centeredness will diminish, which will reduce our suffering. Moreover, when we can notice other people's good intentions, we will be a lot happier! Furthermore, we should start with parents, because parents naturally love their children, and once we can feel their love, it'll be easier for us to feel other people's intentions.

Before, I had an article about seeing the intention behind other people's actions. Back then, my main goal was to prevent anger, annoyance, and awkwardness. Usually, when people do something that upsets us, they aren't actually trying to annoy us. People usually have neutral or even positive intentions. After all, who would want to be a bad person when they could be a good person? Who would want to be disliked by others when they could be liked by others?

But this time, I had a new realization: We should try to notice people's good intentions because it makes us very happy. If we miss out on people's loving intentions, it's like missing out on free goodies!

The key is to let go of our habitual self-centeredness and really direct our attention to feeling other people's intentions. This is best done with people whom you are very close with and obviously love you, such as your parents, partner, and good friends, but even strangers have good intentions too. I'll share some of my experiences below.

1. Mother

As per my mentor's suggestion, I started with my family. Recently, my mother cooked some pancakes and then asked me, "Is the food OK?" In the past, I would think, "Of course it's OK. You cooked and saved me time. There's no way I'd complain." This kind of mentality isn't bad, as it comes from a place of duty and righteousness.

But this time, I tried to feel my mom's intentions, and I felt how she really hopes her son can eat healthy and happily. When I felt her loving intentions, I felt warm inside, and I naturally said, "Wow this looks great! Mmm this is even better than what we eat at the restaurant because the ingredients are healthier and fresher."

Another time, I was working on my computer. My mother came and said, "Sorry to interrupt you, but could you get something for me upstairs?" In the past, I would think, "I'm kind of busy right now, but OK." This time, I felt my mother's politeness. She doesn't actually want to interrupt me, and she is happy for me to concentrate on my work, but she really needs my help right now. When I felt her good intentions, I happily went to get the thing for her. Afterwards, I also asked if there's anything else I can help with.

2. Grandpa

A few days ago, my grandpa gave my mother and I two peaches. He said, "It's almost the end of peach season, but those basket peaches are all small. I saw some great big peaches, but they're sold individually, so I bought three, one for each of us. They're not fully ripe yet, so wait a couple days." I know he likes peaches a lot. My mother and I are indifferent. But this time, I felt his intentions: he put in a lot of effort to find the best peaches to share with us, and I felt very fortunate to receive such kindness.

The next day, he said, "The peaches are almost ripe. You should eat it tomorrow. The flavor will be at its best." Again, I felt his intention to give us the best, and my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. I thought to myself, "This is such a simple, normal, everyday event, but I feel so much joy and happiness because I can feel my grandpa's loving intentions. Wow!"

It also proved to me why ancient philosophies all teach us to cultivate our mind rather than change external circumstances. I truly experienced the joy that can come by shifting my mindset.

3. Boss

Last year, I was still teaching high school business, but this year, I'm taking a year off to study in a sinology program. My principal came and asked, "I know you are busy and in school now, but would it be possible for you to record videos for a course you made before? Even if you have to do it slowly, it's OK."

This was actually the second time my principal asked. Rather than feeling awkward about needing to reject again, I first felt her intentions. She is actually very considerate and doesn't want to burden me! And I know she has the best intentions for her school in mind. When I felt her good intentions, I was naturally able to respond in a polite and respectful manner.

4. Teacher

In our course on morality and ethics, our teacher often repeats the same things over and over again:

  • Make sure to apply what you learn, don't just memorize things for a test.

  • Everyone has infinite potential. You need to believe to achieve.

  • Being a good person is more important than having skills and talent.

  • Are you really educated if you aren't even able to have good relationships?

One time, he asked if any of us students re-watched class recordings. Only one person nodded.

He then talked for quite a while about having a good learning attitude and applying what we learned into our daily lives. He said if we just note things down to memorize for a test, we are wasting our time. If we truly listen with a respectful attitude, we would have realizations about how to improve ourselves. Also, each class has so many learning points, if we were truly studious, we'd re-listen to some lessons. He went on and on for quite a while.

I imagine some people might think the teacher is quite naggy and talks too much. But I felt his good intentions. He really cares about his students and hopes that everyone can get the most out of our time together in this course. It is the beginning of the course, so he really wants to set everyone off on a good start. He's not trying to get us to like him, he is really trying to help us succeed, so he is willing to say all these things at the risk of being disliked.

If even one student really listens, then it would be worth it. When I felt his loving intentions, I naturally really appreciated and respected him, and I could focus more when listening in class. I also re-listened to some class recordings.

5. Classmate

Recently, our class leader called a class meeting to discuss some procedural things related to our next assignment. However, there were many details that she didn't confirm yet, and she apologized many times, saying things like, "This is what I know so far…Sorry I am still waiting for a response from our professor…Sorry my explanation might be a little unclear…Sorry I forgot to send these things earlier…"

In the past, I might get a little annoyed or judgmental and think, "If you don't have all the details yet, why don't we meet after you've confirmed all the details? And you don't need to keep saying sorry so many times." But this time, I felt her intentions. She's trying her best to be our class leader, and that effort is precious. She is also nervous and lacks self-confidence, which is why she keeps saying sorry. When I felt her intentions, I naturally felt that I should assure her and thank her for her effort.

6. Friend

I have a good friend who is living in another country, and we chat every month or so. We have a five hour time difference, and recently we chatted for over three hours. I just started my sinology program, and he is a year ahead of me, so I had lots of things to ask.

At his 10:30PM, he said, "I need to go sleep soon, so maybe we can wrap up in 15 minutes." I had some other small questions to discuss, and we ended up talking for 30 minutes. He wasn't the slightest bit impatient and thanked me for a good chat.

I could feel his sincere care and support, and I felt really fortunate and warm inside to have such a reliable friend. My mother said, "Wow you guys talked for such a long time." I gave a big smile and said, "Yes we had a really good conversation again." Maybe my mother was slightly worried at first, but when she saw my big smile, she smiled and said, "Well, that's great!"

Energy is contagious, and I was able to generate a lot of positive energy by cherishing my friend's good intentions, then I passed it on to my mother.

7. Strangers

One time, I was going for an evening stroll around my neighborhood. I saw couple people out on their driveway playing loud music. One looked around 30, and the other maybe 60. They were both drinking beer, fixing a motorcycle, and listening to loud music.

At first, I was kind of annoyed at them for playing such loud music, which would disturb others. But I tried to see their intentions. I don't know if they are relatives or friends, but they were very happy together. Like all of us, they are just trying to enjoy life and be happy.

They are happy together, and it reminded me of the natural happiness between family members. That is precious. This isn't to say it's fine to play loud music outside, but at least I don't hold negative feelings towards them. If I were their neighbor, I'd be able to calmly and warmly ask them to turn down the music a bit, while also wishing them a happy time together.


Every day, we interact with so many people. How often do we miss out on other people's good intentions because we are too focused on our own thoughts and feelings? Those are all missed opportunities!

If we can dampen our self-centeredness and use more energy to feel other people's good intentions, not only would we be more tolerant and patient, we'd also have more love and gratitude in our hearts. By simply shifting our mindset, the same everyday events suddenly become great sources of joy.


Weekly Wisdom #254

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