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Friday, February 14, 2020

The Power of Positive Thinking

This week was amazing. It’s not often in the daily grind that we get to say that so I had to lead with it. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I enjoy running for both the physical and mental benefits. This week, I had the absolute honor of meeting and hearing one of my running role models - an incredibly inspiring woman who happens to be the current Israeli female champion. She also has five kids, thank G-d, and runs modestly and proudly in her skirt and headscarf. For those of you unfamiliar, her name is Beatie Deutsch. She came to America to run the Miami Half Marathon (and won it) and while she was here, she decided to do a quick speaking tour. How we lucked out and got her to come to our town is another story, but what I learned is something I felt every parent (and person) could benefit from.

Beatie arrived from New York by train and since I had coordinated her visit, I had the privilege of getting her from the train station to the school where she was speaking. The time we had gave me a chance to get to know Beatie as a person a little, aside from all the fame and fanfare. And she’s an awesome person. I’ve followed her stories and know a lot about her philosophy towards running and accomplishing things in life and I’ve seen that she has a unique ability to conquer things using the power of positive thinking. After all, she went from not running to being a national champion in a matter of less than four years - you have to be doing something pretty unique if you can accomplish that! She talks a lot about the mental game of believing in what you can accomplish, setting goals and not letting negativity stand in the way of those goals and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.   Either way, during our car ride, I mentioned to her that she’s an incredibly emotionally healthy person and asked if that was by nature or something she consciously chose - and she told me she worked hard on it and learned from different experiences to develop that attitude.

Which brings me to today’s topic - the power of positive thinking. I think that most people believe you are either positive by nature or “practical” (ie negative/realistic depending who you’re talking to). I actually believe we have a choice in these matters. And when it comes to our kids, I think we can choose to model this ability so they can choose to take a positive outlook in their lives.  Being positive in positive situations is a no brainer - when things are going well and your child is thriving, it is easy to be positive and encouraging. It gets a bit dicier when challenges arise and things are not looking up. When it seems that you should just tell them not to try, when we want to prepare them for failure so they aren’t hurt or disappointed, those are the times when we have the hardest time encouraging positive thinking.

One of the things Beatie said that resonated with me was to set big goals, HUGE goals - and not to be afraid of failing. The fear of failure hijacks our thoughts and doesn’t allow us to be positive. But the amazing thing about thinking positive is it affects more than your mind and attitude, it actually transforms your physical abilities.  Negative thoughts actually bring the negative results. I was running the other week and I felt so tired and draggy but every time around the track I told myself - you can make one loop around, anyone can do one loop around - and at the end I had finished a 6 mile run and my last mile was actually my personal record. I honestly hadn’t thought myself capable of that speed but I just told myself I could do it and I did. It almost sounds like a pep rally speech that can’t possibly be true and yet I’ve seen and felt it in action. Sometimes just verbalizing to our kids that they’re capable will give them the boost they need to try. And failure is actually ok as long as you tried your best and gave it your all. We learn from failure, it’s a springboard for future success. But the attitude you bring to the table really determines the kind of meal you’ll eat.

I know a lot of parents think they need to teach their kids to be realists - and I agree, you need to show them realistic scenarios in life so they have attainable goals and don’t face constant dissatisfaction in their lives - but there’s a lot to be said for balancing that with some big goals, and positive thoughts. Having dreams is important, it shapes you and gives you things to look forward to and strive to become. Believing you can do it makes it possible. If you don’t truly believe it is possible you won’t achieve it.

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” 

–Winston Churchill


Being emotionally healthy has many aspects, but the ability to focus on the positive, believe in the positive, and set your mind towards it is an extremely hard but worthwhile exercise in life. Just because the negative exists doesn’t mean we must focus on it. I believe the choice is ours to make. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Sports

What I’m about to do feels almost heretical. I know to many sports is like a religion - and, as with religion, people feel incredibly strongly about their opinions. And my view of it may very well be diametrically opposed to someone else’s. So that’s my caveat before I begin. Hoping not to offend.

I grew up in a house where I recall no role for formalized sports. Yes, I have two incredible brothers, but don’t remember either ever playing on a team or watching professional sports. My father never seemed interested. We did plenty of exercise- my parents ran daily and I recall one of my brothers being skilled at Martial Arts - but official sports, never. The first time I can remember ever being exposed to sport fan-dom was when our close friends son got married. A die-hard Redskins fan, my mom and her friends decided to make his post wedding celebration in the theme of the team. Down to maroon tablecloths and a signed helmet. And when my brother in law from Chicago joined the family, we definitely heard mention of the Bulls and the White Sox and possibly some other teams. To put it mildly, formalized sports was not on my radar.

