>Balance, Not Brute Force

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There is a new documentary called “Race to Nowhere.

It is about our 24/7 culture with it’s relentless pressure to succeed and how it is adversely affecting our children.

Directed by Vicki Abeles a mother of one of these children, who was literally getting sick from from the “race to be the smartest, to test the highest, and to achieve the most.

The message these days to children and adults is “produce, produce, produce.

But what are we getting from all the hypercompetition?

As one girl at the beginning of the trailer said “I can’t really remember the last time I had the chance to go in the backyard and just run around.” And another boy said, “School is just so much pressure, every day I would just wake up dreading it.”

This is not exactly the picture of happy, satisfied, and motivated children or of a dynamic workforce for the future.

What are we doing to our children and ourselves?

We have better technology and more information available now than ever before, yet somehow people are seemingly unhappier than ever–and it’s starting with our children, but it doesn’t stop there.

With the change to an information society, our innovators forget to create a shut-off valve (or filter) so people would be able “turn down the volume” on the information pouring in 24/7.

Adults can’t keep up, our students can’t keep up, no one can–we have opened the floodgates of INFORMATION and we are drowning in it.

No learning is good enough because there is always more to learn and no productivity is productive enough because the technology is changing so fast.

I remember a boss who used to always say “what have you done for me lately” (i.e. it didn’t matter what you achieved last week or yesterday, he wanted to know what did you do for him today!)

It’s the same now everyday and everywhere for everyone, yesterday is history–when it comes to learning and achievement; the competition from down the hall or around the globe is right on our tail and if you are not doing something new just about every minute, you risk being overtaken.

We know “failure is not an option” but is pushing until we have the equivalent of a societal nervous breakdown, success?

Like with all good things in life–love, vacations, chocolate, and so on–we can’t overindulge. Similarly with information overload and work–there has to be a “balance,” a happy medium–we can’t push the engine until it overheats. We need to know when to put the peddle to the mettle and when to throttle back.

If we can handle ourselves more adroitly in these competitive times (and less like a flailing drowning victim running frantically between activities), manage the flow of information smarter (not like sucking on the proverbial firehose) and alternate between productivity and recuperation/rejuvenation (rather then demanding a 24/7 ethic), I think we will see greater joy and better results for ourselves and our children.

We can all excel, but to do so, we have to learn to moderate and take a breathe–in and out.

Success and happiness is not always about more, in fact, I believe more often than not it’s about an ebb and flow. Like night and day, the ocean tides, the changing seasons, even our own life cycle, we have to know enough to compete intelligently and not with brute force, 24/7, alone.

So what if we turned off our Blackberry’s for just a couple of hours a day and let our kids do the equivalent…to be human again and find time for spirituality and community and rejoice in all that we have achieved.

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