HSPs, Introverts and Careers

Note: This post is targeted to introverts and the 70% of highly sensitive people who are introverts.

How many of us didn’t realize (or ignored) that we were highly sensitive and/or introverted until after we selected our career?

How many of us have struggled for years in our career because what it takes to be successful in our careers goes against our inherent personality and nature?

How many times have we felt like we are a square peg being forced into a circular hole that is too small?

In western first-world societies, the “Extrovert Ideal” came into being in the early 1900s. Some qualities that are admired and sought after under this extrovert idealism are:

  • Having charismatic magnetism
  • Possessing off-the-cuff wit and charm
  • Being attractive
  • Having a glowing personality
  • Being dominant
  • Being assertive
  • Being forceful
  • Having an unlimited inner supply of energy

Not many of these attributes are naturally inherent in introverts or highly sensitive people. In fact, many of us aren’t able to fake most of the above idealistic attributes … no matter how hard we try.

That is why we need to be careful when selecting a career. We need to select a career that allows us to succeed with the qualities that come natural to us such as:

  • Working best alone
  • Working best with little supervision
  • Having the natural ability to stay focused
  • Having the natural ability to plan and implement the plan
  • Having the ability to think through the pros and cons of a course of action
  • Possessing a natural empathy
  • Having patience

In most cases, those people who are a good salesperson would be a terrible accountant. Those people who are good at personal and family counseling would make a terrible motivational speaker at large conventions.

When selecting a career, we need to acknowledge and understand our personality type (HSP, introvert) along with our interests, passions, skills and talents. Doing this will save us a considerable amount of life-long unhappiness, frustration and money on psychotherapy.

Most importantly, we need to educate and advise our children and grandchildren on the importance of honestly recognizing their inherent personality type and to select a career the “fits” them instead of one that will be a daily struggle.

I am interested in hearing your experience in selecting a career that didn’t fit your personality type and the struggles that followed. Please use the comment section provided.

If you prefer to contact me directly, please email me at mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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A Nostalgic Moment

While I would not want to live in the past, there are a few things I miss. I would never exchange the advantages of today’s technological advances for yesteryear’s simplicity … most of the time. Some things I miss in simpler times:

I really do miss the simplicity of the old telephones that only did one thing … make and receive calls. Since the old phones were not mobile, it didn’t rule my time and life.

Day Timer
Most people reading this post have no idea what a Day Timer was. It was an organization system that included a calendar, scheduler, To-Do list, expense tracker, notebook, mileage tracker, contact directory, international calling codes directory, international holidays, time zone directory and a future planner in a large leather wallet. Basically, it was the predecessor to today’s mobile calendar apps but with more flexibility. It was also easier and faster to use. As a business owner for 32 years, it was the most important tool in my possession.

Connection With Neighbors
In today’s busy world, most people don’t know many of their neighbors. As late as the 1980s I remember that it typically took my wife and I well over an hour to take a 2-block walk. It was common for folks to sit on their porches or decks and everyone wanted to chat for a while. We knew every neighbor on our street for a 3-block area. This is what neighborhood means. All these neighbors were also a support system when anyone was in need.

Before cable and satellite dishes, we only had access to 12 stations … at the most. You didn’t have to go through 200 stations to discover there wasn’t anything on worth watching. Most importantly, when you watched the news, you got the news — not biased commentary.

I can remember when there weren’t any “big box” stores. I can remember when ALL the stores in my town of 12,000 were locally owned and I went to school with the children or grandchildren.

I can remember walking into the hardware store and explaining to one of the employees that I needed a spring and what I needed it for. That employee disappeared into the dark shadows of the backroom and returned 10 minutes later with the exact spring I needed. He knew the store’s inventory, and he knew the hardware business. But more importantly, he knew the store’s customers on a first name basis. This long-time employee wasn’t there to sell me something, he was there to help me solve a problem through his expertise, knowledge and experience.

I now live in Ecuador, South America, a developing country. My city has a population of about 570,000 and there are no big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot here. Rather, there are a hundred or more hardware stores here in the city with at least one in every neighborhood. It’s the same with micro grocery stores. The owner is an active participant in the store, and he or she knows his business inside out. Most of his or her employees have been employed there for a decade or longer. To top it off, the stores provide free delivery of large items.

