Category: Health & Wellbeing

Real-Time, Reflective Vignette-ification

stumbling-and-falling

The Foundation. It moves really darn fast. Life, that is. Not just really fast, and not just darn fast, but really darn fast…and that’s fast. As I move along within it, doing my best to love, listen, learn, lead, and share the gratitude I have for each moment, I stumble and fall (a lot).

A growth mindset helps. It helps me realize that the stumbling and falling parts are really good for the learning and leadership parts, even critically essential if you don’t mind a bit of redundancy.

When I stumble I have to stabilize. I have to catch myself, counterbalance whatever set me off, shake off the equilibrium-shock, refocus, refresh, integrated new learning if it stuck, and take a “moving on with enhanced awareness and/or ability” breath (in those moments when catching myself during a stumble perpetuates enhanced awareness and/or ability). If I feel the benefits of such an experience immediately afterward, I might even smile.

When I fall I have to get back up. I have to make it through whatever pain is incurred during the fall, I have to dust myself off, I have to swallow my pride, and I have to keep on keeping on. If it hurt really badly, I have to take some time to heal. If it hurt really darn badly, I have to be alone for a minute (at least).

Either way, the stumbling and the falling feed the learning and the leadership.

The Strategy. Real-Time, reflective vignetteification makes it a bit easier, and arguably even more effective. Nothing in life is entirely easy (at least that’s been my experience), however, everyone knows that a bit easier is enhanced above a bit more difficult. One of the reasons life can be so difficult is that it’s often about interacting with people, and people feel. Learning and leadership are deeply embedded in the interacting with people parts of life.

Real-time, reflective vignette-ification calls for the compartmentalizing of emotions during any given situation that might otherwise be made more difficult or confusing by the same. Emotions, that is.

Here’s how it works: when you’re in a situation that calls for quick and critical thought and/or action in the face of high stakes challenges and/or heightened emotions, you force yourself to think about the situation as something you’re reading in a book. You know, a vignette.

Think of these situations as vignettes and think about how books with these types of vignettes are written. Sections that allow readers to reflect on the vignettes with thoughts and ideas about how they would react, respond, or proceed typically follow the vignettes. Real-time, reflective vignette-ification allows you to answer and act as if you were outside of the situation.

Be careful to stay connected, but do step outside of these situations with an eye on effective learning and leadership rather than emotion. You can return to the emotion later if you’d like. Some people process that way.

Now, it might be that the emotions of the person or people you’re learning and/or leading with are important to process, it often is. In those cases, make sure you don’t overlook those. I’m suggesting the removal of your emotions with real-time, reflective vignette-ification model, the ones that get in the way of your level-headedness.

Digging in a bit. Ever notice that when you reflect on the vignettes in those you books you have really good ideas, that those really good ideas come to you with a high degree of clarity, and that you feel great about the solutions you come up with.

Ever notice that sometimes, after similar real-time situations you think, or even say, “I wish I would have…” or “If I’d have been thinking more clearly I could have…” or even the classic, “hindsight is 20/20?” Real-time, reflective vignette-ification can help you avoid that.

It takes practice, it takes resolve, it takes wherewithal, it takes believing that most things that seem to be about you aren’t, that people are generally well meaning and kind even though we get upset and off balance at times, and that listening is often more meaningful than talking. It takes wanting to feel good, and it takes wanting the same for others.

It takes deep, goal oriented focus and the ability to visualize outcomes. It takes a desire and it takes a commitment. It takes time, it takes grit, and it takes holding back from complaining about the more self-pity-laden faux burdens we so love to complain about.

On the flip side, and to the benefit of all involved, it promotes not wanting to.

If you learn and/or lead, give it some thought, and then give it a shot. You might like it.

Live, love, listen, learn, lead…thanks.

Frustrated Tomorrow

frustrated-tomorrow

Frustration can be depleting.  It can be distracting. It can catalyze an energy shift from joyful to uneasy in the blink of an eye.

Running into frustration can zap you.  It can take you off guard and it can inundate potentially peaceful moments of your one, relatively short life with tension.  It can take you by surprise and spin you around.

Also, frustration can be extremely easy to come by in the busy, fast-paced world in which we live.

I understand that we are each unique. However, I would venture a guess that everyone experiences some frustration in one form or another.

I would further speculate that most of us experience at least a bit of that frustration over situations that, if scrutinized for balanced responses and significance, wouldn’t actually call for it (the frustration, that is).

