The Constant Push

923 Relax and Succeed - Your child's mental healthKids today operate with adult pressures and they’re paying for it. With tight schedules, high demands for increased performance and near constant supervision, going to school is now like working in a really bad office where a second set of bosses is waiting for you when you get home too.

If most of us can’t stand living like that it’s because it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t to kids either. With far more human priorities, they can clearly see that society isn’t a thing; it’s a set of rules we all agree to and they, quite understandably, wonder why we agree to such a tortuous set of rules for ourselves. Then again, there’s a lot of political upheaval around the world so maybe that’s a sign that the adults are waking up too.

Take just a second to imagine the life of a kid in say the late 60’s early 70’s. If they were 10 years old they had a lot of freedom both geographically and mentally. A weekday would have been going to school with more requests made for you to behave than to get fantastic grades. It was assumed you would do that as a basic a sign of your own character far more than for an external grade. So a very small percentage of kids had strong grade pressure on them and there was very little homework.

923 Relax and Succeed - Excellence is not being the bestEven if kids had grade pressure, extremely few were expected to be absolutely excellent in absolutely everything. It made sense to everyone that if a brain was good at Math and Science it might not be as developed at doing English or Social Studies. Today, if a kid’s parents want them to go to university then it’s now to the point where the minimum grade is 85–which previously would have been very good to excellent.

So what’s this mean? It means the same kid working just as hard as they did in 1970 would have gone from an acceptable Report Card to an entirely unacceptable one. So one kid goes home and gets questions about their life and friends and the later kid gets questions about grades and potentially dangerous classmates. This ultimately leads to an adult who has difficulty making decisions because they are overly concerned about making wrong ones.

A lot of parenting has slowly become about managing our fears rather than helping to cultivate the natural growth and abilities inherent in a child. We spend more time teaching them all of the systems that form the very society that isn’t working for most people; the one that leads to not only two parents needing to work but they need to work more hours or more jobs and far, far more stress. Why are we training them to be us when so few people feel that their lives are properly balanced between obligations and their natural interests as a human being?

923 Relax and Succeed - Bobby OrrA Saturday in 1970 in North America meant getting up, having breakfast and then heading out to the neighbourhood for the entire day. Often your parents wouldn’t see you until dinner in the evening. You were with all of the other kids developing not your intellect, but your social skills–including skills like relaxing, or finding ways to be comfortable with many different types of people. Those ravines and streets and alleys included some of the best lessons in life.

Today there’s little time for unorganized, unplanned life. From waking up to going to bed there is a demanding enough schedule and a big enough To-Do List to keep even tweens pretty pressured. It’s no wonder they’re always on their phones–how else would they develop those social skills if they rarely see each other unsupervised?

If you and your child are arguing over life, maybe they’re not crazy and maybe you’re not wrong. There’s a third player involved and that’s society. That’s things like our expectations. What we believe is necessary to have a good life. But if you look at who’s stressed and who’s relaxed, there’s no patterns relating to income or industry. 

923 Relax and Succeed - The way we talk to our childrenThe patterns relate to how much control people have over their own lives. A kid feels the same way about too much homework as their parents do about work invading their off-time. It’s the same problem but one group gets in trouble for griping from the other group that’s griping. That’s illogical. We’re all in this together. Kids aren’t crazy. Things are going too fast and the demands are too high and getting them to go even faster just isn’t the answer.

Look at the kids around you and ask how much of their life is about their happiness today and how much is about their happiness tomorrow. Because the one pattern I do so see is that most of the kids that end up in my care end up there by being pushed so hard toward tomorrow’s goals that they begin to rebel against today’s push toward them. I don’t fix their grades. I improve their relationship with their parents.

I haven’t met one bad or troubled kid yet. I’ve only met ones that needed more balance in their lives. Talk to your kids. Listen their challenges and views seriously. In some cases they’ll likely know what to do better than you will. See them less as a fruit to be squeezed for juice and more a tree that, if properly looked after, will produce it’s own fruit for many years to come.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Authentic Life

I spent most of my adult life working in film and television, so using acting as a metaphor for life is very natural. In this case I’ll be using different types of actors as examples of how to live in a state of ego versus a state of being. I realize both “ego” and “being” might seem like nebulous terms, but hopefully this metaphor will resolve that in a way that is helpful to you.

The ego actor is a performer. He needs the audience’s approval. For him rehearsal is waiting, the ego actor is alive only in front of others. Acceptance, support and 597 Relax and Succeed - Truly healthy peopleapplause are very important to the process. This actor may be very, very talented through careful and dedicated study, but there will still be an important difference between them and the true artist.

I’ve known a lot of actors and like in most jobs, a small percentage were truly stellar. And not surprisingly, those actors were all very similar. They weren’t just super-talented, extremely authentic performers, but they also treat crews extremely well, and they’re generous with other cast members (whereas the ego actor wants to steal scenes). They’re in my experience generally loving, smart, supportive parents and I would rank them among some of the most compassionate and aware people I’ve met.

When I teach film I’ll often point my students to my friend Shaun as an excellent example of a true artist. I’ve used him before when talking about authenticity because his life demonstrates to students the most artful, skilled and sensitive approach to acting they could hope to have. Every time I’ve worked with him he is all about the work. He has so much personal character he would recommend his character come across worse if he felt it helped the production. He’s a team-player that comes up with excellent ideas and he makes everyone around him better.

