Today is December 2 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you tread softly on the dreams of others?” Today’s reflection offers another opportunity to consider the nuance of traveling your life path while translating one dream after another into reality.
As this series has illustrated time and again one needs to develop a strong work ethic, maintain a long-term commitment, and remain focused over an extended period to navigate the chaos. Today’s reflection, however, challenges us to stop and think about those we encounter along the way.
Are you so busy that you tread on the dreams of others? Perhaps it is time to pause today and reflect on the question “how often do you tread softly on the dreams of others?” If you study backstories, historical events, and academic research enough, you soon come to the realization that one common trait that those who navigate the chaos share is that they often help others achieve their dreams.
On the importance of watching where you tread, Irish poet and nationalist W.B. Yeats published the poem Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven in 1899 and wrote:
HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths,
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
What is most fascinating about this poem is Yeats’ ability to offer the reader a glimpse into the mind of someone so poor all they have to give is their dreams. If riches were available, they would ‘spread cloths under your feet,’ but this is far from possible so the writer ‘spreads my dreams under your feet.’ It is difficult to think of a more compelling offer of one’s honor to another. Today’s post and question also provides an opportunity to reflect upon the difference between niceness and kindness.
To start with, know that being nice and kind are two different character traits. It is easy to get the two muddled if one lacks the time to understand the important nuance here. Niceness often involves doing something that is pleasing or agreeable while kindness is doing something that is helpful to others, or that comes from a place of benevolence. Kindness is often expressed through actions that you take for other people, while niceness typically involves more superficial words or simple gestures.
In his December 1, 2022, Psychology Today article "Forget Niceness-Just Be Kind," Arthur Dobrin went further to clarify the nuance and wrote “Generally, niceness involves doing something that is pleasing or agreeable. By contrast, kindness is doing something that is helpful to others, or that comes from a place of benevolence. Kindness is often expressed through actions that you take for other people, while niceness typically involves more superficial words or simple gestures.”
For example, a nice person may tell a neighbor that they are sorry that they are sick — while a kind person may drop off some soup or offer to pick up groceries for them. Another example might be when a student is being bullied at school. A nice classmate might tell them, in private they don’t deserve such treatment and they are sorry it is happening. A kind person might stand up in the moment, telling the bullies to stop or getting a teacher involved.
Since, as Dobrin noted, “all life rests upon relationships” when you are you tread softly on the dreams of others you are being kind. Kindness builds people up while meanness tears them down. To be kind you must have courage, for that’s what gives us the strength to do the right thing and be a good person. It is kindness, a thing that is within our power to enact, that is good for everyone.”
Aldous Huxley summed up the importance of kindness when he wrote “People often ask me what the most effective technique is for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answer is—just be a little kinder.”
How often have you placed your dreams under the feet of others? How did they respond?
How often have others placed their dreams under your feet? How did you respond?
How often are you kind?
How often do you think about the nuance between kindness and niceness?
How could you be more kind today?