Finally, while I suppose there is an argument to be made for frustration as a motivator, I would suggest that any number of alternate, upbeat, and progressive routes might be increasingly positive & holistically more productive than the frustrated one.

In that I don’t prefer the troublesome nature of frustration to joyful calm I’ve focused some relatively significant reflective energy on seeking one of those alternate routes for moments where frustration presents as a viable mindset.

After only forty-two short years of soul searching I think I may have found a decent strategy for energy shifting, reframing, and regulation toward the calm focus of which I speak when those moments arise.

I’m calling it, “Frustrated Tomorrow.”

Turns out, it’s not new and it’s not rocket science.  Not nearly.

It’s simply about having and exercising the desire, the will, and the connected commitment to joyful, present, and thoughtful living to counter-infect your mind with contented serenity as an antidote to any frustration that would seek to strip from you the same.

It seems to work too.  At least for me.  And at least so far.

I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks and the impact is already visible.

For example, I realized not too long ago that I had recently lost the will to engaged in car karaoke. A practice I’ve been enjoying for decades.

After enlisting the support of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’ve found myself once again singing along with my favorite eighties superstars at the top of my lungs; Journey, Aerosmith, and even Bette Midler in a moment of pure abandonment (“The Rose” – I couldn’t help it).

Freed from the minutia of unfettered frustration by way of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’m finding myself more frequently accessing the reflective, creative, and jubilant parts of what makes life fun for me.

I’m more available to my family. Ironically, one of the frustrations that at times has kept me drained and somewhat distant, even when I was physically present, was the fact that I don’t have nearly as much physically present time as I’d like.  Aside from thick with irony, that’s just goofy.

“Frustrated Tomorrow” helped me walk that back and remember what a blessing each moment truly is.

Under the “Frustrated Tomorrow” paradigm I’m more fun, I’m more thoughtful, I’m more introspective, and I’m simply more me.

If you ever feel frustration and question it as potentially unnecessary, and if you’re interested in exploring another pathway to peacefulness, you might consider the procedure below in exploring that “Frustrated Tomorrow” could work for you.

Step 1: When you feel frustration knocking decide to reserve it for tomorrow by saying, “I’ll be frustrated about that tomorrow.”  Out loud is good.  In your mind will do.

Step 2: Actually, there is no “Step 2.” Step 1 should do the trick if you trust yourself, and if you’re able to take your own advise. If it doesn’t work, you’ll simply get and possibly remain frustrated. No harm, no foul.

Good news though, you can keep trying as often as you’d like, even and especially if you fail at first.  After all, failure is a magnificent pathway to learning and growth.  The most magnificent some might say.

In fact, “Frustrated Tomorrow” might not work for you until you work on it.

It’s possible that you might have to see the benefits before it sinks in.

It’s possible that you might have to be cool with delaying the gratification of frustration before your able to give it up (if indeed frustration itself turns out to be your desired end game).

If you enlist the courage to continue through failure you might find that in some, if not most cases, you’ll end up not needing frustration once tomorrow comes.

If you dig in even when facing seemingly imminent defeat, you might experience that in some, if not most cases you’ll forget why you were considering frustration in the first place.

Who knows? Not me. Just a thought.

If you need it, and you want it, and you try it, and it works…well done (and happy joyful calm).

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Laugh. Lead.

3 Ways To Practice Forgiveness, 2 Reasons To Consider It, & 1 Disclaimer

Near Seems Bigger

Do you ever have moments you’d like to return? Have you ever thought better of an action or a decision and wished you could step back in time? Is there an occasion you can recall in which bringing your best would have been wonderfully effective, but instead you brought something else?

Have you flopped? Have you failed? Have you disappointed yourself? Have you disappointed someone else? Has something like this happened to you? Has it happened repeatedly? If so, congratulations! Not only do these circumstances represent powerful opportunities for learning and growth, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, I can verify with a high degree of certainty that, like me, you’re a human being; a flawed but extraordinary thing to be.

The 3 Ways:

1. Forgive Yourself. Do it. You can thank yourself afterward. Forgiving yourself is a boon for maximizing the learning and growth of which I speak. It’s not always easy. Not for me anyway. Sometimes you’re not forgiven by others, and in those cases it’s especially not easy. But still, do it. Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. Don’t dismiss. Just forgive, and then, reflect with intention. Don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times; a few will do. Be strong in your resolve to make positive progress. Focus on your core values as you reflect. Enlist strength to defeat frustration. Never give up. Try to remember things that are near can seem bigger than things that are far. Down the line you might even wonder why forgiveness was needed in the first place. Still, I would suggest that it might be.

