July 4, 2018

Where Passion Meets Perseverance

Whereas it’s true that what happens at home dictates what happens in the classroom, there’s tremendous value in what educators bring to the table. Research tells us that quality teaching can completely offset the devastating effects poverty has on student performance. In my experience, this begins with understanding positive psychology. Though it helps, you don't have to be a trained psychologist to leverage principles of positive psychology. Here's what I've learned so far...

Positive psychology explores a number of character strengths, one of which is grit. Grit is the place in our being where passion meets perseverance. Empowering learners to persevere in the direction of discovering their passions is complex. Several mantras guide my path. This post discusses a few mantras that remind me of what it means to cultivate grit and nurture grit in learners of all ages.

Do the difficult things while they are easy 
and do the great things while they are small.  
- Lao Tzu

It's not uncommon to try on several pairs of shoes before finding the perfect pair. Assuming your once organized closet is a wreck from trying on every pair with no success, what's next? The department stores at the indoor mall have nothing. The outlet mall has nothing. The event is in two days. You can't go barefoot. Now, you're wishing you'd made better use of lunch breaks during the past month! Imagine being in a frenzy about more than one outfit for an out of town conference. Do you think it's easier to find the perfect pair of shoes for one outfit at a time?... or three or five? Feeling frantic, yet?

Now, let's apply this thought process to education and learning. When the window of opportunity to do that easy, small thing passes us by, we can't get it back. Making the most of the opportunity that's in front of us right now is all that matters until our time is up, until the school day is over, until the tutoring session is over, until the exam is behind us. Though learning is about perseverance and the journey. Making a mental note of the rest stops along the way encourages learners to remain energized for just a little while longer. Helping learners distinguish between go-time and rest-time positively influences internal motivation to persevere.

Consistency breeds trust. 
- Vincent Molina

It was around 4 years ago when Vincent shared this nugget with me during a coaching session. The conversation was about consistently delivering value. In the moment, we were talking about breeding trust with clients and potential clients. I wrote this quote on a sticky note that I've only recently trashed this year - because it's embedded in my brain. It was a reminder to keep going, to keep moving forward. A few days ago, different meaning came from these same words.

Amazon Author Profile (Jillian Smart)

Let's consider the example about finding the perfect shoes for an outfit. The struggle is real. It's common for men and women. I'd argue that kids even get frustrated about which pair of shoes to wear. This not only happens when we're preparing to travel, for some, frustration over what to wear - or what not to wear - strikes daily before school or work. At least two people have this challenge mastered: Steve Jobs and my mom. Steve Jobs consistently wore the same thing to work everyday. My mom consistently prepares her clothes for the week on Sunday nights. It's a no-brainer for her. Mission accomplished. What's next?

But, what's happening here? Yes, they preserve mental fortitude by giving themselves one less decision to make in their work day. In making this decision regularly, they also build trust in themselves. They choose not to go with whatever the day brings, they trust that the decision will serve them in circumstances they have yet to experience. Though a simple act on the surface, each small act of self-trust helps us flow with the process. We're making time to listen to ourselves and figure out what we really want, how we really want to live, what our passions are...

In everything, say thank you. 
- Maya Angelou

Gratitude. When we're rushing to find that one pair of shoes, how often do we say thank you? When educating or parenting children, how often do we say thank you? In my last blog post, I talked briefly about showing gratitude. Giselle Chapman is a motivational speaker who tells us to start with gratitude. Over the course of a few of her phenomenal workshops, I gained a deeper understanding about how coming from a place of gratitude improves our ability to perform. The feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphines flood the brain and help us get things done!

To embrace the complicated and unending process of discovering passion and persevering to bring ideas to fruition, we need to make the habit of starting from a place of gratitude. There are other - less enjoyable - ways around this. But why choose the hard way when we can have fun cultivating grit?!


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