A heart modification plan

IMG_6543As a former classroom teacher, I had my fair share of challenging students.  Whether it was the child who was constantly searching for new ways to draw attention to himself, or the occasional student who suffered from a severe case of “rightitis” (always needing to be right) and consequently argued until she was blue in the face, the common denominator was always a series of behaviors that disrupted the entire classroom culture. 

Like most teachers, when these behaviors escalated to a level of serious disruption, I sought the help of other school staff (i.e. administration, psychologists, etc…) in hopes that we could somehow curtail these behaviors.  The end result was typically the development of something called a behavior intervention plan.  Consisting of various behavior modifications (i.e. desk location, task chart, etc…), the ultimate goal of the plan was to create an environment that would assist the child in making appropriate choices.  Unfortunately, at least in my experience, the results were often short term and in many cases the behavior plan was simply another game for the student to manipulate, or take advantage of.  Even though the data may have suggested improvement, I knew that there was still something missing.  If a child’s behavior was a puzzle, I was determined to find the missing piece. 

Today, several years removed from the classroom, I believe with all of my heart that I’ve found that missing piece.  Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with a behavior modification plan and everything to do with a heart modification plan.  You see, everything we do (our behavior) is fueled by how we feel (our emotions).  Furthermore, everything we feel is influenced by the way we think.  While I spent years as a classroom teacher trying to modify behaviors, I realize now that while these strategies were well intentioned, my efforts were akin to whacking a weed in my backyard.  If the weed symbolizes unacceptable behaviors in our students, it’s the root of the weed that represents the thoughts and emotions underneath it.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog about the invisible backpack that all students bring to school each day.  This emotional backpack, which often takes a backseat to traditional curriculum and academic rigor, contains invisible thoughts and emotions that play a tremendous role in a child’s behavior.  As teachers and parents, we may think we know what’s in that backpack, but in many cases we have no idea. 

Unlike a traditional backpack, which is emptied each morning and filled again at the end of the school day, I believe that it’s absolutely crucial that we begin to address the power of the emotional backpack.  Thankfully, with the relatively new field of emotional intelligence, it’s now possible to provide all students with tools and strategies that will help them manage their thoughts and emotions in an effective way.  These tools and strategies will serve as the heart modifications I referred to earlier in this piece. 

I invite you to watch a video I created, which explains emotional intelligence in a bit more detail.  Please join me in making emotional intelligence a part of EVERY child’s education.       

Are you afraid of success?

imagesWhat are your deepest fears? 

If you’re like most, your list might include one of the following – death, rejection, public speaking, or failure. 

I’m guessing that none of you had fear of success on your list.  After all, why would we fear success when it’s something that we all strive for?

Before I attempt to answer that question, I invite you to read a powerful quote by Marianne Williamson.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Now back to my original question – Why would anyone fear success?  I believe the answer is rooted in the lies that we tell ourselves (and believe).   You see, from the time we first started to use and understand language (when we were still in diapers), our minds have worked feverishly to make meaning of the world around us.  Put another way, the human mind is a meaning making machine.

In order to attach meaning to something, there must be a set of underlying beliefs which serve as a filter, if you will.  Here’s where the lies come in.  Many of the beliefs that fuel our meaning making machine are a result of past experiences, not current reality.  Let me give you a fictitious example.

Joey grew up in a family that constantly worried about everything.  Whenever he would have the slightest illness, his parents would worry that it was something more serious and promptly call the doctor.  Even though each small illness would eventually resolve, the worry never seemed to subside.  It was as if one worry snowballed into another.  After years and years of exposure to these health related worries, despite the fact that nothing was ever seriously wrong, Joey began to develop a belief that “Something is wrong with me.”    

Even though reality continued to reveal that nothing was wrong, his mind operated under the belief that there was in fact something wrong, so he naturally looked for evidence to support this belief.  Can you see that Joey was believing a lie? 

When Joey became an adult, he unconsciously used this belief to sabotage his own success.  The operative word here is unconscious.  He didn’t even know he was doing it because the belief was so deeply rooted that it acted on its own, outside of his awareness.    

Finally, after several visits with a therapist, Joey was able to uncover this belief and finally bring it to a place of awareness.  Unfortunately, just being aware of it didn’t seem to change much.  It still controlled him.  Until one day, when his therapist asked him, “What are you gaining by holding on to this false belief?”  Eventually, he realized that he was using the belief as a form of sabotage.  More specifically, a means of sabotaging his own success.  You see, by maintaining this belief, he was able to stay in his comfort zone and never really take any risk.  Simply put, he feared success more than he did any health concern. 

