true for you? true for me.

Writing is a tool for thinking.

This blog is a result of my thinking about behavior: my own and those I influence in my ‘day’ (ie. the behavior of students in a school setting). I learned over the years that other people’s behavior is ethically impossible to control, and can be quite difficult to manage. My thinking is timely as we head into a segment of time (generally labor day to memorial day) that is relevant to many who influence children in homes, schools, community: the school year.

As a self-care blog, this blog is about you. I share skills, tools, strategies, and ideas that support one’s ‘care’ of their thoughts and feelings. Thoughts tell a story. Feelings color your world. The two are interchangeable.

Thoughts and Feelings contribute to urges and impulses that guide behavior (ie. actions or inactions). When noticed early, urges/impulses/sensations are ‘felt’ experiences inside your body that can be noticed/observed/witnessed. I say to students: what does *mad* feel like? Can you feel it in your mind space, heart space, belly space, muscles, skin? Mind/heart/belly/muscles/skin cover broad areas of the nervous system that respond in ways that indicate how the body is receiving a message. A message of potential danger, threat, or unexpected/uncomfortable challenge will cue a survival response to fight, run, freeze, or play dead. Irrational behaviors in some settings may be appropriate behavior in other settings.

Using the term indicator to describe the usefulness of urges/impulses/sensations as communicators, can be likened to warning lights in a car or appliance. In the body, indicators noticed ahead of time allow space to be curious about what is happening. As the noticer of urges and impulses, one can visualize the future based on previous experience. A noticer of undesired patterns of behavior can intentionally choose a response that disrupts unhelpful patterns. Ex: An urge to argue, caught ahead of time, can indicate a reminder to slow down, soothe the response, and refocus because you have been here before and you’ve grown weary of the behavior ‘treadmill’.

One of the most useful ‘tips’ I find to be true for me is: get ahead of problematic or undesireable behavior. In school, a behavior plan begins with ‘Setting Events’. Setting Events are self-care gold. Consider: What are the things that when done ahead of time minimize the chances of the unhelpful behavior occurring?

Getting ahead of unhelpful behavior is backwards planning. Stephen Covey’s popular book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People locks in three essential steps or executive function skillsets: be proactive, begin with the end in mind, first things first.

Habit 1. Be Proactive: opposite of reactive. Skill: initiation.

Habit 2. Begin with the End in Mind: Future Planning. Visualizing desired outcomes. Skill: planning.

Habit 3. First Things First: What tasks need to be completed. Skill: task monitor, organization of materials.

Side note: Sarah Ward shares a planning tool specific to school environments named Get Ready.Do.Done. which includes the same steps. She ‘Be’s Proactive’ in asking: What is your plan? by starting with Done. What’s the Done goal? (begin with the end in mind). She then goes backward: What do you need to do to get done? (first things first). And lastly: What materials do you need to get ready? Sarah Ward creates the visual plan backward so that it can be executed forward.

As it relates to unhelpful behavior, we may use terms like ‘poor self control’ or lagging ‘impulse control’. In this lens, the behavior is in response to a stimulus. Stimulus 👉 response. When we get ahead of behavior, we flip this around by visualizing our desired response (ie. ‘end in mind’, ‘done’ goal) first. We then can anticipate a sequence of steps that support the desired result.

In context of this blog post, the sequence of steps that support desired results can be named Setting Events. (ie. sleep/rest, exercise, quiet time, meal planning, trip planning, car maintenance, laundry, cleaning, etc). James Clear would refer to this version of Setting Events as Atomic Habits – building foundational systems over time by mastering helpful behaviors a little at a time.

Getting ahead of behavior by imagining potential cause and effect, or stimulus/response, scenarios in our minds eye, allows one to navigate potential road blocks AHEAD of time. This is using inner resources, or executive functions and critical thinking, to problem solve. Some are really good at this particular skill, but use the skill to manipulate others. This does not contribute to Covey’s 4th Habit: Win-Win Thinking.

As we move toward this new segment of time (late August – May), it is useful to recognize a transition is occuring for many. Transitions are difficult for most as they stir up mixed ‘feelings’ as the setting changes along with routines and expected behaviors. Be patient with your own self as you may notice discomfort during this time.

When one is familiar with one’s own behavior, it makes it easier to be curious about the behavior of those you influence.