Visualize & Succeed

Have you ever tried to drive to a new place without using a map? Or cooked something new without looking at the recipe? If you did either of those things you’d end up lost and messy. I know I would. So, how can we expect to reach our goals, any goals, without at least knowing where we are going? Before I drive through San Francisco, I preview that map. Before I try cooking something new, I look over the recipe to see what I’m getting myself into. Our dreams and aspirations are no different.

It is a good idea to close your eyes and really SEE what you want. Where does your happiness lie? What job do you imagine doing? What family situation do you imagine yourself in? What hobbies do you do? Imagine the energy of that space you see yourself in.

Sometimes it can be scary to visualize our goals because we may not be in a space that is amicable to those goals. That’s OK. Seriously. Take it from someone who knows what that feels like. Sometimes there are outside circumstances that we just can’t control. But you know what…?

They are NOT deal-breakers.

Sure, this moment you are in may not mesh with where you see yourself in the future, but the good news is that the future you see is just that – the future. That means there is time to start getting the baby steps laid and the ideas organized. Today, more than ever, we are lucky enough to have the world at our fingertips. A generation ago, that wasn’t the case. So take advantage of the opportunities you have today so that the vision you have for tomorrow can actually happen.

Yes, it takes patience to make our visualizations become something real. But they won’t happen if we keep sitting around, waiting for them just to materialize in front of us. Every ounce of research you do, every note you write down… they all get you that much closer to actually creating the life you imagined. I promise that when that imagined life becomes real life – you’ll kick yourself for all of the time you wasted waiting around.

The trick is to pursue your dreams and vision with intention. Much like driving somewhere without a map, it is easy to get off the path, get lost, distracted, then ultimately forget where you were headed in the first place. So, once you have that visualization in your mind, everything you do towards it needs to be intentional and with purpose.

To help you do this, make your sure your goals are clear and reachable:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

These SMART goals should be identified for your overall goal as well as the steps that help you get to that goal. For more about SMART goals, I suggest this website: Mind Tools

It’s time to be proactive instead of passive. If I can do it, you can do it. I’d love to know what your goals are. Feel free to share them here. Sometimes just writing them down makes all the difference. Give it a try! Why wait?

Growth or Fixed – Mindset Matters

Let’s talk growth mindset for a minute. Part of having a growth mindset is choosing to use time in a way that helps you and others get better at something or to learn or grow in some way. A person with a fixed mindset, for comparison, will not use time in that way because they believe everything (intelligence, character traits and so on) are already set as what they are and cannot change. This mindset is “fixed” because it does not see that effort or practice will help anyone improve themselves. Instead, their focus tends to see the negatives and just get stuck there.

I was substitute teaching a few years ago when I came across something that, to this day, tears at me. On that particular day I happened to be subbing as an aid, so I was with the teacher most of the day. At first I was excited to work with a teacher in that capacity because I was thinking about getting my credentials and wanted to have that experience. If I’m being honest, the teacher was not all that impressive in my mind. I expect a third grade teacher to be a little… warm? Empathetic? Even… Fluffy. You know what I mean. A teacher (especially at that grade level) should be someone kids that age feel comfortable opening up to, making jokes with, and generally learning from. As I reflected back on that day, later, I realized none of the students asked any questions. At all. All day. How can we learn without asking questions?

Good question. Let me finish painting you this picture and I bet you’ll see the answer… At the end of the day, one of the most disappointing displays I’ve ever witnessed, this teacher handed back the students their math quizzes from the day before. There were fifteen minutes left in the day. Every child was sitting quietly at their desks. (That in and of itself was a little odd.) Once everything was handed back, she proceeded to berate the kids on their poor scores. She went to great lengths telling them how disappointed she was, how she spent a lot of time teaching them and that their bad scores showed her they weren’t good listeners.

It makes me sick even writing that…

This teacher is an example of (well a lot of things, but in this case we’ll just focus on her mindset) a fixed mindset.

  • She does not have the humility to question her teaching of the material. Logically, if every child gets the same wrong answer, it’s more likely she didn’t teach it well rather than them all misunderstanding it the same way. Her fixed mindset however, prevents her from questioning her teaching method which is inevitably preventing her from becoming a better teacher.
    • Instead, she could examine where the students went wrong so that she can teach it in a different way next time.
  • Her use of time, which we all know teachers never have enough of, is misguided. She spent a valuable amount of time making the kids feel bad and think they did horrible on something rather than use that time to review the quiz and discuss how to do the problems correctly.
    • She could have helped the kids feel hopeful that they could do better, learn, and not feel down on themselves.

