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Monday, November 28, 2011

Week Thirteen Notes

I have to admit it - I actually gave some consideration to skipping over Week Thirteen and moving right on to Week Fourteen.  Hotels do it, right?  I mean - who wants to risk the unimaginable by booking a room on the thirteenth floor?  

Alright.  The truth is I didn't really give all that much thought to the idea, but it did remind me of the relative power that superstitions hold over some people and the rationale for them.  When you think about it, anyone who subscribes to superstitions is actually attempting to control events/outcomes in their lives.  They somehow see a connection between walking under a ladder and experiencing misfortune.  Even better, some athletes do really "rational" things to enhance their chances for success like wearing dirty/smelly/unwashed socks game after game because their teams are winning game after game.  Surely this winning streak is due to the socks.

I don't know about you, but I think of attributions when I hear someone repeating some superstitious mantra.  You learn about attributions in Psychology 101 - that we all look to attribute explanations for outcomes that we experience in our lives.  Here's a very simplistic explanation of attributional theory - we believe that the successes and failures we experience in our lives are the results of luck (here's where the superstitions play a huge role), task difficulty (Oh, I succeeded because it was too easy - or I didn't because it was too hard), ability (I'm not good enough - or I am good enough), and effort (I didn't try hard enough - or I tried really hard at it).  If you're wondering - "How about if I just don't care?" - well, this has to do with effort.  Doesn't it?  Although, it may be that some don't care because they don't think they have what it takes (ability) to care.

There's much to be said about how people assign reasons for what they experience in their lives.  Think about it - failing at something because you believe you aren't good enough (ability) is different from failing because you didn't try hard enough (effort).  In the latter case, you can do something about it - you can try harder. 

THE EOS Guidance Department actually includes an attributional survey in every Student Success Plan.  There are 15 statements and students are asked how strongly they agree or disagree with each - 1) Heredity determines most of what a person is like, 2) Luck has little to do with being successful, 3) Whatever plans I make, there is always something that will get in the way of completing them, 4) Failing a test is a sign of incomplete preparation on my part - I didn't study hard enough, 5) Being in the right place at the right time is essential for getting what I want in life, 6) If I set realistic goals, I can succeed at most anything in life, 7) School success is mostly the result of one's socioeconomic background (how much money a family has), 8) Each person is responsible for her/his own actions, good or bad, 9) If I don't succeed at something, it's because I don't have what it takes to succeed, 10), Being smart/intelligent isn't entirely inborn - a person can become smarter/more intelligent through hard work, 11) If I successfully complete a task, it's because it was easy, 12) My chances of succeeding in school are largely based upon my effort, 13) Teachers have more to so with student success than students themselves do, 14) If I study hard enough, I can succeed in any course, and 15) I can complain about being treated unfairly, but that's about all I can do.  The responses students choose may provide some insight on how they respond to difficulties that life inevitably presents along the way.

We've heard this phrase expressed repeatedly - "Forget it.  I can't do that."  Okay.  Maybe not - yet.  Yet, what if we added a three-letter word to the end of our judgments - yet?  "Yet" can change everything.  It can empower us to keep on keepin' on in pursuit of those goals we're otherwise so quick to discard. "Yet" changes the perception of "failure" from a sense of permanence to one that is temporary.  "Yet" extinguishes excuses.  "Yet" connotes choice. "Yet" tells us that it's a judgment in the moment and not one that is absolute.  "I can't do that - yet."  From an attributional standpoint, this is about effort.

Think about it.  Think about something you want to do or wanted to do but didn't.  Perhaps it's losing x amount of pounds or running an x minute mile or learning a new software program or joining a new club  - or all of these.  Perhaps it's writing a research paper or solving a math problem or doing homework daily.  It's November 29th.  Now think forward to April 1st.  And you haven't done what you set out to do.  Don't fool yourself by saying - "I give up.  I can't do that."  Instead, give up the first sentence in the previous phrase and add one word to the second sentence - "I can't do that YET."  Hope remains alive...and so should your commitment.  There may be goals we can't reach or behaviors we can't master no matter what, but not nearly as many as we think.  Rather, we simply can't do them yet.  This attributions survey mentioned in the previous paragraph, by the way, can be tied to the goals activity that students do. 

If you're old enough, you may remember the three "Rs" as Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic.  Each still has its place in learning, but so does another set of "Rs" - Relationships, Relevance, and Resilience.  It's this last one that deserves our attention in this piece.  Resilience is about belief.  And belief is related to effort.

If you want research to back this up, then you should make the effort to read Can Everyone Be Smart at Everything?

A Reminder

Financial Aid Workshop for Parents/Guardians on December 5 @ 7 pm
EOS Lecture Hall

An Invitation

Method Test Prep, the company that provides SAT prep programs through Naviance, is offering free webinars over the next couple of weeks for parents and students.  These webinars are designed to help participants maximize the benefits of the SAT program available on the Family Connections page.  If you're interested in this and want more information on how to register, contact EOS Guidance  - guidance@eosmith.org

Article of Interest

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