To say the least, I have become quite spoiled with the level of service that is commonplace here.

Gas Station
I can remember when the attendant at the gas station washed your windows and checked your oil while your car was being filled with gasoline … that he was pumping! He would also check your tire pressure if he noticed a tire appeared to be low on air.

Free Time
More than anything else, I miss the simpler and slower lifestyle. We had time to spend with our families … every day. We had time to have and enjoy a hobby. We had time to read at least a dozen books a year. We had time to enjoy nature and to learn its lessons. In other words, we had to time live.

No, I would not go back in time. But I sure do miss some benefits of a simpler time.

Do you have things that you miss from years gone by? Please share your thoughts with others by using the comment section provided.

If you prefer to contact me directly, please email me at mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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My #1 Highly Sensitive Person Trigger

Highly Sensitive People have an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli.
— Sofie Botergerg and Petra Warreyn

Before I reveal my #1 HSP trigger, let’s review some common signs that indicate you are a Highly Sensitive Person.

  • You absolutely abhor violence and cruelty of any kind.
  • You’re frequently emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings.
  • Time pressure really rattles you.
  • You withdraw often.
  • You’re jumpy.
  • You think deeply.
  • You’re a seeker.
  • Sudden, loud noises startle you.
  • Your clothing matters.
  • Your pain tolerance is less.
  • Your inner world is alive and present.
  • Change is extremely upsetting.
  • Sometimes your environment is your enemy.
  • You get hangry easily.
  • You need stimulants
  • Conflict is your poison.
  • Criticism is a dagger.
  • You’re conscientious.
  • You are deeply moved by beauty.
  • You are perceptive.

Source: Jenn Granneman at Highly Sensitive Refuge

Triggers for a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) are anything that over-stimulates the central nervous system. This over-stimulation produces higher than normal levels of anxiety. Once we have become over-stimulated, we need to take a break (or escape) from the environment or cause of the over-stimulation. This “break” may be for a few minutes or it may be for hours depending on the level of anxiety (stress) we suffered.

The #1 trigger that produces a very high level of over-stimulation to me is chaos. It need not include noise or conflict. Just seeing chaos makes me become abnormally stressed. A few examples of this chaos are:

  • A crowd
  • Witnessing an argument (conflict)
  • A messy home or workspace
  • An unkept person
  • A messy interior of a car
  • An unplanned day
  • A live concert (crowd + noise)
  • An unexpected or unannounced visitor

To overcome this trigger, I attempt to control my environment and daily activity as much as possible. Even though I am retired, I maintain a To-Do List, a Calendar and maintain a certain routine for many activities. Structure brings me calm.

Once I become over-stimulated resulting in a very high level of anxiety, sleep is what acts as a reset button to me mentally, physically and emotionally.

I would like to know what triggers you have as a Highly Sensitive Person or Highly Sensitive Introvert. Please use the comment section to share your story. All HSPs can and will benefit from you sharing your experiences.

If you would like to contact me directly, please email me at mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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Highly Sensitive People and Trust

Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.
– Bob Vanourek

Trust is a vital issue with highly sensitive people (HSP). Trusting people comes hard for most HSPs. The difficulty in trusting others may come from having been deeply hurt by someone in the past they trusted, being betrayed by someone in the past they trusted, or it might be an inherent trait for them by simply being an HSP.

In any case, HSPs tend to be quite stingy in rationing out their trust.

It typically takes years and many shared experiences together for an HSP to trust you. They can only trust you when the two of you have been through good times and the bad times. They need to know that you’ll always be there … no matter what. That said, the HSP also needs you to trust them with the same level of scrutiny.

When trust is established, this type of close bond often lasts a lifetime and it is a gift that both of you will always have if protected and nurtured. This relationship also provides a sense of security and safety that is greatly needed by the HSP. This sense of security and safety is not “clingy” in nature. Rather it is foundational of which both of you will build upon for many years to come.

