From Arrested Development to Attested Development: 3 Simple Ways to Get Back on Track

“You come to the gym more than the average member”, the gym employee commented.

“Wow! Really? Thanks for the encouragement!”, I responded, feeling dissatisfied with myself all the same.   

“I guess the problem”, I thought, as I drove home,” is that I’m not seeing any progress”. In fact, after a very cold winter which made venturing out in the dark after dinner even less motivating, and a busy schedule that just kind of crowded out the time to go the gym, I feel like I’ve arrived at summer in a stodgier and heavier state than in previous years.

In fact, I like I’ve hit a state of arrested development. I’ve plateaued. So, what to do about it?

A video I saw recently came to mind. Angela Duckworth, a world expert in the area of grit, was giving a conference on deliberate practice.

She explained the following theory:

Talent X Effort = Skill 

                                             Skill X Effort = Achievement

What does that mean? If you have talent and make no effort, you won’t develop skill. For example, if you have a talent for music, but don’t practice, you won’t develop any skill. Also, even if you do have skill, you won’t achieve new heights unless you keep making an effort to develop that skill. You just won’t get to that state of attested development!

Okay, so to go back to my initial question: what do you do when you hit that plane of no progress?

The answer, according to Angela Duckworth, is simple: deliberate practice*. It’s the only way to break the curse of the flatline; you’ve just got to get up and get going! If you don’t practice speaking, you won’t make any progress. If I don’t go to the gym, I’ll become more and more passive.  

Here’s Angela’s advice:

#1.  Set your goals.

What are your goals? Be specific. Do you want to learn 5 new words this week? Do I want to go to the gym 4 times this week instead of 3? Whatever, the case, make sure your goals are challenging, too. If you consistently practice and make an effort, you will still hit that flatline. You need to intentionally increase that goal just a bit, so that it is just that bit further or more. Do you see what’s happening? You’re making progress.  

#2. Find your focus.  

When you are 100% focused, you’re engaged. You’re not doing anything else but working on developing a specific skill. Set aside 15 minutes of time alone to read an article in English or watch a short video. In my case of exercise, scheduling in time for specific workouts ensure that I am setting aside time when I am completely immersed in my physical activity. I can’t be doing anything- else! Picture being on a stationary bicycle and checking your social media on your phone, to get the idea! Whatever you’re working on, concentrate on that body, soul and spirit!  

#3. Get your feedback.

Ah, feedback. Correction. Yes, like you, I see a frowning parent, a nagging teacher, a never-satisfied coach. Maybe that was then, but this is now. Choose a friend or colleague (or in my case, a coach at the gym) to nudge you along and let you know how you can be just that little bit better. Would the Saint- Louis Blues have won the Stanley Cup this weekend without the guidance of Craig Bérubé? Would the Raptors have grabbed the NBA championship title without Nick Nurse advising them all season long?  

This week’s going to be a great week. I’ve got some objectives (specific and challenging), I’ve blocked off time (three of them to be exact!) and I’m going to enlist the aid of a personal trainer (at least for a consultation to begin with!)

How about you? What are your secrets to keeping off the arrested development plateau? – Claire :o)

*https://www.coursera.org/lecture/positive-psychology-project/3-3-deliberate-practice-fhwtq

Need a shot of chutzpah?

I’m thinking I sure do!

Chutzpah is that zingy Hebrew word that means gall, effrontery and sometimes outrageous audacity. It’s the stuff that entrepreneurs, politicians and every-day go-getters have loads of.

What does it look like? How about not taking no for an answer, daring to ask why when everyone else is frozen in stunned silence or anxious passivity, or thinking ‘what the hell, why not?’ and jumping into a situation without any guarantee of the results – but being without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sure of what you’re aiming for. 

Chutzpah is just one of the concepts illustrated in the numerous stories of entrepreneurial success described in the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (M&S, 2009). The tour guide on my recent trip to Israel and Jordan highly recommended it as a resource for getting a better grasp of the innovative Israeli mindset and culture.

He was so right. Not only is it enlightening, but it is inspiring. Wix, Waze, Teva… these are just three examples of Israeli start-ups. When considering the fact that Israel boasts the highest per-capita density of start-ups in the world, you can’t but help be intrigued by the success of this New-Jersey sized newborn state.

So how does chutzpah play out? What can a language teacher or student learn from it?

