How Did You Get Here?

Control theory teaches us that what drives our behaviour is the pictures we have in our heads. It’s why sports psychologists have professional athletes picture themselves scoring that winning goal. It’s why organizations create mission and vision statements. If we can’t picture what we are going to do, we can’t really do it.

It’s also why it’s so important to model behaviour for kids, and help them to create a picture of themselves as a successful person in their own heads. If I’ve never seen respectful behaviour, or if I can’t imagine myself succeeding, how would I ever achieve it?

I was listening to the podcast of one of my personal heroes, Daniel Pink, as he interviewed authors Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao about their book “Scaling Up Excellence”. They were talking about how leaders can help create an environment which produces excellence. One of the activities they found had a great impact is one that I think could easily be done with a school staff, a classroom, an individual child, or personally, just for your own growth. Here’s how it goes…

Imagine that a year from now, you are being interviewed for a newspaper article about the wonderful accomplishment that you achieved in the past 12 months. Now, sit down and write the story of what happened that led to this achievement. How did you get here? What made the difference? Where were the turning points?

Seems simple enough, but consider for a minute… So often, we set goals for ourselves or for our kids – whether that be to improve student reading levels or to play nicely at recess – but we don’t really unpack the everyday steps that we need to take in order to achieve that goal. When we have to tell the story, we have to break things down from our lofty goals, and consider what concrete actions to start taking. We have to create a picture in our heads.

What will your story be?


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