Needless to say, I was appalled at her approach with her third grade students. I seriously thought about going to the principal, but just wasn’t sure if that was the right course of action. Instead, I enrolled in my masters program and earned my teaching credentials. Her effect on me has been profound. I have used her fixed mindset approach to grow as an individual, parent, and teacher. I look back and see that, though I can teach in a single classroom, I want to help in EVERY classroom. So, in a way, she even helped direct me toward the path that has lead me to develop Whole Mindset. I know she is not a “bad” person or teacher, she just needs some guidance and to see how her students would benefit from a different approach.

I believe we all benefit from continued coaching, education, professional development… Learning never stops (at least it shouldn’t). We should always be growing and advancing. I grew that day I spent in her classroom. It was hard at first, but by looking back and examining where things could have been better, it helped me grow. Now I want to help others do that as well. No matter where you’re at on your life path, you too can help things be better. It could be as simple as thanking someone, helping your child with homework, being a listening ear… Be the one that is there to help someone become better.

You’re not Crazy…

My daughter, bless her little heart, is exceptionally empathetic. (I feel for her as someone cursed and blessed with heightened empathetic awareness as well.) She and I have both explained to my son, 13, that charging down the hallway, full speed, at someone in the dark is totally scary. I’ve told him not to do it, especially to her. Caught up in the moment a few nights ago while tucking my daughter in bed, his teen self got away from him and he came running into her bedroom. In his mind, he was harmlessly being Iron Man. In her twelve year old mind – well I don’t know what she saw, but it absolutely terrified her.

She shrunk down into a ball of tears on her floor, beyond afraid. After the incident she tried to look at it and figure out why she was so scared in that situation. She said to me after she had collected herself, after I held her a while, “Mom, I don’t know why I’m so crazy.”

I turned to her, looked her in the eyes, and said very plainly, “When something or someone comes charging at you in the dark, you’d be crazy not to get a little freaked out.”

I saw her mentally turning that idea over in her mind. I’m not a big fan of the term “crazy” unless I’m referring to the amount of coffee I’ve had or a sale I found. When it comes to people, “crazy” seems like a simplistic and ignorant way to address something real. Fear is a real emotion to real or perceived threats. It is logical to get scared. I went on to remind her that I’m deathly afraid of creepy crawlies (spiders, roaches…eegh!) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with how I feel, and there is nothing wrong with how she feels. Period.

Encouraging children (and ourselves) to acknowledge and comprehend our emotions is a vital part of being the best and healthiest versions of ourselves that we can be. To deny a child their feelings is to deny them the knowledge of how to cope and deal with those feelings. In turn, they won’t understand how to process new emotions when they arise and thus will suffer in confusion, denial and a number of other negative ways. The effects of this are strained relationships, unhealthy relationships, and a lack of understanding one’s self.

With regards to my daughter, as a family, we are always paying attention to what triggers her anxiety. I’ve sat down privately with my son to have a two-way conversation with him regarding this issue and how we can prevent future panic attacks. He felt terrible for scaring her. At the same time, I told him running around as Iron Man is absolutely okay. Just choose when and where it happens. In the living room before we head to bed would definitely be better. He understood.

Above all else, when these little incidents occur in life, the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is STAY CALM. When I saw my son come barreling down the hallway toward us, I didn’t shout or yell. I didn’t add to the tension I knew was coming. I never raised my voice or told anyone they had done anything wrong. Instead, there was dialogue and listening. Each person is entitled to their perspective. My son thought he was being playful. His intentions were okay, it was the delivery that was lacking. My daughter had every right to be scared. What happened was scary. No one was hurt. No one was in danger.

Sometimes the best thing to do is just stay calm, take a breath, and let it happen so that a dialogue is had and the future works out better. In the end, I think we all gained a better understanding of one another.

I Exercise for me.

Exercise. Talk about a loaded word, am I right? How we associate with this three syllable word makes all the difference to our health. I remember, in middle school, being forced to run a mile in hideous P.E. issued clothes that never fit quite right, while on my period, in the hot afternoon sun and then having to go to history class right after (hopefully not smelling because my secret crush sat next to me). Are you kidding me?! (And we wonder why teens are stressed…) It was enough to kill any love of exercise as far as I’m concerned. It wasn’t until after my daughter, my second child, was born that I rediscovered exercise and that it did not have to be torture.

After my son was born, when I was 22, I was already in pretty decent shape. I gained more than I wanted while I was pregnant with him though. Kind of a long story, but basically I was seriously concerned I wasn’t giving him enough food and so I ate a lot, healthy most of the time, but frequently. That’s a story for another time. Anyhoo, after he was born I took up Pilates and step aerobics at our community college. Though I enjoyed them, I was doing it with a set goal in mind and stopped once that goal was achieved. I had gotten my high school figure back – just in time to find out I was pregnant again.

The pounds practically fell off the first time around. The second time? Not so much.

