Archive for the 'Changing Habits' Category

Do smart phones decrease empathy?


[C]onversation is the most human and humanizing thing that we do. It’s where empathy is born, where intimacy is born because of eye contact, because we can hear the tones of another person’s voice, sense their body movements, sense their presence. It’s where we learn about other people. —Sherry Turkle

One of the greatest gifts we can give others is our full attention.

Sherry Turkle underscores that point by reminding us that relationships are formed from and strengthened by careful attention to the nuances of communication, particularly during the earliest years of life. Such interactions are the substance of strong relationships for young and old alike.

Smart phones challenge our ability to offer our full attention to others.

Turkle agrees. “Eighty-nine percent of Americans,” she notes, “say that during their last social interaction, they took out a phone, and 82 percent said that it deteriorated the conversation they were in. Basically, we’re doing something that we know is hurting our interactions.”

Turtle adds: ”If you put a cell phone into a social interaction, it does two things: First, it decreases the quality of what you talk about, because you talk about things where you wouldn’t mind being interrupted, which makes sense, and, secondly, it decreases the empathic connection that people feel toward each other.”

Do you agree: Does the mere presence of a smart phone (or other screens) interfere with the quality of attention and conversation?

Being more compassionate with ourselves


[S]elf-directed compassion triggers the same physiological systems as receiving care from other people. Treating ourselves in a kind and caring way has many of the same effects as being supported by others…. Just as importantly, self-compassion eliminates the additional distress that people often heap on themselves through criticism and self-blame. —Mark Leary

While we cannot always control the things that happen to us, we do have a great deal of influence over how we respond to those things.

One of the best examples of that influence is the self-care we can give to ourselves during difficult times.

While many of us find it difficult to practice self-care, it is often as simple as extending to ourselves the same kindness and compassion we extend to others.

The fundamental question is: What kindness would I offer to others right now if they were experiencing my challenge, and how might I offer that caring to myself?

How do you or could you extend to yourself the kindness and caring you offer others?

Growth is optional


A simple but profound truth: Change is mandatory.

Buddhists would say the cause is “impermanence,” and they would add that human suffering is caused by resisting it.

Scientists might say the reason is entropy, which my dictionary defines as “the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe.”

While change is inevitable, learning and growth are optional.

I am thinking about the kind of learning and growth that takes us to the edge of our comfort zone and a step or two beyond.

Some people seem to lean into such learning as if it is a part of their DNA.

Others may grow because a significant change in their personal or professional lives pushes them into it, even late in their careers or lives.

But for every person who steps up to the challenge of significant change there are others whose default settings seem to be denial and resistance.

Which begs the question: What are the internal or external conditions under which people stay the same or grow?

Commonly-cited reasons are “grit” or “resilience” or a “sense of efficacy” or a “growth orientation.”

But that doesn’t explain why some people have those qualities and others don’t.

What is your experience—what nudges you toward meaningful growth rather than entropy?

Minimizing the negative effects of social media


I don’t have social media on my phone. The more time you spend in the stream of other people’s thoughts, the more impossible it is for you to have your own. You need space for yourself. – Yancey Strickler, Head of Community, Kickstarter

I recently saw a news item about a U.S. cinema chain that is considering allowing texting at some of its showings because some of its patrons find it difficult to refrain from texting during movies.

Digital media can be a powerful tool for communicating, creating, and learning. It can connect us to important ideas and to people who add value to our lives and work although we may never meet them face to face.

But digital media can also distract us from more important tasks and cause our brains to lose their ability to focus and to do demanding cognitive tasks that require sustained attention.

And it can also distract others who have the misfortune of being nearby, say, while attending a movie.

What do you do to maximize the benefits of social media while minimizing the negative effects of these tools on your brain and on your personal and professional lives?

Intentionality and habits


People do things because they want to (intentions). Their motivation comes from a desire to create something that does not now exist.

People do things because they believe they have to (obligations). Their motivation often comes from guilt.

And people do things because they have always done them that way (habits). Often those habits are long standing and were not consciously chosen, which means they may not support current intentions.

The world would be a better place, I believe, if

  • people did more things that were motivated by intention rather than obligation,
  • and if antiquated habits were replaced by those that were consciously chosen to serve intentions.

What do you think—are intentions and consciously-chosen habits trustworthy sources of guidance and energy?

Conversations for learning


Some of our most important learning occurs in conversations. And because learning is a prerequisite to sound decision making, good decisions are often preceded by good conversations.

Conversations for learning matter so much that virtually all meetings and even one-to-one discussions with colleagues, parents, and students within the school community should be designed to maximize learning.

Unfortunately, some leaders believe that effective leaders make decisions independently. Such decision making, they think, is a sign of decisiveness and strength.

For these leaders the purpose of meetings is to tell others about their decisions.

Their subordinates are so accustomed to a passive role in which they simply receive what their bosses tell them to think, say, and do that it may be hard for them to even imagine participating in conversations for learning and decision making.

But not all conversations are created equal.

Conversations for learning require: 

• Intentionality;

• Deeply-attentive listening;

• A willingness to go beneath the surface of conventional assumptions and understandings;

• Slowness that provides space for thinking and elaboration (think “wait time”);

• An openness to learning based on a deep respect for the experiences and perspectives of others; and

• A belief that everyone has something worthwhile to contribute….

How is it in your setting— are conversations for learning an essential part of professional learning and decision making, or are “conversations” more often monologues that communicate what has already been decided?

You already know enough…


You already know enough about good health to be healthier.

You already know enough about successful relationships to have more satisfying relationships in all parts of your life.

You already know enough about being a good teacher to be a better one.

You already know enough about being a good leader to be a better one.

There are, of course, important things for us to learn and a time for us to learn them.

Sometimes we know what is important for us to learn—we know what we don’t know. At other times we don’t know what we don’t know, which means it is essential that we place ourselves in uncomfortable situations that reveal those things to us (peer feedback, for instance).

But for the moment I encourage you to more consistently apply what you already know rather than continuously searching for new understandings that are not likely to be implemented.

Our lives and the lives of others will be better as a result.

Do you agree or disagree?

Happy Holidays, and my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2016!

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