The hidden difference

imagesOne of the greatest joys of being a classroom teacher is the opportunity to connect with former students, via social media, email, or in person.  I’m always amazed at the things they remember me saying.  Many of their crystal clear memories are somewhat fuzzy in my aging brain, but they are special nonetheless.  At the end of our conversations, it’s common to hear these words – “You really made a difference for me.”

Although it’s humbling to receive praise, it’s the hidden difference that teachers make in their student’s lives which often goes unnoticed, or unexpressed.  I use the word hidden because unlike words of affirmation which are clearly spoken, the hidden difference may forever remain buried in the heart of the student.

I’m certain that every teacher has had a particular student (or students) who demonstrated behaviors that required extra care or attention.  For me, that student was Joseph (not his real name).  Of all the kids I had in my 10 years of teaching, Joseph was the most challenging and rewarding, all at the same time.  He was constantly trying to push my buttons and always seeking attention in various ways, many of which were disruptive to the class.  Joseph wasn’t the type that would ever share words of affirmation, so when he moved prior to the end of the school year, I was left with the question that I’m sure resonates in every teacher’s mind – “Did I really make a difference for him?”

When I walk into classrooms today and witness the emotional exhaustion on teacher’s faces, perhaps because of students like Joseph, I can’t help but wonder, “Do they really know what a difference they are making?”

Below is a poem I wrote shortly after Joseph left my classroom almost 8 years ago.  It speaks to the notion of the hidden difference. 

Another school year is coming to an end.  The stress I feel now will soon have time to mend.

I can’t help but reflect on the memories that are now a part of my collective past.  Each of them brings with it vivid imagery that is sure to last.

It seems that every year is highlighted by a single life event.  For me, the birth of my daughter fills the pages of this year’s story and the joyous time I spent.

So many things have changed since beautiful Emerson blessed us with her embrace.  Each time I hold her in my arms, it’s impossible not to feel the tremendous power of God’s grace.

One change I hadn’t quite expected was the relationship I would now have with my class.  For when I returned from my leave I saw them from the eyes of a father, something I had never experienced in the past.

I remember the struggles of a particular student in my class, who I challenged daily to make the right choice.  Unfortunately, he was without a father and felt as if he had no real voice.

I think of my daughter and the tremendous love I shower her with every day.  How could this student survive without this same love from his father?  I was determined to find a way. 

So I set out to change his reality by being the father that was absent from his life.  What a daunting challenge it was, like cutting cheese with a dull knife.

That student has since left our class and perhaps I’ll never see him again.  For if I do, I will celebrate his growth as a person and reflect on what was then.

I find comfort in knowing that I will never stop loving my daughter and always keep her in my sight.  With regard to this student, it pains me as his teacher to wonder what could have been or just what might.

I may never know the difference I made in his life, but I find solace in knowing that I cared deeply from the start.  Every teacher leaves a special gift with their students, which will forever remain embedded in their hearts.

For every teacher who doubts whether or not they make a difference for their students, let me be the first to say, you absolutely do.  I invite you ponder the hidden difference you’ve made and to be at peace with the reality that you may never know for sure what exactly that difference was.  Unlike the standardized testing culture you work in, which requires that you collect evidence in order to prove academic gains, the difference you’ve made in their hearts requires no evidence.  Heart change can’t be quantified with numbers or percentages.      

You don’t need to know the difference you made in order to confirm that you made a difference.

Thank you for the wonderful work you do in shaping young minds and hearts.       

Keep Smiling

photo 1 (2)“Folks, we’re going to pull back into the terminal so that maintenance can check out what appears to be a malfunction on the plane.”

Exhausted from a long weekend and anxious to return to Phoenix to hug and kiss my girls, these weren’t exactly the words I wanted to hear.  Nonetheless, I remained somewhat optimistic and closed my eyes for a brief power nap prior to departure.

“Folks, maintenance still hasn’t arrived, so we’re going to ask everyone to de-board the plane and we’ll notify you of any further instructions once you’re in the terminal.”

By now, all internal signs indicated that I was walking into a giant pity party.  My initial thoughts of optimism were replaced by powerless thinking.  The kind of thinking that almost always lead me to my default, introverted space.

“Why does this have to happen to me?”

“Why can’t they just bring in another plane?”

“This can’t be happening.  I’ve got stuff to do.”

