“Wrong Way” Need Not Apply

image: pixabay.com
image: pixabay.com

If you are starting something new as I currently am, you may find yourself running into obstacles you could not have easily anticipated beforehand. And some of those obstacles may prove to be downright discouraging. They seem to bear signs saying: Dead End, Wrong Way, or Do Not Enter. If you are typical rule follower as I tend to be, you may take those signs at face value and  do what appears to make sense: turn around, change course.  At present I see those signs in front of me and I’m thinking: how can I be sure that these signs apply to me? Maybe these signs are for cars but I’m a pedestrian.  What if these signs are outdated and no longer accurate?  How brave am I feeling right now?  What if I ignore this sign and keep on going?

That’s the abstract. The concrete version goes like this: my head is full of great ideas, plans, offerings. So I seek my audiences, find out who might have an interest and make the necessary pitches. And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Then I come up with more plans, more ideas, more offerings and share. The waiting for responses drags on. The silence and the waiting become my daily companions.  The waiting is my obstacle, the lack of response: a wrong way sign.

While I contemplate the potential accuracy of that “wrong way” sign,  I refer to this quote from The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist in which she explains the power of sufficiency as a mindset:

“Sufficiency resides in each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances. In our relationship with money, it is using it in a way which expresses our integrity; using it in a way that expresses value rather than determines value. Sufficiency is not a message about simplicity or about cutting back and lowering expectations. Sufficiency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive or aspire. Sufficiency is an act of generating, distinguishing, making known to ourselves the power and presence of our existing resources, and our inner resources. Sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need. There is always enough.” (p.74-75)

Wait a minute. In the scenario above  I have of course made my waiting a burden; something to be gotten through, endured.  I have given the obstacle and the signs their meaning.  And yet, waiting is a choice. Seeing the waiting as an obstacle or an opportunity is a choice.  I can choose to view and  use the time differently. I can create value in this time at my disposal rather than watch it evaporate untapped.  This assumed period of “inactivity” between creating and connecting becomes a resource.  If I dare to  “call forward” a sense of inner sufficiency, I create the opportunity for developing resources around me.  Once I realize that I am too curious to quit now, that is when and how those “wrong way,” “Dead End” and “Do Not Enter” signs lose their power over me and my judgment.  I let go of scarcity as my default mindset and press on.

To scarcity thinking, I hold up my own STOP sign and say:

I am waiting and I am productive.

I’m scared and I am enough.

I’m uncertain and I am enough.

I’m taking a risk and I am enough.

I fear that I won’t have, do, or be enough and yet, I am and continue to be enough.

Here I go.

(For those of you who following this as a process, it is an example of “reframing” which enables you to change the perspective on a topic and work from that new perspective.)




To the child who says “I can’t”

I respond: “you say, you can’t.”
I suggest, “you can’t YET and you can learn to.”
I may say, “You say you can’t and thank goodness, because that’s why I am here: to help you learn how to.”
I may say, “Show me what you can do and we’ll go from there.”
I may ask, “Exactly what is it that you say you can’t do?”
And then, “What would you like to do about that?”
Or “How can I help you with that?”
Later I may ask, “So how long have you been working on this?” (usually a matter of a few minutes). Therefore grounds for the next question: “How long do you think it might take to learn something like this?”
A reminder may be useful: “Do you remember when you learned how to … And now you can?”
Or I might admit: “You know what? I don’t know how to do that either right now. Who do you think could help us out with this?”

Always trying, always learning
Always trying, always learning

What I’ve learned from nearly two decades of teaching Physical Education: when kids tell us they can’t, they mean it. They are not making it up, they really feel like they can’t perform the skill, play the game the way that we’re asking them to do it at that moment. Whether it’s a temporary or  habitual “I can’t,” we need to acknowledge that child’s reality first before offering strategies to get beyond “I can’t.”

Encouraging a growth mindset by adding yet to their negative statement as in “You can’t skip rope yet” plants that seed of understanding that this particular state is temporary (although some of our kids may feel like it’s forever). Open questions (i.e., starting with how and what) invite students to problem solve and become masters of their own progress and send the message that we see them as capable, creative and whole.

“I can’t” is also an opportunity to remind kids of past challenges and successes. I sometimes raise the rhetorical question, “so when you were born, did you already know how to walk?” This tends to put their current struggle into perspective, often with a smile.

Truth be told, I actually appreciate every “I can’t” ever heard from a student. It reminds me and my students just what we are there for: to create something new together: a new competency, understanding, a new way of seeing ourselves. We’re all growing and changing the whole time. Welcoming and working with those inevitable “I can’t” moments in the process only serve to deepen the potential learning.

Body and Mindset Fitness

Move the body, move the mind, right?

Do a plank rather than walk the plank.


Push up rather than push back.

Grin and bear walk!

No need to be a crab; try to walk like one.

Give the term “turnaround” a fresh spin.

Alright friends, these are  just a few moves to boost the body while you’re changing your mindset.  None of these require much space or special equipment – just you, a flat surface and a few seconds.

Have fun with these. More to come.