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Dealing with expectations

A poll in ‘studiekeuze123’ (on choosing your study) among 1060 young people in 2018 suggests that youngsters experience stress in making the right choice for a study. Financial pressure and parent expectations are a big part of the stressors. We are aware of parents that push their kids from the age of six years to any talent scouting, because the kid is so talented, but that does not seem typical for parents in general. In this blog I will focus on the most common parent and student expectations.
Generally all parents want the best for their children, and to me it seems likely that it has always been like that. Past generations of kids would follow in the footsteps of their parents, sometimes even in several generations. With a (grand-)father who was a farmer, fisherman or soldier the sons would likely follow that trail too. Being a housewife was the obvious option for many generations of young women.
Today there are numerous options for a study, and that troubles making the right choice. On top of that students have to deal with personal and societal expectations and the changed circumstances, and that may be a pitfall: young people are being rushed and feel hunted. Being afraid for a real threat may be livesaving, but to fear vulnerability and striving for perfection can on the other hand be destructive for the personal wellbeing.

The winners dream
We live in a hypermodern society [1] where anyone may develop succesfully: “succes is a choice!” Striving for perfection, the expectation that you can create your own life to be nice and succesfull are embedded in our culture. Society offers chances for everyone to be succesfull, so you’ll have to get the best out of it: everyone can be a star! That imposes a big pressure on young people: if they do not succeed they will fail!

Both parents and students have big dreams. Everyone wants to have superb relationships, to live a marvellous live, to achieve above average, to make the difference and to earn loads of money. Our welfare state and the technological possibilities suggest that this dream will soon become true. The promise of a sunny world without shadows advances. Thus everybody posts the best experiences and the greatest results through social media for anyone to follow. A continuous flow of likes is the most probable feedback. In which bubble do we live and do we want to live?

If we look at this phenomenon a bit more critical and sensible we would see this dream to be an illusion. And don’t take me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with big dreams. To top that let’s all dream of a better world. These dreams may inspire us tremendously! But let us distinguish between dream and reality. We cannot all be the best, better still there’s only one single best. Life is not only fun, since there’s also pain and failure and loss, relationships are a matter of give and take, growth is a matter of falling and rising again. There’s no summer without winter. So you’d better learn how to fall and rise up again, how to handle setbacks or distress, dare to fail, and let go of the idea that you must be the best. A healthy life and being relaxed are better predictors of sustainable growth than perfectionism and fear of failure.

What does this mean in concrete terms for parents?
Our culture will not change overnight. Parents that want the best for their child may want to look at and listen to their sons and daughters. How are they doing and where are they heading towards? How do they deal with reality, are they able to focus? What should they still learn? Do they have realistic expectations of themselves and a realistic perspective upon their options and desires? Can they relax and do they sleep well, or are they often exhausted? Do they have a nice circle of friends? Do they practice some sport, do they go outdoors? Can they handle technology and media in a sensible way? Can they be who they are and follow their own track, do they have wise people to turn to with questions or when in trouble? These may be unusual questions, but it won’t hurt to discuss these matters and it may even clarify a lot, also for the children.

By the way, if parents can financially support the study of their children where the government steps back, it will absolutely decrease the financial pressure.

What does this mean in concrete terms for students?
Being a student usually means that you are an adolescent growing to adulthood and autonomy. Don’t be misled and don’t mislead yourself. Eventually you’ll have to find your place and learn how to handle your circumstances. Even with headwind, even offline. In your complex situation it may help to start with your own preferences and possibilities without all kinds of unreal expectations. Try to focus on what really matters too you, and make your own considerations and choices. Take time for your personal development, you don’t have to be fully grown when you have finished your study. Pay attention to your personal balance and relaxation, sleep well and live a healthy life, care for yourself. Pay attention to your techbalance. These are the basic, natural ways to step by step healthy and sustainable development and growth. In short: live up to your personal standards, be relaxed and succesfull and start from your own desires, qualities and possibilities.

To conclude
Obviously in this blog I pay attention to a general trend of unreal expectations and perfectionism, I cannot look into any specific situation. You may want to consider these options or talk about it with fellow students, parents or friends. How do they see you, what is there to learn?

