I was cleaning up and culling my dusty collection of books this week and I came across an old favourite that sparked some thoughts that I thought I’d share. In relation to teaching and learning – I started thinking about how much I’ve changed over the years as a Trainer and Assessor and how new information would only lead to knowledge improvement if I responded in the right way. And then that new knowledge, which is a stimulus itself, has to be responded to in order for it to truly take effect and improve my life, and the life of my students.

In other words, I could only grow as a Trainer, and consequently help my students to learn and grow, if I developed abilities to respond well to such things as new information, systemic changes, personnel changes and more journey disruptions.

There’s a famous quote that kind of hard to confidently assign to someone but by some records it was Steven Covey and by others Viktor Frankl but no matter who said it it’s a really sharp slice of wisdom.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Viktor E. Frankl/Covey

The book that I’m talking about rediscovering is Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This book is Twain’s magnum opus. Most of us know the gist. It is his story of a runaway boy (Huckleberry) and an escaped slave’s (Jim) travels on the Mississippi. The book plumbs the depths searching for the essential meaning of freedom. The book has caused controversy and conflict in libraries and schools across the US.

Author Jay Squires said “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a dangerous book. As all life manuals are.

Celebrated writer Toni Morrison (may she rest in peace,) described and even celebrated the book by saying “The hell it puts the reader through” as being exactly the point of it.
Ernest Hemingway went so far as to praise Huckleberry by writing that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”

What both Huck and Jim seek is freedom, but they have different ideas about what that freedom looks like.
Jim wants freedom from literal slavery and to an existence that will allow him to be with his wife and children.

Huck wanted freedom from his father’s violent abuse as well as the societal collar that he felt people were placing on him.
On the journey to freedom Huck and Jim were faced with choices. Choice is an indispensable element of freedom and is the crux of this blog entry.
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. – Amelia Earheart

In the book Huck muses on this question and is faced with an opportunity to answer it as he struggles with a dilemma that would see him doing the strictly speaking honest thing or lying to authorities. In a moment where Huck is queried about his raft, where Jim is hiding, and asked by slave hunters whether there is anybody else on board under the raft’s shelter, he is thrown into a whirlwind of conflict.

Spoiler alert: He chooses to lie and say that it is his sick and highly contagious father, mum and sister. That false info was enough to keep the slave hunters at bay.

In the theories of psychology there is agreement that the opportunity to choose is a valued good. A valued good being something which has a high quality, quantity, or worth but is offered at a low or bargain price.

But how do we make the RIGHT CHOICES?

We can’t always make the right choices. But we can get better at actually making choices without drawing out the process to the point of debilitation.

Here are 3 tips to help improve your ability to make choices.
I’ll follow up my next blog post with 3 more tips.

Often what was the right or wrong choice ends up being arguable anyway. As humans we are not great at forecasting results. There are too many variables. So we can’t be afraid of making the wrong choices. Studies have shown that choices we make based on what we expect to be more pleasurable often come with consequences that are less grand than we had imagined. psychologist Daniel Gilbert from Harvard University said, “The hedonic consequences of most events are less intense and briefer than most people imagine.”

Wrong decisions – events that might cause pain are usually less intense than initially imagined as well. As humans we are built to be resilient. If we are sharp to it and willing to learn, the “wrong choices” can often help us to become better people.

AND – what might be affecting or causing those feelings and emotions, that are not necessarily caused by the faced decision. For example – are you irritable because you slept badly? Are you hangry? Did you just receive some sour news? Did you just receive some wonderful news? Our can emotions affect our ability to make logical decisions. A study by the University of California, showed that men are more likely to gamble when they are angry. With that said, emotions can also help us to make good decisions but considering their role in the decision-making process is a step that leads to the 3rd tip –

Going with your gut – often referred to as the second brain – can be a powerful way to make decisions quickly. Our appraisal of a situation is automatic and can trigger an emotional response. This can protect us from making the same mistake repeatedly. Often when people continue to make the same mistake over and over again it is against what their gut is saying.

I’ll finish with a quote by the great wizard Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”


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