Developing Human Excellence

1219 Relax and Succeed - Who we are and how much we engageWe all bring different skills to our community. Some of us are more aggressive, some are more passive. Maybe some are driven and intellectually brilliant, while others are patient and compassionate. Maybe some lead, maybe some follow. Each are strengths in different situations.

There is room for us all if we consider the strength of the group to be more important than our own personal strength. No matter what our position or attitude about life is, we will all face infirmity, pain and, if we’re fortunate, the aging process. In each of these situations we will have no choice but to depend on the kindness and generosity of those around us, so it is worthwhile for us to ask ourselves what sort of kindness and generosity we have nurtured in our lifetime.

Children’s lives have become increasingly competitive. Many parents seek to raise excellent students, or above-average athletes, or popular personalities. In general, a child will be taught to have the qualities their parents feel are key for success, but all too often the ability to maintain, contribute to, and inspire those around us is a foregone presumption rather than being something that is specifically developed.

1219 Relax and Succeed - We need to care lessThis week, as you interact with children, ask yourself what goal you are pushing them toward. Promoting too much personal excellence without enough paying enough attention to their contributions to their community can leave parents with future fellow citizens and caregivers who lack a substantive capacity to balance their personal goals with their overall sense of compassion.

To raise a child well isn’t to raise a child that reflects well on you when you’re thirty-five, it’s to raise the child you want caring for you at eighty-five. Whether you have children or not, take this week to genuinely consider what type of personal impact you have on those around you. Because collectively, it is our own words or actions merge to form the society we live in, and so any complaint about that society can only truly be addressed by each of us.

Literally: Choose a specific way you’d like to see the world change and then spend the rest of today genuinely trying to maintain some consciousness about realising that change within your own life. Because there is absolutely no rule that says a smart, athletic kid can’t also be the one to show the greatest levels of compassion, and there absolutely no rule that says that we all can’t be that kid.

Make a difference. That’s how they’re made. Thank you for your participation.

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.

Those Kids Today

1216 Relax and Succeed - We don't grow when things aren't easyIt’s pretty rare when I reblog and it’s always for a really good reason. With kids back to school, and parents and children struggling more than they ever have, it’s important to focus things down to their essence. Toronto Occupational Therapist Victoria Prooday writes a blog and it’s not surprising that this was one of her most popular.

For those who can see this subject clearly, her recommendations will look like simple common sense. But in a world where parents, teachers and children feel pulled in a million directions by a million marketers, educators, administrators, and websites all saying different things, it becomes difficult to tell what really counts. But if you want a healthy adult capable in the maximum number of situations, this is excellent advice.

Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends?

I am an occupational therapist with 10 years of experience working with children, parents, and teachers. I completely agree with this teacher’s message that our children are getting worse and worse in many aspects. I hear the same consistent message from every teacher I meet. Clearly, throughout my ten years as an Occupational Therapist, I have seen and continue to see a decline in kids’ social, emotional, and academic functioning, as well as a sharp increase in learning disabilities and other diagnoses.

1216 Relax and Succeed - Victoria Prooday replacement

Today’s children come to school emotionally unavailable for learning, and there are many factors in our modern lifestyle that contribute to this. As we know, the brain is malleable. Through environment, we can make the brain “stronger” or make it “weaker”. I truly believe that, despite all our greatest intentions, we unfortunately remold our children’s brains in the wrong direction. Here is why:

  1. Technology

Using technology as a “Free babysitting service” is, in fact, not free at all. The payment is waiting for you just around the corner.  We pay with our kids’ nervous systems, with their attention, and with their ability for delayed gratification. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life is boring. When kids come to the classroom, they are exposed to human voices and adequate visual stimulation as opposed to being bombarded with the graphic explosions and special effects that they are used to seeing on the screens. After hours of virtual reality, processing information in a classroom becomes increasingly challenging for our kids because their brains are getting used to the high levels of stimulation that video games provide. The inability to process lower levels of stimulation leaves kids vulnerable to academic challenges. Technology also disconnects us emotionally from our children and our families. Parental emotional availability is the main nutrient for child’s brain. Unfortunately, we are gradually depriving our children of that nutrient.

  1. Kids get everything they want the moment they want

“I am Hungry!!” “In a sec I will stop at the drive thru” “I am Thirsty!” “Here is a vending machine.” “I am bored!” “Use my phone!”   The ability to delay gratification is one of the key factors for future success. We have the best intentions — to make our children happy — but unfortunately, we make them happy at the moment but miserable in the long term.  To be able to delay gratification means to be able to function under stress. Our children are gradually becoming less equipped to deal with even minor stressors, which eventually become huge obstacles to their success in life.

The inability to delay gratification is often seen in classrooms, malls, restaurants, and toy stores the moment the child hears “No” because parents have taught their child’s brain to get what it wants right away.

