January 2020: From Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Dear SPS Faculty,

It is the beginning of a new year and as habit predicts, we make resolutions for the new year ahead of us. Gym memberships and participation go up in January, healthier eating is on the menu and perhaps we are reading more, relaxing more, or sleeping more. Then by February many of these “new traditions” are broken and we slip back into our old ways. Old habits are hard to break.

Early in January I saw a tweet from Carrie Underwood (that is another story) and it said “Solutions not Resolutions” and it gave me one of those ah-ha moments. I read so much into that quote. It felt so much more productive, constructive and less likely to be broken so easily. I thought about how we approach the practices we may not like and do we resolve them by saying we will no longer do XX, or do we solve them by saying from now on I will do YY?

I remember reading a long time ago that when we say “don’t do XX” our brain remembers the XX and not the don’t, so we continue doing what we wanted to stop. If you have kids you can probably recall umpteen times when you ordered “don’t . . . “ and they continued doing what you wanted them to stop. Or when you asked students not to give a blow-by-blow description of what happened in class when you are asking them to reflect on their learning. They continue giving a summary of the class that you already know because you were there, too, and you do not actually know what they learned.

The stating of a solution refocuses our energy on to the next course of action and then we move in that direction, rather than staying stuck in the place we are. It also gives us a stronger sense of agency and that we do not need to settle for what we do not like, but that we can actually make a difference. So let’s see how we can catch ourselves the next time we say “I will not . . .” or “They should not . . .” and see if instead we can say “From now on I will do (fill in the new action).”

Thank you,

Beth Fisher-Yoshida