Even with having close friends and family whom suffer from depression, I don’t know that I will ever truly understand how debilitating it is unless I was to suffer it myself. What I always endeavour to do, is listen, read and educate myself as much as possible and continually develop my own well being.
In saying this, I recently watched this TED talk by Andrew Solomon; Depression, the secret we share (it is 30 mins, but well worth viewing). It reminded me that depression can strike at any time for anyone and that each individual’s experience is as unique as themselves. It made me conscious of those I know whom suffer from depression and their loved ones and families. It also made me think about the people I work with both young and old and how we can be oblivious to much of their own secret suffering.
George Couros recently shared this HBR article When You Criticize Someone, You Make it Harder for that Person to Change which reminded me of some experiences I had many years ago.
The article addresses research conducted by Richard Boyatzis on “how coaching affects the brain differently when you focus on dreams instead of failings.”
The research suggests that when you focus on positive goals and dreams, your brain is open and ready for change whilst any focus on what is deficient will result in the shutting down of these same brain centres.
Throughout my sporting endeavours, I was fortunate to be involved with elite athlete programs where I participated in sports psychology and physiology training. One particular program I was involved in showed how this understanding of positive vs negative input can effect performance. As my sport was basketball, the activity I was asked to perform were foul shots. I was required to shoot six rounds of foul shots (I believe each round I took 20 shots with breaks in between). The first two rounds were under “normal” conditions. The next two rounds I wore headphones. The messages I heard during this round through the headphones, were extremely negative and included general put downs that were not specific to basketball. Things like “you always let the team down”, “you will never be successful”, “why do you even bother”. The final two rounds had me again wearing the earphones, but this time the messages were extremely positive. “You can be what you want to be”, “you will be successful”, “you can win” and so on.
The results were no surprise, my shooting percentage rapidly declined under the bombardment of negativity and increased when receiving positive messages. This experience taught myself and my peers at the time, how important it is to remain positive and maintain self-belief.
For me, the TED talk and this research article express the importance of always focussing on the positive. Not only is criticism not going to elicit change in anybody, it may be that on that day, at that moment or in that space, it may be something that has a detrimental impact on a student or an adult, greater than you will ever know.
So my takeaway is – Don’t spotlight the deficits, always focus on the hopes and dreams and work towards finding ways to achieve them!
Watching my daughter play basketball can be an excruciating experience and an uplifting experience at the same time, but that exploration is a personal reflection for another time! Being a spectator of junior sport has also meant I can watch coaching from afar. Not “being” the coach nor the player has enabled me to set a wider gaze on the team and individual improvement process. To see how the players coach each other and how the coach guides to work towards results.
Having been the player and the coach and rarely the spectator has meant I have missed a whole other aspect of coaching for improvement. Watching my daughters games has allowed me to see how umpires/referees are also coached for improvement in real time.
As I sat in the stands I watched as a mentor spoke to the two court referees during a time-out. There was a lot of discussion and pointing to parts of the court. This was for all intensive purposes JIT (just-in-time) teaching.
Sport is such an open learning space. The players are being watched, the coach is being watched and of course the umpires/referees are being watched. It springs to mind that when you have an audience and opportunity for “coaching” and feedback your development is continually the focus. For teachers though, much of our practice is in isolation, never to be coached in real time, by our mentors or our teammates. If we don’t deliberately construct spaces and opportunities, then we make it the more difficult to keep improvement at the focus.