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Why Change is So Difficult: Overcoming Beliefs

September 22, 2010

Examining your inherent beliefs is critical when you find yourself needing to make a change in your life.  When something isn’t working well for you – say you aren’t feeling satisfied in your career, in the status of your health, or maybe in your relationships.

Teachers know how difficult it is to get students to critically think about their own thinking, to evaluate their own assumptions and  beliefs.  It’s just as difficult for adults. Maybe more so because we have lived with our beliefs longer.

When was the last time you took the time to examine your own beliefs?  I’m not talking about your spirituality.  I’m talking about your inherent beliefs about your self, your job, your role as an educator, your beliefs about education.

I recently read an interesting journal article regarding the need to examine one’s own beliefs before one can effect change in his/her life.  I’m citing the article below so you can access it yourself if you so desire.

The author discusses, among many other topics, belief perseverance.

Belief Perseverance is this tendency to reject convincing proof and become even more tenaciously held when the belief has been publicly announced to others.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks to effecting change is overcoming beliefs.  First, you have to be aware of what your deeply held beliefs are.  This is so ingrained in us, that it is at times difficult to identify.  Once you are able to identify you core beliefs about the world, then you really have to take a good hard look at those beliefs and try to determine if they are valid.

This is really difficult, sometimes emotional work.   Have you ever caught yourself clinging to a belief even when you are being presented with conflicting information that is pretty credible?   I have done this.  I have seen others do this.

I think it all goes back to that concept we educators understand all too well – it’s easier to teach something correctly the first time than to un-teach something that was learned and practiced incorrectly.   Our beliefs have been with us all our lives, and we have been ‘practicing’ them for all these years.

Only by taking the time to examine our beliefs can we lead ourselves to effect change in our lives.

*Enemies of Critical Thinking: Lessons From Social Psychology Research   Nancy L. Douglas , Reading Psychology 21: 129-144, 2000


Avoid Burnout: Practice Kindness

September 20, 2010

Earlier today I was perusing blogs related to “burnout.”  I wanted to see what other bloggers were saying, suggesting, and maybe make some connections.

I stumbled upon this one blog – the author IS burned out in her job.  She has applied for a different job, and has totally checked out of the current one, showing up in body only.  From her own description she has one crappy attitude.  Then she has the audacity to complain that nobody pays attention to her.

Frankly, I can’t blame them.  I wanted to put my eye out with a sharp stick rather than read any more of her whining.  Being the problem solver that I am though, it got me thinking.

I have been in situations where I hated my job.  We all have.  One of the things you can do to make a horrid work situation more tolerable for yourself, others, and the situation is to stop looking inward, and start looking outward.


  • The people with whom you work
  • The boss
  • The tone of the work environment and how it changes throughout the day

Reach Out

  • Initiate conversations
  • Listen to others, and let them know you heard in some way (paraphrasing can be a bit overkill, so get creative about this.  Asking more questions about what was said shows your interest.)
  • Remember some detail about what you were told, use it in conversation with that person to let them know you remember

Practice Kindness

  • Show interest in other people
  • Do something nice for the group or more quietly for an individual
  • Do something nice anonymously for someone who needs a little boost

When you practice kindness,

  1. you take your attention off of your own ‘misery.’  (As one of my friends frequently says “Get over yourself!“)
  2. you can watch the atmosphere of your work environment change for the better.
  3. perhaps the job will not improve, but there will be at least something enjoyable to look forward to, making it a little easier to endure.
  4. you will develop a strong, positive reputation amongst your peers and your employer – making you a desirable employee.

My daughter shared this with me, and I think it is an appropriate sentiment.

Give it a try.  See how acting with kindness changes your world.

Avoid Burnout: Laughter for a Friday

September 17, 2010

Remember, laughter is good for your health!  While you certainly can’t or at least shouldn’t laugh at everything, it doesn’t hurt to laugh at some things.  has an excellent webpage reminding us of the benefits of laughing.

“Laughter is good for your health

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.”

Now you might think my sense of humor is immature, or maybe even shallow, but c’mon, admit it, the Muppets are hilarious!

Resilience: Kicking an Addiction

September 16, 2010

Ceasing an addiction is SO VERY DIFFICULT.  In order to succeed, I think you really have to want to do it.  It has to be on the heels of a transformative experience – you know, one of those experiences that causes you to sit back and take a good hard look at your life.

I’m trying to stop with the coffee.  Not caffiene – but coffee. It’s been the bane of my existence since my early teaching days back in the mid 80’s.  That’s where it started actually, with that horrible Folger’s type of brewed coffee the school provided.

There is so much evidence out there that coffee just isn’t that good for you, though, if you look. Some researchers contend that coffee is good for you.  I would question that assertion.  I also wonder who is paying for those studies.  I know it’s not as harmful as say, cigarettes or cocaine or meth or something like that, but are we sure about that?

“just one caffeinated drink – whether it’s a soft drink, caffeinated tea or coffee – will put your body on the caffeine rollercoaster. When you consume caffeine, the drug begins its effects by initiating uncontrolled neuron firing in yourbrain, according to Stephen Cherniske in his book, Caffeine Blues. This excess neuron activity triggers your pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce adrenalin.”  excerpt from The Hidden Dangers of Caffeine

So while I know that coffee causes me no end of stomach problems, and certainly hypes me up, making me talk like Twitchy the Squirrel from the movie Hoodwinked when I have the caffeinated variety – the plain and simple fact is, I like the taste of coffee.  I like the social aspects of meeting a friend for coffee.   I have no end of emotional attachment to pie and coffee.

