Posts in: PY281

Laughing Club: Fake it Till You Make It (a wrap-up of PY281, Personality)

I’m pretty sure the people walking past Tutt Science this morning thought my class was going crazy. There we were, standing in the quad in front of the science building, maniacally laughing as we playfully charged each other, our mouths open to a roar and our eyes squeezed together. We were pretending to be tigers and lions as we ran and laughed. And that was just one of the laughing exercises we did.

Before our final exam, Tomi-Ann held a laughter club with us. She explained that each day in India, people travel to local parks to perform various exercises (spiritual and the like). One day, a man went to the park and wanted to make people laugh, so he told jokes. He began to gather a crowd; who doesn’t like laughing, after all? After a few days, however, he ran out of jokes. Since he didn’t want to disband his newly formed laughing club, he decided to try out a radical new idea. What if he got people to fake laugh until they actually laughed? And even if they didn’t actually laugh, would fake laughing still have the same health and emotional benefits as actual laughter? Thus, laughing yoga was born. Our lion laughing exercise actually stems from a yoga pose called “lion” designed to open the throat.

Our professor, Tomi-Ann Roberts, spent time in India studying emotions (and laughter!) when she was last away on sabbatical. She’s now well versed in laughing yoga and gives presentations on it for groups at CC and beyond. So today, before our final exam, she held a laughter club with us. And let me tell you, that stuff works! For one exercise, we walked around shaking other peoples hands as we laughed. Generally, I would start with a fake “Ha! Ha! Ha!” but by the end of the exercise, I would actually be laughing. For another exercise, the group split in half and we pretended we were in a giant fight and were arguing with each other. Instead of yelling with words, we laughed and pointed at each other. Pretty soon, we weren’t laugh-fighting but laughing together. For the final activity, we all sat down in a tight little vertical line with people’s legs on either side of the person in front of them The idea was to look like a little Viking ship, which we did. So we all did two giant row motions together, “Ha!”-ing with each row, and then, on the third row motion, we all fell backwards so that everyone’s head was on the stomach of the person behind them. And I can testify, it is impossible not to laugh when you feel a rumble of laughter on your stomach and hear it as well. It was a glorious moment, laughter echoing across the quad. I understand why Tomi-Ann made us go outside for the exercises, because our laughter was uncontrollable, uncontainable, and just plain loud. It was awesome.

Having laughing club before our test was a strategic move, too. Laughing opens you up and gets the creative juices flowing, so after 15 minutes of straight laughing, we were ready to take on the test. And the guy who started this laughter yoga business turned out to be right: fake laughing, even if it does not transition to real laughing, has many health benefits, but fake laughing often does transform into genuine laughter about nothing. Fake it till you make it.

Personality culminated with a paper due Monday (a psychobiography of another person), group presentations on various personality theorists on Tuesday (one presentation featured multiple clips from the Fight Club. Yeah, my class is awesome), and a final exam today, Wednesday. I’ve learned a tremendous amount the past three and a half weeks, everything from my Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ) to the importance of embracing my ultimate destiny of death in order to fully live in the here and now of the present (sounds a little grim, but the idea is really rather positive). In learning about various personality theorists and theories, I’ve learned and thought more about my own personality, who I really am. I haven’t been able to nail down the central tenants of my personality, but I think that’s a good thing. It means I’m still growing. It means I’m in the process of becoming who I am. And that’s what this class has been all about, learning various ideas and frameworks for becoming who you are. The fictionalized Friedrich Nietzsche in When Nietzsche Wept, a book we read the first week of class, tells another fictionalized historical character to “become who you are.” Those words have become somewhat of a mantra for the class.

So cheers to a fantastic block! Now, it’s off to Westcliffe, Colorado, to hang out with some wolves (via, Breakout, a community service club who is taking students like me to volunteer at Mission:Wolf!!) Gotta love block break. Aaaaawwwwoooooo!!!!

Here’s a short and informative video about laughing yoga. Maybe you can try out some exercises yourself!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahhN3Ryw4O4

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Yesterday our entire class took the Myers-Briggs personality test. I found out that I am an INFP, which means that my primary way of dealing with the world is Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving. I was actually very impressed at how accurate the results seemed to me. Perhaps it is the horoscope effect (where all predictions are general enough so as to apply to anyone) but I was shocked at how much of myself I saw in the typology. For example, I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Creative Writing and my top two careers according to the Myers-Briggs are, you guessed it, counselor and writer.

The Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator is one of the most commonly used personality tests today. It is used by employers, career counselors, psychotherapists and many others to help people understand themselves and their strengths better. It was developed with Myers and Briggs from writings by Carl Jung. When someone takes it they receive a four letter “type.” They can be deemed either extroverted (E) or introverted (I), intuiting (N) or sensing (S), feeling (F) or thinking (T) and judging (J) or perceiving (P).

In the context of this test, extroverts deal with the world through a primarily external lens. They are more objective and understand the world through interacting with it. Because of this they feel more energized the more they are around lots of external stimuli, such as a big group of people. By contrast, introverts have a subjective and individualized way of looking at things. They tend to focus on individuals more than groups. Also, they process the world by retreating into themselves. This is why introverts typically get exhausted by large group encounters but energized by one on one interactions. Introversion has nothing to do with shyness or even how outgoing a person seems to be.

The second pair of letters, N or S, indicate the way in which a person takes in information from the world. A sensing person tends to process the world through their five senses. They see, feel, hear, taste, and touch the world and experience it in a sensory manner. These would be people who enjoy doing things that are hands-on. They prefer to perceive the world based on what actually is. Intuiting people tend to pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities in the information they receive. They would rather learn by thinking a problem through than by hands on experiences.

F and T have to do with how a person makes decisions. Do they prefer to use logic and examine facts and consistency, as the Thinking disposition favors? Or do they prioritize the individual circumstances and the people involved? Everyone uses each of these capacities for making some decisions but most people generally prefer one over the other.

And finally, people who are Judging personalities prefer a more structured, organized, and decided lifestyle. They feel happier once a decision is made. Those who are perceiving personalities tend to enjoy things that open ended, adaptable, and enjoy understanding and adapting to the world rather than organizing it. They also enjoy leaving things open-ended. Neither one of these preferences refers to how organized or tidy a person is, nor does it have to do with being judgmental.

There are many criticisms of the Myers-Briggs. Its powers of prediction haven’t been very well proved nor has its reliability. However it is always useful and worthwhile to spend time contemplating the way that we deal with the world and how that might be fundamentally different from other people. The Myers-Briggs has been especially useful to couples in counseling. Understanding that you argue a point with objective logic while your partner understands emotional and subjective statements better can be quite helpful.

If you want to take it you can find a pretty good version here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp

And more information about the different types (including career inclinations) here: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/home.shtml

Let Freedom Ring! (And if you make it to the end of this post, you will be rewarded with a video of pigeons playing ping-pong.)

“Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!” Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, spoken almost 50 years ago, still inspire me today. But what if freedom couldn’t ring anywhere? What if freedom simply didn’t exist, at least not in the sense that King meant it or that we envision it?

For B.F. Skinner, a behavioral psychologist, the word “freedom” is unobservable and therefore a pretty much useless concept. “Freedom,” along with the word is “mentalistic,” existing in the mind, subjective, and lacking scientific merit. Skinner argued that there is no “true” freedom. “No true freedom!” you scoff, “blasphemy! Freedom is the foundation of our lives, of our state, and of our government!” But the guy’s got a pretty convincing case against freedom. In order to understand why freedom is an illusion, however, you have to understand Skinner’s theory of behavioral analysis.

Everything we do, according to Skinner, is a product of our environment shaping and conditioning us. Skinner himself said, “I did not direct my life. I didn’t design it. I never made decisions. Things always came up and made them for me. That’s what life is.” We experience both classical conditioning (think Pavlov and his salivating dogs) and operant conditioning. In classical conditioning, a neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditioned stimulus multiple times. In Pavlov’s case, Pavlov rang a bell in front of his dogs. This bell was the neutral stimulus, because the dogs did not have an instinctive response to the bell. As he rang the bell, he exposed the dogs to meat. The meat served as the unconditioned stimulus, because the dogs naturally salivated at the smell. Eventually, after numerous pairings of the neutral stimulus (the bell) with the unconditioned stimulus (the meat), the neutral stimulus alone was able to cause the dogs to salivate (which was previously an unconditioned response but is now a conditioned response). Scarily, classical conditioning is effective for more animals than just dogs. In 1920, pioneer behavioral psychologists John Watson and Rosalie Rayner classically conditioned a 9 month-old dubbed “Little Albert.” They conditioned the young child to be scared of a white rat by continually pairing the rabbit with a loud and disturbing sound that frightened the boy. Eventually, Little Albert would cry and crawl away after only seeing the rat, even when no sound occurred. His fear generalized to other furry objects—a dog, a fur coat, and some wool—as well.

