by FAIZ NAQIB AMIRUL RAMLI

“When I grow up, I want to end poverty.”
“When I grow up, I want to save Mother Earth.”
“When I grow up, I want to become a Jedi.”

The last one is certainly impossible, though lightsabers are only a few light years away. Nevertheless, we all carry a dream, which develops through time in our years as beings with minds. These dreams never left us. They are either supressed by our own fears or layered by other new dreams. Some dreams are fulfilled, bringing success and glory to its owner. Some of them are just not meant to be, becoming deadweight, pulling down its owner to their watery graves known as failures in life. Throughout the time we grow up, dreams of changing a certain aspect of the world meant so much for most of us, acting as a fire that fuels our passion and desire to strive in achieving our target. Even so, there is a worrying trend concerning such dreams, especially among the youths of today.

As we all know, the peak of our physical abilities and mental capacities tend to occur during our youths. During this time, many already go through enough in his or her life to determine the path they would follow, to which many would incline to begin the journey to realise their dreams. This would have positive results, if it happened 20 years ago.

It is a different story today. More and more youths filed for bankruptcy as they comprised of 23 percent of 97 215 bankruptcy cases recorded between 2012 and September 2016 (in Malaysia). Some are on the verge of divorce. Some went big, without thinking, on their first shot towards glory, only to have it cost them dearly. Many just gave up on their dreams and, subsequently, their lives. How does this happen? The answer is around you and also inside you.

Have you noticed the most dominant change in the last 20 years? The way we travel, communicate, or even calculate a certain mathematical problem? If your answer is technology, then you are certainly right. The world has transcended leaps and bounds since the 90s in terms of the advancement of information technology which we employ in our daily lives. Previously, if there is a dispute on a certain information, we would need to go to a library, find the related book and turn its pages to get the clarification. Today, we just Google it. That is it. What used to take probably hours or even days, now can be settled in mere seconds. The same goes with our groceries; what used to become a weekly visit to the local supermarket can now be done via the Internet and websites such as 11street and Tesco Online. Also, who can forget about social media that connects people in just a few clicks? Such changes do improve our social connectivity and our grasp of the current knowledge on everything, but eveirything has its price, and the one for this advancement is our rationale.

The human brain is an intricate machine which governs the many functions of our body and minds, including our own expectations. A study on psychology found that our brains act like prediction machines, which influence our cognitive behaviour as well as our decision-making process. In order to create such predictions, the brain relies on information that is already known by the person, which includes past experiences and the external environment. For example, when you have someone throw a ball at you during baseball practice, your expectation would be to catch it thus prompting an involuntary action to try to catch the ball. Repeat this process, and your brain would be set to predict that every time you go to baseball practice, someone will throw a ball and you will catch it.

This particular process is one of the reasons why people today, including youths, lack patience in almost every aspect of their lives. The technology around us make everything happens in a jiff. Need to know something? Just click. Need a friend? Go to Facebook or Twitter. Need to remember something? Just type it in your smartphone. Our brains are too used to getting the results of our actions quickly, that it impairs our decision-making process. It creates what can be considered as a distorted perspective on expectations, a false narrative which influences our very own predictions. This explains why quick-resulting activities such as multilevel marketing schemes bloom like mushrooms among society, as people want money in a short time without the hassle of working for it that they overlook the suspicious aspects of them. The phrase ‘no guts, no glory’ is often used to justify rash decisions, putting aside calculations of risk as well as rational planning. Young people get married based on the simply romanticised sections of social media, expecting happiness at its earliest convenience without considering the many struggles and challenges of marriage itself. This is the harsh reality of our people today.

Now, this theory does not mean that we should never have undergone technological advancements. In fact, we should continue to embrace and adapt to such changes and advancements in order to face the new challenges that exist today. However, adaptation does not necessitate us to leave behind our rational and critical thinking, the very features that define us as human beings. All of us, especially youths, need to realise that realising our dreams takes careful planning, where every detail and risk needs to be taken into account. We should know that it is okay to start small and take baby steps as long as they are consistent and not in the wrong path. Remember that Rome was not built in a day. In fact, it took at least 1,009,491 days!