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Personal Development: Motivational Tips

I write these to help you to live better--to be happier, to relate better to others, and to accomplish more. I want you to be successful and to feel successful. Let’s get going and let’s make it so....

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Starting a School: Have a Good Idea?

Over the years, many people have inquired about the mechanics of starting a school that emphasizes self-directed learning. Fortunately, I know a number of people who have

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Motivate Yourself

July 14, 14

Motivate Yourself by Maurice Gibbons Sticks and Stones Break Bones My how things change. Remember when the main idea about motivating people was to lure them with carrots or threatened them with sticks? I even have a book on self- motivation that has a cover picture of a man wearing a rig on his head that supports a pole holding a carrot out in front of him as he jogs along after it, never getting any closer. But that’s Twentieth Century thinking, and it doesn’t work in the Twenty-first. Carrots and sticks have given way to autonomy, mastery, and fulfillment. Guides using the latest research for motivating workers urge bosses to cultivate self-direction rather than try to lure them with rewards. The reason is that research shows time after time that rewards lower performance. That’s right, rewards lower performance. How can that be? The answer may be that rewards are bribes and people can see that. The key reason they are ineffective is that we are driven more by our inner needs than by outer rewards. Try the Test If the task is mechanical, like taking inventory, rewards may work; but if thinking becomes involved, if creativity comes into play, or if there are many possible answers, rewards get in the way. This is one of the tests researchers used: “Here’s matches, a box of tacks, and a candle. Your task is to find a way to attach the lit candle to the wall so that it doesn’t drip on the floor.” Those offered a reward for finding the answer quickly, didn’t. Can you think of the answer to show your skill, your mastery? Stop here if you want to answer because the answer is next. To fix the candle to the wall, tack the bottom of the tack box to the wall, place the candle in the box, and light it. The point is that you likely did it faster to show your mastery than for the dollar that I might have offered you. Actualizing Yourself Is the Key What this says is that we are motivated more when our inner or intrinsic needs are met than when we are offered external or extrinsic rewards. What this gets back to is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—intrinsic needs— which is still relevant today: Our most basic need is for food, air, shelter, sunlight, and warmth—our physiological necessities. When those needs are met, we need to feel secure, to feel safe from violence, catastrophe and other causes of harm to us. Then we feel the need to belong, to connect with others, to have a social place among them, and to love and be loved. The next most important need is psychological—our need for mental wellness and acceptance. We need to feel okay in the world, to have esteem, to think that we are competent and worthy. In The Aha Performance, Douglas Walker says that the strongest need is always the one not being met at the time. When these needs are under control, we can turn to the development on our true selves and our talents; we can focus on our personal growth and fulfillment. We can concentrate on our highest need, which is to actualize ourselves.In The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Maslow describes the rules of metamotivation, the rules that move people who are self-actualizing. He says that such people seek devotion to some particular field of work, which they feel expresses them and the values that they hold. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his book Flow; the Psychology of Optimal Experience, assumes that our highest pursuit is for the greatest possible experience, and that experience is “flow.” Flow is the state in which you are so involved in your activities that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that you will do it, even at great costs, for the sheer sake of doing it. You are so motivated that motivation becomes irrelevant. So What Does That Mean for You? It means then that you can introduce your own program of carrots and sticks for yourself because you choose them. My two favourite sticks are, first, ‘telling a sarcastic person what you intend to do because then you will do the work to avoid suffering the verbal consequences; and second, ‘rent the hall and send out the brochure’ so that your only choice is to get the job done or move to another country. I intend to be a little vicious with myself, but you may find gentler sticks to prod you on. Delicious carrots and other rewards may lure you to complete simple tasks. I lure myself forward with the promise of celebrations when the work is done. If you can devise carrots and sticks that work for you, use them. Everything we have reviewed so far tells us that the great forces of motivation come from within us. So when you turn inward what is it you are supposed to do to motivate yourself? You need to be physically well or little else matters. Then check out Maslow’s hierarchy and see if your basic needs are met or are they absorbing your attention and keeping you from higher aspirations. Esteem is an important issue: do you feel competent and worthy as a person? If not, it’s worth dealing with