Tag Archives: human potential

Stuck in a Rut

It’s still snowing in Utah—it’s April, what happened to spring?

I recently had the opportunity to teach a friend visiting from the warm climes of the south how to drive in our Utah snow. To be honest, I’m not sure there was a lot of teaching; it was more like a lot of shoveling, and with the aid of some helpful ice fisherman, a lot of pushing and pulling to get the car out of a ditch.

For her first snow-driving lesson, I decided to pick a place without other vehicles, buildings, or people to run into. So we went up to a nearby lake and used the road leading to the boat ramp. It had just snowed and there was about a foot of new snow on the road. The road to the ramp looked perfect. Only a few ice fishermen had driven on it, so the snow was still rather pristine and there was not much of a tire path created in it yet. When I put my friend behind the wheel, my instructions were for her to get a feel for the snow, experiment with a little acceleration, stopping, starting, little movements right and left—to just get a feel for it all, but to stay in the center, watch out for the ditches on both sides, and drive to the end of the road. She did really well. Actually she did really well for about 10 seconds. Without any real ruts yet in the road, and with only a couple squiggly pickup tracks, it only took a tiny turn off center and a little acceleration to put us in the ditch. It would have been a whole lot easier for her if there had been good ruts in the snow. Once she was stuck in the rut, she could have easily moved forward and reached our destination.

The idiom “stuck in a rut” is all about negative connotations, but I think we need to reexamine and perhaps change the meaning to something like: to establish a path, a direction, develop a plan, and stick to it.

I had about eight months last year when I was stuck in a diet/exercise rut. I established a really good diet and exercised and lost about 25 pounds and felt great. As long as I was stuck in my rut I was super. Unfortunately the holidays came, lots of entertaining folks at home and in restaurants while on the road and just a bunch of stuff. I kept wiggling out of my rut, then lost it altogether and gained most of the weight back and lost the corresponding health benefits. I haven’t been in a rut, I’ve been out of the rut and need to get back in it. Hopefully I think I am back now.

Think about changing your perception. Create a path for your children, for yourselves, and work hard to find and get stuck in your rut. You might get to where you want to go a whole lot faster.

It Appears That

As a scientist, educator, and child developmentalist, I would like to have every statement that I make be preceded by the words, “It appears that.” In my work with children, adults, and families, I attempt to use these words often, or at least to state things in such a way as to imply that “it appears that,” rather than stating things as fact. Stating ideas as fact, unfortunately, is what is generally done, and it tragically leads people to many dead ends and often to harmful interventions and negative results.

“It appears that” is synonymous with “intuitively,” “plausibly,” “possibly,” “supposedly,” “most likely,” and “probably.” My criterion for making a statement is that I have personally observed and objectively evaluated the effects, results, or outcomes numerous times. As a clinician/scientist I attempt to question everything, and when I feel I have sufficient data, I qualify my opinion with, “It appears that.”

When I was a child, my father, a physiatrist (a physician/M.D. specializing in rehabilitation) and a pioneer in human development, would use me as a sounding board and invite me to challenge the new concepts and methodologies he and his teams would investigate or develop. He actually valued input that was just based on naïve natural questioning and founded upon a premise of, “Does this make sense?” I suspect not many ten-year-olds back in the 50s, or today for that matter, had a relationship with their fathers that was built largely on discussions of neuroplasticity, brain injury, and human potential. My father gave me many gifts; but one of the most important was an understanding that there are very few “truths,” and that to move the science and knowledge base forward you need to challenge not only the status quo, but everything, no matter how strongly it appears to be true. He also helped me understand that formal research, when it comes to most things that affect people, is at best questionable. One can generally find research that can support either side of a hypothesis. Just because someone claims, “The research says,” or, “This is based on research,” it does not make it true. We can still only honestly say, “It appears that.”