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Exemplary teachers are the personification of The 8th Habit—they find their voices while helping their students find theirs. Henry Adams said “A teacher affects eternity. He (she) can never tell where his (her) influence stops.” These educators merit recognition for transcending the norm. As I write, Education is morphing; placing increased barriers between teaching and learning. The word “education” comes from the Latin word “educare” which translates: “…to draw forth from within.” That is truly the challenge for today’s educators who are faced each day with, among other challenges, state regulated testing, which often forces them into a vicious cycle of repetition and regurgitation: a situation wherein neither the teacher or the student is sincerely engaged.
Yet, award-winning teachers awake each day excited about their opportunity to change lives. Anthony J. Mullen, National Teacher of the Year 2009, advises “passion… ignites a flame too bright to be ignored by students. …Students can feel the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity radiating from a teacher and realize that what is being taught is important and worthwhile.” Passion—the fire within as Stephen Covey puts it—cannot coexist with apathy. Extraordinary tea
chers care about their students and the futures of those they serve. They are unselfish advocates who, like Mullen according to his peers, approach their work with extraordinary effort, a commitment to serving youth, professionalism, high expectations, humor, a flexible cooperative attitude, and a smile on their faces.
When I was a teen, I had two teachers, Mrs. McDowell and Mrs. Evers, whom I remember very fondly. I loved to make them laugh. Mrs. Dowell’s laugh was contagious. She was kind, attentive, and generous with encouragement. She had a never-ending well of patience and tolerance for those of us who were less than mainstream students. Mrs. Evers was a fun and engaging young teacher, not much older than our big-hair-wearing, disco dancing, motley crew. She took her job very seriously, but with a measure of humor and forgiveness. When the coffee in the teachers’ lounge was spiked with liqueur and the principal’s announcements more slurred than usual, Mrs. Evers looked no further than me for the culprit. After the proper reprimand in front of her peers, she leaned down to my ear and whispered, “That was quite a hoot, young lady! Dangerous, definitely inappropriate, but dang funny!”
I have the profound privilege of certifying such dedicated teachers in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens curriculum. Increasingly impressed with the quality of the educators I certify, I find them to be student-centered professionals who view teaching more as a calling than a career. Those who are called to teach recognize the breadth of influence their role grants and are continually seeking to improve their knowledge base and to model behaviors which are worthy of emulation. For this reason, over 4500 schools nationwide and beyond (click here to watch a video) have turned to The 7 Habits training as their choice for principle-centered, productivity and leadership enhancement.
Having a small role in developing educators of Mrs. Dowell and Mrs. Evers’ caliber is quite an honor and a personal accomplishment for me of which I know they would both be proud. Despite my mischievous pranks, between their influence and The 7 Habits training, I guess I turned out okay (smile…snicker).
Practicing Habit 4: Think Win-Win of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People promotes mutual benefit. But, have you ever found yourself thinking ‘when-win’ instead? The ‘when-win thinker’ constantly asks: “When is it going to be my turn? When will I get to ‘win’ in this relationship? When do I score the ‘big one’ at work, or in the stock market? When will my ship come in?” Finding himself in a perpetual state of lack and ingratitude, this person is actually thinking ‘lose-win’—positioning himself or herself as the victim—reveling in a funk of entitlement.
‘When-win thinking’ steals your joy, locks it away and gives the key to fear. Fear then steps in and convinces you you’re not worthy of joy anyway. So, why do so many people find themselves thinking ‘when-win’? Conceivably, it is a learned behavior—one that has sometimes been passed down generation to generation. The inbreeding of kissing cousins ‘when-win’ and fear—an unholy union—has produced noxious offspring-bullying, ‘win-lose’ thinkers. Prisons are brimming with these takers who pillage and plunder, robbing society of the domestic tranquility framed in the constitution by our courageous forefathers.
However, in this fear-driven economy, ‘when-win thinking’ can latch on to the best and stressed of us. So, how do you shake it? First, recognize you have cascaded down the slippery slope into scarcity mentality-fearful that your piece of the pie has already been eaten by someone else. The task ahead is to shift back to the paradigm of abundance.