it right away. The way to deal with it is to become more self- actualizing, and the basic way to do that is to find the people you want to be in the world with, to develop a rich lifestyle, and to discover the work that you were meant to do—the work that fulfills you and uses your talents. Hey! Who Are You? You likely have a pretty good idea about who you are, but there is likely a lot you still don’t know, and if you’re developing as a person, you’re changing steadily. Why not take a good look at yourself? Start by taking a good look at what you’ve got working for you—all your personal resources. You will be amazed at how rich they are. There is nothing more motivating than finding your strengths and knowing that you are on the right course. For this self-assessment, get a blank book of some kind and in it make lists of these things: 1. My talents; what I’m good at. 2. What I know a lot about. 3. The experiences and accomplishments that taught me a lot. 4. My interests, dreams, and desires. Make substantial lists and then look for connections among them. For example, you might find that a talent for writing connects with an interest in language, an experience with a school newspaper and dream to publish a book. There may be many such links in your lists. One of them is the root of your special genius, and is a potent intrinsic source of motivation, if you choose to use it. Start thinking of what you have to do to become a powerhouse in your world. Always play to your strengths. Why we don’t when we don’t is a mystery. If you are living someone else’s dream—like the unhappy girl I watched being driven by her desperate mother to perform at the skating rink—or if you are following someone else’s advice, or if you are meeting someone else’s expectations, rethink the decision that got you into that situation. Authenticity is the real motivation, and authenticity can only be derived from your decisions, not decisions by others for you. In “You are the embodiment of the information you chose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and your actions.” Aldin Sinclair Links or tracks of talents are the roots of interests. Which track will you choose? Only you can know the answer to that. How you answer it may be the essence of who you are. That is, in essence, you may be that inner dialogue, how you decide and choose when the issues involve your personal growth. You are your life process. The next step is to shape your interests into visions, goals, plans and action. Everything begins with your interests. What is it that you want? Douglas Walker says that behavior happens to close the gap between gots and wants. What are the gaps that you want to close? Where You Goin? What You Gonna Do? In his book Mtivating Humans: Goals, Emotions, and Personal Beliefs, Martin Ford states that without a goal there is no motivation. The beginning, therefore, is to shape your interests into goals, but not just any goals. To move you forward, according to Ford, your goals must.... 1. Be clear and compelling 2. Be a challenge but be achievable 3. Be flooded with your passion for achieving them 4. Be supported by those around you 5. Generate feedback on progress. The writer might say, “I will write a travel article and publish it in a local paper or magazine within the next six months.” Goals, of course, are useless if they are not followed up with plans and action. Your goals and plans must be powerful enough to overcome your resistance to action. In the end you must have the drive—the will—to get the job done that you have chosen. One way to increase the energy of a goal is to align all of your powers with it—your beliefs, your values, your feelings, your thoughts, and your actions. I call it the arrow of intent. The writer, for example, benefits by believing that he has the ability to write and be published, by valuing writing as a profession, by being passionate about the subjects he chooses, by learning the skills of writing, and by developing a compelling style as he writes. Outline an alignment for one of the tracks that you found in your self-assessment of your personal resources. With the ‘arrow of intent’ in your bow, you will nail your target. See Yourself Successful For a long time I thought of myself as a fixed, what-you- see-is-what-you-get, being. DNA, environment and training settled everything about who I am except the trimmings. But now I know that I am on a journey, that I am evolving, that I have many choices, and that what I become will be the result of my life process. That sounds pretentious. What I mean is that the real motivation is not about a new trick the old pony learns, it is about the person, the whole person you and I are becoming. Everything we are learning through research about ourselves says so. Who are we? Who do we want to become? What do we want to achieve? What difference do we want to make in the world? Seeking the answers to these questions; that is what motivation is about. Once we recognize that we are on that journey, the question is what exactly are we moving toward? Can you visualize yourself doing what you love to do in the best environment you can imagine, and doing it as well as possible? Can you see yourself as the person you want to be, and can you see what you might be doing that would make a difference to the lives of others? If you can visualize these possibilities, then you know the answer to the question about how you can motivate yourself. The two lenses--motivation and action—“I want” and “I can”--merge into one magnification of what we are becoming. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.


