I missed my usual blogging goal this last couple weeks because I was very excited to have my first ever visitor from home. I was trying to be a good host and put myself in the frame of mind of a newcomer, thinking back to when I first came to China and when I first came to my master’s school. I realized how much my own attitude has changed in the years since my arrival, how it has become a kungfu attitude.
When I first arrived in China, there were a number of things I had accepted as facts about myself. I knew my stomach had problems: I knew I would get seasick before my friends or a stomach ache if I got nervous. I knew that I got colds a few times a year. I knew that I got angry about the things I encountered in China pretty often. These and other observations were a minor appendage to my self-identity. I ascribed them to genetics, or just “that’s how I am.”
Somewhere along the line in the years since my thinking has changed. Part of it is the belief that it’s not just a matter of, “that’s how I am,” but that these are weaknesses that I can improve if I set out to do so. It’s a combination of accepting responsibility and raising awareness. I know that if I am wise about my dress, diet, and exercise, I need not get sick and my stomach is happy. I know that through meditation and attention, I can avoid the anger I used to feel. These things are in my control if I take control of them.
I am reminded of this time when I was a young teenager. I was walking out of a science museum in North Carolina with my Aunt, and I obliviously let the door slam in her face behind me. She yelled at me — gave me a really hard time for being rude and inconsiderate. I thought at the time, “How can you possibly expect me to keep track of who is behind me when I go through a door? That’s like trying to see the back of my own head!” But her admonishment helped me to realize that a higher level of responsibility and care were both possible and expected. That is a kind of kungfu attitude.
The kungfu attitude is summed up, to me, in a quote I heard from another student here at the school. “Chinese medicine does not ask why you are sick, it asks why you aren’t well.” A person has the potential to be perfectly happy and healthy, and any obstacle keeping us from that well-being is able to be improved upon by long-term effort. When I grasp this completely, I believe I will really understand kungfu.
In the summer of 2010 12 individuals went to Kenya to a very special place, Tumaini. The record of their trip, the sum up of all the smiles of those beautiful children is coming soon in a documentary titled: The Roots of Happiness. As you watch this take a look at the joy of the children with the jump ropes that were made by our students here at Balanced Life Skills. Everytime I watch this I am rushed with emotions and love for these beautiful children.
Roots of Happiness Trailer from Brian Williams on Vimeo.
This week we have been talking to our students about making choices and decisions. Making choices is based on what is best for the group or even for us as an individual is what leaders do. So how do the best leaders make their choices?
The simple answer is you need to consider what the results will be, the good and the bad that will come from the choice. One way of approaching that is to make a list of the “pros and cons”. Weighing the pros and cons, and I like to write them down, will help us to see the consequences – good or bad- that will result from either direction we may take.
Some choices may be very simple, while others may have more impact on our lives and our happiness. For instance choosing whether we get a pet or not get a pet, we will weigh out how much fun it will be vs how much work is involved. We may even weigh the differences and the affects of choosing a dog or a cat. It may be that an iguana might be the perfect pet for us.
Other choices may be more difficult. What if we had to choose between going out for a school play or spending more time on school work. There will be many things to consider both in short term and long term goals that we have. All leaders need to make these tough decisions and sometimes we are not really sure what to do. We want to remember that leaders do not have to know all the answers. They do need to have around them others that they trust though.
If you are a student you have your parents that you can go to and talk about your list of pros and cons to help you come to a good choice for you. You may even have other adults in your life that you may want to ask how they see a situation. Even your friends may be available to speak to, although you do need to be careful that you do not only seek out the advice of those that you think will agree with you.
If you are an adult it may be your partner or someone in the organization that you work for that may be there for you to bounce ideas off. It may be a trusted friend or an advisor or for many of us we may have a mentor that we can talk to. But in the end it is us as the leader that must make the final decisions. As a leader we do not want to “pass the buck” or even avoid risk-taking completely. We do want to make informed decisions that with all the information at hand will be best for those that are following us.
I know of no parent that has not said to one of their children, “ Don’t give me an attitude!”. We all know that we are talking about a bad attitude – one that is negative and disrespectful. Yet most of us if we were truthful with ourselves would have to admit that from time to time we too have that “bad attitude”. Interestingly in a recent article in the journal; Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics (April, 2009) that it is true that there are some people who are just more positive than others, but that only 50% of happiness is determined genetically. Where do you think the rest of ability to be positive and happy came from? Yes it was ourselves.
There are three things that only we have control over that have an affect on our attitude, whether we are 5 years old or 85. They are how we feel, think and act. I am sure you have seen this before. If someone is thinking and feeling things in an optimistic way, they also act in a positive way. If they think and feel more pessimistically, then they act in a negative way no matter how hard they try to cover it up and “act” positive.
The way we see the world, how we feel it is treating us, the way we think and act influences in a great way our Attitude. It affects our relations with others including our closest friends, to how we respond to events in our lives and even the very mundane day to day life.
So what is attitude and can we choose the attitude we want to have? What influence do we have on our children when it comes to their attitude? Can we help them to approach their day in a more positive way? As parents we influence how our children see the world, so what are strategies do you use to have a positive attitude?
“No matter what accomplishments you achieve somebody helped you.” Althea Gibson
No matter who we are or what we have done there has always been someone or several others who have helped in some way. It may have been as simple as an encouraging word, offering us an insight that got us unstuck on a problem, or a gift of another sort that allowed us to move forward. However given the society that we live in sometimes we forget that we can accomplish nothing without the help of others.
Help comes in so many different ways and lessons learned from unsuspecting teachers. I know that I have learned lessons from the animal world, observing them, reading about their habits have made me realize things that would be difficult to learn from another human. Our help may have come from a personal disability or from knowing someone who has gone through an experience that we have not experienced.
Every moment is a learning moment, and then we can honor our teachers by thinking about our own personal teachers. As we think about them it is appropriate to let them know if possible that you appreciate them even if it is by just speaking about that experience to others. Recounting the value of the teacher out loud to others really firms up the sense of gratitude and happiness for all that you have been given.
For my students, honor your teachers this month with us at BLS, by inviting them to our Teacher Appreciation Week. This is an opportunity for you to say, “Thank you for being my teacher.”