When it comes to school sports, I think we have to remember the key word - SCHOOL.  School is a place to learn - for the skilled educators to shape and model our children.  Sports coaches and the school's attitude towards sports should be no different.  I do believe in healthy competition, to a degree, but overall, I think sports has a lot to teach our children about how to understand themselves and their peers and the world around them.

When my children switched into their current school, one of the many things I had heard was there was great opportunity to be had in the extracurricular arena. Among other offerings, there were many sports teams they could be part of. I found this intriguing, as an avid runner and someone who values physical activity and all the benefits, mental and health related, this was an exciting opportunity and I encouraged my children to be part of it. Boy was I in for a surprise.  I expected them to practice and get to move on a regular basis, but I was not prepared for the games.  I was definitely not prepared for the concept of "benching" a child.  For those of you unfamiliar (yes, I'm sure I'm not the only one who didn't know this existed) there are players who, for whatever reason their coach decides, sit on the bench for an entire season.  They are sometimes played in games, for a minute or two. But for all intense purposes, they sit and watch as spectators as the other kids get playing time.  You would think they would have had to do something really awful for this predicament, but they actually don't.  What I've witnessed, both in my kids teams but also on many other teams, is that coaches choose their "favorites" before the season even starts and those kids just get played.  Sometimes, those are the highly skilled kids, but not always.  We've all witnessed favoritism and its never a pretty sight, but it is especially awful to watch in this arena where it is so public.  Aside from the obvious issues, I truly think coaches are missing significant opportunities.

Sports is an amazing way to build skills.  Not only do you learn the skills of the game itself, you learn everything from dexterity to coordination, but it is an incredible opportunity to build interpersonal skills and teamwork.  It is practically a social skills group.  Kids can learn to identify their own strengths and weaknesses and build on them.  They can learn how to identify other people's strengths and play to them.  They learn to share and that teamwork is the key to success, it isn't about the ones who score the points but about the assists and the "play".  They can learn how to be graceful winners and graceful losers.  They learn commitment and focus.  The child who lacks confidence can find a way to shine in a totally different way on the field or the court.  There are so many things to be gained above just the pursuit of trophies and banners. 

Yes, every school wants to win, but at what cost? And, you can win but not crush.  Have you ever sat at a game where the team was winning by such a large margin, there was no coming back for the opposing team, yet the strongest players (the "starters") were still in? I have, and it is more than mildly ridiculous.  Once they "have it in the bag," every child should be out there, getting time on the court.  There is no reason to teach kids to be crushers, teach them to be graceful and maybe a bit merciful.  And when you're talking about lower and middle school teams, play all the players - I'm not advocating equal playing minutes for every kid - but be reasonable.  You have to give them a chance to play if you want them to improve.  Many of the kids in these age groups haven't spent time in the game, and if they don't put them out at that point, they never will. 

I've discussed this with the headmaster at our school and been told that when kids are just allowed to play without "earning it," they will become entitled.  Tell me, exactly, how a ten year old who shows up to every practice "earns" their playing time? Or a high school boy who is capable but hasn't been shown the same favoritism? Yes, I believe the kids should show up, learn the discipline, show dedication and commitment - I'm not advocating for putting every kid in for the same amount of time.  But I am advocating for the sports to be more about character building and less about favoritism.  More focus on building people who care, who see everyone, who work together and play together.  Lets encourage the kids who want to move but aren't necessarily graceful athletes to continue to play.  Lets make it about building champion humans!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Can You Be Both?

Since I really write this to think through my approach and struggles, I decided today's post, though only tangentially about parenting, would be ok.


I recently had a conversation that really left me thinking about myself in a way that is almost uncomfortable but all too necessary.  The question posed to me was why I need to always be focused on improvement.  It seems like a strange question on the one hand - self improvement is supposed to be something we strive for - but when I thought about it, it was a really good question.  Self improvement means that we are actually looking at ourselves critically and deciding what we need to change.  Change means we don't like something the way it is.  In truth, I realized that the constant self reflection actually, in some ways, makes you someone who is dissatisfied with yourself. 