In case parents or students have personal questions I am always willing to look into that.

[1] compare with Buijs, Verbrugge en van Baardewijk. Postmodernisme Hypermodern. Essay in Trouw, 1-12-2018

(no) shock

In the semi-nature reserve ‘Oostvaardersplassen’ rangers will shoot 1830 deer to solve the issue of overpopulation. The legal court turned down the objection of conservationists that the noise of the shooting would scare the birds. The judge argued that the rangers would use silencers on their rifles. That must be nice for the birds, that may freely whistle now.

The young people in The Netherlands are increasingly suffering from hearing impairments. The foundation ‘Hoorstichting’ informed us last year that almost 25% of young people suffer from some form of hearing impairment. There is no national law or regulation that protects visitors of festivals or places of entertainment against the damaging effects of noise or loud music.

Earlier on there was an agreement on protective measures with popfestivals and with the entertainment industry. Last week cinemas, fitnesscenters, and student unions joined in to sign the agreement. It states that visitors will get easy access to earplugs in places with loud music. Also there will be a maximum sound level. Moreover the parties have agreed to inform the public about risks of hearing damage.

It seems such a paradox: first you produce very loud music and consequently you sell earplugs and warn the public in order to reduce the damage. To me it seems more rational to firmly reduce the noice in the first place, doesn’t it?

But Danish research showed that loud music evokes more joy and energy in young people. It gives them an adrenaline-kick. Like other kicks this one is also addictive. Young people increasingly seek kicks because it feels so good. The more the better. At their young age they are not aware of the risks and the long term damage. So earplugs won’t really safe them. And in the long run they will suffer from hearing damage and the famous whistle in their ears.

Earplugs will be a makeshift measure if we do not succeed in reducing the over all volume of modern music. Couldn’t we better look into the underlying reasons of the kick-seeking behaviours? Into the drivers and the energy levels, or into other forms of reward? If we will not put a hold to this trend soon young people will not hear any bird whistle altogether, apart from the whistle in their ears.

Dare to ask

As a child I would make a wishlist for Santa. I wished for books, construction boxes, toys. On December 5th I usually got a pyjama and knitwear, such as socks and mitten, a scarf or a sweather. I was comfortably warm but did not understand the secret ways of Santa. I’ve only come to appreciate the love behind all this much later.

In my coachings I sometimes ask: “what do you do when you have a problematic question? Do you have someone to turn to? Fellow students, parents, friends?” From the answers I get that this is not as easy as it seems. Asking is more complex than expected. How many friends do you really have when it comes to a head?
Students (and other adults) generally have a lot of friends on social media. They share how beautiful their life is and how well they are doing. The most probable feedback is a huge number of ‘likes’. The downside of this glorious life is less visible and will hardly be shared, in spite of the difficulties to be overcome and the need for support. And support is usually not provided through the smartphone. On the way to independence (and for the rest of your life) you need other people. You may receive feedback and support if you open up to the other person and allow your vulnerability to show. That seems to be a big and awkward step for some. Growing into independence increasingly means that you should do it all by yourself and on your own.

As a child I always had a lot of questions but I did get very little answers (not only from Santa). So I developed the attitude of the selfmade man, and this became my second nature. I did get quite far with that attitude but it also made me lonely. Back then there were no Googles or social media. That ’s hard to comprehend now. The way to develop and learn was a long way of trial and error. I became quite independent: being responsible and giving answers was my strongsuit. Fortunately there also was support and step by step I learned to ask for help. My own development feeds my compassion for developmental issues. As a coach I am not responsible for the coachee and I do not give many answers: the client is responsible for his or her development and I ask questions, a lot of questions, difficult questions sometimes (and I provide support).

In coaching we always explore how you want to achieve your developmental goals and how you handle this. How do you cope with what’s going on? What do you need to learn and what do you want to let go? Numerous questions, that you could ask the people around you. You may not always get what you asked for, but you will always get something out of that! If you need to learn how to do that you may need a coach. You’re very welcome with your questions, together we may find some of your answers!