Think about what might happen if you make strides with each opportunity; even tiny strides. Do it. If you don’t like it or see value in it, stop. But I think you will. If you already do it, keep it up, even and especially when it’s most challenging. Give yourself permission to stumble, and if you don’t catch yourself, to fall. All the while, remember that you’re brave, strong, and in every way capable of bringing your best at every turn; dark, light, or otherwise.

2. Forgive Others When They Ask For Forgiveness. Grudges are bad. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone along the way, but don’t waste time obscuring your positive progress with extended negativity. I believe most people are well meaning. Like us, they stumble and they fall. Give the benefit of the doubt, maintain optimism, consider that good intentions abound, suppose that pain could be the root of hurtful behavior and that sadness might be the foundation of insensitivity, and then use those considerations to exercise compassion in the face of frustration. Take an apology as an invitation to support someone in learning and growth. Give them that gift.

3. Forgive Others Before They Ask For Forgiveness. Why wait? If you agree that forgiveness is a positive thing you might consider carrying some with you all the time. A reserve, if you will. Even a bit of “just in case” forgiveness can go a long way. Most people mean you no harm, and those that do are typically seeking to gain power over you. Dissolve that possibility. Don’t be harmed. Be strong. Have resolve. Again, stick to your core.

The 2 Reasons:

1. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For You. When you practice forgiveness in any of the ways listed above you open yourself up to a world of possibilities that tends to be stifled by the opposite. Again, forgiveness and apathy are wildly different things. When you forgive the humanness of any given situation and the human being within it, with the understanding that we learn from bumps on the road, you stand a chance at paving the section of road you just stumbled on. Pave it. You bring your best when you seek do so. You enhance the world when you bring your best.

2. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For Those You Serve. Speaking of enhancing the world, we are all servants. I mostly speak to parents, educators, and organizational leaders because that’s my wheelhouse, as it were. When we offer forgiveness we model forgiveness. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be teaching those we serve, especially the children we serve, about the power of forgiveness and we should support them in learning to exercise it themselves. Practicing it might just be the best way. Besides, it feels good to be forgiven. It promotes confidence and suggests value. Confident people who feel valued contribute great things to the world.

The 1 Disclaimer:

1. I Could Be Wrong. It’s a human thing. My thoughts and ideas on this and all other topics of which I think, speak, and write are inexorably tainted by my limited capacity to understand the complexities of this world and inescapably skewed by the experience I’m having within it. In other words, this stuff might work for you and it might not. It’s really just food for further reflective thought.

So, if forgiveness isn’t currently a part of your paradigm and you decide to consider it on the basis of reading this post…and, if doing so isn’t effective for you…please forgive me, or not. I already have.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

I Don’t Know: Understanding via a Lack Thereof

Imagine

I heard the most fascinating story yesterday through an interview of a fifty four year old woman, Kim, who self-discovered her Asperger’s Syndrome and then got a brief glimpse into a world in which it didn’t stifle her ability to read social cues.

Researchers exploring a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) showed Kim a video. In the video a woman answered her door to find a man standing on the other side with a bag filled with DVD cases. The man handed the bag to the woman and said, “Here are the DVDs you lent to Roger,” followed by, “He asked me to return them to you.”

The man suggested that the woman take a look in the bag and examine the state of the DVDs. She did. She opened each one to find that nothing was inside. The bag was filled with empty DVD cases. After a few moments the man asked, “Is everything alright?”

The woman replied, “Oh yes, everything is just fine.”

The man then asked, “Would you be willing to let Roger borrow your DVDs again?”

The woman replied, “Absolutely…without hesitation.”

Kim reported that after watching this interaction she was very impressed and somewhat surprised by the woman’s reaction. She told the interviewer that she thought the woman in the video was uniquely forgiving and generous.

Then came the TMS. The researchers delivered a series of precisely targeted magnetic pulses into Kim’s brain with the aim of stimulating key areas in the hopes that it would enhance her ability to read social cues, a standard reported deficit in people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kim recounted that it did. She told the interviewer that she was shocked upon watching the same video again after the TMS treatment.

The woman in the video did not seem forgiving or generous this time. In fact, she was clearly upset. Kim described high levels of sarcasm in the woman’s responses that she could not detect previously.