If my thoughts were public domain, I may have been arrested for excessive complaining and whisked away by the Whambulance.  However, as I took my seat in the terminal, I was reminded of the words I had shared with a group of 7-11 year-olds just two days prior in one of my youth leadership workshops.

You can’t control your circumstances, but you can always choose the lens through which you view them.

At that moment, I decided to choose my curious/creative lens and gave up trying to control the plane, the pilot, the mechanic, or any other circumstance that was beyond my control.  Almost immediately, I felt a sense of tremendous peace and contentment.  Knowing full well that God was ultimately in control, I began to observe (not judge) my surroundings.

Minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar face, Mrs. Jean Riley, the wife of legendary Oregon State baseball coach, Jack Riley.  In order to appreciate this, you need to know that I grew up attending Beaver baseball games with my family, always admiring the intensity and focus of Coach Riley.

Had I chosen to accept an invitation to my own pity party, my face would still be buried in my phone, looking for any extrinsic opportunity to run away from reality.  Instead, I looked inward and let my curiosity guide me.

I introduced myself to Mrs. Riley, unsure of where our conversation would go.  What followed was a three hour dialogue which is difficult for me to put into words.  There were tears when she talked about the love she has for her grandkids.  There was laughter when she recounted a few of the endless stories that only a wife of a long-time baseball coach can portray.  There was determination when we talked about the work I do with children.  Throughout it all, one thing remained constant; our communication was authentic.  We were sharing from our hearts, not our heads.

As the speakers blared in the background, occasionally notifying us of any updates regarding our delay, we chose to stay upbeat and positive, not letting the circumstances control our mood.  After all, it was beyond our control.

“Folks, unfortunately, this flight will not be leaving tonight.  We are rescheduling the flight for tomorrow morning and will be handing out hotel vouchers for anyone who needs accommodations for the evening.”

By now, the pity party invitation was a distant memory and nothing was going to stop us from maintaining our positive attitudes.

As I walked downstairs with my precious new friend to obtain our hotel vouchers, I couldn’t help but notice the contagious smile on her face.  Even though we’d only known each other for a few short hours, it was as if we had been friends forever.  Our flight may have been cancelled, but our newfound friendship was alive and well.

Just as we were about to receive our vouchers, a man near us, who was clearly frustrated at the series of events, began to extend an invitation to his own pity party.  It was clear that he was hoping we’d join him in commiseration.  However, in a moment of pure beauty, Mrs. Riley looked at me and said, “Keep smiling.”

Minutes later we took the above smelfie (selfie with a  smile).

Thank you Mrs. Riley for reminding me of the power of a smile.

P.S.  As I type this addendum to my blog, I’m on a plane, finally headed home to see my girls.  Scrolling through the many pictures on my iPhone to pass the time, I’m reminded of another beautiful person in my life who possesses a similar, contagious smile, my Grandma Mimi.

I believe with all of my heart that God is love.  Furthermore, I believe that He communicates with us in mysterious ways.  I’m beginning to wonder if each time I see someone smile, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you.”

photo

 

All I Really Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence I Learned in Kindergarten.

11020266_10206328754245804_1015717233852755520_nWhen I started my leadership business six years ago, my intent was to work primarily with pre-teens and teens.  Having taught fourth and fifth grade for ten years, I recognized a tremendous need for this age group with regard to social and emotional development.  In my opinion, the transition from elementary school to middle school is one of the most challenging stages of adolescence, thus my push to reach this demographic. 

Last Spring, I was approached by the dynamic duo of Julie Fischer and Michelle Willis at Magical Journey Learning Center, a Pre-K and Kindergarten school in Phoenix.  They were interested in contracting my services to teach emotional intelligence to 5-6 year-olds.  While I was certainly humbled by the fact that they believed in my program, a number of questions occupied my mind as I considered working with this age group.

Will they really get it? 

Can I teach these deep, cerebral concepts to 5 and 6 year-olds? 

Will I be able to explain emotional intelligence to someone that is just beginning to understand what emotions even are? 

Despite my initial apprehension, I accepted the challenge and the answers to the above questions have been a resounding yes.  What I’ve realized is that while the core content I teach remains the same, the context of their life is obviously much different than a pre-teen or teen.  Therefore, my job is to teach these concepts using language and metaphors that resonate in their developing minds. 