Both parties have a responsibility to view each other’s trust as a cherished box made of glass. It must be handled with care so it isn’t mishandled and dropped. Rarely can the pieces be put back together.

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please send your email to mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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Highly Sensitive People and Conflict

“When introverts are in conflict with each other…it may require a map in order to follow all the silences, nonverbal cues and passive-aggressive behaviors!”
― Adam S. McHugh

No one enjoys conflict. However, highly sensitive people find it more intolerable than those who do not have a heightened level of sensitivity of their body’s central nervous system. As long as we live, there will always be conflict. While we may be able to successfully side-step some conflicts, others are simply unavoidable. Sarah Stiefvater on PureWow provides us with three steps that can help us get through conflict:

  • Don’t put it off too long. You know when you don’t want to do something so you procrastinate and make excuses until it gets even more daunting? Avoiding necessary conflict is the same. The longer you put it off, the harder it will be.
  • If you can prepare, prepare. This doesn’t apply to sudden, unexpected conflict, but if you know you have to have an uneasy conversation, visualize it in advance. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to get flustered and overwhelmed. By mentally mapping out what you want to say and what you want to get out of an exchange, you’re more likely to say your piece.
  • Unwind afterward. Tough conversations can take a lot out of anyone, but they can be particularly crushing to highly sensitive people. Now’s the time to focus on self-care and healing. Take time to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling, and give yourself a little extra TLC.

Conflicts with our significant other are particularly tough on highly sensitive people because our sensory system becomes over-stimulated and sometimes our responses can be out of control. This leads us to saying or doing things that we later regret. So, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Pick the right time, if possible, to address this issue. Engaging in a conflict at the end of a bad day will typically end badly. Initiating the conversation when both of you are well-rested and relaxed improves the chances of a successful resolution.
  • Keep the conversation based on the behavior (not the person) that is causing the conflict. Behavior is tangible and be addressed.
  • Be respectful and caring. Our objective is to resolve the issue causing the conflict, not to hurt the feelings of the other person or to cause permanent damage to the relationship.

Let’s allow our sensitivity to be a tool in successfully resolving conflicts.

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Highly Sensitive People and Solitude

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone,
and if he does not love solitude,
he will not love freedom,
for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.

— Arthur Schopenhauer


As a highly sensitive introvert, my entire being needs solitude. Not every hour, not every day, but frequently enough for my body and brain to process and sort out recent events or circumstances that over-stimulated my senses.

This processing can only occur in solitude where I am free of any other sensory stimulation above the norm. Yes … I want and need to be alone. This is common among highly sensitive introverts.

This isn’t because I don’t like people, it is because being around people — especially noisy crowds — often results in the over-stimulation of my senses.

HSPs have “an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli. ”
— Sofie Boterberg and Petra Warreyn

To understand this increased sensitivity, imagine yourself at a bar on a Friday or Saturday night with a couple of friends. It is wall-to-wall people. And because the music is blaring, everyone has to shout at each other to communicate.

Now multiply all that noise and chaos by five.

That is exactly how the central nervous system of highly sensitive people take all of it in. It doesn’t take very long at all to become completely overcome. To HSPs, our central nervous system interprets such situations as aggression. As such, we need a break to de-escalate the emotional and mental toll on our body.

Unfortunately, those around HSPs who don’t know us personally or know about highly sensitive people often misinterpret our need for solitude as being aloof, uninterested, moody, or being just plain rude and unsocial.

This is not the case at all! We just need to separate ourselves from others for a while to mentally process and to emotionally wind down.

Highly sensitive introverts typically try to prevent themselves being in such a position. The last thing we want to do is to embarrass or upset those around us. That is why we often turn down invitations to events that we know will most likely cause us to become anxious … or worse.

To contact me directly, please send your email to mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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Never Be Ashamed Highly Sensitive People

Never Be Ashamed

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”

― Anthon St. Maarten

How many times have we, as highly sensitive people, found ourselves wanting to find a corner to hide in because our deep emotions of sadness and empathy cannot be neutralized just because others are watching us?

