ThinQ-121 Logo facebook icontwitterlinkedin-buttonBlog RSS Feed

Tel: 07772 631 764

The Power of Just

Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Balloon

Image: goldsaint / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

I’M JUST DOING IT…!

If you have kids, you’ll almost certainly have heard them using the word ‘just’ in the above context – meaning, of course, ‘I’m about to do what you asked me to do <insert your own time period> minutes / hours ago.’

The word ‘just’ is so often used as an excuse – an almost throw-away word that we hope lets us off the hook – that gets us out of a scrape.

But, at the other extreme, it can be incredibly powerful.

 

THE POWER OF JUST

A well-known sportswear manufacturer use the words ‘Just Do It’ along with an affirmational logo that reinforces the motto.

We all know what we need or want to do. But we all also know how not to do it – how to put off doing the do-able.

Why?

What is the enemy of ‘DOING’?

Is it fear? Procrastination? Disbelief? Lack of confidence?

My mind often overflows with ideas of what I want to do and even how to do it – what it looks like. But there is an enemy and its name is ‘fear’. Fear can be paralysing. It invents scenarios that don’t exist in the present and which may never exist in the future. It clouds our vision and limits our perspective. It dents our confidence and squeezes our self-belief.

What if I could just brush aside fear and just do something? What if I just took the first step? What if I just did what I thought I couldn’t do…? What if I just…?

I really believe in ‘the Power of Just’.

Just do it.

And, yes, you will make mistakes – and learn valuable lessons from them. But you will also be wiser – and happier. Because you tried. Because you stepped out. Because you stepped forward.

The following anonymous truism carries a great deal of weight:

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.

 

NOTHING TO LOSE

What could possibly go wrong? Everything!

What is there to lose? Often – nothing!

If your life is only measured by material value, then you could potentially lose everything – but if what you value cannot be seen and is difficult to measure, then it will be very difficult to lose and is worth risking everything for.

So – what are you waiting for? Decide what you want or need to do and take the first step.

Just do it.

Now.

 

 

 

And then, when you’ve started out and scared yourself silly doing it, do it again and JUST KEEP GOING.

 

A friend of mine, Nicola Marshall, espouses the idea of ‘one word’ goals: building your intentions around a single word that encompasses your objectives.

Read her post here: http://www.bravehearteducation.co.uk/looking-forward-to-2015/

Why New Year is More Than Just a Date

Fireworks
Fireworks

Image: Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Social networking sites seem to have neared breaking point today as individuals and organisations flooded their pages with posts and updates bidding farewell to 2014 and welcoming in the new year. I myself spent considerable time reviewing and sharing posts that I came across whilst browsing.

But why the almost universal obsession with the new year? You only to have to witness the ever-increasing size and quantity of new year firework displays to realise that New Year is deeply significant to most of the population of our planet.

And yet, as some wit observed, most of our universe, including the non-human wildlife on Planet Earth, continues its existence blissfully unaware of this key milestone in our annual calendar cycle.

‘Happy New Year.’

Why? Was the old year particularly sad? Is the past full of regrets, failure and unfulfilled dreams? Does ‘new’ necessarily mean better – like the ‘new and improved’ that regularly appears splashed across the packaging on products we’ve been buying for aeons?

The fact is that human beings are naturally dissatisfied: we can always see how things can be better – including our own lives. Dissatisfaction is a good thing – if it spurs us on to improvement. But not if it results in cynicism or spiralling disappointment. We will never attain perfection but perfect is always a good thing to aim for. It inspires us, it motivates us, it draws us onwards and upwards.

And so to the new year – and why it’s good for the soul.

It does us good to take stock, to review, to reflect, to re-assess, to re-align, to re-focus. The new year gives us a valuable opportunity to look at where we are, where we need to be – and what next steps we should take to move in the right direction. This naturally involves looking backwards as well as forwards. With an objective viewpoint, most of us should be able to work out some clear actions we need to take this year – either to stop, change or maintain some aspect of our lives. People have been calling these ‘New Year Resolutions’ for centuries, if not millennia: the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

Practically, there are some simple steps to making, and keeping, new year resolutions:

Firstly, write down specifically what you want to do and why. For example, I want to lose two stones because it will improve my health and well-being.

Secondly, tell someone who cares about you what you’re gong to do and why: this will help to keep you accountable – they will hopefully keep checking up on you!

Thirdly, just start doing it – one small action to start with – every day. It apparently takes just 21 days to form a habit so, by the end of January, when everyone else has given up on their new year resolutions, you’re well into the swing of keeping yours.

As well as the three simple steps to achieving your goal, there are also three simple words:

YES – YOU – CAN.

So, New Year really can be more than just a date – it can be a step, a giant leap, or even a turning point.

I wish you a truly happy and successful new year, starting now and continuing for ever…

 

 

 

 

What Do Children Really Want?

Child success

Child success

 

I was working with a Year 5 class this week that consisted of quite a mixed bunch of children, many of whom were also very mixed-up emotionally: they had issues relating to each other, issues listening, issues managing themselves and issues taking pride in their learning – or just taking learning seriously.

All that many of them seemed to want to do was to score points over each other – and, yet, I’m pretty sure that’s not what they really wanted.

As it happens, being the end of half-term, the school had planned a celebration afternoon on the Friday, during which children would give presentations based on the topic they had just finished studying (in the context of this particular class: Space).

 

Choice and Responsibility

On Wednesday, I outlined the idea to the children and explained the process of planning, preparing and presenting. Space is a topic that children are naturally curious about and this class were no exception. Given the opportunity to choose what to focus their presentation on and choose who they could work with – and choose how to present their chosen theme – was highly motivating to the children. It presented a certain level of risk to me as I was conscious of the behavioural issues I was up against and uncertain about how well they would work together or of their standard of presentation. However, after what I felt was sufficient guidance, I handed the responsibility over to them – along with huge flipchart-sized sheets of paper to work on.

