“Be the change you wish to see” is ascribed to Gandhi. Lately I’ve been struggling with an assertion by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi that the self is organized around goals. I care what Mihalyi thinks because I otherwise like his model of consciousness but he might be driven toward a particular idea of what people are like ideally. I do think we all are manifesting our ideals in the world, but many are unfocused or conflicted. I guess it’s possible some operate on expediency, procrastinating.
I have areas like this, financially and in domestic organization. Health is a common area, and during my child bearing years I was both more aware of the tyranny of the shoulds and utterly resistant to them. In parenting, do I help my children develop or allow them to fritter away their time in entertainment?
Our text for Positive Psychology, Stumbling on Happiness, perplexed me because the author didn’t seem to think much of people. Daniel Gilbert cataloged cognitive errors that explain why we so often don’t get what we want out of life. We underestimate the role of expectations in perception. We fail to anticipate how we will feel in the future. We distort our memories, often making the present wanting by comparison. And we imagine we are more unique than we are (e.g. the majority of people believe their chances are better than average).
We do all these things to try and get through life, perhaps like the blinders on a horse. Gilbert says imagining the future is his stake in the psychologists game of what it means to be human (others like tool use and language have been challenged in popular culture). And the future is like an optical illusion, constructed to be perceived in more than one way. Are you looking at the cube from above or below? Do you see faces or vases? Rabbit ears or a duck’s bill? Is that kid in a hoodie up to no good or simply unhappy?
There’s an old argument about why evil exists in the world and why bad things happen to good people. Are these artifacts of God’s inkblot test? I watched a goalsetting webinar this week for WGU and they talked about self efficacy and evaluation. Unfortunately, they emphasized the need to re-evaluate when things go wrong. But they whole point of self-efficacy is evaluating when things go right, reincorporating that into your expectations for next time. And your belief in what does work for you is strengthened.
At the hazard of going in too many directions here, I’ve been watching Monsters University a lot which goes back to the conflict between talent and hard work. Strengths vs. Mindset. Do you score points by achieving something or lose points off perfection (thinking of basketball vs. golf.) Should we find out what we are good at and emphasize that or try to cultivate what we lack? Do we need to find that special buddy or companion to complete us? I kind of think almost all people are different enough from each other to provide such a service, if we will let them. But maybe I’m overestimating uniqueness there. Maybe we just need to interact with other people to snap out of the uniqueness trap, and move forward with living.