As an American expat living in a developing country, this is a frequent occurrence for me. I am deeply moved by poverty and its effects on those who are unable to climb out of their situation. Seeing the look of despair on the faces of small children and elderly adults who are surrounded by poverty, hunger, and utter helplessness is more than I can bear many times. I become emotionally overwhelmed. Even though I give these people what I can, I know it’s just a drop in the bucket of what they need.

I have simply quit trying to hide my emotions in these situations. I’ve learned in my 63 years that these emotions cannot be hidden or tamped down. I am who I am and what I am … a highly sensitive man who cares enough to shed some tears.

Feel free to contact me directly by sending an email to mbrown.ec@mail.com.

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Stop the Hate!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

All around the world, hate has become the norm. How do we stop the hate?

Bias is a human condition, and history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, politics or other characteristics. As a global community, we’ve made a lot of progress, but stereotyping and unequal treatment persist.

When bias morphs to an unlawful act, it is reckoned to be a hate crime. Most hate crimes are inspired by race and religion, but hate today wears many masks. Bias attitudes and events often tear communities apart.

Many hate crimes never get reported, in large part because the victims are reluctant to go to the police. In addition, many law enforcement agencies are not adequately trained to recognize or investigate hate crimes. Additionally, many victims simply do not report a hate crime to the authorities.

However, all over the world people are fighting hate, standing up to promote tolerance and inclusion. Many times, when hate shows its face, good people rise up against it — often in larger numbers and with stronger voices to fight the hate.

Ways to Fight the Hate

We must act. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must act if we don’t want hate to persist.

Hate is an open attack on tolerance and acceptance. We must counter with acts of goodness. In the face of hate, silence can be deadly. Apathy will be interpreted as acceptance. If left unchallenged, hate will persist and grow.

Hate is an attack on a community’s health. Hate divides society along racial, ethnic, gender, and religious lines. Hate crimes, more than any other crime, can trigger community conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots.

Hate escalates. The very hint of hate must be taken seriously. Slurs often escalate to harassment, harassment to threats, and threats to physical violence.

Team up with others who share a concern of the adverse effect that hate has on the community. Seek the help of community leaders and those with influence.

Others share your desire to fight against hate. Power comes with numbers. Asking for help and organizing a group reduces personal fear and vulnerability, spreads the workload, and increases creativity and impact. Coalitions can stand up to — and isolate — organized hate groups.

Support the victims. Victims of a hate crime are especially vulnerable.

If you’re a victim, report every incident to law enforcement and ask for their help. If you learn about a hate crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.

Victims of hate crimes often feel alone and afraid. They have been attacked simply for being who they are. The silence of others in the community amplifies their isolation; it also appears to condone the act of hate. Victims need a strong, timely message that they are loved and valued from supportive community members.

Speak up. Hate must be exposed and denounced.

Do not debate members of a hate group in conflict-driven forums on the Internet. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.

Goodness has freedom of speech rights, too. Denounce hate groups and hate crimes. Spread the truth about hate’s threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and united community is the best defense against hate rhetoric, attitudes and violent activities.

Educate yourself. An informed campaign by all participants improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved and research its flags, symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident. Learn all you can about those you will come against.

Through their literature and websites, hate groups spread propaganda that mocks, vilifies and demonizes African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ+ people and other groups. Like some of their fellow extremists in militia groups, they also sow the seeds of the fear of losing control of “their country” to a “One World Government” dominated by Jewish bankers, multinational corporations, and the United Nations. Many times members of hate groups use other groups as scapegoats for their own personal failures, low self-esteem, anger, or frustration. Hate groups frequently use chants, music or other means to recruit and indoctrinate disaffected teens.

Create an alternative to hate rallies. Find another venue for anger and frustration for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally, parade or some other type of community event to draw media attention away from hate.

Pressure community leaders. Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies. But some of these leaders must overcome reluctance and their own biases before they will be willing to take a stand against hate.

When leaders step forward and act swiftly after a hate incident, victims feel supported, community members feel safe, and space for action and dialogue in the community can grow.

Stay committed and engaged. Promote acceptance and address bias and prejudice before another hate crime can occur. Expand your comfort zone by reaching out to people outside your own group of friends and associates.

