Thursday, 2 October 2014

Too Much Excitement?

But is there such a thing as TOO MUCH excitement?

Absolutely. Because you can't live your life doing something like THIS every day.

Creative Commons / Flickr copyright GlynLowe
And yet this is what we are bringing up our children to expect. Bigger, better, more WOW factor every time. Forget drugs, the biggest problem the next generation face is adrenalin addiction, and I don't mean too many roller coaster rides.

I've blogged before about the important of saying no to our children, of not giving them everything too soon, and I'm not going to repeat myself here. I'm talking about the way our view of life has fundamentally altered in recent years, how we are no longer content with normal, not happy with just "ok" and "all right" is absolutely not acceptable. It's not just our children who have ever increasing expectations it's adults too.

Our daily lives are now a frenetic buzz of sound bytes, summaries and snapshots. No more the hour reading the broadsheets, with time to breathe and think. We use our phones for a quick fix on media, news and for the majority of communication and I'm as guilty as the next person in this. Why? Because there is no TIME, the demands placed on us all in today's society compound our desire for the next best thing and the combination is pretty toxic. But as we try to do it all, be everything and have it all we've forgotten that normal, mundane and average are really not so bad.

Schools have OFSTED expecting lessons to be exciting, as learning for the sake of itself has all but vanished. Children expect rewards for everything even in school, which devalues the currency of attainment. But self esteem receives no boost from this reward system, and children have little control over it.

Creative Commons/ Flickr Photo by Alexandre Normand
I've seen teachers struggle to keep pupils on task as they lose interest without rewards, lack focus without a thrill. This precipitates the never ending reinvention of the wheel - and the loser in that game is a loss of respect for and affiliation to learning without frills. But why reach for the superlative, seek the extreme and perpetuate the excitement?

Excitement and adrenalin have become the currency of normality, our expectations of experience grossly distorted.

And the problem is, this need for everything to be thrilling is seriously impacting on health and lifestyle. The element of excitement is seen as essential everywhere. And if you don't have any excitement in your life that is seen as a major problem!

For example, councils supporting children with additional needs do an excellent job of providing days out, short breaks and all manner of thrilling activities. But what about someone to help support attendance at Cubs, or to pop round and play board games for an hour, or kick a football around in the garden? Or Carer's support that seeks to offer similar excitement, when actually a friendly face popping in to make a cuppa and do the ironing would tick far more boxes for me. The stress involved in leaving the house sometimes makes going anywhere or doing anything "exciting" nigh on impossible, and surely such activities are far more expensive than finding a volunteer to do the ironing and make tea? By raising the bar we make our lives so much harder, excitement is expensive and has little to do with meeting needs. Too many Carers live life on the edge and could tell you what it's like feeling completely exhausted. They live at the extreme with enough stress induced adrenalin and support needs to recognise that.

The problem with excitement, fuelled as it is by adrenalin, is that there is inevitably a come-down. The day when your get up and fly has got up and flown. When you have run out of exciting activities, events, gadgets, clothes etc. What are you left with?

Fatigue, "burnout" and a phenomenon known as "Tired all the Time" or TATT is becoming commonplace in our society. Having tricked ourselves that such high levels of adrenalin are normal, we keep going..... until we drop. And then we kid ourselves that the reason we are exhausted is because we don't have enough excitement in our lives! When actually we are artificially "depressed" because of adrenalin withdrawal, which is very different from clinical depression. Nonetheless it's a real problem faced by many, and we are failing to see the answer staring at us in the face.

But "mundane" doesn't sell anything, does it? "Normal" and "good enough" not such attractive descriptions? So maybe it's time to rename normal? And being bored is not so bad, after all it's usually the catalyst for new ideas, new solutions and inner calm. And (note to self) NOT time to get a puppy....

Crucially, we are driving ourselves to a deliberate state almost like ADHD, unable to plan, concentrate or evaluate complex situations and information. And research has shown how damaging pushing children on from in depth exploration can be - naturally learned associations which would create complex networks in the brain are not laid down and the adults those children become continue to live in this snapshot world.