Yes, this is a strange conundrum.  We want to be people who strive for greatness, with a growth mindset - so how can we be both happy with who we are and where we are and also strive for improvement?


My favorite concept in High School was always BALANCE, it was something I thought about and pondered a lot.  I may have even written some poems about it...I know...this is getting embarrassing.  I think balance is such an important concept in our lives in everything we do.  I think it is possible to balance being a person who strives for growth while still being happy with who you are and where you are. 


The first thing I think we need to think about is how we see ourselves currently.  While being able to be critical about ourselves is an important skill, do we need to be negatively critical? Are we happy with ourselves overall? Do we find that we are frustrated on a regular basis by everyday occurrences?  Sometimes we are holding on to all types of anger or dissatisfaction and we don't even realize it, but it comes out in strange ways - like constantly second guessing ourselves or getting upset about inconsequential events.  When you stop to think about it, we all know someone who always seems to be all in a tizzy about every little issue.  If you answered yes to any of those questions, take some time and think about what it is that is really bothering you and try to figure out how to change that.  Once you do, you will likely stop seeing yourself as failing with your kids (or spouse or whatever) and needing a revamp and be able to think about improvement as step upwards while already standing in a pretty good place.


More than anything, what we have been focusing on is thoughtful parenting, the ability to be conscientious and react in appropriate ways that will shape our children's mindsets and thought patterns.  That will help them become thoughtful people, who make smart choices and react to situations in a thoughtful manner.  All too often, people get into patterns and habits in life that don't align with thoughtfulness - life can be very monotonous, aka it gets boring to do the same thing day in and day out and sometimes that causes us to turn our brains off - to go into autopilot. Habits are easy to form and really hard to break.  We get steeped in our lives and sometimes miss the big picture.  Having a place and a time to reflect on that and step back is an amazing opportunity.


One of the purposes of this blog is to help shut off the autopilot and regain the reins.  But that shouldn't be at the expense of seeing yourself and your parenting as something you need to overhaul, completely stop in your tracks or realize what huge mistakes you've made.  Mistakes are ok as long as they aren't repeated (too many times).  It is to help you make thoughtful, conscientious choices with yourselves and your children so you can feel fulfilled and propel your growth forward.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Imposter?

I remember when I had just finished college and, after interning at a company during my schooling, they offered me a full time position. I was thrilled and terrified. Supposedly I knew what to do, after all I had just earned my BS in Computer Science, but to tell you the truth I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Everyone says you really learn what to do on the job - and there I was faced with this feeling like I had no knowledge whatsoever to face this new reality. In truth, I had many of the skills I would need to successfully navigate the workplace, I just didn’t realize it at the time. 

The first time I heard someone refer to the imposter syndrome I felt I could totally relate. Who hasn’t spent some time feeling like a fraud ? As adults we are somehow supposed to know what to do and when to do it and yet many of us are just as lost about how to approach a situation as the people we need to guide. For those who aren’t familiar, imposter syndrome (from a layman’s words here) is feeling like everyone else thinks you know what you’re doing but you don’t actually believe in your competence in the matter. People struggle with this in all ways - ever given a task at work and think you have no idea how to even begin? Dealing with a situation with your spouse or children where you are supposed to have all the answers but you feel like you have absolutely no idea what to do? Just thinking everyone else knows how to handle this and thinks I know how but they’re just gonna walk in one day and realize I’m not qualified.

In truth no matter how much we study, learn, read or otherwise educate ourselves in life - in some ways we are all frauds. No one knows exactly what to do or how to do it. And even in cases where we do know, sometimes all tried and true methods just don’t work because of the human element - we can’t know how someone will react until we try our hand at it. Parenting, and life for that matter, is trial and error. We do what we can, we try our best and we see how it goes. The difference between those of us who feel successful and competent and those who feel like they’re constantly drowning is mostly about the approach and attitude you have to your own skill set. And for many of us, if we’re being honest, our attitude is a combination of confidence and drowning. In short, we all feel like frauds sometimes and that’s actually ok.

The key, I believe, is the front which you present to your kids. If your children see you as insecure, unsure or hesitant the majority of the time - they’ll likely use that to their advantage. They might make you doubt yourself. If you punt to your partner and won’t make decisions the majority of the time, they see you as weak and pliable (think, wait til your father comes home...). Putting on a front doesn’t mean you have to feel it inside - inside you might be scared stiff or beyond the point of confusion - but outwardly you need to appear confident. It’s a balancing act, at times an impossible one, but who said this job would be easy ?

