“A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.” – Rita Mae Brown
We all have days that start out well and then take a turn for the worse. It could be someone cutting us off in traffic, or a co-worker who is in a bad mood, that seems to shove us off into a negative direction. Knowing how to shift gears is as important for adults as it is for our children. This week I had plenty of opportunities to practice shifting gears when my day took unexpected turns, inside the classroom and out. There are some simple things that we can do to better prepare ourselves for those moments when life dishes out an unexpected detour.
One practice that is very helpful when preparing for the day, or for the next segment of your day, is to ask yourself how you want to feel. We often underestimate the power that comes from making a clear choice about what we want, beginning with how we want to feel. For most of my life I believed that my feelings were completely dependent upon what I was facing. I thought that life was a series of reactions and that I was just doing what was right when I reacted with fear, or anger, when someone was rude or mean to me. I have since learned that there is another way to live. We can choose the way we would like to feel, and then set an intention to seek the positives in our day that support the way we want to feel. We can do all of this before the action of the day even begins. It only takes a few moments and I find that I relax as soon as I start thinking about how I want to feel. I am surprised at how effective this little practice actually is.
Yesterday I was running a lunch group with some second graders and one of the students decided that he was going to completely ignore every word I said. Instead of participating in the activities I had planned, he decided that he would respond with something exciting, such as, “Poopy in your jay jay!”, every time I spoke. For a while, I calmly redirected his words, and somehow tried to tie them in to what I was asking. This technique only lasted for so long. Soon I was seeing red and felt like unleashing my fury on this young lad. I thought that a good angry speech, to show him who was boss, might be in order. Thankfully, I came up with a more effective plan.
I decided to excuse the group one student at a time to go out to recess. I would excuse the troublesome student last and have a heartto- heart chat with him. The plan was working until there were two students remain-ing and they both got up to leave at the same time. That is when I lost my cool and let this young man know that he was never going to call me out in front of the group like that again, and that if he wanted to be a part of the group this would have to change. As I watched myself telling him this, something amazing happened. I felt love for him. I realized that what I was saying was what he needed to hear and that it was coming from a place of respect for him. Then another amazing thing happened. The boy’s countenance completely changed. He told me that I am the best teacher he has, and that he loves the group. He started calling me “Mr. Dude”, which I approve of, and was the most polite student I have spoken to in a long while. It was remarkable.
When I reflected back on the experience, I realized that the intentions I had set earlier in the day anchored me in a more loving state of mind. I was able to go from angry to loving very quickly because I had made a choice about how I wanted to feel prior to my encounter the little second grade rascal. It was as if the momentum of my earlier choice made it easier to shift gears when I found myself out of my comfort zone. I encourage you to ask yourself, “How do I want to feel today?” You can do it in the morning, before a meeting, or before driving home. It might seem like a silly question at first. Try it for a week. See if you have any experiences like mine, where things start taking a turn for the better.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, live every Wednesday at 3 pm on www.Unity. FM. Visit www.TappingIntoGenius. com for more articles and a free, inspirational parenting guide.