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Good Morning Families, today is Thursday May 14th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.
What is your ideal self? What is the best you, you want to be? Pretty tricky. When that question is asked, as it sometimes is in motivational settings, or even worse, as an “activity” at a staff meeting, you will likely hear answers like, “patient” “kind” “compassionate” and sure, those are noble characteristics, but without context and culture, they make absolutely no sense.
For example, if your house catches fire “patience” may not be high on the list of character strengths that comes to mind in the process of assessing that your house is burning.
If you were in public and someone started threatening your child, “kindness” might not be the best self to assure your child they are safe.
When you are playing sports or cheering on your team, “let’s use compassion” is not typically a chant you’ll hear from the crowd.
Now we are not suggesting that patience, kindness, and compassion are not great things. However, the idea that a person would have a singular set of character traits and strengths to move about their lives seems a little, limited.
Social Emotional Learning skills are important because they are flexible and adaptable and best utilized when the person is taking into account culture and context.
Their culture, the culture of others, the culture of the environment, all of that will impact best self or ideal self because the best self or ideal self is the self that is best suited to support the individual and the group or groups they belong to, at any given time and under different circumstances.
Those different circumstances being the context in which the person must act.
For example, if you are going to get on stage and play music for people you know full well that there are a set of selves that would be “best” or “ideal”. It would be best to be confident, comfortable, capable. Those things will help the musician to do the job of entertaining. There are many other selves of course, and what may be good for Slipknot may not be good for Brandi Carlisle which in turn may not be good for Megan Thee Stallion or even Randolph Scott, not a musician but, since we’re naming people.
All of these artists would have put thought into who and how they are on stage. And just fyi, never be fooled by a musician on stage. Very little you see is an accident.
Performers of any sort, arts, sports, television personalities, youtubers, tik-tok-ers, and definitely politicians, are all, on a level, actors. That is, they understand how to cultivate an ideal self. At least when they are performing. This might not be true for their personal lives or more intimate relationships, but that’s not our focus right now.
We are looking at cultivate the ideal self for you. So, here is a way to do it. Think about your day. Make a list of some of the things that you do regularly. And, make sure it is relevant for oru current physical distancing. For example, if you identify school as something you do regularly be sure to think about it in terms of school now, not school in our building. Because, believe it or not, the ideal self for this school is not necessarily the same as the ideal self for physical school. Which, I have to say, I miss terribly.
Okay, think about those things you do on the reg. What character strengths or traits do you think would help you to be the most successful, personally and socially, in those settings.
For example, going back to patience, in an online class, patience would be a very helpful attribute. You know some folks will struggle with the technology, you know some folks may need additional supports with the instruction, maybe it will be you even. You know that the normal fun of peer distraction will be very limited so it is possible that you might experience boredom. That is unless you cultivate patience. In fact, online learning may be a space where you get to practice patience.
Do you ride a bike these days? If you do, you may want to cultivate a self that is strong and has muscular endurance. That doesn’t just exist in the muscles, it also exists in the mind. You can be that best, biking self, if you try to recognize and elevate that part of you.
What if someone you stay with is feeling sad or annoyed or agitated? Maybe then a best self would be a self who is understanding, who is compassionate, who is able to either give that person some space or be a good listener for that person. Those skills would be great for supporting others, and yourself in that context. However, I wouldn’t take those selves out on the basketball court. See how it works.
Best selves, ideal selves are going to be built on the degree to which you understand social awareness and self-management. Try paying attention to your environment. Practice recognizing what is going on around you. Try asking yourself, who is here/there in this space? What are they bringing to the space? What are you bringing to this space? Can you recognize the needs of others? Can you recognize your role in the environment? Do you know how to ask for help in finding out about those things? And, very importantly, do you have the skills to either maintain a best self, or the skills to shift into a best self? That’s all self-management. (That’s going to be something we focus on soon.)
Best selves, ideal selves, are flexible. They are adaptable to the culture and context of what is happening. So, the way to practice building these selves is to practice recognizing culture and context. These skills are heavy duty social awareness skills.
You can build them if you try. Just look around and see what you see. We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can, tomorrow. Until tomorrow, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.