Tag Archive for: habits


Big Boys Don’t Cry

The 21st century transformation of education is profoundly emotional, but why is “emotion” such an uncomfortable subject?:

The idea that we might acknowledge emotion directly in education runs up agains a taboo for men (in many cultures).  From an early age, men are urged to suppress their unhappiness, sadness, or other negative emotion that leads to the emotional display of crying.  Sometimes this is done with understanding and concern, but oftentimes boys are shamed if they do cry, and the shame continues until they stop.

Read more, here.

Jazz & 21st Century Learning

David Goldberg shares how learning jazz guitar has shown him new ways to best empower students to learn:

Whereas many music sites and teachers treat their students as largely unmotivated and incompetent, Jimmy trusts that students who come to his site are motivated and competent to take on substantial challenges on their own.

Find out more, here.

Self Judgment & Its Discontents

“What a jerk!”
“I’m an idiot”
“Yes, but…”
“That’s not the correct way!”
“It ought to be like this.”
“How could I be so stupid?”

We tell these things to ourselves and others on an all too regular basis, to the point where it affects our productivity at work and in everyday life. How can we make our self-talk healthier? David Goldberg leads us to question the source of our discontent:

What is the judgment about? Whom is the judgment about? To what extent is judgment of others mixed with judgment of self. What is the balance between positive and negative judgment? To what extent does the judgment serve the client? To what extent does the judgment lead to useful action? To unproductive action? A key in bringing it to light is to not judge the judging, but to be curious about it, wonder about its purpose, consider its sources, and the degree to which it serves the client. 

Read here for more ways to handle critical self-talk.


Habits & Time Creases

In a recent move, I noticed that two longstanding habits were being performed intermittently, and I was curious what was wrong.  These habits related to exercise, were well established, and I was having trouble understanding why they weren’t getting done.

When I noticed what was happening, I realized that in moving, the habits’ normal time of performance was interrupted by the change in time zone,  and a new pattern of sleeping and staying up somewhat later.  As a result the habits lost their time crease, that time slot when they can be done routinely without interruption from other activities or habits.  Earlier in designing the habits, the habits had been inserted into time slots or creases where they could be reliably performed, but in moving, those creases were interrupted.

Once understanding the problem, it was a pretty straightforward matter to examine where new creases existed and insert the habits there; this reflection follow by action restored the habits to regular routine performance.  

Designing and establishing habits is a multifaceted business, but my recent move reminded me how important finding a viable time crease can be to a habit’s establishment and regular performance.

Getting to Tenure and Having a Life?

I subscribe to a number of LinkedIn groups, and one of them is the group Higher Education Teaching and Learning (here).  The other day, I noticed an inquiry from a consultant and coach named Meggin McIntosh (here) in which she inquired as follows:

Is it possible to balance teaching, research, service AND a relationship while on the way to tenure? If so, how (real answers wanted).

As might be imagined, the answers were quite various ranging from “no” to “yes” with “maybe” in between.  I weighed in in the affirmative as follows.  In doing so, I imagined addressing the tenure seeker directly one on one:

I think the answer is “yes” and I think there is a threefold success formula: (1) form habitual practices around those things and people that are important to you (2) do a minimally acceptable job preparing for teaching first time through, thereby giving you maximum probability of satisfying your institution’s research requirements to tenure, and (3) do your research and writing to please yourself, not for the approval of others..

The fundamental problem is that any one of the Big 3–research, teaching, and service–can consume all available time in your life. Stephen Covey made the distinction between urgent things, things important to others, and important things, things important to you. The Big 3, particularly research is urgent, important to the university, but in the pressure cooker of pretenure university life, make things important to you, spending time with a partner, kids, and friends, a habit. Make other important-to-you non-work related activities–sports, exercise, eating right, music, hobbies–habitual, and sacrifice your habits only upon rare occasion. Charles Duhigg’s, The Power of Habit, is a nice reference for the value, formation, and maintenance of habitual practices.

Second, when it comes to teaching, first time through a course, give yourself enough time to prepare, but make it a fixed amount of time (x hours per class period, for example). Don’t allow your perfectionist tendencies to take over. Stick to your fixed time allocation. Also, capture and reuse your notes next time through. If you follow this prescription, most days, you will do fine. Some days, you will be underprepared, but second time through you will probably be peak and do well if you haven’t overdone it.

Finally, do your research and writing to make yourself happy. A lot of heads and profs tell you otherwise: do this, and don’t do that, but my experience has been that most of that advice is well intentioned and not tailored to you. Do your research for yourself and your interests with gusto and enthusiasm. View it as “publish and flourish” not “publish or perish” and follow your heart.

Two things can happen if you do this. You will get tenure on your own terms and you will be a happy, confident camper, ready to continue on your own terms. If you don’t get tenure, you will have been true to yourself and perhaps the academy really wasn’t where you were meant to be. You can then move on to something else with integrity knowing that you’ve learned something about yourself.

To do otherwise is to risk unhappiness in two different ways. If you do your research to please others, you might get tenure, but you risk diminished confidence in your own judgment to the possible detriment of your future courage and boldness.  If you don’t get tenure, you’ll always wonder what might have been had you remained true to your own vision, and you may regret not having found out.

Of course, my advice risks not being tailored to you, as I suggested other well-intentioned advice might be, and if that is the case, only use those portions of what’s being suggested here that seem reasonable to you, your aspirations, and your context.

Best wishes in navigating the tricky thicket of getting to tenure.

I don’t think this is a unique “correct” answer, of course, and one’s perspective might vary depending on one’s gender, responsibility at home, desire to pursue a program of research consonant with an institution’s values, and other factors, but to the degree that someone can be disciplined about keeping up habits that maintain strong relationships and the other items mentioned, I do believe one can have a life and get to tenure, both. If you agree or disagree, share your views at deg@threejoy.com.

Retooling Engineering Education Culture with the Keystone Habit of Listening

Cover page of Duhigg's book, The Power of HabitI’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit (here) and i was struck by a story about Alcoa Aluminum and Paul O’Neil’s installation turnaround of a dysfunctional culture one person at a time.  More detail is available in the book, but the short version is that O’Neil insisted on a focus on safety at a time when profitability was challenged.  Many thought O’Neil was deranged and expected him to spend time working more directly on cutting expenses and increasing margins, but O’Neil was crazy like a fox, and he knew that a focus on safety would act as a keystone habit to realign the culture with exactly those things that would make the company profitable.

Ever since reading these passages, I’ve been sitting in the question as follows: What keystone habit or habits would effect the same kind of foundational realignment of engineering education culture?  After some reflection, I’ve concluded that the answer is listening.  The reason the current state of engineering education affairs sustains itself is that teachers aren’t listening to students, students, increasingly, aren’t listening to teachers, and as a result, their is almost no feedback to drive change in the needed directions.  The creation of listening universities, listening colleges, and listening polytechnics around the world would create the possibility of real change without the usual pitched resistance or backsliding once change is in place.

Over the last 18 months, ThreeJoy has developed a new kind of short interactive training seminar called NLQ or noticing, listening, and questioning. NLQ can be used in a short standalone mode or in concert with other building blocks to create a very effective change enhancing program for a variety of educational transformation outcomes.  Contact deg@threejoy.com for more information, and start creating the listening school of the future, today.