Want to Live a Balanced Life? Be IntentionalPosted by Brian Peters on 2/6/2020 2:40:00 PM
Want To Live a Balanced Life? Be Intentional
There is plenty of discussion going on about having a balanced lifestyle. There are books crowding the shelves and websites touting methods to balance out a crowded schedule. This is warranted. It seems that the ability to live this balanced lifestyle has become more and more difficult. I think about Brooks from the movie, Shawshank Redemption. He is paroled and finds himself in a small city and states, “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” The world has been in this hurried way for all of my lifetime, but the last decade or so has seen it working to approach “light speed.” This is caused by the instantaneous habits of our present life. We can be reached at any moment. We can obtain information about anything at any time or in any place. We have to be purposeful about shutting this down if we wish to move toward this balance that is frequently discussed.
Obtaining balance is about making choices. Each individual must make decisions to regain control. Control your life; do not let it control you. This is the place for being intentional. Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” This is telling us to know what we want. To know what we want to accomplish. Let us take this kind of intentionality down to each day.
In a now famous University of Texas commencement speech, Admiral William McRaven tells us how to make the most of our lives, and perhaps each day of our lives. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70
He tells this because it makes us focus on the small things. If we cannot do the small things, how will we accomplish the big things? It also begins each day with a small sense of accomplishment. It sets the daily habit of knowing what you will do and knowing what you will accomplish.
With intentionality the time-wasters of social media scrolling and channel surfing are decreased or eliminated. With intentionality, you have more control of your life and daily schedule. With intentionality you can accomplish more and do more of what is pleasing to you and brings you joy.
I recently came across this quote by Izey Victoria Odiase, “Work on Purpose, Play on Purpose, Rest on Purpose. Do not let yourself or anyone else waste your time.” I do not know who this person is, but I believe that the quote nails the idea of balance and intentionality. We cannot just go through the motions of the day and hope to have balance. Like the tightrope walker moving from one side to the other across the wire over the chasm, keeping balance is on us. We must control the steps and the pace. Be intentional and obtain balance.
Evaluate the Journey or the AccomplishmentPosted by Brian Peters on 1/5/2020 3:35:00 PM
Evaluate the Journey or the Accomplishment
We all tend to have collective or personal aspirations. We want to accomplish something. We want to be able to do something. We want to learn something.
There are examples of when we evaluate our performance in regard to these aspirations. Sometimes these evaluations are completed by others, but often it can be a self evaluation. Did we make it? Did we accomplish what we set out to accomplish?
The journey toward the goal or aspiration is important, but ultimately it is whether or not we accomplished what we set out to do. Did we make it? Did we learn what we set out to learn?
Some baseball stories can help me explain what I am trying to say.
All baseball teams begin a season with a goal of winning the World Series. That is the ultimate accomplishment of the game. In 1960 the Pittsburgh Pirates found themselves in the World Series against the New York Yankees. The Pirates had not been in the World Series since 1927. The New York Yankees were perennial participants and often winners of the world champion title. Needless to say, the Yankees were heavy favorites.
If the Pirates were evaluated on their overall performance in this series it is likely that the grading would be low. After all in the seven game series the Yankees outhit the Pirates 91 to 60. The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55 to 27. Overall, the Yankees were the better team, but in the end the Pirates came out on top as the world champions with a game winning homerun in the bottom of the ninth of game seven by Bill Mazeroski. If evaluation were done simply on the stats throughout the series, the Pirates would not grade out well. The fact that they reached their goal is the important part. They won the World Series. They accomplished what they set out to do.
Another good example is that of the 2019 Washington Nationals. One could evaluate their season as a whole or simply look at the conclusion and know that they won the World Series. The season for the 2019 Nationals was not a good one throughout. Near the end of May they had a record of 19 wins and 31 losses. This was one of the worst records by any team at that time. April and May were not good months for the team. Most were writing them off for the season. Many were calling for changes within the team including a change of manager. From here they turned things around and after several comebacks in the playoffs they won the World Series. The evaluation of the total season and where they ended the season are in contrast. The total season was not a great success, but they accomplished the team aspiration of winning the World Series.
