Monthly Archives: August 2012

Ways to Amuse Yourself at the Supermarket Whilst Taking a Break From Being Judgemental

Your Carriage Awaits!

It probably ‘doesn’t do’ for a life coach to admit to being judgemental on occasion, but whilst we’re being honest with each other, you and I, who doesn’t sometimes fall prey to judgementalism?

Being judgemental of others is about seeing the differences between things, rather than seeing the unities, and is probably the biggest problem that we as humanity are working on right now.  You think I’m kidding?  If I didn’t see other people as different than myself, would I condone war in any form? Would I eat to bursting and leave people on the other side of the world hungry? If I didn’t see the earth as being something different to myself would I extract everything I wanted from it and more and give nothing back?  Enough said, and I’ll get off the soapbox. This is what happens when I write on a Sunday morning having read highbrow books and relaxed in the garden all of Saturday!

Well anyhow, there I was in Tesco, browsing the reduced shelf to see if any bargains lurked within (yep, life coach/hypnotherapists do that too – see how many myths I’m dispelling!) and there next to me was an old woman on one of those motorised scooter things.  The kind of person whose eyes you might hesitate to meet. I mentally took a deep breath and bridged the gap. “Sometimes you get lucky” I commented. “Oh yes” she agreed in a voice that was stronger than I expected. “Oh well nothing here for me” I said, about to walk on.  Then I noticed some Sabbath candles and picked them up to see if they were something I could use.  They weren’t. “Oh you’re Jewish are you?” she said “I’m Jewish too.  But both my mother and I married out.  I do go to church on Sundays but I have great respect for the Jewish religion.”  Well what a conversation starter that was!  We stood there for several minutes talking comparative religion, messiahs and the Mayan calendar (really will have to write about that one of these days).  I proposed that everything that existed was ‘of the light’. She said that Richard Dawkins surely wasn’t.  I maintained that even he was, as somebody had to hold the opposite pole (I have Gregg Braden to thank for that idea). I was actually in a hurry – though you wouldn’t think it, with me finding the time to talk with strangers, so I had to make my apologies and go. “Everything is good” I called down the aisle as I walked off “sometimes it’s just hard to see it”.  “Oh yes” she said again and we laughed as we parted.

Off I went, looking for light bulbs.  Don’t you just hate it when the supermarkets move everything around so that you have to cruise all the aisles looking for something that’s been in the same place for the last 10 years! Finally I found an assistant.  He came across as quite dopey … you know, a little, well, ‘David Beckham’.  He didn’t know where the bulbs were and had to ask somebody.  I remember thinking something to the effect that “You really can’t get the staff these days!”  Found the light bulbs and several other bits and pieces and made it back to the tills, running even later than before.

There was the Beckham lookalike on the tills. Ok. But he was smiling, and of course we started talking.  I like to chat with the people on the tills.  It’s a bit of a game for me to see if I can cheer up the glum looking ones, and break up the tedium of the job for them a little.  There was no need to cheer him up though, he was on form. “How much do you think this lot will cost?” I asked him. “Forty three pounds” he guessed. “Ok” I said “I’m going to go with fifty”. He tilled up all my shopping, and it came to forty two pounds and eighty eight pence!  “Wow!” I exclaimed “You’re good, you beat me!”  He leaned over and confided “You know why? Because when I first started to work here I used to play that game – so I got a lot of practice!”  I just had to find out whether he played my other favourite supermarket game. “I know its a little un-pc” I asked with all the excitement of a child “but do you ever play this game: do you ever look at all the shopping on the belt, and then compare it to the person buying it and see if they match?”  “You mean if they buy loads of fruits and vegetables” he started and then we both said “they look healthy” and I added “but if they’re buying loads of crisps and chocolate …” and he finished “they look overweight!”  “Yeah” he said and we both agreed “…and they always match don’t they!” We were both grinning from ear to ear with the mischief of our shared supermarket games as we said goodbye.

