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Posts Tagged ‘personal development’

experience life

experience life

I am reading now a book written by M. Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and professor of an impressive reputation, the author of “Flow” and “Creativity (…)”. The book is not as much about the creativity itself, although the author looks for patterns that lead some of the people (that I would qualify of genius or at least extremely talented) to be creative and therefore able of great achievements. He had the opportunity to interview individuals whose work is world wildly recognized and rewarded by prizes like Nobel’s or Pulitzer. There are researchers, mathematicians, physicists, writers, etc.

This is a very interesting and useful lecture that I am also reading with pleasure, but I can’t agree with one particular statement of the author. “(…) the reigning stereotype of the tortured genius is to large extent a myth created by Romantic ideology and supported by evidence from isolated and- one hopes- atypical historical periods. In other words, if Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy showed more than their share of pathology it was due less to the requirements of their creative work than to the personal sufferings caused by the unhealthful conditions of a Russian society nearing collapse. (…)” (p.19)

Therefore, according to these words, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy would have been equally genius even if they wouldn’t suffer because of what was happening in Russia. I am not so sure if they would have been so creative and wrote those remarkable novels if it wasn’t for suffering, if it wasn’t for the difficulties they were encountering, for knowing how pain feels, for wanting to understand human behavior and looking for answers. They would still become writers, probably, but would their work be so fascinating? I guess we don’t have and won’t have the answer.

My point here is that I strongly believe that what is called today a “wealthy” society does more damage than good on a creative level. Each day more and more people chose TV instead of a book, we live easy, we live fast, we want what is effortless and often superficial.

Therefore, a child growing in a wealthy society who is developing his perception of the world and his unique thoughts about it, is less likely to be curious, less stimulated on an intellectual level, less likely to want to explore it because he explores it by watching DVD’s and maybe, if lucky, Discovery Channel instead of brainwashing tv shows. If his family is more or less a “normal” one, where he isn’t exposed to any difficulty like a parent’s alcoholism, someone’s health problems, he will just live in this pink, false and easy world of the future to be “normal”, ordinary person. He will not know the taste of pain, he will not grow as strong as he could. Schools, especially the public ones, do not encourage creativity so much because it means more work for them, for the teachers, the adults. Wealthy societies are a place which is everything but creativity and curiosity stimulating.

I believe that one has to experience life- its beauty and ugliness- to contribute on a greatest level to it. There are lots of factors that are necessary so a person can achieve something extraordinary and Csikszentmihalyi explains them all. My point, nevertheless, is that beside some exceptions (and there will be less and less exceptions as we allow children to become stupid because of their parents and teachers laziness) a wealthy society and a healthy family is not so much able to give birth to a new Dostoyevsky.

There is no good way to approach this subject. Stupid people will have more or less stupid kids or children even more stupid than their parents. Just as will the lazy or too busy to be good parents ones. Experiencing life, again, its beauty and ugliness, is the way to stimulate a mind. Politicians, parents, teachers could also take more care of their kids- less tv and more books, less indoor activities and more outdoor excursions, etc. Teachers who do teach in a passionate and remarkable way should get some recognition. A society can be wealthy but does it has to mean that it produces brainless people? Then what kind of future will this “great” society have? Why do best novelist write inspiring novels only if they are able to live and experience life 100%? How would they be able to describe a country if they had never seen it or at least read about it? How can they talk about colours, smells, feelings that they never experienced? One thing is sure, our kids won’t find out the taste of life while watching Big Brother.

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I am well aware of the consequences of writing a post which is meant to make people thinking by criticising all (or almost) that the wealthy and hedonistic societies represent.

I have been confronted this week with the death of my beloved aunt, a 92 years old lady whose life was full of pain, disappointment and difficulties. She was the strongest person I knew.  The generation of my grand-parents, people who participated in the World War II, who fought for their countries, for the freedom for the upcoming generations- these are the strongest, most brave, courageous and kind people I have seen. I tend to think about them as the “lost” generation. They sacrificed their lives, their youth, all they had for what they believed in and for us. If you ask most of them whether they feel like they are a “lost” generation, they wouldn’t understand. You ask them if they can say that they were happy and most of them will answer “yes”. Do they think of themselves as martyrs? Neither.

Now, for me, today’s teenagers and people in their twenties seem like the “lost” generation. No values, thoughtless, interested in getting easy pleasures and fast, we (and this is a generalisation, because I still believe some of us are not “lost” at all) are weak and have what  our grand-parents might have called a meaningless lives. We have no purpose and we don’t look for it. We are less aware of what is and what is not important in life, what we really want, why and what will make us happy. Because we often don’t even know what happiness means.

Our grand-parents gave us safety, comfortable lives, a better world (in the wealthy countries). And still, here we are, wasting all their sacrifices, unable to be happy, even though we have the tools to feel so.

Some of the wealthy societies and life style lead us to:

Low Frustration Tolerance:

Basically, it means that we can’t tolerate, we can’t stand when things don’t go the way we expect them to go, when life doesn’t run smoothly, when we have to do hard instead of easy. This is something that children feel very often and in the process of growing up they are supposed to learn that they just can’t have all they want or that they have to put some effort in order to achieve what they want. Children don’t learn that anymore and, in consequence, when they become adults, they experience the Low Frustration Tolerance.
In practice, it means that whatever obstacle we encounter, we just don’t know how to find a solution and keep in mind the goal we want to achieve. We get angry, anxious, and experience all kind of feelings that impede us to feel good and to concentrate on really important things.