 

Motivation and Mess

The effect was astonishing: motivation went through the roof and behavioural issues all but disappeared. The children organised themselves into small groups, found laptops and tablets for their research and spent several hours over the next three days preparing their presentations. Throughout the sessions during which we worked on the presentations, children came up to me with their ideas, or with facts they had discovered, or with requests about how to solve a particular presentation challenge. Several children made a mess of their first attempts and resolved to start again, including a child with severe emotional and behavioural issues who has spent over an hour doing a picture of a space shuttle, messed it up and started it all over again.

One particular child – who had previously manifested a persistently immature attitude – spent hours diligently researching, assembling and presenting facts about the sun on the most stunningly decorated poster. It was vivid, eye-catching and the attention to detail (especially colour) was painstaking. What astonished me was his ability to sustain concentration over an extended period of time without distracting others or being distracted himself. He evidently took an enormous amount of pride in what he was doing and was visibly pleased with the end product – especially when I suggested he take it show the headteacher.

 

What did these children really want?

Having seen these children excel themselves in so many ways over a couple of days as they planned and prepared for their presentations, I reflected on what had made the difference to their behaviour and the lessons I learned about what motivates children.

To start with, children really want someone to believe in them – to expect them to do well – to give them responsibility.

Secondly, children want to get on with each other – and to do things together. Children don’t actually enjoy making each other miserable; more often than not, it’s a defence mechanism – it’s a sign of insecurity and an attempt to establish their own credence and credibility.

Thirdly, children really want to succeed: and when they see a chance for success, they will work for it. The motivation is palpable.

 

Curriculum, Community and Choice

A friend of mine who does a lot of work around the area of attachment theory referred to Alfie Kohn’s perspectives on this kind of thing in her own blog:

I’ve been reading a book by Alfie Kohn at the moment called ‘Punished by Rewards’. He says that if you have three components in the classroom working well, you will not need to bribe children to behave. The three components Kohn talks about are:

Curriculum (engaging content delivered in an engaging way)
Community (a caring class where students feel they belong)
and
Choice (some say in how they learn).

That seems like common sense to me, not rocket science, but I worry that our we are in danger of stifling children – not setting them free.

 

Do something good

I am reminded of something I once saw that has influenced my thinking ever since:

If you want children to do something good, give them something good to do.

Most children have an innate desire to do something good; it’s up to us – the people they look up to, mimic and learn from – to give them something good to do.

That’s what children really want.

 

 

 

Peace is Possible

Waterfall
Waterfall

Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada

 

In her charming children’s picture book, Peace at Last, Jill Murphy tells the story of Mr Bear, who tries in vain to find somewhere to sleep in peace. It is packed full of humour and finishes with a surprising final twist. There is also an unofficial video version.

Although endearing to the young reader and quaintly resonant of a typical family household, the message has a serious underlying message about the importance of peace and quiet – of solitude and stillness.

And especially solitude of the mind.

However, for many people, especially children, this kind of inner peace is far removed from their day-to-day experience. Their lives are chaotic, unregulated, routine-less and unpredictable. Their search for peace is far more critical than Mr Bear’s.

For some children, school is their only haven of peace. There, they find the routine, the stability, the acceptance they crave. For such children, peace is more than just happiness – and it is more important than happiness.

It’s serenity.

Nicola Marshall, in her blog post on a similar theme, reminded me of ‘The Serenity Prayer‘:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can –
And wisdom to know the difference.

(attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, 1892–1971)

Peace isn’t necessarily about outer calm in as much as happiness is not about wearing a smile on your face all the time. Rather, it’s the inner stillness that helps us manage our lives in the midst of chaos, trouble, unpredictability and situations that are out of our control. For children, this comes about through routine, stability, a safe environment and – most of all – acceptance.

Are we, whilst running our busy lives, helping the children in our care to achieve that inner stillness – that solitude of the mind?

And – for some of them – peace at last…?

Are you human?

People / World
People / World

Image: xedos4 / www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I’m only human.

 

You’ve heard it said and you may have even said it yourself.

And when is it normally said? Usually after a mistake or a failure? Probably.

Is it an excuse? A disclaimer? Something to be proud of? A statement of solidarity with the rest of the human race?

There is something about being human which is entirely unique amongst the rest of the animal kingdom. No other living creature has the capacity for original thought and creativity as humans do – and no other living creature is quite as cruel or destructive…

 

Haim Ginott is credited with writing the following ‘letter to teachers’:

Dear Teacher,
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians; infants killed by trained nurses, women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more humane.

 

What does it mean to be human? Clearly there is a distinction between the kind who makes mistakes whilst offering a blushing ‘I’m only human’ and the kind described by Haim Ginott above. Ginott is urging us to help our children ‘become human’ – to be compassionate. And the reason we need to be compassionate is because we are human: we make mistakes, we mess up, we cock up. But that’s not the same as the wanton cruelty as described in Ginott’s letter.

 

The fact is, being human means we make mistakes and we (hopefully) learn from them – but we need to know there are others around us to bear with us in our mistakes – to accept us and keep believing in us. And to forgive us.

Children are no exception. After nearly twenty years in the teaching profession, one thing I know for sure is that, whilst technology, economies, curricula and Education Secretaries change, children do not: children just want to be accepted for who they are, to be believed in and to experience compassion.

I’m inspired by the following exhortation, which is often mis-attributed to Plato but most likely originated by the Rev John Watson:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

 

Similarly, Seneca (4BC) is credited with the statement:

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.

 

Want to be more human? Be kind. Be compassionate. But don’t wait for an opportunity – just be it.

Be human.