Yesterday, when I walked into the school, I was greeted by a list of 10 things the children have learned as a result of my lessons, in kid language of course (see picture). 

I was amazed at the comprehensive nature of the principles they identified.  These are the exact principles I teach to adults.  The only thing that changes is the language and the context to which we apply them to.    

Therefore, I present to you All I Really Need to Know About Emotional Intelligence I Learned in Kindergarten.

#1 – The Ripple Effect

Regardless of my age, everything I say or do has an invisible ripple effect on the people around me.  I don’t need to be a part of a certain group or look a certain way to make a difference.  Simply put, I MATTER.

#2 – Roots from the tree

While society places a major emphasis on the appearance of the tree (image), it’s the roots of the tree (character) that matter in the end.  When I focus on cultivating my roots, my tree will grow exactly as planned. 

#3 – Driver / Back Seat

Each day I have a choice.  A choice to be a driver or passenger in my own life.  When I choose to drive, I am in control of my thoughts, feelings, and actions.  When I assume the back seat I become a passenger and other people are now in charge of how I think, feel, and act. 

#4 – Trampoline

Everyone is going to have bad days.  Everyone is going to experience emotions such as anger and sadness, which move us below the line.  However, I have a choice in terms of how long I am going to stay there.  My trampolines allow me to move above the line.  Whether it’s a peaceful walk or reading a good book, I get to choose. 

#5 – Tattle Tongue

I am not in charge of other people.  Unless someone is in physical or emotional danger, I seek to be a problem solver, not a tattle teller.  While the urge to tattle will always be there, I know it only perpetuates the problem.

#6 – Volcano Mouth

My words are powerful.  There will be times when the words that resonate in my mind are hurtful or condescending.  Rather than letting the volcano explode, I can choose to manage it with deep breathing.

#7 – Bucket fillers and dippers

Everyone walks around carrying an invisible bucket, which serves as a symbol of our self-esteem.  All day long, we are either filling buckets or dipping from buckets as a result of the things we say or do.  I want to be a bucket filler, not a bucket dipper. 

#8 – You get to choose

My attitude is contagious.  Every new day is an opportunity for me to choose my attitude.  If I choose to be negative, I will spread my negative germs.  If I choose to be positive, I will spread my positive germs. 

#9 – Good Wolf / Bad Wolf

Each one of us is fighting an internal battle.  It’s a battle between the good wolf (positive) and the bad wolf (negative).  Which one wins?  Whichever one I feed the most. 

#10 – Fountain / Drain

When I choose to feed the good wolf, I become a fountain of joy, love, and hope.  When I choose to feed the bad wolf, I drain the energy of the people around me. 

Imagine what this world would look like if each of us, regardless of age, attempted to live these principles. 

My mission is to be a spark that ignites positive change in the lives of others.  Will you join me?  

If you’d like to learn more about any of my services, I invite you contact me at mike@kaleidoeye.com.   

What disempowering beliefs have you downloaded?

imagesOur beliefs influence our thinking.  Our thinking influences our feelings.  Our feelings influence our actions or behaviors.

Simply put, everything we say or do is rooted in what we believe, about ourselves and the world around us.  Therefore, in order to create lasting change, we must practice the skill of self-awareness and assess the effectiveness of our belief systems.  

Where do our beliefs come from?  While there isn’t a single answer to this question, I want to highlight one source which can have a devastating effect on the choices we make.  I refer to it as OPO’s (Other People’s Opinions).

From the time you were a child, you’ve received, directly or indirectly, countless opinions of others.   These opinions fall into two distinct categories: disempowering or empowering.   Whether it was a friend in elementary school who mocked you for fumbling the ball at recess (disempowering) or a teacher who professed her complete confidence in your ability to pass a Math test (empowering), each of these opinions has the potential to shape your beliefs.

Here’s how it works.  Imagine an OPO as a piece of computer software that can be downloaded into your mind.  If it’s downloaded, it changes your operating system (beliefs).  If you choose not to download it, your operating system remains the same.  Herein lies the power of self-awareness. 

Let me give you an example.

Joe is a fourth grade student whose self-confidence is fairly stable.  One day on the playground he is in the midst of a highly competitive football game with his classmates.  With a chance to win the game just as the bell rings, Joe lets a perfect pass slip through his hands.  While some of his teammates immediately console him, he hears a voice in the distance say, “Joe, you never do anything right.”  When he looks to see who uttered these words, he notices that it’s his friend Kyle, whom he was very close with.  Joe walks back to the classroom, his head held low and his mind racing with negativity.  Over the next several days, Joe refrains from playing football as his internal dialogue continues to replay the words, “You never do anything right.”

