Professor Charles Xavier in the X Men has a powerful ability – mind control. There are multiple other cartoons and comics where controlling others’ minds is a superpower. And, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this post was about that.
It isn’t, though.
This is about our minds. As we grow up, we spend a lot of time in school studying topics like Math, Science and Language. Then, in college, it could be Engineering, the Arts or whatever else. All of this is important brain food. And, yet, the single most important topic, Psychology, is completely optional. All those other things we studied can help us become extrinsically successful. But, they do little else and they definitely don’t help us understand our mind.
You could be in one of the most beautiful places on earth. But, you could be intensely unhappy inside. You could be living in a gorgeous home with everything a human being might want. But, you might be living in self created hell and be unable to notice it. On the flip side, you could have little compared to everyone around and, yet, be happy.
This isn’t an easy problem to solve. It takes time. Like all difficult problems, it first begins with awareness. It, then, needs us to learn and know better. We live in a time when an education in human psychology is a click away. Use it (if in doubt, start with the “7 Habits”).
All the other stuff we read will help us build a living. Understanding how to work with our minds will help us build a life.
Bored teens often cause all sorts of societal problems by getting into bad company. Bored office workers spend most of their time making up forwards and memes. Bored couples have affairs and mid-life crises. And, bored elders become negative, cynical and turn their energy on their family members. I call these ‘mental adventures’ as they speak to our need to infuse some drama into an otherwise boring life.
The first principle of boredom is that – if you are bored, it is really not anyone else’s problem. However, it often becomes someone else’s problem if you don’t do something about it.
We’re all built to handle a bit of boredom. But, not too much of it. We care most about feeling engaged. This is why Amazon purchased Twitch for nearly 1 billion dollars. What is Twitch? A website that records other people playing games. 1 billion dollars for a website that just records other’s playing games? Yes. Twitch is, of course, a small part of a video gaming industry worth nearly 100 billion dollars.
In short, engagement matters. And, we need to gift ourselves that feeling of engagement. There are many ways to do it – we can choose to read more, get involved in more activities that stimulate our mind, and do more for society. However, they’re all much harder than switching on a video game and settling down for hours on our couch. That’s what makes finding engagement hard. To find real engagement, we need to overcome the resistance.
The other massive challenge here is that it is not an easy concept for teens and the elderly to grasp. That’s why a teenage child often turns out to be a parent’s most difficult challenge. If parents pass the engagement test and keep their teen engaged (largely) on stuff that is productive, that’s a massive victory.
It gets much harder with the elderly and that results in a vast disparity between how the elderly behave. On one side, you have the the Warren Buffetts and Jiro Onos of the world who are still taking the world on in their 80s. And, on the other side, we’ve got many older folk who can barely walk straight at 75.
Engagement is critical for a happy and productive life. And, it is entirely up to us to keep our mind engaged.