Yet, it really torks me off when Starbuck’s refuses to brew decaf in the afternoon (isn’t that when most people want decaf?)  and insist instead on giving you a decaf espresso drink? Think there’s more caffeine in that?  You bet there is.  A few years back Starbuck’s was in hot water for spiking their tea products with extra stimulants, so I don’t put anything past them. They are as bad as the cigarette companies when it comes to addicting people…..  and when coffee houses in general started charging about $4 for lattes.  Another good reason in the ‘quit’ category.

So, how can I go about this in the most successful way possible?

The first part, I”m finding is behavioral.  I have to stop habitually going to coffee houses.  There are enough tea houses in this area that if I really want a suitable place to get out and visit with my friends, a tea house will suffice.  And, I can start limiting my coffee intake at home, by being really really disciplined, and making a smaller pot of coffee the night before, setting the automatic brew feature on my pot.  Maybe I should get one of those “coffee for one” setups.

The second part has to be mindfulness.  I have to be attentive to the way I think about coffee, and the way I treat coffee.  Think of all the money I would save if I do not drink it at all.

And the reason I’m putting it out there for you all to bear witness to?   If you all know about it, then I HAVE to hold myself accountable.  I don’t want one of you to catch me drinking coffee now that I’ve told you I’m trying to quit.

Have you ever tried to quit an addiction?  How did that go?  What was successful for you?  I’d love to hear what you experienced.

Resilience: Remember to Self-Actualize

September 15, 2010

Abraham Maslow - Developmental Psychologist

Self-actualization was introduced to we educators through Abraham Maslow’s heirarchy of needs.

As educators this is our goal for our students – for them to be self-actualized people who are secure enough in themselves to be contributing members of society. You have an important job in working toward that goal.  It’s important to remember, however, that you are not only an educator, but also a role model.

There.  I just gave you permission to work at your own development!

Many are able to self-direct their development toward self-actualization.  Some have no idea how to get there.   Fortunately, Maslow not only defined self-actualization for us, he also had some suggestions as to how to achieve it.

Here are Maslow’s suggestions:

1 Experience things fully, vividly, selflessly. Throw yourself into the experiencing of something: concentrate on it fully, let it totally absorb you
2 Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake of progress and growth): Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.
3 Let the self emerge. Try to shut out the external clues as to what you should think, feel, say, and so on, and let your experience enable you to say what you truly feel.
4 When in doubt, be honest. If you look into yourself and are honest, you will also take responsibility. Taking responsibility is self-actualizing.
5 Listen to your own tastes. Be prepared to be unpopular.
6 Use your intelligence, work to do well the things you want to do, no matter how insignificant they seem to be.
7 Make peak experiencing more likely: get rid of illusions and false notions. Learn what you are good at and what your potentialities are not.
8 Find out who you are, what you are, what you like and don’t like, what is good and what is bad for you, where you are going, what your mission is. Opening yourself up to yourself in this way means identifying defenses–and then finding the courage to give them up.

The best place to start is simply to start thinking about it.

Resilience: Slow Down and Breathe

September 13, 2010

Slowing down and remembering to breathe can keep you strong.   Nobody said it was going to be easy, though.  It seems like when things come at you, they really come at you.  The key is to remembering that while you may not control everything that is going on around you, you do control yourself.  Nobody else can do that.

Here is a way to take control and de-stress in an instant.

Remember to Slow Down

  1. Awareness: Get in the habit of informally monitoring your stress levels.  When you are in the throes of some activity mentally note how you are doing.  Is your breathing shallow?  Do you notice tension in your muscles?  Is your brain going at light speed?   This is all a sign your adrenalin is kicking in.
  2. Imagine: Visualize yourself in a relaxed state.  You are breathing more deeply and slowly, your muscles relax some, you tell yourself to slow down.  It will begin to happen.
  3. Spot Check:  A few more time throughout the day, check yourself.  How are you doing?  If your stress levels are back up there, then try the visualization again.

By helping yourself to relax, you will help oxygen to get into your body, and more importantly, your brain. This will help you make better decisions.

On top of this, you will keep your body from making that “emergency adrenalin” reaction, which in turn will help you keep from developing a whole host of stress-related health issues.  Best of all, it only takes a few seconds.  As you practice this process, you will be able to elicit a relaxation response more quickly.

Give it a try.

Resilience: Eating Right, Eating Well

September 10, 2010

When you are really busy, sometimes it’s easier to just take vitamins, but paying attention to what you eat can keep you healthier.

World’s Healthiest Foods website has some good information about the importance of getting healthy foods into your diet, and describes some realistic ways to do this.

Essential nutrients are nutrients that your body can’t make on its own. How these nutrients are introduced into your body may have a great impact on how well they are utilized. Nutrients do not work alone but in concert (synergistically) with other nutrients. The benefit of deriving nutrients from eating fresh whole foods such as those included on the list of the World’s Healthiest Foods is that they provide not only an abundance of individual nutrients but also the variety necessary for their optimal function.

This weeks’ HEALTHbeat Extra from Harvard Medical School has an excellent article on the best ways to get essential nutrients from your diet.  The article is so well-written that I’m not going to try to summarize it here, but strongly recommend you check out the article yourself.

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