I’m Getting a Tattoo

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I’ll put mine on the inside of my eyelids. I want the full version, which goes like this:

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” -Haim Ginott (via The Happiness Project)

This is a lesson I keep learning and learning. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you realized your response would have a dramatic impact?

13 thoughts on “I’m Getting a Tattoo

  1. I am a preschool teacher. So yes. My most dramatic example of this was just recently. An older boy (older in preschool means 5, not really old at all) hit and pushed another boy quite violently. My gut instinct was to shout out, to say, “That is not okay! We don’t do that to others!” But I managed to take a deep breath, and head over to the boy who had pushed. I got down close to him, and asked. “Why did you do that? What’s wrong?” He burst into tears, and said “[Child’s name] broke my building. He made me mad.” I was able to empathise with him, but explain that hitting was still not okay, even if we are angry. We went over to the child that was hurt, checked that he was okay, and explained why the situation had occurred. I know from experience with the child in question that if I had called out, he would have had a full-on melt down, and started throwing things and trying to hurt me, and he would not have shown remorse, or understood that what he did was wrong.

    I was very proud of myself that day.


  2. I don’t understand this bit?

    >If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.


  3. Megan, my interpretation of that is that “people are they are” are flawed. That’s human nature and most people are very much hung up on their flawed selves. But if we, the people around them, can see the perfection that resides in them that might need some coaxing to shine through, then they will recognize that perfection in themselves.

    That’s what my yoga teachings tell me. 🙂 I hope that helped.

    Maggie, I’m not a religious person by any means, but the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi has been on my mind lately. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis)


  4. I love this post. I love this quote. I am going through growing pains in my career and this is applicable everyday. Thank you for sharing.


  5. Every. Day.

    I work with grad students in a lab, and they annoy and frustrate me to no end some days, and it’s always my reaction that determines how problems get resolved.

    It’s hard work to be an instrument of inspiration!

    (The Happiness Project is a wonderful book!)


  6. Yes, sometimes. Yes, especially, with children. But taking the deep breath or the higher road does not automatically mean that every relationship will improve. Sometimes you have to walk away. It takes two. But if you do act according to this you can at least know you tried.


  7. The Happiness Project is the best best I ever didn’t want to read. I don’t know why I rejected it for so long (thought it was just another blogosphere trend) and then my husband picked it up to read in an airport. Every five pages I had to close it and sit back in my seat to tattoo something on the insides of my own eyelids. It really is scary how much control we fail to exercise every day…I’m trying to learn how to wield myself more powerfully for the good.


  8. Hey, I hate to be stickler, but this is literally my very favorite quote and it is not from that guy at the happiness project. This quote is Goethe, the German philosopher. Please, set my soul at ease by correcting how you’ve cited this quote (I’m also a librarian 🙂 ) Cheers.


  9. I did my Bachelor of Education last year, and before my first internship, my supervisor gave me a piece of paper with that exact message printed on it. I’m so glad he did. I think the 8 weeks I spent with twenty 4 & 5 year olds was infinitely better because of it.


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