When the woman said, “Oh yes, everything is just fine,” she meant, “No, everything is not alright…can’t you see that Roger has taken all of my DVDs?”

When she said, “Absolutely…without hesitation,” she meant, “Not in a million years!”

Kim was stunned. In that moment she realized that she had been moving through the world with a blindness of sorts. She thought about her inability to maintain positive relationships and her confusion over the same. She expressed relief in finally understanding that her interactions with people have been marked by a distinct inability to recognize “appropriateness” in communication.

She talked specifically about kindness. She expressed a profound shift in thinking about it. She realized that when people are unkind to one another it’s not necessarily because they’re mean people. She thought about the possibility of a primary source of unkindness and that the unkindness itself could be a side effect.

She recalled being bullied as a child and instantly forgave the perpetrators, suggesting that they may have simply been trying to bond with one another, not fully (or even partially) understanding the impact their bonding had on her.

Through TMS Kim had but a momentary glimpse into a world in which she could recognize, understand, and interpret social cues. The effects were not lasting. Furthermore, the researchers cautioned that the treatment remains unreliable for this application. They strongly warned against its clinical use expressing that a tremendous amount of research and exploration lies between these experiments and a practical, safe application…if one should ever come to be at all.

Kim expressed that she’s not disappointed. She told the interviewer that the experience, while brief, was momentous and profound. She said that it left her with a critically important view of a world that has always been acutely confusing.

Kim is a successful physician with a thriving practice. She’s achieved much in her life so far and is only part way along her journey. However, she’s consistently been on the outside of what most of us seem to understand as acceptable social norms.

Well meaning and kind, Kim has struggled significantly to build and maintain relationships. By bravely risking what I can only imagine would be a terrifying paradigm shift, she now knows a bit more about why.

Kim’s experience has me wondering about how I see and function. Is my worldview the same as yours? Is each of ours different? As we try to communicate with one another, how often do we miss the mark? How about the people we serve? What within our daily messaging is well received by students, parents, colleagues, spouses, kids, friends? What is misperceived and subsequently potentially damaging?

I can only conclude that exploratory leaps of faith with open minds, while scary, are very likely boons of positive progress. What if I’m not hearing what I think I’m hearing when I hear it? What if I’m not saying what I think I’m saying when I say it? If perception is reality…what if we each perceive the world in a unique way? Even if slightly, imagine the ripple effect and the impact on relationships.

I believe that the great majority of people are driven by kind hearts and hope for positive pathways. I think that incorporating a mantra of acceptance not fully knowing stuff with the connected act of consistently seeking to enhance my knowledge might help deepen my understanding of the social world in which I live and my productivity within relationships as a result.

My aim is true but I’ve seen that even the softest wind can shift the pathway straightest arrow. I’m amazed by Kim and truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see through her lens, if only for a moment. Let’s listen really carefully to one another’s stories…it can only help advance our collective vision of a peaceful and productive planet. Let’s imagine that the world might be different than we currently perceive it to be, if only slightly, and if only because it truly might be.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Restoration

A Bit of a Break

I recently wrote about the “Zones of Regulation” in a post outlining a philosophical base and a program structure built on the foundation of restorative practices used for social-emotional learning and growth in the school community I serve and subsequently in my home.

Regarding both my role as a parent and an educational leader I continue to gain increased confidence in restorative practices with each passing day.

I’ve been a restorative kind of guy for as long as I can remember. It’s basic. When things heat up I take a break.

I use the term “heat up” to signify a spectrum of heightened emotions beginning with slight (including mild excitement in the form of frustration, impatience, resentment, etc.), which can happen at varying degrees of intensity relatively frequently in the busy worlds of parenting and educational leadership, and ending with intense (triggered by unusually stressful events or toxic situations), which fortunately happens quite infrequently.

Each “hot” moment is a challenge and a chance. Each one is an opportunity to exercise restoration, and in doing so to increase restorative strength.

Restoration is the act of moving from a state where emotional strain has the better of you to a state where you have the better of it. It’s making your way from emotion-veiled thinking (and the potential for connected action) to clear, core-value driven thinking (and the reasonable assurance of focused, core-value drive action).

As I continue working to enhance my restorative practice and impart a utilitarian understanding of the same to those I serve I find myself particularly grateful for the human capacity to restore.

What are your primary core values? Do you ever find yourself sliding away from them in thought or action? If so, how do you pull yourself back? How do you focus? How do you restore?