It isn’t realistic to do this all the time - and honestly it’s also not healthy. That’s why I said the majority of the time. It’s ok for your kids to see you vulnerable sometimes. For them to understand the human side of you and know you can grapple with things. I always have more respect for the person who tells me they don’t know the answer to a question or the solution to a particular issue but they will look into it and get back to me. We can do that with our kids sometimes - being confident doesn’t mean being all knowing. It just means being in charge of the situation and being able to provide a level of confidence in being able to get to a solution.

One thing I struggled with significantly as my kids came into their teen years was that balance of taking charge and seeming like I had it covered and being real with them. It’s a dangerous line to tow - on the one hand they want you to be honest and real with them. On the other they want you to be the adult in every situation. Believe me when I tell you it is very easy to step over the line and very hard to straddle it. I made many mistakes in this arena with my first kids and what I’ve learned from those times is that being honest doesn’t have to mean full and complete honesty with your kids. It can mean telling them that you’re struggling with a particular situation, not making them your confidant but allowing them to see that you are a human. And then reassuring them that struggling Doesn’t mean you are not OK, or that you do not know what to do, but that you are assessing the situation and deciding the best course of action. It is possible to be real and a bit of a fraud at the same time.

Everyone spends a lot of time putting on masks in this world. The mask we wear to work, the mask we wear for friends, we all have a variety of masks and we use them for different occasions. Try your best to have someone with whom you never need a mask, where the real you, the vulnerable or confused or (fill in the blank) you is able to be present - but when it comes to your kids, no matter how you feel on the inside, pull out your confident, self assured and powerful mask and wear it well.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Imperfect Perfection...Mistakes Happen


George Bernard Shaw once said that "If there was nothing wrong in the world there wouldn't be anything for us to do."  Put well but differently by Salvador Dalí, "Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it". The strive for perfection is one familiar to many of us.  Who doesn't want the perfect life? The perfect spouse? The perfect kids? Perfection comes in big and small packages - do you have a kid who needs to achieve perfect marks? Do you need a picture perfect clean house?  We view the world through the lens of social media and everyone's picture perfect moments and its hard to remember that life is not actually perfect. And people are definitely far from perfect. 
I find myself grappling with this concept a lot - I set up a picture in my mind of what my life should be like or how a specific situation should go and then when it doesn't go as scripted, I'm often left feeling a great amount of disappointment.  When I was a teenager I remember consciously setting my expectations low so I wouldn't be disappointed.  When my sister went to a year abroad and really didn't have a great experience, I followed her trail and went to the same school abroad the following year with expectations at about zero.  (Ask me what I was thinking going to the same place when she really didn't enjoy the experience and I'll go back to the young and dumb post from the past, but honestly it was an amazing year experience for me and I really grew from it).  As an adult, I have grappled with the expectations piece - I don't want to set low expectations so that I will always be satisfied, I want to strive for greatness and be able to achieve it.  So how do we find that balance?  Can we be great but not perfect parents? Help our children have high but realistic expectations? Strive for near perfection but not think they must be perfect?  Make mistakes and misstep and still stay on track to reach goals?
To tell you the truth, the greatest lessons I've learned on this particular topic have been from a wise friend of mine.  Of all the adults I know, this friend has been one that has shown me what true growth and development as an adult mean.  They often tell me about the fairy tale world that I live in (in a friend kind of way of course) and about adjusting my expectations to be more in line with the real world.  So today I will share some of the wisdom I have learned from them.
It is not always the actual event or end result that matters, it is the process.  We can't always get a situation right on the first try, and we don't have to.  What matters more than the actual result is what we do with the experience.  If we make mistakes, if we don't achieve perfection, what do we do with our failure or lack of perfection?  It breaks down into a few pieces:
1. How quickly do we right our course? If we make a mistake, can we recognize it and get back on track? The more quickly we are able to course correct, the nearer we come to the perfection we are striving towards. There are times we can correct ourselves immediately and reset. Other times, we need to give ourselves a moment (or a day or a week) to regroup. Learning to take that time and analyze ourselves is a hard but important step towards fixing our missteps. 
2. What lessons can we take away from these experiences? Can we find ways to prevent the same experience happening again? Being able to discuss and dissect our mistakes is a real sign of a growing person who is striving towards near perfection.  This piece can also have very important ramifications in terms of helping our kids achieve the results they are striving for in their various situations. If we can help them dissect their processes and figure out how to set up systems for success that work for them, they will have an easier time achieving good results. A child who needs more structure and process with their studying will constantly face the feelings of anxiety and potentially failure when trying to study for exams if they cram. And two week study plans would fall flat for others. Helping them figure out their best fit can help set them up for success. 
3. Can we leave our mistakes and failures behind and move forward?  Not dwelling on the things you haven't done perfectly helps us be able to move forward and learn from all of our experiences.  Mistakes should be used as a springboard for success. Most inventors failed several times before hitting their mark - we should expect no less of ourselves. 
For fear of sounding like a broken record, I will venture to say talk to your kids! Discuss your goals, discuss your struggles.  Keep the dialogue going, share your failures and successes, they need to see you as a growing, changing, developing human. 
We will make mistakes, we are human. What we do with our mistakes is far more important than the fact that we made them.  Modeling these behaviors to our children will help them integrate these techniques into their lives.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Silence