#1. Chutzpah means asking questions.

Senor and Singer explain that Israelis learn from the get-go that ‘assertiveness is the norm, reticence something that risks your being left behind’ (p. 31). This means that whether it be at home, school, in business or the army, they are taught to ask questions.

To me, the practical application is a gentle reminder to forget being shy and speak up when a question is warranted. What do you want? What do you need to know? Ask. Don’t be shy!

#2. Chutzpah means taking the initiative.

Soldiers in the Israeli military are trained to act with the understanding that all performance is value-neutral, meaning that whether positive or negative outcomes are treated equally. The priority is to learn from the ‘errors’ and to take risks intelligently.

So, speaking up in class, possibly making all kinds of syntactic errors is no big deal. What can you learn from it? Or, as a teacher – or writer, trying out a new activity or form of writing and seeing it fall flat, does not mean you are not made to be a teacher or writer, but that you have something to learn. Learn from it and do better next time!

#3. Chutzpah means arguing when necessary.

 Four guys are standing on a street corner…

An American, a Russian, A Chinese man, and an Israeli…

A reporter comes up to the group and says to them:

‘Excuse me… What’s your opinion on the meat shortage?’

The American says: What’s a shortage?

The Russian says: What’s meat?

The Chinese man says: What’s an opinion?

The Israeli says: What’s ‘Excuse me’?

  • Mike Leigh, Two Thousand Years (p. 23, Senor & Singer)

That Israeli guy had some chutzpah! And you know that a debate probably ensued. That guy was ready to defend his opinion.

Elsewhere, the authors of Start-Up Nation quip that when you have two Israelis, you are most likely to have three opinions! My own personal thought when I was in Israel, upon observing the way questions were asked and debating was welcomed, “It’s no wonder there are so many Jewish lawyers and business-men!”

If you believe in your idea, either as student or teacher, defend it – calmly, logically and creatively. The entire class will benefit from the discussion!

Final Shot

I’ll leave the final thought with Alan Alda.

Nothing important was ever accomplished without chutzpah. Columbus had chutzpah. The signers of the Declaration of Independence had chutzpah. Don't ever aim doubt at yourself. Laugh at yourself, but don't doubt yourself. - Alan Alda

Shabbat Shalom! Have a great weekend! – Claire

When you’re aiming for the moon…

Beresheet may have crashed, but for a moment we raised our eyes to the heavens.

The headline of the Times of Israel article  (first in links below) couldn’t help but grab my attention. I wondered what the article would say about ‘raising our eyes to the heavens’ and began to read.

I was so glad I did. Quite frankly, I was blown away.  Five big life lessons jumped out at me, lessons that if applied consistently and wholeheartedly, have the power to change a life, a community, even the world.

#1. Look beyond. – There is so much more to life than our own little existence and circumstances. In fact, there are infinite possibilities if we look for them.  When LunarX held a contest to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon (with a twenty million dollar prize for success), Israel seized the vision.  Though SpaceIl’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the project closed in 2018, the scientists kept working.

#2. Aim for the moon. – Dreaming and imagination is limitless, and it’s included in the package deal of being a human being. Why not go for it? The dream took root in 2010, when three friends dreamed of making Israel the fourth country to have a space craft land on the moon. As the flag in the widely published photos of the Beresheet craft nearing landing proclaims: Small country, big dreams. Why not?

#3. Invest in your dreams. – If we want to see dreams come true, then our ideas require action, and action requires means. Put your money where your mouth is. It took over 100 million dollars to finance the TeamSpace IL dream.

#4. Expect the unexpected. –  Life happens and it can be messy sometimes. We can’t always prevent the upsets, but we can learn from them and work better. The Beresheet space craft landed on the moon, but certainly not in the gentle fashion the team had planned.

#5. Failure means you tried. – As the saying goes: It is better to have tried and failed, than to have failed to try.  Journalist Melanie Lidman concluded that perhaps the greatest lesson of all was that the space endeavour united millions of people around the world in a collective dream to reach the moon. Although they failed within 150 meters of the moon’s surface, Buzz Aldrin (1969 US Apollo astronaut) tweeted the TeamSpace IL team, saying: ‘Your hard work, team work and innovation are inspiring to all – never lose hope‘. Indeed!

