If all an education did was teach strong values and create a growth mindset, then our children would accomplish more and create greater contributions than any society in history. Instead, we coddle them into a lifestyle of insistent victimhood. They will enter the world obsessed with themselves, complaining about each slight, while missing giant opportunities.
Every trainer has heard the excuses: “You work out at 5am every morning? I wish I was like that, but I can’t go to bed early enough.” Or, ”I just hate sweating,” or “I know I need to cut soda, but I want to live. I just have a sweet tooth.” When thoughts such as these are your operating framework, you’re less inclined to make any effort toward positive change, and those efforts you do make are doomed before they start.
Fulfillment and success are impossible without the right lens. We can’t teach people anything of value if we don’t first get to the core of training a mature perception, whereby they aren’t insistent victims, but rather grateful, opportunistic, and creative. We need training in how expectations and perceptions shape experiences, so we can take the responsibility necessary to achieve goals that actually matter to us. Imagine the power of a group of people absolutely committed to owning their circumstances and outcomes, and empowered by a true understanding of what would fulfill them. It’s possible, if we’ll only give people the tools.
The Vicious Cycle of Victim Mentality
“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”
Most of us experience the same set of emotions over and over, but do not take the time to understand them or understand their triggers. We’re more inclined to label ourselves impatient, anxious, or a bad speaker, than take steps to understand our experience and be open to change. Our self-fulfilling prophecies keep us fixed and closed.
There is no greater handicap than the belief that you are a victim. Unfortunately, popular culture promotes victimhood. We love to watch the “real housewives” make an art of being offended. “Social justice warriors” self-righteously program themselves to perceive and decry every slight, without realizing that their mindsets that will relegate them to lives of stagnation. We must consciously decide not to be victims. Mark Manson concludes in his book, “We don’t always control what happens to us, but we always control how we interpret what happens to us and the response.”
To break this cycle, we need lessons that bring a greater depth of understanding about how perception shapes reality. We need lessons that allow us to question our dogmatic views about ourselves and create an impetus for change. We need a desire to constantly evolve and grow, which is fed by an understanding that life is not fixed. We need to feed our minds with exposure to the right questions, the right people, and the right thoughts on a daily basis. You cannot choose your immediate thoughts, but where you focus your intention will become your thoughts, over time. You cannot choose your family, or the people in your class, but you certainly can choose whose thoughts you listen to on a daily basis. We tend to take on the beliefs, perceptions, and habits of the people we expose ourselves to.
There are no simple one-stop lessons that will radically change our perceptions and our life. It’s a constant education. However, there are a few essential lessons that I will share with you over the coming weeks.
Your Internal Measuring Stick
How do you explain each situation to yourself? Consciousness of that internal narrative can be eye opening. Stopping negative thought patterns requires increased introspection. Unfortunately, our culture trains us to look outside ourselves for fulfillment, rather than inside. We lose context as we chase comfort and obsess over what others think. The solution starts with awareness, which you are already cultivating if you’ve taken the first three steps I described previously. However, further understanding is needed. Manson writes:
“Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover in a top-ten article on the Huffington Post or from any specific guru or teacher. It doesn’t magically appear when you finally make enough money to add on that extra room to the house. You don’t find it waiting for you in a place, an idea, a job—or even a book, for that matter.”
Happiness is driven by our values and the way we measure whether we live up to them. If our primary values are pleasure, money, or popularity, we are doomed to feel unhappy. Pleasure is a fickle, temporary emotion, and chasing it leaves one constantly dissatisfied. If the approval of others is our guide, then we’ll be tormented by our inability to please everyone and held captive by superficial gossip and shallow pursuits that run us ragged. If our primary metric is other people, there will always be someone richer, prettier, smarter, or more charismatic.
This brings us back to the values of inspired education: natural harmony, creativity, strength, integrity, and passion. These encompass all of our human needs. Our metric for values should encourage actions that keep us growing, while not holding us to an irrationally high standard we’ll never feel competent against.
Choose the Right Challenges
Our values and self-measurement make up our sense of self-worth, and self-worth is what allows us to take life’s feedback and use it constructively. Rather than be crushed when we notice we have weaknesses or face suffering, self-worth allows us to be receptive to change.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life. As I’ve explained, expecting to avoid all suffering makes for a victim mentality when pain inevitably shows up. Manson’s solution for better perception is to ask yourself what sufferings you are willing to withstand. A sense of purpose helps justify life’s mild sufferings. It helps highlight those problems that you enjoy solving; that bring a sense of satisfaction. It’s why cheating on a spouse or an endless buffet of ice cream will not make you happy, and why training for a goal will. Happiness is found in the solving of worthwhile challenges.
Our abundance of choices has created havoc in our personal lives. We believe everything matters, and are squeezed thin worrying about other people’s priorities. It appears that the more options you consider, the more buyer’s remorse you’ll feel. As our lives offer more choices and opinions than ever, it is essential we understand that considering more options means we’ll be less happy with our eventual choice. Furthermore, making choices is exhausting. Without values and a system to know what really matters, much of our energy will be wasted on fruitless pursuits.
Choosing the right challenges requires us to avoid getting caught in the rat race of “more.” This evident in training. Many will try to do every program and every exercise they come across, and end up working against themselves and stagnating. Many of the greatest programs use just a simple warm up and few exercises.
Educate Your Perception to Reshape Your World
My greatest wish is to create lessons that bring about a generation of thriving youth. Hopefully by now you are starting to see that many of our daily anxieties and distractions are trivial pursuits that we can set aside. We must clarify values, intentionally direct our efforts, and feed ourselves the right lessons that create positive perceptions.
These are essential additions to our schools, and could replace many useless items currently mandated. What actually matters for human development? If we don’t develop a student’s physical and mental health and give a framework for continuing this path, then no “academic” subjects matter. Great values and understandings are driven by the right habits and right lessons. We must constantly fuel our mind with lessons that keep us growth-minded. As the old Cherokee parable concludes, in the fight within yourself, the wolf you feed is the wolf that wins.
These are the lessons that form an ethos that should guide education and all human development. They are the most important lessons one can learn, because they shape our view of the world around us, and our actions within it. They take the circumstance out of experience and empower the human. They allow a person to intentionally create their reality. Isn’t that the point of education?
How do you explain situations to yourself? What lens do you choose when you look at the world? Are you lucky? Are you the primary determinant of your success or failure, or do your circumstances dictate your outcomes? Change your perceptions and understand the benefits of challenges, and take your trajectory into your own hands.