  1. Kids rule the world

“My son doesn’t like vegetables.” “She doesn’t like going to bed early.” “He doesn’t like to eat breakfast.” “She doesn’t like toys, but she is very good at her iPad” “He doesn’t want to get dressed on his own.” “She is too lazy to eat on her own.” This is what I hear from parents all the time. Since when do children dictate to us how to parent them? If we leave it all up to them, all they are going to do is eat macaroni and cheese and bagels with cream cheese, watch TV, play on their tablets, and never go to bed. What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them? Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive.  In addition, we send them the wrong message.  They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.  For example, if a child wants to be an A student, he needs to study hard. If he wants to be a successful soccer player, he needs to practice every day. Our children know very well what they want, but have a very hard time doing what is necessary to achieve that goal. This results in unattainable goals and leaves the kids disappointed.

  1. Endless Fun

We have created an artificial fun world for our children. There are no dull moments. The moment it becomes quiet, we run to entertain them again, because otherwise, we feel that we are not doing our parenting duty. We live in two separate worlds. They have their “fun“ world, and we have our “work” world. Why aren’t children helping us in the kitchen or with laundry? Why don’t they tidy up their toys? This is basic monotonous work that trains the brain to be workable and function under “boredom,” which is the same “muscle” that is required to be eventually teachable at school.  When they come to school and it is time for handwriting their answer is “I can’t. It is too hard. Too boring.” Why? Because the workable “muscle” is not getting trained through endless fun. It gets trained through work.

  1. Limited social interaction

We are all busy, so we give our kids digital gadgets and make them “busy” too. Kids used to play outside, where, in unstructured natural environments, they learned and practiced their social skills.  Unfortunately, technology replaced the outdoor time.  Also, technology made the parents less available to socially interact with their kids. Obviously, our kids fall behind… the babysitting gadget is not equipped to help kids develop social skills. Most successful people have great social skills. This is the priority!

The brain is just like a muscle that is trainable and re-trainable. If you want your child to be able to bike, you teach him biking skills. If you want your child to be able to wait, you need to teach him patience.  If you want your child to be able to socialize, you need to teach him social skills. The same applies to all the other skills. There is no difference!

1216 Relax and Succeed - Parents only have 2 jobsTRAIN YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN

You can make a difference in your child’s life by training your child’s brain so that your child will successfully function on social, emotional, and academic levels. Here is how:

1. Limit technology, and re-connect with your kids emotionally

Surprise them with flowers, share a smile, tickle them, put a love note in their backpack or under their pillow, surprise them by taking them out for lunch on a school day, dance together, crawl together, have pillow fights

Have family dinners, board game nights (see the list of my favorite board games), go biking, go to outdoor walks with a flashlight in the evening

2. Train delayed gratification

Make them wait!!! It is ok to have “I am bored“ time – this is the first step to creativity
Gradually increase the waiting time between “I want” and “I get”

Avoid technology use in cars and restaurants, and instead teach them waiting while talking and playing games

Limit constant snacking

3. Don’t be afraid to set the limits. Kids need limits to grow happy and healthy!!

Make a schedule for meal times, sleep times, technology time

Think of what is GOOD for them- not what they WANT/DON’T WANT. They are going to thank you for that later on in life. Parenting is a hard job. You need to be creative to make them do what is good for them because, most of the time, that is the exact opposite of what they want.

Kids need breakfast and nutritious food. They need to spend time outdoor and go to bed at a consistent time in order to come to school available for learning the next day!

Convert things that they don’t like doing/trying into fun, emotionally stimulating games

4. Teach your child to do monotonous work from early years as it is the foundation for future “workability”

Folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, making lunch, unpacking their lunch box, making their bed

Be creative. Initially make it stimulating and fun so that their brain associates it with something positive.

5. Teach social skills

Teach them turn taking, sharing, losing/winning, compromising, complimenting others, using “please and thank you.”

From my experience as an occupational therapist, children change the moment parents change their perspective on parenting. Help your kids succeed in life by training and strengthening their brain sooner rather than later!

*****

I see it all the time in my own work. Mental illness and stress are up. What we’re doing isn’t working. This is what will. If you’re anywhere near Toronto and are having trouble with your own children or you’re aware of others who are, considering sharing this and going to see Victoria’s team. Because whatever you see in your toddler or pre-teen will be amplified as they age, and both you and your children will be the ones living with the consequences of any maturing that hasn’t been achieved.

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 March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

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.

Sticks and Stones

1047-relax-and-succeed-stabbed-in-the-backIs it a parent? Another kid at school? And if it’s one at school it’s usually at least three. A young boy will punch you straight in the face and it hurts, but the girls will sneak around behind you and try and turn everyone against you, and that totally undermines your place in the world in this horrible way that you can’t do anything about.

A boy can get stronger, study a martial art, but there’s no way for a girl to improve herself out of being called names that have little to nothing to actually do with her. Opinions live inside other people’s minds and we hear them through their voices. Neither of these things are in our control so there is only one other answer.

