Possible Sharon

I went to a meeting today. Yes, a meeting on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, on the day after a big family wedding, and right in the middle of my biggest grading crunch of the semester. I’m dedicated that way. I’m full of PD. I’m full of something anyway.

We talked about a number of things, but one of those things was the theory of possible selves. The idea is basically that productive people visualize multiple possible versions of themselves and work toward becoming the best (or at least the most realistically best) of those possibilities. They try to grow as human beings. They try to cultivate their strengths and avoid falling prey to bad situations or bad attitudes.

I like this idea. Maybe I will keep a “Possible Sharon” blog for 2011. That would probably be better than my “Contentment Diary” entries for 2010. Working toward self-improvement is an idea I can get behind. See, I’m already thinking of self-improvement in terms of writing a better blog. I think I’ve got it.

I also like this idea as a writing prompt for students. It might go something like this:

Write about three possible future versions of yourself–one undesirable, one expected, and one highly desirable. What are some things you can do to become the possible self you hope to be? What do you need to do to avoid becoming the possible self you do not want to be?

I’ve defended my right to be a grouch on this blog, but I actually do believe in positive self-actualization. I believe it is my job to make myself a better person and a happier person rather than waiting around for circumstances to make life better for me. What I don’t believe in is false cheerfulness, which I think we practice all-too-often in our efforts to be seen as glass half-full people. False cheerfulness means you don’t speak up when something really is wrong. It means you don’t always own up to your own mistakes.

I don’t want to be a preacher of false cheerfulness, but I do want to encourage my students to approach school and life as cycles of attainable goals to be worked toward. You’re right, I tell my students when they tell me they can’t write longer papers. You can’t sit down and write a longer paper. What you can do is to write a series of shorter chunks that all fit together into a longer paper. Attainable goals to be worked toward.

Possible selves writing could be a good way to help define those goals. I think I might try working this up as an assignment.

Meanwhile, I am also one of those teachers who believes that you don’t give assignments if you haven’t done them yourself. My mother the teacher taught me that. Of all the things she attempted to teach me that I could have listened to, I chose this. Perhaps I should put on my Possible Sharon list to remember and listen to more things my mother taught me.

I don’t know. I’ll think about that. What I do know is that I’ll have to break this down to make it manageable. If I look only at the big picture, I don’t have too much to say. What Sharon do I want to be in five years? The healthy, happy, successful, financially secure Sharon who contributes in meaningful ways to the people and the world around her, of course. Yes, of course, but what does that mean?

This could take some time. I think I will adopt it as a recurring blog theme. It may be that the Possible Sharon I need to write about is the one I will be next week, not next year or in the next five years. Attainable goals to work toward.

The Possible Sharon I hope to be next week is the one with all of her work caught up. I won’t even get into what the Undesirable Sharon of next week might be like.

Some Possible Sharons I’d like to see emerge in the next few months are The Sharon Who Has Become a Better Photographer and The Sharon Who Once Again Writes Poetry on a Regular Basis and The Sharon Who Gives of Her Time and Energy and Talents to Others and The Sharon Who Has a Really Cool Mostly Organic Garden Going and The Sharon Who Writes About Important and Interesting Things on Her Blog and The Sharon Who is Not an Embarrassment to Vegetarianism Because She Cooks Healthy and Delicious Meals and Has the Energy Levels and the Blog Pictures to Prove It and The Sharon Who Does Wonderful and Innovative Things in the Classroom and The Sharon Who Finishes Novel Chapters and Textbook Chapters Alike.

Maybe that’s enough to start. Once again, I find myself reluctant to express the worst possible outcomes on any of these variations of Sharon. What I do know is that they all basically require the same thing from me. They require me to be hitting on all cylinders, to be clicking along in a state of Flow.

Basically, if I want to be any of the things on my own most desirable list I need to recapture my sense of being able to handle all of my responsibilities without freaking out and without losing focus. They require me to think outside my own aches and pains and to be focused on future potential rather than on present problems. They require me to decrease my levels of anxiety and increase my feelings of well-being.

That’s fairly major. I can’t do it. Not if I’m trying to do all of it. I can only get up tomorrow and do what I can and what I must. Rinse and Repeat. By the end of the week maybe I’ll find a minute or two to ask myself what I’m doing to become Possible Sharon.

Patricia of Next Door says her new motto is “It will all work out” or “Because I am always working on making it work out, it will all work out.” Maybe so. Maybe if I rinse and repeat enough days of trying really hard everything will work out for me too. Right now I think my motto should be more in the manner of the Hitchhiker’s Guide: Don’t Panic.

This might just be the path to recovered flow and thus the path to Possible Sharon. Get up. Do what you have to do. Don’t panic. Rinse and repeat. It will all work out.

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