Every year I have taught at university or college I run into students who have learned to evaluate themselves comparatively. They unwittingly won’t be looking to grow as much as they’ll be looking to please. They won’t be looking for what makes them as an individual feel stronger, they’ll be looking for what will win a teacher’s favour and earn them good grades. And yet throughout my own life most of the truly successful people were the ones that didn’t care much about evaluations or opinions of their performance. Those kids were too involved in their actual education to get caught up much in their marks.
From very early on we are taught to forgo the freedom, strength and value in ourselves and we are asked to trade it for conformity, striving and hope. But I don’t want my students working toward a life they hope they’ll enjoy. I want them to enjoy the journey itself. I don’t want them to think that they have value after they cross some finishing line or goal. Because life is like a river. There are no achievements in a river’s flow. There is no point where the river is right or the river is wrong. The river simply flows following the Laws of Nature. Yes, the gravity of the world will help define low ground. But this will be added to and influenced by the force of each person’s own natural momentum and direction.
Do you know Supertramp’s The Logical Song? I’ve often thought the lyrics were a great example of the quiet little trap that society sets with its framework of ego, beliefs and values:
The Logical Song
written by Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson
When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully, watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep for such a simple man
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am
I said now, watch what you say, now we’re calling you a radical, a liberal, fanatical, criminal
Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep for such a simple man
Won’t you please (Won’t you tell me), (You can tell me what) please tell me what we’ve learned (Can you hear me?)
I know it sounds absurd, (Won’t you help me) please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
But I’m thinking so logical
Did you call, one two three four
It’s getting unbelievable
The world will be remarkably compelling in its efforts to convince you to subjugate your own natural instincts and drives in favour of external motivations like money, power, or success. As much as possible do not surrender to these forces. Because these are other people’s ideas, and they support other people’s visions. Work with others if their direction naturally aligns with your own. But do not follow. Go your own direction and walk alongside those going similar directions. There is no right or wrong on the Test of Life. There is only conforming or freedom. Choose carefully.
People will judge you either way. Today’s video simply expresses that you can ignore those judgments. In fact, it’s the only way to find who you really are. So forget other people’s opinions and focus instead on your own natural motivations. Because those are the signposts that mark your path through life.
This time is yours. Use it and every other moment to create a fantastic day, week, month, year and life.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.