Youthfulness brings with it innovative thinking, energetic ideas, vision, enthusiasm and terrific creativity. Yet our youth are drowning in mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Depression is on the rise in young people, and so is suicide. At a time where the world needs the next generation more than ever, it seems the youth are facing their toughest challenges, personally and globally. Why is this, and what can we do about it?
Jamie Smart is a bestselling author, coach and speaker. He shared his wisdom at a recent UPLIFT Youth Conference, and he believes we’re telling young people they’re broken when in fact we are all innately whole. It’s time we looked at the inborn human capacity for insight and realisation, resilience, and peace of mind.
We live in a world where we’re told even by very awake instructors that those are qualities we need to develop. I’m saying no. No, they are innate and already there. And actually, as soon as you think you need to develop qualities like resilience, clearly that’s not true. The most resilient person you know is going to be a baby. They are falling over all the time, getting their desires thwarted etc. and they just bounce back again and again and keep going. So if you want to see a model of resilience, look at a baby learning to walk. Don’t tell me they’ve been brushing up on personal development books at night.
He says, as soon as we tell someone it’s something you need to work on, to make sense of, they firstly have to think they don’t have it. We are giving our children and young people the message that they are not enough and are lacking fundamental abilities and qualities. Jamie says that we all have an innate capacity for love, connection, realisation, and insight and at our core have never been damaged.
The most valuable gift you can give a child is the conviction that there’s nothing wrong with them, that they’re absolutely fine… A lot of times kids are being told how disappointing, broken, or wrong they are, but knowing in your heart that they are perfectly ok, that no matter what’s happened to them; their spirit, their identity, their true nature is absolutely perfectly whole, with nothing to fix, work on, change or mend, is a radical thing.
So much of our education and focus on youth today is on filling them up from a young age, instead of allowing their innate brilliance to shine through. Jamie Smart told the conference it would be helpful if parents, educators and those working with young people today could be more aligned with the true meaning of the Latin word educare, which means to ‘lead out.’
So youth workers today… when the work they do is successful it’s because the young person they’re working with has had a change of heart, an insight, a realisation and they see the world differently. And that comes from within them. When change happens it’s because they’ve realised something from within themselves.
A lot of times young people are being told what they should do, how they should think, but actually, my assertion is the only thing that ever has an impact in someone’s life is something they’ve realised for themselves.
Jamie says we have spent a lifetime trying to be who others have told us we should be, and in the process have lost touch with our true selves. When we get back in touch with our authentic selves, that’s when we see results. Our ability to achieve success flows directly from who we really are. He’s teaching youth and youth leaders to wake up to their fearlessness and source of power.
There is this insane idea that our ‘ok-ness,’ our wellbeing, our resilience could come from out there or could be taken away from us. That’s what young people are up against, so they’re being thrown into a world of social media of comparison that is absolutely untrue.
He says this understanding is to psychology what the discovery of germs was to medicine.
So despite unprecedented areas of material wellbeing, we’re seeing rates of depression, anxiety and suicide soar, because what’s going on with this incredible technology we have, is a reinforced message that there’s somewhere to get to, and that ‘there’ is better than here, and you don’t have what you’re looking for. And that’s what they call a game without end.
His work is inspired by the work of Sydney Banks, a welder who had a sudden insight and realised these principles in the early 70s. Jamie’s work explores the principles behind clarity of mind and high-performance.
You and me, we’ve been born into a world where all the adults already knew about germs, and because they already knew about germs it was a relatively straightforward thing to educate us about germs. I’ve used my embodied understanding of germs and bacteria about a hundred times just this week, in every meal I’ve made, every toilet visit. My experience and behaviour has been shaped by an embodied understanding about germs. Our behaviour is always shaped by our understanding of reality. As a baby, you don’t know about gravity but really quickly you start to learn about gravity. It’s a function of your embodied understanding of reality and a pre-existing fact of life.
Think Less, Achieve More
Jamie’s approach is subtractive, rather than the more commonly additive self-development style of giving you theories, techniques and things to practice and apply. These principles take things off your mind instead of giving you more to learn and understand. He believes clarity plus action equals results.
When I talk about the principles of clarity, what I’m talking about is our innate capacity for experience, for resilience, for insight and realisation, for learning and growing. Our innate capacity for love and connection. I’m talking about our true nature, which is spiritual. My vision when I first saw these principles is that of a generation of children who are born into a world where we already know who we are. So an awakened humanity.
There has been much work around the power of connection, with regards to addiction, depression and trauma. Johann Hari‘s work is pivotal in bringing this understanding that connection is the root cause of most things that ail us.
With Johann Hari’s work, the thing that I don’t see, is that, regardless of the community you’re in, the amount of connection you feel in any moment is going to be a function of where your head’s at. Our experience of connection isn’t coming from our circumstances, our families, our jobs, our communities, our activities. The feeling of connection is coming from inside of us. For example, I experience more depth of love and connection these days in the average day than I used to in a year. That’s not because I fixed my circumstances or am hanging around with awakened people. I’m still the same person. But the difference is I understand where the experience of connection comes from and I’m not looking for it where it isn’t.
We live in an increasingly disconnected world. Young people are connecting via machines, or are spending time together with friends, with their devices being the focus, rather than the human relating. How do we return to deeper, satisfying, sensory connections?
With my own teenagers, the only way I know to share it with them is through how I’m showing up. With the youth workers I said listen, you know far more about working with young people than I do. Anything you see for yourself, you’ll know how to share with them… So how I teach this is to do my best to get into connection with people and to help create the conditions that make it easy for them to have an insight or realisation from within themselves. It’s not about giving anything to anyone. It’s about seeing something that’s already there.
Together we can create a world where young people feel supported and held in the knowledge that they are whole already, that within them they have all of the power and wisdom they need to lead a successful life. By doing this, we can empower the next generation to lead from a place of inner peace and strength.