I have an internal container that holds all of the challenges I face every day. In my mind, it looks like a test tube. I work really hard to work through challenges so that my test tube is relatively empty on most days. This helps me embrace obstacles that I stumble upon, create in my head, or help others solve with relative ease, patience, and creativity. But sometimes…sometimes my test tubes teters on the point of bubbling over the edges.
When my test tube is almost full, my patience runs low. Tears come easily. Even the most trivial problems seem like the end of the world. My creativity peters out and life seems anything but easy.
It is so important to be aware of my test tube level on any given day. And last week, my test tube stayed pretty full all week long.
At Quincy Elementary, we are teaching social emotional learning skills, focusing on a different skill set each month. The skills scaffold on each other and are based on Michigan’s Social Emotional Learning Competencies and indicators. The natural place to start is self awareness because it is difficult to understand our impact on others and have great relationships if we are not aware of our own emotions and our own strengths and weaknesses.
Our self awareness focus for October includes these goals:
- I am aware of my emotions.
- I am aware of my strengths and know where I need to improve.
- I am aware of who and what can help me.
- I am responsible for myself and my belongings.
This focus has caused us to do some of our own reflection because we don’t want to expect something of our students that we don’t expect of ourselves. As adults, are we always aware of our own emotions? For me, the answer is no, unless I deliberately stop and reflect. When I do stop and reflect, I can typically identify how I am feeling–happy, hopeful, energetic, overwhelmed, hurt, sad, etc.–however, it is sometimes challenging to pinpoint the exact reason why I feel the way I feel. Do you ever have that problem, where you are feeling kind of off and then something negative happens followed by another negative thing and another? Where you forget why you were feeling bad in the first place?
This month we are focusing on being aware of our own emotions and next month we will focus on managing our emotions constructively. We don’t naturally seperate those two things; we don’t often focus on the “awareness” part, instead we tend to focus on the impact our emotions have on our behavior. But, we cannot understand the impact our emotions have on our behavior until we are adept at identifying how we are feeling, and that is more complicated than it appears.
We may get angry at someone for a slight misstep because we are feeling overwhelmed. We may feel sad because we take offense by something we would normally brush off when we are feeling insecure. Being aware of our own feelings is the first step to managing our emotions constructively and may be a step we neglect more than we realize.
Yesterday Seth Godin shared this blogpost, and I cannot stop thinking about it and how it relates to self awareness:
Doom is inevitable.
Gloom is optional.
Gloom has no positive effects on ameliorating doom.
Doom happens. Gloom is a choice.
Like Seth wrote, doom is inevitable. But it is also extremely rare, so we don’t need to spend our precious days worrying about it. Gloom, on the other hand, is a choice, as are many of our feelings. Recognizing that we are choosing gloom can help us recognize that doom is not on its way. And choosing gloom doesn’t help us avoid doom.
Self awareness is an important skill for all of us to strengthen. The first step in choosing to feel better is identifying how we are feeling and why.
Do you regularly assess the level of your internal test tube?
I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.
-Billie Jean King
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