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My parents encouraged me to do my best when I started high school by laughing in my face when I suggested they do what my friend’s parents did and promise 10 bucks for every A I got that semester. Beyond that, they went to parent night and grounded me over the occasional complaint about a forgotten assignment or my daydreaming “problem.” The benefit of this is that I never felt all that much pressure or shame when I made mistakes in school which made me usually more resilient and curious about what I was learning rather than worried about it. I know kids and parents now have to deal with a lot more pressure. That everything feels more critical and tinged with uncertainty. I also know that acting from fear and worry is not a great place to make the types of positive and lasting changes that people seek me out to help them with. I hope my newsletters provide some inspiration and ideas to break us out of fear and worry and into creative action to help these messy, quirky, sensitive, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, unmotivated, perfectionist kids in our lives who will probably save the world someday if we can keep them hooked on their own potential for awesomeness.
Something to think about I recently showed a student a binder system and asked him what parts he liked and what might get in his way of implementing it. He made me wait a while for the answer and just when I thought I’d have to remind him, he quietly said, “Belief.” I so wish I had that talent for economy with words. Here’s an explanation I found in Jen Sincero’s Badass Habits about what he was talking about: Because of our hell-bent dedication to being right, when it comes to our favorite topic –ourselves — we will defend our identities to the death even if we’re miserable and our identities aren’t something we’re proud of. The antidote to this is tiny, incremental steps. What’s the smallest possible step towards a new way you want to be that will fake out your old identity so that it barely notices that you’re changing some things around here? For my student, it was to put the binder together and keep it in his bag all week. Not to actually use it yet, just try out being type of person who has an organized binder in their backpack.
Something to feel Your feet. Really. Just take a moment and feel what your feet feel like. Mine right now feel sort of vibrate-y on the inside and a mix of warm and cold in places on the outside. Just doing this exercise alone a few times during your day can help you improve focus. It gets you back to the here and now which redirects our focus away from distracting thoughts about the future or past. It’s something Ben Sedley calls a “portable anchor.” His book is super short and is for teens, but I find a lot of the exercises in there so helpful for me too.
Something to do A new tool to just play around with can refresh our motivation to keep up an everyday habit that is getting sort of stale. Sort of like how an artist can sometimes get inspired by the materials before they think of a subject to create. Here’s my fave from the last few weeks. Today’s Top 3 Post-It Notes. I swear I am not an affiliate for 3-M or Target (but not against it, if you’re reading this 3-M and Target marketers). It just put a little more pep in my to-do listing step as I was getting a little overwhelmed by all the back-to-school things to keep up with. I go through my usual google task list in the mornings, but then I fill out one of these and keep it posted on my notebook. I usually try to include one thing in there that’s just about something that would make me happy and healthy and the other two things that would bring the most relief to get done that day.