Learning to learn is a key part of how we manage our lives on a daily basis. Most of us tend to view learning as academic but it actually can be the way we live our lives. In essential, learning also means making the effort to develop self-leadership and knowing more about the people around you.
Recently, I had some really frustrating moments at home and faced challenges in parenting. I had been losing my cool and yelling at my kids when they misbehaved. At the rate it is going, my approach is not going to be healthy for my family’s physical health, mental health and emotional well-being. So I am making the effort to change. After all, as a wealth builder and being the head of the household, it is important for me to develop self-leadership so that I can be effective role model for my children. To improve the situation, the change has to start from myself.
I found the guiding light in Dr George Kohlrieser who spoke at the inaugural lecture of the Lifelong Learning Council’s World Speaker Series held earlier this month. There are important life lessons that can be gleaned from his speech and so I am sharing the learning points with my readers. I also hope that in years to come, my children will read this article and appreciate the journey I am going through.
Better version of yourself
Learning is about how we deal with the good things and bad things. An interesting sharing from Dr Kohlrieser was how the late South African leader, Nelson Mandela, emerged from prison after 27 years during the apartheid and said it had been a “learning experience that made him a better person”. To make such a humble statement requires great character, wisdom and experience in life. But it is exactly what self-leadership is all about – how you face problems and in the process, building a better version of yourself.
I do not claim I know myself well. For the past few days, I have been doing a lot of reflections on how I can improve my emotion intelligence, both at work and home. As a leader at home, parenting offers the best opportunity for me to improve my emotion management, but I found myself struggling in this area. At times, my tolerance limits had been stretched to breaking point by my boy’s incessant screaming. If I cannot manage my family well, how can I be a good leader at workplace?
Through Dr Kohlrieser, I learn that under no circumstance must we be held hostage. To illustrate this point, Nelson Mandela’s prison experience is a good example. Sometimes we are unable to change the events that unfold in our lives but we can certainly change our mindset to adapt to the environment. Applying this principle to my family circumstance, I remind myself that at the age of two, my son is still developing his character, learning new skills and exploring how the world works. So I should have more patience and understand that this is part of learning process.
Instead of shouting at him, I should learn to see things from his perspective and develop techniques to make him understand the correct way of doing things. I tell myself that it is not going to be easy but no matter what, I am his father and it is my duty to undergo this process with him. This journey is not just solely about him. It is about us having a shared experience.
Shift your mind’s eye
Something new that I also learn from Dr Kohlrieser is the mind’s eye, which is part of the brain that determines your focus. In other word, the mind’s eye is our mental instinct. What you focus on when facing an issue – the positive or negative. Because of human evolution, our brain is geared to focus on the negative aspect of issues. This is because in the primitive age, we need to look out for dangers for survival sake. However, when we have negative mindset, we tend to shut our hearts and minds to new experiences. As a result, we stop growing and learning.
Applying this lesson to my situation, I realized that I am not making enough effort to bond with my son. By this, I don’t just mean spending quality time or taking care of him. It’s more of how I view the daily activities that I do with him. Yes, taking care of his basic needs is a daily chore but I can choose to view it from another perspective that I am able to bond with him. So, instead of scolding him for making a mess during meal time, I should accept that it is part of the learning process for him to acquire motor skill and savor the moment with him. Instead of engaging in a screaming match with him, I should attempt to calm him down and engage him meaningfully. In the process of his own learning, I can also learn to deal with difficult issues.
On looking back, I was too negative and overlooked the fact that my son is still a toddler. I should focus on the positive and view his behavior as part and parcel of growing up. It is part of his self-exploratory process and as parent, I have the opportunity to shape his growth. By embracing the positive, I can encourage a drive for learning and create a better atmosphere at home.
Focus on the joy of learning
For the longest time, Singapore has been too obsessed with ranking. We want to be the richest nation, have the best airport and the best education system in the world. Our education system ranks our students in terms of academic results and those who do not perform well in their studies are viewed negatively. As a parent, I can relate to my fellow Singaporean parents’ anxiety for their kids to be successful in Singapore. But then again, are we focusing too much on success?
Yes, indeed Singapore’s resource is limited and hence we need to ensure our human resources are among the brightest and most capable in the world. Thus, it is the job of the policy-makers to ensure Singapore has adequate human capacity to meet industry growth. This strategy is needed to ensure our survival. But as parents, our children are not just merely economy digits. They may have other hidden talents that may have been overlooked by the brutal education system, which tends to focus on the outcome rather than the learning process.
Every child is different but we have the opportunity to make a difference in their lives. If we focus too much on our child’s academic success, we will breed a culture of fear of failure because the joy of learning is taken away. Probably because of this reason, Singapore consistently fails to produce world-class entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Jack Ma. We prefer our children to land good jobs after graduating from schools instead of being a struggling entrepreneur.
I want to be the anchor for my children and help them find their calling in life. Someone whom they can look for and confide in when they face problems in life. But to achieve this, I must start to change. To quote from Dr Kohlrieser, being a parent means teaching our children “to have the courage and daring to go through the pain of what a calling might bring”. This is not going to be an easy journey but I am prepared to write this story together with them.
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