Sunday, January 6, 2013

Buoyancy in a Deep, Menacing Ocean

"Anyone who sells—whether they are trying to convince customers to make a purchase or a colleague to make a change—must contend with the wave after wave of rebuffs, refusals, and repudiation.” ~ Dan Pink
School resumes tomorrow, and a wave of panic bubbles underneath the surface. During the last two weeks, I purposefully disengaged from my work. The results speak for themselves: I’m happier. I’m healthier. And I’m much more pleasant to be around. I've experienced a temporary reprieve from the weight of the world, and my compass has been re-calibrated  It’s a new year. I have a new word. And now it’s time to face the world again. My buoy has reemerged, and after scraping off the seaweed and grime, I’m hopeful and recharged.

Prior to the break, a surge of angst washed over me, and as I walked of the building on Friday afternoon, feelings of defeat threatened to crush my spirit. The tsunami size problems at my campus sent me reeling into the depths of the sea, and the darkness below left me feeling hopeless and helpless. Those emotions linger in the corner of my mind, and as I prepare to return to work on Monday, I feel the wind picking up speed. The ripples stir, and somehow, I must find a way to thrive in the midst of the storm.

Dan Pink outlines three specific strategies for staying afloat in his latest book, To Sell is Human. Before we try to move people, we must practice interrogative self-talk. Our famous friend, Bob the Builder helps us understand the concept better each time he poses the question, Can We Fix It?


My goal is to start each day with questions like Will this conversation have an impact? Can I sell the power of book love? Can I help teachers set goals? According to Pink, this type of self-talk is more powerful than platitudes or empty affirmations.

The next strategy is to maintain a positivity ration of 3:1. Anything less than this causes us to languish. I will purposefully begin each day by interacting positively with students and teachers. The goal is to maintain a healthy balance between levity and gravity. I will be intentional about pursuing feelings of gratitude, contentment, hope, joy, and interest, while avoiding anger, fear, shame, and despair.

The end of each day will present the greatest challenge as I struggle to embrace his third and final strategy. My explanatory style tends to be rather fatal at times. I’ve developed some pretty unhealthy habits related to the way I explain negative events, and my pessimistic views can be debilitating. When I experience an undesirable situation, I will ask, Is this permanent? Is this pervasive? Is this personal? I must learn to dispute and de-catastrophize my negative explanations.

My new word for 2013 is LISTEN, and I hope to take to heart the lessons I've gleaned over Christmas vacation. Mostly, I want the New Year to be less stressful and more rewarding. I’m sure there will be days when the deafening waves spray salt in my eyes, but hopefully these strategies will help me experience calmer waters. Buoyancy is not about banishing the negative. Instead, its choosing to use adverse emotions as an impetus to improve. May the days ahead be full of drifting, gliding, and soaring on the surface. Bring on the sunshine!

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