In the wee hours of the morning, as I lay awake for the third or fourth time (I hate when I set an alarm to run early but somehow my body doesn't quite trust that I will wake up), I had an entire blog post composed.  What I should have done was taken my computer out then and there and put my thoughts on paper.  Now I'm trying to reconstruct it, it was a good one!

My father as a very quiet man to most who knew him.  He definitely had a lot to say on many topics but he chose his words carefully.  He had mastered silence in a way few people ever do.  The thing all of his children wanted more than anything was his approval, which he usually gave in generous heaps (he loved his kids like crazy). On the rare occasions where you had let him down, the silence hurt worse than a slap (which, in those days, was still an acceptable mode of discipline, though he never used it).  I remember the feeling of standing in that silence, feeling every bit of the sadness and disappointment in that air.  It was not a pleasant feeling, but it was a powerful one.  There are few people who exist in this universe who are quite like my father was.  His ability to control his emotions and convey so little anger or upset in our family is a hard thing to describe. The anniversary of his passing, in December, always leaves me thinking about things from his life that I want to integrate into my own.  And this year, after several situations with different children where I was at a loss as to how to proceed in the best way, it struck me that silence is a tool I would like to learn and master.

Every situation and every child is unique.  As parents, we do our best to be proactive, to think through our children's struggles and opportunities, to help them utilize every  situation.  We want to be master planners and executors.  Despite our best efforts, we are going to get into situations where our tactics will not work and yet our children need consequences.  When your children are small, there are many ways in which to find consequences that will have a profound effect on them and help them change their behavior.  Take, for example, a child who has recurrent meltdowns.  You can attempt to incentivize, rewarding them for situations where they didn't melt down.  If all positive options fail, they can be removed from the room, lose a privilege or a toy, etc.  We have options because we are, from their perspective, mostly in control.  They may try to assert their own control at times but from a more global view, they are powerless.  As children get older, there is less we can do to assert our opinions and have it matter to them.  This obviously depends on your child, some children are naturally more inclined to keep the peace and please their parents.  If you are so lucky as to have a teenager with this disposition, you can probably stop reading here. 

For the rest of us, we are left with a situation where there is little, if anything, we can do to exert control. When we want something done or changed, do we actually have a path forward?  Obviously, certain things are still within our control - we can choose to incentivize where possible or withhold privileges - a teen who is not being considerate with their use of the car can lose the chance to use it.  But there are so many times and situations where the thing that matters to them is getting their way and they are willing to lose anything to get it.

This, in my opinion, is where the silence factor plays a huge role.  If our children want our approval, which most do, then we can help them change their behaviors by withholding our words. 

Before we go there, I'll preface with the fact that to let this tactic be effective, you do have to be praiseworthy when the situation calls for it.  Share your pleasure in seeing them do the right thing.  Share it OFTEN!  Don't let them think they only hear from us when things go wrong, when they make a misstep.   And, before going into silent mode, try your normal tactics of behavior modification.