Five huge life lessons from an apparent disaster. I had just learned about constructive journalism this week, and so it was amazing to come across a piece that so effectively explained and exemplified how an apparent failure can be reframed into a powerful and uplifting life lesson.

Instead of taking a victim mindset and describing at great lengths the heartbreaking failure, disappointment, and loss of so much work and so many millions of dollars, the journalist focused on the lessons learned and left the readers feeling hopeful, not devastated.

Recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try again. We’ll try again, and next time we’ll just try it more gently.’

Optimism  – and humour – to boot!

It got me thinking: which is more important in the pursuit of dreams: the process or the final product?    

What do you think? I’d love to hear your ideas on this in the Comments.

Sweet dreams!

– Claire  :o)

 

LINKS: https://www.timesofisrael.com/beresheet-may-have-crashed-but-for-a-moment-we-raised-our-eyes-to-the-heavens; https://www.timesofisrael.com/buzz-aldrin-to-inspiring-beresheet-team-after-moon-crash-never-lose-hope/; https://nationalpost.com/news/world/israel-lands-on-the-moon-but-not-in-the-way-we-wanted-to-as-spacecraft-crashes-in-history-making-journey.
[Photo: Shutterstock/Ruslan Ivanslov]

How are you today?

Any student of mine knows that my priority in class is their well-being, which is why classes usually begin with: How are you? How’s your day going? What’s new and exciting?

I’m sure that most teachers would agree that a happy student is a learning student (at least, more likely to be learning student!)

So coming across one of Martin Sellgman’s latest books, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (Atria, NY, USA, 2011) was a fascinating find. In this book, Seligman describes the research and explains the principles behind his innovative theory of Positive Psychology.

Today I thought I’d share three takeaways from his exciting work.

  1. Optimism can be learned.

What does that mean? Let me give you an example, when dogs were exposed to electric shocks and were unable to control them, they learned that they had no control over their circumstances. However, if they were given the means to control the shocks, they would and therefore avoided potential shocks.  Similarly, we as humans learn at a very young age whether we have any control over our environment or not. Unfortunately, if we feel we have no impact no matter what we do, we will have a tendency to experience feelings of helplessness and depression.

However, the good news is: if we learned helplessness, then we can unlearn it, and take control of our reactions to our circumstances, thereby choosing optimism. Maybe you weren’t good at using verb tenses in English. You are not doomed to perish in a tenseless existence! You can learn. The question is not: Why do I have to learn these when I’m useless?, but rather: I have a bit of difficulty in this area, but I can do something about it. What tools, tricks or resources can I use to make a bit of progress? Optimism can be learned.

2. Positive Psychology focuses on mental health (not illness).

When Seligman began his research, it was hard for him to get funding. No-one wanted to invest in this strange new idea that perhaps it would be better to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. Once he got the ball rolling, however, the money came rolling in too. In fact, today Seligman’s work is being taught in educational, military, political and corporate settings around the world.

Why? The theory doesn’t focus solely on ridding people of their mental illnesses, but more on leveraging the five ingredients proven to enhance well-being: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement (thus the acronym, PERMA).

What do I mean? Let’s say you know you have a learning disability, maybe you’re dyslexic. You still remember the shame and embarrassment when a teacher told you you’d never be any good at learning English since you had no memory for grammar rules, never mind spelling irregular verbs or strange-sounding words in foreign languages.

Putting the dyslexia aside, perhaps it would be more helpful to think in terms of, I enjoy my English class with my colleagues. We have a good time. We laugh and learn together. Everyone makes jokes and it certainly makes for a terrific break from the humdrum of my regular work! That’s an example of positive emotion. Perhaps just that will help motivate you to continue taking classes when the going gets tough.

Or maybe the heady feeling of accomplishment, having overcome a difficulty and proven you can do it despite the odds, or for the sheer fun of it, will keep you motivated.

Whatever the means, focus on one of these elements of well-being either at work or in class, and see what difference it makes.

3. Gratitude +  Love of Learning = Well-being

Another researcher, Barry Kauffman, a peer of Martin Seligman, decided to run some tests and do the math to determine the two values that were most important to attain PERMA (link: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/which-character-strengths-are-most-predictive-of-well-being/). He found that they were gratitude and love of learning. I love that!

How can we develop gratitude? Seligman recommends people ask themselves on a regular basis this simple question: What went well? You simple cannot remain negative when you are focusing on the positive!