Hate usually doesn’t strike communities from some distant place. It often begins at home, brewing silently under the surface. It can grow out of divided communities — communities where residents feel powerless or voiceless, communities where differences cause fear, inequality and neglect instead of community tolerance and cooperation. The best cure for hate is a united community.

Teach acceptance. Bias is usually learned at home at an early age.

Bias is learned in childhood. By age 3, children can be aware of racial differences and may have the perception that “white” and “straight” is desirable. By age 12, they can hold stereotypes about ethnic, racial, religious groups, and LGBTQ+ people. Because stereotypes underlie hate, and because almost half of all hate crimes are committed by young men under 20, tolerance education is critical.

Schools are an ideal environment to counter bias because they mix children of different backgrounds, place them on equal footing, and allow one-on-one interaction. Children also are naturally curious about people who are different from them.

Tolerance can be taught outside the classroom as well. Consider this case in Arizona: Amid increasingly virulent anti-immigrant sentiment, the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition) began holding weekly public vigils in Tucson to remember those who lost their lives trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

The group, which works to document human rights abuses along the border between Mexico and the United States, also keeps a list of border deaths, including age and cause of death.

Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes. Commit to fighting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace, and in religious communities. Fundamentally, acceptance is a personal decision. It comes from an attitude that is learnable and embraceable: a belief that every voice matters, that all people are valuable, that no one is “less than.”

We all grow up with prejudices. Acknowledging them — and working through them — is often a scary and difficult process. It’s also one of the most important steps toward breaking down the walls of silence that allow intolerance to thrive and grow. Fortunately, we all possess the power to overcome our ignorance and fear, and to influence our children, peers, and communities.

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The Humanist Philosophy in Perspective

By Fred Edwords

What sort of philosophy is humanism? To listen to its detractors, one would imagine it to be a doctrinaire collection of social goals justified by an arbitrary and dogmatic materialist-atheist worldview. Leaders of the religious right often say that humanism starts with the belief that there is no god; that evolution is the cornerstone of the humanist philosophy; that all humanists believe in situation ethics, euthanasia, and the right to suicide; and that the primary goal of humanism is the establishment of a one-world government.

And, indeed, most humanists are non-theistic, have a non-absolutist approach to ethics, support death with dignity, and value global thinking. But such views aren’t central to the philosophy. To understand just where humanism begins, as well as discover where such ideas fit into the overall structure, it’s necessary to present humanism as a hierarchy of positions. Certain basic principles need to be set forth first—those ideas that unite all humanists and form the foundation of the philosophy. Once this is done, humanist conclusions about the world can follow—conclusions which, by the nature of scientific inquiry, must be tentative. Then, after that groundwork has been laid, appropriate social policies can be recommended, recognizing the differences of opinion that exist within the humanist community. From this approach people can see humanism in perspective—and in a way that reveals its non-dogmatic and self-correcting nature.

The central ideas of humanism, then, can be organized into a practical structure along the aforementioned lines. Even though all humanists don’t communicate the philosophy in this way, it’s fair to say that most humanists will recognize this presentation as accurate.

Basic Principles

  • We humanists think for ourselves as individuals. There is no area of thought that we are afraid to explore, to challenge, to question, or to doubt. We feel free to inquire and then to agree or disagree with any given claim. We are unwilling to follow a doctrine or adopt a set of beliefs or values that doesn’t convince us personally. We seek to take responsibility for our decisions and conclusions, and this necessitates having control over them. Through this unshackled spirit of free inquiry, new knowledge and new ways of looking at ourselves and the world can be acquired. Without it, we are left in ignorance and, subsequently, are unable to improve on our condition.
  • We make reasoned decisions because our experience with approaches that abandon reason convinces us that such approaches are inadequate and often counterproductive for the realization of human goals. When reason is abandoned there is no “court of appeal” where differences of opinion can be settled. We find instead that any belief is possible if one’s thinking is driven by arbitrary faith, authority, revelation, religious experience, altered states of consciousness, or other substitutes for reason and evidence. Therefore, in matters of belief, we find that reason, when applied to the evidence of our senses and our accumulated knowledge, is our most reliable guide for understanding the world and making our choices.
  • We base our understanding of the world on what we can perceive with our senses and comprehend with our minds. Anything that’s said to make sense should make sense to us as humans; else there is no reason for it to be the basis of our decisions and actions. Supposed transcendent knowledge or intuitions that are said to reach beyond human comprehension cannot instruct us because we cannot relate concretely to them. The way in which humans accept supposed transcendent or religious knowledge is by arbitrarily taking a leap of faith and abandoning reason and the senses. We find this course unacceptable, since all the supposed absolute moral rules that are adopted as a result of this arbitrary leap are themselves rendered arbitrary by the baselessness of the leap itself. Furthermore, there’s no rational way to test the validity or truth of transcendent or religious knowledge or to comprehend the incomprehensible. As a result, we are committed to the position that the only thing that can be called knowledge is that which is firmly grounded in the realm of human understanding and verification.

