Why being faster, better or stronger is not enough
The pace and rate of technological change over the last few decades has been extraordinary. We have the potential to be and do things faster, better and more efficiently in ways previous generations could never have dreamed possible.
But there is also a sense that there has to be something more than just what we see around us. One writer, Tom Wright puts it in terms of four areas of concern in our culture. In these areas just being or doing faster, better or more efficiently is inadequate:
- the quest for spirituality
- the longing for justice
- the hunger for relationships
- a delight in beauty.
There is a way in which all of them point beyond themselves and we hear them as if they are echoes of a voice coming from just around the corner out of sight.
On this podcast we have our final conversation with Andy Parnham on his book “Lasting Happiness: In Search Of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment.”
Do join us as we explore:
The limitations of a materialistic worldview when we have such deep longings for meaning.
Why secular health experts like Allan McNaught come to the conclusion that trying to define wellbeing is "fruitless. frustrating and ultimately impossible."
The hunger for meaning in our lives. As the writer Dostoyevsky poetically said,
“Every ant knows the formula of its anthill,
Every bee knows the formula of its beehive.
They know it in their way, not in our way.
Only humankind does not know its own formula.”
As we continue in our conversation with the author Andy Parnham we come to the subject of healthy relationships. How do they work and how do we restore them when they go wrong? We know from our own experience that relationships are important, but the research of the psychiatrist Robert Waldinger goes as far as to say it is the number one strongest predictor of good health.
Do come and join Andy Parnham and I as we look at: The following 5 principles for healthy relationships:
1. Prioritising people over things
2. Becoming the kind of person other people want to be with.
3. Finding someone you can trust you can share yourself with.
4. Being willing to let go and not to be simply grasping of relationships.
5. Finding a place and a people to belong to.
We unpack Andy’s conclusion of the reaseach:
”It appears that the capacity to relate to other people is hard-wired into our brains and that such relating is at the heart of human flourishing. Relationships are primarily a function of the right brain, with its emphasis on implicit, unconscious, non-verbal processes. Emotions are essential to the development and nurture of all healthy relationships.” (P.127)
”Anyone who has achieved lasting happiness and contentment has acquired the capacity to spend time both alone and with others without a sense of insecurity and inadequacy.” (P. 133)
How we can only relate to others in a healthy manner when we have learnt to live in our own skin in a healthy way. Psychologists refer to this as differentiation. Someone who has successfully differentiated themself is able to:
1. Be clear about who you are (‘define’ yourself) and yet stay in touch with others.
2. Take responsibility for yourself, yet.... Be responsive to others.
3. Maintain your integrity and wellbeing without..... Intruding on that of others.
4. Allow the enhancement of another person’s integrity and wellbeing without ....... Feeling abandonment,inferior or less of a self.
5. Have an ‘I’ and enter a relationship with another ‘I’ without losing yourself and diminishing the other person’s self.
Happiness! Who doesn't want it? A recent google search on 'how to be happy' turned up 626 million results. Compare that to typing in 'Donald Trump' and you get 237 million items or 'Brexit news' where there is just 90 million! We all want to be happy. But what do we mean by happiness? I can be happy eating an ice cream and I can be happy meeting a long lost friend. But those two experiences are clearly very different. How can I find a happiness that leads to deeper meaning and fulfilment?
On this podcast we interview Andy Parnham, author of the book, "Lasting Happiness: In Search of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment." Do come and join us in this opening 30 minute conversation as we explore:
Andy's fascination with exploring this important subject.
Western's society obsession with defining the good life only in terms of health, wealth and the pursuit of pleasure while at the same time avoiding pain.
How the research and our own personal experience shows lasting happiness is ultimately found in relationships, meaning and fulfilment.
How the research shows the most significant factor in overall wellness is the presence of strong relationships.
The two problems of material pleasure being they fade with time and need ever increasing consumerism to produce the same 'buzz'.
How this is not just a Western issue, as the examples of Qatar (the richest country in the world), Japan and Bhutan illustrate.
A psychological understanding of happiness as 'subjective wellbeing' with the three components of pleasure, engagement and meaning.
