Thursday, 28 April 2011

Mindful or Mindless - continued...

As a leader, have you overlearned some of the basics of your role to the point where you do your work 'mindlessly'?

When Practice Makes Imperfect
(...thoughts from Ellen Langer...)

- One of the most cherished myths in education or any kind of training is that in order to learn a skill one must practice it to the point of doing it without thinking. 

- When we drill ourselves in a certain skill so that it becomes second nature, does this lead to performing the skill mindlessly?

- Does it make sense to freeze our understanding of the skill before we try it out in different contexts and, at various stages, adjust it to our own strengths and experiences? 

- If we learn the basics but do not overlearn them, we can vary them as we change or as the situation changes.

- Perhaps one could say that for everyone there are certain basics, but that there is no such thing as the basics.

- ...experts at anything become expert in part by varying those same basics.   

From: The Power of Mindful Learning by Ellen J. Langer
Published by: Da Capo Press


  1. Interesting posting...we know that differentiated learning is in the best interest of our students. Overlearning a skill would suggest that we are no longer able to differentiate our response, level of empathy and the outcome when communicating with others.

    When our actions are on 'auto-pilot' we can become too detached from the actuality of situations. As a result, we could neglect the need for empathy and consideration of unique situations when dealing with others. All relationships are developed in different contexts and those contexts determine the level of trust, respect and care established. If our responses when interacting with students/staff/parents become too robotic- the uniqueness of the relationship is not truly realized and then is no longer authentic.


  2. Michelle, thanks so much for expanding on the posting. I found your comments added a lot to my understanding of the original post. I find it interesting that - yet again - so much of this comes back to the relationships. You have explained the concept presented in the post in very real terms using real examples. Your comments feel to me like a bit of a warning. As leaders, we need to be sure that we do not become robotic, or go into auto-pilot when dealing with situations in our work. We need to recognize the unique individuals involved and the unique circumstances so that we can respond appropriately.

    Great thoughts to reflect on....

  3. How sad if we respond to every situation the same way. what one child or teacher or EA needs from us is rarely, if ever the same as what another does. As Taro suggests, it is the relationships with "unique individuals" and how we build them that defines our success as leaders.