The only thing we are truly sure of is what is in the present.
As Leo Buscaglia said years ago, “Yesterday is a canceled check;
tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have
– so spend it wisely.”
In his book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi delineates five characteristics that promote optimal experience for children and, thus, have a lasting impact on how the children develop (p. 88-89).
- Clarity. Goals and expectations are clearly stated.
- Centering. The parents stay grounded in the present with what the child is doing. They are not, for instance, focused on what college their kindergartener will be going to in 12 years. Savor the moment. Feedback is powerfully important.
- Choice. Parents allow, and the child has internalized, that options exist for them. Life is not regimented in all aspects, shapes and forms. A sense of self-efficacy is nurtured.
- Commitment. An atmosphere of trust allows the child to stretch boundaries such that the child can commit to the experience at hand (enjoy the present; in the flow) and not focus on “What happens if I fail? How will I look to others? Will my parents still love me?”
- Challenge. The parents present opportunities for the child to stretch and, yes, even fail. They aren’t always there to “protect” them from failure. Feedback comes in many forms.
As I read, I thought how each of these characteristics goes beyond family rearing practices. They go to the heart or what creates optimal experiences in the workplace and classroom environments. Effective leaders help to create these conditions. Consider:
- Clarity. The mission is clear. Goals understood. Expectations stated. The teacher and students have goals and expectations. The supervisor and employee have the same. They need to be articulated with clear communication.
- Centering. While the classroom and workplace is goal oriented (what are we wanting to accomplish?), there remains a clear connection to the present. Savor the experience in front of us. The only thing we are truly sure of is what is in the present. As Leo Buscaglia said years ago, “Yesterday is a canceled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have – so spend it wisely.” This present will create our future. Embrace it.
- Choice. As a teacher, I set out the expectations for the course. Students (with encouragement and coaching) establish their course goals. Life is about choices—and consequences. Possibilities always exist. In the workplace, supervisors understand
the need to allow their employees to explore and experiment. This does not just happen; it has to be nurtured over time.
- Commitment. Effective teachers and workplace supervisors create an environment for experimentation. A lock-step “this-is-how-we-do-things-around-here” mentality gives way to a “what-better-options-may-exist” mindset.
- Challenge. When the previous four characteristics exist, it becomes easier to create and maintain an atmosphere that stretches our students and employees. They are not fearful of how it affects an arbitrary grade or a once-a-year performance evaluation. They understand that if they aren’t failing, they aren’t stretching.
Video recommendation for the week:
What is “flow“?
What can you do this week to encourage these five characteristics for those you coach and mentor? I’d love to learn from you.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
On July 15, I will offer my next webinar. The topic: Fostering Civility and Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude. Take advantage of this complementary offering. Click here to register now for the webinar. Or go to my website for registration information.
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©2013. Steve Piscitelli