Understanding the what, how, who and why of lasting happiness.
We will be talking with Andy more in future podcasts, but for now if you would like to explore this further also see:
If your mother, father, brother or sister was rushed into hospital what kind of doctor or nurse would you want them to see? The answer to that question has been a passion 0f Dr John Geater for many years. So much so in fact that it led him to, with others, set up the organisation PRIME - Partnerships in International Medical Education. In 2006 John received an MBE for his contribution.
Do join John and I as we discuss:
How the foundation of his relationship with God, his wife Jane and family makes everything else possible.
The importance of the values of integrity, compassion, altruism, excellence, continuous self-improvement and teamwork in underpinning all medical training.
The question John likes to ask his students of "Is it right to smile at a patient?" and the responses he gets.
Understanding the mind-body-spirit connection of human beings
Seeing God at the intersection of science and humanity.
How losing the humanity of our patients is so often a root of burnout and cynicism in the medical profession around the world.
Understanding the person of Jesus as healer.
How a lack of connection with others is one of the biggest predictors of mental health problems.
Unpacking the Hebrew concept of 'shalom' to understand complete flourishing in body, mind and spirit and relationships.
The legacy of PRIME to "inspire those who inspire others who go onto inspire others alongside developing their medical skills."
Dr John Geater is at the time of writing aged 73. He is married to Jane and has three adult children. He is a medical doctor and has worked in Bhutan, New Zealand and in England. In 2006 he received an MBE from the Queen for his work in setting up the postgraduate medical education charity, PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He has taught holistic medical education in 26 different countries around the world. Just before Christmas 2017 he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Do join us in this fascinating podcast conversation as we discuss John's life and explore questions such as:
How do you respond when bad things happen to you?
How do you make sense of being diagnosed with cancer three times in your life?
How to embrace life's mysteries when things don't go the way you want or expect.
We also ask John:
What was it like running a leprosy hospital in Bhutan at the age of 25?
What would you say to someone who has a terminal illness and is scared?
To explore with us from Bronnie Ware's book the five regrets of the dying:
I wish I lived a life true to myself and not what was expected of me.
I wish I had not worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.
What he is looking forward to in the life to come?
This short 5 minute video helpfully illustrates what is needed to get better at practically any skill. While the focus is on physical activities such as playing an instrument or throwing a ball, the same principles are assumed to apply to any field of endeavour you might want to get better at.
In a fast changing and increasingly complex world the need to learn new skills and to be able to get better is vital if not essential. Hence practice becomes very important if we are going to improve in any skill and do that with speed and confidence.
To help us understand how our minds work, the speaker helpfully distinguishes between two kinds of brain tissue - the grey matter and white matter. It is the grey matter that does the 'work' in terms of processing information and directing signals and sensory stimuli to the other brain cells. Meanwhile the white matter is made up of mostly fatty tissue and nerve fibres. When we move our bodies then information needs to travel from our brain's grey matter down our spinal cord through a chain of nerve fibres called axons to our muscles.
So what happens to the inner workings of our brains when we practice a skill?....
This 6 minute video by Prince Ea, who is an American spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker makes some challenging points about what it means to live life with purpose and passion.
His entertaining style and vivid imagery challenge us to think deeply about living life with a higher and greater perspective than what we may necessarily see in front of us or how we feel about ourselves. He emphasises the dangers of living with regret for not having been more appropriately ambitious, or without courage and living instead with self-doubt.
Adam Leipzig is a Hollywood film producer and entrepreneur. In this 10 minute TED talk he walks us through 5 simple questions to help us understand what our life purpose is. From this life purpose we can then go on to do the work we sense we were called and even born to do. This is so much more than having a job or earning a paycheque.
Leipzig tells us that the idea for the talk came at his 25 year reunion from university. While there he noticed that the vast majority of his classmates were unhappy with their lives. From an external perspective there appeared to be so much in their favour. He describes them as "privileged, and highly educated, and financially well off, and in positions of power. And they had the first house, and the second house, and they had the first spouse, and the second spouse. And 80% of them were unhappy with their lives."