Can you relate to Joey’s story?  Are you sabotaging your own success with a deeply held belief that simply isn’t true?  If so, I invite you to find a coach or therapist who can help you do the work to uncover these limiting beliefs.  You’ll be glad you did.      

You won’t find your identity in the world.

untitledA few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to speak to the high school student ministry at Arizona Community Church.  As I typically work with elementary and middle school aged students, I jumped at the chance to share with the “big” kids. 

Although I’m a retired teenager, I remember vividly what it was like to be one.  It seems as though I spent most of my high school years on a daily adventure of navigating the emotional roller coaster.  Whether it was the highs of athletic accomplishments or the lows of relationships gone bad, normalcy didn’t seem to be a common theme. 

So, as I prepared to speak to this group of teens, knowing full well that many of them were currently riding the same emotional roller coaster, I landed on a single word that would serve as a foundation for our discussion – identity.

The dictionary defines identity as the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.  Ironically, this definition magnifies the core of a teen’s struggles – they often don’t know who they are.  I know I certainly didn’t, which explains why I was always comparing myself to everyone else.

Below is an open letter I wrote to any pre-teen or teen who is on a quest of figuring out who they are. 

Dear teen,

Who are you?

No, you didn’t read that wrong.  I just asked what appears to be one of the simplest questions ever.  Well, if you answered it by saying your first and last name, then in fact it was quite simple.  Consider for a moment that your name doesn’t even begin to describe who you are.

For many of you reading this, you probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time considering your identity, or who you are.  I have to admit that I didn’t spend much time thinking about it either.  As a result, I always felt like I was drifting, or becoming who other people thought I should be.  Put another way, I spent more time moving in the direction of who I wasn’t.  Can you relate?

The Bible says in Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

You see, of all the stages you’ll go through in life, your high school years will present the biggest challenge in terms of staying true to yourself and not conforming to the world.  Peer pressure is all around you and I know it’s tempting to just give in to the constant pressures that surround you.

If you truly want to renew your mind, then it’s essential that you arm yourself with the knowledge of these world patterns. 

Below are three things to consider on your journey to discovering your identify.  Each of them represents a roadblock, if you will, that can deter you from honoring your true path.   

You are NOT your past experiences. 

While your past may include several difficult, embarrassing, or downright horrific moments, they will never possess the power to define who you are.   

There’s a story of a man named W Mitchell, who survived two potential life threatening accidents.  After suffering burns over 60% of his body following a motorcycle accident, just two years later, he was involved in an airplane crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  Mitchell could’ve easily developed an identity of “I don’t matter anymore.”  Instead, he immediately began to focus on all the things he could still do, such as speak.  Now he travels around the world and speaks to audiences about the power of perseverance.  His identity is one of power and faith, not weakness and fear.

I invite you to look back on one of your most difficult life experiences and ask the following question, “How can I use this as a source of strength?” 

You are NOT who other people say you are.

Let’s face it.  OPO’s (Other People’s Opinions) are part of your everyday existence.  Everywhere you go, someone will always be interested in sharing their opinion with you.  Often, this opinion involves their thoughts about you. 

Here’s what you need to remember.  An opinion is not the same thing as a fact.  Unfortunately, it’s easy to confuse the two, especially when others words are hurtful or critical in nature.  Imagine that your mind is like a beautiful 5-star resort, the most precious real estate that you own.  When someone else shares their unwelcome opinion with you, it’s not necessary for you to give them a key to a room in your resort (mind).  You can reserve those rooms for people who want to lift you up or inspire you. 

Everything you see or hear will ultimately shape the way you think about yourself.

You don’t need to look very far to find examples of the incredible power of the media on our identities.  Think about it this way.  Whenever you watch a television show, listen to music, or look at your social media news feed, each of these forms of media have an invisible ripple effect on your mind.  In other words, they influence the way you think about yourself (positively or negatively). 

Let’s take social media for example.  Imagine sitting down to look at your Instagram and you happen to notice that one of your close friends has posted a picture with several other friends at a local music concert.  You immediately start to wonder why you weren’t invited.  Did I do something wrong?  Did I say something to her that bothered her?  No one will ever hang out with me now.  Before you know it, the snowball of negativity begins.  Can you see how a simple picture can shape the way we think?    

Now that you’ve carefully considered a few of the patterns of this world, I invite you to spend some time reflecting on the question I asked you earlier – Who are you? 