It’s clear that Joe downloaded the disempowering OPO software that his friend Kyle had offered him.  Without proper self-awareness and the ability to choose whether or not he would accept these words as the truth, Joe’s belief system was altered and his self-confidence was diminished. 

Just as you can uninstall computer software programs on your computer, so too can you uninstall disempowering beliefs that are the result of OPO’s.  Let’s face it; each of us has programs that we’ve downloaded that aren’t serving us well.  For me, I spent years holding on to the belief that “I’m not good enough” and it kept me safely in my comfort zone for many years.  Only when I was able to uninstall this program and replace it with a more empowering belief did I start to realize more freedom and joy in my life. 

Here are some real life examples of OPO’s that could have greatly altered various lives.  However, because these individuals chose not the download the disempowering beliefs, the rest is history.

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

OPO of Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the audion tube and father of radio, on Feb. 25, 1967.

“We don’t like their sound.  Groups of guitars are on the way out.”

OPO of Decca Records rejecting the Beatles in 1962.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

OPO of Charles H. Duell, US Commisioner of Patents, in 1899.

“You lack imagination and have no original ideas.”

OPO of a newspaper editor informing Walt Disney that he was fired from the newspaper.  Date unknown. 

I invite you to consider the beliefs you’re holding onto that are a result of what someone else has told you.  Remember, you’re beliefs influence your thinking.  Your thinking influences your feelings.  Your feelings influence your behavior.

If you’d like to learn more about the process of self-awareness, I invite you to watch a webinar I presented last week as part of Vitality-EQ Week, sponsored by Six Seconds.  Click here to watch.    

How will we ever know?

11014613_10206217169216248_8778284221702303453_nThis past weekend, the Ahwatukee Foothills News, a local Phoenix newspaper, published one of my articles in their Sunday edition.  In a bit of irony, the story of Ryan Grioux (whose deadly rampage in Mesa, Arizona was breaking news throughout the country) was right next to mine.

In order to appreciate this irony, let me take you back in time a little. 

Flashback to 1999 and I had just finished presenting my leadership thesis, which served as the culmination of my master’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.  Not surprisingly, my thesis outlined the need for quality character education programs in all schools.  With the Columbine shootings still fresh in everyone’s minds, I made the argument that perhaps a quality character education program could have prevented something like this from happening. 

Feeling confident that my message had landed, I walked proudly back to my seat where my professor’s critique was waiting for me.  The reviews were positive for the most part, but it’s her final comment that has remained etched in my memory forever.    

“I enjoyed your presentation, but I don’t think that a character education program is going to make much of a difference with regard to preventing catastrophes such as this.”

Still reeling from the adrenaline rush of finishing the most important presentation I had ever made, my peace and contentment suddenly shifted to extreme frustration.  While I don’t recall the actual thoughts that went through my head, I do remember asking, “How will we ever know?”

Fast forward back to today and while that single comment could’ve very easily deflated my passion for character development, I chose to use it as fuel to move in a direction of positive change.  You see, I don’t know for certain whether or not my content will prevent students from following the path Ryan Grioux chose, but here’s what I do know.

The skills of self-awareness and self-management are tools that, when used effectively, can literally change the trajectory of someone’s life. 

Call me naïve, but would Ryan Grioux’s life path look different had he received these skills at an early age?  I don’t claim to know all of the factors that contributed to his horrific choice, but it’s clear that his thoughts were destructive in nature.  These negative thought patterns didn’t happen overnight.  They’ve likely been marinating in his mind for years.  I can’t help but look at the students I work with today and wonder which of them are beginning to plant seeds of thought that could perhaps manifest in the same destructive patterns. 

Whatever is repressed gets expressed. 

Unfortunately, talking about emotions and feelings is somewhat of a taboo topic for most people.  We are conditioned to believe that we must maintain a certain level of toughness or bravado (boys especially).  Therefore, expressing our emotions greatly compromises this tough image.  What happens when you open a can of soda after shaking it?  It explodes. Well, the same is true for our emotions.  Each time we repress an emotion, it’s as if we are shaking the can of emotions.  Without proper emotional management techniques, it’s only a matter of time before the repressed emotions are expressed, often in ways that we regret. 

