Expand Your Circle of Influence

How much time in your week do you spend on things you can’t influence? Our circle of influence includes things we can affect directly. Our circle of concern includes things we worry about but may have not control over. Proactive people change the world because they make conscious decisions to influence matters in ways that they have the ability to respond (their response-ability). People who put their focus on a circle of concern shrink their circle of influence.
More importantly, influencing life episodes with a positive attitude increases our circle of influence and nurtures healthy relationships. For some reason, we think that chewing someone’s head off is going to cause a positive outcome. Adding negative to any situation usually makes this situation worse and erodes the foundation of every relationship – trust. When situations are difficult and we choose to use frontal lobe thinking, problems are resolved and relationships improved. The math is simple. Add a negative to a negative and you get more negative. Add a positive to a negative and the number line moves to the right.  It is much easier to knock someone down than it is to lift them up, but lifting begets strength and health.
Here is a dialogue prompt you can use to discuss being proactive with your children.
  1. Think of a problem or an opportunity you have right now.
  2. Draw the two circles above and list actions that are of concern or influence.
  3. If something in the list is a concern, let it go.
  4. If it is something that can be influenced, be proactive.
  5. Discuss how proactive behavior can be acted out with a positive attitude and action.
Students who practice proactive behavior are able to ignore distractions, prioritize tasks, complete class assignments, and plan ahead. Academic, athletic, artistic, or any other intelligence will grow by focusing on the circle of influence and minimizing time and effort on areas of concern or distraction. Like every habit, it takes 3-20 times to turn it into a habit. Be patient, persistent, and positively proactive.
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Our school logo is one of the best ways to illustrate the habit of synergy. When we balance our lives in all four ways (heart, mind, body, and soul) we become a better version of ourselves. When we neglect any one of these elements, we’re not running on all four tires. Life becomes more challenging and the disruption causes strife in the other three areas.

Synergizing our lives is a constant challenge and requires constant reflection. If a student only focuses time and energy on one element of the whole, the rest are diminished. When each is given its due time and energy, the rest flourish as well. Each makes the other stronger. Heart, plus mind, plus body, plus soul makes us healthy and whole.  I can’t say that I have ever had all four completely balanced in my life, but I know that when I am conscious of each and don’t neglect them I am happier, more satisfied, and more successful. The reason why our logo colors are swished is to point out that we should stay in motion with each of these areas of our life. When they each get our attention we experience synergy.

Ask your child the following questions and then ask if there is one element/color that they would like to stretch this week. 

  • Heart – How are you getting along and caring for family, friends, pets, and a garden?
  • Mind – How proactive are you in achieving academic success?
  • Body – How are your eating, exercising, and sleeping habits?
  • Soul – How much time do you spend seeking peace with music, prayer, meditation, and/or self-reflection?

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Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood

Seeking understanding about someone’s thoughts or feelings, and for that matter – our own, gives clarity to a situation. If you ask any expert in fields related to personal or professional relationships, they will tell you that the key to success is communication. Though this is the key, we too often fail to communicate well.

Many people believe that they just need to blast their opinion about a matter with no regard to their audience. Habit #5 teaches us that good communication begins with listening to the story of the other person and then responding with our opinion. The common practice is to make sure that people understand my point of view. The productive and positive influence is to truly understand their point of view first. This practice expresses respect, mutual understanding, empathy, and courage. Great relationships, be at home, school, or work is built on mutual respect. When my wife and I married, a dear friend told us that marriage is never a 50:50 proposition. He said that there are plenty of times that it is going to be a 90:10 or a 10:90 situation. Loving and respecting others is an act of good listening because we tend to find better solutions to challenges in life when we consider the ideas from both sides to create the best idea. Balance creates best!

When it comes to learning, listening is obviously a must!  Students who practice good listening skills become great thinkers. They can’t understand academic skills if they are distracted and not following a lesson. Moreover, asking questions and getting clarification develops greater understanding and makes meaningful connections between subjects and skills.

Effective Practices:

  1. Practice empathetic listening by asking clarifying questions and not judging the situation as you first see it.
    • When emotions are high stand your peaceful ground and don’t jump into the excitement. This will help the other person to connect to their thinking brain because they see you modeling it. 
      • Can you tell me what happened?
      • How do you feel about _____?
      • What do you think led to this situation?
      • You sound really _______. 
      • What do you think is the next right thing to do?
  2. Respectfully seek to be understood.
    • Once the other person recognizes that you are there to understand and want to help, its time to add your input. 
      • “I feel _______ about ________.”
      • “You could be right, however, ________.”
      • “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. Would you like my opinion?”
      • “That sounds interesting. What do you think about ________?”

