By Chris Helder
Since the dawn of time, the older generation has loved to take shots at the younger. It’s nothing new — it’s always been like that. For those readers with a few grey hairs, how often have you heard these complaints: ‘I can’t believe these kids today. Constantly staring at their iPhones and computer games. When I was young, we had a real childhood. We were active, outside kids. We took off on our bikes, or with a bat and ball, and we ran around till Mum called us in for dinner. We lived outside.’
Have you ever been a part of that conversation? Every now and then people ask me what I think about ‘kids today’. Well, I have three teenage boys so I guess I’m qualified to offer an answer …
Hmm … let me see. Let’s try this. I think this is the greatest time in the history of the world to be a kid. I think it is the most fantastic time in history to be a dad, a parent. What do you think? Do you think that’s true?
I have no idea if it’s true or not. Really, how could we possibly know? So, maybe it’s true. But is it useful? Definitely! ‘Truth’ can sometimes be overrated. I mean, it really comes down to your perception.
If you choose to believe that something is true, you can find plenty of evidence to support it. As a child you were taught all sorts of things were true. As you got older and looked back at those things with the benefit of an adult brain, you discovered that not only were many of them not true, but some were quite ridiculous.
So I don’t know if it’s necessarily true that this is the most fantastic time to be alive, but I know it’s useful to think so. Because when I believe it is the best time in the history of the world to be a dad, the most amazing thing happens: I’m a better dad. I’m actually dialled into what is happening this year, not focused on that Def Leppard concert I went to in 1989. I’m right here, right now.
The same holds true of my view of the world today. Is it the best time ever to be alive? Is that true? The media certainly suggests it’s not. But here’s the thing: if you believe it is, an amazing thing happens. You walk outside and what do you see? You see a tree, a flower, a puppy, a baby! You find beautiful things everywhere.
But how does this work? Let’s stop for a second and look at the simple science behind useful belief.
The most important part of your brain when it comes to your personal success in life is called the reticular activating system. What’s that? The reticular activating system is your brain’s filter. It filters the millions of pieces of information available to you every day and decides what you actually get to see and experience.
We can come up with an easier way to see what it does. Some call it the ‘Red Toyota Theory’.
Here’s how it works. If I asked you how many red Toyotas you saw the last time you took a drive, you’d probably reply that as far as you can recall you didn’t see any. That’s at least partly because you weren’t looking for red Toyotas. If you’ve just made the decision to buy a red Toyota, however, then the next time you’re out on the road you’ll be spotting red Toyotas everywhere you look.
Because now you’re dialled in to red Toyotas. That’s your reticular activating system at work.
So how does this relate to our view of the world? Let’s get back to our useful belief that this is the best time in the history of the world to be alive. If you believe this you’ll find beautiful things everywhere. If you believe it is the best time ever to be a parent, you will be more present, in the here and now, and be a better parent, excited about the events and happenings in your child’s world.
Edited extract from The Simple Shift by best-selling author Chris Helder (Wiley $19.95), now available at all good bookstores and online.