January 10, 2019

Perception Changes Attitude: Stepping Up in the Dunking Booth

Being a former teacher, administrator, and now consultant and motivational speaker, I’ve lived my life by the school calendar for about 25 years now. Family gatherings, vacations, flights, seminars, mealtimes (heck, even PEE times!)  have all revolved around some type of school calendar. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come not to mind the dreaded day-back-at-work-after-a-holiday. Ironically, years ago as a fresher teacher I used to dread those days. How would the students come back academically or behaviorally? Would my lesson motivate them enough to want to stay awake? And why in the world don’t they install mandatory coffee makers in every teacher’s classroom??

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Photo by roobcio

So why my evolving change of heart as more and more day-after-holidays are experienced each year? Because life challenges – those balls that keep getting thrown at you and me when we sit in our dunking booths – can change perception. PERCEPTION changes attitude. I’ve survived cancer, childbirth, and challenging careers, so you bet my attitude each day is a little better than it was in my younger days. You bet I try to enjoy every day I have on this earth, even if balls are thrown at me. You BET I’m in this for the long haul, so I might as well make each day worth living. I may not wake up each morning singing songs from a Broadway musical, but I am quick to remind myself that I did indeed wake up.

In my first blog, “Welcome to the Dunking Booth”, I discussed three dunking-booth strategies, the first being perception changes attitude. Your perception of your day, your calendar, and your tasks dictates your attitude towards the ball-throwers. If your perception of your upcoming day is “Ugh, this is gonna be a nightmare day” then guess what? Your attitude will show it. And you’ll probably have a nightmare day, because your attitude bounces back to the ball-throwers that continue to come to your dunking booth. They can’t wait to throw another ball at you just to see your reaction, or over-reaction in some cases. If you were a ball-thrower and you got to choose which person to dunk – Person A in the dunking booth that keeps screaming theatrically and talks back to you, taunting and teasing, or Person B who simply sits with a smile on his/her face, falling gracefully and getting back up – who would you want to dunk? C’mon y’all! You’d pick the theatrical one! Why? Because it’s more fun; it’s more reactive. Ball-throwers like a big reaction.

Now, don’t misinterpret this strategy to mean you have to sit there and take it; that’s not the intent. When it’s your turn and you step up into the dunking booth, the intent is for you to project a more positive attitude than you may have woken up with this morning…..or yesterday morning…..or last year. One way I coach people through this strategy is to try a sentence extension. For example, if I asked you how you felt this morning and what your original attitude was “Today’s gonna be tough”, we may discuss what elements specifically look like they could be challenging, then formulate a sentence extension. For example, “Today’s gonna be tough because my students are just getting back from break, but my plans are ready and I’m prepared.” A simple exercise like creating this extension clarifies the perceived challenge and adds a solution or strategy that can help shape your attitude. Another example may be someone who always says “I hate Mondays!” If you can clarify the challenge and extend it with a coping strategy, the statement “I hate Mondays!” can become “I hate Mondays because I’ve had such a good weekend, so I’ll try and remember something funny from the weekend to get me through today.” Now, let’s go back to that line of ball-throwers outside your dunking booth. Over the next several weeks, take a look: is it starting to get a little shorter?

Your behavior may not change overnight, but consider how one simple strategy YOU do changes the behaviors of others. Now, go get back in your booth and be ready for what’s coming today. There’s always a chance that the ball-throwers may pass you by.

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