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Not Broken

t2 - Not Broken

Six people live in our house. The other day four of them were making about as much noise as they could. There was whining, there was crying, there was shouting, and there was a kind of a teasing, provocative, relatively nondescript vocalization aimed at the one who was shouting. I think it was something like, “Na, na, na, na, na!” It was coupled with a mischievous smile and some soft but dissonant Machiavellian laughter.

Along with the noise there was motion. There was lots of motion. There was pouncing, there was rolling, there was chasing, and there was running away from the chasing. Noise and motion…there was basically lots of noise and motion.

I actually wondered, “Why is there so much noise and motion?”

Then I actually wondered, “Can’t they just sit still?”

Among the six people who live in my house, one is six years old, one is five years old, one is three years old, and one is one year old (two of us are much older…especially me).

I actually know the answer to the questions I was actually wondering about.

The noise and motion were to be expected. Both are completely appropriate given the ages of people the living in our house. Most of the people I live with are not at the right ages for keeping quite or just sitting still. The answer to both of my questions is, “Because I live with four little kids…and that’s what four little kids sound like and do.”

I might have known it even without the foundation of my extensive studies, reflection, and practice in the area of child development. I would speculate that it’s relatively common knowledge.

I was frustrated in that moment, and that was ok too. People my age (even those of us who chose to have four kids in about five and a half years) tend to become frustrated when kids are running around them shouting, crying, whining, and teasing one another relentlessly. Essentially, we were all doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. They were hot messes (as it were) and I was a frustrated dad.

In hindsight I can appreciate that it was actually a beautiful thing. It was a thing I’m very fortunate to be able to experience on a regular basis (a very regular basis). I’m truly grateful to be so blessed. I’m quite certain I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

As parents and educators our kids are well served when we remember that learning and growth can be noisy and busy. Sometimes in its finest moments it’s messy and indeterminate. Kids are human beings. No matter how they behave, they’re not broken. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Each one a bit differently, but what they are supposed to do nonetheless.

Along those lines, when we adults get frustrated, even with things we know are supposed to be happening, we’re not broken. Adults get frustrated. We also learn and grow in unique ways as we age and mature. It’s part of what makes life so exciting.     None of us are broken. We are what we are and that’s the foundation on which we get to build what we become.

Today I’m grateful for the noise and motion. Today I am grateful for the humanness. Today I’m grateful that in my imperfection I’m not broken, but rather that I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be and on a path paved with positive progress. Today I’m grateful.

Happy Thankful Thursday!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

I S.E.E. Gratitude

I SEE Gratitude

We’ve been going steady with holiday festivities for a few months now. It seems a good time to reflect on gratitude.

What am I thankful for? There’s quite a lot. When I reflect on gratitude I come to the conclusion that I could never make an exhaustive list. There’s the big stuff like family and friends, the stuff that makes me who I am and continues pushing me along a pathway of learning and growth.

There’s the little stuff like harvest moons and fresh snowfalls, the stuff that amazes and inspires me without me expecting or always even realizing it.

There’s great food, there’s music, there’s moment of celebration and causes for those moments, there’s sledding, there’s pizza, there’s the humorous and poignant stuff that kids say and do, there’s jokes that only a few people find funny but cause uproarious laughter, there’s uproarious laughter, there’s swimming, there’s trips to the city, there’s trips to the country, there’s playgrounds, there’s basketball courts, there’s farms, there’s cider mills, there’s apple pie, there’s cinnamon ice cream, and there’s the magical combination of hot apple pie with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. When I reflect on the things I’m thankful for I’m led down limitless roads.

Then there’s the gratitude that comes my way. I’m repeatedly being thanked for all kinds of things. Some of the gratitude I receive comes connected to service. I might have held a door or poured a glass of orange juice. Some of it comes connected to attention or responsiveness. I might have listened or expressed value for something someone said or did.

The other type of gratitude I experience regularly comes in the form of general and arguably underrepresented daily situations and occurrences. This type presents in the form of expressions like, “Thank goodness,” or, “It’s a good thing!” It’s the type of gratitude that’s expressed but not directed. It’s typically expressed in general, loosely targeted ways, and then left to float away chased by a couple of consensus identifying but tenuous head nods.

Person one says, “It’s a good things this sidewalk has been salted.”

Person two nods her head in mild agreement.

Person one and person two continue walking safely along a salted sidewalk (thankfully).

All gratitude is good gratitude. When I reflect on any of it I wonder about ways that I can do a better job of highlighting the importance of gratitude in my daily life. Because I’m an educator this wondering has led me to form an acronym: S.E.E.