If you've tried some or all of the following and failed, then move to option 2 (silence):
-Discuss (don't debate) what the issue is in a calm time (if possible, if not - at least in a calm voice)
-Offer alternative behavior paths
-Alert them to the consequences of their behavior
-Give them some time to think about it (again, if possible, not every situation allows for this)

Now, if all of the above seem to have fallen flat.  If they don't care if they will never have privileges again, if going to their special event doesn't matter to them, if if if...then stop talking.  Don't discuss or debate any further.  You have given them every chance and they don't seem to care.  But the silence has to be full and total.  Not the 'I'm not talking to you' immature type of silence.  The type they feel, where you are in a room but can practically look past them without noticing they are there.  You can let them know you will be tuning them out.  I advise this if they are the type of child who will believe you are being spiteful.  I think it is completely acceptable to preface with "Unfortunately you have made some poor choices and I can no longer have a discussion with you about this.  If you continue this behavior, I will stop engaging with you."  This shows them you are in control of the silence and not just angry.  This type of silence has nothing to do with anger.  It is a parent who is in total control of their emotions. 

I won't lie, this is the absolute hardest thing for me as a parent.  It is a tactic I resort to only when all else has failed.  I always want my kids to just be happy and I can't understand why they can't just get on board sometimes or pull it together.  But they really can't sometimes and despite my best efforts, they won't until they have to sit in that silence and absorb it.  Perhaps once those Darn Frontal Lobes develop and mature, maybe this won't be necessary, but in the meantime....Good luck with the Peace and Quiet!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Experiential Learning

Today is The first of January. Typically a day for resolutions. I was reading somewhere recently that every year needs a defining word. I’ve decided that my word for 2020 is going to be VISION. Yes, it’s cringy (as my teenagers would refer to it) but it is something I have thought about a while and realized that with clear vision, goals and priorities can really get set straight. With that in mind, this post is geared at helping our kids find some vision about the world around us.

Most of our children’s lives is spent in school - sad but true fact. Once they start kindergarten, they’re in school more of their waking hours than they are home. School works for some children and they learn vast amounts of useful knowledge...and not so well for others. Whichever type of learner your child is - everyone benefits from experiential learning.

With a family of our size, I’m the last person to say everyone can travel - traveling is expensive and hard to work out. Most regular people don’t get the opportunity to travel often and that’s just reality. But recently we had the amazing opportunity to travel with our family. It was the first time we actually flew with all of the kids at once (for tips on how to make it possible...well that is a subject for an entirely separate post but it involved a lot of strategic credit cards and mileage points). But here is what I realized from the experience- traveling to a new place, seeing a different side of the world where the nature and culture is different - it’s the real classroom for the kids. It opens their eyes and moves their souls. And it got me thinking about how we can integrate more experience based learning into our children’s lives. We aren’t going to single-handedly change our school systems to have experience based learning as their primary method of teaching, so if we want our children to benefit from this we have to create opportunities.

Obviously if you have the means to take them traveling - go for it! I honestly think my kids were able to appreciate it in a different way because they knew it was such a priceless and unique opportunity but even if you take them often, make it count. Don’t just run to a resort or Disney, find places and people that live differently. Have them see and experience different living conditions. Show them what is out there.

And for the rest of us, who don’t get that chance often - there are still ways to do that right in your home towns.

First, festivals. Almost every city has several that run throughout the year. Look them up and go check them out. I know here in DC the Smithsonian runs a folk life festival every year. It’s always amazing to see the people from all over the world and their crafts and traditions. Get involved!

Second, remember when we were younger and our teachers set up pen pals? Why did that ever stop? What a way to meet kids in other places and realize they’re just like you yet have totally different lives. We can pick a place with our kids and study it. Figure things out. If you can’t experience the real thing - virtually experience.  The internet has so much to offer! Virtual reality devices even let you feel as if you’re there. And bring it to life with projects and recipes from that country! Find ways to experience a place before you get the chance to visit. It might take some effort, but I believe the benefits outweigh the time it’ll take to invest. And it doesn’t have to be all at once - you can set a goal to spend 6 months on one locale - no one is rushing you to fit it in in seven days like you would have to on a trip!

Third, remember that even your own city or neighborhood has a lot more diversity than you may be aware of. Even if you are living one type of lifestyle, I’d venture to guess there are a lot of people not far from you who live differently. Some have different traditions, others different means. Open their eyes to a less sheltered version of the world around you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, try to befriend someone who is different than your family and has different traditions. The possibilities are endless when we open our eyes to the different things around us.

When the world is our classroom, there are always opportunities to learn.