What happens when you give yourself an A
In my new morning routine, I’ve made it my goal to sit by the window with a coffee in the morning and read for half an hour first. This is an incredibly great luxury. Instead of starting the first appointment right away or checking my e-mails, I consciously try to schedule all appointments after 9 a.m. That way, I have some time for myself and a good book after dropping off the child at kindergarten.
Last week, I took a look at a book I read during my training as a coach. It is called “The art of possibility” and is written by the Zander couple. The book contains countless anecdotes from life to show that we have it in our own hands how we deal with challenging situations. It explores concepts familiar in coaching such as reframing and uses the power of storytelling to make this more tangible. I would like to introduce you to one of the exercises and insights in this blog post today.
The exercise is called “Giving an A” and goes back to an experiment by Zander in which he gave each of his students the top grade already at the beginning of the lectures. Here’s an overview of that experiment, the concept behind it, and how you can apply it yourself to be a better cheerleader and assess your situation from a different, more positive side.
Giving yourself an A
In most cases, grades say little about the quality of work done. Yet we are using grades to assess performances and to categorize pupils into good and bad students. However, by grading students we don’t say anything about the performance itself but the performance compared to other students.
The author, in the role of a music teacher at university, was frustrated that the sheer anxiety of getting a bad grade held his students back from taking any risks and trying to find their musical nature. Together with his wife, he thought about a way to eliminate the fear of not passing the course and to awaken the sensation of exploring and investigating what kind of musician they could become. They decided to grade each student with an A (the best grade) at the very beginning of the lectures together. He connected giving the best grade with one requirement: “Sometime during the next two weeks, you must write me a letter dated next May, which begins with the words “Dear Dr. Zander, I got my A because…”, and in this letter, you are to tell, in as much detail as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade.”
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The coaching principle behind giving yourself an A
By asking the students to reflect on their potential path to success ahead and elaborate on their path not only in great detail but in the past tense, Dr. Zander put his students in the driver’s seat of their own luck. His students became the director of their very own movies deciding on the right cast and the storyline. He also pushed his students to take full responsibility for their own journey by not allowing any phrases such as “I hope”, “I intend”, or “I will”. Furthermore, he was not really interested in the specific goals they reached but in the person they became while reaching these goals. “I am interested in the attitude, feeling, and worldview of that person who will have done all she wished to do or became everything he wanted to be. I tell them to fall passionately in love with the person they are describing in their letter.”
An example letter of a grade A student
Dearest Teacher Mr. Zander,
I received my grade A because I worked hard and thought hard about myself taking your class, and the result was absolutely tremendous. I became a new person. I used to be so negative person for almost everything even before trying. Now I find myself happier person than before. I couldn’t accept my mistakes about a year ago, and after every mistake I blamed myself, but now, I enjoy making mistakes and I really learn from these mistakes. in my playing, I have more depth than before. I used to play just notes, but, now I found out about the real meaning of every piece, and I could play with more imagination. Also, I found out my value. I found myself a so special person because I found out that I believe myself I can do everything. Thank you for all the lessons and lectures because that made me realize how important person I am and also the clear reason why I play music. Thank you,
In this example letter, one can see what happens when we silence the nagging voice in our head for a bit and trust that we will be successful in the end. It allows our imagination to set the stage and reveals the simple action steps we have to follow.
Is this fraud?
Often people are quite uncomfortable with the idea of granting an unearned A. However, the practice of giving an A allows the teacher to line up with her students in their efforts to produce the outcome, rather than lining up with the standards against these students. There is power in giving out trust to other people without wanting something in return or basing it on evidence.
Give yourself an A
I encourage you to read the whole chapter of this book if you want to learn more about the concept as Dr. Zander and his wife are taking it really deep and sharing lots of examples. For now, I encourage you to write your own letter to yourself. Imagine a time 6 months from now. You are writing a letter to me, your mother, your best friend or whoever you feel comfortable with. You use the past tense and start the letter with the words “I received my grade A because …”
I received my grade A because ….
You can also ask us to hold you accountable by sharing your letter in the comments or sending me a direct message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you find this short exercise as inspiring as I, Mr. Zander, and his 30 students who managed to find their voice in the music industry.