21 September 2012

The Garland Approach

Judy Garland c1940 - Image in the Public Domain
Judy Garland once said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second –rate version of somebody else.” This provides us all with the key to our internal happiness, if only we could find the right door to unlock. Some of us never open that door in our journey through life, and that is a tragedy.

Society teaches and influences us from the day we take our first breath, until the day we take our last. We are constantly learning from our environment – observing and emulating others. We absorb society’s values as our own. We must be thin; we must aim to succeed; doctors, lawyers, and pilots are to be respected. We crave acceptance and the adulation of others, so we try to be what society respects.

The early values which were instilled into us are reinforced by our schooling and our peers. We are pushed to do well. If we are not good at Maths or English, we feel de-valued. I’m not saying that these subjects aren’t important, but is our education system missing something? It will preach, it will teach, but it has no time or resources to get to know the individual it is preaching to. One size can never fit all, and this approach can push individuals in the wrong direction. Journeying in a direction which isn’t your own is your route to misery, whether you are aware of it or not. You are conditioned into believing you are going in the right direction, so you will carry on blindly.

Many of us look back at our lives, and wonder how we got to where we are. We have a job that pays the bills; 2.4 children; life has overtaken us. Do we enjoy our job? That doesn’t really matter does it? We’re lucky to have a job at all aren’t we? We’ve done well? Society approves of us; we’re paying our own way and our taxes; we’re contributing; we’re leaving a legacy for our children to carry on. But do we ever ask ourselves whether we are truly fulfilled by the life society expected of us? Is our job doing for us what we are doing for it? Does it allow us to pursue the life we crave?

Judy Garland c1939 - Image in the Public Domain 
Judy Garland hit on our key to happiness, which isn’t taught in our schools. At least it wasn’t taught in my school. Did you ever notice that there were some subjects at school which came easily? You got good grades but never really had to try? Did you have a hobby which took up all your spare time – you were always getting told off for not doing your homework, because homework was more important wasn’t it? These are our clues to who we really are; those subjects which came naturally and those hobbies which drew you in did so for a reason, whether those around you valued them or not.

For me those subjects at school were English and History; but how could I make a career of English and History; pay the bills; become that pillar of society that everybody expected me to be? The hobbies I enjoy, aside from Belgian beer and red wine are my guitar and my camera, dropping clues that I have a creative streak. Naturally I became a lawyer, because that was what was expected of me. I became a second rate version of someone else. How could I excel? My heart wasn’t in it; I wasn’t motivated; it wasn’t me. I was driven in that career, but that wasn’t enough. I could never have that spark which made me excel above the rest. Many of us will stay that way; plodding through life, our dreams forgotten as childish musings – reality as we see it taking over. We’re paying the bills, we’re doing alright?

I look at people who have truly succeeded in life. They all seem to have one thing in common; passion for what they do. They believe in what they do, because it is a part of them – an extension of their inner selves. They are what they do – they are a first rate version of themselves. They have a strong mind and had the courage to follow their own true path, not the path which society expected of them. The lucky ones may have had family behind them – nurturing their talents and believing in them. They found the right door to unlock, and their spark ignited. That door may be nuclear physics, or looking after their children – we all have a different door, the trick is in finding the right one.

If we’re passionate about what we do, work takes less out of us – it doesn’t feel like work; after all who hasn’t got lost in something they love, and been mystified where the time went? Perhaps there should be more time in the school curriculum for nurture, to help students find their own true path. Could this lead to less workplace stress, and a more productive workforce? According to the American Psychological Association/American Institute of Stress, NY, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. In the United Kingdom, according to ACAS; in 2004/5, 12.8 million working days were lost to stress; each new stress absence averaging 29 days off work. I’m not saying I have the answer to such a widespread problem – we are in a climate of cuts and under-staffing – but surely a happy and fulfilled workforce is likely to be less susceptible to stress?

If you found your door early in life I salute you. You know it doesn’t matter what ignites your spark – just that it has ignited. It doesn’t matter whether you are a millionaire, or Jo Bloggs down the High Street. You are fulfilled – you are true to yourself and free to be you; you’ve made the best of yourself by following your own unique path.

We don’t look up to Judy Garland in the same way we look up to Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, but she was a wise woman indeed - and deserves our respect. After all, aren’t Einstien and Hawking perfect examples of individuals becoming a first rate version of themselves? I could think of many others who fit that description – and you will have met them too in your everyday life. You know who they are; I aim to join them.

Do you agree this argument has merit? Did Judy Garland hit on the key to happiness, or is if all a lot of fluffy pipe dreams?  Why not leave a comment and join the debate.

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Ellephantastic said...

Wow C i think this is my favourite post so far. maybe because it rings so true and its like you've taken everything that's been stuck my head and wanting to say for a long time. Excellent piece xx

C. S. Wimsey said...

Thanks so much. And thanks to Ms Garland :-)