If you surrender the idea of fighting against it that doesn’t mean that you’re accepting it. It means the exact opposite. Because you don’t stop fighting it because it’s beating you, because if it was beating you and it didn’t stop eventually you’d die, and no one’s ever died from people having an opinion about them.

1047-relax-and-succeed-do-not-make-your-enemys-thoughtsIf they lynch them that’s one thing and we all have to take action quickly, but if all they do is use their voices; trust me, those can’t hurt you at all unless you choose to believe them and think them too. Besides, there’s very few people who will be around your life permanently and they certainly won’t be that type. What they say will matter for a tiny period of your existence. Tiny.

How’s a voice hurt you? How’s someone telling a joke hurt you? How’s someone using a slur on you do damage to you? Even if fifty people listened and did nothing, that won’t mean they agree with what was shouted, that will only mean they’re too cowardly to do anything about it. The more you ignore it and the more dignified and unperturbed you behave, the less interesting it is to try to knock you off balance when you’re so obviously well-balanced, and the more impressive you look to all of the cowardly people. But you don’t do that by performing like it doesn’t matter; you do it by understanding that you literally cannot be hurt by words.

1047-relax-and-succeed-famous-failuresWe’re starting to live in a world where people cannot accept differing opinions. The truth is, everyone has there areas in life where they shine, and other areas where they are less capable. That is entirely normal, and just like you will have times where you have to move around the inabilities of others, they will have to do that with you sometimes too. But everyone has those so you get yours too. People can go ahead and not like it, but as they mature they’ll realise that people like you will still be a large percentage of the population so they will also realise their opinions are only in their head and no matter how loud they are they do not make things true.

People can say whatever they want, until you repeat it to yourself and actually ask yourself if it might be true, it is not true for you. Truth exists in people singularly. It isn’t a group concept. The closest thing we have to that is science and science has no opinion about your personality.

If you start thinking other’s thoughts then that’s the beginning of your thinking starting to make that idea true, because whether it’s true or not won’t impact whether or not you can believe it. There’s no difference between your beliefs and what you think is true. So do not make your enemy’s thoughts about you your thoughts about you.

1047-relax-and-succeed-find-a-group-of-peopleSomeone can turn the entire school against you and you can still have a fantastic life. The kid who thinks that controlling anything in childhood would ever actually matter is just lost in their own false belief of importance. They go to the bathroom too. Their relationships will end too. Life ebbs and flows throughout it’s length, so every human being spends times up and times down. Who goes first doesn’t mean a thing.

Believe in your strengths, spend time with those who see and appreciate them. The others have opinions about you just as you have yours about them. Since those never last, they just don’t matter anyway. Develop your strengths. Start now. Because while other kids are bullying you and making their future more difficult by quietly turning others against them, you can take that time to ensure that you’re becoming more capable, thereby setting up a confident, successful future for yourself.

peace. s

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.

Rocking the Boat

1025-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-if-people-dont-like-youOur ability to remember things only starts a little before most people start going to school, meaning our general idea of how the larger world works is formed at home. The struggle that will define our lives will often be formed when our personal reality goes to school to encounter and painfully intersect with other children’s personal realities.

If we’re Korean and our family and friends are all Korean then being and acting Korean is fine. But if the kids in the school happen to notice that the child has a Korean face or a Korean name, they can think the new kid is strange and someone to be avoided because the kid does not align with their own home-based idea of ‘normal’ which included no Korean kids.

All of these judgments are really just a hold-overs from an ancient reflex that sees all conscious creatures cautiously managing new things until their intentions are better understood and safety can be assured.

Virtually everyone has had this experience of clashing with other’s realities simply because even kids from the same culture would have quite different households. The differences that get attacked include everything from a kid’s weight, to clothes, names, lunches or even just a single relatively minor mistake in class.

These events happen when confused people meet in social and emotional territory that is largely new to all parties. That leads to clumsy mistakes that can lead to major insecurities that can last a lifetime even though there’s nothing really wrong with any kid, they just need to find the right context for themselves.

Eventually in school everyone does make at least a one or two friends if they make even the slightest effort. Even if we’re ostracized, there’s usually more than one ostracized person who could use our support.

Interestingly, the kids with the fewest friends are generally outcasts who are already functioning or appearing in some way that causes society to pass judgment on them. Nerds are cool now, but it wasn’t that long ago that being good in school and knowing anything about Dungeons and Dragons or comic books meant you’d be beat up and laughed at.

The strange upside to being ostracized is that it’s actually much more analogous to adult life. We can go through school as the most popular person but that still won’t save us from all of the judgments others will make about us behind our backs. Some of those judgments will be true, others will be entirely false, but we’ll lose just as many friends over the lies as the truth –likely even more.