I write this as an educator as a means of reflection toward how we grade or evaluate students. For decades upon decades we have had grading periods in the American education system. Students accumulate grades throughout the period. These grades are then averaged for a grade for that respective period. Is this how we evaluate anything else we do in life? Isn’t it where we are at the end that is important? We want students to know or be able to do certain things. Students learn at different rates. Some accomplish it quickly while some need a little longer. Student A accomplishes the learning goal early on in the grading period and receives good marks throughout the period. Student B initially struggles and has some poor marks near the beginning, but eventually demonstrates accomplishment as well. The important thing is that the student eventually accomplishes the goal or aspiration. The grade of student A will most likely be higher than that of student B because the collection of scores is better even though both students ultimately master the same thing.
The Pirates of 1960 and the Nationals of 2019 knew what they wanted to accomplish and eventually did it. The journey along the way wasn’t always pretty as they had struggles during the season or series. Students can have similar experiences. Some can have struggles along the way but can still accomplish the goal. I would give the 1960 Pirates and the 2019 Nationals an A. When students reach a desired goal, similarly regardless of the picture of the journey, should the grade be reflective of the accomplishment?
Adjusting and CopingPosted by Brian Peters on 10/9/2019 3:25:00 PM
Adjusting and Coping
We’ve all done it. We’ve all experienced it.
We have dreamed about the perfect vacation. We have thought about the ultimate family holiday gathering. We build up the expectations in our mind and there is no other way to go, but down. Something happens along the way that torpedoes the plan we have made or the vision we have had in our head. An unexpected delay in travel occurs. The location in reality just does not measure up to the pictures shown online. Several members arrive late or not at all. Sibling rivalry escalates into a squabble at the worst possible time.
We all make plans, sometimes to a fault. I am someone who constantly creates and recreates my lists. I have my calendar usually in line a year or more in advance. I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing. Plans can be important. How do we react when plans don’t go as planned?
The Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day may represents one of the most intricately planned operations. Eisenhower is remembered as saying, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.” He was quite right. Once the day dawned and the landings began, the plans were no longer relevant as commanders and individual soldiers had to adjust to what was relevant and right before them.
This summer I went to Ironman Boulder expecting a typical summer day in the foothills of the mountains. That is what I had planned for. That is not what I got. On that day, temperatures were much lower than usual. It rained. It was cold. I could have taken my bike and went home, but instead I adjusted to what was presented. It was not what I had built up in my mind, but it still ended up okay.
The baseball playoffs are currently ongoing. Managers and coaching staffs have made plans on how their pitching rotations would roll out. However, once the games begin these leaders have adjust during the game based on circumstances. These decisions can change plans for that game as well as for upcoming games.
Planning is important. We want to know where we are going and what we are doing. Soldiers want to know their mission or task. Pitchers want to know when they will start or how they will be used. However, what happens when things do not go as planned? We have to appropriately cope and adjust. We cannot stick rigidly to what is on the paper or what was visualized in our mind. So the flight is delayed. Let’s make the best of the situation. Maybe we now have a chance to get lunch. Family members choose to not attend the event? It’s okay; those who are here will have the best time and make memories.
This is something we want to pass on to our children as well. Children build up an event in their mind or expect something at a particular moment and it doesn’t happen. Anybody who has children or works with children has seen this. It can evolve into pouting or worst case scenario into a tantrum.
People make plans. Organizations make plans. The importance is still being flexible. Circumstances can change anything. At the moment, the plans are not what is important. What takes precedence is how we respond to the circumstances. By modeling productive reactions, we help our children learn to cope with the unexpected or when things just don’t go their way.
Be Like Curious GeorgePosted by Brian Peters on 9/12/2019 3:05:00 PM
Be Like Curious George
Sometime last month I watched a movie/documentary about Woodstock. It took several sittings to complete it. In between viewings, I was looking for more information about this event that happened in 1969 in upstate New York. I was 5 years old when the original Woodstock occurred so I have no memory of it, but I did have some knowledge of it. What I reflect on is that I was not satisfied with this. I wanted to know more. I was curious to know more about the band lineup for the concert festival. I added to my collection of knowledge about Woodstock, but more questions were raised. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about subsequent attempts to repeat the event at the same and other locations. Watching the movie piqued my curiosity.