  • Though we take a strict position on what constitutes knowledge, we aren’t critical of the sources of ideas. Often intuitive feelings, hunches, speculation, and flashes of inspiration prove to be excellent sources of novel approaches, new ways of looking at things, new discoveries, and new concepts. We don’t disparage those ideas derived from religious experience, altered states of consciousness, or the emotions; we merely declare that testing these ideas against reality is the only way to determine their validity as knowledge.
  • Human knowledge isn’t perfect. We recognize that the tools for testing knowledge—the human senses and human reason—are fallible, thus rendering tentative all our knowledge and scientific conclusions about the nature of the world. What’s true for our scientific conclusions is even more so for our moral choices and social policies; these latter are subject to continual revision in the light of both the fallible and tentative nature of our knowledge and constant shifts in social conditions.

    To many this will seem an insecure foundation upon which to erect a philosophy. But because it deals honestly with the world, we believe it is the most secure foundation possible. Efforts to base philosophies on superhuman sources and transcendent “realities” in order to provide a greater feeling of security only end up creating illusions about the world that then result in errors when these illusions become the basis for decisions and social policies. We humanists wish to avoid these costly errors and have thus committed ourselves to facing life as it is and to the hard work that such an honest approach entails. We have willingly sacrificed the lure of an easy security offered by simplistic systems in order to take an active part in the painstaking effort to build our understanding of the world and thereby contribute to the solution of the problems that have plagued humanity through the ages.
  • We maintain that human values make sense only in the context of human life. A supposed non-human like existence after death cannot, then, be included as part of the environment in which our values must operate. The here-and-now physical world of our senses is the world that is relevant for our ethical concerns, our goals, and our aspirations. We therefore place our values wholly within this context. Were we to do otherwise—to place our values in the wider context of a merely hoped-for extension of the reality we know—we might find ourselves either foregoing our real interests in the pursuit of imaginary ones or trying to relate human needs here to a very different set of non-human needs elsewhere. We won’t sacrifice the ethical good life here unless it can be demonstrated that there is another life elsewhere that necessitates a shift in our attention, and that this other life bears some relation and commonality with this one.
  • We ground our ethical decisions and ideals in human need and concern as opposed to the alleged needs and concerns of supposed deities or other transcendent entities or powers. We measure the value of a given choice by how it affects human life, and in this we include our individual selves, our families, our society, and the peoples of the earth. If higher powers are found to exist, powers to which we must respond, we will still base our response on human need and interest in any relationship with these powers. This is because all philosophies and religions we know are created by humans and can’t, in the final analysis, avoid the built-in bias of a human perspective. This human perspective limits us to human ways of comprehending the world and to human drives and aspirations as motive forces.
  • We practice our ethics in a living context rather than an ideal one. Though ethics are ideals, ideals can only serve as guidelines in life situations. This is why we oppose absolutist moral systems that attempt to rigidly apply ideal moral values as if the world were itself ideal. We recognize that conflicts and moral dilemmas do occur and that moral choices are often difficult and cannot be derived from simplistic yardsticks and rules of thumb. Moral choices often involve hard thinking, diligent gathering of information about the situation at hand, careful consideration of immediate and future consequences, and weighing of alternatives. Living life in a manner that promotes the good, or even knowing what choices are good, isn’t always easy. So, when we declare our commitment to a humanist approach to ethics, we are expressing our willingness to do the intensive thinking and work that moral living in a complex world entails.