The love of learning value comes into play once the list of positive events is compiled. The follow-up questions are obvious: How can I make this happen more often? What do I need to do?

Coming out of class tomorrow, either as teacher or student, ask yourself the questions: What went well? Why did it go well? How can I get more of that? What do I need to do?  No matter the misunderstandings or seemingly unsurmountable challenges, an upward spiral of optimism and hope is sure to ensue.

So, how are you? What went well for you today? Let’s keep the gratitude energy flowing! Drop me a line in the Comments section.

  • Claire :o)

[Photo: Shutterstock/fizkes]

3 Lessons My Students Taught Me

I came across this quote on my Facebook page this week, a gif shared by the BrainPower Neurodevelopmental Center in Newburgh, Indiana.

At first, I thought about my home situation; the older my sons become, the more I realize they are their own selves. What a myth to believe that kids become what parents ‘make’ them! Even if you raise them in a totalitarian environment, their personalities will surface (I hope!) and they will emancipate themselves to become who they truly are!

However, the second part of the quote was what really got me thinking, the part about children teaching their parents so they can become what they, as parents and people, can become.

I suddenly mentally flipped over to my classroom situation. My students, too, are what they are supposed to be, not what I thought they’d be. Oh, so what have they taught me then to help me become a better teacher and, ultimately, person? Certainly, a lot! Here are just three examples.

Lesson #1: You don’t have to know everything.  

Teachers know that questions are a sign of intelligence. I always say it is the door opening to understanding. I get excited when students ask questions; it means they are ready to learn, and they are going to ‘get it’. The brain is processing the data. Cognitive psychology explains that the more the brain processes the information, the more likely it is that the individual will develop the neural pathway and maintain the information in their long-term memory. Deeper learning means greater mastery and that leverages competence.

Yes, but sometimes a question comes up that you just weren’t anticipating and just don’t have the answer. You don’t know. Brain freeze! No matter how much you search your brain, the answer is just not there. For example, how come ‘theirselves’ is not the correct reflexive pronoun? Not so easy! Some of the forms take the possessive form of the personal pronoun (I – myself; You – yourself). It would seem logical to then say They – theirselves). But that is not the case. It’s just one of those things – something you have to memorize.

You’re almost afraid they’ll ask questions! No big deal. You can’t know everything, so you use that handy phrase: That’s a great question!  And then, either follow up with a Google search live, or go home and do your homework so you’ll be prepared with a fantastic explanation next class.

Lesson #2: You don’t have to always be in control.

The other day, I suddenly felt sick during my first of two morning classes. I was sure I was turning green and about to fall of my chair. Catastrophe! I’m the teacher, I’m supposed to be in control! I couldn’t move, and just wanted to put my head down and rest.

The students were great. They offered advice, they suggested I drink some water or go for a walk. When the class was over, the next group came in and continued the good work. They got me laughing. They took over. They first took out their homework and began correcting it with my weak input. Then one of them asked if I had any games. I did, so she went and chose one and got the other two playing. By the end of the class, I felt much better. They were wonderful.

The concern, care and initiative of the students blew me away. It also reminded me that I didn’t always have to be the boss. After all, what is student-centered learning all about? Students take ownership of their learning. The teacher is just there to guide and facilitate.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to not be perfect.

Perfectionism is the bane of the teacher. We want everything to be just perfect (you know, a perfect A, 100%): the lesson plan, the presentation, the activity, the materials, even our appearance!  But sometimes you just don’t have the time to get it Just Right. Anxiety attack! And the quality of the lesson goes downhill from there!

Last week I asked a student what their lesson of the day was. The student answered: stop thinking, start doing. An enriching discussion ensued.

Once again, it was the disciple teaching the master. Do what you can with what you have. You don’t have to be perfect; be real, drop the ego, and enjoy the discovery of learning with your students.

In conclusion, maybe the people, places and events around us are not the way we expect but are rife with lessons to learn. Accepting, acknowledging and appreciating them for the truths they reveal, is not easy, but part of adapting to the ever-changing nature of life.

Does this resonate with you? Please let me know in the Comments section. I love hearing from my readers!

Cheers!

Claire :o)

 

*Photo and link to BrainPower Neurodevelopmental Center : https://www.facebook.com/BrainPower-Neurodevelopmental-Center-889931051105659/?tn-str=k*F

When Initiative Is MIA: What to do about it?