Concentration is too often the victim of excitement. Both rarely occur simultaneously without a high degree of outside pressure. I see it all the time in my son who does actually have ADHD. He cannot concentrate well - not due to adrenalin levels but lack of stimulation of certain neurological pathways. But the end result is similar, and it occurs to me that he might be little different from his peers as he grows older, maybe even more resilient in a world of excitement and immediate satisfaction.

We aren't robots lining up to be programmed, or adrenalin thrill-seeking junkies but people. We should accept and embrace a slower pace of life, take time to smell the proverbial roses. As Prof Brian Cox said, we should allow our children - and ourselves! - the chance to get bored, and "let the dreamers dream" because without concentration, there is not enough thought. And it is the power of thought that makes us human.

I think we should hang on to our humanity - if we're in it for the long haul.


  1. Excellent post with well thought out posts. I often wonder why teachers insist they have to make lessons exciting. What about giving children the chance to learn and absorb at a slower pace. Life is often not exciting, a 9-5 job is rarely exciting and children will face huge disappointment when they reach adulthood and can't maintain the level of fun they've come to expect from life.

  2. I know of many parents who have their children having one and sometimes two activities after school each day. I've never one for adrenalin preferring a much simpler life.

  3. Great points, I think being bored helps you develop your imagination and ability to amuse yourself. Too much of anything can be a bad thing x

  4. I guess it's just the way evolution is pushing us.

  5. This is a really good post. There are so many points to be made, for and against. x

  6. It depends really. I love to have adneraline in my life, to live in excitement and experience new things all the time. So I live in the Amazon basin here in the Ecuador and work with Amazonic Kichwa people. We just need to find the way to make life interesting.

  7. Its all about balance isn't it - we do have some big adventurous days out, but are far more often found feeding the ducks or playing in the park.

  8. Really interesting post. My boys love theme parks, but do not go looking for one thrill to the next. I try and provide balance. Last night we all sat colouring for an hour before bed

  9. A thoughtful and excellent post, which I found myself nodding in agreement with throughout. There is so much focus now on instant gratification and the associated assumption that life is only good if we're too busy hurtling from one thing to the next to stand still, and this is something that I see encouraged increasingly in the workplace, where the drive for leaner, more efficient workforces encourages everyone to try to juggle ten things at once and settle for mediocre and superficial over excellent and well thought through. The best people will always shine through, but I do fear that my kids are growing up in an environment which encourages pace over quality. More haste, less speed.

  10. I don't like roller coasters yet my son does.. he is is less fearful than me

  11. Totally agree with you - if anything the whole after-school activity thing is even worse here in Canada than it is in the UK. You can't help but feel conspicuous if you don't have a schedule planned down to the last minute. Also people are always looking for things to do with their kids, as though for them just to be making their own entertainment at home is unthinkable.

  12. This is a great post , and nowadays we plan too much for children that if they have spare time they get bored easily.

  13. Brilliant post. You are so right about the TATT syndrome, I am definitely caught up in all that! Society expects so much of everyone and there is so much pressure to 'be someone' when all we should do is just 'be'. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo :) x

  14. I am with you on this. We might be stifling a lot of creativity with the constant need for thrill and excitement.

  15. I think a balance of everything is good - at least it works for us! Fairly calm and easy weekdays with not too much going on outside of school and then fun weekends.

  16. Another fantastically well articulated piece on the madness of the modern world lovely! I think over scheduling kids is a dangerous game because where have you got to go from there? Same goes for giving them everything they want. My kids are happiest whilst playing games that revolve around make believe. An imagination is free but if it's ?made redundant too early I wonder whether it'll be gone forever?

  17. Really interesting post. Thanks so much for sharing with the #pinitparty. Have pinned :)

  18. Very thought provoking, it's true we're always striving for that next excitement! Me? Give me a cuppa and a board game and we're golden


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