Though classical conditioning is important and can certainly affect humans, as in Little Albert’s case, Skinner believed that operant conditioning is the source of most human behaviors. Operant conditioning involves the immediate reinforcement of a response. Reinforcements do not cause actual behaviors, but, true to their name, they reinforce the behavior by increasing the probability of the behavior reoccurring. Last year, I took Introduction to Psychology with Tomi Ann, my current professor in Personality. Intro was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I decided to become a psychology major. Anyways, in Intro, we were all responsible for training a rat. When I first held my rat, Nimh, I knew he was something special. But still, the task of training a rat to roll a marble down a track and out of a hole, press a lever, and eat a treat (in three and a half weeks, too!) was rather daunting. Operant conditioning, however, enabled my partner and me to train Nimh in a mere seven days.

We started by “shaping” Nimh. As in most cases of operant conditioning, the desired behavior (rolling the marble, pressing the lever, and eating a treat) was too complex to occur all at once, which is why shaping became a necessity. Shaping is when a behavior that is at all similar to the desired final action is rewarded. To shape Nimh, we first gave him cereal every time he came close to the lever he was eventually supposed to press. Then, we only gave him cereal when he actually touched the lever. Finally, we only rewarded him when he pressed the lever all the way down. And just like that, he had learned part one of his task, all thanks to shaping and operant conditioning.

Gus, another successfully trained intro to psych Rat!

Ok, so now that I’ve provided a brief overview of classical and operant conditioning (major tenants of Skinner’s theory), let’s get back to this freedom business. A class handout aptly states what we actually mean, according to Skinner, when we say we desire freedom: “Usually we mean we don’t want to be in a society that punishes us for doing what we want to do. Hence, if we pick the right reinforcers, we will feel free, because we will be doing what we feel we want!” We are not free; instead, the environment (which includes other humans) shapes everything we do. Everything. If Skinner were to examine my life, he would easily find reinforcers behind all my behaviors. For instance, he might argue that I am taking Personality because last year, when I picked my classes, older friends told me to take the class while at the same time smiling and nodding at me. If I take the class, I will get more smiles! So I took the class with the anticipation of receiving the reinforcer more times. What else? I went for a run today. Did I personally choose to do so? Don’t be silly. I went running because when I have gone running in the past, I have been rewarded with endorphins and a reduction of stress. Since my behavior of running is generally followed by reinforcing, positive stimuli, I have an increased probability of running in the future. So that’s why I went for a jaunt in the Colorado rain today.

Behavioral analysis can be difficult to accept. We like to believe that we aren’t like the intro to psych rats, easily influenced and manipulated by our environment. We like to think that freedom is real. Skinner’s theory makes us question our own free will and choice by favoring a deterministic stance. You can make up your own mind (or can you, since you’ve probably been repeatedly conditioned to reject determinism and champion free will?) as to the validity of Skinner’s theory, but I leave you with an example of the power of operant conditioning: pigeons playing ping pong!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGazyH6fQQ4  (pigeons!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt0ucxOrPQE (Little Albert—start watching around the one minute mark)

Sibling Birth Order

The other day in class we talked about sibling birth order. Alfred Adler was the first one to propose that our personality is at least partly determined by the order in which we are born. These are some of the possible qualities he associated with each birth order:

1. Oldest child: nurturing and protective of others, good organizer, highly anxious, exaggerated feelings of power, unconscious hostility, fights for acceptance, must always be “right” whereas others are always “wrong,” critical of others, uncooperative

2. Second (and all middle) children: highly motivated, cooperative, moderately competitive, highly competitive, easily discouraged

3. Youngest child: realistically ambitious, outgoing, pampered, dependent on others, wants to excel in everything

4. Only child: socially mature, outgoing, friendly, exaggerated feelings of superiority, low feelings of cooperation, inflated sense of self