What was different about the other 20%? Leipzig noticed that they had not pinned their expectations on a chosen career path that would be the source of their fulfilment, satisfaction and financial security. This is how he describes this happier minority which included himself:
"We had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric, and we were the theatre people, and the history geeks. We had studied classes for the joy of learning, not because we thought they were going to put direct us to a specific job. We still got jobs, we were living our lives expansively, with life’s ups and downs, and we did not feel that we had wasted a single minute."
From this positive and enriching perspective he talks us through 5 simple questions to help us articulate our life purpose:.....
I used to enjoy watching Alex Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, play baseball for the Yankees. And then his wife accused him of adultery. He didn’t deny it. Later, he was accused of using steroids. He initially denied using the steroids, and later admitted that he used them to improve his performance. Now retired from baseball, A-Rod is a successful businessman and says he is a present father.
Do you wonder why people who seem to have accomplished so much do things that will surely have a negative impact on their families and their careers? Why do people engage in self-sabotage?
While most of us don’t have public character implosions, we often engage in behaviors that are not in our best interests. Here are some of the ways that we sabotage ourselves:
We insult ourselves. Our internal dialog can be brutal. We call ourselves lazy, fat, worthless, etc. We say things to ourselves that we would never say to friends or family. The next time you catch yourself saying something unkind to yourself, stop. It’s okay to examine your behavior in a certain instance, but do not label yourself with unkind names or adjectives.
We keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Maybe you wanted to change careers or write a book. You’ve had big goals and dreams for years, but nothing changes. Often, nothing changes because we refuse to change. We won’t get tomorrow’s results with yesterday’s methods. Sometimes, we have to give up the unstructured Saturdays and decide we’re going to spend a few hours writing a book or emailing resumes and updating our LinkedIn profile.
We hang around the wrong people. We become the sum total of the people we spend the most time with. I noticed this when I sat through a painful time share presentation. The sales people, mostly men, were dressed alike. They had similar haircuts. They walked in a similar manner. When we spend time with people who are negative, toxic, or unmotivated, it is difficult to avoid their energy. It envelopes the space. Carefully consider who you spend your time with. Do you want to me more like those folks? If not, maybe you should limit or eliminate your association.
We have too much stuff going on. If you have a dozen pages open on your computer, things slow down. It’s hard to be great at the important things when you have dozens of unimportant things nipping at your heels. Have the courage to say no to new commitments and to remove yourself from organizations and responsibilities that are not a good use of your time.
We don’t treat our priorities like priorities. You’ve probably heard that your calendar and your checkbook reflect your priorities. If time with your family is a priority, are they on your calendar? If returning to school is a priority, is that reflected in how you spend money? Did you know that the word “priority” was not pluralized until the 20th century? Narrow your priorities to three and invest your time, money and energy in them. It’s okay to drop things until you have time to give them attention.
What do you need to stop doing?
Connie Clay will show you how to create harmony between your personal commitments and your professional goals. Connie raised a family while managing a busy career. Connie will give you tools and strategies to lovingly care for your family and advance professionally without feeling like you are neglecting one or the other.
No I am not referring to your first meal of the day - important as that is! Rather it is the power of feedback to enable you to both understand yourself better and to discover and grow in your areas of strengths and giftedness.
Feedback has been called the breakfast of champions. The problem is, however, all of us struggle to give or receive feedback unless it is in a manner or context within which we or the other person does not feel threatened. The classic 'feedback sandwich' of say something positive, then the usually negative feedback, followed by something positive again can come across as formulaic and contrived. So while it can be effective it does create tension and anxiety for both the person receiving and giving feedback.
Even the anonymous 360 degree feedback systems that are increasingly popular in health and business environments run into the problem of telling more about the person doing the rating than the subject who is supposed to be getting the feedback. That has certainly been my experience and those I have discussed it with.
But how about creating systems to provide feedback for yourself?
This is how Peter Drucker, arguably the greatest management thinker of the 20th century put it in a Harvard Business Review article:...