10 Habits of Exceptionally Happy People

Courtesy of LinkedIn/Inc.com

If you get decent value from making to-do lists, you’ll get huge returns — in productivity, in improved relationships, and in your personal well-being — from adding these items to your not to-do list: Every day, make these commitments to yourself. I promise your day – and your life – will go a little better.

“I will not blame other people – for anything.”

Employees make mistakes. Vendors don’t deliver on time. Potential customers never sign. You blame them for your problems.
But you are also to blame. Maybe you didn’t provide enough training, build in enough of a buffer, or asked for too much too soon. Take responsibility when things go wrong instead of blaming others — then you focus on doing things better or smarter next time. And when you get better or smarter, you also get happier.

“I will not check my phone while I’m talking to someone.”

You’ve looked away. You’ve done the, “Wait, let me answer this text…” thing. Maybe you didn’t even say, “Wait.” You just stopped talking, stopped paying attention, and did it. Want to be that person everyone loves because they make you feel, when they’re talking to you, like you’re the most important person in the world? Stop checking your phone. Other people will feel better about you – and you’ll feel better about yourself.

“I will not multitask during a meeting.”

The easiest way to be the smartest person in the room is to be the person who pays the most attention to the room. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn, both about the topic of the meeting and about the people in the meeting if you stop multitasking and start paying close attention. You’ll flush out and understand hidden agendas, you’ll spot opportunities to build bridges, and you’ll find ways to make yourself indispensable to the people who matter.

“I will not interrupt.”

Interrupting isn’t just rude. When you interrupt someone what you’re really saying is, “I’m not listening to you so I can understand what you’re saying; I’m listening to you so I can decide what Iwant to say.” Want people to like you? Listen to what they say. Focus on what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they say. They’ll love you for it — and you’ll love how that makes you feel.

“I will not waste time on people who make no difference in my life.”

Trust me: The inhabitants of planet TMZ are doing fine without you. But your family, your friends, your employees — all the people that really matter to you – are not. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.

“I will not be distracted by multiple notifications.”

You don’t need to know the instant you get an email or text or tweet or like. If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions. Focus totally on what you’re doing. Then, on a schedule you set — instead of a schedule you let everyone else set — play prairie dog and pop your head up to see what’s happening. Focusing on what you are doing is a lot more important than focusing on other people might be doing.

“I will not whine.”

Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems makes you feel worse, not better. If something is wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that effort into making the situation better. Unless you want to whine about it forever, eventually you’ll have to do that. So why waste time? Fix it now. Don’t talk about what’s wrong. Talk about how you’ll make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.

“I will not let the past control my future.”

Mistakes are valuable. Learn from them. Then let them go. Easier said than done? It all depends on your perspective. When something goes wrong, turn it into an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know — especially about yourself. When something goes wrong for someone else, turn it into an opportunity to be gracious, forgiving, and understanding. The past is just training. The past should definitely inform but in no way define you — unless you let it.

“I will not wait until I’m convinced I will succeed.”

You can never feel sure you will succeed at something new, but you can always feel sure you are committed to giving something your best. And you can always feel sure you will try again if you fail. Stop waiting. You have a lot less to lose than you think, and everything to gain.

“I will not talk behind another person’s back.”

If only because being the focus of gossip sucks. (And so do the people who gossip.) If you’ve talked to more than one person about something Joe is doing, wouldn’t everyone be better off if you stepped up and actually talked to Joe about it? And if it’s “not your place” to talk to Joe, it’s probably not your place to talk about Joe. Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get a lot more done–and you’ll gain a lot more respect.

“I will not say yes when I really mean no.”

Refusing a request from colleagues, customers, or even friends is really hard. But rarely does saying no go as badly as you expect. Most people will understand, and if they don’t, should you care too much about what they think? When you say no, at least you’ll only feel bad for a few moments. When you say yes to something you really don’t want to do you might feel bad for a long time — or at least as long as it takes you to do what you didn’t want to do in the first place.