Since then there has been a great deal of research on the topic that seems to confirm Adler’s theories.. It seems like what generally happens is that in a bid for limited resources and attention, each sibling tries to do the opposite of their previous one. If your older brother or sister is a bookworm and follows the rules to the letter you might be more rebellious and free-spirited for instance. Usually the oldest aligns themselves with the parents and so adopts the role of responsible conscientious one leaving the next one to find a different niche. This is why Adler’s traits usually align in the way they do. One of the most interesting documented findings is that each sibling is, on average, one IQ point lower and one inch shorter than their previous sibling. I personally am a little reluctant to believe that considering that I am the youngest of five. Oh boy. It is also important to remember that all of these traits are somewhat subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance superiority in one person might be confidence in another. And, lastly, it is very difficult to do accurate studies on families however, because there are so many variables that get in the way such as number of siblings, age gaps between siblings, parental marital status, major traumatic events while they were growing up, the list goes on and on

Here is a great article on the subject from TIME Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1673284,00.html

 

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself! (A Short Discussion of Flow and Human Potential)

When I steal the ball in an intramural basketball game, break past my defender, and sprint for a layup, I won’t hear you if you scream my name. When I pole-vaulted in high school, launching myself 8 feet in the air to clear a plastic bar, I never heard my parents’ cheers, no matter how loudly they howled my name. I have no hearing problems, so why, no matter how loud the yelp or cry, will I never register a voice during these moments? Flow.

Different psychologists and theorists have different terms for this sensation, the moments in which the past and future cease to exist and you are entirely immersed in the present. A.H. Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, dubbed these mystical, transcendental happenings “peak experiences.” According to Maslow, almost everyone has peak experiences, though some are more intense then others. Mild forms might include the feeling of a loss of self after extended periods of steady exercise, like hiking or distance running, while more intense, mystical peak experiences might include witnessing an unexpected yet dazzling sunset, a moment of natural grandeur in which the world just is.

Still confused? Maslow gives various descriptions of what having a peak experience actually feels like. First and foremost, these moments of flow are natural and organic. Peak experiences happen in moments of spontaneity and are never planned and produced. Second, during a peak experience the world is unified and you know your place in it. Third, these experiences bring about an onslaught of positive emotions. Our textbook highlights some common feelings: “peakers feel both more humble and more powerful at the same time. They feel passive, receptive, more desirous of listening, and more capable of hearing. Simultaneously, they feel more responsible for their activities and perceptions, more active, and more self-determined.” Anxiety and fear dissolve, replaced with acceptance, spontaneity, awe, and rapture. Time and space cease to matter. Everyday worries disappear. Peakers have no needs or wants or wishes because the present consumes them.

Unfortunately, we can’t will ourselves to have peak experiences and moments of flow. However, we can strive towards self-actualization (a rather loaded term for Maslow, a simple definition of self-actualization is total psychological health, characterized by acceptance of self, others, and nature; spontaneity, simplicity, and naturalness; and autonomy, among other characteristics). Self-actualization is associated with Maslow’s 14 “B-values,” or “being values,” which include weighty words like truth, wholeness, playfulness, and completion. If makes sense, then, that only 1 to 2% of all people in the United States are self-actualized. The B-values are elusive. In fact, before people can even attempt to grapple with values of being, they must climb up Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. The levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, starting from the bottom, are physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, esteem needs, and, finally, self-actualization. The first four needs are deficit needs, because if you don’t have enough of one need (a.k.a. a deficit), you feel the need and are motivated to fulfill it. But once you get all you need—say, once you eat a meal after feeling hungry—you no longer feel anything and therefore you feel no motivation. Self-actualization, the top tier, is unique, because when self-actualization needs (“being needs”) are met, they continue to exist and may actually become stronger. They continually motivate us towards growth.

Self-actualization can be a scary thing, though. In fact, an entire complex exists that is one root reason as to why many people cannot self-actualize. The Jonah complex, named for the Biblical character, is Maslow’s idea that “we fear our best as well as our worst” (the quote is from his book, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature). We fear success and being truly great just as much as we fear failure. Let me ask you some questions: how many of you hope to write the next great novel? Do you hope to be the next President? How about a phenomenal composer or revolutionary leader?