Remember, you won’t find the answer to this question by looking out there in the world.  You must look within and determine who God made you to be.  It’s a journey you won’t ever regret.     

As for me, I am a spark that ignites positive, sustainable change in the lives of others. 


Mike Sissel

P.S.  I care about you!

Success is failure turned inside out

untitledA few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of setting our sails.

As a follow up to that blog, I’d like to share a powerful poem that will hopefully provide you with a new perspective on the winds of life.

“When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.


Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—

You may succeed with another blow.


Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.


Success is failure turned inside out—

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”


Set your sails

quote-Jim-Rohn-it-is-the-set-of-the-sails-166996“It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.”

-Jim Rohn

It’s safe to say that everyone reading this has experienced some kind of inclement weather in their life.  Whether it’s the loss of a job or a family illness, the wind seems to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times. 

Alright, enough about the wind.  As Mr. Rohn clearly illustrates, we don’t have to be victims to our circumstances.  Rather than giving our power to the wind, we can learn to set our sails in any kind of weather.

So, what does he mean when he refers to the set of our sails?  Some would say that he’s talking about our behavior.  In other words, if we want to learn to set our sails in any given set of circumstances, we need to practice new behaviors.  For example, instead of complaining about a job loss, we should pound the pavement and start looking for a new job.  It only makes sense that if we change our behavior, we’ll begin to see positive results, right?

Unfortunately, one of the fundamental flaws of any behavior modification is to overlook the fuel that drives each of our behaviors; our thoughts.  You see, every choice we make is rooted in the way we think.  In other words, our thinking precedes our doing.  Having said this, it makes perfect sense that in order to set our sails we must first focus on the sailor, or the one who’s doing the thinking.

Unfortunately, when the wind is blowing in our lives, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of what psychologists refer to as cognitive distortion.  This essentially means that our thoughts interpret reality in an inaccurate way.

Below are two fairly common examples of cognitive distortions, followed by a more effective way of thinking.

Catastrophizing – Turning the molehill into a mountain

Have you ever taken a relatively minor negative event (i.e. someone didn’t respond to your text) and imagined all sorts of disasters resulting from the event (i.e. they don’t care about me anymore)?  This is the essence of catastrophizing.  Some refer to it as worst case scenario thinking.

I’ve heard it said before that an active imagination is both a blessing and a curse.  The blessing can lead to all sorts of innovative ways of thinking, whereas the curse can lead to worst case scenario thinking. 

How do you nip catastrophic thinking in the bud?  The first step is to recognize that your thoughts are NOT reality.  When you have a catastrophic thought, instead of buying it, try being with it.  It might sound like this, “My imagination is at it again.  I’ll let him join the party, but I’m not going to entertain him.” 

Emotional Reasoning – If I’m feeling a certain way, it must be real

Have you ever felt a sense of anxiety and immediately made a connection in your mind that if you’re feeling anxiety, something must be wrong.  After all, your feelings don’t lie right?  Wrong.

As a rule of thumb, it pays to be rather skeptical with regard to the validity of your feelings.  Your feelings can often be misleading.  Fear is a perfect example.  Think of how many times you’ve feared something, only to realize that your fear was completely irrational.  If we used emotional reasoning with our fears, it would be rather easy to sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. 

How do you nip emotional reasoning in the bud?  First of all, it helps to recognize that your feelings are NOT hard evidence for the way things are.  As is the case with catastrophic thinking, it’s important to practice being with your emotions.  It might sound like this, “I’m having a feeling of anxiety, but feelings come and go, so I’ll just let it run its course.”   

Mr. Rohn reminds us that it’s our thoughts, not our circumstances, which determine our direction in life.  I invite you to put on your sailor cap and practice navigating the seas in a new, more empowering way. 

Four Essential Questions

imagesIf you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ll know that my passion for empowering youth extends far beyond the classroom walls.  Although the majority of my work is in an education setting, I also have the great fortune of sharing leadership principles with young athletes throughout the state of Arizona.  I refer to this process as preparation for The Game Within The Game.

A few weeks ago, I met with a large group of elite gymnasts at Gold Medal Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona.  As part of their season kick-off, my goal was to provide them with four essential questions that would serve as a reflective tool throughout the season.  Like most of the material I share, these questions are equally important to non-athletes as well.  Whether it’s school or sports, self-reflection is an essential component of success.

Below are the Four Essential Questions that every young athlete (or student) can use as a reflective tool throughout the year.

QUESTION 1:  Are my thoughts aligned with my goals?

