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  • Writer's pictureParker Hewes

"What's Good" - It's the New Updog

Jim: "Is it me or does something smell like updog in here?"
Michael: "What's updog?"
Jim: "Nothing much, what's up with you..."

Source: The Office, Season 2, Episode 13


If I said, "Hi, how are you," what's the first thing you'd say? Let me guess, even in your mind you probably gave me the same standard response that you give when you're passing a coworker in the hallway. "I'm good, how are you?"




It's a fine greeting. It gets the job done at least. Most people say 'I'm good' even when they're stressed out of their minds. And some will even say it when they are doing much better than good. But I'm not here to pick apart how the 'I'm good, how are you' response became so generic.


However, you can call me crazy, but I actually want to know how someone is doing. I want to have conversations about what people are happy about, what they're working on improving, or what they are excited about in the future. I want to know how people are getting gooder. That's the honest truth. So, when I get an "I'm good, how are you?" type of response, I use that opportunity to dig deeper (and I'm thankful that the standard practice is to say 'I'm good' instead of 'life sucks,' because I don't want to expose myself to people complaining all day - even if I really care about them and want their life to improve).


As soon as someone says, "Hey, Parker. I'm good, how are you?" I literally stop and say, "Oh yea? That's great! What's good in your life right now?"


This catches them by surprise. I didn't just give them the same canned response they were expecting. Most of the time, people are waiting for someone to shout back "Good!" and keep walking. And the reason they shouted it was because they probably didn't even break their stride to give you a millisecond of attention. They were already 3 steps past you by the time you mumbled out your "I'm good, how are you" response. Heck, you probably could have said "The sky is on fire" and they would have spontaneously responded "Good" because they weren't even listening to the words coming out of your mouth.


Again, I'm not inherently opposed to this greeting. I mean, I wish people stopped and listened to each other more often, but I'm okay with the premise that the question of 'How are you?' isn't much of a question anymore, it's just a pleasantry like 'What's up,' 'How's it hanging,' et cetera.


But I'm a bit of a rebel, so I like to throw people off their game in the hopes of having a conversation with some depth and meaning. Since people are so used to a disinterested passerby, the first response I get when I say, "Nice! What's good about your life right now?" is ...

"Uhh, what?"


They weren't really listening to my words, either. That's okay, so I repeat myself with a sincere question about what makes their life so good. And you know what I get?


A complaint.


Seriously, most of the time, the first sentences out of someone's mouth are actually the opposite of what I asked. Hmm. Curious. Why is that?

Maybe they are just excited that someone is truly interested in their life, and they've been waiting for an opportunity to share their woes. Behind the mask of "I'm good, how are you" is a bottle of pent-up whiny-ness that has been waiting to be set free for years. I try not to let it phase me, so if they're not on a complete complainypants rampage, I'll stop them and say, "I'm sorry to hear that. That sucks. But I want to know what's good in your life, too. What's going well? What are you excited about?"


As if I just ask them an algebra problem, most people will furrow their brows trying to think of a single good thing to share (yet they had five complaints locked, loaded, and ready to fire). They'll share their good thing, and I'll often ask them more about it. Some people will start to get more excited to share their good thing, and I'll know I've struck a vein of happiness. But, in others, I'll see them quickly getting bored of the conversation. They are talking about goodness in their life, and they're bored with it!!! It's as if they were more eager to tell me about the things that suck.


This response is a little unfortunate, but I think know why it happens.


These complainers like to complain because it comes easy for them. They've been practicing complaining for most of their lives. They think about complaining, they talk about complaining, and they surround themselves with other complainers (they were probably raised by complainers). Complaining is a way of life, and they are so used to complaining that it becomes difficult to do anything except complain some more. Most of the conversations that complainers have with each other aren't even conversations, they are just opportunities to one-up each other's complaints. Each person will pleasantly wait for the other person to finish their story of woe so they can quickly jump in with their own tale of boohoos. It's like the New York Suck Exchange, everyone is just spewing complaints back and forth, one-upping each other and bidding up the market until they figure out whose shit smells the worst (do you think a bear market or a bull market would win in the smell-off?).


So, I propose we change the narrative. As people who weren't bred to whine and complain, I think it's up to us to redirect the complainer's natural tendency to complain.