The only way to remove darkness is by shining a light. 

The media has a tendency to highlight all of the darkness in the world, which promotes increased levels of fear and anxiety in the minds of those watching.  This often leads to people talking about problems, instead of looking for solutions.  I believe that the best way to change other people is by changing ourselves.  You see, if we continue to shine our lights on the world, we have the potential to remove the darkness not by force, but by influence.   

I will never know for certain if my teachings will prevent horrific human behaviors in the future, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying.

Please don’t let it stop you, either.  Keep shining your light. 

Trust adds speed to your relationships.

imagesWhy is it that we’re able to authentically share with certain people in our lives, yet with others we’re very guarded when it comes to when and how we share?  Conversely, why do we listen to some through a filter of skepticism or doubt, yet with others we absorb every word they say? 

The answer to both of these questions is quite simple.  It’s called TRUST.     

Similar to the speedometer of a vehicle, our internal trustometer measures the level of trust we have for others.  The trustometer serves as a foundation for all of our relationships and greatly affects the choices we make.  For example, if I have a low trustometer with a friend or colleague, I may carefully consider what I can tell this person, or what I can do around this person.  Conversely, if my trustometer is high, I’m able to express myself authentically.  In a sense, a high level of trust tends to add a great deal of speed to our communication.   

Through our behaviors, we have the ability to either accelerate or decelerate the trustometer in each of our relationships.  Remember, trust is built the old fashioned way, by earning it.  Don’t bother asking for it.   

Here are 6 things you can do to accelerate your trustometer.     

Honor your word

Perhaps the most important quality of a strong relationship is integrity.  Simply put, if we do the things we said we would do, the level of trust naturally rises.  I’m not just talking about showing up on time for a lunch date; I’m also referring to the inherent commitments we make in all relationships.  For example, a commitment that every student makes to a teacher, with regard to homework, is to have it done on time.  It’s not something that has to be “promised” each day.  However, when this commitment is broken (on a consistent basis), the level of integrity greatly suffers and the teacher’s trustometer for that student is low.  I’ve always said that teachers don’t make decisions based on who they like or don’t like, it’s always based on the level of trust they have for a particular student.  This could also apply to the decisions parents make with regard to their children.  It’s not about fairness, it’s about trust. 

Be honest

This one is pretty self-explanatory.  Even though it may hurt at times, being brutally honest in a relationship is absolutely critical to achieving increased trust. 

Listen

There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.  If you think about the high trust relationships you have today, I would bet that these individuals express a genuine interest in understanding you.  The only way to understand another person is to put aside our own personal agenda and/or judgments, and simply listen.  By listening to others, we are essentially conveying the message that we value who they are. 

Express genuine gratitude

There’s a quote that says, “If you have gratitude for someone and fail to express it, it’s like wrapping a gift and never giving it.”  This is an awesome reminder of the power of gratitude.  I used the word genuine for a reason.  Sometimes people express gratitude as a means of manipulation, to get something they want.  Genuine gratitude comes purely from the heart and expects nothing in return.  Start right now by thanking the people in your life who influence you. 

Own your mistakes

We ALL make mistakes and will continue to make mistakes.  However, it’s fairly easy to deny, blame, or make excuses following the mistake.  It’s one thing to use these tactics with yourself, but when they are used in relationships, the effect on the level of trust is tremendous.  Each time you deny, blame, or make an excuse, you are essentially telling the other person, “I am not willing to accept responsibility for my actions.”   

Be loyal

As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more devastating to a trustometer than gossip.  What we sometimes fail to realize is that when we choose to gossip, we are essentially telling the person we are speaking to, “It’s highly likely that I will gossip about you when you’re not around.”  Simply put, it’s hard to trust someone who gossips.   

If you’d like to learn more about the trustometer, or emotional intelligence in general, I invite you tune in tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm (PST) for my FREE webinar.  I was chosen as one of 70 emotional intelligence experts from around the world to present as part of Vitality – EQ Week, a worldwide forum for promoting the power of EQ.   

Click here to register for this FREE webinar.  You can also register for the “recording only” version, which will be sent directly to your email following the webinar.  Thanks for your support.     

I encourage you to get lost.

untitledWhat would you say if I told you that one of the keys to increasing your EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is to get lost?  Kind of a crazy thought, right?        