Simply put, your thoughts influence everything you do.  While it’s important to have a set of goals, it’s equally important to align your thoughts with those goals.  Think of your goal as an ideal destination (i.e. perfect score in a meet).  In order to get to this destination, you’ll need two things: a vehicle and fuel.  You are the vehicle and your thoughts are the fuel.  Thankfully, you get to decide what kind of fuel to use.

Gold Medal Fuel (empowering)

I choose to…

I can’t, yet.

I’ll do it.

My coaches just want to make me better.

No Medal Fuel (toxic)

I have to…

I can’t.

I’ll try.

My coaches are always picking on me.

QUESTION 2:  Is my effort consistent, regardless of who’s watching?

The way you practice is the way you’ll compete.  The true mark of an athlete is their work ethic outside of the spotlight.  It’s easy to shine when others are watching, but the effort you demonstrate when no one is watching will ultimately shape your success. 

Gold Medal Effort (disciplined)

I do what the coaches ask.

I touch every line.

I’m self-motivated.

No Medal Effort (conditional)

I only do what I feel like doing.

I touch most lines.

I need my coaches to motivate me.

QUESTION 3:  Am I embracing (and learning from) my losses or failures?

Every successful athlete has failed at some point in their athletic career.  Some are paralyzed by their failures, while others use them as springboards toward future success.  Simply put, the way you “see” your failures will determine your level of success.

Gold Medal Mind (empowering)

What can I do differently next time?

I want to be better than I was the day before.

A medal (or place) doesn’t define me as a gymnast.

No Medal Mind (toxic)

I can’t believe I did that.

Why do I keep losing to her?

I can’t seem to win anything.

QUESTION 4:  Am I influencing my team in a positive way?

While your thoughts influence your individual success, your actions influence the team’s success.  You have the power to make each other greater by focusing on the questions above.  Your attitude and your effort are contagious.  Do you want your teammates to catch yours?

Gold Medal Influence (positive)

I’m aware that my words and actions matter. 

I show others the proper attitude and effort.

I pay attention to the little things.

No Medal Influence (negative)

My words and actions don’t matter.

I tell others about proper attitude and effort.

I only do what I have to do.

If your child participates in athletics and you’d like to learn more about my Game Within The Game workshops for youth sports teams, please contact me at mike@kaleidoeye.com.

Who will you be this year?

imagesWhich of the following statements do you most identify with?

A.  I believe in the power of New Year’s Resolutions and set them each year.

B.  I believe in the power of New Year’s Resolutions but rarely set them.

C.  I don’t even like to hear the words New Year’s Resolution.

If your answer is C, bear with me.  I’m confident you’ll find some value in my unique approach to resolutions.

I won’t bore you with the statistics regarding the overall success rate of New Year’s Resolutions, of which there are many.  Let’s just say they aren’t very encouraging. 

So, rather than attempting to convince you that I have the secret sauce to finally adhering to resolutions, I’d like to introduce you to a new strategy that I believe is much more effective.  Unlike the traditional goals of weight loss and increased finances, which are often fueled by will power and eventually succumb to old habits, this strategy looks at who you need to be in order to get what you want.   

Wanting to lose weight and increase your finances are admirable goals, but they both fall into the what category.  Think of them as destinations.  We all know that without a destination, your goal is futile.  Unfortunately, choosing a destination is where most people stop.  They simply declare what they are going to accomplish in the new year and hope that the temporary momentum (and adrenaline) will carry them.  That is until they crash into the proverbial wall of reality.  If you identified with statement C above, it’s likely that you’ve run into this wall one too many times.  I know I have. 

Let’s look beyond the what part of a resolution for a moment and consider the most critical component, which is who you need to be.  You see, our character influences every choice we make.  Of course we all possess a certain amount of will power, which allows us to make decisions that may not be consistent with our character.  However, at the end of the day, character always prevails.

Imagine that Julie has a resolution of getting into better shape.  Immediately after securing a gym membership, her will power kicks in and she becomes a gym fanatic for the next three weeks.  Unfortunately, perseverance has never been a part of her character, so when the complexity of life slowly creeps in, the will power she once had is suddenly replaced with her true character.  Before she knows it, the gym is a distant memory.  Sound familiar? 

Imagine if Julie had spent some time considering who she needed to be in order to achieve her goal.  With a little bit of self-awareness, it’s likely she would identify perseverance as an area of weakness.  Therefore, instead of simply declaring “I’m going to get in better shape,” she could add the character trait of perseverance to her mental arsenal.

