In a recent Newsweek article by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, it was reported America is in a Creativity Crisis and that test scores have steadily declined since 1990. The reasons are not quite understood yet, but the suspect is a shift in engaging in TV and video games versus creative activities. We all know that our school systems are reporting record low scores and that the school day is filled with “must do” subjects.
What struck me in reading the article was neuroscience that is known on how to learn to be creative thinkers and solve problems creatively. (Something this world needs).
“ The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it’d be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue, just beyond reach.” And all this time I have been trying to draw only on the right side of the brain.
Experiences Buy more Happiness than Things
There is no doubt that money impacts short-term happiness in that we have control over how we spend our time. If you have enough money to quit work while kids are young that might impact your happiness for the time being. If you have enough money to change careers and do what you love, that can impact money. And yet, there are a number of interesting studies that show how and what we spend our money on directly makes us happy.
A team of Harvard researches surveyed people on their spending habits and found that spending money on others does boost happiness whereas spending money on oneself does not affect level of happiness.
Then the old Retail Therapy, when you are down – go shopping. Bad moods make more bad decisions and we spend the most when we feel unhappy. No surprise. Let’s take that further, if we want to keep our financial stress low we need to manage our money well. If we are happy, healthy, and joyful we tend to spend less and therefore have more money.
Then there is the choice between the new dress, table or TV and spending on a great vacation – an adventure – a memory that can never be taken away. Our experiences last while our purchases fade away. We relive these memories through stories, writings, photos, books, websites, blogs, and sharing years later about your adventure rafting down the Grand Canyon years later. Carter and Gilovich in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology report that as our income increases (for those with expendable income), buying an experience (i.e. a vacation, a learning event, a play, movie, dining out) provide us with two to three times the level of wellbeing that a material purchase provides.
Rule of thumb, we are less likely to regret buying an experience than a thing. This in turn makes us feel good and not feel regretful, remorseful, or mad at ourselves.
Last month, our ten year old daughter, who is in love with Louis IV and all of his trappings begged us to have a Royal dinner party in which everyone came dressed as royalty, gave themselves royal names, and ate in a royal fashion. Putting her off for longer than we would like to admit, we sat down one day and talked about what this dinner party would be like.
"Royal costumes! Everyone has to come dressed like some royalty. They can be a King, a Prince, a Duke, or a Countess. I am of course, Comtess Zoe-Pascale de Saxe Roux of Languedoc, Rousillion."
Now, being a tween she was also aware of the fact that some of her friends might think she was "uncool" and therefore wanted to invite family friends. At first we tried to dissuade her, but realized she had actually come up with a solution to the problem she felt (operative word, felt) she had which was not to be "uncool."
In her eloquent Franglais, she crafted the Royal invitation and sent it out to a few family friends asking them to RSVP with their titles and come appropriately dressed. To our surprise, all the invitees answered with hysterical messages that asked, "Where should we park the carriage and horses?" "Will there be water for the horses?"
Birthday celebrations I believe are very important at all ages and meant to be celebrated, but why?
The history of birthday celebrations dates back (or so they believe) to the period when humans began to tell time and could count that a year had passed. The story goes that men, women, and children surrounded themselves with friends, food, and noisemakers to ward off evil spirits around the time of their birthday. Having a party and being noisy protected them from anything bad that would come into our lives. Today we may not believe we are warding off evil spirits, but indeed we are bringing the opposite- joy- into our day.
That brings me back to the point that why do we reserve one day a year to treat ourselves special, why not have the intention of celebrating our life everyday. In turn, we can do the same for others with a simple wish of a great day, a song, a lighting of the candles, and especially treating ourselves and others with kindness.
Today is my daughter’s 10th birthday. She woke up early, climbed into bed and had a huge grin on her face in the dark shadows of the early morning light. “I’m so happy?” She said. “It’s my special day.”
The principles of creating the life you want needs to start when hormones start to rage. If we gave our tweens, teens, and young adults well researched tools for creating their lives and living their dreams wouldn't we all be better off.
I recently gave a speech in San Diego related to Creating the Lifestyle you Want. During the presentation a hand went up from a woman in the back. "Can you do this workshop for our teenage daughters?" they asked. "They are caught in this never ending spiral of competition, wanting to be like everyone else, doing what the "Lead girl" tells them to do and looking to please others before themselves. You have to come and teach this to them." she yelled.
Having an entering tween (almost 10) I personally am beginning to see the spiral she is talking about. The need to be like everyone else instead of follow their own views, beliefs, dreams, and likes. Yes, this is all part of growing up (and hasn't changed much since I was a teen), but somehow it seems to have taken on a new dimension. This is mirrored in the movies I watch with my daughter that always has a "popular girl" putting down other kids. The pecking order is easy to see and the blatant way in which girls pick on other girls and hurt each other is amazing in living color.
As parents, aunts, grandparents, friends, and teachers we all have a role in raising this next generation. Remembering that we need to continue to help build their self confidence and help them be who they want to be (not what someone else says they should be or do).
This week our family had a major learning situation which was painful to watch as a parent and humiliating to our daughter. Not to get into all the details, but to sum it up a stressed out, unbalanced and probably overwhelmed piano teacher humiliated Zoe in front of other kids. The hours spent talking, crying and talking some more pulled at our heartstrings (not to say the least about her now dislike of piano) and made me wonder is this an example of what happens when we are out of balance and overwhelmed.
The answer, after talking and receiving apologies of course was simple, communication. If the piano teacher had stopped to think of how to approach the situation and called me to discuss it the problem would never have occurred, the humiliation would have been avoided and Zoe would still feel good about piano.
Trying to find a lesson in this mess, we took advantage of the situation and talked with her a great deal about forgiveness (so she can heal her own heart) and reconciliation (which she doesn't have to do if she doesn't want to) and the fact that the teacher also knew she was inappropriate. For a kid to hear from a teacher that they are sorry and basically "screwed up" is something that doesn't happen very often-- and a bit of a healer.