As I pushed my shopping back to the car I mused that I had been wrong about him.  Far from being dopey, and I guess rather like David Beckham, he was actually very intelligent.  Intelligent enough to be amusing himself with mental exercises whilst carrying out the mundane task of checking out people’s shopping all day.  “I really must stop judging people” I thought to myself.

I also found myself musing on the idea that you really can tell a person by their daily habits.  You can have all the healthy intentions in the world but if all you buy is crisps, you’re going to be unhealthy.  If you talk about peace but you keep needling people then you’re going to have arguments, and if you like the idea of being rich but you keep buying the latest gadget and don’t actually go and work to support that habit then you’re going to be skint. Conversely, if you buy and eat well on a regular basis, your body will glow with health, if you keep peaceful people around you and work on staying composed when others attempt to ‘rattle your cage’ you will have a peaceful life, and if you manage to arrange your finances so that you spend much less than you earn, eventually you get rich. Simple.  Life is just so simple when you think about it.  Life is just one action at a time. And having fun of course.

Which brings me to another game I play at the supermarket … riding the shopping trolleys. I must admit at this point that most life coaches probably DON’T do this.  Whilst this may conjure up in your mind an image of some wild woman standing rodeo style aboard her wheeled ‘carriage’, waving a shopping list and yelling “Yee-hah!” I am not as yet that flamboyant! I may reserve that for old age, just to tease people.  That and arriving on an elephant and parking him in one of the parking bays, whilst I go in and do my shop.  I’ve always wanted to do that.  Maybe one day. Meanwhile I do like to ride the trolleys whilst I’m shopping – I mean why walk when you can roll! So if I see a clear aisle, and I’m in the mood, I am not above squaring up the trolley so I don’t bash into anything, starting to run a little, leaning my weight on the handle so that my feet leave the ground, and then wheeeeeeeee!  It’s so much faster, and less effortful.  You think I’m crazy?  Come on, loosen up a little and have some fun.  Life can be hard work sometimes, so why take yourself so seriously all the time?  And if you ever see me flying down one of Tesco’s aisles, with a huge smile on my face, don’t judge me, join me!

Have an irreverent, mischievous and judgement-free week!

Rivka

Enlightened Little Beings

A DIY enthusiast in the making?

Just how brilliant do you allow your children to be? How much of a chance do you give them to learn things for themselves? And do you let them think for themselves?

Due to what we shall term ‘A Baby-Sitting Malfunction’ I ended up taking my 7 year old son to Toastmasters, my speakers club, on Wednesday evening.  In lots of ways it didn’t seem like a good idea.  For a start he would be up very late – I don’t usually get back till at least 11pm – and in addition to that he would have to sit quietly for the best part of 3 hours and listen to a variety of adults speak, and respond appropriately. He would also have to listen to me speak, and manage himself whilst I wasn’t sitting with him.  Now my little boy is a very intelligent and lively young man and at the age of 7 is still capable of a full-on-screaming-abdabs tantrum on rare occasions, so taking him with me did have an element of risk attached.  However, the babysitter had indeed malfunctioned, and I was speaking that night so I couldn’t exactly ‘bunk off’. As it was the summer holidays he could be excused the late night … so off we went.

In the car on the way there I told him how the evening would go, and he was really excited about it.  When we got there I introduced him to some of my friends and then we went and sat right at the front.  The president of the club was lovely.  She included his glove puppet ‘squeak mouse’ when she mentioned the guests that we had in the audience, which he loved, then the speeches began. Would you believe it? My little roof-raiser sat quietly through the evening, clapped at appropriate occasions, and conversed politely with people during the break.  When it was time to go home he told me he had had the ‘best time in his life ever!’  ‘Ever?’  I asked. ‘Well so far!’ he said 🙂