597 Relax and Succeed - Be yourselfSo how does he actually do that? It’s because he’s completely about the performance itself. There is no Shaun in there. Shaun’s needs and agendas are gone and the production and the character’s needs prevail completely. This singular and powerful focus strips away all of his busy personal thinking in favour of him using every useful input to contribute to his being of the character. He’s not striving to be impressive, or seen as talented, or even just to be accepted, but all of that and more happens anyway because his performances are so wonderfully authentic.

So while the ego actor is trying to win over an audience the true actor is trying to most authentically realize a character and story and then whatever happens happens. Except one to his brother, Van Gogh didn’t sell a painting in his life. So why didn’t he change styles? Because he wasn’t painting for us. He wasn’t painting to sell. He was painting to explore. To delve. To know. And as Shaun’s strong career demonstrates, audiences can sense that focus on the work itself. They find the generosity of the performance to be magnetic. Meanwhile the clown has changed clothes and faces so many times no one can figure out who he is to see if they might possible like that person without all of his makeup and costuming on.

No matter what your job is, don’t perform through your life. It’s what egos do and we’ll all do it sometimes, but if you’re vigilant you can easily ensure you don’t do it often or for long. Then eventually it’ll just be your nature to be more natural.

597 Relax and Succeed -  There are people in your lifeSo don’t put on clown makeup and try to make people laugh. Don’t trip and fall for applause and don’t repaint yourself to be who the audience wants you to be. Don’t try to fit into what people want. Be more like the creative archaeologist. Uncover a brilliant example of what you’re doing and take your pleasure from the experience itself rather than from people’s approval. We’ll all love that.

Real artists don’t just make art. Some are lawyers and doctors and concrete workers and teachers. You can do anything authentically. And that’s always better. When the agenda is to achieve good ends for others we’re all okay. We get into trouble when we’re not focused on good ends but rather on struggling to ensure we’re acceptable to others. One is exhausting and the other is enriching.

Be an authentic actor in your life. Be true to yourself, trust that you’re always ending up in the perfect place and then don’t ruminate on the alternatives. You don’t need sequels or re-takes. You just need to leave your ego behind so that you can be fully and completely present for your all-too-brief time here on the stage of life.

Have yourself a wonderful, artful day.

peace s

2014’s Blog of the Year #3

584 Relax and Succeed - Belief creates the actual fact*

Learn about how brains wire up and how you can do small things that can have big impacts in other people’s lives. I am so happy this posting turned out to be in the year’s top three. It’s not only about a good friend, which is nice, but it’s also an example of a blog that can be turned into a verb in a way that truly makes the world a better place.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And without further ado:

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

2014’s Blog of the Year #3

peace. s

Types of Intelligence

I’m a PhD working on my thesis on how different types of intelligence can be used in the workplace to leverage performance. First of all, thank you for all the great info you provide on your site! I am sure I recall seeing something on the same topic on your site, so I thought of sending your way this infographic: (infographic below.) Maybe you can somehow use it for your work. I would definitely appreciate any take you would have on the subject.

signed,
Doctor Smart

Dear Doctor,

I’m glad to hear I’ve been useful to you in your studies. It must be very interesting and fulfilling work to bring out the best in people and organizations. It’s some of my favourite work to do—going into a company with an unmanaged culture and help them find and make the most beneficial use of the natural skills and talents and dispositions of their 405 Relax and Succeed - Left brain right brainpeople. That never gets tired. Good for you.

I often marvel at how companies can think they have a problem when really they have good people doing things that don’t suit how they work. Right from the hiring process, how someone sees the world should be recognized and taken into account. If every athletic activity the person engages in is a solo sport then they’re not likely to be the outgoing gregarious type and they’ll probably do better working quietly away on something in their own corner where they’re not bothered. Likewise the people who are Captains of the teams they’re on will naturally display leadership qualities based on that life experience.

It’s funny that you wrote when you did because someone just recently asked me if there were groups of patterns that people fell into. Now of course any definitions are ego-based judgments and where those lines are is entirely arbitrary and up to the desires of the border-placer, but I understood her point. She wondered if we deal on a daily basis with tribes of people who think similarly enough that it’s worthwhile to recognize what sort of person you’re 405 Relax and Succeed - It is much more valuabledealing with and then respond accordingly—and the answer is yes.

I guessed at about 9 tribes—I see this infographic comes up with 8. I’m not big on counting or ordering things, but it doesn’t matter how many I see. You don’t want where my borders are, you want your own understanding. You want to see these people clearly. It’s not hard. You simply have to quiet yourself and what remains is the truth. Without your personal judgments people are simply as they are. So then it’s like being on a river. You don’t use the same paddling strategy in the rapids that you use on the flats. Not because one is wrong and the other is right, it’s because one is appropriate and one is not.

People would do well to better-appreciate the ways in which others can successfully Be. Everyone can make contributions to our lives. We have to stop wanting people to do what we would do and we have to become open and learn from the way we wouldn’t do it—because the only way you can grow is to take in information that you don’t already have.

Discover your own wonders. And see them in others too. Everyone should stop looking for what they don’t like or agree with and start looking for what they don’t understand and then try to understand it. Because the best way to work with anyone is to understand them, no matter who you are.

Thanks for the question.

peace. s

405 Relax and Succeed - What kind of smart are you