I’m not talking about being air lifted into the middle of the Amazon Rainforest and searching for a way out.  That actually may hinder your emotional intelligence.  The lost I’m referring to is the ability to get lost in all of the things you don’t know you don’t know. 

Are you confused yet?  Don’t worry, it will all make sense. 

Imagine three columns on a piece of paper, labeled as follows…

1) I know      2) I know I don’t know     3) I don’t know that I don’t know 

If I asked you to fill in the first two columns, it would probably be a fairly easy task.  In the first column (IK), you might begin to list all of the content knowledge you can remember from school (i.e. I know how to multiply numbers).  In the second column (IKIDK), you would likely list things that you obviously don’t know (i.e. I know I don’t know how to do brain surgery).  The third column (IDKTIDK) would probably leave you feeling very confused.  In fact, you might even say to yourself, “What is this guy talking about?”

Let me explain it to you.        

In order for any knowledge (or skill) to appear in the first column, we must go through four critical stages of learning.  With regard to emotional intelligence, this journey requires us to look inward so that we may ultimately uncover self-knowledge.       

Stage 1 – I’m not even aware that emotional intelligence is a skill that I have access to. (IDKTIDK)  

Before I began my emotional intelligence journey, I just assumed that I was an unhappy person.  I maintained a fixed mindset with regard to personal growth and often used the words “That’s just the way that I am.”

What I failed to realize is that it wasn’t my personality that was preventing me from achieving happiness; it was my lack of self-awareness.  It was a “blind spot” in my life.  Just as we have blind spots when we are driving our cars, they are also present as we drive our lives.  We just have to look for them. 

Stage 2 – I’m now aware of emotional intelligence, but I clearly don’t know how to demonstrate it. (IKIDK)

This is the lost stage of the journey.   While you might think of being lost as a bad thing, with regard to emotional intelligence, it’s actually the beginning of great things to come. 

I can remember taking a personal development class with my wife almost ten years ago and feeling really confronted by the information I was hearing.  As a teacher, I had prided myself on all of the knowledge I possessed and was able to share with my students (see column 1 above).  However, what I was clearly lacking was self-knowledge, which is precisely what they were uncovering in this class. 

As the presenters continued to introduce ideas that were brand new to me (i.e. the power of subconscious thinking), I shifted from a feeling of overwhelm to a feeling of peace as I realized that my blind spots were now in full view.

Stage 3 – I practice emotional intelligence, but it requires a lot of effort and focus. (IK)      

This is the stage where a lot of people tend to give up.  They revert back to old ways of being because the amount of effort and focus required to develop this skill is just too much. 

Think about the hours of practice that professional athletes log throughout their athletic journey.  While they may possess a certain God-given skill, practice allows them to hone the skill so that they do it automatically in a game situation.  The same is true in the game of life. 

Stage 4 – I’m not even aware of the fact that I’m practicing emotional intelligence, but I am. (IK)

The first three stages are what I call the skill-building phase, where we learn to use the tools.  In Stage 4, the tools begin to use us.  It’s similar to a habit in that once we do something (or think something) a certain number of times, it operates on auto-pilot or cruise control.  The focus and effort that are critical in Stage 3, end up paying off in Stage 4 as it literally becomes a part of who we are.

If you are curious about emotional intelligence and would like to uncover some of your blind spots, I have a wonderful opportunity for you.  On Wednesday, March 18 at 4:00 pm (PST), I will be hosting a webinar as part of Vitality: 4th Annual EQ Conference.  In it, I will share several of the core competencies that make up EQ and how you can use them to move through the above stages of learning.

Click here to register for this FREE webinar. 

Parents, are you playing a game of Whac-A-Mole?

imagesIf you’re a parent, then suffice it to say you’re well aware of the many challenges that may arise along your parenting journey.  Whether it’s potty training your 2 year-old or respect training your teenager, challenges are inevitable.  

I once heard someone compare parenting to a game of Whac-A-Mole (see pic above).  Just when you think you’ve got one mole (challenge) under control, up pops another one.  Can you relate?     

Unfortunately, in our quest to manage the moles, we often fail to assess the effectiveness of our parenting.  It’s easy to fall into parenting patterns that are simply a manifestation of the way we were raised, which are sometimes ineffective.  

As you know, change is never easy.  However, in the case of parenting, effective change can literally change the trajectory of your child’s life.  