“I will not be afraid.”

We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, what we can’t change, what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us. So it’s easier to hesitate… and think a little longer, do more research, or explore more alternatives. Meanwhile days, weeks, months, and even years pass us by. And so do our dreams.

Whatever you’ve been planning or imagining or dreaming of, get started today. Put your fears aside. Do something. Do anything. Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever. Today is the most precious asset you own — and is the one thing you should truly fear wasting.

From Borders to Bridges

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

“For many of us who teach young children, abstract and well-intentioned discussions of ‘parent involvement’ have become commonplace.  Yet many of us hold parents at a safe distance, not truly involving them in the life we share with the children in our programs; not building genuine partnerships with them.  Too often, we construct boundaries around our classrooms — literally and metaphorically — that keep parents out, at least in any meaningful way.”   This caution was raised by Ann Pelo in her article “From Borders to Bridges:  Transforming our relationships with Parents,” from the Exchange Essential article collection,Communicating Effectively with Parents.

In this article, Pelo shares a variety of ways to create bridges, including having families and teachers in a classroom meet “to reflect on the values we hoped to nourish in the children and in ourselves, and on the ways in which we can begin to live those values in our classroom practices.  We created a value statement together:

“We want children to feel rock-solid safe.  We celebrate their uniqueness and want them to be affirmed in their individuality and encouraged to pursue their passions and interests and to cultivate their gifts.  Hand-in-hand with this, we want children to experience community and relationship, to be at ease with a range of people, to embrace difference, and to deepen their compassion for others.  We want there to be room for children’s emotions, for exuberant play, for conflict and collaborative problem solving, and for quiet introspection.  We want the children to learn to act for fairness.  We want children to see their lives reflected and affirmed in many ways, so that they develop a sense of their history as thinkers, players, and friends.  We want children’s family bonds to be nurtured. We value transparency at Hilltop, so that there are many windows into children’s lives here and a sense of seamlessness between home and Hilltop.”

Pelo concluded, her article:  “As we aim to create programs that deeply respect children, we must open ourselves to authentic partnership with their families, moving beyond trivial or superficial ‘parent involvement’ to genuine relationship.  Our efforts to grow these relationships are efforts at bridge-building, so that children encounter many bridges that link home and child care, family life, and the life of our school communities.”

7 Tips for Communicating with Parents

Courtesy of MemberHub

1. Ask for help. It’s easy to assume that parents who want to help out will make themselves known. But that’s simply not the case. Many parents may be waiting for you to make the first move, or figuring that everything is well-covered unless you tell them differently. So don’t be shy about openly encouraging parent involvement at your school, early and often.

2. Tell them, specifically, what you need. Asking for help is a good first step. Being extremely specific about what you need is an even better second step. Parents may assume that help may only be needed during school hours (when they are unavailable due to work), or that the school has plenty of money allocated for XYZ and doesn’t need more (in a word: Ha! But parents don’t think this way). You are probably always thinking about the many ways it would be helpful for parents to be more involved, but they’re not. Make it easy for them.

3. Watch out for demands. There is no quicker way to shut an eager parent down than to take a curt, demanding, or ungrateful tone. Guilt trips don’t work all that well on kids, and grown-ups don’t respond well to them, either. Even if what you’re asking for seems to you to be no-brainer simple and undemanding (which it may well be), or if a parent has dropped the ball in a highly annoying way, always be polite and gracious.

4. Get into a routine. Whether you send out a monthly newsletter or a weekly whiteboard update on MemberHub, getting into a regular schedule conditions parents to getting used to hearing from you. Also, for big events, set up a communications calendar in advance so that parents are well-informed but not pestered – first notice six months out, for example, with monthly notices thereafter until the final month, when a weekly notice is sent.

