Archive for June, 2013

Advertising and Children

Posted: June 26, 2013 in In the News

Children are so impressionable. Take advertising for example. Children absorb so much of the world around them that unless clear thinking adults are around to filter what they come in contact with, or to guide them in making informed decisions they can end up being very badly influenced or making poor choices.

I would like to specifically talk about a particular marketing ploy that came to my attention a little while ago. It involves an activity that parents encourage children to take an interest in and an addictive pastime that has been known to ruin the best of people. Now just why these two interests have combined is quite obvious. Adults love to gamble and they also love sport. Combine the two and you have a match made in heaven for lots of people, however the only clear winners tend to be the bookmakers, the betting agencies, sponsors and the professional athletes or sports people who tend to get paid way more then they deserve.

So now we suddenly have the sports spectators bombarded with a plethora of gambling related advertising. There are continuous streams of information on the television during games and races about odds and other gambling statistics, billboard advertising around the perimeter of the field, gambling related companies such as Centrebet and Tom Waterhouse  “knows what punters want” advertisements during sports programs, and sports presenters chatting about where and how to place bets. Then there is the vast assortment of adverts on the internet.

I am not a gambler so perhaps these advertisements annoy me more than those who like to bet money, but there is something far more disturbing and sinister going on here that I need to draw attention to. Bookmakers and businesses that provide betting facilities (and I guess that includes government) have their sights set on future gamblers. “The children of today are the gamblers of tomorrow” is probably a slogan that is joked about around the betting agencies. But sadly this seems to be true and is possible being consciously used by marketing companies.

Millions of children love sport, participating in it and watching it. In fact is is encouraged, and so it should be. Lots of kids love watching footy with mum and dad and even have favourite teams. Watching State of Origin is a ritual for some families. I know of a few young boys under ten who have a favourite football team of which they know every players name, but I was horrified to hear them quote the odds for their team and the opposing team and realised that this was a very clever (and evil) marketing ploy to educate young (and very keen) spectators to be savvy with gambling and punting terminology. By the time these boys are old enough to work they will be unable to separate sport from gambling and they most surely will be already hooked into the thrill of gambling.

I hope I am wrong, but a lot about these ads tells me I am right to be worried. We know only too well how clever marketers steer our children into wanting foods and toys. Take (or leave) McDonalds as an example. They continue to target market children with stupid toys in their Happy Meals at the same time as trying to convince parents that their food is healthy. Many years ago when McDonalds first arrived in Australia I worked for a bakery that baked the bread rolls for McDonalds and the recipe contained twice as much sugar as any other bread baked in the bakery. Why? I asked.The answer was “because sugar is addictive”.

Is this really what we want for our children’s future? Do we want to see them obese from eating junk food and poor from gambling their hard earned money, with nothing to pay their rent or mortgage with, having the electricity disconnected and their families torn apart? I don’t believe any of us want that. There have been rumblings in the media about withdrawing some of the advertising centered around gambling however not many people are talking about why this is so important. I urge you to write to newspapers, your local MP, the sports minister etc, and let them know you are not happy that your children are being target marketed with gambling. Children make up a big portion of the sport audience, they need your voice to speak out for them and their future.

Life isn’t always fair and just. Life isn’t always bright and good. We need the bad times to appreciate the good times but more than that they serve to teach us about life. They teach us what we are made of; where our strengths and weaknesses are. They help us to pinpoint what our values and beliefs are by testing them even sometimes to breaking point. The bottom line is, our lives are enriched by the things that hurt us. Unfortunately we often miss the truth of this at the time because we are too busy trying to dodge the bullet or hide from the uncomfortable feelings. In hindsight we can often see that the things that hurt us emotionally have been, in the end what made us change for the better. Is there a way to feel better about those hurtful times while they are happening?

The answer is yes! It may not be easy or quick. It takes faith, patience, perseverance, empathy and love. Let me explain.

There are times in all our lives when we feel as if we have been abandoned. It could be that our friends have turned their backs or just don’t seem to be available to us or understand us. We feel alone. It might be that despite our unwavering faith in a higher power, our prayers seem to go unheard and we doubt if there really is ‘someone’ listening to our words. Other times we might feel the need to shut everybody out and attempt to deal with a problem on our own, maybe because others see us as being strong and independent when inside we are scared and unsure, they really just don’t know us. At other times circumstances seem to be conspire against us, problems mount up and life seems way too difficult to deal with. All of us can most likely recall times like these that force us to question “Why me?” “What have I done to deserve this?” and have maybe forced us to wonder what the point is in being a ‘good’ person when life just keeps appearing to throw us difficulties.

