Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Letting Go: A Dead End or A New Route?

Sometimes you need to get there on your own, without GPS.

End of a game, end of a book, end of the day, end of the spring, end of the semester, end of the school year, end of a good time...

As they say, all good things must come to an end. Why is that? 

Yesterday, the STEAM Studio held an educator round table - principals, teachers, directors and other educators came to learn more about what we do at the studio and we learned more about what their students need.

One point that was made is that it's hard to let go. Letting go of the comfortable curriculum, the usual routine, old resources,  and the traditional teaching we've used in our schools for the last century. Sure, new methods and practices are being implemented all over our great city. However, when you walk into a typical classroom, it looks very similar to what most of us sat through in our schooling.

When thinking about the bigger picture, outside of education, what are we preparing this next generation for if we cannot expect them to move forward and try new things. How is this possible if we, their teachers, their mentors, cannot move on?  

In our world this last week,  there has been an earthquake, riots, drama, and disaster. When does the day end and the healing begin? When do we stop grasping onto a situation and start walking away? When something ends, how do we move onto a new beginning?

Your brain has a lot to do with it.

  • New Pathways: Do you take the road less traveled, or the same street to the same place everyday?  For example, you might decide to pick up a new sport that you've been meaning to for the last 5 years. As you study and practice the new sport, neurons housed in that area of your brain would send electrical messengers to the cell's center (soma) where ultimately new neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the understandings of the sport.  The more we repeat something and use that portion of the brain in a focused way, the more new neural pathways might develop in your brain. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks!

  • Your Mindset: Again, it really comes down to a science. One of my favorite researchers and authors, Dr. Carol S. Dweck, penned the book, "Mindset, The New Psychology of Success." I love this quote from her book:
"I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. Our research has shown when we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow."

  • No Regrets: According to Dr. Stefanie Brassen, a researcher at University Medical Center in Germany, letting go of regret helps us live a longer and healthier life. By not looking back and wondering "what might have been", we are able to look forward and make better choices as we live our lives. She noted that a common trait in older healthy adults was their positive outlook on life and being relaxed regarding their past. It's common to make mistakes in life, so the moral of the story here is to go easy on yourself and keep on!
  • Changing Habits: Obviously if you want to move forward you will have to form a new habit to replace the old. Quitting cold turkey is hard, and sometimes it's more of not letting go quickly but making that transition slowly. I recently read the Pulitzer award winning, New York Times reporter, Charles Duhigg's book, "Power of Habit". He writes about how habits are formed and how they can be changed:

"First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. To change a habit, there's a framework to follow: identify the routine, experiment with rewards, isolate the cue, and have a plan."

It doesn't happen overnight, it's a process. So whether you are trying a new way of teaching, picking up a new sport, or trying to see things in a new light; know that creating new habits and breaking old ones require some thought and time.

It's hard to let go, especially of someone, something who holds a very special
place in your heart and/ or mind.  Hopefully realizing the science behind it can help you move on. 

One way to look at it, I guess, is that it is 
not the end of the road, but the beginning of a new journey.

As Coldplay sings, "Nobody said it was easy..." a great song to add to your playlist.