1025-relax-and-succeed-do-what-you-feel-is-rightMeanwhile, the teased kids eventually give up their self-hating and realize the issue is that other kids are making very shallow judgments. At that point those kids just start being themselves without apology because they get too used to the teasing.

This, it turns out, is one of the most important lessons a person can learn. Those kids gain emotional resilience and eventually become largely impervious to the opinions of others. This helps people be more assertive about their goals and it often contributes strongly to their success.

Being real and avoiding pretense also helps us to connect more productively with others, and that is a profoundly underrated thing.

Real Friends

One of the best advantages to being ourselves is that it helps our real friends find us in a crowd. Often people will connect with the wrong people because they think someone’s this or that way when really they’ve just been performing those identities to maintain their status with others.

The strategy above is always doomed, because our egos do this even though the real us will eventually show up and disappoint everyone who was taught to think that we were someone else. Meanwhile, a bunch of people who love the way we really are still exist, but they can’t find us because we’re in disguise as someone we’re not.

Compromise and genuinely enjoying the act of making someone happy is one thing, but it’s not a healthy or enlightened thing to make people happy if we’re spending that time performing actions or saying words that feel painfully unnatural to us.

Eventually we’ll get hangry or be short on sleep or we’ll have had a stressful time and then we’ll show our true selves. Then just watch a how people will desert us for nothing more than a few low days. But the problem isn’t us and human fallibility; it’s their inability to tolerate anything less than their idea of perfection.

1025-relax-and-succeed-friendship-is-weird

Frankly, if we look back at our lives we can probably easily find people we’ve never spoken to again and yet if we looked at things fairly and from a less emotional distance, all they would have done is offend us with an opinion or approach that wasn’t one we’d personally use.

But look at how remarkably conditional our affections are; we see how people are so often that it becomes our idea of our own normal. That means we get to the point where we actually expect people to perform for us. They’re not supposed to be themselves, they’re supposed to be who we expect them to be so that things can be normal for us.

The Advantages of Being an Outcast

So how do the biggest outcasts in school end up better off? School may have hurt them more at the time because they found out before anyone else about how incredibly silly people can be with their opinions. But in getting used to it early, they get used to the adult world where people’s expectations just increase more and more and more over time.

As people’s expectations grow over time, eventually we can get to the point where an entire 20 year friendship can end over just one series of misunderstood text messages, as though those messages somehow unlock some secret identity that our friends have been hiding for decades.

When I work with couples and a text exchange is the ignition point for the relationship crisis, half the time people show me them and say, can you believe they said that? And I won’t even be able to find the offence they’re talking about without all of the history they’re loading the words with.

Even the word ‘ok’ gets seen as some sign of hostility. If people are going to be that finicky then the problem isn’t any person, it’s our ridiculous standards.

People aren’t here for us and we aren’t here for them. We’re all in this together and we either act like we know that or we pretend we can somehow survive without people that are different from us, disagree with us, or that do things we wouldn’t do.

1025-relax-and-succeed-dont-be-afraid-to-rock-the-boatFortunately, by fifty most people have realized that their giant collection of school friends was really just a bunch of other insecure kids who were taught all kinds of unrealistic expectations different from our unrealistic expectations.

Those same expectations cause people to desert or blame others and over time, and before we know it, everyone’s left with just their true friends; the people who will accept us, warts and all. But the outcast had that already in school. It was the rest of us living in a fantasy, not the nerd playing D&D.

We owe no daily performance to anyone, and we should avoid asking others to perform for us. Our problems aren’t out in the world they are within us. We simply have resistance to other people’s ways of being just like they have resistance to our ways of being.

In life we’re looking for the security of unconditional love. Along the way there’s a lot of people sitting on the gunnels of ours boat and almost no turbulence will knock many of them out. A lot of people never intended to stay in the first place, so they get on and off  at various ports of call. And still others really needed some serious storms to get knocked out. But…

A precious few will cling to our boat extra-hard during the storms, and those are the people who are willing to tough out the hardest parts of life with us. That’s our tribe and those are the most valuable people we’ll know.

As that process happens, we shouldn’t see it as losing friends as we age. In reality it’s simply that the daily friction of life very naturally wears through our less solid friendships to eventually to expose our foundations –the very best friends we have. Far from a process of losing friends, this is much more like finding our way home.

peace. s

The Bully-Proof Child

925 Relax and Succeed - Don't feel stupidI really enjoy working with tweens and teens who have to endure verbal bullying at school. It’s always a nice quick process getting them back to school and enjoying it, but that’s not the most important part for me. Getting beat up is scary and painful but when it’s over it’s over. Psychological abuse is that stuff that can linger in your mind for the rest of a person’s life. I know a lot of adults whose lives are still dictated by their need to prove that they aren’t the people their school yard taunts suggested they were and I love the idea of nipping that problem in the bud.

