• Something to Think About: Preferences

bright green willow tree branches blowing in the wind

Dr. Amit Sood says, "Be flexible about your preferences and strong in your principles."

Dear friend,

Flexibility is often described as the quality of bending without easily breaking. The willow tree is a great model of optimal flexibility and strength. The tree has flexible branches that twist and turn in a storm but do not easily break. The tree also has robust roots that keep it strong and standing against sixty-mile-per-hour gales. The key to physical and emotional resilience is to be optimally flexible and strong.

The resilient mind is flexible about preferences and strong in principles. I struggle with maintaining that disposition.

As I have grown older, I have become rigid about my preferences. Which side of the bed I sleep on, what time I eat, which route I take to work, which movie I watch, what I use as the opening screen on my computer, which flavor of toothpaste I use—all these are my preferences. If I nurture strong preferences and these conflict with someone else’s, if neither will budge, that’s a recipe for an argument or a clash. I don’t like clashes.

I should be flexible about my preferences. I should balance my preferences with those of others. I should be careful about my preferences becoming a source of discomfort for others.

While a million preferences define my days, a few core principles are enough to run my entire life. Being grateful for the little and large (gratitude), being kind to one and all (compassion), working hard and taking failure and success in stride (acceptance), pursuing a meaning larger than myself (higher meaning), and having a low threshold before I forgive (forgiveness)—these are my five core principles.

In the end it boils down to the single universal principle—being kind. With commitment to kindness, I should free others from my preferences and become flexible, predictable, and easy going. That’ll be a nice gift I can give to people whose lives I touch.

May you and the people around you be strong in principles and flexible in preferences.

Take care.
Dr. Sood 2

Read, Preferences and previous blog posts.

Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.

Related articles