My Baby is a Genius
I can’t wait until February. My daughter Talia is expecting, and I dream of becoming a first-time Zeyde (grandpa in Yiddish). I wasted no time taking care of the baby’s most central, vital, and critical piece of clothing. On my recent trip to Argentina, I bought a baby Boca soccer team t-shirt. Talk about influencing somebody’s identity! I’m savoring the selfie with my grandson wearing the blue and yellow Boca colors.
And then came the compulsory Amazon exploration. I scrolled down the toy section. Suddenly, my body shook. I mumbled, “is this monster still on the market!” The culprit was a cube with different geometric shapes carved on it. The “fun game” entailed introducing the pieces in the corresponding shape holes. Parents will not admit it, but they know this is no game. Instead, it is a disguised intelligence test. All the right pieces in place and…, “my baby is a genius!”. As for me, little Alfredito, engraved in my earliest memories, lies feelings of frustration and failure. I was out of shape.
Those shapes in a cube rapidly mushroom into careers, salaries, clothing, homes, honor, recognition, and success. We force ourselves into existential holes society carves for us. We resemble raw dough in a cookie mold baked by society’s pressure. Life, to be significant, must then conform to a list of external expectations. If we do not fit the program, we are either dammed, dumb, or both.
We are not Archers. We are Sculptors
Society trains us as archers. The target lies outside. Under this paradigm, the Self lies constrained by a predetermined destination. Precision displaces exploration. Certainty overpowers creativity. But what if, instead of an archer, you were a sculptor? Asked about how he sculpted the statue of David, Michelangelo answered: “I saw a piece of marble in the quarry and imagined the David in it. Then I chopped out the excess marble.” What if you were to imagine your best Self and then carve your life? What if you move the cube to the side, grab a piece of playdoh, and bring into existence your dreams and aspirations? Lego died the day the blocks matched the picture on the box.
The Power of Imagination
Studies show that, for instance, our brain does not distinguish between seeing and imagining a hand. What we see in our minds is as real as the concrete. This is great news. Our internal resources can increase our energy and motivation despite external factors. Your life engine is very close to you; it is in you. Break the cube, melt the shapes, close your eyes, and visualize your best Self. You create the shapes and then carve the holes.
The Real GROW
One of the methods I have successfully used with my coaching clients is “GROW.” GROW stands for “goals, “reality,” opportunities,” and “will (action).” When the clients first learn this model, they instinctively react, “shouldn’t I first know where I stand to be able to envision my goals?” A la Nike, they react with a, “Just do it.” I explain that we start with setting goals because reality limits us. We must first envision our destination and then choose alternative roads. We always have an opportunity to adjust our goals. Motivated by goals, options, and action plans flow with ease.
As each piece fits its hole, the cube teaches us that less than being perfect is a failure. By necessity, it sets us up for disappointment. It prefabricates unattainable goals. We try to fit perfect models, deeply hurting our edges. Some give up., Others endure. Few find fulfillment.
Not all goals are born equal. Goals must be SMART, “specific,” “measurable,” “achievable,” “realistic,” and timely.” The SMART thing to do is not to abandon your job at fifty to become an astronaut. But you may consider becoming a math tutor. One of your students may become a space explorer or rocket scientist. You may volunteer at a space museum and bring your excitement to others. You may not be able to afford your bakery, but you may enjoy baking for family and neighbors. “Realistic imagination” must guide you.
A Self that Fits You
Indulge me one more acronym, MPS, “meaning” “pleasure” and “strengths.” The path to fulfillment is paved with goals that endow us with a sense of purpose, enjoyment, and talent leverage. A garbage collector who loves serving the community while enjoying cleaning, and likes physical work, may feel like the happiest person in his world. Once our basic needs are covered, the key to happiness is not the model of our car or traveling to exotic places. Happiness resides within a Self that fits you. That Self relishes in aligning your purpose, enjoyment, and strengths.
If the World is so big, why do I not fit in it?
- You are still that child playing with the cube, trying desperately to fit into a world, and then, even if you enter the cube, discover that it is empty.
- You have realized that your Self is infinitely broader and deeper than the universe and rebel against imposed conventions.