Thursday, March 31, 2016

Conscious Discipline Book Study Chapter 2: Getting Fit from the Inside Out

As many of you know, we are in the midst of a year long book club here on the blog.  We are studying the work of Dr. Becky Bailey in her new book Conscious Discipline:  Building Resilient Classrooms.  In March we read chapter 2.  This chapter is about how the internal state impacts behavior.  Dr. Bailey goes into great detail about the Brain State Model and how each state impacts behavior and the need of each brain state.

My personal goal in leading the book club is to more intentionally implement the things I'm learning into my daily life.  As I reflect on the chapter each month I will share with you how it is impacting my personal life.  Since Conscious Discipline is an adult first approach to discipline it is essential that we look at how it impacts our lives and our personal skill set before we can move forward in implementing these concepts with children.


As I shared with you last month, I have begun a journey toward a healthier lifestyle.  2016 is my year to get fit!  This is not something new to me.  For many years I have had a desire to live a healthy balanced life.  As we learned in the chapter this month the difference between wanting to live a healthy lifestyle and actually doing it has a lot to do with our internal state.


Last week my gym buddy and I finished the twelve week program we began in January.  We were so excited to reach that goal and wanted to find a way to celebrate.  It was interesting because we talked about several different ideas for how we could celebrate.  Everything from zip-lining, margaritas, and a shopping day to horse back riding or going for a drive in a convertible while jamming to 90's music.
The interesting thing is that none of it really sounded satisfying.

I think most of us would agree we were raised in environments that that relied on rewards and punishments to manage behavior.  It seemed to work at the time and get the results that the adults in our lives were hoping for--STOPPING BAD BEHAVIOR!  The question I would ask is did it really teach us the best possible skills for life success?

As Dr. Bailey mentions on page 51 in our chapter, "I would offer the following food for thought in regard to simple behavioral systems based on rewards and punishments..."  She goes on to describe the impact of relying on rewards and punishments to govern behavior.  Although these systems work temporarily for children who come to school feeling safe and loved these systems hinder their executive skill development.  We exchange long-term success for short-term compliance and obedience.  As most parents and teachers have experienced, these systems don't work for children who don't have the security of feeling safe and loved.  No matter what we do, they will fall short and end up feeling discouraged.  The future often looks very grim for these children.  Finally, reward and punishment systems have a huge impact on school and family culture.  Research indicates that negative cultures impede learning, foster bullying, increases dropout rates and teacher turnover rates. (Hoffman, 2008 pg. 51)

Although I fit into the first category, I can see the long-term impact that those reward and punishment systems have on the way I manage myself as an adult.  I felt very safe and loved at home and at school (well most of the time...there was that one teacher in 5th grade that scared me lol!) and I would have been labeled one of the "good kids."  I had very good grades and my behavior was a model for others (other than the fact that my conduct got marked down occasionally for excessive talking :))!  As an adult, I can see how often I have this reward/punishment mindset in how I manage my own behavior.  I often rely on external rewards to make me feel good or help me celebrate an accomplishment.

In reflection, I can see how much Conscious Discipline is transforming this mindset for me personally.  I am beginning to experience a greater sense of "reward" from the internal experiences I am having rather than having to have some sort of physical reward to make me feel good.

As we chatted about how we would celebrate our accomplishment in the gym we finally came up with an idea that was not only fun but very rewarding.  We decided to celebrate our success by celebrating our trainer, Connie.  By celebrating Connie, we would be celebrating us!  Connie has been the trainer at our gym for years and she is so faithful and encouraging...sometimes just the kind of tough love we need when we need it the most!  She has educated us, cheered us on, and held us accountable to our goals.  We don't always like what she has to say or how hard we have to work to get healthier, but her guidance and willingness to walk along side us gives us the extra help we need to believe we can do it and actually DO IT!  To celebrate our accomplishment, we decided that we would decorate her office, make her a gift, and let her know just how thankful we are for her love and support!  It was so much fun planning our celebration and sneaking into her office on the weekend to decorate and prepare her surprise, but the best was yet to come!  When she got to work on Monday she was just THRILLED by what she saw!  She loved every bit of it and even saved our crazy signs to hang on her wall as a constant reminder of the impact she has on everyone at the gym just by doing what she does best!


This journey hasn't been all kicks and giggles!  It has been very difficult and discouraging at times.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my husband about my fitness journey and how difficult it was. He said he didn't think I needed to do all that work. I should just be happy with how I look, live a comfortable life, eat what I want and not feel like I have to go to the gym all the time.  He's right, I could do that.  I could be happy with how things are and live a comfortable lifestyle just like this, but my goal isn't necessarily a skinny body, it's a more disciplined life.  I don't want to allow the impulses of the food I love, lack of desire to go to the gym,  or emotions be in charge of me.  I want to be educated and be in charge of my body.  I want my body to represent the best of me and right now it really doesn't.  Without discipline it is easy to let internal upset and external stuff drive me.

So no, it's not the easy way of doing things and it's definitely not comfortable all the time, but discipline helps me be in charge of me!

On page 40 of the Conscious Discipline book Dr. Bailey discusses some of the false messages we have on our CD-ROM regarding ourselves.  When I miss the mark and fall short of the goals I've set it is very easy for me to get stuck in the emotional state and listen to the false messages that say, "I'm not good enough.  There's something wrong with me.  I'll be rejected.  Everyone thinks I'm a loser."

As we learned in the chapter, the need of the emotional state is love/connection.  I have to value myself and living a healthy life enough to make it worth the time, energy, and sometimes even the pain!

Part of the reason that I didn't feel such a need for an external reward for completing the workout was because the feelings I had on the inside were rewarding enough!  Was it fun?  No not always.  It was actually even a little bit disappointing at times.  I was working my tail off and building muscle but not losing any weight.  I knew changes were happening on the inside, but I really hoped for visible results too.


I tend to be a pretty independent driven person.  When I started out I purchased a workout regimen and set a goal of completing the 12 weeks IN 12 WEEKS!  A few days into the workout I invited my friend Stephanie to join me.  She agreed and we began working out together.  Over time it became a habit and we began to hold each other accountable and actually had fun working out together.  Sometimes other patrons in the gym laughed at us and commented that we shouldn't be having that much fun at the gym!  :)  There were so many times I didn't want to go, but I knew Stephanie was there waiting for me and we would get through it together.  As we laughed and sometimes even cried we developed so much more than muscle.  We discovered a deeper purpose in workout out-- friendship.  One that is full of love, safety, and trust.  Stephanie demonstrates friendship in ways that I the time she came and sat with me while I worked out.  Although she had already worked out that day, she volunteered to come and cheer me on since I couldn't come till later.  Over time I noticed myself doing the same thing for her--because that's what friends do!  At the end of the 12 weeks not only were my muscles were more toned, but I had gained a close friend and a change of heart.  I have also developed a new sense of what it means to be a friend.

So what does getting fit have to do with the Brain State Model?  EVERYTHING!

Over the course of the last 12 weeks there were many times I didn't WANT to go to the gym.  I didn't WANT to eat right.  I didn't WANT to do more burpees!!!!  I know I need to do all these things, but the difference between KNOWING and DOING is RELATIONSHIP!  That was the key to my success and ability to change.  As a result, I was able to meet my goal and complete the program.  Next week we are starting a new workout plan and this time our goal is to educate ourselves and be more intentional about our nutrition.  Working out is actually the easiest part for me...eating right is the bigger challenge!  Wish us well and enjoy reading Chapter 3 in April!  Looking forward to learning more about School Family!