Personally and professionally I have learned that nine out of ten times a person who is unreasonable, belligerent, or accusatory are experiencing some type of woundedness from the past or present. Empathetic listening says to the person that you care about who they are, what they are feeling, and are open to helping them. Stephen Covey said it best when he uttered the words,

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

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Begin with the End in Mind

How can we help our children to make good decisions? They are pummeled with choices every day and encouraged to make decisions about those choices. Smart, successful, and happy people use a clear and thoughtful process when making a decision. People usually say that they “weigh out the choices” and choose the best one. Well, what does that really mean? A few more specifics can be very helpful. I believe that any process that can be described using five or fewer steps we can remember and make a habit.
We teach our students the following five steps to make a good decision. Essentially, we begin with the end in mind.

  1. Describe specifically what the need or want is.
    • I need to purchase a …
    • I need to consider being friends with …
    • I want to eat …
    • I want to listen to or watch …
  2. Determine what personal/family values are relevant or important to the decision.
    • Health, family, faith, intelligence, security, …
    • What is good, true, and right. 
  3. Rate which values are most important to the decision.
    •  Determining what values are meaningful or critical helps to make it easier to eliminate options and narrow down good choices.
    • Give the values a rating from 1-10 (10 being extremely valuable). Values can have equal ratings.
  4. Compare the options to the values.
    1. Score each option by how well it meets the value. Use a 1-10 score.
    2. Do the math. Multiply the value rating by the score to get a final score for that option. If an option fails to meet the values, it’s probably not the best choice.
  5. Make a decision and feel confident that it was the best choice because it matches what is important to you.

The Rotary Club uses “The Four-Way Test” when considering decisions they make.  It is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:

Of the things we think, say or do…

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? 

Use the Pause Button

“While thumbing through a book, I came across an idea that changed my whole outlook – between what happens to us and our response is a space, and the key to our growth and happiness is how we use that space. ” – Stephen Covey
This week’s habit brings us back to the first of “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, Be Proactive. It’s a perfect idea to reiterate as we start a new calendar year. Our focus this week is the Pause Button. This is the button that lies between an event and our response to that event. Our decision to be reactive or proactive is how carefully we push the pause button and allow ourselves to do the next right thing. Pausing can take a second but could mean walking away for a few moments from a tense situation to settle down.
However long it takes, the pause allows us to think more clearly and not respond from our emotional brain, but instead think and act from our intelligence. When we pause, we use the following four human gifts:
  • Self-awareness (I know what makes me tick)
  • Conscience (I know what is good and right)
  • Independent will (I have the power to make my own decisions)
  • Imagination (I can be creative in my choice of responses).
Here are some examples of using the pause button:
  • Heart – Pause and consider how the other person might be feeling or thinking before acting.
  • Mind – Ask questions that will cause your child to “do the math” before making a hasty decision. Avoid providing the answer!
  • Body – Gently breathe before venturing into a physical skill that requires concentration and focus.
  • Soul – Use a “time out” to have a child reflect on what the better version of themselves would do in a challenging situation.
It is a common practice to react based on our moods, feelings, and circumstances. Proactive people pause and respond base on principles, values, and goals. Pausing gives you the freedom to choose your response and allows the intellect of your brain to make good choices. That freedom expands opportunities and leads to win-win conclusions.

Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood

“The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood.”- Sean Covey

This week we are studying Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood.  Specifically, we are practicing the skill of empathic listening. Think about a time when someone didn’t listen to you. How did it feel?  Often without realizing it, we listen autobiographically, which is filtering what others say through your own story, experiences, prejudices, biases, and values. We probe by asking questions from our own frame of reference or agenda. We evaluate by agreeing or disagreeing. We advise by giving counsel, advice, and solutions to problems. We interpret by trying to figure out or analyze the other person.

The Leader In Me teaches us to listen empathically. Empathic listening is listening with the sole intent to understand another person within his or her frame of reference. It requires both intent and skill. The key is to truly, honestly desire to understand the other person. If you have the right attitude but not the skill, you will be fine. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Here are a few ways that could sound:

“You feel ___________ about __________.”
“It sounds like you feel…”
“So what you’re saying is…”

When to Listen Empathically: Watch the Signals

Stop talking and listen empathically when:

  • Emotions are high. 
  • You must get to the heart of an issue.
  • You feel that you don’t understand. 
  • The other person doesn’t feel understood. 

Slow down.

  • Watch and be ready to listen empathically.

Go forward and seek to be understood when:

  • The issue is clear and mutually understood.
  • The conversation is casual and unemotional.
  • You’re asked to give counsel or advice.

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Random Public DrawingThursday, March 25th at 6pm

Join us via Zoom for a random, public drawing to determine enrollment and waitlists for the 2021-2022 school year!