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It can be hard to encourage children to be their own person and go against the grain when peer pressure is so entrenched in school life. How much intervention do you have in how your children develop? Do you take an active role or let them make their own mistakes and come to their own conclusions?
My children are still very young (ages 2 and 6), so peer pressure isn’t a big factor yet.
My degree of intervention depends on the particular situation my kids are in and how serious I perceive it to be. For example, if my daughter fell into doing illegal drugs, I’d intervene hard and fast and get her out of that situation ASAP, even if it required breaking her ties with her peer group and putting her in a different environment. In the short run, she might hate me for it, but I can accept that. However, if she falls into a peer group that wears weird clothes or listens to freakish music or is mildly rebellious, I’d probably support that behavior. I don’t want my kids to be clones of me. I want them to explore their own uniqueness, as long as they aren’t taking foolish risks.
I recognize what a big deal peer pressure can be, not just for children but for adults too. I think the best I can do is to lead by example. How do my children see me handling peer pressure? Do they see me violating my own values to conform? Do they see me rebelling haphazardly? Or do they see me choosing friends consciously based on my values?
Children are great teachers. If your moral compass is off kilter, kids will pick up on any hypocrisy and ask questions to expose it. But if your values are honorable, then it is more likely your children will find them worthy of modeling.
Values are a big deal in our family. For example, all of us our vegan. We do not have to force our daughter to eat vegan. In her own way, she understands why we chose this lifestyle and willingly adopts it too. She loves animals and understands that non-vegan foods contribute to animal suffering. Consequently, she often challenges adults who eat meat and will say to them, Ã¢â‚¬Å“That’s not vegan! You’re eating animals, and that hurts them. Why are you hurting animals?Ã¢â‚¬Â It’s really interesting to see how certain adults react to having their values challenged by a six-year-old.
I want to encourage my children to make conscious decisions, even if they don’t make the same ones I would. When my daughter becomes a teenager and starts going out with friends a lot, if she wants to eat animal products, that’s her choice. My role is to see that she makes such choices consciously.
9. Community Vs Individualism
In western cultures we are brought up to work towards individual self development and achievement. We are taught to seek self-satisfaction and work mostly on self-serving, materialistic goals. In other cultures community comes before the individual, people are considered part of a group and ‘family’, which in many circumstances results in a very
harmonious and happy existence. Do you think our current western culture is lacking in community values and places too much emphasis on individual gratification?
Yes, I’d say that’s accurate. The way I resolved this issue for myself was to create a life that achieves congruency between service to self (STS) and service to others (STO). I’ve written about this previously in my blog here:
Certain individuals have a tendency to favor either STS or STO, but if you favor one side at the cost of the other, your life becomes unbalanced. On the STS side, you may choose to harm others or the environment for personal gain. And on the STO side, you may sacrifice too much for the benefit of others. Either you damage others, or you damage yourself. Both extremes are unsustainable. In the past my personal tendency was to error on the STO side. I would give to the point of burning myself out until I was forced to withdraw and restore my energy.
I do not recommend compromise either. Compromise means being half-STS and half-STO, with neither side being fully satisfied. Often this involves compartmentalizing different parts of your life. Perhaps you follow a selfish career path working for a company whose primary goal is profit, and know your work isn’t serving the highest good of all or filling an important human need. However, in your personal life, you attempt to give your best to your family, foster good friendships, and do some community service. You’re selfish in some ways and selfless in others. But this is not the ideal path for fully conscious humans.
The conscious path is to create congruency, where STS and STO actually become the same thing. There’s no compromise or compartmentalization, and balance is achieved in all parts of your life.
I was able to achieve this situation for myself by consciously deciding to build a business that would balance STS and STO. On the STS side, I run a for-profit personal development business. I’m not much of a materialist, but I do want this business to generate abundance and to provide me with lots of freedom. I also want a business that challenges me and helps me grow. On the STO side, the primary goal for my business is to serve the highest good of all. That purpose is actually written into my LLC’s formal operating agreement. This is a higher goal than generating a profit, but in order to sustainably fulfill this purpose, the business must be fiscally sound. However, if there’s ever a serious conflict between serving the highest good and earning profits, then profits will be sacrificed. This is not the kind of business a typical venture capital firm would find attractive.