Here's how I'm going to change the narrative in my own small way: I'll continue to say "what's good" instead of walking by, and I'll continue to listen to a few complaints before I try the 'what's good' question again. But I'm going to keep probing the goodness muscle until the conversation changes from woes to woohoos, boos to cheers, and frowns to smiles. Even if I get 9 complaints for every sparkly-eyed story of positivity, it'll be worth it. Because every time someone's mindset is shifted from 'what sucks' to 'what's good,' a little neurological splice will form in their brain. This splice will lead to a neuron that travels down a different path in the dark corners of the complainer's mind. And now, not all of their thoughts will be traveling down the complainypants superhighway. Instead, some thoughts might find themselves winding down the backroads of positivity. And then, every time I ask 'what's good' again, another positivity neuron might form and wire together with the first splice.


Every time someone's mindset is shifted from 'what sucks' to 'what's good,' a little neurological splice will form in their brain. This splice will lead to a neuron that travels down a different path in the dark corners of the complainer's mind. And now, not all of their thoughts will be traveling down the complainypants superhighway. Instead, some thoughts might find themselves winding down the backroads of positivity.

This is how your brain works. Neurons that fire together, wire together. And when your gratitude neurons keep firing together, your brain will shift some money around, rally some contractors, and build a new neuronal interstate. Let's call it Interstate Gooder (because Getting Gooder is their preferred partner, of course. In your face, Coke).

This neural highway is the quickest route to a life of happiness, peace, and fun. It's a route that will help you handle stress and manage unfavorable circumstances much easier. But it's only the quickest route to happiness if you keep using it. If you stop driving down Interstate Gooder, your brain will deconstruct the highway and revert back to your old complaint-ridden brain.


It's okay to have complaints. After all, it's not all sunshine and rainbows on Interstate Gooder. But there is always something to appreciate on this road of positivity. At the very least, there are more things to be grateful for than there are to complain about.


In the end, that's all that matters, anyway. When positivity wins the war against complaints, negativity, worry, and anger, you'll be able to sit on your front porch and smile about a life well-lived. You won't be thinking about all the things you wish you could have done or didn't do. When you get in the habit of thinking about what's good in life, that'll be what you get. You'll get the good things in life.


In the end, that's all that matters, anyway. When positivity wins the war against complaints, negativity, worry, and anger, you'll be able to sit on your front porch and smile about a life well-lived.

By continuing to practice gratitude, it will literally get easier to be gracious. Your brain will put energy into making gratitude, positivity, and joy a natural, default response because your brain will see that you are spending more time thinking about goodness. Therefore, your brain will continue to reinforce the pathways that make good thoughts easier to achieve. Then, the next time I ask you "what's good," your knee-jerk response will be to rant and rave about the good things in life rather than your complaints. You may still be talking about the same old woes as before (like your leaky faucet, your empty bank account, your degenerate son, or your broken marriage), but you'll reframe those woes into stories of progress, productivity, and positivity.


Me: "What's good, Fred?"

Fred: "Well, my faucet is broken so I'm learning the skill of fixing it myself. I was living paycheck to paycheck before, but last month I saved one hundred dollars. My 32-year-old son moved in last week, so I'm putting him to work and my landscaping has never looked better. And my wife left me for another man, but now I get to put my feet on the table, leave the toilet seat up, and all the other things she hated!" (That last one may be a stretch)

As author, Ryan Holiday, would say, the obstacle is the way. Because obstacles are just signs of an opportunity to improve your circumstances.


We will always have things to improve, but you can choose whether you look at those things as a reason for complaining or as fodder for getting gooder. Maybe the obstacle in front of you right now is an opportunity to learn a new skill, practice self-reflection, or change your mind about something.



There is an opportunity in every obstacle. Your job is to find it.

There is an opportunity in every obstacle. Your job is to find it. Instead of waiting for me to ask you 'what's good', ask it for yourself. Your brain is waiting to build your highway to happiness, but it needs some motivation. The more you drive down the 'lucky-to-be-alive' lane, the more you'll signal to the big wigs between your ears that it's time to start breaking ground. And soon, you'll be driving down Interstate Gooder with the windows down, screaming your favorite song into the abyss and thinking "Woo, what a ride!"

 

Written by Parker Hewes, a chiropractor, author, American Ninja Warrior, and serial adventurer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Parker believes learning and growing are the keys to living a full life. He started Getting Gooder to help others learn and grow, so they can create the happiest, healthiest, and wealthiest lives imaginable.

Parker also knows that our ideal life gets even better when we have others to share it with. So, keep following Parker and the Getting Gooder community as we build our ideal, together.

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