See the Hill Smaller

There was a study done at an Ivy League University several years back where researchers asked students to estimate the slope of a hill.  Those that were alone overestimated the slope and saw the hiller steeper than what it was, while those with colleagues saw the hill smaller. The study found that it is easier to build on positives when we have support around us, people in our lives.

A follow up study staged an incident right before asking the question on how steep the hill was. In one case the students meet a puppy and in the other case they encounter an angry man yelling at them for no reason. The slope was perceived lower for those that had experienced the puppy.

When President Thomas Jefferson was traveling with companions across the country on horseback in the early 1800’s, he approached a large river that needed to be carefully crossed. A stranger appeared and wondered how he was going to get across. He looked at the President and asked if he could get a ride across the river. Thomas Jefferson said, “Sure, hop on!” As the stranger slid off the horse on the other side, one of the companions questioned why he asked the President for a ride. The stranger replied, “I didn’t know he was the President. All I know is that his face said yes, and all your faces said no!”

The face we wear gives signals to others; teammates, family, co-workers as well as total strangers. A ‘Yes-Face’ is positive, trusting, confident, refreshing and approachable. Our face is an outward expression of the inward reality of our heart. So, we really need to start with a “Yes Heart.” In the face of a challenge, what does our hearts say?

Martin Luther King speech, ‘I have a dream.’ centered on a vision, not ‘I have an improvement plan’ that centered on specific steps or activities. In my work experience, when a boss puts an employee on a Performance Improvement Plan, the last thing on their mind is improving performance. If the desire was to improve performance; then they would offer to talk, lend their support and help to work through things. MLK’s vision reference inspired a generation to unite and see the hill smaller.

Albert Bandura, one of the founding fathers of modern psychology, argued decades ago that an individual’s success is mostly based on whether they believe they will succeed. What people believe about themselves determines how they live (and play); beliefs shape the outcome of their lives. Successful people take time to properly fill their toothpaste tubes (I recommend you read the linked blog if this statement confuses you), however some people need help. As coaches, mentors and caring individuals we can be that help. If we don’t, what fills the void can be the negative influences of today’s world.

“You cannot perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself” – Dr. Joyce Brothers

Consider what we are up against. A study done by The University of Colorado’s Department of Psychology estimated that an average 18-year-old has 148,000 negative stimuli per year. There is a Behavioral Management Standard that notes 5 positives are needed to counteract 1 negative. So do the math, that’s 3/4 million positive stimuli per year needed to break even. That’s a lot of toothpaste.

We need to be stepping in without conditions and without judgement to care for those in need, including unlovable kids who do unlovable things. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them. If you love them, you have no desire to judge them” In Paul’s letter to the Romans he takes issue a couple of times with those who felt they were of a higher status (Jews over Gentiles) judging others. In (2:1) “Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things” and (14:10) “Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.”

Through our love, others learn that they belong, and their lives have worth; then they can start to value the lives of others. If we think we can’t help this sad scary part of our world, we’re wrong. All it takes is one caring adult to be the difference for one kid. Imagine if we all did that.

Scripture is very clear on taking this action. In 1 John 3:17-18; “If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” In 1 Peter 4:10; “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” In Acts 20:35; “In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

If having companions and being shown positive support with love and inspiration makes the hill seem smaller and the climb seem easier, then we need to be that companion and be that support. Let’s invest time, effort and energy in being that love and inspiration. As opposed to complaining, finger pointing and espousing ‘improvement plans’ on Social Media, let’s be by someone’s side encouraging them along. Let’s have “Yes Hearts” and wear “Yes Faces” at every opportunity. Let’s volunteer. Let’s serve and be rewarded again and again helping those in need climb with more enthusiasm.

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