These Are the Days of Our Lives

Let me state categorically that the title of this posting does not refer to the soap, “Days of Our Lives”, although I have to admit, she says, risking all credibility, that I was a fan back in my uni days. I happen to have a penchant for doing the housework to Queen and it occurred to me as I was vacuuming that the last fortnight of my working life could be chaptered using their song titles: ‘One Vision’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Hammer To Fall’, ‘I Want to Break Free’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ spring to mind!! 

I was tempted to delete the last posting as it probably isn’t the most encouraging thing to read but blogging is about documenting one’s thinking and reflecting on where it takes you, isn’t it? And like it or not, we all experience good days and bad ones and it is useful to remind ourselves that all experiences can teach us something about ourselves if we are open and mindful enough to let them. 

A few things in today’s papers struck a chord with me. A colleague during my ‘weekus horribilis’ had commented that we can choose to live our lives through fear and paranoia or not. Leunig says that ‘we may become what we fear or what we love’ in today’s AGE A2 section, Ruth Ostrow says, in her regular column in the The Weekend Australian’s Magazine that “time spent being depressed and worried” cannot be salvaged and, finally, in an article on Matthieu Ricard (The Happiest Man in the World) in The Age’s Good Weekend, he is quoted as saying “..if you allow exterior circumstances to determine your state of mind, then of course you will suffer”.

In the latter article, studies done at the University of Wisconsin have shown, apparently, that we can have a predisposition as to how we view experiences (positively or negatively) and that this determines our ‘base line’ of responses to emotional stimuli. Ricard argues that “Developing happiness is a skill. We can develop our potential and eventually achieve happiness”. In the same article, the author reminds us of the words of Dominique Noguez who says misery is more interesting than contentment “because it has a seductive intensity, and the attraction of always leaving something to anticipate: happiness”. 

All of these things keep bringing me back to the ideas of mindfulness and being open-minded. If we surround ourselves with like-minded people, there is a confirming quality to what we believe and we don’t question what we do and how we think. Our expectations of how mathematics should be taught fall into a groove and our perspective doesn’t change over time; sometimes becoming even more entrenched. But…. can we choose to alter these things ourselves? Was it my choice to have had a horrible fortnight? Could I have viewed these experiences differently? I’m not sure. Sometimes there is value in feeling bad. It offers the contrast to what feeling good feels like. I suppose the real issue is whether the negative reactions become set responses or not…and I believe we can train both ourselves and our students to change that ‘base line’ of responsiveness so that we all become more resilient and thus more able to help others get the most value from their lives. 

These Are the Days of Our Lives. Let’s live them well.

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About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
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2 Responses to These Are the Days of Our Lives

  1. Swamp Boy says:

    Interesting….back in my early corporate days we had a motivational speaker who (among a lot of crud) made the same points. He called it ‘awfulising’ a situation, where your first response is to assume the worst case scenario – that people have made the wrong decision, that your hard work will be overlooked etc. But it’s just as easy to ‘awesomeise’ any sitution where you don’t really know the outcome. Think “my hard work will be recognised and rewarded, regardless of the outcome.” And surprisingly it does make you feel better than getting depressed about an outcome you can’t affect.

    I don’t think I’ve got a point anywhere, your comments just struck a chord with me.

  2. Linda says:

    Thanks for your comment. Thinking about this a bit more, I decided that I may not be able to control my emotional response to some stimuli but I can choose to which stimuli I respond and, at the same time, be more mindful of my response and thus try to elevate the baseline. We can decide which stimuli are more worth a response than others and hence attempt to lessen the effects.

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