It’s a daunting task, trying to change the world one stressed out teen or dissatisfied adult at a time. But when it is a passion, as it is with Lisa Manzi Lentino, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Sudbury, Mass., it is the only way.
Lentino, who is also CEO of The Coaching Connector, an online directory of life coaches, has developed a three-phase plan for helping people to find their true path in life, the life they were destined to live.
It is a plan that will help not only the individual but also society as a whole as each person becomes his or her best self and brings unique talents to bear on the world.
She has written two books on the subject, one for adults, “Constructive Thinking: How to Grow Beyond Your Mind,” (Grow Beyond Your Mind Press, 2015) and a children’s book “The Littlest Acorn”(Christian Faith Publishing, 2017).
In a conversation with New England Psychologist‘s Catherine Robertson Souter, Lentino laid out the basics of the plan and her conviction that helping others to become their best selves will dilute much of the negativity that we deal with daily on a global scale.
Can you tell us about this three-phase philosophy?
The first phase is freeing yourself from your mind’s “database.” We come into the world connected to our unique consciousness or true selves. The metaphor I use is an acorn because an acorn comes into the world with the full potential of an oak tree.
The same is true for a baby entering the world with a unique set of potentials that only he or she can bring. To what extent that child reaches full potential depends upon the experiences he is blessed to have.
The database of our mind has two memory systems that take in information. Our explicit memory, or conscious, rational memory doesn’t come on board until around age two.
But, our implicit or subconscious system immediately starts to collect information based on all our interactions with the world around us. That information helps us to form models about ourselves and our relationships and about how the world works.
As we develop language, we start putting words to those models and those become our core beliefs: I am lovable or not, relationships are a source of comfort or are scary and unpredictable.
Instead of going through life staying grounded in our unique consciousness, or acorn, we start believing all those thoughts and ideas about our world and about ourselves as if they are absolute truths.
In the first stage of freeing yourself from that is realizing that your self-worth is unconditional. You are a unique human being that comes into the world with a unique purpose.
The more we understand that our self-worth is unconditional, and that we don’t have to chase it, the more time we get to spend discovering what is in the acorn, in self-actualization.
It takes a lot of courage especially in our society to denounce that programming and start living life according to the acorn.
How do you free yourself from that programming?
One of the most important skills is mindfulness, as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s defined it, becoming a better non-judgmental observer of your own mind.
The second phase is to get more in touch with “the acorn,” more aligned with those innate passions and talents with which you came into the world. The acorn speaks in subtle ways, in energy shifts, in things you are drawn towards, things that light you up, ideas that pop into your mind.
The last phase of the process is what I call learning to program your mind constructively. Our subconscious mind is incredibly powerful at creating a life that fits a program.
But, when you are grounded more in the acorn you can consciously say, “This is what I am meant to do.”
So that is my passion; to help as many people as possible to free themselves from the database and discover that acorn and get on the path of self-actualization.
Do you see a big need for this to happen?
The earlier and more consistently we give children the message that you have unconditional worth, the better. As a parent, I feel like the little salmon running up stream when I am telling my kids not to worry about test scores, worry about what you are learning.
The purpose of going to school is to help you discover what is in your acorn and get the training you need to develop that. I am not sending them to school to get a GPA. But I am the lone voice here and you send them into this anxiety pool.
I also work with a few high school counselors and the severity of what they are dealing with is frightening. Does anyone see this as a problem?
You cannot do this to kids, force them to see their own worth as conditional on external things like grades or athleticism or how you compare to others, and then every year raise the bar on the conditions. You wonder why kids are so anxious and depressed.
How would your plan change that?
Schools are there to develop citizens who will make a contribution to society. The more we get people aligned with their true selves, the more we benefit society.
Being trapped in the database is where 99.9% of the negative behavior in the world comes from because the more aligned you are with your true self, the less you feel the need to put anyone down. You are not threatened by anyone because you realize that, “I am the only one who can be me to my fullest potential.”
Besides reducing the negativity, we also get the benefit of whatever they may create, whatever problems they may solve, whatever innovation they may bring by being aligned with themselves.
Imagine if Thomas Edison was forced to go to school and go get a job with a good retirement package? The world would have missed out on all he created.
Okay, but aren’t you are also fighting against a whole system that says you need certain grades to get into college which could affect your ability to pursue your talents and interests?
You are right. So, I tell my kids that society has set up a game here and if your acorn tells you that you have a passion and society says that you have to get a certain GPA to get into a certain level of college to do that, that’s fine.
But always look at it as a game and remember that it never determines your self- worth.
So, this is more than a question of becoming your best self? It is about making a better world. Is there any hope? I don’t see the train turning around.
That is part of what I believe my mission is: I can’t give up hope. This is why I am trying to get this message out to as many parents and kids as I can.
I tell people to look around. How many people do you know who are truly content? If the masses are going somewhere but it only leads to perpetual dissatisfaction in life, don’t drink the Kool Aid. There is a better way to do it.
Once you break free of that conditional self-worth, that is what gives you a sense of freedom and security in life that you can never experience inside the database.