Some of the most profound lessons I had learnt in life came from my interactions with children and the probing questions they asked. That was the case on this Sunday. I was approached after Mass by a little girl. What I recall about her was that she was smart, bold, confident and precocious. She said to me, ‘Please Fr. I need you to do me a favour. I need you to pray for my parents to become as rich as our neighbour, so that my daddy too can be happy. I love daddy but he is not always happy’. Need I say I was shocked? Just as I was about to engage her in a
more elaborate discussion, a couple approached and excused her. They said they needed to say hello to Fr. What began as simple greeting snowballed into a conversation. Before I turned, my little girl was gone. I felt bad. Let me digress a bit.
My reason for feeling bad wasn’t far fetched. A study was carried out on some children, the results showed that children up until the age of 4 are operating at the genius level. The same group of children were studied in their early 20’s and only 10% were still operating at the genius and brilliance level. Finally, in their late 20’s and early 30’s only 2% were still operating at the genius and brilliance level. The fundamental question now is, where did the brilliance and genius go?
It got buried in the society that snobs children. The society that constantly tells children that you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Consequently, by the time the child is 17 years of age they would have heard ‘NO’ 150,000 times and ‘YES’ only 5,000 times.
Now, this is the biggest issue. Psychologically, the more the child continues to hear what they can’t do, who they can’t become, there is a neurological path that is created in the brain of such a child that causes the child or the individual to shut down.
Now you see what happens to the genius and brilliance in the later lives of many a child? Jesus was indeed a child psychologist, that was why he cautioned his disciples who chased children away from him. ‘Suffer not the little ones to come to me’ (Mtt 19:14).
Now back to the issue the little girl brought. Would becoming rich make her dad happy? Well, let’s see how it goes. Look at it this way.
Haven’t you wondered why your classmate who finished top of the class isn’t necessarily the happiest today? Haven’t you wondered why your colleague with the choicest and juiciest position isn’t the happiest in the ministry? Haven’t you also wondered why your girlfriend who married the most eligible and charming bachelor isn’t the happiest wife today? The question then is, how do people derive happiness?
Some years ago Fela Kuti sang a song thus; ‘Human rights na my property, so you can’t dash me my property’. In the same vein, happiness is an intrinsic part of our human nature. It came fitted from the creator’s factory. Thus, no created one or thing can give you happiness. Everyone was born and wired with the capacity to be happy. Our default setting by our creator is to be happy people, but how we emerge happy or not from life’s experiences is a function of mindset. Little wonder scripture says, ‘for those who believe, everything works for good’ (Rm 8:28).
Finally, researcher and psychologist Carol Dweck found that there are generally two types of mindset that impact the way a person responds to challenges: Fixed mindset and growth mindset. A person with fixed mindset believes that when they don’t succeed at something such as missed job opportunity, they assume there is nothing they can do and the road stops there. They become unhappy.
On the other hand, a person with growth mindset sees the set back as learning experience, providing them with the feedback they need to evolve. Thus, they perform better and are happier. What type of mindset do you have right now? The important thing is that anyone can develop growth mindset with practice.
It is not too late to press the reset button and go back to your default setting because happiness is factory fitted. The choice is yours to make.
By Isaac Shemang
Image Courtesy: quirkybyte.com