Of course most taunts are merely camouflaged demands to get in line, conform and surrender your individuality in order to be a part of the group. In general the groups making those taunts are just the people who’ve conformed the most. And since the taunts are just verbal activities in their brain, their thought-based nature means they are also ephemeral and temporary or, in other words, meaningless. Once a child is made to fully understand this they’re pretty much free.

The best part about this for me isn’t the relieving of the teasing. While I’m happy for these inevitably awesome kids I’m meeting, they’re amazing enough that they would have been okay in another way anyway. Hardships only build strength and resiliency so enduring those things would just create opportunities later. But this way they get to skip the suffering and then build the resiliency and enact their greatest self much sooner.

925 Relax and Succeed - What makes you differentThese are the kids that get to function with true humility. Rather than fear their weaknesses and waste their strengths they effectively manage what they can’t do and they boldly do what they can do. There’s no more being shy about mistakes or about skills. Pride and shame get replaced by focus and involvement. Rather than thinking about how others might be judging them, these kids are very healthy about not focusing on opinions. They focus on what they’re doing so what they’re doing is done better.

Of course almost universally I’m seeing kids because they are in some way special. And of course, being special is really at the heart of why humans have been so successful for a million years. That diversity is what’s allowed us to do some really amazing things. I mean, Mars was super close the other night and I was looking at it thinking–we’ve been there! And now we’re talking about staying there. We’re amazing. And the people that get us there are these impervious kids who don’t care about things that don’t matter and so they grow up to be adults who do fantastic things like go to Mars.

No one should be stopped from the joys and rewards of a school and its community by simple ideas. We as people are much bigger than that and our ability to impact our own lives is greater than that. I don’t so much teach people what to do as I remind them of how strong they truly are. From there they are wise and clever and content on their own.

925 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek was an attemptWe’ve built a world that is short on displaying empathy and long on displaying selfishness. Virtually every reality show hinges on selfishness over cooperation. Same with game shows, and most dramas are also dominance games. Winning is looking like an advertisement or in having what others can’t afford. And yet despite how hard these ideas are sold to us, we all prefer authenticity and humility and in the face of each other the real qualities always win.

It may seem strange to teach the bullied empathy for the bullying, but that’s what works because it really is the bully who has the problem in their life. Once a kid sees this in this particularly profound way, it’s not so much that they feel stronger–although they are–they just no longer understand why the other kid ever bothered them in the first place. And in leading them to learn how to manage their consciousness properly, the bully literally handed their victim a lifelong superpower.

Mental suffering is the easiest suffering to manage. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Once a kid understands how their psychology really works and how they can affect it they don’t need much more. With the windshield uncovered they just drive around any challenges. And that’s important. Because they’ve got important places to go and important things to do. I wonder where your kid might take us?

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 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.

Made to Order

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #5

Despite how parts of it are sold, society is a cooperation not a competition. Traffic, infrastructure, schools, corporate structures, the internet; these are all things that were designed to help us cooperate.

903 Relax and Succeed -Calvin and Hobbes
The Story Behind This Cartoon

Our societal cooperation works best when each of us intentionally aligns our deepest self with the larger goal. So for some big startup company to succeed it needs someone who wants to lock themselves away alone to do some deep, complex thinking. But it also needs bold, talkative, likeable salespeople who’re good at managing grey areas, and those salespeople all have to be different to appeal to different clients. Then the organisation will also need accounting and legal staff that then turns grey areas into black and white. Etc. etc.

It is called an organisation because it is the coordination of all of these very disparate and even conflicting skill sets. So the saleswoman intentionally generates grey area to achieve a sale only for accounting to have to slice all the grey into neat little boxes. One person’s work literally creates the other person’s work. Nothing’s wrong there, it’s just the nature of an organisation.

The challenge occurs when a catch-all idea tries to encapsulate all of these complex relationships. We see this most often in schools, where it used to be presumed that some students were strong in some subjects and not in others. Now if you’re a good student you’re not allowed to be a human with natural skill set. Now a good student gets good grades in everything.

903 Relax and Succeed - Action without visionStudents are no longer their experiences, now they are just the memories in their brain. In turn their brain is seen as a computer to be programmed, and the notion is that the same process applies to programming math skills as reading skills when that is simply not the case.

Some kids look out their bedroom window and see the stars move each night and they wonder about those movements and they get good at math because they are innately interested in becoming a cosmologist. Some can’t sit still in class and they become world-renowned ballerina, Karen Kain. Some aren’t good at math but they’re good at understanding complex physical relationships, as was the case with the physicist, Albert Einstein.

Those are not people who succeeded because they got good grades and fit into the boxes at school really neatly. These are people who had just the right conditions to become fully themselves, even when that self conflicted with some pattern that society found convenient. Yes, we want to see ourselves as a part of larger society, but we don’t want salespeople to start acting like accountants any more than we want accountants to act like salespeople.

