How to Help Our Children Think Deeply and Lead Authentically
We look at our children, we see them grow, and we wish upon them more success than we have experienced. This is universal. For this to happen, there are certain key elements which our children must embrace and use, as a way of learning and living. One of these elements is becoming excellent thinkers; both critical thinkers and creative thinkers. This sort of mindset leads to authenticity in many areas, including leadership.
Here is a simple and empowering strategy which I learned from one of my closest colleagues, Rick Wamer. It’s called Look, Respond and React, and it is at the core of an organization Rick co-leads and and which I have collaborated with many times; Embody Learning.
In a nutshell, here it is!
By looking, I mean how well someone observes. Many people look around all day long, but are they taking the time to observe. It’s important for us as teachers and parents to model this. Some might use the word mindful to describe this, and certainly being mindful is a great step in an empowering direction. Keep in mind the following when “looking”:
Are you observing without judgement? If not, try it. Really looking allows you gather information much like an objective detective.
Are you observing without imposing your perspective on someone else? This is key. When someone senses we have an interest in changing their perspective, resistance is high and additionally it is arrogant to assume our perspective is better in some way.
When you are looking, are you already expecting a certain outcome? If so, let that way of biased observation go, and attempt to allow yourself to be in the moment and take in what you’re observing.
How can we help our next generation learn how to “Look?” There are many strategies. I describe two such approaches in my blog titled “What do you see?” and also in a blog from my public speaking site titled 6 Ways to Re-inspire Yourself
Long ago I used to think responding was the same as reacting. My dear friend, colleague and multi-talented Artist Rick Wamer is the one who described the difference to me.
Responding is what happens inside us after we have truly looked. Responding is the internal response, both factually and emotionally, which takes place naturally. Keep in mind that our emotional response does not have to define us. Our emotional response is an activity of our mind (Mindsight, Dr. Daniel Siegel). We have the capability to perceive our thoughts, not just have them. Human beings are able to think about our own thinking!
How can we help ourselves and our students respond in ways which allow us to stay more objective? I have recently been using the same visualization with both young learners and older ones, which I heard about from one of the stories in the book Mindsight.
I have young children point to the front of their “brain”, knowing that this is the prefrontal cortex of the brain. I then have them point to the middle of their brain, which we cannot see, but which we can visualize (this is the Amygdala; two almond shaped areas which are related to emotional response, among other things).
I take the students through one of several simple deep breathing exercises and ask them to send happiness and calmness from the front of their brain to the middle of their brain. I use this myself and it is startling how quickly it works. I have recently avoided a couple of emotional outbursts. I sometimes use the analogy of spraying the center of our brain with water to help it relax.
I’ve always being a “doer” by nature. I have never had a challenge in committing to reacting, taking a risk and diving in. However, I didn’t always “Look” and “Respond” like I do now. The result is simple and profound:
When we take the time to first “Look” and “Respond”, we intuitively become very efficient with our reactions.
In other words, there isn’t a lot to say about this step. The keys are steps 1 and 2. When we take the time to truly observe and respond internally, our reactions are typically:
Open to other perspectives
Humble and bold
Respectful and honoring
Enjoy taking this 3 step approach to empowering our own minds and the minds of our next generation.