It's time to support Personalised Learning

June 02, 14

Guest Article by Michael Maser 2014 Since the Renaissance early discoveries in science prefigured many breakthroughs that have helped shape human society. The roots of modern medicine first emerged from a guild of alchemists, and from the Victorian workshops of tireless tinkerers arose primitive electronic technologies that continue to evolve and influence so many aspects of human interaction. Now we are poised for a new breakthrough in human learning potential thanks to a convergence of insights from new domains arising in science and psychology as well as emerging technological and social trends. Recent scientific insights, rooted in discoveries in neurological and cognitive science, as well as positive and developmental psychology, help to prefigure a profound overhaul of assumptions about intelligence and how to best nurture learning, lifelong. One of the most important, convergent findings from recent mind, brain, and education research into meeting learning challenges across disciplines and ages highlights the effectiveness of Personalized Learning. Such research correlates learning progress to individual differences in neurology, personal interests and character traits in addition to a priori learning experiences and also cultural backgrounds. In other words only one of these factors reflects genetic or 'hard-wired' influences on learning differences; the rest reflect epigenetic or environmental influences. This has significant implications for how we orient to supporting K-12, special needs and post-secondary education, adult re-training experiences and promote mental fitness among seniors. The research makes clear the time has come to seriously question or abandon assumptions guiding education and learning evaluation practices such as "one-size-fits-all" curriculum delivery and assessment, and the preeminence of a determination of intelligence based on literacy and numeracy testing. Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, writing in Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, a critique of 100 years of intelligence theorizing (2013, Basic Books), "it’s time for a new definition of human intelligence ... One that emphasizes the value of an individual’s personal journey. That extends the time course of intelligence from a two-hour testing session of decontextualized problem solving to a lifetime of deeply meaningful engagement. That arms students with the mindsets and strategies they need to realize their personal goals, without limiting or pre-judging their chances of success at any stage in the process. That shifts the focus from doing everything right to a lifelong learning process where bumps and detours are par for the course. From a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. From product to process." Dr. Kaufman's assertion is supported by many predecessors who have recognized many paths to gaining knowledge and skill competency. These people, educational pioneers like E. Paul Torrance, Howard Gardner, John Holt, Nel Noddings and others laid the groundwork for educators and educational institutions to support the inculcation of personalized approaches to learning. What exactly is meant by Personalized Learning? Personalized Learning as generally conceived is in reality a suite of approaches to nurturing learning. These range from Unschooling or informal but personalized 'dabbling' in interest areas, to Self-Directed Learning inferring a level of personal discipline and interest focus, to Child-Centred Learning in which educators orient to developmentally-appropriate approaches, to Learner-Motivated learning in which learners focus on personal learning passions with educator support, to a Differentiated approach in which educators customize a curricula reflecting learner-readiness and biographical or cultural sensitivity. By way of example, the Reggio Emilia approach, now gaining popularity worldwide, reflects a Child-Centred orientation; SelfDesign, rooted in British Columbia, Canada, supports both a Learner-Motivated and Differentiated approach; and many other educational jurisdictional approaches supporting curriculum orientation favour a Differentiated approach with 'en-suite' supportive resources. In British Columbia and elsewhere in North America, a transition to more personalized learning is underway in mainstream education, which has been dominated for a century by mass education approaches. Presently the BC Ministry of Education is unveiling its new BC Ed Plan which is to emphasize personalized learning in its implementation in K-12 schooling in the coming year. Some BC schools, including at least five secondary schools, are already successfully pioneering personalized learning options for students. These mainly reflect the Differentiated and Learner-Motivated approaches. In the United States, various school districts, especially in New England, are orienting to supporting and implementing Differentiated Learning. Some post-secondary institutions - particularly smaller-sized ones - are recognizing the attractiveness and value of offering support for personalized learning while larger ones remain generally stuck in the paradigm of mass schooling approaches. This is unfortunate and ultimately short-changes students wishing to optimize their (increasingly expensive) post-secondary or