My wife reminds me that this is a common occurrence for me. I see something. I read something. I hear something and this creates more questions. I want to seek and find more information. I think this is what it means to be curious.
Curious George is aptly named. He sees something or hears something and he wants to know more. He wants to experience more. For George, this often creates an adventure or in his case, a misadventure. Fortunately, my curiosity does not get me in trouble as it does for Curious George.
I reflect on what drives curiosity. I do not think it is the answers that are gathered. It is pleasing to gain that information, but I think the driving force is the quest for the knowledge. The process of questioning and then searching for answers is what is most satisfying. That quest for answers can require different actions. It could be more reading. It could be more “doing.”
I really have no idea how I developed the trait of curiosity, but I do wonder about how can we develop that same trait in our children.
We definitely should encourage questioning. This is natural for our youngest. We laugh at the thought of “why is the sky blue?” or just the continuous “why, why, why” that might come from a toddler. I think this is our inherent curiosity. What we do not want to do is squelch it. Everything we read, hear, or learn can set us up for additional questions. It does not have to end with the “correct answer.” A curious mind is a learning mind.
If you did the math from the first paragraph, you have figured out that I have had over a half century of curiosity. It has not been squelched in me. I am still asking questions.
To Infinity and Beyond - Thoughts and Lessons from Toy StoryPosted by Brian Peters on 7/29/2019 3:05:00 PM
To Infinity and Beyond – Thoughts or Lessons from Toy Story
In two weeks the 2019-2020 school year begins in Humble ISD and at Groves Elementary. As in the movie Toy Story, we want to go “To Infinity and Beyond.” Let me share some thoughts on beliefs and practices related to the plot and characters of Toy Story.
There are so many phrases and mantras tossed around about believing in yourself. Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying, “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them,” was stated by Michael Jordan. These statements are correct. If we do not believe in ourselves, we cannot accomplish anything.
In Toy Story Buzz Lightyear has a very high opinion of himself and his abilities. He does look quite incredible with his wings and his laser. Woody is ever the pragmatic. He continually tries to remind Buzz that he is “just a toy.” This builds into a rivalry between Buzz and Woody that would lead to nothing if continued. It takes a belief in self and a willingness to trust the others to achieve. What is eventually accomplished is amazing. The belief grows within the toy community and through trust and collaboration; the rescue from Sid is a success. As individuals, we can accomplish much with a belief in ourselves, but let us not forget that we can accomplish so much more by adding trust and collaboration with others.
Jealousy begins to develop in Woody even before Buzz is revealed to the toy community. Woody has emotions that he will no longer be good enough. This jealousy begins to grow within Woody and he uses the only known defense since he cannot build himself up. He puts Buzz down. “You’re just a toy” and “That’s not flying, it’s falling with style” are two well-known phrases. Eventually, Woody has to accept his weaknesses and treat Buzz as a partner. The lesson is that jealousy gets us nowhere. The best route is to accept who we are and accept what we can do. Also, acknowledge the strengths of others and gladly ask for and accept their help.
The plot moves along in the movie and shows how the toys need each other. They all have strengths and they all have weaknesses. Who could forget a severely insecure Tyrannosaurus Rex? Relationships are precious and should be nurtured. Friends are needed and the toys show that so much more can be done when we all work together.
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got troubles, and I've got 'em, too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
'Cause you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
Perhaps the message is that we CAN go To Infinity and Beyond………with the help from our friends.
It Isn't a Failure Unless You QuitPosted by Brian Peters on 6/19/2019 9:55:00 AM
It Isn’t a Failure Unless You Quit
Recently I completed Ironman Boulder. I will repeat, I completed it. It wasn’t pretty. I was pretty sure after the swim that I wasn’t going to have it that day. I was certain after I finished the bike leg that I wasn’t going to have it that day. My best discipline, running, was nullified. I had a decision to make. I could pack it in and just admit that on this day I wasn’t at my best, or I could finish what I started, no matter the appearance or result.
