How to Change the World

I was in the middle of nowhere, and I was on the verge of tears.

After weeks on the road, I was finally heading home. The word “home” itself had gained a magical mystical quality to me, and with all my heart I just wanted to be there.

But the rental car would not start.

As a matter of fact, every time I tried, a stupid red battery light came on. THIS was the exact scenario I feared and had laid out in great detail to my husband the night before, saying, “I am so desperate to be home, I can only imagine the universe is going to kill the battery in the car and leave me here forever,”

And now, here I was in, staring at a dead battery light  70 minutes before my flight took off, knowing that it will take 15 minutes to get to the airport. I am nothing if not determined, and so I marched into the nearest business and, amazingly, shockingly, someone had a portable charge. This kind man hooks it up to my battery, asks me to start it, and…. nothing.

Red battery light.

Puzzled, he suggests that perhaps the charge was not enough and that we might need an engine to engine charge and goes to off to find his car to bring next to mine.

It is now 57 minutes until my flight takes off, and a 15 minute drive to the airport. Did I already mention it was the last flight out?

He comes back with the car and fiddles with the cables, an incredibly good and patient samaritan. He asks me to try again, I do, and… nothing.

Red battery light.

Simultaneously I have been trying the rental car company on repeat and no one has picked up the phone. I am running scenarios like a coach runs plays, all of them more and more desperate as I will myself to just get home.

The good samaritan, puzzled, looks at his car, looks at my car, and says “I am sure you are doing this already, but can you just make sure you punch down hard on the brake when you turn it on?”

It is a car that turns on when you push a button, nothing at all like the barely breathing wreck I drive at home, which involves 3 minutes of prayers and gunning the gas to start. I realize, almost immediately, I have not pushed the brake at all, not even once, and somewhat sheepishly I hit the brake, hit the button, and the engine roars into life.

The good samaritan continues to be good and smiles, refuses any money, and sends me off with an “it happens to the best of us.” I race to the airport, later than I have ever been, wondering how I could have been so dumb.

It was not my first time driving the car, so why did I forget something as basic as how to turn it on?

It dawns on me as I am rushing through the airport, that I basically created the exact scenario I feared. That because I expected the worst, I accepted the worst, even though it was illogical and not the case. And because I had accepted the worst (battery dead, no way to make it home) I didn’t even think to try the most simple solutions.

I made the plane with a few minutes to spare and continued thinking.

How many times has this been true? How many times have  I feared the worst, our of preparation or some other misguided hope, and then accepted the worst at face value because I had gotten the answer I was looking for?

We, as people, make so much of the world with our minds. We fill in the blanks with stories and suppositions, we interpret with the facts we have, and we make sense of senseless things so that we can go on living. But how many times are we wrong? How many times are our stories linking events false? How many times do we not have enough facts to make the interpretations we do? How many times have we made sense of something, that was in fact, just senseless?

I am going to steal a line from Terminator, I know, its shocking, but its true, “There is no fate but what we make.”

To change the world, we have to change our mindsets. From one of disaster preparedness to one of hope and openness. In a million small ways we use our measured expectations to prevent possibilities in our lives. “Well this is what I thought would happen, ” we think, and we are right, because we accept it as soon as it does happen as fate. Then we cease thinking flexibly and optimistically. Our omniscience assures us that we have some measure of control, but all it has really done is limited our opportunities in life.

And what about in the classroom? If our expectation is that a curriculum is “too hard” than at the first sign we are right, we accept that as truth. If we think a child is “not a reader” when we see the first signs of it, we accept it and start preparing paperwork. If we think we do not have enough time for play, we see the list of things we need to get done as evidence there is no way to get it in. But these are all just the battery light again. Expecting the worst means we are more likely to accept the worst. The curriculum may be just fine with a little more work to understand it, the “not a reader” might just need different books in her hands, and there is always time for play, no matter the list of things to do.

We have to examine the role of our own minds in the world we inhabit, and in some ways, the easiest way to change the world, will be to change our minds. Lets expect possibility, and joy, and hope. Lets expect curiosity and challenge. Lets expect that this year we will see children grown and change in ways that astonish us.

(I have a new book out next week on changing mindsets with Christine Hertz, find it here)

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3 thoughts on “How to Change the World

  1. I’m thrilled you are back writing your blog! (Your book is on pre-order – so looking forward to digging into it.) Lovely post. Our mindset shapes everything. Thank you for reminding us of this in our first days with our learners..

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