career-retraining experiences. Personalization emerging in business, healthcare Evidence of the personalization movement has emerged in other areas of society, too. In business today, products and services are increasingly packaged and marketed as personal lifestyle choices or with opportunities for personal customization. This strategy is winning customers and market share according to industry consultants. As well, personalized healthcare or the tailoring of health needs to individual patient characteristics is emerging as a potent force, worldwide. Again, research supports the effectiveness of this approach to healthcare. Personalized Learning fits with business and healthcare as a trend whose time has come and, as with these strategies, it can be seen arising worldwide. In China, according to education expert Yong Zhao and recent author of World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, the country is moving to overhaul its rigidly standardized education system in favour of a much more personalized approach. Likwise in Finland, a respected global education leader where standardization is far less emphasized than in other European and North American countries, Personalized Learning is identified as a future destination. This was confirmed in a recent CBC interview with Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, a renowned global representative for the Finnish school system. "What our young people need much more of in the future, more than we did or our parents needed," Dr. Sahlberg told a reporter, "is education to discover their own passions, their own interests and talents." Dr. Sahlberg's comment underscores a need to provide young people more agency in their learning. Such agency will, in turn, engender more self-responsibility and self-resilience, two traits that will be much needed in the face of significant changes and challenges that experts agree are in store in the future. In SelfDesign, the BC-based education innovation in which I helped to co-found and have participated for more than 20 years, I have seen much evidence to support learning oriented to individual interests. Personally, in 1991 and early in my career as an educator, I abandondoned conventional classroom teaching in frustration when I detected how many students in any given classroom, including my own, were significantly disengaged with learning for what I perceived to be very valid (personal) reasons. Soon after, I joined heart and mind with educational visionary and Wondertree founder, the late Brent Cameron, to launch Virtual High for teenage youth in Vancouver BC. In Virtual High we asked the participants what did they really want to learn? to which we pledged our support and offer of candid feedback on their progress. What followed was transformational for many if not most of the participating youth, and formed the basis of several research projects and books. It also helped to support the career trajectories of many youth who have gone on to many remarkable experiences and careers in their lives. As educators Brent and I were likewise transformed by the experience of Virtual High and Wondertree and we brought our insights into SelfDesign which has grown since 2002 to include several thousand learners, families and educators. Now I see patterns of our learning methodologies and sensibilities reflected in the varied approaches to Personalized Learning listed above and emerging through technology and social media applications as well as in the resurgence of learning guild innovations like Minecraft and Makers and DIY movements. In British Columbia, SelfDesign presently offers three school (government-supported) programs: SelfDesign Learning Community (K-9), SelfDesign High (grades 10-12) and SelfDesign Special Education (K-12). As mentioned above these generally fall into the Learner Motivated and Differentiated approaches to Personalized Learning. Since our launch in 2002 we have grown to close to 2,000 learners overall and we have garnered many endorsements from parents and learners such as the following: "Our family is able to focus on our childrens' interests and enable them to excel with their special gifts and to continue to work steadily and continue to progress in the areas they find more difficult." "The most valuable aspect for us was the ability to create a learning plan specific to our daughter. It has been so wonderful to see her being successful and reaching her goals!" To my perception these comments from SelfDesign parents attest to what parents, whether they are enrolled in SelfDesign or advocating for supporting their children's learning in any program from any locale worldwide, know fundamentally: their children learn uniquely and one-size-fits-all is not an an appropriate or optimal way to support their learning. In closing, I sense in this time a unique opportunity for educators and administration leaders to nurture personalized learning in North America. As with the rise of modern medicine and technology, personalized learning will change the way we see ourselves. Likewise it will help catalyze the potential for this generation of young people and many more to come. Let's seize the moment. - Michael Maser is an award-winning educator with 'SelfDesign Learning Community', a BC online independent school. His book, "Learn Your Way!" is a commended career planning text in BC schools.