I can use it, I can share it with you and my colleagues, and I can share it with my kids at home and at school. If you’d like, you can use and share it too.

The “S” is for “spot.” The first thing that needs to happen if we’re going to take gratitude to the next level is to spot it. We can spot it in ourselves and in others. Things to be grateful for are all over the place all the time. When I’m looking, they literally pop out. Spotting gratitude is an especially good practice when I’m not feeling grateful. It helps redirect me in moments of frustration. It reminds of how holistically fortunate I am. I suspect it could work in a similar way for others as well.

The first “E” is for “explore.” As you know, to explore is to dig a bit deeper. Any amount of thinking around gratitude can be good. Just a spark of a grateful thought has the power to inspire good feelings and positive progress in us and in others. When you spot something to be grateful for, dig in and roll around, you might just enjoy yourself. Take some time to draw it out. Tell someone about it, trace it back to its origin, write a poem, sing a song, and/or meditate on it for a while. Explore the gratitude that you intentionally spot in any way that works for you.

The other “E” is for “extend.” Do something about it. Thank someone, pay it forward, share it in some way, shape, or form. Take as much of the gratitude that you’re able to spot and explore to the next level by embedding it in your life through extension.

The “S.E.E. Gratitude” model not only offers a very user-friendly method for everyone, young and old, to connect with the immeasurable joys of life through a frame of appreciation, and it requires just enough time and thought to serve as a distraction from grasping for the negative through challenge and frustration. When you spend your time S.E.E.ing gratitude you lift yourself up, and as a result you carry an uplifted spirit along whatever paths you tread.

Thank you for reading. I know that you have a rich, full, and busy life. I hope that the time you spend with the pages of this blog is meaningful for you. I’m grateful for any moments you take to consider the thoughts, ideas, and wonderings I put forward, you are a valued contributor to my positive progress, and as always, your input is very much welcome and appreciated.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press On.

Color Zone Powers Activate: Helping Children Self-Regulate Their Emotions and Responsive Actions

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A few months ago a strategy was brought to my attention at school. Our social worker was using a model called “The Zones of Regulation” based on the research of Leah Kuypers. Leah is an occupational therapist who has practiced in both school and clinical settings. ‘The Zones of Regulation’ is a framework meant to foster self-regulation and emotional control. More information about Leah and her work can be found at http://zonesofregulation.com. I’m a novice and plan to dig in more myself.

In the meantime a very basic understanding and application of Leah’s concept immediately impacted my school and my home in a positive way.   We began exposing our students to the four “Color Zones:”

– In the “Blue Zone” you’re sad, tired, and distracted.

– In the “Green Zone” you’re happy, calm, and ready to learn.

– In the “Yellow Zone” you’re worried, silly, or scared.

– In the “Red Zone” you’re unhappy, angry, or frustrated.

The two keys for us have been to connect these zones to energy and to self identified solutions. When we process with children by way of these zones we also give them opportunities to identify whether their energy is slow, just right, high, or out of control, and they get to decide on connected actions that have the potential to help them shift from one zone to another.

It’s all right to be in any one of the zones. We each experience a range of emotions and we’re each challenged by that range, even into adulthood. Positive progress, consistent happiness, and achievement rest in part on our ability to self regulate so that we can function in various social and professional settings in spite of life’s emotional challenges. Our children’s independence with regard to the same is critical to their learning, growth, and socialization.

I didn’t intend to latch onto this concept in the way that I did. It simply worked. In fact it’s been working to some extent in every situation in which I’ve used it, with children along a broad spectrum of developmental readiness. It’s helped to forester independence in those who struggle mightily and in those who simply need a break to reset every now and again.

Again, I’ve only been using it for a few months, but in that time I’ve found that it’s been effective for everyone willing to engage. Even better, those who do engage seem to derive joy and from the process. It’s powerful. It demonstrates that each person is actually in control of him or herself. That’s powerful.

I brought it home. Nothing formal, I just kind of mentioned it to my six-year-old. He got excited. We made the following chart:

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It took no time for him to understand and begin using this concept chart. In fact he now adds to it independently (he recently added the “read or read together” icon). He also now acts on his emotions and connected decision making independently or with gentle prompting. He expresses great satisfaction in his ability to do so.