Tentative Conclusions about the World

Our planet revolves around a medium-sized star, which is located near the edge of an average-sized galaxy of as many as 300 billion stars, which is part of a galaxy group consisting of more than thirty other galaxies, which is part of an expanding universe that, while consisting mostly of cold, dark space, also contains perhaps one hundred billion galaxies in addition to our own. Our species has existed only a very short time on the earth, and the earth itself has existed only a short time in the history of our galaxy. Our existence is thus an incredibly minuscule and brief part of a much larger picture.

In light of this, we find it curious that, in the absence of direct evidence, religious thinkers can conclude that the universe or some creative power beyond it is concerned with our well-being or future. From all appearances it seems more logical to conclude that we alone are concerned for our well-being and future.

Human beings are neither entirely unique from other forms of life nor are they the final product of some planned scheme of development. The available evidence shows that humans are made from the same building blocks of which other life forms are made and are subject to the same sorts of natural pressures. All life forms are constructed from the same basic elements—the same sorts of atoms—as are nonliving substances, and these atoms are made of subatomic particles that have been recycled through many cosmic events before becoming part of us or our world. Humans are the current result of a long series of natural evolutionary changes, but not the only result or the final one. Continuous change can be expected to affect ourselves, other life forms, and the cosmos as a whole. There appears no ultimate beginning or end to this process.

There is no compelling evidence to justify the belief that the human mind is distinct and separable from the human brain, which is itself a part of the body. All that we know about the personality indicates that every part of it is subject to change caused by physical disease, injury, and death. Thus, there are insufficient grounds for belief in a soul or some form of afterlife.

The basic motivations that determine our values are ultimately rooted in our biology and early experiences. This is because our values are based upon our needs, interests, and desires which, themselves, often relate to the survival of our species. As humans we are capable of coming to agreement on basic values because we most often share the same needs, interests, and desires and because we share the same planetary environment.

Theoretically then, it’s possible to develop a scientifically based system of ethics once enough is known about basic human needs, drives, motivations, and characteristics and once reason and empathy are consistently applied toward the meeting of human needs and the development of human capacities. In the meantime human ethics, laws, social systems, and religions will remain a part of the ongoing trial-and-error efforts of humans to discover better ways to live.

When people are left largely free to pursue their interests and goals, to think and speak for themselves, to develop their abilities, and to operate in a social setting that promotes liberty, the number of beneficial discoveries and accomplishments increases and humanity moves further toward the goal of greater self-understanding, better laws, better institutions, and a good life.

Current Positions on Social Policy

As humanists who are committed to free inquiry and who see the value of social systems that promote liberty, we encourage the development of individual autonomy. In this context, we support such freedoms and rights as religious liberty, church-state separation, freedom of speech and the press, freedom of association (including sexual freedom, the right to marriage and divorce, and the right to alternative family structures), a right to birth control and abortion, and the right to voluntary euthanasia.