The club doesn’t allow you to join or speak till you’re 16, which is understandable given the fact that it’s a place for professionals to keep their speaking skills sharp, but it set me wondering.  There are so many things our kids could do if we just gave them half the chance.  I’ve talked about this before (Fearless as a Child).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ‘hot-housing’ – forcing your kids into academic brilliance when they’re not up for it.  But when you see your child has a natural ability for something, and most of all they enjoy it, how many of us support them to follow that thing through, even if it’s something they’re theoretically too young for?  You know at the age of three and a half my son had an avid interest in dinosaurs.  And I’m not talking ‘Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs’, I mean the real McCoy.  We used to sit there reading from a book so heavy that he couldn’t even rest it on his little legs. The typeface was of course tiny, but the pictures were wonderful.  He’d leaf through till one caught his eye, and then say ‘Mummy tell me about that one!’ and I’d read and explain the accompanying text. Then when he went to school he was suddenly plunged into a world of ‘Tom is here. Jill is here. Where is the dog?’ It switched him off for a long time, though thankfully he has had a brilliant teacher this last academic year who has turned him on to learning again.  If your child picked up an academic book clearly written for adults, and asked you about the contents, would you read it to them? Not all parents would you know.

I think that as a culture we sometimes stunt our kids’ growth without even realising it.  We don’t always give them the chance to find out for themselves.  A dear friend once reprimanded me for giving her young son grapes still on the stem. ‘If you give it to him like that, he’s going to eat the stem too!’ she said.  Well, maybe the first time, but he won’t do it again will he?  How is he ever going to learn to pick the grapes off himself if you keep doing it for him?  It’s a balance and not always an easy one to achieve.  Of course you don’t let your children find out for themselves that walking into the road without looking could get you into trouble, part of a parent’s job is to keep their children safe. Yet there are so many things that they can work out for themselves thereby learning about the situation in hand, AND learning vital skills in terms of thinking and analysis.

Many years ago now I used to head up a Jewish Sunday school, and on one occasion the children and teachers were preparing for a meal to which all the parents would be invited.  We were cutting a salad and I asked my teaching assistant to cut the tomatoes.  I watched, astonished, as she pretty much annihilated them. She was doing her best.  She explained to me that this was the first time she had ever cut a tomato!  Wow!  I was shocked.  How is it possible for a person to reach a good 20 years of age and never learn to cut fruit and vegetables with a sharp knife?

Do you let your children use sharp knives?  I do.  How else will they learn?  I allow my two and three year old to hold the knife with me so that they get used to the various motions of cutting.  If it’s something easy, say my three year old has a small amount of cheese on her plate and she wants it in even smaller pieces I will allow her to use a sharp knife independently while I watch.  And I let my seven year old son use a knife independently and unsupervised, because he has been using one so long that he knows how.  If there’s something he isn’t confident about cutting he will ask for help.  The other day he peeled a kiwi and cut it into pieces.   That’s my boy!  I don’t have to hide knives away from them because they know that knives can be dangerous if misused, so they treat them with respect.  I explained to my kids that the most useful things are often also the most dangerous.  Things like knives or fire, or cars or electricity.  I explained that you shouldn’t be afraid of them, just learn how to use them safely and effectively.

Let’s empower our kids.  Instead of cosseting them from life, leaving some of them ignorant and incapable and others so plain frustrated and angry that they have to launch a full scale rebellion just to gain themselves the right to live their own lives, let’s support them in following their capabilities and their dreams.  I’ll tell you what, as a life coach and hypnotherapist I wouldn’t be dealing with half the cases I end up dealing with if people had given their kids a chance to start with.  We all make mistakes, every one of us, so let’s not dwell on the past, but focus on the now and on the future.  Ask yourself the question ‘How can I empower my child today to be the best that he or she can be?’

I was so proud of my son the other night.  Several members of the club came up to him and congratulated him on doing so well, and he accepted the compliments most graciously.  The experience may even have ignited in him a lifelong passion for the spoken word, and all because circumstance gave him a chance to experience being amongst people who have just that passion.

This week, empower yourself, others and most of all the children whose lives you are blessed to touch!

Rivka

Why Didn’t I Think of That Before?

