By the time I’d finished reading an article promoting an approach to education that I don’t happen to agree with, I felt tired and a tad cranky. I was fine before I started reading. So, what happened?
When it comes to understanding human behaviour, one of the most practical contributions of choice theory is its “behavioural car” metaphor. It’s simple, understandable, and can help us ordinary folks get a handle on how our feelings, actions and so on interact. Even better, we can use that information to take more effective control of our lives.
Here’s the idea: Just as a car has four wheels, our behaviour has four components: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology.
And while a car travels as a unit, it’s the front wheels that determine where it’s going; the rear wheels just follow along behind.
Similarly, our behaviour acts like a unit, and those four components all take part. However, two of those components—the acting and thinking parts—are like the front wheels of the car; they set the direction for our physiology and feelings.
This is interesting! The symptoms that I experienced after reading were both “rear wheel” components: my physiology responded with, “I’m tired” and my feelings popped up with, “I’m cranky.”
Although not consciously chosen, those physical/emotional responses were a way of responding to my front-wheel actions of reading and thinking. They let me know, “What I’m reading and thinking is at odds with something that I value. I believe that this message is not helpful.”
So, what to do when we get signals such as tired/cranky? As is so often the case, it depends on what we want.
On the one hand, I would like to surround myself with information that confirms what I already believe is true. In fact, I’d probably be happier if I were only around people who agree with me.
However, that might turn out to be kind of a lonely existence, eh?
On the other hand, I look at contrary opinions so I can better understand how other people think. There’s also the off chance that I might learn something useful!
With this incident, however, when the tired/cranky signal reached my consciousness, I realized that the information was dulling and potentially destructive. The question then became, “Is this still helpful? Or stop, enough already!”
Self-evaluation is an important part of taking charge of our own lives. If the result of what we are doing is that we end up dull, defeated, and less motivated to take positive action, then maybe it’s a signal to change what we’re doing.
Putting down the article, I found that I was less motivated, less encouraged, and less delighted in my work. That’s not helpful.
Thus, I chose to seek out information that is more in line with what I consider to be a helpful perspective, and once again regained energy and optimism.
In case you’re curious, the “downer” article concerned the value of homework in learning. As I’ve had considerable experience in both the giving and receiving of homework (it’s not necessarily more fun to give than receive, by the way) I have developed clear beliefs about its effectiveness. I’ll leave you to speculate on what they might be.
What helps you feel energized, full of optimism and ready to tackle whatever challenges face you? Do you ever feel defeated? If so, what brings on that feeling?