  • As humanists who understand that humans are social animals and need both the protections and restraints provided by effective social organization, we support those laws that protect the innocent, deal effectively with the guilty, and secure the survival of the needy. We desire a system of criminal justice that is swift and fair, ignoring neither the perpetrator of crime nor the victim, and considering deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation in the goals of penalization. However, not all crimes or disputes between people must be settled by courts of law. A different approach involving conflict mediation, wherein opposing parties come to mutual agreements, also has our support.
  • As humanists who see potential in people at all levels of society, we encourage an extension of participatory democracy so that decision-making becomes more decentralized and involves more people. We look forward to widespread participation in the decision-making process in areas such as the family, the school, the workplace, institutions, and government. In this context we see no place for prejudice based on race, nationality, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, political persuasion, religion, or philosophy. And we see every basis for the promotion of equal opportunity in the economy and in universal education.
  • As humanists who realize that all humans share common needs in a common planetary environment, we support the current trend toward more global consciousness. We realize that effective environmental programs require international cooperation. We know that only international negotiation toward arms reduction will make the world secure from the threat of thermonuclear or biological war. We see the necessity for worldwide education on population growth control as a means toward securing a comfortable place for everyone. And we perceive the value in international communication and exchange of information, whether that communication and exchange involve political ideas, ideological viewpoints, science, technology, culture, or the arts.
  • As humanists who value human creativity and human reason and who have seen the benefits of science and technology, we are decidedly willing to take part in the new scientific and technological developments around us. We are encouraged rather than fearful about biotechnology, alternative energy, and information technology, and we recognize that attempts to reject these developments or to prevent their wide application will not stop them. Such efforts will merely place them in the hands of other people or nations for their exploitation. To exercise our moral influence on new technologies, to have our voice heard, we must take part in these revolutions as they occur.
  • As humanists who see life and human history as a great adventure, we seek new worlds to explore, new facts to uncover, new avenues for artistic expression, new solutions to old problems, and new feelings to experience. We sometimes feel driven in our quest, and it is participation in this quest that gives our lives meaning and makes beneficial discoveries possible. Our goals as a species are open-ended. As a result, we will never be without purpose.


Humanists, in approaching life from a human perspective, start with human ways of comprehending the world and the goal of meeting human needs. These lead to tentative conclusions about the world and about relevant social policies. Because human knowledge must be amended from time to time, and because situations constantly change, human choices must change as well. This renders the current positions on social policy the most adaptable part of the humanist philosophy. As a result, most humanists find it easier to agree on basic principles than on tentative conclusions about the world, but easier to agree on both than on social policies. Clarity regarding this point will erase many prevalent misunderstandings about humanism.

This essay is the 2008 revised version of that which originally appeared in the January/February 1984 issue of the Humanist magazine.

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On Leaders and Leadership

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
— Woodrow Wilson

What is a leader?

According to WordWeb, a leader is a person who rules, guides or inspires others.

In your opinion, what are five traits or characteristics of a leader?

If I asked 10 different people this question, their lists would more than likely share at least one common trait. The other traits listed would be unique based on experience, ideals and personality. This is why you may consider Mr. X to be a leader and I do not.

It is true, however, that the majority of great leaders share some common traits and characteristics that equip them to be an effective leader.

Great Leaders Have a “Can Do” Attitude

Great leaders have learned from experience that unexpected events out of their control happen to everyone who is on a progressive path forward. They have also learned to get over it and keep moving forward with a new focus, an alternate plan of action and a reinvigorated commitment to getting the objective met.

I once heard it said that someone was just too damn stubborn to fail.

Laser Focused

A leader, above everyone else, must stay focused on developing and implementing strategic actions to meet the goal or vision. As a leader, keeping her team focused, energized, committed and excited about the goal or vision is her responsibility.

The leader must have the experience and mental maturity to keep the team on the right path regardless of the hurdles of competing priorities.

Lead the Team

There will be times that critical and timely decisions must be made to refine or modify the strategic plan. A great leader gathers his team and factually outlines the reason(s) why an adjustment to the original plan is in order. It is up to the leader to lead the team, with everyone’s involvement, to a positive workable solution.

An Effective Communicator

Typically, a team effort is required to meet a goal or implement a vision. Honest, factual and transparent communication is required to make sure all team members are “on board”. Team members need to know that they can trust you, the leader, with their commitment. A leader must actually listen to (not just hear) the concerns and opinions of his team members. The team members need to “feel” the leader’s caring, understanding and acknowledgment of their concerns and opinions.

Earn the Loyalty

Loyalty cannot be forced upon the team members through coercion or intimidation. Loyalty can only be earned.

Every team member brings some kind of “value” to the team. Team members are assets. Leaders, through their actions, need to make sure they are an asset to the team members. If team members are to have the back of the leader, the leader must have the backs of each team member. Any breach of this trust by the leader will result in permanent damage to the concept of being a team.

“A good leader leads the people from above them.
A great leader leads the people from within them.”
— M. D. Arnold

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Quotes that inspire, motivate and challenge us.