Someone wrote to me today, this is what he wrote:
I feel that I waste every single occasion, which life brings to me.
It didn’t take me long to identify the source of the problem. This problem is common and is something that most people live with. That problem starts in school. This problem’s name is: grading imperative.
In truth, I don’t know if that is what it’s called. It’s my name for it. So don’t look for it in the wise books, it probably has a different name there.
In schools they drilled into our heads that every task, every behavior, every word, everything we do is should have a grade. Points, grades, percentages, numbers, good-bad and so on. Everything needs to be evaluated, judged and graded.
First they grade us from outside, but we quickly learn to play this game ourselves. We take over the task of grading and we live with a censor in our heads. Our every intent, plan, idea, before is even born, has to go through the Central Censorship Office.
It’s no surprise that after such training a person feels like he lives in his own prison.
The need of grading is planted in the head so deeply that eventually you cannot even drink tea without judgement. Do you hold your cup right way or wrong way? Does your tea taste better then the other? You can’t just simply enjoy it, can you? If you can’t find any objective criteria of grading, you use “what would people say” as the baseline. And what do the people say? Usually the say nothing, as they really don’t give a shit whether you put on pink socks or black. If you put on the pink ones, you’ll feel like it’s an exam that you failed. You were not supposed to do that, it’s a wrong color. But what happens in reality? Your friends will be surprised for five seconds, one person will ask if you’re gay, someone else will laugh, but five minutes later no one will remember any of this. Well, almost no one. You will remember. Your inner censor will never let you forget. And he will grade you: you failed your exam!
We are programmed to instinctively fear bad grades and mistakes.
Everything below 100% is a reason for discomfort. It’s a proof that you’ve made a mistake somewhere and mistake is evil. Score of 100 percent means no of errors. No errors is your goal. No errors is the default state, it’s level zero. Anything else means below than zero. Sadly, it means your only choice in life is either zero or below zero. That’s the mindset we get from school.
Are you scared of taking a challenge? Do you question your own achievements even though others praise them? That’s probably the reason: grading imperative. Maybe you want to be a graphic designer? “It would be nice”, you think. “But will I get a good score in it? Will I be flawless? Will I do it perfectly?” Probably not.
And then your think like that your enthusiasm goes away, your joy deflates, your passion dies away and all that remains is discouragement. It’s the same feeling that you had in school when they made you learn something you knew you wouldn’t be perfect at. And you must be perfect! Why? I don’t know. A bad grade is a really scary thing. But why on earth is that so scary? I don’t know. It just is. You learnt that at school.
So what’s the solution?
Do what others do: learn to live with it. People accept the grading imperative because it makes their lives so much easier. All the life dilemmas are reduced to a simple grade. It’s clear and obvious guide in your life. Just ask yourself: is it good or bad? If it’s good, do it. If it’s bad, don’t do it. Mistakes? Bad. No mistakes? Good. Peace of mind is worth the struggle. Or so people think.
But I believe that there is a better solution: get rid of this grading instinct. Rip that shit apart, unroot it and flush it down the toilet. No more fears of mistakes! Sound simple enough, but it never is. You’ve been trained and programmed for years. It might take years to undo it, because it’s not enough just to know that your trained instincts are harmful. You need to retrain yourself, but it is impossible. You can do it. Set your mind and practice. Fight through and break your own resistance. Let me give you a head start. Understand some facts about the real life: in real life nothing is as simple as at school. A task in school had only one right solution and all the others were wrong. A task in life has many possible solutions and none of them is wrong. A task in school is easy to grade, errors are obvious to point out and you can always find out (eventually) what the correct solution was. In life, there is no such thing as “correct” or “incorrect”. In most cases everything is a mistake and nothing is a mistake. There are no grades, just points of view and consequences.
Let’s say you feel like drawing a silly picture. You want to draw it and show it to others.
Now when you do it at school, all is clear and easy: you are told what to do, you do it and then you get a grade. You know what to do and you know your goal. A good grade – this is your goal!
Now try the same in real life. Draw a silly picture and publish it on Facebook. How does your mind handle it?
Well since you’ve been trained well at school, the act of publishing is the same as passing an exam for your mind. So first you need to find instructions and then you expect grades. And you find both easily: instructions you get by copying others (forget your own creativity). Grades you find in likes, subs, comments, popularity.
The exam is complete and you get your grades. And guess what? It turns out no matter what you can you can never get a perfect score. One guy likes your picture and thinks it is funny. Nice. Someone else says it’s ugly and stupid. Not nice. But who is right? There are two different scores? How come?
Do you see the problem? At school there was only one teacher and one set of rules. Grades worked and made life simple. You knew if you were good or bad. But in life you get lots of grades from lots of people and you can’t get a clear picture. Are you good or bad? How do you know if your work has a value? Who is right? What it your grade?
Nobody is right, of course, and nobody is wrong, because it is simply a matter of taste. But you, the author of the picture, trained by school, instinctively look for that one and only true evaluation. Is school it came from the All-knowing Supreme Being called a Teacher. But here in life, nothing like that exist. So what do you do? The only thing you can do: you calculate the average and pretend the average score came from the All-knowing Supreme Being called The Public. You just need to get your grade and it needs to be one, so your mind invents The Public for you.
And here is the most ridiculous part: to get a 100% percent average score you need everyone to give you a 100% score. Which is impossible. So you know you’re always be below 100%. How does it make you feel?
Well, not good. Because only one negative comment is enough for you to fail. Anything below 100% is a proof of a mistake, and in your head a mistake is a disaster and you’re a failure. Therefore for your mind “publishing” means “failing a test”.
Your mind is way more logical that you suspect. And somewhere inside your mind you know well that whatever you do, you’ll be not good enough. That’s why you’re discouraged all the time. That’s why you avoid taking a challenge. That’s why you give up before you’ve even started. Now you know why. It’s because you don’t want to experience the school experience again, and for your mind mistakes are ultimate evil and grades are ultimate guide to life.
They tell us we should be grateful to the governments for giving us free education. But I say this: I’d rather be grateful to Hitler for concentration camps than to the government for education! Not many human inventions proved to be more destructive to human minds than grade-based, fear-inducing public education system.
Church works the same way by the way. Different names, same mechanics. Instead of a mistake there is a sin. Instead of a teacher, there is a priest. Every religion or denominations has set a different set of names and rules, but the general idea always stays the same: always grade yourself and others, always live in fear.
All that shit in our heads! How do we get rid of it? Is it even possible?
Oh yes. Don’t worry. Once you know how things work, you can un-train yourself. But it takes effort and time. If you need some help, advice, a good push, find a friend. That’s what friends are for.
You don’t have any friends? Get one.
You don’t know where to start? Start with me!
There’s always a solution.