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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just Keep Swimming

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Live out of your imagination, not your history. Stephen Covey

I saw an advertisement on TV the other day for kind of a personal size swimming pool . The pool is only about 8’x10’ but you can still use it to swim laps because it comes with a machine that makes an adjustable current in the water. So no matter how long you swim you always stay in the same spot.

That pool kind of reminds me of my job…especially this week – a whole lot of swimming, swimming, swimming and not getting very far.

I’m starting with that analogy just to provide a little insight into my state of mind this week. I’m feeling a little down, a little frustrated and a little tired of swimming against a current that never seems to stop.

So, while feeling like a bit of a frustrated grump-a-saurus this afternoon I happened to overhear a conversation. It wasn’t a confidential or even particularly significant conversation so the fact that I overheard wasn’t a big deal. But one of the women that was talking kept using the phrase “I’m the kind of person that…” as in “I’m the kind of person that won’t talk if I’m mad.” Or “I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to be told what to do.”

I found myself kind of dwelling on that phrase all through the afternoon and it bugged me. I wasn’t bugged by what the woman was saying necessarily, I was bugged by the phrase itself- maybe because I feel like it’s a big part of the current I’ve been swimming against. It just seems to me that when we label ourselves in this way it’s like we give ourselves a built in excuse for whatever behavior we’ve decided on.

The students work this excuse all the time. They’ve already decided before they start what kind of guy they are and what they can and can’t do. If we’re lucky we can show them that maybe they were that type of guy but they don’t always have to be. And if we’re realy lucky all of the adults work together to provide reinforcement for change rather than justification for stagnation.

My frustration isn’t all about kids. There’s plenty of frustration to go around for the adults too – myself included I guess if I’m being honest about it. I just think that no one is exclusively the “the kind of person that…” in good ways or bad. We are all just people that make choices. Sometimes we’re “the kind of person that is always honest” but sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re “the kind of person that loses their temper easily,” but we don’t always have to be. We are certainly affected by what happens to us in our lives, but we shouldn’t always be a product of it - we always have the power to choose.

So maybe I’m the kind of person that eavesdrops on other people’s conversation and then rants about it…and then again maybe I should choose to mind my own business and just keep swimming.


Anonymous said...

What you've written is so true, and helps clarify for me what I have always hated about the similar phrase, "I'm not really a _____ person." Like if I'm talking about how delicious something sweet was that I ate the other day, and someone says, "Um, I'm not really a sweets person." Or if I mention that I love my new TV and someone says, "I'm not really an electronics person." I guess I know what they mean but I always think, why do you have to limit yourself like that? Maybe this sweet was the best one you'd ever have tasted, but you missed it because of those limiting things you tell yourself. Oh well. More for me!

Richard & Natalie said...

Great thoughts, Mel. I will definitely think twice about what limits I am choosing to impose on myself the next time I find that phrase on my lips.

Sarah said...

You know, I love Four Perspectives, and I sure needed to hear that today, thanks! Hope your week gets better!

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