When I was pregnant with my son I actually worked at a private health club in a business park. I took our dog on long walks every morning. I had zero other commitments. When my daughter was born, I was in school full time, had a baby at home, and was working part time, not to mention all the responsibilities or managing our house. Exercising and taking the time to eat right were so far from my list of things to think about that they just didn’t happen. Between knowing friends were out partying and having completely lost my figure – Boy did I go through some post-partum depression after she was born, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Again, a story for another time. Exercise came back into my life when hubby and I were at Costco one day. There was a buy a two year member ship, get one year free (or something along those lines) deal for 24 Hour Fitness. We had one down the street and at this point our lives had normalized a little (meaning no more bottles or diapers). I felt like I could reasonably leave he house to workout a few nights a week.

I’ll be honest – It took me a few months to work up the courage to go to the gym. I hated how I looked. And I knew I wouldn’t be in as good of shape as everyone else. I’m not totally sure what got me to go one day, finally, but I went. I took a Pilates class. It was something I already had experience with, so that helped my comfort level going in. Once I was there, ALL of my internal worries and anxiety melted away.

There were men and women of all ages and ability levels there. They all made their own adjustments to their moves. I felt welcomed right off the bat and I was hooked. Fast forward two years and I was taking Zumba three times a week at one gym and Pilates twice a week at another. Granted, I wasn’t always consistent, but I really fell in love with exercise. I felt like I’d found a new hobby, a way of freeing myself from the stresses of the day. It was invigorating and it was all mine. I didn’t have to think about anyone else’s comfort for a change. Introducing exercise into my life was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I wish I hadn’t spent so many years thinking it had to be horrible. Thanks a lot public school system.

The moral here is that, despite past associations, giving exercise a chance to be a part of your life could be the best thing you ever do for yourself. The energy it gives you actually makes the other aspects of your life better too. I had more energy and enthusiasm when playing with my kids, was in a better mood in general which helped me take better care of my house, my health, and my mind. My kids also saw exercise as a positive. Now that they are in middle school, they have P.E. and if they didn’t have the prior positive association, they too might hate exercise the way I used to.

Side note: If you are looking for a yoga mat, I highly recommend this one. If you are looking for a treadmill, this is the one I use.

Support Your Kids

Children, sadly, are frequently underappreciated. Their efforts to show love too often go unacknowledged. A child sharing a drawing of what may appear to be a deformed stick figure (how I draw them at least) is actually their way of saying, “Hey. I love you. You are meaningful to me.” It is a form of communication as well as their means of expression. They don’t have money to buy gifts. They only have their imaginations.

We can (and must) support them by responding to that communication. One way we do this is by displaying their work. Sure, it may not “match” the rest of our home decor, but it is meaningful and our inclusion of it is life changing for them. My son said to me one day that I don’t display as many of his drawings as his sister’s. That observation surprised me. I’ve always prided myself on showing them, and their art, equality. As I thought it over I realized his form of art was different than hers. He builds seriously impressive Lego buildings while she sketches and paints. It is hard to hang a Lego building on the wall though.

So, we started printing photos of his buildings to hang alongside her sketches. This has worked out really great for us. He gets the visual reminder of all the accomplishments he’s made in the past (especially since buildings are built and taken apart so frequently) and I get to enjoy his art forever. However, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, the environment in my home office is very important to me. I really dislike clutter. This includes loose papers pinned to the wall beside framed art prints. So I had to come up with a solution…

There are a TON of different ways to hang children’s artwork. I almost bought the metal cord with clip style, but it just didn’t mesh with the boho style of my office. Instead I opted for two magnetic chalk boards mounted horizontally side-by-side. I’m so glad I did! This way I can stack the art a little because wall space is in high demand in my little office sanctuary. Plus, when my daughter sells snow cones in the summer, I can let her borrow a board. I also have a little bit of a magnet obsession… (notice the black and white coffee magnets on the board… and there’s avocados (Yum!) and fries, burgers…)

No matter where the art goes, children should KNOW it is appreciated and thereby they are appreciated. This simple act builds their self confidence, their comfort sharing, as well as their comfort of being acknowledged. To build on this, encourage them to tell you about it. Why did they make it? What inspired them? What do they want to make next? This way they start developing their language skills.

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A Single Compliment can Change the World

Sharing the positive things we observe in other people is so important, no matter how big or small. You’ll never know just how much of a difference it might make to them. They could really be struggling, inside, and need just the littlest reminder that they are seen, and loved, and appreciated. This applies to everyone, no matter your age, ability level, gender… Positive communication transcends everything.

Recently, a teacher friend of mine, ran into me at the grocery store. We hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks, not since I finished student teaching in her junior English class in November. She waved me down in the parking lot and it was so nice to see her. Even being waved down made me feel good. Why she waved me down was even nicer.

