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Friday, September 09, 2016

Wanting more for others #outofthepagesiread

This month's Psychology Today magazine has a striking quote, not in its articles ironically, but in the editor's note. The editor describes a quote that one of the columnists made which never made it to print:

"You cannot want more for others than they want for themselves."

I found this striking because for one, I felt this was what I did every day at work... hahaha... Pushing kids to do their work whether they wanted to or not. But then the editor makes a broader observation from this:

"To want something "more" or different for people is potentially to misunderstand them... it fails to acknowledge an essential otherness."

We do this all the time to varying degrees. We get it at an early age, when our parents start telling us which course of study we should take because it gives a better paycheck and then it comes in varying degrees from the people around you, like your friends or your colleagues or your superiors. I personally experienced this when I was suggested a career path that so widely dovetailed with my character and my personal goals that yes, I realised my superior had completely failed to 'acknowledge my essential otherness'. 

How do we know we are doing this? I think one way to tell is by how much we listen as opposed to how much we speak. In order to know how different other people are from us, we have to really listen to them with empathy and truly understand the shoes they stand in before we are qualified to give them advice. 

We also have to leave them to make their own decisions in life. The world is wide enough to sustain a variety of paths and it's not just your own that is necessarily the best for everyone. True concern doesn't always mean that you dictate the path of others but that you support them on the decision they make. Even if you feel they are heading towards disaster. (However, I will make exceptions for decisions that involve suicide or the death and destruction of others for obvious reasons)

The editor's last quote is one that should stay with us:

"Better to focus on the person who is most difficult to see - the only one over whom it is possible to exert control."

Rather than focus on others, focus on oneself instead. We are the one who is most able to control our own fate but yet we are the least capable of seeing ourselves as we really are, with our strengths and our failings. Yet what right do we have to want more for others if we are unable to develop ourselves towards our own goals? Imagine a teacher trying to convince her students of the importance of studying, yet failing to complete her own assignments for her post-graduate course because she watches TV! (No, this does not apply to me...)

A striking quote indeed, and one that reminds me to focus on my own goals for self-development and to hold myself accountable to myself. 

But yet, at the same time, yes, I will still force the kids to do the work in school. :p  

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