In practice, I’ve set up the business so the actual activities I perform are both STS and STO. For example, when I write a new article, it helps build traffic, generates revenue from advertising, and puts money in my pocket. It also generates feedback that helps me refine my ideas, so I experience growth as well. But when I write, I do so with the primary intention of helping others grow. I don’t concern myself with how much ad revenue a particular article will bring in or whether it will generate a lot of traffic and links. I just ask myself, Ã¢â‚¬Å“What can I write today that will genuinely help people?Ã¢â‚¬Â The business is structured such that I can focus the bulk of my energy on the STO side (which is my preference), and the STS side largely takes care of itself.
The hardest part for me has been to allow myself to receive and not just give, give, give. For a long time I felt uneasy about getting paid for this type of work at all. I just wanted to give everything away for free. But I soon found that wasn’t sustainable. I also questioned the belief that I should sacrifice my needs to serve others when some of them expressed a clear willingness to help support me financially.
It took a while, but eventually I came to understand that because I was focusing on serving the highest good of all, then serving my own needs was entirely congruent with serving the highest good of all. If I achieve financial abundance, then I can turn around and teach that to others. And greater abundance means I can expand my service and hopefully do even more good. Any good that comes to me simply flows back out again as a way to serve others. So it’s just as important for me to receive as it is to give.
Even when I work on components of the business that seem purely STS, I recognize now that there is an STO component to them. For example, last year I put some serious effort into optimizing my site to make it generate more income. More income means more money available to improve the service I provide. That money allowed me to buy podcasting equipment, so I could offer a free podcast. I also upgraded my web server twice (I currently pay $149/month for hosting), so the site is very fast and responsive. The more money I make, the more I’m able to increase my service. And the better my service, the more money I make. So my situation is such that STS = STO. This is a wonderful place to be.
If you base your life around genuine service to the highest good of all, then serving your own self interest also serves the highest good. The more abundance you have, the greater your capacity to give. This is the way to balance traditional Eastern and Western values. There’s a space where they overlap, so you just need to find a way to live and work in that space. If you devote your life to serving to the highest good of all, then enjoying abundance in your own life will become an equally honorable pursuit.
10. Finding Purpose and Meaning
One of the benefits of living in a western culture is our abundance of choice. People can choose what they do with their life and enjoy tremendous personal freedoms, yet many have difficulty finding a true calling, an occupation that motivates. Many people suffer due to lack of purpose despite so much opportunity. For readers who have yet to find their personal legend, what advice would you offer to help them find it?
The reason your purpose is fuzzy is because your understanding of reality is fuzzy. If you experience confusion about your purpose, then forget about purpose for a while. Instead, focus on developing an accurate model of reality. Once you understand reality accurately enough, your purpose will become clear.
Increasing your accuracy means facing those parts of your life you don’t want to face, looking them square in the eye, and accepting the truth about them. The more truth you’re capable of accepting, the more accurate your model of reality will be.
Often when people start on this path, they’re in deep denial about the true status of their existence. They may refuse to accept many things about themselves that others would readily acknowledge, such as: I’m out of shape, I’m stingy, I’m in debt, I eat poorly, I’m dishonest, I have many bad habits that I’m ashamed of, I feel powerless, I’m not contributing, I’m afraid, my work is unsatisfying, my marriage is unfulfilling, etc. Too often people lie to themselves and refuse to accept the problems that surround them. But when they finally accept that their life isn’t what they want it to be, that becomes the seed for future change. Problems are transformed into challenges.
It’s very difficult to accept the full truth of your situation when you’ve been lying to yourself for so long. But you won’t find your real purpose under a blanket of lies. It’s only when you start facing the unfaceable parts of your life that your purpose will become visible.