5. Pick a point person. Parent involvement is smoother and easier when there is one designated point person they can go to with questions and concerns. It’s also much easier for time-pressed, addled parent brains when the only name they need to remember is, say, Julia’s. This doesn’t mean that Julia needs to handle everything parent-related all by herself, but she is officially the main gatekeeper. You can rotate this position annually if you choose. By the way, here is a great post withroom parent resources!

6. Think of fun thank-yous. Whether it’s a “parent volunteer of the month” bulletin board, a handwritten note, or a bottle of good wine, sincere thank-yous go a long way towards encouraging parent involvement at your school.

7. Develop a unique identity. Your school has its own identity, of course, but your parent volunteer organization should, too. Think of a fun name for the group, maybe even with a tagline of some kind. If your school is the Golden Eagles, your parent group could be “the wind beneath their wings” (or something equally fun but less cheesy). You get the idea. The point is that the better identified your volunteer group is, the more readily you’ll attract both interest and willing volunteers.

The New 3R’s in Education: Respect, Responsibility & Relationships

The following is an excerpt from James Burns’s first book, The New 3R’s in Education: Respect, Responsibility & Relationships. Over the next several months, we will be sharing other portions of this book.

As a young boy, I always believed that if I excelled in the basics I would be successful in life. My parents insisted on good grades, and they made it known to me if they thought that I wasn’t working up to my potential. I never thought that I would get into college, but I did. However, I was almost asked to leave the school after my first semester because my grade point average was a 1.0; that’s a D. I wasn’t sure of my future and became frightened thinking about what would happen to me if I didn’t start putting my mind to my work.

I decided to go into teaching. For the next three and a half years, I worked hard, and I graduated with a 2.9. That was a lot of A’s. I could never understand why those A’s were so hard to achieve; I had to work three times harder than anyone else to get good grades. I had problems retaining information and being able to recall the information at test time. It was painful to study. I probably had test anxiety and didn’t even realize it. I was constantly distracted by circumstances and relationships, and was a very insecure person. I was afraid of confrontations with others and speaking my mind, and usually said what I thought others of any significance wanted to hear.

I came to learn as I began my teaching career that my students, other teachers, and even the parents I worked with had many of the same problems. They were caught up with the trials of life and couldn’t focus on tasks. Teachers and society in general started believing that people with these shortcomings had ADD. I had some pieces missing, and I definitely wasn’t the sum of my parts. My students had pieces missing; their parents had pieces missing; and many other people had some pieces missing. What were these missing pieces?

After many years of my own struggles and after working with students, parents, and aspiring teachers as a college instructor, it became obvious that the problems that existed in schools and in society in general were not due to a lack of student academic ability. Rather, the problems were due to people’s inability to develop a sense of respect for authority figures, lack of a responsible attitude regarding their academic assignments and behavior, and inability to form meaningful relationships with their parents, teachers, or any person of significance.

It was once believed that if a person had an understanding of the “Three R’s” of reading, writing, and arithmetic that he or she would be successful in life; that is not the case anymore. Many children today don’t come to school with respectful attitudes or a sense of responsibility, and lack the ability to develop relationships with teachers. Believe it or not, teachers have a hard time developing relationships with their students. Many students who struggle academically tend to lack respect for their teachers; instead, they work harder at trying to figure out how to get out of completing assignments than at being responsible and completing their assignments. They also tend to lack the overall ability to form relationships with adults and friendships with other children.

As teachers, we can’t be naive to these facts, but we have to realize that these problems didn’t start yesterday. They have been going on in society for many years. Teachers and parents must also develop these lost skills and attitudes in our students and our children if we are going to develop adults who will excel academically, socially, and emotionally. Some children develop as good students without these skills, but in my experience, as they mature, they lack the skills needed to become good workers, marriage partners, and even parents. They become classic underachievers who are filled with knowledge but rub everyone the wrong way. They also become people who can’t hold a job or stay married for any length of time.

