28 Simple Practices for Inspired Influencers, Part 1
In honor of #GivingTuesday on December 3, we are giving you the gift of care. We bring you our #GivingTuesday Countdown Challenge. Each week, between now and December 3, we will post a new set of caring practices that put the person first – one for each day of the week, for a total of 28 by the time we are done on December 2!
Our goal is to offer simple suggestions for challenging your thoughts and perceptions, for deepening and enriching your caring interactions with others, and for starting conversations about creating a culture of care focused on choice, dignity, respect, self-determination and purposeful living. Our challenge for you is that you actually apply during your week what you read here and notice what bubbles up for you.
You will notice that we have gone back to basics with these practices. Why? Because we see GivingTuesday as an opportunity to engage lots of different people in crucial conversations about care and support – not just those of us on the inside of the issue. For those of you who have wanted to help someone in your life have a better understanding of what person-directed care really means, these daily practices may help them make that leap (think family members, friends, neighbors, new employees, etc.). We teach at The Eden Alternative that there is no better way to lean into a new idea or way of being than to explore it through your own experience. Are you a seasoned culture changer? Why not take yourself on this journey anyway? Perhaps something new will arise for you along the way that deepens your commitment to what you stand for.
If you haven’t already, please like our Facebook page, as these practices will be posted there each week too. This makes it so easy for you to share them far and wide – don’t hold back!
Let’s get started, shall we?
Practice #1 (Tuesday, November 5): Note negative messages about aging around you. Today, notice how often you hear something negative about growing or being older. Listen to conversations around you. Listen to television commercials or sitcoms. Listen to the radio. Flip through a magazine. Stroll through the greeting cards in the birthday section. Some of these messages might target people who live with different abilities, such as living with dementia. Notice what you feel when you see and hear these messages. Notice how frequently these messages show up.
Negative messages about aging are a sign of ageism, the prejudice against someone due to their age. Negative messages about people who live with different abilities are an example of ableism, the prejudice against someone based on how their abilities are different than ours.
Practice #2 (Wednesday, November 6): Notice your own thoughts about aging.
Spend some time listening to yourself. How does thinking about your own aging make you feel? When you think about aging, what emotions come up and where do they hit you in your body? When you think about the possibility of your own abilities changing, what do you focus on? Becoming more aware of our own reactions and attitudes is a powerfully revealing process.
Practice #3 (Thursday, November 7): Reflect on what gets in your way.
Based on what you’ve observed the last two days, what have you learned about yourself? Have you noticed any fears you have about your own aging or the possibility of changing abilities? Ask yourself how these fears or perceptions might impact how you relate to the people you care for or support, or to older people in general. Think about how these fears and perceptions define, and perhaps limited, some of the caring relationships you have now or have had before.
Remember, we are products of our culture. It takes courage and patience to begin seeing through new eyes. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we begin to unpack old ways of seeing and thinking.
Practice #4 (Friday, November 8): Notice your assumptions about others.
“Isms”, like ageism or ableism or racism, rob us of our individuality. They exist only as long as we cling to our assumptions about the experience of others. Move through the day with an eye for the assumptions (or judgments) you automatically make about others – people you don’t know and even those you think you know very well. Count how many times it happens. Pay particular attention to your knee-jerk assumptions about older people or individuals living with different abilities.
Practice #5 (Saturday, November 9): Listen more, talk less.
Let’s face it. There’s a lot we don’t know about what we don’t know… particularly when it comes to understanding other people. One of the most powerful ways we can begin to deconstruct our assumptions about who people are or what we think they need is to talk less and listen more. Practicing care that puts the person first, requires us to really, really know the person well – and that means admitting that we don’t know nearly as much as we think we do. Today, resist the impulse to comment, size things up, or fill in the gaps. Listen first. Listen until you think you will burst. And then listen some more. Notice what you learn that you didn’t know before.
Practice #6 (Sunday, November 10): Engage your curiosity.
Let go of needing to be the person who knows things. Instead, revel in how much you don’t know and let it spark your curiosity. Be curious about another person. Keep listening, and learn to ask questions. If there is something you don’t know about someone’s experience, ask, rather than assume. By seeking to know someone in an authentic way, you help this person feel seen… like who they are and what they value truly matters. Notice how you feel when make the space for your curiosity.