If you reacted at all like Maslow’s psychology graduate students when they were asked similar questions, you may have smiled at my apparent jokes, perhaps blushed, or thought, “Come on. Me? Great novel? Ha!” But why not!? Why not you? Why do these questions make us uncomfortable and nervous to the point where we deem them silly to escape providing a truthful answer? Someone has to be the next president and someone has to write the next great novel. Why not you? In The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow states: “You must want to be the best, the very best you are capable of becoming. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.”

Maslow’s cry to action becomes even more inspiring upon learning that Maslow had a terrible childhood in which he dealt with severe feelings of shyness, inferiority, and depression. Maslow, a guy who produced one of the most inspiring theories of personality I’ve encountered, was once a small kid, a kid who brought home some abandoned kittens. He brought them home out of pity and fed them milk only to watch his mom smash the kittens against a wall until they died. She was angry with the youngster for bringing them home. If Maslow, someone who experienced such a terrible and traumatic childhood, could be so positive, so optimistic about human potential and greatness, we should be equally excited for human potential. Go write the next great novel! Be creative! Do something that matters.

Karen Horney, a personality theorist we discussed last week, said that the tyranny of the “shoulds” (I should do this, I should do that, I should, should, should…) was one factor leading to neurosis. After reading Maslow, I think the tyranny of the shoulds also prevents us from self-actualizing and having peak experiences. How can we immerse ourselves in the present if we are worrying about the future and all the things we should do. So I give you this: stop shoulding all over yourself! Get out there and flow.

Youngest Children Storm CC! (and other thoughts from week one of Personality)

Take a closer look at Colorado College’s website. You click the “welcome to CC” link, and the following words appear: “Welcome to doorways, horizons, and adventures. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life. Welcome to Colorado College. Start exploring now.”

These preliminary welcome statements, along with the rest of CC’s advertising, market the college as a place of adventure, a stimulating environment where students study abroad, take risks, and transform into artists and entrepreneurs. Start exploring now? Yes please, I’d love some adventure! Autonomy? Certainly! But wait a minute—my drive for excitement isn’t a trait specific to me. A love of adventure and risk is inherent in youngest children like myself. Is CC specifically seeking out the family “babies,” those of us who have struggled and fought to prove ourselves worthy of our siblings while synchronously forging our own distinct trail? Now that I think of it, many of my friends here are the youngest in their families…

But I jest. Though I’m the youngest of five, the first of the Wool siblings also attended CC, so the school does attract people from across the birth-order spectrum. Oldest children, you guys are supposed to be nurturing and protective of others, but also more concerned with meeting parents’ expectations. Second borns and middle children, you guys are typically less connected to your family and more to your friends, and you often de-identify from the firstborn. And only-children? You guys are mini-adults: self-sufficient, driven, and quite comfortable talking to people 20, 30, and 40 years older than you. Of course, these traits and characteristics associated with birth order aren’t always accurate predictors of personality. However, each birth order group—youngest, middle, or oldest—thinks it has it the hardest. In class, we broke into groups of oldest, middle, youngest, and only children. I know it’s hard to believe, but the oldest children thought life as the youngest was easy, arguing that paving the way is the most challenging task of all. We youngest, however, know that the oldest children have it easy (after all, you guys did get the front seat for, well, your whole life). It was quite humorous how skewed each group’s perception of the pros and cons of birth order turned out to be.

As I’ve learned in the first week of Personality, though, CC does seem to market itself in a way that should specifically appeal to youngest children. According to a Time magazine article discussing birth order we read, youngest children are more tolerant of risk (we often choose the kinds of sports that easily lead to injury, which might explain my brief fifth and sixth grade foray into rollerblading tricks), likelier to be artists, adventurers, and entrepreneurs, and frequently funnier than other siblings. With lots of older siblings running around, what better way to garner attention than cracking some jokes? I think the most fascinating research concerning we youngins, however, is that we tend to develop “theory of mind” up to a year earlier than our older siblings. When kids acquire theory of mind, they realize that everyone else in the world doesn’t automatically know what they know. Let’s say we show Harold, a mere 3 year old, a box of crayons. “What’s in the box, Harold?” “Cwayons!” he shouts. “Let’s see,” we say, and we open up the box of crayons only to reveal colored pencils inside! Harold astutely notes that colored pencils are in the box. “Okay, Harold,” we say, “when your sister Phoebe comes into the room, what will she think is in the box?” Harold looks smug. “Colored Pencils!”

