The biggest difficulty we all have in dealing with the way our culture brings us down is that we essentially learn our culture the same we learn how to breathe. We learn our culture unconsciously which means that much of what we do comes without ever having made any conscious choices. There are positive aspects of every culture which do not need to be challenged. In my upbringing in America I was taught the positive value of taking initiative, which is a capacity that is not that common in the rest of the world. It has served me well in all the countries I have lived.
I was also taught that if I didn’t do everything that the school told me to do in the learning process, that I would end up in poverty. It was an unconscious fear that made me feel like I had to achieve at the highest in everything I did. When I had to achieve big in all fields, it focused my attention, as it did on nearly every student, on the areas where I was weakest. My inner voice was mostly self-critical about the poor performance in certain areas. Instead of being highly motivated to go in a direction where my inner self wanted to focus, I was living in fear of not doing well in the weaker areas.
As easy as the solution is that I am going to present here, the unconscious belief of having to achieve highly in all things seems to have been a mechanism by the highly wealthy to keep the work force controlled to serve its desires. You can question that assumption, but it is the only one that makes sense to me. When you can keep a group of people in a state of fear of losing out or being excluded or living in poverty, then you can control the flow of resources to yourself. That seems to be the model that I grew up in and still largely exists. It makes you focus on not having anything weak about yourself, which is impossible.
The solution to the unconscious belief that you have to achieve highly in everything is the belief that we are all unique in our capacities, and development can be highly encouraged in all of us by focusing on the positives. Development is not about having to achieve highly in everything. It is about focusing on the positives in us and the positive steps forward. One of the best examples of this type of encouraging approach happened to me while I was living in Malaysia. I was about 60 years old trying to learn new ways of hitting a tennis ball from what I had learned as a young person playing with different types of racquets. My coach started with giving me a few instructions on hitting a certain stroke. When I hit the ball correctly, he would say, “that’s it” or “great forehand”, etc.. Occasionally he would see something, stop the play, call me over and make a small adjustment to what I was doing, and the return to the drill. At all times the focus was on the positive and reminding me of what I was doing well. He only ever made minor corrections in a matter of fact (as opposed to critical) voice. And he used a lot of humor to make the corrections feel as if it were not the end of the world. My game improved dramatically over a short period.
In the system I grew up in there were very few positive statements, and almost no attention to small, incremental steps. It was largely about high expectations, lots of assignments, and focus on the mistakes in a negative manner.
Once again, the belief that unlocks an encouraging voice inside is the belief that we are all unique and development can be highly encouraged by focusing on the positives.
In the next post, I am going to write about how to change a critical voice in your head. For now it is important to understand that we all have areas that are much weaker than other ones, that achievement does not have to be at an equal level across the board in everything you do, and making small positive gains forward is the best way to go about achievement. It is like a woodpecker pecking away at development.