Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

Four life lessons

On Wednesday 24 July 2019, the young men of Warrane College heard from Dr Anthony Dillon of the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education. Originally from Queensland, Anthony has studied a variety of topics from mathematics and adult education to psychology. With both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ancestry, Dillon is an active social commentator on indigenous issues and has been published by ABC, SBS, The Spectator, The Conversation and The Australian.
“My passions I guess, as reflected in my research, are psychology-based,” said Dillon. “Helping people, helping to improve the lives
of individuals, groups and families… When I do have spare time I’m a part-time magician, I like to entertain people on the stage… I’m always trying to learn, feed the brain to keep it young and youthful.”
He went on, “What I did want to tell you about… is some advice that’s served me well. And the advice I’m going to give you may or may
not mean anything to you right now, but next month, a year, 10 years down the track, something may happen… and it will make sense… Let it incubate, and call upon it when the time is right.”
“I call them rules of nature. And just like physical rules, you can’t break them. Like the law of gravity, there’s nothing you can do to break
that. If you try to break it, it will break you.”


Tip #1 – We are all interconnected
For his first tip, Dillon spoke to the young men about our relationship with everyone else. “I only discovered this a few years ago, so I
still wrestle with it, and that is the interconnectedness of people,” he said. “I like to think that we are all one… black people, white people, short people, skinny people, curly-haired people, blue-eyed people, but we’re all one, we’re all part of one people… So how you treat another is how you’re treating yourself. So like the feet look different to the kidneys or whatever, it’s still all part of one body.”


Tip #2 – Your opinion of yourself comes first
Dillon said, “Another lesson I can give you… We live in a world of opinions… and you’re exchanging opinions and sometimes you’re firing
opinions or opinions are being fired at you… But the law that I want to give you is that your opinion of yourself is more important to your wellbeing than other people’s opinion of you. So that doesn’t mean you don’t seek other’s opinions, you don’t respect them, you don’t learn from them – but at the end of the day it’s your opinion of yourself that you’ve got to live with, not others’ opinions of yourself.”
He went on, “So when I do work about bullying at schools or conferences… young people will say ‘that person hurt me with what they said’.
And I’ll say ‘Is it true what they said?’ and they’ll say ‘no.’ And I’ll say ‘Then why are you upset about it?’ And it gets them thinking. And I might have to dig a little deeper then and we find out that the problem wasn’t that someone else was thinking xyz about them; it’s that they were thinking xyz about themselves as well…”
“Us psychologists talk about two types of self-worth: contingent self-worth or non-contingent self-worth. Contingent self-worth is ‘I
feel really good because I’m rich, I drive a good car, I live in a great suburb, I have a fantastic job and I’ve got all these great things’. Non-
contingent self-esteem – ‘I just feel good being me.’ And I’ll let you guys work out for yourself which is the best… One type will leave you very vulnerable, the other type will leave you very robust and you’ll be able to weather the storms in life.”
Tip #3 – Motivating rather than forcing
Dillon’s third tip for the young men was about motivating people to do the right thing for the right reason rather than forcing them. “You
don’t like being controlled; they don’t like being controlled as well… So the law I want to give to you is, if there’s someone I want to change, for example at work, a colleague – do I want Fred to order the stationery, or do I want him to want to do it?… How can I get them to want to engage in that behaviour… You’ve got to show that good will… There are certain areas where this doesn’t work, like with kids, but generally you have to allow them the opportunity to refuse so that when they say yes, you know it’s genuine.”
“It’s very important to learn some skills for getting on with other people,” he went on. “Often we’re in a position to try and bring about change in another person. Sometimes it’s necessary to be influential… to maximise the chances whereby they will change… It’s a change on the inside that we’re after… People are more likely to care about their behaviour and focus on their behaviour when they know that you care about them more than you care about their behaviour… that doesn’t mean you accept the behaviour… but you communicate that you really do care about them.”
Tip #4 – Be a good role model
For his last piece of advice, Dillon encouraged the young men not only to have good role models, but to try and be role models for
others. “Most of us can owe our success in part to having a good role model… My advice to you, in addition to seeking out a good role model, is think of yourself as role models… you can be a role model every time you step outside, every time you’re with family… You’re being watched… What sort of message am I giving to people? Is it worthy of imitating?”
To finish off, he summed up: “I wanted to give lessons that have served me well. If I can sum up my formula for having peace of mind, for
getting on with others, for being spiritually awake whatever that might mean for you – these things: interconnectedness, be a role model, don’t ever settle for passive compliance from people, you want motivation from them, and look upon yourself favourably.”


[Warrane College offers more than just accommodation to students at UNSW: details of other guest speakers are available here]