His two-year-sister was playing with her Anna and Elsa dolls the other day when I overheard her say, “Elsa is really not in the green zone…she’s upset!” It’s concrete, connected, and it drives a doable process for kids. They can regulate their emotions and their responsive actions when they are empowered to do so. I’ve only scratched the surface of this concept and I’m extremely excited to dig deeper.

Check out Leah’s web site, play with how it connects to your life at school and at home, let me know what you think and how you adapt the ideas and tools. I’d love to hear about your journey of fostering self-regulation and empowerment for the children you serve. Color Zone powers activate!

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press on.

Principal Note To Self: Don’t Stress Out About Stuff You Won’t Remember In A Week

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I was talking about “pre start of the school year dreams” with a fellow educator the other day. If you’re not familiar, it’s what happens to us as we dive into thinking about and planning for the transition back to school from summer break. We dream about it. Actually, we don’t really have to think about or plan for it…it happens anyway.

The dreams aren’t necessarily bad, but for me they’re incredibly lucid. Mine seem amazingly real while I’m dreaming them.

The subject matter shifts. There’s no common theme other than school. It could be that I’m sitting in a meeting and for the life of me I can’t find a pen. It could be that I’m walking down the hall and out of the corner of my eye I see a zebra rounding the corner into a classroom. It could be that my desk has vanished and been replaced by a gigantic donut. It’s never anything devastating, but it’s usually something odd…and it’s typically something stressful.

I don’t consider stress a bad thing. In fact, I find it helpful in many ways, depending of the situation. If taken in stride and processed with purpose and patience stress can motivate me.

Occasionally however, I misplace my stress. That’s not to say that I lose it, but rather that I attached it to the wrong stuff. In my experience the potential for stress to serve as a motivator is significantly diminished when it’s attached to the wrong stuff.

Also, too much stress, unresolved stress, lingering stress along with misplaced stress, are all capable
of diminishing productivity.

Wrong or bad stress sticks. It becomes distracting. It tries to divert productive energy in favor of it’s own longevity. It feeds off of fixation. It detests reflective progress. Not good for a positive school culture.

For me, it’s the reasonably short busts of stress which inspire reflective thought and adaptive action that tend to make a difference in healthy learning and growth.

In thinking about balance and stress management I’m toying with a prototype “stress-ometer.” It’s pretty basic.

Here’s how it works:

The moment stress hits I ask my self a series of questions. Where I stop in the series determines how much energy I give to the stress.

First I ask. “Will I remember this situation tomorrow?” If I answer, “Yes” I follow up with, “Will it be meaningfully impactful when I do?” If I answer, “Yes” again I go back to the first question, but I replace, “tomorrow” with, “a week from now.”

As long as I answer “Yes” I keep going, increasing the duration of time as I go, stopping at a year. If I answer, “Yes” to a year, the situation is significant enough to incorporate some productive stress into next steps processing and action.

If I predict that the situation is going to be impactful in my life or the lives of those I serve it merits some good, healthy stress to push me forward in positive ways.

The key is to take the appropriate action after using the “stress-ometer.” Either I actually drop it and move forward or I reflect on it and engage in a positive, connected courses of action that has the potential to drive learning, growth, and progress.

Either way lingering aimlessly in negative, toxic, disconnected or misplaced stress has been eliminated as an option and voila…the remaining stress is transformed into usable stores of fuel for the journey ahead!

Easier said than done? Possibly. But, as an optimistic explorer might say…there’s only one way to find out!

Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

3 Productivity Tips: Some Stuff to Think About When You Have Some Stuff to Think About

I woke up this morning thinking that I would take a glance at my calendar. Just looking to get in the mindset of what needed to be done today, this week, and over the course of the upcoming weeks. As I looked, a blur of obligations, tasks, and needs rushed through my mind. I got dizzy for a minute. Then I shook it off. The initial shock of seeing more tasks than time was a bit overwhelming.

First of all there are always a handful of household chores looming. Let’s be clear, my wife is essentially super human. Most of the time when I think about what needs to be done at home it’s done before I can finish the thought. But, she also has her hands reasonably full with an infant, a toddler, and two other incredibly energize little boys, so I try to think about what I can do to chip in around the house…when I am around the house, that is. At the very least, it’s a part of my thought process.

On top of the basics, there’s the other stuff. While I’m thrilled that the weather is heating up, melting snow represents more than just walks to the park and the flowers in the garden. This year I’m demolishing our deck and building a patio. A project that I’m very much looking forward to, but still not quite sure where the minutes, the hours, the days, and the weeks of dedicated time will come from.    Then there are the professional and academic checklists I’m working to satisfy. Put it all together and I’ve wound myself into a death spiral of tasking overwhelmed-ness! This is where my mind races with misplaced frustration over situations that I literally can’t address while my mind is racing; ironic, isn’t it?

