One of the first skills that help us in our ability to make proactive decisions in life is the ability to discern between the things we can control, versus the things we cannot. We cannot choose the color of our skin at birth, or even the region of the world into which we are born, so there’s no point in wasting valuable energy and emotion on the aspects of who we are that are unchangeable. Instead, we should focus our energy on embracing who we are, while simultaneously finding our niche in the world so we can influence positive change.
In my own life, I can reflect on countless experiences where my older sister made poor decisions. I also watched her suffer the consequences of those decisions, which often led to heartbreak in my family. I quickly learned that I am responsible for my own choices in life, and that I must choose wisely. That zoomed-out lens has saved my life. Each day is a gift, so I must constantly remind myself to focus on the positive and not the negative.
In order to avoid being a reactive person, or one who chooses to “celebrate the problems” of life, I will choose to respond to each negative comment I hear with a more positive, solution-oriented answer. We are unable to focus on the road ahead if we are constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. I will hold myself accountable to watching my own thoughts, as thoughts become words, and words become actions. I want to stay on a path that will maximize my positive influence on those around me, from students to colleagues. This means that I will need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my colleagues, believing in the best of everyone, and diplomatically refocusing every negative situation into a more positive one.
This week was our first week back to school, and I have the pleasure of teaching a 10th grade AVID class (in addition to several math classes). Although I enjoy teaching all of my students, teaching AVID is exceptional because I get to focus on positive habits that lead to successful students who are prepared for both college and career. In teaching Habit 1: Be Proactive from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, I chose to use an acronym that I learned from Boy Scouts when I was 14 years old. This is S.T.O.P., which stands for Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. STOP is primarily the tool used when a camper is lost and needs to regain focus. Rather than being reactive, one should be proactive in resolving the situation. When we stop, we physically protect ourselves from venturing further away from our origin. When we think and observe, we allow ourselves to focus on where we’ve been and other key landmarks. Then we plan out our actions that will lead us back home. These skills are directly transferrable to our daily encounters with other struggles in life, and my students could relate.
My students and I engaged in a conversation about what it means to be proactive versus reactive. They began to talk badly about certain people in their lives who have made poor decisions, but I was able to refocus the conversation to reiterate the importance of watching our thoughts, in that it’s important we stay positive in order to influence positive change. We ended the conversation in agreement that our actions speak volumes, so it’s important for us to walk-the-walk rather than talk-the-talk in all we say and do. Edification is one our monthly theme words, so I’m encouraged to think that my students will proactively seek out ways to edify their peers and shun the negativity that will come their way.