It just so happened that at this event the daughter of a good friend and fellow triathlete left a note in one of my transition bags. I don’t recall the exact words, but it basically read, “It isn’t a failure unless you quit.”
Those words resonated with me. I was struggling. At that moment, I had many reasons in my head of why I could and even should quit. However, I did not quit. Those words banged around in my head for the next several hours as I put one foot in front of the other to reach the finish line. I did not fail. I did not succeed to the standard I had hoped for, but I finished what I started.
This is a lesson for all of us, and most importantly for our children. Too often, I see children who quit when it gets hard. Often they barely start, perceive that it will hard, and quit. This is no way to make progress.
Imagine if Edison and his team had quit when the work to develop the light bulb became difficult and frustrating. From what I learned at the Franklin Institute, it took the team about 3,000 attempts to achieve success. That’s many failures without quitting.
Most people from my generation know that Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns. That was an iconic number that carried great meaning. However, it is not commonly known that he struck out 1,330 times in his career. That’s a lot of failure. What if he had quit?
This year the Apollo program is very much celebrated as we are at the 50-year mark of the success of landing on the Moon and returning. We see the images of the success, but do we recall and acknowledge the great challenge this was and the failures that occurred?
Anything worth accomplishing is difficult. Bumps, bruises, frustration, and disappointment will litter that pathway toward success. We all fall down along the way. That’s okay. We have to model and our children have to learn that the next step is to pick yourself up and keep going. One foot in front of the other.
“It isn’t a failure unless you quit.”
MulligansPosted by Brian Peters on 4/22/2019 12:00:00 PM
Years ago, I played a bit of golf. During some tournaments and in informal play with friends there could be an opportunity for a Mulligan. Actually, it was a chance for a Do-Over. Most of the time the use of a Mulligan or a Do-Over resulted in a more favorable outcome. Hypothetically, let us say that I am hitting my tee shot on a long hole with out-of-bounds penalty lining the right side. I know that it is a long hole and I want to give myself the best chance for success. I reach for an extra-long drive and this causes my hips to fire through too quickly. The opens up the club face on impact resulting in a bit of a slice and the ball sails out of bounds. I have instant feedback on my swing and I take a Mulligan. With the feedback, I know that I need to slow down and make sure that my club is square when it impacts the ball. On the Do-Over my ball flies successfully down the middle of the fairway.
Think about it. I shoot a foul shot and miss. I get instant feedback on why I missed and then next shot falls through the net. The tennis serve goes long. Instant feedback is received and the next one hits within the court. Mulligans are very common in so many aspects of life, not just sports. Ever try a new recipe and the taste just isn’t quite right? Add something or take something away and it is perfect. Ever assemble something and discover that you messed up one of the steps. Backtrack and try again. It goes together just like the picture. Doing something again based on the feedback of being unsuccessful is quite common.
Mulligans happen in industry as well. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company launched the New Coke. This was a change in the original recipe. It did not take long for a consumer backlash that brought back the original formula that we now know as Coca-Cola Classic. The company got a lot of feedback. They reflected on it and took a Mulligan. For those of you who really enjoy Coca-Cola, you are grateful.
We can use Mulligans in our actions and behaviors as well. Sometimes we all just have a bad day. Sometimes we can reflect on it, discover the cause, and be sure to not repeat it. My spouse may be expecting me to do something that I fail to do. My feedback is her response and this can trigger a Mulligan for me to be sure to do that action.
These examples are all about learning. We try something. We reflect on it and/or get feedback. We use the new information to try again. Children in school use Mulligans. A child reads a passage and attempts to sound out a word. The child reflects on it. The word does not make sense within the passage. Take a Mulligan and try again. A multi-step math problem is completed. The answer arrived at makes absolutely no sense. Reflect on the work, get the feedback, take a Mulligan and try again.
Students can make mistakes. It can be in how one treats another student or in the type of response given to frustration or disappointment. If used properly, the feedback and reflection can trigger a Mulligan. The child responds or behaves differently with the Do-Over.
