"It was 5 inches long, with bright yellow spots, and it was swimming around, no idea how trapped it was."
My friend is sitting across the white-cloth-draped dinner table, describing the large spotted newt she recently saved from a slow chlorinated death at the bottom of her in-ground pool.
"So I got out the skimmer and fished it out and watched it sit and breathe for a spell, and then it scuttled off into the grass," she recalls, her face beaming with pleasure at the memory.
I ask how many lives she's saved since the pool was installed, and this prompts her to list a small menagerie.
"Mostly frogs and toads, some newts and salamanders. Once or twice it was a mouse, or maybe a vole. And one time I found a snake! And then, of course, there are the honeybees."
She sips wine from a glass and shakes her head. "It's the first thing I do every morning after coffee: Walk outside and check the pool for frogs."
Immediately, her story makes me wonder:
How often do we pause to remember all the tiny acts of goodness we've performed over the years?
I'm willing to bet the answer is: "Literally, never."
Later, I bring this question to another friend, and it spurs his memory toward a night many years ago when he walked out of a fancy restaurant at 11pm and encountered a young mother holding a 9-year-old child by the hand, asking for money.
Although what he wanted to do was get in his car and drive away, instead he looked at the tired child who should have been in bed and gave her a twenty dollar bill because that was what he had.
And she looked up at him and said: "Now we can go home."
"When was the last time you remembered that moment?" I ask him.
He says: "Not once, in ten years, until now."
If you're like most people, you routinely dismiss and forget all the small but evidence-based reasons YOU have, to feel like a kind and generous and good-enough human being.
And yet, you probably manage to find AMPLE time (in between your conscious and constructive thoughts) to mentally catalogue and review and AGONIZE over all the times you did wrong and fell short and could have done better.
I imagine this is because humans are naturally biased to have a problem-focus.
We're built to see "the black spot on the white wall," rather than the wall itself.
Evolutionarily speaking, this probably helped us survive on the plains when there was a relatively tiny lion lurking in the tall grass of a vast and awe-inspiring landscape.
But today, it just keeps us trapped in internal narratives of not-good-enough-ness...
Which perpetuate the lived external reality of not-good-enough-ness...
Especially when it comes to the question of who we are.
In fact, when it comes to dualities, it's likely that enough evidence exists to support either case.
That you're good OR bad; wrong OR right -- and anything in between.
And yet, in the privacy of our own minds?
We tend to assign overwhelming weight to ONE type of evidence.
Which tends to generate a rather lop-sided story, when we're not paying attention.
So my question is:
What if you started actively cataloguing all the times you did the GOOD and RIGHT thing?
What if you made a practice of reviewing THAT kind of evidence?
What if you gave it equal weight and value, when building the case for who you are?
How might your story -- which is to say, your core and evolving sense of self -- change to accommodate this?
And is it POSSIBLE that this change in how you see yourself...
Might, in turn, create OTHER tangible changes -- at work, in your relationships, or in other important areas of your life?