Changing From The Outside In

I hope you had a chance to read Maureen Mirabito’s blog this week, entitled “Three Simple Things You Can Do Now to Improve Your Life, Work, and Leadership.”  It’s really thought provoking.  What really engaged me is the concept of developing habits (good ones, I hope).  She made three really good suggestions:

  • Start small
  • Be consistent
  • Schedule it

And, of course, because the purpose for IndistarConnect is to talk about how we implement Indistar well, she makes a specific suggestion for improving communication with the Leadership Team. I do suggest reading her entire blog. I hope it inspires you to share with us on IndistarConnect some positive habits you have developed.

 As I was reading about developing these habits, it made me think of a Washington Post column I read this past Monday about Ernie Banks.  I realize not everyone follows (or even cares about baseball), so let me just mention that Ernie Banks, who died this week, was a great baseball player.  He was know as “Mr. Cub,’ partly because of his stellar play.  However, and most relevant to Maureen’s blog, he was adored by the Chicago Cub's fans because of his infectious enthusiasm for the game.  You need to know that the Cubs never made the World Series or even a playoff game. Mostly they finished near the bottom of the league. Yet, Ernie was always positive and one of the most famous quotes attributed to him is, “It’s a great day for a ballgame. Let’s play two.”

 So what does this have to do with “habits?”  Well, the author of the column, Tom Boswell, describes Ernie’s “habit of enthusiasm.” This is what he says, “And yet that habit of enthusiasm, that determination to focus on the love of the game for its own sake, seemed to become a reinforcing principle for him.  The more he repeated it, lived it, the more it became true.”

 But Mr. Boswell suggests that this emotion does not have to come from inside.  It can work in reverse. Again, let me quote him, “ “He who would be calm must first put on the appearance of being calm,” Shakespeare wrote. In other words, our emotions do not simply come from inside us and express themselves outwardly.  The process can work in reverse. By putting on the outward appearance of calm – or confidence or enthusiasm or whatever quality we value – we can increase our tendency to feel that way.” ”

 I think that’s the message of the Mr. Boswell’s column and of Ernie Banks positive attitude.  We can make ourselves more positive by practicing being positive, by making a habit of it. We can make ourselves more enthusiastic if we repeat it often, live it every day, and then it will become true.

 This is particularly important for leaders in a school, district, or state.  We all affect those who work with or for us. If we can will ourselves to be positive and upbeat by developing the habit of being optimistic and enthusiastic, we too may inspire those around us to see possibilities and bring enthusiasm for the work we do for our students.

 So, as Ernie would probably say if he had been a teacher or administrator, “It’s a great day for teaching and learning. Let’s go!”

 Here are a couple of additional links that address the issue of changing habits.

 So what do you think about this idea of changing habits from the outside in?  Does it resonate with you?  Have you experienced changing your habits, dare I say attitudes, by changing your behavior first? Have you experienced this is your role at the school, district, or state? And has it had an impact on those around you? Click here to share in the Your Reflections section of IndistarConnect. When you get there, click the Blue + in the upper right-hand corner to share your thoughts. 


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Paul Axtell

With more than thirty years of experience helping organizations and individuals be more effective, Paul Axtell has honed his insights in executive offices and training programs for everyone from office staff and line workers to managers and team leaders.

A large focus of his work is how to run effective and productive meetings—to turn them from something people dread into useful, productive sessions with trackable results.

Paul is the author of multiple books, including Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations, Being Remarkable, and Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids. He can be reached at <a href=""></a> and via email at
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