As teachers, we need to consciously think about how we use Mulligans and help our students to use them as well. A Mulligan is reflecting and using feedback. We need to teach our students about how this is a way of constant learning in our lives and in their journey of learning as well. Learning of any type is about Mulligans. Take in the feedback. Reflect on it. Try again until success if achieved.
Focus on Actions to Gain ResultsPosted by Brian Peters on 1/9/2019 1:40:00 PM
Focus on Actions to Gain Results
The start of a new year undoubtedly brings on discussions of goals and resolutions. Some select a word as a mantra for the year. Yes, I have done them all. I have not publicly proclaimed any of the above for 2019, but subconsciously in my thoughts I have continued this tradition.
It is great to have goals. Aspirations to do something, to accomplish something drive us and motivate us. The weakness of goal setting is often the short-lived celebration that usually occurs with achieving the goal. After that brief period of euphoria there is an emptiness. Okay, I did that. Now what? I can relate to this professionally and personally. I was driven for many years on my formal educational journey. At one point in time acquiring a PhD appeared attainable. It was going to require hours and hours of work over many years. There would be a few classes and then the research, writing, and defending the dissertation. This was achieved and I was quite pleased with myself, but then what?
Personally, I feel like I am always looking for the “what’s next” accomplishment. For years there has been the quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. What accompanied that was many years of disappointment as the efforts didn’t bring the desired result. Years ago I had the goal of completing an Ironman. The problem at the time was that I really couldn’t swim. I recall the joy of the moment of completing my first Ironman. That feeling dissipated quickly with the feeling of what next?
In all cases the focus and celebration should not be on what I did at the end, but what had to be done to get there. Gaining a doctorate, qualifying for the Boston Marathon and completing an Ironman all require dedication to actions. Self-discipline and time management probably rise to the top of necessary skills. These behaviors and actions were fine-tuned through the journey to reach these goals. They became part of my character and spread into other parts of life. I eat better. I follow a better sleep schedule. I read more. I continue to learn and better myself.
Those are the actions developed to reach the goal. The goal is not attained without the actions. All goals need a plan of action. Once that is established focus on continuing the plan day after day and week after week. When that is done the goal can be achieved.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
So, what do I propose? Proclaim a goal, but attach an action plan with it. Here’s what I want to accomplish or achieve and here is how I am going to do it.
Our students can and should have goals and we need to encourage them to develop action plans as well. A student may be driven to become a better reader. Perhaps the goal might be to read a certain book independently. The best action steps toward improvement would be to vow to promise to read a designated amount of time each day. This action with fidelity will eventually yield the desired result. Another student may develop a passion and want to know everything possible about a given topic. This is great. Attach a plan. What will be done? What will be read? What and how will it be researched? What might be done with the information?
Blow the party horns. Send off the fireworks. It’s a new year. Set the goal. Make a resolution. Include an action plan.
20,000 Days - Carpe DiemPosted by Brian Peters on 11/23/2018 7:40:00 PM
20,000 Days – I better Carpe Diem
This week I hit the benchmark of 20,000 days on this planet. Get slammed with a number like that and it cause for reflection. Thoughts of the past and future emerge. What is my purpose? Am I living my purpose? These are thoughts as much for me as they are for our staff and students. Age however, makes it easier to reflect in this way.
If I were to stick around for what is the current average life expectancy, I have about 8,000 days left. That’s the kind of number that says, “Get it in gear, start living.”
I am a bit competitive and have said that I am going to beat my grandmother who made it until the age of 93. So if I stick around until I’m 94 years of age I have about 14,000 days. Regardless, the thought and the plan is to make it days of quality. It needs to be days of purpose. It needs to be days of living and not just existing.
The first 20,000 days have not been a wash. I have done plenty to leave a positive legacy in this world, but I want to make the most of the days to come. I recently read a blog that may help me make the most of whatever days are left - https://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/blog/7-ways-to-live-life-with-a-purpose/
- Live by your beliefs and values
I believe that I have always tried to do this. The important piece of this is to know who you are. You can’t live your own life if you don’t know who you are. Seeing Bohemian Rhapsody recently cemented this message. Freddie Mercury struggled through life knowing who he was and living a life of purpose is only possible once this is cemented.