903 Relax and Succeed - Notable college dropouts

Real drive, real success and real happiness do not come from good grades, good pay and people approving of you. You’ll get all the approval you need from yourself if you’re realising your inner motivations and then working hard to achieve them. Because that doesn’t even feel like work–it just feels like the steps you need to take to get you where you’re going.

Yes, we all need to do reasonably well in school because those basic skills do end up way more important than any kid realises up until they’re about 25 years old. But we shouldn’t panic if someone struggles in a subject or their grades are average. College is no guarantee of a good life, but knowing how to realise yourself through diligent work is. If something matters enough to someone they’ll work incredibly hard at it whether that’s in a college or outside of it.

Do not treat kids like pegs to fit into holes. They are all individuals and as much as a hassle it might be for a parent or teacher to have Karen Kain and Steve Jobs in the same class, it’s important to remember that the school is a construct not a natural occurrence. Meaning we should be less invested in things like grades and more focused on seeing if the kids themselves feel like they are expanding.

Too many of our pressures on kids have to do with conforming and getting into line. Yes, teach kids to be good, solid cooperative citizens. But not at the price of choking off their spirit, because if that’s intact it will drive their intellect to create not only great things, but also a great life.

peace. s

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.

Parenting Adults

When someone had a baby I used to always write in the card, “congratulations on your future teenager!” It seemed so fitting to me. By my mid teens the studies that emerged from my accident lead me to the conclusion that our personalities were little more than thought patterns, and while they were changeable their direction was fundamentally established quite early in life.

769 Relax and Succeed - Hardship often preparesThis is not to say we can’t become so conscious that we can’t make course alterations but the paradox is this: once you’re that aware–that conscious–then you don’t want to be anyone else. You accept that enjoying the experience of this universe means you have to choose a point of view. You have to be someone. The trick is to be that person but not take that life’s challenges as failures. Those aren’t failures–they’re just the steps required to live that life.

No matter how you parent your children there will be a yin and yang to their experience. If you’re open-minded and teach them to be, then they’ll struggle more with close-minded people than people who grew up in more combative, competitive or contrary households. If you’re very successful and functioning well above average in many areas of life, then your child may be stressed by their very normal levels of performance. Rather than enjoy their life they may strive for one that appears more impressive. So there is no point in trying to parent the right way. Every way has consequences that go every possible direction.

The most useful thing a parent can do is remember that they only have one job: to teach a child all the things they will need to know to be able to live without the parent. So don’t think about behaviour as being good or bad. Ask yourself what wiring your child’s brain will need to deal with a situation. If every time they struggle you assist them, they will be very weak when they must face any of life’s normal struggles. If their complaints of boredom are always met with offers of distraction then they be distracted, poorly motivated adults.

769 Relax and Succeed - If you wish to moveI liked hanging around the teachers I’ve worked with who were self-aware, who truly cared about the kids and who were always so generous with their wisdom. I learned a lot from them. But everyone had the same sense. That we felt the recent groups of kids had the same potential to be brilliant, but that they were all stifled by a very noticeable discomfort with making their own decisions. They seemed to guess far more than use critical thinking to draw their own conclusions, and they seemed more interested in symbols than principle. So they were more focused on their grade than their own sense of whether or not they grew. This effect increased quite strongly year over year.

The reason for this is very simple. People want to sell you things like guns or alarms or locks or insurance, and the news needs you to stay for the ads, so they show you lots of scary stories, and it’s convinced you that our very safe world is somehow much more dangerous than it really is. This false belief then creates over-protection which leads to the underdevelopment of the fundamental skills of character. What’s missing is the parent’s understanding of how truly incredible their child is.

Parents have been taught by advertising culture to constantly look at their lives for what’s missing. Because of this they live within a zeitgeist of defeat. This transfers to their childrearing and the result is like taking the notion of original sin and putting it on steroids. People feel they’re fundamentally not enough and they worry or stress their lives apart by trying to be someone other than who they are. You don’t need to be anyone else. Just be yourself in a state of mind where you love the world. That’s all the development you need.

769 Relax and Succeed - Life is like a cameraWhen I heard the brilliant interview (below) I was thrilled. Julie Lythcott-Haims was Stanford University’s Dean of Freshman and she too noticed the trend I referred to above. Her new book How to Raise an Adult lead to a recent radio interview that is worth any parent’s time. Parents are stressing themselves too much when in fact what they should be doing is far less.

I really love the world. But if anyone asks me if there’s anything I would change it’s only that I wish a much larger percentage of people would own how incredibly capable and strong and creative and courageous the core of every human being is. We always save our best for when things are at their absolute worst. I would like to see us to look less at some of humanity’s mistakes–those are very well documented. I would like is all to remember the remarkable achievements of humans as individuals and as a species.

We have good reason to believe in ourselves. And we have good reason to believe in the young people of this world.  It’s time we unleashed that potential by trading our fearful thoughts of what might go wrong, for thrilling thoughts about what might go right.

Have a wonderful day.

