Mother Nature has certainly treated us to a dose of natural Lexipro this past week, doting on us with oodles of Vitamin D and tantalizing temperatures outside. My hairy legs were not ready for the unveiling of my pasty white ankles, but it has certainly been a welcome smile for the soul – particularly because this is the typical crotch of the year. It is the for finishing up evaluations and putting Band-Aids on the staff, students, and our own kids at home who are unravelling after being cooped up during the winter months and whose holiday spirit has been snuffed out. A middle schooler, gutter-dweller at heart, it is why I giggled when I heard one of my MAPS crew refer to this time of year as “Farch.”
Determined to make it through with a positive attitude, I stepped out this afternoon for a run (a term I use very loosely to describe anything that requires a sports bra) and a podcast. One of the podcasts I subscribe to and can’t live without is Invisibilia. In it, the hosts explore “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” If you haven’t yet discovered it, I highly recommend it – and it is even void of the NPResque voices that are found in many of their other podcasts (per the curmudgeon-y Tom Hutchison). At any rate, the episode fate dealt me today was about the power of the expectations that we both have for ourselves and those that we have for others. The episode opened talking about a rat race…an actual rat race, though the irony of the situation was not lost on me. I digress. In the example, the way that the owners viewed the rat, either as a smart or as a dumb rat, actually played a huge factor in how quickly the rat finished the maze. What they thought of their rats influence the minute ways that the handlers touched and interacted with the rats, influencing the actual performance of the rats. This led to the conversation about the impact of this finding on the human world. If it holds true, the power of the finding can have profound ripples on the impact we can have as building leaders both as those who radiate expectations and those who try to live up to the expectations others set for us.
Certainly the mindset that we bring to any challenge, whether it be a student, a difficult staff member, or hiccups in our lives at home can play a large role in how we come to see the situation. Imagine the power of walking into any given situation with positive expectations the permeate all we do. It’s easier to have that psychological stamina early on in the year, but trickier as we get swallowed in “Farch.” I began asking myself how often I set my expectation for the moment based on my expectation that this is a rough time of year. Rather than committing to this energy, what would life be like if (like the handlers in the rat maze) I approached each day with those mindful touches based in my confidence that it was a day destined for success? It is this mindset that we hope our teachers bring to each interaction with each child in their classroom. Why not purposefully model it as building leaders, and sit back and watch the magic happen – even in “Farch?”
Equally important is how we consider all of those expectations that others have for us. As the Invisibilia host put it, “as you go through the world, the expectations of other people are constantly acting on you literally making you stronger or weaker, faster or slower, smarter or dumber.” How important is it to carefully choose then those expectations we choose to acknowledge? For those of us who get fixated at times in trying to make sure our constituents are happy and have an internal dialogue of problem solving ways to undo the crazy of others, imagine that that we are fueling the impact of their expectations on ourselves — rendering us weaker, slower, and less effective. Instead, tune out the noise of the naysayers. What if we gave our energy to the power of our tribe’s rallying cries, making us stronger, faster, and the superheroes that we are capable of being? If those positive expectations can make rats run a maze twice as quickly, there’s no telling what it could do for those of us if we would just get out of our heads.
So as we charge through these weeks leading up to Spring Break, do so with gusto and with the wind others push into your sails. Thanks to those in my tribe who lift me up and believe that under this Ann Taylor button down is a giant “S”!