- Set priorities
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might get there.” I believe this was once spoken by Yogi Berra. It is so true. If you start each day without any direction, you will go through life direction-less. Down time is important, but even that has a purpose. Know what you want to do and work to do it first before insignificant things encroach upon the day.
- Follow your passion
Knowing and pursuing your passion is the glue that holds it all together. If you are pursuing a passion then life has purpose and it matches beliefs, values, and priorities. I know my personal and professional passions. These bring purpose to actions and decisions each and every day. It’s not just the big things that make a difference, but the small things over time that add up to huge results.
- Achieve balance
I like what I read recently about Jeff Bezos and Amazon and balance in life. So much is being written about work/life balance, but is it attainable. If you take Bezos’ philosophy it is. If you are living your passion then balance is attained always whether you are at work or with family. Everything you do is within your life mission.
- Feel content
I feel more and more content with age. With age comes wisdom. I have had to work hard to fight the inner thoughts of comparison. I have had to continually battle the feelings of inadequacies and being judged. Recent readings of Dr. Brene Brown has helped me to grow in this regard. I look in the mirror each day and know that I am satisfied. I did the best that I could. Being competitive is who I am. I set goals. I work continually to achieve these goals.
- Make a difference
I am listening to Richard Rohr and reading Rob Bell. These are men with backgrounds in religion, but speak now well beyond the confines of those institutions. Finding purpose and contentment is enhanced when the words and deeds are to help and benefit others. Yes, it goes back to kindness again. If the choice is to do what is right or what is kind, choose kind. People will long forget your words, but will never your words.
- Live in the moment
No regrets. Thinking of the numbers I mention above bring emphasis to this. Each moment has possibility. Don’t dwell in the past because you can’t change it. Don’t project to the future because you can’t control it. Be in the moment. The minutes become hours that become days. Carpe Diem.
This is day 20,001. There is life to live.
KindnessPosted by Brian Peters on 10/23/2018 6:00:00 PM
Beaver Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares leading into the town that I once lived in. A good deal of traffic would make its way into town on this road every morning. For many, many years there was a gentleman who lived along this road close to town. Every morning he was out front of his home greeting every driver as they made their way to start their day. It was a simple gesture. For him it consisted of a smile and wave. If your windows were down you might hear a greeting.
I never met this man. I don’t know his name. I do know how his daily acts of kindness touched many people in the community. In fact this man’s acts of kindness extended beyond the community to a point of others knowing of him. He left his mark on people’s lives each and every day. No matter how someone might be feeling, a smile would have to come across your face seeing this morning greeter.
I recently read of a man in India who lived on an island with thousands of others. Like many areas, over time the forests and trees of this area were being eliminated and destroyed. Deforestation was taking place. This man observed what was happening and on his own began to take action. He began to plant trees. He planted tree after tree for more than twenty years. A forested area slowly began to take shape and at the end of two decades an area about the size of Central Park had a thriving forest.
These two examples represent gestures of kindness. The benefit is seen as going to others, but do we realize the strong satisfied feelings these gentlemen might also have as a result of their actions. Kindness is reciprocal. Those who receive it feel better. Those who give it feel better.
Every time someone makes a small gesture of kindness toward another a small connection is made. This could be pausing a moment and holding a door for someone approaching. It could be just a smile, wave, or greeting that lifts somebody’s spirit. It could be something like planting trees that won’t really show an outcome for many years.
At our school we have the opportunity to generate kindness that is similar to these examples. There are chances each and every day for the small gestures that make connections. We can hold a door. We can greet someone kindly.
We can also take the “long view.” What we do each day with our students can be looked upon like the planting of a tree. We may not see the fruit, or we may not get the shade for many years to come, but what we do each day is important in the growth and development of the student(s).
Simple acts of kindness can make a difference for those around you. Practicing kindness can make a difference for YOU.
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