I had a wonderful opportunity to take initiative on the weekend. And I didn’t.

No, no, of course I won’t obsess about it (not!) It’s just that this weekend, I was preparing an activity for a class this week about initiative because a student and I had a discussion that ended with the question: how can a manager encourage employee initiative?

I googled initiative and came across articles discussing engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of today’s workforce consists of actively engaged employees* . Which begs the question: why? Lack of interest, indifference, stress at or outside of work?

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of today’s workforce consists of actively engaged employees

An attractive infographic on snacknation.com presents the 9 pillars of employee engagement: 1. Values & Purpose; 2. Workplace Environment; 3. Recognition and Incentives; 4. Communication; 5. Well-defined Roles; 6. Buy-in from Managers; 7. Health & Wellness; 8. Relationship with Colleagues; 9. Personal Growth & Development.

In three words, lack of initiative stems from lack of knowledge, purpose and support: head, heart and hands. An actively engaged employee is at work head, heart and hands. She’s all there. Present!

An actively engaged employee is at work head, heart and hands.

And that takes me back to the start of this post: why didn’t I take initiative? An assumption. That assumption was, once examined, erroneous, not true, false. In short, I lacked knowledge – ‘key intelligence’, so to speak. The heart and the hands couldn’t follow; they were missing out on the intelligence!

How often do we miss out on amazing opportunities for lack of the facts? Further, do we always have to know, be told, be asked — to take initiative?

My personal definition of responsibility is response-ability. If you can respond, then act. I even break down the base word response into an acronym:

Resources

Energy

Skills

Power                                  – ability = responsibility

Opportunity

Network

Savviness

Experience

You have the resources (if not all, some), energy (even if minimal), skills (once again, maybe not all, but some), power (if you have the opportunity, then you have the chance to intervene), network (people are all around you: talk!), savviness (enough knowledge to see there is a need, and if you can’t, you can ask someone to help), and experience (again, if not all, some).

The bottom line: If you see the need, then you have the response-ability to intervene. That, to me, is what initiative is all about. Whatever, you do, don’t listen to those sneaky assumptions; get the facts and act.

So, I missed my opportunity on the weekend, but at least I gained a powerful object lesson to use in my class this week on manager intervention to encourage employee initiative.

The bottom line: If you see the need, then you have the response-ability to intervene. That, to me, is what initiative is all about.

Gotta go, now. There’s laundry to take care of and classes to plan. Initiative, right?!

What are your tricks to taking initiative? I’d love to know! Drop me a line in the Comments.

  • Claire :O)

 

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2017/10/15/5-powerful-steps-to-improve-employee-engagement/#6bb67fb4341d

[Photo: Shutterstock/Mila Supinskaya Glashchenko]

The Irish Impact

Try the following quiz to see what you know about words, expressions and traditions that linger in our language and culture!

1.    Which of the following words means a crazy person?

a)   Bother

b)   Clock

c)   Bog

d)   Banshee

2.    When a child misbehaves constantly, what do we call him/her?

a)   A banshee

b)   A hooligan

c)   A brat

d)   A slob

3.    Which word is not of known Irish origin?

a)   Slew

b)   Galore

c)   Rushed

d)   Slob

4.    If your partner never cleans up their own mess or picks up their clothes, what would you call them?

a)   A slew

b)   A slob

c)   A phony

d)   A hooligan

5.    Which of the following is a typical Irish custom?

a)   Wiping your feet before coming into the house

b)   Drinking pop

c)   Going to the pub

d)   Singing in the shower

6.    Which of the following alcoholic beverages is typically Irish?

a)   Wine

b)   Porto

c)   Whiskey

d)   Beer

7.    Which of the following sports is an Irish contribution?

a)   Rugby

b)   Baseball

c)   Handball

d)   Basketball

8.    Which of the following accompaniments is typically Irish (supposedly!)?

a)   Mashed potatoes

b)   Beans

c)   Corn on the cob

d)   Rice

9.    Which of the following pastries is from Ireland?

a)   Scones

b)   Cupcakes

c)   Rice pudding

d)   Jello

10. Which of the following expressions denotes a movement to resist or refuse:

a)   Demonstration

b)   Sit-in

c)   Strike

d)   Boycott

Check out the following PowerPoint to check your answers!

Let me know how you did in the Comments section! Good luck!

Claire :O)