So what can I do? I can slow it down, accept and appreciate my human-ness, forgive myself for being on the path rather than at its end, and then continue to work diligently at enhancing my organization skills and strategies. Below are three thoughts and ideas at various levels of development in my current productivity paradigm. Each has helped me with positive progress as I think about how to think about stuff when I have lots of stuff to think about. I offer them to myself as a reminder, and as food for thought to other busy people looking to feed their thoughts.

Wealthy and wise aren’t much good without healthy. Fortunately, I’ve not been burdened with much wealth or wisdom to date…both are somewhat of a work in progress for me. Regardless, when I’m struggling with even the most minor bumps, bruises, ailments, or discomforts, my productivity tends to suffer. I’m not as sharp when aches and pains distract me. I’m not as focused or thoughtful with a runny nose or a stubborn crick in my neck. Yesterday, after I released an impressible old-man-groan as a byproduct of standing up, my wife reminded me how regular stretching tends to relax and strengthen my questionable lower back. Then she told me that she couldn’t remember the last time she saw me stretch. I couldn’t remember either. However, I could remember that she was right. When I stretch regularly my back feels better. When I don’t, it doesn’t. I also remembered that when my back feels better I’m not distracted by back pain.

Not having time to stretch is a lame excuse for not stretching. Arguably, I lose more time in distractedness over the aches and pains than I would over fifteen minutes of stretching each morning and the same before I go to bed at night. Also, the added benefits of some isolated quiet time are rich, meaningful, and connected to my ongoing quest for learning and growth. In fact, I tend to do some of my best processing and idea generating while exercising. I believe that many of us do. Are you taking good care of yourself? What simple shifts could you make in your daily life to attend to your health with increased completeness?

Life’s wonders are most meaningful when they’re appreciated and enjoyed…even, and especially the challenging ones. With a lot going on all the time there’s plenty of noise in my world. Sometimes it’s difficult to engage in even a brief conversation with my wife while my children are shouting at the top of their lungs. Come to think of it, it’s always difficult to engage in even a brief conversation with my wife while my children are shouting at the top of their lungs. Incidentally, my children have some extremely impressive lung tops.

People say it all the time and I know it’s true, one day I’ll be standing in a room of my house, in absolute silence, and it’s likely that I’ll be missing having those lungs around. I’ll be distracted by the absence of noise. Maybe I should be appreciating and enjoying the noise while it’s here? Maybe I should be doing more than enjoying it. Often times, my children are shouting in an effort to engage me in play. Maybe during those times I should…well…engage in play. After all, my wife hears me talk plenty. It’s even possible that she might be ok with a bit less.

Enjoying the moments of my life nourishes my capacity in all areas, even when that means adapting to what’s going on around me rather than holding to a fixed course. Taking opportunities to simply have fun keeps me fresh and balanced, and as a dad of four, I am faced with plenty of those kinds of opportunities! #thTHX

Love is more important than anything else I can think of. My three-year-old loves to hug. Last week I experienced a two-day stretch of not seeing my children. I’m sure it happens to all of us. A couple days of leaving for work before they wake up and come home after they go to sleep, and all of the sudden it’s been two days. The good thing about a two-day stretch is the morning of the third day! I was sitting at the kitchen counter doing some work over a cup of coffee when I heard the word, “Daddy,” float down from the top of the stairs. Then I heard little kid feet bouncing down each step, and then I saw a tiny smiling face just through the kitchen doorway…and this kid has quite a smile!

As our eyes met, my three-year-old ran to me with open arms, I scooped him up and we hugged for what seemed like a really long time. It was wonderful. At one point I remembered that I would have to eat breakfast and go to work. I asked him if we could hug again when I got home? He said we could. I gave him one last squeeze. I spent my day joyfully clinging to the knowledge that I would be getting that hug as soon as I walked in the door that afternoon. Love. It’s good. No matter how busy your days get, and no matter what you face during the course of any given one, if you can find a memory and/or anticipation of love I highly recommend clinging to it! It can make the rest that much more manageable, and for me it even has the power to transform the most difficult challenges into the most obvious and meaningful opportunities for learning and growth.

Live. Learn. Lead.

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Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.