This post has taken a while to get here. It is a little long, sorry, but I didn’t seem to be able to make it any shorter. I am writing it as a reaction to the focus of our schools and society in general. It is about my transition from following the unwritten rules of societal credit to following my heart. May sound a little cheasy, but do read it before you judge…
WORK ETHICS FROM SCRATCH
Being born into a family with high moral standards and never bending work ethics, I naturally adopted these values at a very young age. I may even have taken them to even higher levels since I, like any other child, wanted to do my best and make my parents proud. Only later on I have realised that they meant it when they said that they were proud of me and my sister from the day we were born. We didn’t have to do anything or be in any certain way in order to be in the center of their hearts all hours of the day, every day.
I guess this longing to make others proud or be recognised spread to other areas of my life pretty quickly. I don’t remember how I felt towards my first nanny, but if I asked her today, she might be able to fill me in on how often I used to show her drawings and make an effort to tell her what I had found out, accomplished etc. I have felt this urge to do so well or be so good in somewhere near ALL teacher/student relationships I have ever had. Even with my yoga teachers where its all about doing it for myself.
THE SECRET TO SOCIETAL CREDIT
I remember when I was about 11 years old, I had just started learning English and I had had a cold the weekend before my class. I remember looking it up and asking my parents how to say it. I had practised it over and over again only to be able to say it to my teacher. I came to school and when she stepped into the classroom, I went over and gathered my courage and said: “This weekend I caught a cold”. You know what she said? She just said “Oh, right”, not even in English… I felt stupid. Why should she even care about that? I don’t remember exactly what I thought and what I took in from this experience, but looking at my inner dialogues now, it could be something like; do better next time, this wasn’t interesting, you have to come up with something better, or even you don’t matter anyway.
My mum often told me that I demand a lot from myself. She also said that having such high standards and expectations for your own behaviour and performance, you will meet disappointments along your way. You will meet people who don’t share these high standards or who have high standards in their own opinion, but not in yours. What I did to avoid this was to work a little harder. It goes way back to my first job even. If the other employees didn’t do their job well, I would do their part too. I wouldn’t walk away from a dirty floor or a messy shelf on my shift. It paid off. I became a Manager. If my staff didn’t do what I told them to and as well as I expected, I would work a little faster and do their part over again. This pattern continues and no matter where I found myself, I was being rewarded for working harder than they expected.
I reckon some of you recognise this pattern in yourselves. It might not even have to be rooted in your parents’ behaviour and you may not even have been exposed to any visual ideals about this during your childhood. Maybe you just decoded the secret to societal credit. Children pick this up very quickly, you know..
1/ If you do as you are expected to do nobody really notices.
2/ If you do less than you are expected to, you might get special treatment or worried eyes (sometimes better than not being noticed, I guess).
3/ If you do more than expected, you are praised, recognised for your performance, the teacher might use your report as an example in class.
This is what ‘Employee of the month’ is for. High achiever special treatment in high schools and universities. Bonuses. Growth indicators above 100.
INTELLIGENCE IS NOT ABILITY TO REPEAT WHAT THE TEACHER KNOWS
I recently read an article about a mother who introduced a few hours of ‘time to do nothing’ on Sundays at 11 am. Her children hated it at first as they were used to entertainment and endless activity, but after a while they started looking forward to Sundays of quiet mind-listening. I also found a talk by a teenage boy with higher IQ than Albert Einstein. He was predicted unable to ever live a normal life by health officials when he was a toddler, but is now the youngest astro physics researcher in history. If he hadn’t been taken out of the special education system early on, they might have been right. His motto is: ‘Stop learning and start thinking’.
What is remarkable about this is that we are all different. We understand the world differently and we all need space and time to discover the world and find out what we are passionate about. If we keep focusing on having to learn certain things at a certain time, trying to be better than the person next to us, we lose perspective. We may think being ‘employee of the month’ is what we aim for in life, but honestly….. Nobody came to this world with a mission to be able to repeat what other people said or beat anyone else’s score in math.
When we let the brain rest and be curious instead of pushing it to learn, we suddenly come up with original ideas. We become creative and we may find out that we learn differently from the girl next to us in class. We may find out that we weren’t less intelligent after all, we just saw calculous as images and not numbers for instance.
THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
In 2010 I was forced to shut down. If I was a computer, someone definitely pressed the reset button. I went from being a busy, extrovert, ambitious, career-oriented communications professional one day to being a sensitive, dizzy social security number with a memory like a goldfish the next day. It all happened so fast and for a while I actually managed to convince myself that it wasn’t happening and that I could go back to my old life in a few days. But as it happens sometimes, the computer kept searching for signal. It was horrifying until the day I realised that I could learn from this.
And BOY did I learn! This has opened my mind, my heart and my soul in ways I never thought possible. I spent hours, days, months trying to focus as little as possible on nothing at all. This made me feel better. Physically. Mentally. When I got that one figured out, I started playing with happy thoughts, positive energy – and what I found was that those thoughts didn’t make me feel bad, not phyically or mentally. I became this annoying happy-ball completely consumed in staying happy no matter what, because unhappy meant PAIN. I have evened it out quite well now, if you ask me, but sometimes I do wish I could find my way back into that state of joy…
Well, this wasn’t the only learning I did. Another thing that comes with post-commotio syndrome (which is what I have – longterm symptoms after a concussion), or at least with my version of it, is bad memory, low energy levels, short attention span to mention just a few. This means that I have a need for shorter workdays, lots of breaks and relaxation during a workday, no stress whatsoever and a constant focus on the signals my body is sending to my brain… As you might have noticed, it doesn’t match very well with my hard working, achieving, ambitious former work ethics. I had to restructure completely. And the funny thing is that all my best ideas have come to me while lying flat on my back on the floor. They never come when I push it. I can’t really plan when I am creative and when I will be able to quickly fix my finances.
WHAT I AM SAYING IS
…..don’t conform and try not to fall into the trap believing that you need to be good at all the things everyone else is good at. You need to find your special ingredient that can attract all the goodness, love and happiness you need. Think about how you encourage other people around you. You don’t have to be like everyone else. Who is everyone else, anyway? We are all different and we are all awesome in our own funny way. And don’t let society decide what you will be or do. You can be or do whatever you want.