I invite you to begin this change process by looking at my TOP 4 parenting tips, and considering how you might make them a reality in your home.   

The best way to parent is from the inside-out.  

One of the foundational concepts I teach is the power of the ripple effect.  Simply put, everything we say or do creates an invisible ripple for the people around us.  Your child is influenced each and every day by the choices you make.  Therefore, it’s important that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, “What areas of my life do I need to change so that I can begin to create a more positive ripple for my child?”  One of the prerequisites for change is your ability to be vulnerable.  To learn more about vulnerability, click here.   

We all see life through various lenses, including your child.  Helping them to see life through a different lens, when appropriate, is a critical component of their personal development.

Unfortunately, the default lens for many is the powerless lens.  Essentially, we give our power away to other people and things as a result of our complaining or blaming.  For example, when your child complains about their bedtime or the amount of homework they have, it’s important for them to realize that they are trying to control something that is out of their control.  For more information on how to change your lens, click here.

It’s important to validate your child’s emotions.

As a parent, it’s easy to look at our children and wonder why they are thinking or feeling a certain way, which typically comes from a place of judgment, not empathy.  Rather than questioning why your child is feeling angry or upset, simply validate it by saying, “I can tell that you’re angry about this.”  This statement alone will let them know that you care about their feelings and they will be more likely to open up to you in the future.  To learn more about empathic listening, click here.  

Make gratitude a daily practice.

There are countless scientific studies which have proven that gratitude and happiness are directly proportionate.  In other words, the more time we spend in gratitude, the happier we become.  Make it a daily practice to share gratitude with each other.  Whether it’s at the dinner table or in the car on the way to school, modeling gratitude for your child is tremendously powerful.  To learn more about the power of gratitude, click here.     

Please know that attempting to be a perfect parent is akin to chasing the wind.  We are all going to make mistakes on this journey.  In fact, it’s often the mistakes that guide us in a new, more effective direction.  I encourage you to constantly seek opportunities to add to your arsenal of parenting tools and strategies.    

If you’d like to learn more about my parenting workshops, please email me at mike@kaleidoeye.com.    

When you fuel your passion, your paycheck will grow.

photoWhat is the most common question recent college graduates ask each other, after starting their first real world jobs?

While I don’t have a specific answer, I can’t imagine the questions have changed much since the time I graduated 20 years ago.   

It was the fall of 1994 and I was just a few months removed from the pinnacle of my educational journey; college graduation.  Football season was starting and I was excited to attend my first game as an alumnus, eager to reconnect with several of my classmates.  As the tailgating festivities ensued, I couldn’t help but notice the nature of our conversations.  In years prior, we would talk about various classes we were taking, future Spring Break trips, or cute girls who caught our eye.  On this day, however, the conversation was dominated by two questions.

Where are you working? 

How much are you making?

The first question was almost obligatory as it served as a natural segue way into the all-important money question. 

As a recent hire with a rental car company as a management trainee, I found myself on the low end in comparison to other salaries.  I knew in my heart that I wasn’t defined by a salary, but my head (or should I say my ego) informed me otherwise.  In that moment, I let my ego win and I set out on a journey to fuel my paycheck, not my passion.  I had a tremendous passion for teaching and coaching, but I suppressed it in order to achieve salary rank amongst my classmates.  After all, those who were making the most money, seemed to be the most happy. 

Fast forward 20 years and after spending the early part of my professional journey chasing a paycheck, I’m grateful that I finally listened to the wisdom of my heart and eventually followed my passion. 

Below are three of the most important messages I would share with any recent (or soon to be) college graduate regarding their future.

More money does not equal more happiness. 

Despite all of the images you see in the media (fancy cars, luxurious homes, lavish vacations), none of these guarantee happiness.  Your ego will tell you that you need to find the highest paying job in order to be happy.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  As one Princeton study points out, beyond a certain salary (approximately $75,000), which gives you the financial means to meet your basic needs, there is no correlation between money and happiness.  The fact is, happiness has more to do with the quality of your relationships than it does the size of your paycheck.  Sure the fancy cars and luxurious homes will provide you with temporary happiness, which can only be replaced with the next best thing, but is that the kind of happiness you want?

Fuel your passion.