How Can I Be More Intelligent?

January 01, 14

How Can I Be More Intelligent? by Maurice Gibbons Applied Intelligence Since Howard Gardner proposed his theory of multiple intelligences, our ideas about mental abilities have changed radically. I.Q. no longer rules; it no longer sorts us into groups that will succeed or fail. Now we recognize the great diversity of achievement and the diverse forms of excellence in people that produces it. And from that new perspective, we can see many ways that we can all expand our intelligence. What matters is applied intelligence. Your intelligence is not your ability to do a test; it’s your ability to get things done that matter. Sternberg describes the three basic aspects of Successful Intelligence this way: 1. Analytical thinking: the ability to figure things out, solve problems, make decisions, and judge the quality of ideas. 2. Creative thinking: the ability to see possibilities, to identify the best among them, and to develop ways of pursuing them. 3. Practical application: the ability to understand situations, to know what to do, and to get the job done. Seeking Knowledge We have many great examples of applied intelligence in our culture, and I want to use one now to illustrate the steps that you will be using to develop yourself. One of the best I know is the inspiring story of the Wright brothers’ struggle to solve the problem of powered flight. In it we see the importance of knowledge in achieving success, but in the most practical way possible. Wilbur and Orville Wright attended high school but neither of them received a diploma. Together they opened a bicycle shop but soon decided that they needed a challenging enterprise. They chose the problem of flight. Many people had tried, often to great fanfare, but all failed and in the end, the experts announced that powered flight was impossible. The Wrights decided that it could be done and that they could do it. Wilbur read everything he could find on the subject, and conferred with experts from the Smithsonian and other institutions. They decided that the three main problems to solve were lift, power, and control. Wilbur focused on control. The brothers built a wind tunnel to develop designs, especially for the shapes of the wings. They built gliders large enough to carry a person and spent weeks on the Carolina dunes testing them, improving them, and learning how to fly them. No one had flown before, so no one knew how to fly if they ever got into the air. The Wrights had to discover how. Success at the Impossible They had to learn how to turn their gliders by shifting their weight in a cradle-like seat in a movement that twisted the wings and swung the rudder. The cradle was inspired by the weight shift in turning a bicycle, and the rudder by the steering system in boats. After more than 700 flights, they had an engine built and mounted it on their glider. In 1903, at Kitty Hawk, their flyer flew—the first powered flight in human history. The bothers worked even harder after their initial flight seeking next to make a practical airplane that they could sell. By 1908 they were flying over 60 minutes at 40 miles an hour with a passenger and landing safely. They sold their planes and became world famous. Just over a hundred years later, we are planning flights to Mars. I like this story because it is a great example of analytical, creative, and practical intelligence. The Wright’s may not have been brilliant in school, but they were very brilliant when it came to getting things done—impossible things. Proof again that there are many ways to be brilliant in the world. Step One: Find a Topic That Interests You The Wrights searched for a topic with both challenge and promise. After a search they chose flight, even though the experts said it was impossible. You do not need to find an overwhelming challenge, nor do you need to change the course of human history, but it is important that you select topics that interest you and have value to you. You will have many interests, so you might start with a list in your journal of subjects that you would like to know more about. I’m interested in the stock market, sculpture, learning, golf, personal health, movies and plays, and others. From your list choose one to focus on now, one with grab and zing. I’m interested in how to run a green household, and the grab and zing of that topic is that I might develop an environmental program—“The Spirit Is Green”—and propose it to the church that I attend as a way to be practically spiritual. What Is Your Topic? What is your topic? And what is the grab and zing for you in that choice? Use your strength tracks as a guide (see “How Can I Find My Strengths”). To be smarter, you have to focus, have questions that you want to answer, and a strong shot of determination to keep going until you are satisfied with the answers you get. Once you get deeper into your area of interest, find people to talk to about it. Start thinking about how you could use what you are finding out. If this area feels good it may be your field and you will become an expert in it. Step Two: Analyze, Create, and Act Sternberg’s three parts of intelligence come together in the Wright’s creation of a flying machine. They analyzed the problem of flight by reading everything they could find that had been written about it. They solved each of the problems with creative inventions such as building models and testing them in a wind tunnel. And then they took action--they built the plane and learned to fly it. Now use the same strategies to study your interest. Find out about it. Decide what you can do with what you know. Then do it. If your interest is gambling, for example, find out about Blackjack (or any other game), then learn to play it, then get into a game. Knowing that you are going to play the game--just like knowing you are going to fly--pours energy into the other two stages. This is route #1 to greater intelligence (I will produce others). Use this approach regularly and you will become more intelligent. You will be more capable, and you will become more interested in others as they will be more interested in you. Why? Because you are on the move! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.



