This last week we had National Testing in Australia. Four tests for grades 3, 5, 7 and 9 students all around the country. The lead up to the testing week can create all sorts of concern, worry and anxiety for kids, parents and teachers alike.
There is a letter that had gone around social media for years around Naplan time. It holds the same content I say to my students whenever they have to complete any test at any time. The tests don't tell us what kind of person you are. They don't tell us if you're good at sport or music or if you are a great sibling. They don't tell us what kind of friend you are or how kind you are. They don't even tell us where you are going to be in 6 months time or what you will do or be when you are older. The only thing tests ever tell us is where you are at that moment. They tell us what skills you have in that particular area right now and give an indication of what steps you might need to take next to learn more skills.
Both kids and adults alike though, feel frustration at the fact that they don't know things right now. I watched a couple of my students this week as they reacted to not completing one of the tests this week. They were frustrated and upset. Which is actually okay to feel. But the problem was, they stayed in that state. We had our usual debrief after testing, had a discussion about how we were feeling and what happens next. Most of the time this is enough. But last week, it wasn't.
My response was something I say to the kids ALL the time and I am often reminded of it from my hubby!
It is okay to feel the way you feel. But you can not be in a state of gratitude and a state of frustration at the same time. It is emotionally impossible. So you have to choose. If you want to stay in frustration, you are choosing pain. Or you can choose to focus on the gratitude of the situation (make some suggestions).
The struggle ends when gratitude begins
Our human experience has conditioned us to be wired for struggle. As a society, we recognise and barrack for the 'underdog'. We like to cheer on those who have gone through struggle and come out on the other side. There is nothing wrong with the challenges in the ebb and flow of life. But it is our response to the challenges, to the harder parts of life that can often make or break. We have this perception that life is not supposed to be that hard! We have this expectation that life should be easier. Those who come out on the other side of the struggle usually do one or two things. They either let go or they shift to gratitude. Being thankful for where you are right now, for whatever you have been through and what you are learning is the key to letting the struggle go. Our struggles in life are mostly an internal battle within ourselves between what we THINK life should be to the reality that it is.
Ok...I am not talking about physical pain. I am talking about emotional pain. A lot of our emotional pain is self-chosen. It is chosen by how we respond to life around us. It is chosen by how we respond to the expectations we have of other people, of wanting control of things in life that beyond our control. The only things we can actually control are our thoughts, words, actions, responses and behaviours. Everything else is NOT in our control! Yet, we still think we can control outside factors and THAT is where our pain comes from! Because let's be honest...life does not play out exactly how we see it in our heads!
Take a look at your life
So often we take for granted all the little things in life that are good and wonderful. Acknowledging the good that we already have in our life is the foundation for all abundance. When we recognise that we have more in our life than we realise and that what we have right now is enough, then we realise how lucky we truly are. In my classroom, my students have gratitude journals. My mantra around this is: we can focus on everything we don't have in life and end up feeling down or sad or angry OR we can focus on what we already have and acknowledge that if we received nothing else for the rest of our lives, that what we have today is enough. That is the key.
What are you grateful for in your life today?
Everything we feel is a choice. Everything. Those who claim that 'other people made them feel...' are passing the buck and not taking responsibility for their own life and emotional wellbeing. We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have. But rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have already. Practising gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. Often the happiest people are not those who have the best of everything but those who make the most of everything that comes their way in life.
What is bringing you happiness and joy in your life today?
Pain versus Gratitude
Yes, change is painful. Yes, growth can be painful. Like I say to my students: learning is hard. It is important we understand that. Learning is not easy - both in life and in the classroom! We can choose the pain of frustration when we get to the hard parts or we can choose to be grateful that we are facing a challenge and we are going to grow from it. It might not be comfortable! It is highly likely that it will be very uncomfortable! But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you shouldn't be or don't belong. We have to decide whether we will give up or work through it - in whatever way that looks like for you.
Ultimately, we decide whether we want to remain in a painful or joyful state. Bad things happen. Welcome to humanity! But when the bad stuff happens, you have three choices. You can either let it define who you are and that becomes your new story or you let it destroy you by focusing on the everything that has gone wrong and add in a sense of hopelessness. Or you can take the bad stuff, the experiences and you can learn whatever it is you need to learn in order to strengthen you, to become the person you are meant to become. Two people can have exactly the same experience. One can walk away broken, down in life, feeling lost. The other person can walk away with resolve and determination and focus on how to change or grow or shift into a new chapter of life. The only difference is the decision to focus on something different. It is what you think about what has happened to you. It is the meaning you give your experience.
Until next week...have a wonderfully mindful week.
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