Your passions are gifts from God, so fuel them.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to move away from your gifts and follow whatever is trendy or hip.  Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, identify a problem in the world that is near to your heart and decide how you can use your passion to create a solution.  You may need to start this journey with a position that pays a very meager salary, but take solace in knowing that when you fuel your passion, your paycheck will grow.    

Invest in yourself. 

While I’m certain you gained a tremendous amount of knowledge over the past several years, which contributed greatly to your academic development, I encourage you to invest in self-development.  I’m guessing that you didn’t spend a whole lot of time in your college classes learning about emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, or empathic listening.  These are just a few of the “soft skills” that will give you an edge in any work environment.  You can have all of the knowledge in the world, but what employers really want is someone who can manage themselves.

At the end of your life, it won’t be a balance sheet that will consume your thoughts.  You will likely reflect on the relationships you developed, the value you added to others, and the contribution you made to the world. 

I believe in you. 

Good vs. Great

untitledHave you ever considered how much you use the word good in your daily conversations?  What does it really mean, anyway? 

Think about the last time someone asked you how your day was.  What was your response?  Did you happen to use the word good, by chance?

Think about the last time you dropped off your kids at school.  What were the last words you said to them as they left the car?  Did you happen to say, “Have a good day.”

When I work with any group of students, the very first question I ask is, “How is everyone doing?”  As you can probably guess, their answer is almost always one word – good.  Even more, it’s often said in a very monotone voice.    

It’s safe to say that you’ve frequently used the word good, perhaps without even knowing it. 

I want to make it very clear that my intention with this blog is not to be the word police.  I’m not interested in telling you what words must be a part of your vocabulary.  That is ultimately your choice.  I do, however, want to heighten your awareness with regard to the tremendous power of our words.

Do me a favor and say the word good out loud several times.  As you do this, I want you to recognize the energy you feel as you say it.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most energetic and 1 being almost apathetic, how would you rate your energy?

Now I want you to say the word great out loud several times.  Again notice the energy you feel as you say the word.  How did you rate your energy this time?

I’m guessing that your second number was higher.  Am I right? 

Let’s examine why this is the case.  Every emotion word in the English language, of which there are close to 3,000, carries with it a certain amount of energy.  Some words such as hate, anger, or frustration evoke negative energy.  Other words such as loving, joyful, and optimistic evoke positive energy.  Then there are words like content or relaxed which can be neutral in nature.  Depending on the tone of our voice when we say the words, the level of energy can be amplified. 

What kind of energy does the word good invoke?  I would say that it’s neutral.  

A central theme in my teachings is that the lens through which we view the world will greatly affect the quality of our lives.  These lenses are made up of words, which ultimately shape our thoughts.  Our thoughts influence our feelings, and our feelings influence our actions.  Simply put, everything begins with the words we choose. 

Let’s apply this to a practical setting.  Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off at school.  Whether they walk them to the gate or say their goodbyes from the car, the standard parting words are “Have a good day.”   

Considering the word good contains neutral energy, I’d like to share some other alternatives that will leave your child feeling much more empowered and full of positive energy.

Shine your light today.

I overheard my wife saying this to our 7 year-old as she left the house a few weeks ago, which actually prompted this blog. 

Not only does this statement use the words like shine and light, which both evoke positive energy, it also empowers the child to play an active role in their day.  It reaffirms to them that who they are (their light) greatly influences others.

Make it a fabulous day.

Aside from the word fabulous, which is much more meaningful than good, this statement implies that it’s ultimately the child’s choice as to whether or not the day will be fabulous or not.  It puts them in the driver’s seat of their day.  Regardless of whether or not the circumstances of the day turn out the way they’d like them to, the way they see the day (their lens) is entirely within their control. 

Choose happiness today.    

Similar to the first statement, these words imply that happiness is a choice, not a destination.  Let’s face it, every parent wants their child to be happy.  However, we often support the notion of happiness as a destination by giving them frequent rewards for things like grades or behavior.  These rewards can serve as a destination in a child’s mind, which leaves happiness as something they have to get, rather than create.

By my calculations, every parent will send their child(ren) off to school approximately 180 times a year.  That’s 180 opportunities for you to plant seeds of positivity and optimism in their minds as they begin their day.  I challenge you to reconsider the words you use. 

Have a good day. 

Oh wait, I mean, MAKE it a FABULOUS day and remember to SHINE your LIGHT, all the while recognizing that HAPPINESS really is a CHOICE.