January 27, 13

Get Started on Your Path Forward! Maurice Gibbons It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting. Welcome. Let’s get started, and since this program is focused on taking action, let’s take action. When I was a kid, we bought “Big-little books” that were very small but very thick. What follows are Little-big activities that are very quick and easy to do, but represent very big ideas about taking charge of your life. There is a good reason for doing these Little-bigs, these Quicks. As someone said, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than it is to think your way into a new way of acting.” So, I’m inviting you to do these activities and act your way into a new way of thinking about yourself and the way you manage your life. Legend Key Ideas Actions to Take Aligning Yourself Small Things All of these little activities I will ask you to do -- there are five -- represent the big ideas about taking charge that we are after. Remember, “little but big.” So as you do the activities, the important part will be thinking about the greater meaning of what you are doing and how it relates to taking charge. Here is the first Quick: Name three things you want to do today (or tomorrow, if it’s already night time), write them down on a note pad, do them, and then check them off on the notepad when they are done. The challenge - you will hear this word a lot -- is to go beyond habitual acts like getting the paper, feeding the cats, and eating lunch. Here are mine for today: 1. Call Carl (depressed)2. Buy John Selby’s Seven Masters, One Path3. Take Leslie out to dinner Nothing earth shattering, but things I don’t usually do. I wrote them down and then did them. [Please note: There is a key to the icons at the end of this article] The Big Ideas These are small things to decide and do, but doing what you decide to do is a huge idea. It is the keel of the vessel you will use for this journey. And it’s a huge idea to think about as you do your three activities. Then check them off: recording is an important motivator. They may be small things, but you choose them and you will do them intentionally and with purpose, and that is the essence of taking charge. Think for a moment if your next three decisions to act were: 1. Start my own company2. Reduce the global carbon footprint3. Eliminate homelessness in my city You may say, “But you already told us what the big idea is.” I answer that I have stated a key idea but many more ideas are represented by this activity. Here are a few: 1. I can learn important things from any experience.2. I am what I decide and do.3. In taking charge, decisions about what to do come from me not someone else.4. Decision-making and goal setting are essential skills for me to learn.5. I can become what I want to become and achieve what I want to achieve by what I decide and do. I won’t do this with the other four Quicks, but I want to make it clear that these small activities represent very significant ideas that are well worth thinking about. The key here is that you are thinking deeply about the meaning of these events. Thinking deeply--and thinking new thoughts-- is essential for all growth, progress, development, or improvement. And you are doing it. After that, consider what these mean for your life; how you can apply them. They are worth thinking and talking about, and then writing your conclusions in your journal. They are inexhaustible ideas. Where Am I Going? If life is a journey, it is important to know where you are going. You don’t want to be like the Stephen Leacock character who rushed out, leapt onto his horse, and rode off in all directions. And you don’t want to be like Mole, who lives underground and not knowing where he is going, digs even more furiously. And you certainly don’t want to be like Pi, in The Life of Pi, who is drifting in an open boat with a tiger and doesn’t know where he is or where he is headed. No, you don’t want to be scattered, working hard without purpose, or adrift, especially if there is a tiger in the boat with you. When you are adrift, there is a tiger in the room with you, and that tiger is direction -- the unanswered question, “Where are you going?” Without direction, there is no journey, only wandering, helplessness and confusion. But your direction must be self-direction, it must come from you, must be rooted in you. You must make it yours. Here is the second Quick: On a card or piece of paper, write down three interests or dreams that you have. To be useful they should be things that you want to get involved in, know about, become skilled at, or make happen. They should be written on a card or piece of paper and propped up where you will see them throughout the day. Here are my three: 1. Have a sculpture exhibition2. Get involved in volunteering3.Become skilled at tennis Make them as authentic as you can. They should be from your core, your own feelings, your own curiosity. If you draw a blank, then write down anything that comes to mind and act your way into thinking of them as your dreams and interests and enliven them with feelings of anticipation, pleasure, and possibility.Here’s what someone else wrote: 1. Become a rep for a cosmetic line2. Start a family3.Get my own home Think about these dreams and interests and what you might do to pursue them, and as you do, think about the big issue that they represent. Think about direction, passion and your life journey. Sculpture is not a new dream of mine, but I have been inactive in sculpture for too long. I am thinking about the passion for it that I once had, and the pride and pleasure I enjoyed when I was actively creating and carving. I am wondering why I stopped and what I need to renew my passion for it. As I write this, I am sitting in my workshop wondering why, and how I can get started again toward an exhibition of good work. What are you thinking about your dreams or interests? Is there one that stands out for you like sculpture does for me? And what is the big idea, or ideas, that this little activity represents? Remember, what you are thinking about is your life. Make a thoughtful entry in your journal about this activity, its meaning and significance. Moving Forward Imagine a round boulder almost as tall as you are sitting on top of a cavern in the ground, blocking the escape of someone you know and love. You are miles from help and alone. What are you going to do? If you are very strong, you might be able to rock the boulder until it rolls. Can you think of another way? You could cut a pole, put a rock behind it, and pry it away. Can you think of another way? This is important. It is important because the person moving the rock is you, and the person trapped in the cavern is you, too. And you are facing the challenge of freeing yourself. Can you think of a moral for this parable? Here’s mine: “To move forward, you have to find a way to free yourself from whatever is blocking your path.” The Challenge For many of us the boulder that blocks our path forward is our own inertia, or our own resistance to taking