Most of us have been educated in a primarily competitive environment emphasizing criticism of the areas where we would score low. Society propagates this same dynamic from the classroom into the cultural, social and working spaces which will ultimately nourish us intellectually, emotionally and even physically providing the finances to obtain the food, a roof over our head and other life necessities.
We are led to believe we have imperfections or deficiencies in our learning, our school and job performance. In turn many of us tend to internalize this judgment and believe that there is actually something wrong with us, our intelligence, even our character, because we are not scoring as high as other peers. Our school, society, political and economic system reinforce the perception of us having flaws that it need to be corrected. Many people experience a degradation of their self-esteem and low sense of worth that can dangerously result in depression and apathy while interfering with the individual’s personal and professional development.
But some of us have had the strength to overcome that downward spiral of judgment and low self esteem, and decide to correct our academic and professional ‘weaknesses’. We then have dedicated hard work as well as valuable financial and time resources into fixing such imperfections. Unfortunately research shows however that billions of dollars invested annually by companies to improve employee performance primarily through training is mostly a waste.
People are born with diverse talents and preferences. Our brains are individually wired to excel in certain disciplines most of which interestingly enough we dismiss because they bring us joy and pleasure, something that our traditional schooling and culture often sees as indulgence and a distraction from our duties. While most of us possess great aptitudes we are also mediocre and even poor at certain roles and activities.
But the mechanistic traditional educational and societal credo pushes its authoritative ‘one size fits all’ developmental approach. Such mandate based on the old and worshiped assembly plant model forces us into a sterile, uniform and controlled environment which is regrettably as fragile as the single-crop agriculture yielding most of our food today. As the system ignore that like our food we are unique diverse fertile living systems, we students and workers feel inadequate by failing to meet the standardized system performance metrics.
It is then imperative we realize our living complex nature provides most of us with the gift of unique intelligences, abilities, and conditions that drive our individual learning, expression and performance. However this scientifically proven reality is except for a few exceptions, a dangerous revolutionary idea in school and society, and subsequently something to resist.
My advice then is to teach and inspire our students and workers to consider their so called mistakes and low scores as learning opportunities and indicators to find their calling in life, but at the same time, to teach them to defy criticism, judgment and low self esteem for not meeting the scores expected by school or society.
Let us consider a student who is inspired by and talented with languages but has scores too low to even meet the requirements needed for high school graduation, without which he will not be able to start his degree and career in Foreign Language Studies. He will have to correct this situation and raise his grade just enough to pass the math classes so that he can graduate. Should he feel like a failure because his math skills are below average or worse than his peers? No, because math is irrelevant to what he should be pursuing, his passion, talent and career goal, in this case, foreign languages. His low score should not transcend the realm of a few prejudiced minds and therefore remain inconsequential.
Let’s help our students and workers take a peep at the boundless world of possibilities that emerges when “I” no longer care about such destructive and judgmental criticism toward “my persona”, either from “myself” or from the outside. I soon realize I tend to forget about my weaknesses giving myself the chance to focus on my strengths which I am pleasantly surprised to discover and rediscover.
As I progress working on my strengths, I suddenly realize I am feeling better about myself, with myself, needing less to be approved by others. My sense of self-worth starts to generate from the inside as opposed to the outside as it used to be. As my self-worth raises, my self-confidence grows, and with it the perception of my potential.
The cultivation of my strengths is destined to create a complex system loop of learning and interactions which translates into emerging growth in me, my sphere of influence and eventually the environment beyond. A self-reinforcing feedback loop which ultimately allows me to shift my focus from my ego filled with self-limiting believes, petty worries and discontents, to an exciting opportunity filled world right in front of me.
My new focus becomes how I can indulge cultivating my talents and passions that will in turn foster my unique self-realization and by default, my greatest contribution to humankind and the environment? Once we make such shift the consequences of our actions and interactions multiply in a feedback loop fashion, i.e., exponentially.
I strongly believe this realization is the key to make the universal impact that some of us have for so long and so desperately been seeking. An exponential impact generated by countless individual self realizations generating an equal amount of feedback loops which can propagate around the world with same speed as bacterial growth or a pandemic but with a constructive transformative effect.
Such realization as it enables self-actualization, can play a major role in raising human awareness and in our potential to assure a sustainable future. Many of us have long searched for the magic formula to timely reach the critical mass of human awareness that will allow us to tip the balance of our fate. I am convinced the answer starts with finding a way to make this self-realization viral.