Carl Rogers was an influential figure in psychology who worked to bring a more human touch to the field. He wanted to see psychological professionals apply more empathy and emotional authenticity to therapy, as opposed to using the cold and detached forms of psychological analysis which dominated his time.
The essay in which this quote is found is a reflection on what helped Rogers to communicate well with others. Rogers writes mainly about the attitudes he has brought to certain situations, and whether or not those attitudes facilitated good communication.
Although the quote discusses a certain attitude as he applies it to people, I have found that this is a beautiful attitude to bring to every aspect of life. When I can relate to life with this attitude I am able to be much more peaceful in the face of adversity, and I am able to be much more grateful for the good things in life.
The Dank Quote
Without further ado, here’s the quote from Rogers’ book A Way of Being:
“One of the most satisfying feelings I know — and also one of the most growth-promoting experiences for the other person — comes from my appreciating this individual in the same way that I appreciate a sunset. People are just as wonderful as sunsets if I can let them be. In fact, perhaps the reason we can truly appreciate a sunset is that we cannot control it. When I look at a sunset as I did the other evening, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a little on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple along the base, and use a little more pink in the cloud color.’ I don’t do that. I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch it with awe as it unfolds. I like myself best when I can appreciate my staff member, my son, my daughter, my grandchildren, in this same way.”
— Carl Rogers
Life gets a lot easier when we can just let things be.
Letting Ourselves Be
I’d like to share my thoughts on this quote and a few examples of how it’s helped me. My hope is that you use these examples to look for a way that this attitude of appreciation, of letting things be, can help you in your life.
We can apply this attitude to ourselves. We can watch ourselves like a sunset — with awe as we unfold.
Using this attitude, we choose to appreciate ourselves for who we already are — instead of wishing we were different. We choose to appreciate our life for what it is right now — instead of comparing our current situation to the situation we wish we had.
I’m all for personal growth. It’s important to work hard building good habits, a career you’re proud of, a healthy body and mind, and anything else you’d like in life. The human drive to work toward goals is natural, awesome, and helps us out a lot.
But often this drive, when left unchecked, takes on a compulsive quality. We come to believe that we have to accomplish something — or else we’re not good enough. We hold ourselves to a standard, and if we don’t meet that standard we beat ourselves up on the inside.
Moving Past Performance Judgment
In the past this compulsion ruined my fun on a skateboard. I would become too concerned with landing a certain trick. If I couldn’t land it well and consistently, I obsessed over it. I started to believe that my progression was stagnating if I couldn’t land the trick. Doing other tricks wasn’t fun until I finally got the one I obsessed about.
In those moments I stopped having fun and skated even more poorly than before. This kind of obsession only hurt me — there was no benefit to it.
This used to happen to me often, but I’ve become much better at just letting that pesky trick go. I go to another spot and try a different trick. Maybe I’ll come back to the first trick, maybe not.
Instead of losing my enjoyment, I decide to appreciate my skate session for how it is. I do tricks I can land. I do tricks that are hard but are more fun to try. I don’t judge how good I am that session or how good I think I am becoming. I just let my session be, and look for the fun I can have now.
I have a lot more fun that way.