You got to work for it
RECENTLY, I had the bittersweet task of wishing a group of girls at a shelter goodbye for good. Basically, these girls come from troubled homes and I was there to teach them yoga and mindfulness. Having to say goodbye was difficult.
It is almost like being a parent, but parents usually have the opportunity to advise and wish their children well even once they have moved out of the family home. On the other hand, I might never have contact with these girls ever again, so what can I say to them to inspire them to lead full and happy lives?
The first thing I thought of was to believe in themselves. Because of their background, many of them lack the confidence that most millennials have. Observing them in class, I could sense some determination and a flicker of courage. I knew that if these capacities were flamed, great things would happen for them and for those around them.
Looking around, I realise not just them, but many people have big dreams. These dreams sometimes come so close to them, but people give up because of the amount of work involved. Sometimes all that is needed is just a little more effort but life gets in the way. So I told the girls that many times nothing worthwhile falls into your lap just like that. Work for it.
Secondly, happiness does not equal having loads of money. Many people think that the more money they have, the happier they will be. Money can buy things that momentarily take your mind off things, and perhaps in that way, make you happy. Your new gadget, car, clothes and toys might distract you. But if you are unhappy, the unhappiness is within. No amount of money can take that away.
So I explained this to the girls. Going in hot pursuit of money is not in itself a bad thing. But they need to be clear on why they are chasing after cash. Does the quest for big bucks give them a thrill? Or is it because they want a big house, big car, lots of clothes and shoes? If the latter, why? They might want to stop and think if these material things will bring happiness?
This was hard to explain to teenagers because media and life generally tell us that a big house, big car, plenty of designer clothes and shoes bring us happiness. So I had to tie that up to the third thing I wanted to say. I told them as we journey through life, we need to also journey within. Happiness never comes from outside and if we are unhappy inside, no amount of pretty clothes would keep us happy. Yes, we might be happy momentarily, but that would dissipate.
I explained it like how my Economics lecturer explained the law of diminishing returns. If you had one root beer, you might savour it. When you drink the second, it might not be as satisfactory as the first. And the satisfaction diminishes with every succeeding root beer.
Perhaps when they see someone going after more and more clothes, or more and more shoes, they might not be wrong in concluding that the person in question is searching for something but cannot find it. The reason is because that something is buried deep within, a treasure as yet undiscovered. This is why the journey in life is a journey within.
So I left the girls with these three things. In hindsight, I could have told them so much more, but I hope these were enough. I honestly don’t know how parents do it, but like them, I guess I did my best.
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