So, how do we develop these skills in our students and our children? How can we ensure their success in these three vital areas? These qualities won’t develop on their own; we may even have to change our own attitudes and behaviors as teachers and parents. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.

the bully proof classroom, rtc, consequential thinkingJames Burns is a popular speaker on the topic of Anti Bullying and the co-designer of the RTC Online and face2face course:The Bully Proof Classroom. You can also catch Jim on BlogTalk Radio @ http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bullyproofclassroom where he can be heard discussing bullying issues on a regular basis. Check in on Mondays for the “Anti Bullying Tip.” Jim is a popular instructor with the Regional Training Center as well. Besides teaching the course he co-designed, “The Bully Proof Classroom,” he also teaches “Cooperative Discipline,” “Skills and Strategies for Inclusion and Disability Awareness,” and “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning.” His newest book is entitled Anti-Bullying 101.

A New Way to Read? Check out Spritzing!

“How about reading one word at a time?  An article, “How Spritz Redesigned Reading, Letting You Scan 1,000 Words A Minute,” in Fast Company magazine, describes this new way of reading.  Check this out (you can actually read this way in the online article), and then come back, here, scroll down to “Comment on this article” and tell our readers what you think.

“When we read, our eyes move across a page or a screen to digest the words.  All of that eye movement slows us down, but a new technology called Spritz claims to have figured out a way to turn us into speed-readers.  By flashing words onto a single point on a screen, much like watching TV, Spritz says it will double your reading speed.

“Spritz Inc. is attempting to redesign reading — and renaming it ‘spritzing’ — by streaming one word at a time at speeds varying between 250 and 1,000 words per minute.  Words are centered around an ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ in a special display called the ‘Redicle.’  This method reportedly eliminates the time-consuming need to move your eyes across a page, which Spritz’s research suggests improves focus and comprehension.  ‘Atlas Shrugged in a day?  You betcha,’ promises the site.”

Try it at:  http://www.spritzinc.com/

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

Giving Verbal Instructions to Children

“The manner and quality with which adults give directives and verbally interact with young children can make a big difference in the kinds of behaviors exhibited by those children,” writes Tom Udell and Gary Glasenapp in their article “Managing Challenging Behaviors:  Adult Communication as a Prevention and a Teaching Tool,” in Behavior: A Beginnings Workshop Book.  They provide the following guidelines:

Be specific and clear when giving directives.  Children need to know precisely what is expected.  They are more likely to respond appropriately to ‘Keep your feet on the floor’ than ‘Be careful.'”

Avoid using questions you do not mean to ask.  Use question statements only when you truly intend to provide a choice.  A direct request, such as ‘Jason, please wash your hands,’ is preferable to ‘Jason, will you wash your hands before snacks?”’

“State requests and directions in a positive manner.  Asking a child to ‘Walk in the classroom’ is more positive and more clearly understood than ‘Don’t run.'”

Avoid repeating requests and directives.  Repeating directives can become troublesome because children quickly learn that they are not expected to respond the first time they are given a direction.  Adults do not want to inadvertently teach children that it is okay to ignore requests that are made of them.”

Courtesy of The Child Care Exchange

Making Shapes in the Sandbox

Courtesy of Child Care Exchange

“One of the most memorable experiences for me at age five was digging in the sandbox at our neighborhood park, my feet burrowed deep in the sand and a shovel and pail as my only tools,” writes Elice Swanson in her article, “Learning through Conversations with Children.”
“Asking children what they are thinking, hearing, and seeing is the means to the excitement of learning.  As teachers, what we can offer to children is a ‘sandbox,’ a digging place, where we present tools, but not solutions. It is a distance that a new idea can travel to a world not yet seen.  As facilitators of young children’s learning, we can usher toward — but not dictate — the road ahead.  If we try to eliminate frustration and the possibility of failure, we often also eliminate the power of trial and error as a problem-solving tool, the value of experimentation, and the real possibility of success.  Helping students ‘make shapes in the sandbox’ gives them a point of view.  Their personal impressions are like no other.  What they make and what they see are pieces of their own identity.”