Here are a few fact statements:
- External circumstances affect our lives.
- Sometimes we cannot control the effect that external circumstances have on us.
- We have full control over our mindsets.
So what do I mean by ‘mindset’ questions?
Every morning when I wake up, as my brain enters a state of full consciousness, it is processing what it had been dreaming; the surroundings as I am waking up,; as well as the immediate needs for the day. In order to process, the brain first needs to ask questions and then, through the processing task, provide answers.
Perhaps I had a late night of prepping worksheets and I am feeling very tired. My brain could inform me of all this subconscious information, and then my brain starts asking conscious questions. In this case, perhaps it asks, “Why do I have to get up so early?” or, “Why can it not be a Saturday?” or, perhaps, “Why can I not just sleep in ten minutes longer?”
The problem with these ‘why’ questions is that they are often inwardly-focused and negative. This puts my brain in a negative mood for the rest of the day, and I will generally then process most scenarios with some form of ‘why’ question.
For instance, “Why do I bother setting the tasks if the students do not even bother to put in the effort?”
And this perpetuates a negative outlook.
Now, I am writing this from a generalised teacher-perspective, but students have just as many ‘why’ questions, if not more: “Why do I even have to go to school?”, “Why was that person on my case the whole day yesterday?”, “Why don’t I just skip my homework today?”, “Why do we get so much homework?”
Whilst we may not be able to control our subconscious thoughts, we do have control over our conscious thoughts, and with this power, we can change the whole mood of our day. This may not be able to control or change the circumstances of the day, but it can change our response and perspective, which, in turn, can change to what degree a circumstance affects us.
This does not mean we should not ask ‘why’ questions because these questions help us to critically see problems. It just means we should ensure we are seeking solutions, not only problems. And so we should follow up our ‘why’ questions with ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions.
As in “How can I make my lesson better for my students today?”, “What sort of role model do I want to be in the workplace?”, “How can I inspire that one student who has been struggling in my classes?”
These are more outwardly-focused questions, the answers to which provide solutions to our problems. This means you can actually feel effective in the things you are doing which, in turn, helps make your mindset more positive.
A useful tool for this is to make two lists: A ‘to be’ list and then a ‘to do’ list, as a follow-up. If you make set goals of who or what you want to be and then follow them up with how you are going to achieve those goals, your daily mindset will become one of seeking solutions and therefore progressing. Much better than staying put and still wondering why.