Low Frustration Tolerance often creates procrastination and self- defeating behaviours. We are frustrated with our jobs, with our relationships, with our lives in general and still, we do nothing to overcome LFT. We prefer to stay in what is called the comfort zone. Someone unhappy in his marriage doesn’t do anything to change his or her situation because this would mean stepping out of the comfort zone. This person is used to feel unhappy and what seems worse to him or her is to confront himself with the fear of being alone, of never meeting a true love, of making a huge mistake, etc. Another person can successfully procrastinate any attempt to get fit- just because the idea of exercise is something he can’t stand, makes him feel frustrated. So even though he commits to exercise, he never sticks to his own commitment “because I will fail anyway, because I hate sports”.

A world where superficial actions and immediate pleasures are more valuable than a meaningful life:

People stopped reading true literature. Most of us didn’t have a classic literature book in our hands for years. Instead, we just pick an easy bestseller and call the author a genius. Kids watch on DVDs the adaptations of the books they are supposed to read. All this assuming some of us read more than 2 books per year. All that’s easier, faster and seems like more pleasure is what we prefer.

We use computers all the time, so many of us are forgetting handwriting. If the computer crashes, it seems like the end of the world- we can’t work, we don’t know our agenda, we can’t function properly.

We eat junk food and fool ourselves that we’re cooking. Because we don’t care that the sauce we use for the spaghetti is all ready and has more of E-something inside than natural products. We “bake” cakes and cookies- from a box: just mix everything together, add some milk and one egg, put it in the oven and you “baked” a delicious cake! But does it really has the taste of your grandma’s cake? Is it even close to the taste from your childhood???

We “go green” in so many hypocritical ways- separating some plastic from paper from time to time, using special bags instead of the plastic ones, turning off the light, etc. All of this would be great if in countries such as USA, Canada and Australia it would be possible to live without a car. Not only because of the big distances, but also because of the costs of public transport, its availability (come on, Warsaw’s suburbs have better public transport availability than Sydney’s suburbs!) and the fact that everybody has to have a car. And not just A car, but a big one which polluates 10 times more than most of cars that people buy in Europe. Please, call yourself an ecologist.

Healthy life style? When? How? Going by car to work, from work, to pick the kids from the school and, of course, the shopping centre.

Our superficiality is also reflected in our relationships. When we have problems in our marriage, we can consult some specialist, we are taught to communicate and, still, more than 50% of marriages finish with a divorce. We just give up so easily when the problems that any normal couple experience show up. We don’t know how to deal with difficulties, with misunderstandings, we don’t think about what our values are and don’t know the values of our partner. I am not saying that we don’t try. But are we really trying hard enough?

We don’t recognise happiness:

We want things. Our society is a materialistic one, so it’s natural that we want this or that and that we automatically associate having something with being happy. And then comes the disappointment, because what we dreamed of is not enough. So we want more and more and more… Without ever feeling truly happy for more than a week or two. Our grand-parents couldn’t have all those things. They were more preoccupied about a good health care, getting enough food and a good education for their children. They were more satisfied than we are. Why? Because often our lives, sadly, totally lack of meaning and deeper purpose.

We are not grateful:

We don’t think about being grateful for the things we have. We often don’t even know what we could be grateful for. Those things can be so simple, but we don’t pay attention; the sun is shining for the first time this year, someone unexpectedly smiled to us, the morning coffee we shared with the one we love…

I could keep going on and on… I am not saying that my life is not superficial, that it’s not easy for me to be grateful for what I have, I do have LFT but will try to do something about it. This post is not to point others with my finger, while I think I am different. These are just some reflections that you can agree with or not. And the generalisation is huge, I know.

My questions is: how proud of us would our grand-parents be if they could see what we are doing and how, the poor choices we make and all the great things we have or could have and that we don’t even notice?

recognise happiness

recognise happiness

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Grow up! This is a sentence most of us were hearing on a regular basis in our childhood. As a child, this is one of the things you desire most: to grow up- not only physically, but also in a different way. This process will open so many doors. Adults can go to sleep late or not at all, they can watch all the movies they want, they can go to bars, smoke cigarettes, go on a date, drive a car. For a kid this list is endless. And what happens once you are actually a “grown up”?

I like to observe people. To analyse them. To understand them. To learn from their mistakes (as much as I try to learn from mines). At the age of 20,I was a naive optimist, so it somehow impacted me strongly that so many people around me gave up on this idea of growing up and making themselves better people. Most of them, after their 18th, 21st or 25th birthday (or just after finishing studies and getting a job) didn’t feel the need to change. They were who they were. I remember trying to make some of them come back to the idea of growing up, but they wouldn’t listen, or they wouldn’t understand or they didn’t feel the need to change.

Eventually, with years going by, I saw them going through incredible problems and life situations that were so hard that they barely could stand it. Back then, I thought that they will learn something, they will think about what happened and why, get to some conclusions and want a change. That they will understand that growing up during our entire lives is so important and should be important for them. It was so logical. One person, particularly important to me, had shown signs of  wanting to get deeper, have a time of reflection. I felt so happy for him. When the “storm” in his life was gone, he forgot about our conversation and now I don’t think he is able to grow up.

Then I observed another simple thing. Some individuals, no matter what, no matter how full their schedules are, always find time to keep growing up. They start activities like learning a new language (at the age of 47), they think about how the priorities in their lives change, they want to try more things so they can keep discovering the world, they keep looking for God or they do everything they can to be in a constant personal development.

I am not sure if I am one of them. I certainly love to learn and love to think things over and over. I am looking for the answers to my questions. Or I am looking for the questions that need to be answered. I am actually able to make quite a big life shifts or decisions if they may enable my growing up. And then some friend, with one email and zero understanding touches this fragile and insecure part of me and makes me questioning every single of my decisions. I didn’t know how to deal with her and her email, so I decided to write a post. And guess what… I just found out (again) that I’m growing up, that I love it and that I should never stop it- no matter what others think!

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