any initiative. So how do we move forward? We have to find a way to free ourselves from our inhibitions and feelings of limitation. We have to find a way to motivate ourselves to get moving. If we don’t, a year from now we will be thinking, “If I’d started carving (or whatever your interest is) again then, think of how much work I would have done now and how much more skilled I would be.” We want to get that work done and develop that skill, so we have to get started. To mobilize, to get going down your take-charge path, you have to believe in your potential and the wonderful possibilities around you. One thing I am certain of -- you have the resources within you to do many great things. Another thing I know for sure is that there are many possibilities available to you, and when you begin to access them, they will increase in number not decrease. I know that once I get started in sculpture, all kinds of possibilities for different ideas, materials, tools, techniques, collaborations, exhibitions and every other related feature will appear. I will show you how to find your genius and explore your possibilities later, but the point now is that opportunities await and you are equipped to take advantage of them, if… If what? If you are prepared to challenge yourself to move that rock of obstruction, clamber out of the cavern of resistance, and start moving up the pathway of achievement. Challenge is the key. You have to disturb the ordinary. You have to cast your hook into a promising future and reel yourself in. If you are in charge; if you want to enjoy competence, achievement and success; you have to regularly challenge yourself to leave the easy and familiar and take a step down an unfamiliar path to the results you seek. Here is the third Quick: So this third Quick is an invitation to challenge yourself to do something new.I can challenge you to do it, but somehow you have to make this challenging yourself. Choosing one from the list will help. Perhaps there is something you want to try because it is more challenging. Above all, remember you are doing a small thing to think about a big idea. If you find yourself picking one because it looks the easiest, you are missing the point. Challenge yourself! Choose one from the following or make one up that pushes you out of your comfort zone, and then do it. 1. Go to an arcade and play a game. 2. Visit an art gallery or bookstore. 3. Attend a play, opera, concert, game or race. 4. Buy and fly a kite. 5. Learn to send an email to someone. 6. Go to a community centre and work out, swim or play a game. 7. Find a tasteful joke and tell it to a friend. 8. Do a Sudoku or crossword puzzle in your newspaper. 9. Go to the teaching table in a casino and learn to play blackjack. 10. …………your choice…………… Remember, something new that is outside your comfort zone. Consider picking the activity that is the most challenging for you. And remember, also, this is a little activity that represents a big idea. While you are doing it, think about that big idea and write about it. If you picked something that was easy and familiar, or picked nothing, it’s very important that you write about that action, too. That needs to change. What Do I Do Now? Climbing, I realized, is the perfect metaphor for taking charge. When you begin a challenging activity, such as rock-climbing, you set a series of problems for yourself to solve. To complete your task successfully, you have to be a dedicated problem solver and be determined to never give up. Many people give up at the first sign of difficulty, obstacle, or complexity. But to be successful you have to develop grit, and be inventive, just like the rock climbers. Challenge and grit are inseparable partners in getting to where you want to go--to the top. Here is the fourth Quick: First, you need to find a problem. Any Quick that you had difficulty with points to a possible problem. What difficulty have you had? Was the difficulty in attempting the Quick or in doing it? Or was the difficulty seeing the big idea represented by the little activity. If you didn’t have any problems with the Quicks, create your own problem to solve, or solve one of the problems outlined below. 1. A friend has spread a lie about you that threatens your relationship with others in the group. How will you solve this problem? 2. You want a job as a sales representative, but don’t have the qualifications (training certificates, experience, etc.) required. What could you still do to ensure that you were chosen for the job. Find a problem to solve from above or in your life right now. When you are ready, write down the problem you have chosen from all of these possibilities as clearly as you can. State the problem as precisely as possible. This is very important; you want to solve the real problem, so you have to focus on it. Then list as many solutions or ideas for solutions as you can. For getting the job, for example, list at least ten ways. Get imaginative. Take time to ponder and imagine. Ideas often take time. Underline your best answer. Here’s my example: Problem: How to get going at sculpture: Take a course in sculpture or join a group of sculptors Stop waiting for a brilliant idea and just do something Set up an exhibition Plan a little exhibition at home for friends Make a deal with an art shop to provide a sculpture a month Do a lot of drawings and make maquettes Start sculpture provocation pages in my journal (photo montages of provocative sculptures by others) Hire a workshop assistant Learn some new skills and try some new equiptment Start experimenting directly with the wood Once you have a list, select one as the best and most workable. That is the essence of problem solving. We will take it to another level later, but you can work with this pattern in the meantime. Then consider the big idea about taking charge of you life that solving this little problem on paper represents. Getting Your Ducks in a Row The trainer said, “Ralph, you know everything about leadership but you couldn’t lead these people out of a raging inferno.” The coach said, “Jenna, you can dribble and shoot a soccer ball beautifully, but soccer is a team game not an individual game.” Margaret said, “Bob, you know everything about sex except how to make love.” What were they talking about? They were talking about alignment, about getting all your ducks in a row; they were talking about the full package : the powers you need to line up so they can drive the action that you want to occur. Bob’s, Jenna’s, and Ralph’s alignments are askew. Most programs teach techniques for special results—how to meditate, how to set goals, how to lead, how to motivate yourself, how to plan, how to be effective, how to dribble and shoot, and so on. Someone might say, “Well, you are telling us to take charge. What’s the difference?” In this program I want you to become a person who is in charge, not just a person who knows the procedure for taking charge, if the occasion arises. And that takes alignment from the core of who you are to the performance people see