I truly believe that if you simply focus on who you’d like to be in the new year, you’ll begin to accomplish goals that you were unable to in the past.

Here’s the application part of the blog.  I want you to spend some time in self-awareness over the next day or two, carefully considering the character traits that are areas of opportunity for you.  Once you’ve done this, choose one word that seems to surface to the top.  Perhaps you’re like Julie and you tend to fold in the midst of challenges.  Your word might be perseverance or grit. 

Once you’ve chosen your word, I want you to imagine looking at it on December 31, 2016, as you reflect on the previous year.  Now answer this question – What is the sentence that captures the essence of who you were throughout the year? 

Let me share mine with you.  My word is peace.  As I imagine thinking about this word at the end of the year, here’s the sentence that really resonates. 

I trusted the vine to work in and through me so that I would bear the fruit of peace. 

Mine happens to be inspired by one of my favorite bible verses (John 15:5). 

Here are some other examples.

I remained optimistic in the midst of challenges.

I kept a consistent work ethic throughout the year. 

I listened empathically to the loved ones in my life.

Once you’ve established your New Year’s sentence, I invite you to place it somewhere visible and use it as a reminder of who you’ve chosen to be this year.  Remember, in order to get what you want, you need to be aware of who you want to be.  

Happy New Year!

What did Steve Harvey teach us?

184c5bd077e6d93d74957aac625851fcBy now, most of you are probably aware of Steve Harvey’s much maligned mistake at the conclusion of last weekend’s Miss Universe pageant.  If you’re not, I’ll give you the abbreviated version.  With only two contestants remaining in the competition, he announced the wrong winner on live television.  While the supposed winner donned her crown, Mr. Harvey grabbed the microphone and immediately admitted his mistake, thus handing over the crown to the real winner.    

Not surprisingly, immediately following this live television blunder, the social media world became a virtual roast of Steve Harvey.  As you well know, it’s easy to be a critic from behind the safety of your computer screen. 

The purpose of this blog is not to condemn those who made him the butt of their jokes, but rather to highlight the way in which he responded to his mistake. 

Rather than walking off the stage and letting someone else make the announcement, he immediately owned it with a sincere apology and sought to clean it up by making right his wrong. 

This is precisely what I teach students every day.  When you make a mistake, hiding behind it with an excuse shield or reaching for the nearest blame thrower only compounds the problem and severs trust with those affected by the mistake. 

Let’s face it.  We all make mistakes – some more egregious than others.  The only difference is that our blunders aren’t seen by a live television audience of millions.  I would argue that if they were, in an effort to save face, our default response would often be to reach for the excuse shield or blame thrower.  After all, mistakes are bad, right?  No, mistakes are part of the human experience.      

While owning a mistake often takes a great deal of courage and requires a certain level of vulnerability, it’s the only way to gain wisdom and insight moving forward. 

I know very little about Steve Harvey’s character, but based on his response to last weekend’s mistake, I can tell you that authenticity and humility are an integral part of his value system. 

By the way, if you want to read about an ineffective response to a mistake, search for the name Odell Beckham Jr.

Are you willing to unlearn what you’ve learned?


Last week I wrote about the desperate need in education to look beyond the Common Core and into the Human Core, or the social and emotional well-being of all students.  While there are countless non-academic competencies that are often left out of a standard school curriculum, I would argue that the most glaring absence is in the area of social and emotional intelligence.

I’d like to introduce you to an emotional intelligence objective that may seem counterintuitive at first glance, but serves as a necessary component of social and emotional growth.

Students will demonstrate a willingness to unlearn what they’ve learned.  

Most of you are probably familiar with the work of Michaelangelo, considered by many to be one of the greatest artists of all time.  Each year millions of tourists flock to the Italian city of Florence to see Michaelangelo’s greatest masterpiece, the Statue of David.  Upon its completion in 1504, this 17 ft. tall statue, with its incredible precision and overall beauty, generated an immediate buzz amongst the townspeople.  Many were left wondering how Michaelangelo was able to create a sculpture of this magnitude, and with so much detail, out of what was once a huge slab of marble.  When asked this question, Michaelangelo would smile and humbly reply, “Actually, it was quite simple.  I didn’t create David, you see.  David already existed concealed within the stone.  All I had to do was chip away at what wasn’t David.”

His response serves as a perfect metaphor for the process of unlearning that I mentioned earlier.

