What I learned about Gratitude from Impoverished South African Pre-schoolers
I was reading a book recently that reminded me of an experience that I had in South Africa five years ago.
I had travelled to Johannesburg in June 2016 to learn from the World’s Leading Human Behaviour Expert, Dr John Demartini (awarded by the IAOTP) about Mindset, Personal Development and Human Potential.
As a 90s kid growing up in Australia I used to watch Saturday Disney with my brother and sister every Saturday morning at 7am. I remember there were 2 TV adds that were very common, one was for travelling to Queensland (where else but Queensland?🎶) and the other was for World Vision. The World Vision add talked about sponsoring a child and how many of the kids in Africa where living in poverty.
So when I travelled to Africa for the first time the thing that came to mind for me was I wanted to volunteer at a school in SA to teach the kids and just experience what life is like growing up in a small rural town in SA and I found an opportunity to do that in a small town called Port Saint Johns.
The opportunity that I found was working in a tiny pre-school/primary school on top of a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean with 2 teachers and about 50 students.
The thing that struck me when I was teaching at this pre/primary school (combined into one) was how much the kids looked forward to their school and their class everyday even though the majority of them lived in poverty.
The cost to attend their school appeared to be a silver coin once a week and in return they got a very basic education and a meal of some kind of GMO Corn-like porridge everyday🥣.
These little African kids would have the biggest smile on their face when they got to attend school everyday and they would run up and give me a hug and want to play on the broken play equipment next to the school.
At the time I couldn’t really put my finger on why these kids where so enthusiastic to come to school everyday.
The curriculum, if you could call it that was the teacher reading to them from a picture book and then maybe some drawing and colouring in.
In my mind I was expecting them to be kind of down and bummed by the whole living in poverty situation.
It wasn’t until much later when I started learning about how the mind works and how our perceptions are formed, and then about a month ago when I read a book that reminded me of my experience there, that I realised why those kids where so enthusiastic about school everyday, even though they “had nothing.”
In order to have an emotional reaction to something your mind needs to make a comparison between 2 things.
There needs to be a contrast for you to judge and perceive something as ‘good’ and be happy and something else as ‘bad’ and be sad.
If there is nothing in your awareness that you are comparing your current situation to then you won’t experience an emotion in that moment.
These kids, from what I could tell, had not very much going on for them outside of school and there was only a small percentage of the kids in the town who’s parents could afford to send them to school, so school for them was seen as an opportunity rather then an obligation. Something they get to do.
The other thing I noticed was that these kids where somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, there was only one basic computer at the school for the admin and nothing that the kids could interact with.
And it was quite unlikely that they had any form of computer, video game or phone at home so there was less opportunity for them to compare themselves to others in “more privileged” situations than them.
So the nature of these kid’s world view was one where they appreciated what they had rather than one where they where comparing what they have to an ideal of something ‘better’.
One thing that I have learned studying mindset and Human Behaviour and working 1-to-1 with my own clients is that a lot of depression is cased by the comparisons we make in our mind. When we compare our lives to the people on instagram who have more money, more followers and a more shredded physique for example.
We think, I will be happier when I have… six figures in income, more followers, abs, more status etc.
And then by contrast we don’t appreciate what we have currently and we feel down or depressed, the thing is that most of the time we are not consciously aware that we are doing this.
Those ‘impoverished’ kids in Port Saint John’s don’t have the opportunity to fill their time with as many ideals as we do, simply because they are not surrounded my advertising and people’s one-sided highlight reels (social media pages) and other one-sided facades as much as we are.
This experience I had in Port Saint John’s and what I learned about mindset from some of the world’s leading mindset and human behaviour speakers is one of the main drivers behind why I created Mindset Mastery.
The western world doesn’t understand mental health.
It’s stigmatised and polarised and over the last couple of years has become one of the biggest issues that we have in the western world today.
Many therapists, although they mean well, are taught to get their clients to run their story about what happened to them, they don’t understand that this process of retelling a story from the perspective of the victim is further myelinating (or strengthening) the neural pathways in that clients mind.
The more you repeat your victim story ➡️ the more you myelinate that neural pathway in your mind ➡️ the more you believe and buy-into the idea that you are a victim of circumstances.
The reason I created Mindset Mastery is because I want people to understand mental health, to understand the symptoms their mind is giving them, to learn how to interpret their mental feedback and return themselves to a centred, present state of mind.
If you want to learn understand and master your mind you can find out more about Mindset Mastery here: www.andycampbell.com.au/mindset-mastery