when you take action. Alignment determines the power and the quality of the performance. Passion→Character→Beliefs→Attitudes→Thoughts→Skill→Action Figure one shows the basic elements of alignment. There are others, but these are all you need for now. In all three of the examples, the people had learned the actions they needed and perhaps they had the skill and thinking right for those actions, but they all lacked the rest, or a major part of it. They did not have the passion, character, beliefs, and attitudes or feelings that was required to drive the activity. Ralph is in charge but is a weak person who seems confused about what to do. He does not have any solid beliefs about the product, the business, or the staff. Yet he seems aloof and acts superior, which does not fool anyone. Ralph cannot lead because his performance lacks a consistent connection among the basic elements needed for excellence. Jenna has a similar problem on the soccer field. She is skilled but cannot use her skill on the field. She seldom passes, is seldom in position. She is only concerned with her own performance and makes it clear she does not care about the other team members. If you look at the model you can see lacks everything but skill. Her parents reinforce her self-centeredness, and I wonder how and when she will learn to be aligned. Bob seems to be skilful in bed, but does not communicate any feeling for the women he has sex with, and that is just the beginning of his misalignment. A Tight Alignment So what does good alignment look like? My friend Brian is fierce about living a greener lifestyle (passion). He announced this intention to his friends knowing that his sense of integrity (character) would not allow him to easily abandon his announced purpose. He (believes) that the world is in crisis with increases in population and industry racing head on into a degenerating environment and limited capacity to fill our needs for food and water. His mantra (attitude) is, “It begins with me.” Brian did not do this lightly. From reading widely, taking courses, and attending workshops, he concluded (thought) that through his excess he was using up his grandchildren’s opportunity for a good life and he had to change. He decided to leave a much smaller carbon footprint and to turn the yard of his house into a garden to produce as much of their food as possible. He found plenty of help on the Internet, in a local marketing garden club on dedicated public land, and at a night course at a nearby college. He began with a small garden right away (action) and was soon very skilled. Brian is aligned in this enterprise. His yard is now all food garden except for a plot on the street, which may be converted this year. When we are as aligned as Brian is on this task, we significantly increase our power to get things done. Getting Aligned And that brings us to Quick # 5 I invite you to imagine following one of your interests and doing a major project in it. Remember—imagine only. Think what the project will be and outline an alignment for excellence in achieving it, including passion, character, beliefs, attitudes and feelings, thoughts, skills, and actions. Here is mine: Project: Preparing a sculpture exhibition. This is exciting for me because I have not exhibited for a long time and want to begin again. This is added later. I tried to create a model of alignment using a subject I know. 1. Character: I need to live creatively. Everything is too rational right now (I find I have a lot to say about this. I know it is important). 2. Beliefs: I believe that if I have great ideas and put my mind to it, I can create an exciting exhibition. But I have not been producing great ideas and I think I may be past it now. 3. Attitudes, feelings: I need to feel confident and determined. I need to be as unstoppable as I tell others to be. But I am afraid that I cannot match what I have already done. 4. Thoughts: I need a vision of new work; a great theme. Among all the sketches in my journal I cannot find one that excites me. 5. Skills: A new medium, a new skill set. I can learn to make carving knives from the local native West Coast carvers, and then learn to use them. 6. Action, Performance: I will clear three months and work full time on it. Maybe start by making maquettes, the small carvings for the bigger work based on them. Can you sense the power in alignment? This is imagination only, but I can see an emerging plan now that will work for me when I am ready to act on it. Using the same headings, outline an alignment for achieving an excellent result in a project based on a promising interest that you have identified. As you develop this practice in your work you will experience the power of alignment. Think of the alignment of your powers as a laser beam. Remember as you make your list, think about the big idea, or ideas, that this small activity represents. It’s a power generator that can drive you to success in the enterprises that you choose. As you move the elements we used into a drive shaft to move you into action, you increase the drive. Put It All Together So here are the basics of taking charge: 1. Decide what you are going to do and do it. 2. Search for direction by following your interests. 3. Challenge yourself to reach beyond the easy and familiar. 4. Solve the problems that stand between you and success. 5. Align all of the personal elements necessary to produce a quality result in your projects. If you have done these small activities and thought about the big ideas that they represent, you are in the zone of taking charge. We are now talking the language and working with the ideas of being in charge of your life. And you are on the move. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Never loose another idea! • Develop your own plans for projects • Keep track of what you learn • Meet your new companion, partner, confidant • Understand yourself • Discover your talent; watch it grow The journal is a powerful instrument that will help you to be successful with any activity that you undertake. If you decide to understand yourself and your life better, the journal is waiting to listen and to be your companion in the search.



Welcome! This site supports teaching self-directed learning (SDL) and becoming a self-directed person. It supports home-schooling, experiential education, open schooling and life-long learning. Keeping a journal, setting goals, planning and taking action are key tools. Self-improvement, personal development and the development of character are central themes of SDL.

In self-directed learning (SDL), the individual takes the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age. In schools, teachers can work toward SDL a stage at a time. Teaching emphasizes SDL skills, processes, and systems rather than content coverage and tests. For the individual, SDL involves initiating personal challenge activities and developing the personal qualities to pursue them successfully. This website is devoted to illuminating these principals as they apply to schooling and to life.