Interview: How to Raise an Adult vs Helicopter Parenting

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Guilty Parents?

I saw your comment on facebook. My heart broke when I read it. You love your child so much, and yet you cannot look at the autism without questioning your decision to vaccinate. I feel for you. The way you’re feeling is entirely understandable. And yet at the same time, I’m writing to you to provide a wider context because I believe it will help you to better understand your decision and the consequences. As you read this you may feel you’re getting an indication of where I’m going with all of this. But many were surprised to find where I ended up, so I do hope you’ll take the whole journey with me.

619 Relax and Succeed - People who urge youScience is based on skepticism, so unlike many people I’m very open to the challenges put forth to any scientific idea. That’s how we’ve always moved forward with our knowledge and it is often the people who are considered quacks and idiots who are the people who were far enough outside of conventional thinking to actually be able to see something obvious that others missed. If you haven’t heard of him, Dr. Barry Marshall was thrown out of medical conferences for being a quack and yet today if you go into the doctor with an ulcer you’ll get Dr. Marshall’s treatment. So we have to keep an open mind to the minority because they’re more likely to find something revolutionary. Dr. Marshall was a case of people not giving credit to an idea without even testing it. They dismissed it without studying it and that was the failure in their science. As I said, good science is vigilant skepticism working hand in hand with creativity.

My profound concern regarding your feelings are that you have missed a critical detail in your calculations of responsibility. It took Dr. Marshall a long time to convince the world he was right. So you understand that at the time—despite the fact that better information existed—every ulcer patient did what their good doctor told them to and so they engaged in ultimately useless treatments when they could have been having Dr. Marshall’s. But they never knew about Dr. Marshall’s findings because no one had bothered to verify if they were true. So someone feeling bad because they didn’t use a treatment they didn’t even know about is like someone feeling bad because they didn’t pick the winner of the Best Picture Oscar a day early. Yeah, everyone knows the who won the next day, and those accountants they always introduce knew before that, just 619 Relax and Succeed - Being considered crazylike Dr. Marshall. But you accept that you can’t know who won the Oscars before they open the envelop, and so you don’t feel guilty for not knowing.

In your case you wish you had known about the study that suggested there was a link between autism and vaccines. The key difference I want to address is that your situation is completely different than the one with Dr. Marshall. Because the Autism-MMR study was done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and he is nothing like Dr. Marshall. Dr. Marshall had done good science and was provably correct. In Dr. Wakefield’s case, his results couldn’t be repeated in quality studies anywhere in the world. Eventually the heat turned up and Dr. Wakefield was forced to admit that a combination of his own ego, and his financial investment in a medical test that would only be profitable if vaccines weren’t used, lead him to completely fabricate his results and his conclusions.

He’s been forced to be quite public about it because his admission was thought to have finally settled the challenge that better science had made. In the end he still seems to more embarrassed than ashamed, and he only came forward when reporters couldn’t find any trace of the children that had supposedly been in his study. Knowing he had been exposed he quickly admitted that he invented children and invented their symptoms and invented their results and yes he knows parents are putting their kids in real danger because of his lie. This was a complete and total lie as stated by the man who did it. So what I want you to do is a little mind game with me—but you can’t pretend to do it, you have to really imagine these things happened.

Imagine that Dr. Wakefield doesn’t tell this lie. Let’s say he chooses a different lie. After all, it was an act of creativity. He could have picked anything. Let us say he said it was a bacteria alive in blue cheese and it was the cause of autism if consumed. Can you see if he had told that lie instead of the one he made up, 619 Relax and Succeed - When facing a single treethat you would have absolutely no reason whatsoever to even consider your child’s vaccine as the cause of his autism. Seriously. How could you? There’s a zillion things in this world, why would you pick that one? If no one pointed at it why would you pick it? You could pick a dog bite when he was young. Or the fact that you live near a refinery. Or maybe he ate blue cheese once so maybe that’s it… Can you see you wouldn’t do that? That the only reason that you or anyone else ever looked at vaccines as the cause of autism, is because Dr. Wakefield told you a complete lie, and now, almost 20 years after he lied, here is this loving, wonderful parent feeling guilty about doing something that every appropriately trained medical doctor would have told you to do (well, except for maybe an over-the-top conspiracy theorist).

I’m an interesting age when it comes to this discussion. 4 years younger than me and it looks totally different. Because my little sister came into a school filled with healthy kids. It wasn’t like that for me. For anyone that paid any attention in my grade, you could see that the kids just a few years ahead of us had been ravaged. Deformed kids. Crippled kids. Dead kids. Lots of them. People today use death stats etc. but that’s crazy. My brothers went to school almost two decades before me and when I asked my mother if she was worried that sending them to school might kill them she said “Not so much dying, no. There was only a few that died at the school. I didn’t want their faces all twisted up or them having kidney problems or be all crippled up. Not many died but there was lots of kids who had that kind of thing.”