I’m partial to the definition of “abundance” found in the Encarta World English Dictionary online:
- Large amount: a more than plentiful quantity of something
- Affluence: a lifestyle with more than adequate material provisions
- Fullness: a fullness of spirit that overflows
Building on the last characterization, to regain the paradigm of abundance you must reclaim your joy! Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, let your spirit overflow! Remind yourself daily of all the things you DO have such as: love of family, health, skills, and opportunities. What? Do you think I can’t see through this monitor the rolling of your eyes and the smirk that appeared on your face when you read the word “opportunities?” Dale Carnegie and his contemporaries frequently told stories such as that of a wealthy man who’d lost all his riches in the crash of ‘29. Yet, rather than hurl himself out a window, or retreat into self-pity, he charged the day; put on his one and only suit; donned a fresh carnation in the lapel; and picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal. A cheerful greeting was his gift to all passers by, and when stopped by an associate who queried his state, he exclaimed, “Why it’s your lucky day because I am looking for a new opportunity!” Because he refused to succumb to the loser’s mental rhetoric of ‘when-win thinking’, it wasn’t long before this leader found the opportunity that rebuilt his monetary riches ten-fold.
So, if you’ve found yourself craning over the fence to survey the quality of your neighbor’s grass, rubber-necking a new Maserati, or wishing you got that island caretaking job in Australia (Okay, I admit it! I reeeeeeally wanted that one!), you need to know that the lonely guy driving the Maserati would give anything to have a loving spouse and two sweet kids just like yours.
Every day the perfect leader spends the last few minutes of the day planning the next. Each hour broken down into perfectly detailed steps toward a series of well-defined goals. In a perfect world, you wake up with the energy and resources to ascend those steps and embrace your goal. However, much to your disappointment the world is not perfect and neither are you.
If you wear various hats as I (and most of us) do, you often find yourself defined by the roles associated with those hats and validated by the execution of your goals. I have strived to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect friend, the perfect consultant, the perfect student, the perfect… Until I have found myself in the “perfect” whirlwind. At times, I couldn’t see for all the projects and commitments whirling around me. It appeared I’d forgotten how to say “no.” For some reason in my life, I equated saying “no” with failure, or at a minimum inadequacy.
Perhaps the same is true for you in business. You strive for perfection, say “yes” to every goal, and find yourself caught in a roaring whirlwind-unable to progress-feeling as if you are failing. To fight the whirlwind, you must be proactive rather than perfect, and you need discipline. In fact, what you need is four disciplines-The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
In my role as a community mobilizer, the goals are substantial and impact many people and organizations. Facilitating the 4 Disciplines process, the first thing we do is identify 2 or 3 Wildly Important Goals (WIG’s). These WIG’s drive everything we do. To reach those sometimes lofty goals such as lowering gun violence, or minimizing family violence, the laser focus and dedicated cooperation of many people and organizations is vital.
Identifying commonalities in agency missions and aligning representatives from those agencies on one collective goal is quite a task. However, when the 4 Disciplines are applied, it is accomplished and the results can be astounding. Take the city of Aurora, IL for example. They partnered with FranklinCovey and identified their number one WIG as lowering gun violence by 20%. Every member of each city department focused all their energies on that WIG and voila! Eight months later, not only did they lower gun violence by 21%, but gun-related homicides were reduced by 75%! They indeed conquered the whirlwind.
Another community partnered with FranklinCovey to strengthen families and improve the welfare and future of their children. We customized curriculum for The Jacksonville Network for Strengthening Families which became The 7 Habits of Successful Families in Jacksonville, and the network deployed it throughout Jacksonville, FL. Having successfully served their goal of over 3000 families now, their methodology and results has become the model for similar initiatives across the country.
Avoiding the whirlwinds takes effort, but is easier when you employ this system of disciplines. I was privileged to be there at the beginning of both of these city initiatives and can attest to the courage and determination that Aurora’s Mayor Tom Weisner, and Jacksonville’s Pete Jackson and Robyn Cenizal demonstrate daily as they lead these legacy-building projects.