She had been meaning to text me (who hasn’t been there?) about something she’s noticed since I haven’t been in her classroom. As a veteran teacher of 30 years, I felt I had learned a lot from her mentoring. As it turned out, she wanted to share something she had learned from me. My curiosity was piqued.

She said, “Dru, I learned the coolest thing from you that I didn’t even realize I was learning.”

In my mind I started scrolling through things I could have taught her.

She continued, “When students answered the questions you asked them in class, they wouldn’t always give a correct or full answer. But no matter what, you always acknowledged their response by saying, “OK” or “Alright” before responding or commenting.”

I had to think about that for a minute. Then I realized I do in fact do that. I’m not sure why or how I ever started, but I can think back to countless times where I have done exactly what she said. But what did she learn from that?”

“Since you haven’t been in the room, I’ve noticed that I am also doing that now and it has completely changed my outlook. I don’t feel as tense when I’m talking with my students now. And they seem more willing to share in class. It’s amazing. I actually feel more relaxed.”

Huh. I did that and I didn’t even know it. All I could think was that I’m glad she didn’t try to share that through a text message.

I replied, “Thank you. That’s really awesome.” I wasn’t sure what else to say. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared to hear such a cool thing, but I really did need it. I was still thinking about it later that night and into the next day. A week later and here I am blogging about it. Not only does the compliment itself mean the world to me, but knowing there is an impact being made in her classroom that may not have been happening before is tremendous. The implications… Now, perhaps a stressed out student will be a little less stressed, perhaps the energy in her classroom will seep into other classes, perhaps her students will pick up the habit of acknowledging before responding.

Why might this habit be helpful? People appreciate knowing they’ve been heard. There are a number of people I have met in my life that jump right into what they are going to say without really letting you know they heard you. They most likely did hear you, but they jump to their response which is a natural thing to do. That small act repeated over time can actually build into real communication problems. One person may always feel unheard which takes its toll on their self efficacy, and ultimately the relationship.

How can you work on building this small act into a habit? It is as easy as saying “thank you” or “excuse me.” All it takes is practice and diligence. I would suggest you tell a friend or your kids what you are working toward so they can help hold you accountable. Added bonus – They’ll probably pick the habit up as well. I love a good two-for-one deal!

Allowing Yourself to Learn

While I really love teachers (not that being a teacher makes me biased or anything) and am truly grateful for their dedication to a mentally and emotionally draining profession, I think we could all use a little reminder at this point in the year… Give students a chance to learn what they are being taught. 

I have been reminding my kids a lot lately to allow themselves to learn things as opposed to getting frustrated the first time they try something new. I like to remind them there was a time when they didn’t know how to feed themselves, how to say words, or even wipe their own tooshies. They had to learn all that and were NOT perfect from the get-go. (I have photographic proof they struggled to keep food in their mouths!) 

I am writing this post because it dawned on me this morning as I packed my eight hundred thousandth lunch box with baby carrots and crustless turkey sandwich that I should really start taking my own advice and allow ME to learn. Who says we only need to learn when we’re kids? I mean – I seriously learn new things E V E R Y D A Y.

So, not only do we (adults in general) need to give our young people time to really grasp and work with new things, to try and fail and try again, we need to give ourselves that chance as well. Part of having a growth mindset is just that, letting yourself grow. It might be through a new task like trying a new recipe (my arch enemy) or through a new experience like going hiking for the first time. Maybe it is allowing yourself to open up to a new person for the first time, or saying “I love you” when you would normally keep it in your mind, or even posting your first YouTube video… There are any number of firsts we all face everyday, kids and adults alike. The game changer is how we approach those new things – what mindset we enter into that new situation with. 

When I remind my kids, who are both in middle school (having kids back-to-back was not necessarily my greatest idea ever, but that’s a story for another time) to give themselves a few tries with new things before judging themselves it really makes all the difference in the world. The aftermath of emotional blow-ups are almost nonexistent. This helps them, but, no lie, it certainly helps me too. They are to the point now, in all their hormonal glory, that they tell me, “Mom, I know – try a few times before I get mad. I know.” Their wording may not be totally on point, but they have the concept and actually use it (even when I don’t remind them). So, I’ll take the parenting win.

Then I think about how awesome my two middle schoolers are and remember that not only do I not have a manual for ANY of this, I’m not doing half bad – and that my friends, is me allowing myself to learn. And boy have I learned. If there were a university for parenting, I’d have my doctorate for sure. 

As a teacher, as a mom, and as an individual – I am pledging to show myself some grace as I learn and try new things in this life. I will also give others the chance to learn. After all, what’s the rush? Let’s all savor this journey just a little more.