Ever suddenly discovered a really simple answer to something complex and asked yourself ‘Why didn’t I think of that before?’

Yesterday I was fitting out a small box room for my son’s use.  Now this room had previously had in it a ‘shorty’ bed, that is a children’s bed, and actually the width of the room wouldn’t admit a bed any bigger.  My son had set his heart on an office bed, you know, one of those bunk beds with an office underneath but of course as I discovered they don’t make office beds in a shorty size. So I used my brain and came up with an elaborate solution involving a bookcase and cupboard of similar height, several boards, a mattress and a stepladder – genius if I say so myself!  It was only yesterday in constructing the first set of shelves that I realised what a simple error I’d made.  I started to lay out the pieces of the shelf so I could put it together and of course the room was too small for me to lay them out width-wise, so I tried laying them out in a diagonal fashion.  That didn’t seem to work either so I said to myself “Why don’t I try laying them out in the length of the room?”  I tried it, and they fit … as would an adult size bed!  What a first class idiot I felt!  Seeing the bed that was already there I had not thought to question that you might put a bed along the other wall in that room.  That wall was about 20cm longer.  I could have bought him a regular office bed, and I would have got something perfect at a great price in the recent Argos sale!!!  It’s rare to never that I stew in regret, but I did spend a few minutes kicking myself, before I started to see the advantages of what I’d done.

I had been the victim of what cognitive science describes as ‘functional fixedness’ –  because of my previous experience with a particular object (the bed that was previously there) I had been unable to see a different way of using the object (putting the bed along the other wall).  The opposite of this is ‘cognitive flexibility’ being able to transfer knowledge to novel situations. The classic experiment that displays these human tendencies of ours is Maier’s Two String Problem (1931).  The subject is brought into a room in which two strings are hanging from the ceiling, given a chair and a number of objects including a pair of pliers and asked to join the two pieces of string.  The strings are of such a length and such a distance apart that when you are holding one you are too far away to reach the other.  Your task is to join the strings.  The solution?  You need to use the pliers in a novel way, as a weight, rather than as they were designed to be used, tie them to the end of one of the strings and set it swinging and then go grab the other string and wait for the first one to swing towards you, so that you can grab that one too!  Most subjects in the experiment do not at first discover the pliers solution, although Maier found that if he walked across the room and ‘accidentally’ brushed against one of the strings, setting it swinging, then the subject often suddenly made the cognitive leap and worked out the solution.  I too had accidentally discovered that a full size bed would have fit in the other direction, through trying to solve a different problem – that of how to construct the shelves in such a small room.  Unaware of this experiment at the time, I redeemed myself in terms of cognitive flexibility later – by using an old pair of earphones as a string and a pair of pliers as a weight to give myself a line along which to nail the backboard to the shelf underneath that I couldn’t see … so I don’t have to feel too cognitively sorry for myself!!

How do you avoid ‘functional fixedness’ and embrace ‘cognitive flexibility’?  In other words how do you become the kind of person that can come up with novel solutions to a problem?  Well seeing as we tend to choose solutions based on our previous experience, I say ‘Get as Much Experience as Possible!’  Grab life by the horns, and learn everything you can – then you will have a great variety of previous experiences to choose from when finding a novel solution.  I also recommend brainstorming and experimenting.  When faced with an ‘unsolvable’ problem I like to use the ‘no holds barred’ approach, and list as many answers to the problem as I can, one after another, without filtering them for common sense or practicality.  Sooner or later you then ‘accidentally’ discover a new approach that linear thinking would never have found for you.  And if all else fails, sleep on it.  How many times have you gone to bed with a question on your mind and woken up in an ‘Aha!’ moment, sometimes in the middle of the night, with the perfect key to your conundrum?  By doing this you give your powerful and intuitive unconscious mind a chance to have a crack at it, and the solutions you discover are often so neat and simple that you can’t help asking yourself “Why didn’t I think of that before?!”

Have a week of novel approaches 🙂

Rivka