The word Faith often conjures up a connection to religion. A Faith in God or some other higher power. A mystical belief in ‘something’ or ‘someone’ with an ability to come charging in at the last moment to save us from falling off the edge. But Faith is so much more than that. It is believing first and foremost in ourselves. In our abilities, our knowledge, our instincts, our reason for ‘being here’. It also encompasses Faith in life, love, humanity and many other things but without Faith in ourselves it is impossible to see it in anything. To have unshakable faith in any higher power requires a faith in ourselves as well.

Faith is, when the chips are down and we are on our knees, all we really have left. If we have Faith we understand there is a reason to pick ourselves up. We may not understand at the time what that reason is however there is usually a knowing that things will get better, that everything changes, that good and bad come and go. We all know that to be true but when we are in our dark days we have trouble accepting this truth. Once we understand this truth, we are able then to turn what has upset us into something that helps others. The pain we feel can be the fuel that inspires because for every pain we feel there are others going through the same emotions, looking for answers or searching to change things for the better. Without the pain there is no need to search in order to make this world a brighter and better place.

The next time you face a difficulty that gives you emotional pain, look at the problem not as just happening to you alone, but as being a part of life. Think about the fact that this problem is not yours alone, that there are many others facing or who have faced the same or similar pain. What might they have done about it? What can you do to promote positive change to the situation that might help others in the future. Even if is only to write about it in a blog or talk it over with friends, someone might be helped by your insights. Then again maybe there isn’t anything you can do, maybe you don’t possess the skills to make a change so don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead focus on the truth that your problems are shared, experienced, and even overcome by others every day and because of them, both the problems and the people, we are all given the opportunity to see the good in a hurtful situation.

Know Your Dark Side

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Personal Growth

We all have bad days because life is never ever great all the time. We wish that it was but wishing doesn’t make it so. In our relentless pursuit of happiness we sometimes forget that if we stop for a minute and look back at some of our most difficult moments, the ones that had us on our knees (or almost), the ones that put us in a deep dark hole with no clue as to how to get out, we feel so happy that we made it through the dark and found the light at the end of the tunnel. This light was the light my mother assured me was always there, and if we are prepared to confront the darkness rather than running from it or finding a rock to hide under, the light will eventually find us.

It is human nature to want to feel good all the time and we do whatever it takes to make it happen. Unfortunately it doesn’t always involve good choices, some people turn to alcohol and drugs, others keep themselves really busy to avoid feeling anything other then ‘good’. I have used alcohol for this reason and the effect was only temporary, well at least until the next round. My preferred choice is keeping busy, mainly because it never hurts anyone and I seem to get a lot done.

When I fill my time with lots and lots of things on my ‘to do list’, even making the to do list is sometimes a distraction. In fact I looked at my to do list a few days ago and I am still working on lots of ‘things’, managed to have completed some of them but have added more new ‘things’ than ones I have completed. So my to do list is forever growing. Is this a bad thing?? When I die will I have a list as long as a toilet roll of ‘things’ still incomplete? What struck me hard the other day was that I had lost the desire to do any of it. I was overwhelmed and tired of it all.

Some of the bigger things on my to do list include writing a book (with others in the pipeline), finishing my degree, and finding another job (because my present one is about to end). Most would call these ‘goals’ but I actually don’t favour that word, a goal is kicked or scored and I am not kicking anything except maybe a bad habit and scoring means evaluating what I do against the rest of the world and I for one don’t need that pressure. But aside from that I realised that because I had so many things happening in my life I felt scattered, as if bits of me, bits of my imagination, creativity, ideas and just basically my mind, was all over the place. While I was studying, my mind was sneakily thinking ‘I really must get onto finishing that book’. When writing a blog (such as now) I tend to think I am slacking off on other things such as finishing assignments or doing housework (hohum!) This was all driving me crazy.

So just the other day I did nothing, at least nothing on my to do list. I watched lots of television, spent time with my pets, walked, slept in the middle of the day and basically tried to shut my mind off. It helped. I did it the next day too because I just didn’t feel ready to ‘go back’. I consulted the ‘Runes’, something I do every day and they backed me up telling me it was time to look at my past, get in touch with and do work on my ‘self’ and to trust. So I did. This is where I discovered that I was filling my life with too much to do in order to drown out other things that needed my attention. These other things were not on the to do list, they were on my heart and soul list. Things that I had drifted away from that are important to me, that fire me up with passion. If by letting go of some of the things on my to do list I am seen as giving up in some people eyes then so be it. Culling the list is a priority to my wellbeing. Multitasking is not my forte. I am one of those deep thinking, needs lots of alone time type of people. I don’t handle too many things happening at once very well.

So my to do list, although it still exists is shorter than it was a few days ago and I now have my heart and soul map. I am familiar with this map and I know the major roads on it but its the dirt roads, tracks and lanes that I am interested in exploring now. I am not focused on any list or ‘goal’ I am prepared to go where my heart and soul leads me. I have surrendered to something so much bigger than me.