Harold has not yet developed theory of mind, or the understanding that his sister and others do not inherently share his thoughts and feelings. Currently, researchers speculate that youngest children may develop theory of mind earlier than their elder siblings in order to understand and anticipate what others are thinking, an advantageous strategy in a world where everyone else seems bigger and powerful. Developing theory of mind early means an earlier development of empathy, the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and feel what that person feels, which might mean later born children are more adept at relating to others. Pretty cool stuff. I guess being the youngest has its perks.

Alfred Adler was the man behind all this stuff, the psychologist who first brought “family constellation,” or birth order, to the table as a contributor to personality development. Though his theory of Individual Psychology (a fascinating and optimistic stance in which social interest shapes our personalities) has largely been forgotten, research on sibling order continues (in fact, we’ve read multiple articles examining the effect of older brothers, sisters, and the like on personality). The first week of Personality has been devoted to theorists like Adler, Freud, and Carl Jung. Similar to Adler, each theorist has produced ideas that still generate research today. For instance, the Myers-Briggs personality test, which we got to take as homework, is based on Jung’s ideas of analytical psychology. Cool stuff.

Basically, the first week of personality was superb. We have analyzed our dreams from a Freudian perspective and a Jungian perspective, discussed how birth-order impacts personality, and contemplated why those Swedes are so damn happy. The top of our syllabus features one of my favorite Shakespearean quotes, spoken by Polonius in Hamlet: “This above all: to thine on self be true.” But who are you?

William James’s Formula for Self-Esteem

Personality is one of the courses that I have been most looking forward to taking this year and I must say it has not disappointed. The class has quite a lot of reading but it is completely worth it. The material is fascinating, fun, and thought provoking. Not to mention Tomi-Ann Roberts is a wonderful teacher whose enthusiasm really makes the class. My friends got pretty sick of me constantly referencing class last time she was the teacher and I can already tell that this time will be no different. There are just so many exciting things to think about!

The main idea for the class is to survey the major personality theorists of Western civilization. This makes for quite a bit of reading but also gives the class a very broad scope. Each of the theorists has a very different perspective and makes you think about personality in a completely new way. Thrown into the class is a viewing of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the novel When Nietzsche Wept, and some analysis of our own personalities. Each of the theorists is evaluated by us for perceived strengths and weaknesses and then rated according to their investment in free will vs. determinism, nature vs. nurture, causality vs. teleology, uniqueness vs., universality, equilibrium vs. growth, and optimism vs. pessimism.

One of the most interesting things we have talked about so far was William James’s completely brilliant equation for self-esteem. It has been bouncing around in my brain all week. His idea was that self-esteem is equated to one’s successes divided by one’s expectations of success (or as he called it, pretensions). When discussing this in class Tomi-Ann pointed out that most people tend to focus on the top half of that equation. When discontented with our lives or ourselves we generally tend to blame our lack of successes. The line of thinking is somewhat along the lines of, “Oh if only I can get that new job/spouse/car then I will be happy.” We aim our ambitions higher and higher in an attempt to improve our satisfaction. What we forget is that success is only half of the equation. Why not learn to adjust what we expect a little bit?

When Tomi-Ann brought this idea up in class it met with a lot of blank stares and startled questions. I even felt myself get a little bit tense. I could hear the overachiever in me say, “but if I don’t have high expectations of myself then how would I ever get anywhere??” After thinking it over a little while though Tomi-Ann’s words sank in a bit and a few things occurred to me. Firstly, what does success even mean? Does it mean a big house and a high-powered career? If so then large ambitions are probably the only chance most of us have of getting there. But what if success is more about being just (gasp)… happy?

Too many expectations can make reality feel like a consolation prize. Realistic ambitions are a good thing but ambition unchecked can be all consuming and destructive. After all, there is always higher we can climb. Perhaps the key is to keep striving for our own personal best but maintaining a realistic awareness of what that really is. If we understand ourselves well enough then our successes will always balance our expectations and we will achieve a balanced equation for self esteem. In any case, an interesting thought to keep in mind.