619 Relax and Succeed - Truth what is itThis wasn’t rare. That’s the whole problem. It was too common. The measles vaccine for instance came out the year I was born. Imagine my mother sending my older brothers to school when kids had been crippled and died, or had encephalitis—which is still why everyone reacts so seriously when there’s a meningitis outbreak. Kids did permanent damage to their organs, and yet for my older brothers there were multiple, known viruses moving through society and absolutely no way to protect yourself. Sending your kid to school could literally ruin their life, and the odds were much much higher of that than the odds of having an allergic reaction and dying from a vaccine—which absolutely can happen. But that’s still 100,000’s of kids compared with about 100. Those numbers are way too far apart for you want to be in the other group, and it’s why the vast majority of people against vaccines are under 55. Because otherwise that’s just super bad math.

I remember so many crippled kids older than me that it was simply a fact of how I saw those classes of older kids. They were the crippled and deformed kids. And you don’t see a lot of them hobbling around today because a lot of them died before 40, so even if they survived a lot of them are long gone already. I got to graduate with the class I started with. My brothers, 15 years older, had a completely different school experience. I still remember seeing all of those strange, deformed legs moving down the hallway with that strange dragging step. And because of how it was passed, it was often multiple kids in one family.

In the case of polio, it’s a shame that even survivors like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have a far better chance of dying much sooner than they would have had they never had polio. Even the lowly chicken pox (varicella) leads to a very painful herpes zoster condition in one in five people who had it. The mumps can make you sterile and as late as 1980 the measles was still killing as many as 2.5 million people per year worldwide. Plain old undefined influenza still kills almost 5500 people a year in Canada, and many of these conditions are more dangerous to adults than kids. And even if you survived polio, you still paid with 619 Relax and Succeed - Be certain in the religion of loveyears of being crippled as a kid and you’ll often die younger. That’s because the body paid a price because it took some time for Neil Young’s body to figure out what that virus was. It took it years of being crippled to figure that out and then build an immune system response strong enough to fight it. So in Neil’s case his immune system worked its ass off and it won the war and so we have Neil Young songs to listen to. But a lot of kids did the fighting for years but their bodies didn’t respond quickly enough and they died or were permanently crippled.

A vaccine is simply an isolated version of the answer to a virus attack. Every researcher knows what the human body does to fight a virus, so they take the answer from someone who’s already beaten it and they multiply it into doses and give it to you. Most of the worry people have about vaccines is about the fact that the entirely natural piece has to be bound to agents that allow your body to “grab” the answer and use it, but even those agents have been tested like crazy. Because we’re all human the answer to these diseases is the same for all of us. And once it solves it, all your body needs to do is go build its army. So there’s lots of unproven claims about vaccines that don’t stand up to rigorous study, but all a vaccine does is tell your body the answer that it might not have otherwise figured out in time, so that it can start responding faster. It’s exactly what Neil Young’s body did but you get to skip the crippled part.

619 Relax and Succeed - I've seen and met angelsThese diseases aren’t cured by corporations. The researchers have always been and still are largely the children or siblings of people who were affected by that disease. They’re not part of some conspiracy or some thieving money-grabbing scheme. Half the time in the old days they would test the thing on themselves. So could we still find something out 50 years from now that proves vaccines may be dangerous? Yes, we always have to keep our minds open to such a possibility, lest we end up like the people that suppressed Dr. Marshall’s ulcer findings. But we must also use whatever the best information is at this time. And to an overwhelming degree, all of the serious, highest-standard studies done by doctors—with far better morals that Dr. Wakefield’s—have shown the same thing. There is no link between autism and vaccines and you only think that because of Dr. Wakefield’s desire to be rich and famous. Again, if he thought blue cheese would have gotten him all that attention then he would have told you that and then you’d feel guilty about blue cheese.

The fact that you care so much is all the illustration I need to know you are a good parent. And I’m fine if you want to harbour low-percentage ideas in case they might be true—someone has to in case they turn out to be. But right now—today and on the day you got your child vaccinated—on those days there was no question you made the safest possible choice and I can absolutely guarantee you would have the full and total support of any sane, reasonably 619 Relax and Succeed - Butterflies don't know the coloreducated mother who had to watch their kids go through school before, and then after vaccines. There were absolutely zero anti-vaccine mom’s in our school back then because every two minutes another schoolmate would clack past the vaccine line with his metal legs.

Don’t beat yourself up. You already have a tough enough job raising a special needs child. You need to love yourself as much as you love that child. Because you did make a good decision and because Jenny McCarthy is just like you—she’s a parent who feels guilty, so she’s looking for the reason to be anything but her. But it wasn’t either one of you. I’m sympathetic to your terrible situations. But that does not mean there is any way on this Earth that Dr. Wakefield’s magical lie could ever climb out of a needle and into your child. You are a good parent. You really are.

With love and the biggest hug ever, s