How to Feel Loving and Capable

The EXPERIMENT: On each child in the 3rd grade class, Ann, the teacher, pinned a round, construction paper badge with the capital letters IALAC. IALAC is an acronym for “I Am Loving And Capable.” The kids’ discussion about IALAC considered how typical daily stuff, activities and interactions, could be better with that idea remembered at times of need. The kids enthusiastically agreed that they could do everything better if they came from a mind-place of of IALAC: They laughed at images, “If I am really ‘Loving,’ I can be more patient when my dog throws up… or when my little sister grabs my stuff. If I am really ‘Capable,’ I can master my times-tables even though they’re hard for me.” The excitement of accessing a whole idea in a single word that could really alleviate their days’ stresses inspired even the most reticent to at least give it a go. The best part was that IALAC didn’t need to be cleaned, brushed or packed or refolded. Talk about Simple, Fun and Magical!

Parents were sent a note engaging their support for the game which had only 2 rules:

1. The IALAC badge was to be worn at all times for a week.

2. At any time that the child did not feel or behave Loving or Capable, the child was to tear a little piece of off the badge.

So, each time a child got angry, frustrated or out of control as a result of what that kid perceived someone else had done or how something had happened, regardless of who the culprit was or what inspired the feeling, the badge had to be made smaller. A piece of the badge removed reminded of a shift away from IALAC. That was it.

The OUTCOME: When Ann and the class were ready for their week review, the badges told a powerful story. Here was this recently excited group of kids now wearing safety pins with tiny, sad, tattered remnants of their original IALAC badges. Each child was given an opportunity to share her personal tales of woe and justification for the mutilation of his once round and intact badge. Stories ranged from those who were so hard on themselves that they tore their IALAC badges as a result of guilt and even self loathing, to those finger-pointers whose sad tales identified perceived abuse and shattered entitlement. “I was mean to Mommy.” “My brother did ‘it’ so I smacked him and then I got in trouble… My sister wouldn’t stop. I got angry and started screaming… I had to go to bed too early and started crying.” Lots of stories. Some anger. Lots of frustration. Some tears. Lots of laughter. Given legitimate license to complain, the kids’ turns to share became a game of “Can You Bottom This?”

With the stories reported of the tragedies that had befallen the innocent and the guilty, and the emotions released, Ann astutely shifted the experience with one question for each child to answer, “Who tore up your badge?”

The LESSON: Sure, some kids had someone who reached over and snagged a piece, but the single answer and its message were clear, “I did.” No one does nearly as good a job of tearing-up our self-image as we do. And the “we” is really “I.” It is I who polishes or shreds my own chosen sense of self, my loving and capability.

So aren’t we still those kids with the same choices for self in every instance? Isn’t it easy to agree? And are we diligently and consistently remembering, vigilantly protecting, and automatically acting out this belief that I am responsible for my decisions and protecting the power of IALAC? Are we clear that in all our actions, just like the kids’, we have the same choices ranging from being oblivious of our own responsibility to being overly hard on ourselves as if we were somehow to be perfect at all things our first time? There is not one other soul out there who is nearly as capable of damaging our self image as we, as I, am.
The EVIDENCE: Think about the last 3-5 events in which you were pulled from your highest self and mutilated IALAC. They’re easy to spot: Look at your motions (acts) and emotions (feelings). Who or what got credited or blamed for the stuff for which you are culpable?

• Did you celebrate your successes or attribute them outside yourself?

• Did you blame the stuff that happened on another, the weather, the market, the product? Think back further to the injustices that your belief tells you were done TO you. If you combine these experiences, just like the kids were asked to do, with IALAC, can you see where your perception of the events shifts?
From credit to culpability, we have all likely, at times, forgotten to celebrate ourselves for acts of IALAC that we judged as too small or unworthy, and certainly we all have had real wrongs and injustices perpetrated against us. Even here, we remain responsible for the perspective we hold. As my wife always reminds, “It’s never what happens that matters, but how we view it that empowers or disenfranchises us from out power.” Maybe as you look at your history, you find your internal self screaming “Noooo!,” resisting onus and pointing elsewhere, “It was my dad.. my mom, my boss, colleague, that evil coach, frenemy, teacher.. or ‘Joe-Shmo’ who did it TO me..” Really? Go ahead, point a finger and notice that as the one goes out, three are pointing back at you.

Years after the incident is over, or the people are gone, who is it carrying on that voice of disapproval and discontent? It is the I. Who’s really tearing up the badge? I am. Who’s really creating the ulcer? Hello-o. It’s our own inner voice doing the dirty damage. It’s our chosen perception and inner repetition of the script that establishes certainty, a BELIEF, of the story’s meaning. Whether that meaning is “I can’t catch a ball, I’m not a good speaker” when we deny ourselves credit, or “Johnny did it” when we absolve ourselves of guilt, the repeated lies we tell ourselves gain certainty and shape our next decisions.

The POSSIBILITIES: Boundless. Here lies our power.

Did some of those kids think the experiment was dumb? Good chance.

And did others get it in a way that raised their power and shifted their lives forever? Quite likely.

So here’s the acid-test: Whether you believe you were the kid who got it or resisted it.. who’s got your back today? If I could show you a way that builds your IALAC mechanism from wherever you are, would you be willing to “put on the badge.”

All it takes to roll on with old stories or replace the racket with new beliefs that serve you to your highest is this: a DECISION. Then that decision needs to be repeated just like the old limitations were. You’re already expert at buying your own stories… so make the stories what you want.

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