Developing self-reliance: Personal empowerment lessons from 1951
Earlier this week, I encouraged readers to become proactive by developing an internal locus of control. In that article, I wrote:
You are the boss of you. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get out of debt or to buy a house or to ask for a raise. And nobody’s going to come to you out of the blue to explain investing or health insurance or your credit card contract. Take charge yourself.
“I get it,” you might be thinking. “Self-reliance is great. But how do I change? How do I get from where I am to becoming a more self-reliant person?”
In today's installment of GRS Theater, we're going to look at another fun educational film nearly seventy years ago. This short video (targeted at teenagers) aims to help viewers become more proactive.
“If you're not self-reliant, you'll never do any more than just ‘get by',” says the narrator.
I love how in his desk, Mr. Carson, the French teacher, just happens to have a typewritten card with the four steps to self-reliance. “Learning to be self-reliant takes time…and hard work,” he says, handing young Allen the list.
Here are Mr. Carson's steps, with a bit of elaboration.
- Assume responsibility. Take the blame for things that are your fault; look after your own work; plan your own time; depend on yourself to get things done.
- Be informed. If you don't know some vital piece of information, find it out. Ask. Get the facts you need to make smart decisions. Knowledge gives you power. Ignorance puts you at the mercy of others.
- Know where you're going. Set smart goals. Have a long-range plan so that you understand the general course you're trying to make through life. Don't simply react passively to the world around you.
- Make your own decisions. Develop the ability to think for yourself. Don't rely on others to make choices for you — that's a sure route to unhappiness. Be decisive.
These steps are very similar to habits espoused by modern self-help gurus. Taking control of your own destiny is a great way to improve your satisfaction with life, to increase your happiness. The film picks up bonus points from this lit geek by name-dropping Ralph Waldo Emerson and his essay, “Self-Reliance”:
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.
In the film, we get to watch as young Allen gains self-reliance, which transforms him from a dependent child to a confident young adult. Eventually, he becomes a leader among his classmates.
“Yessir,” says Mr. Carson. “That was self-reliance — the kind we can all use. It's hard work to become self-reliant…[but] Allen learned to do it, and he's a certainly a happier and a better person for it. Will you develop the habit of self-reliance?”