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January is the time to reflect on the past year (what a wild ride that was!) and make plans for the New Year.
A fresh year lies ahead!
How do you want it to be different?
What goals would you like to achieve?
What resolutions did you make?
As a mom of a special needs child, setting goals actually makes me cringe. Too many professional assessments and IEP meetings will do that to you. Plus after learning about Flexible Goals from Anat Baniel, my views about goal setting has changed so much.
Having goals and dreams are important, but sometimes goals can become rigid and force you to do things in a specific way to obtain a specific goal.
Rigid goals can be dangerous territory for learning brains!
My ultimate goal for my daughter (and my students) is a learning brain.
My end goal is for my child to be able to adapt to change.
Forcing her to accomplish a certain task in only one specific way, teaches her ONLY that one specific way. If a variable is added in, she's lost.
For example if my goal is to "teach" my daughter how to hold a pencil "properly". I'd have to do some really hard thinking about what a proper pencil hold is and whether that specific way would be the most useful for her throughout her entire life. It sounds like a heck of a lot of pressure. There are so many variables to consider.
Think about how you hold a pencil.
These are subtle changes that most people can easily adapt to, and aren’t even aware that they are doing, but HUGE adaptations for stroke survivors or children with special needs learning to write.
By teaching them ONE rigid way (through mindless repetitions), you take away their ability to adapt to change.
That’s the beauty of the Anat Baniel Method. It focuses not on the end goal (such as holding a pencil with a "proper pencil grip"), but instead explores all the rich variations of how the task could be possible.
There are so many different options for a pencil grip.
(Tight grip, loose grip, using different fingers, different papers, different orientations, etc.)
By allowing the child to experience the many variations and allowing them the TIME to play and experiment, it gives the brain a rich source of experience to draw from.
Which can be quite a different approach than what happens in a traditional one hour of OT/PT. This is frustrating because life doesn't happen with the exact same circumstances of a controlled therapy environment (as anyone with children will understand!).
Hold Goals Loosely
Think of goals as being fluid.
Creativity (and learning!) happen spontaneously. Not under time deadlines or specific criteria. Would a musical genius compose an opera only on Tuesdays with a 1 hour timer beside him?
True learning happens when your brain gathers up experiences and organizes it into something useful.
The more experiences, the more your brain has to work with. Adding constraints of time along with lack of variety, can kill real learning faster than you can say “resolution”.
So, what should one do?
1. Have Flexible goals.
Be much more curious about the journey.
It sure would be nice to get to your goal X. But how many ways could you get there? Have some fun and find out!
2. Don’t set a time limit.
It took Jill Bolte Taylor 8 years before she considered herself fully recovered from her stroke. What mindset would she have and what life would she be living today if she had only given herself 4 years?
Curiosity and experience take time. And not a certain allotment of time, but meandering, soft time, without pressure or expectations.
Which is very, very hard to do in our culture!
But it can be done with a little awareness and some flexible goals.
So what are your New Year’s resolutions and how can you add flexibility to them?
Jen Stewart is a mommy of 3 amazing kids and a practitioner of NeuroMovement™