When I look into the eyes of toddlers (1-3 years old), I often see a world of infinite possibility and an unbridled curiosity for the world around them.  Thoughts of doubt, shame, or guilt don’t even exist in their minds.  Because they haven’t learned these concepts, the idea of not being able to do something is a foreign one.  If you have a child, you know this all too well.  How many times did he/she try to climb out of the crib, despite your countless instructions not to?

Fast forward 7-10 years to the age of most of the students I work with.  Why is it that many of these students exhibit behaviors that are consistent with low self-esteem?  Why don’t they possess the same resiliency and absolute belief that was a trademark of their toddler years?  The answer is simple.  Throughout childhood, each of us received an education (directly or indirectly) with regard to our limitations.  In other words, we learned who we could not be and what we could not do.  Whether it was a television show that conveyed a message of inferiority or a friend who told you that you wouldn’t amount to anything, these messages ultimately serve as learning experiences which often lead to limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough.”  While there is clearly no truth in this statement, it’s easy to accept it as the truth and subsequently use it to shape a future of doubt, guilt, or shame.

Now let’s apply the metaphor in the story of Michaelangelo’s response to the creation of David.  It’s clear that the finished product was a thing of absolute beauty and brilliance.  However, let me remind you that Michaelangelo referred to this magnificent sculpture as something that was already concealed in the stone; it already existed.  His job was to chip away at everything that wasn’t David.  Just as Michaelangelo was able to chip away at the various layers of marble that represented who David wasn’t, we too can chip away, or unlearn, the various layers that prevent us from achieving our true potential.  We are not doubt, fear, guilt, discouragement, or suffering.  These all originated in the mind as a response to outside stimulus; we learned them.  The unlearning process begins with a commitment to self-discovery and a willingness to change a set of beliefs that quite honestly have been running on auto-pilot for years.

What thoughts do you have that may be holding you back?  Consider for a moment that you’ve spent years learning (and reinforcing) these thoughts, so it may seem like they’re etched in your mind forever.  Thankfully, this is far from the truth.  I invite you to do as Michaelangelo did and start chipping away at who you’re not (limiting beliefs).  Eventually, you’ll uncover your beauty and brilliance.  The same beauty and brilliance you’ve possessed your entire life.

We must think beyond just the Common Core.

incrediblejoy2Whether you have a school-aged child or not, I’m quite certain that you’re familiar with the Common Core initiative.  Launched nationwide in 2009 as a means of collectively defining expectations for what every child should know and be able to do when they graduate from high school, there continues to be much debate about the efficacy of this initiative.

While I certainly have my own opinions on this topic, the purpose of this blog is not to partake in the debate about whether or not Common Core is working, but rather to introduce you to another core that unfortunately takes a back seat in a large number of classrooms throughout the country.  I call it the Human Core.

Unlike the pages and pages of Common Core objectives, which are academic in nature and primarily aimed at career readiness, the Human Core has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with preparing students for success in life. 

So what is this Human Core, you might ask?  Simply put, it’s the social and emotional well-being of every student that enters a classroom.  Put another way, it involves the process of educating the hearts of students, not just their minds.   

While millions of dollars are spent designing tests that measure the academic success of students, millions are lost in workplace productivity each day because of the lack of Human Core competencies on the part of employees.  

Preparedness for career is an admirable goal, but I believe that true success has much more to do with the Human Core than it does the Common Core.  Why then are we not addressing this in every classroom in America?

Below are three classes that I believe every child should be required to take, every year.  Not surprisingly, they all address the Human Core. 

Emotional Intelligence 101

In this class, students will have an opportunity to look introspectively at why they make the choices they make.  They’ll gain a deeper understanding of the power of thoughts and emotions and learn to manage both of these with proven tools and strategies, which are backed by scientific research.  Although class instruction will be administered by a teacher, students will be encouraged to create change from the inside-out by owning and applying the skills individually. 

Relationship Building 101 

In this class, students will examine the critical components of effective relationships.  Unlike the surface relationships they’re exposed to on social media, students will be asked to participate in real face to face communication, which requires the use of eye contact and empathic listening.  Conflict resolution strategies will also play an integral role in this class. 

Values 101 

In this class, students will not only be asked to examine the importance of core values, but more importantly learn how to live these values.  Using the tools and strategies they’ve learned in Emotional Intelligence 101, students will practice identifying various obstacles that are preventing them from living these values (i.e. peer pressure, negative thinking, media influence, etc…).  Students will also create a personal mission statement which will serve as a “values roadmap.”

My sincere hope is that the school of the future will place an equal emphasis on the Human Core as it does the Common Core.  

What other non-academic classes would you like to see added to school curriculums?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear your insights.