Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Poem that Captures On Course

Vernon Howard said, “Impartial self-observation leads to self-awakening which leads to self-liberation.” That sounds profitable and fun. It’s that impartial part that gets in the way. We’re almost never impartial when observing ourselves; we’re either congratulating ourselves for a perceived success or flagellating ourselves for a perceived failure. Not long ago, a good friend challenged me to reexamine what motivates me. I took it seriously and spent the next several weeks trying to impartially observe myself.
One theme kept popping up again and again: Having something worthwhile to offer. That rings true. If I’ve got something I think is worthwhile to offer I’ll beat the bushes and shout it from the mountaintop. Been that way all my life. That’s one reason I’m such a fan of On Course by Dr. Skip Downing.
On Course is the best “College Success” textbook I’ve seen. In addition to being the best textbook of its type in the country, On Course is also an excellent self-help book. I have known parents who see such dramatic changes in their children that they buy a copy of the book and work through it for themselves. And they get excited about it. It’s wonderful to finally find something that works! It’s always such a joy and a refreshment to watch college students as we make our way through On Course. The improvements in their lives are positive, powerful, and permanent.
One afternoon, Skip Downing and I were waiting in the Tulsa Airport. I had been using his textbook for years. I asked him to summarize On Course in one sentence or less. Skip did not hesitate. He shrugged and said, “Making wiser choices.”
While listening to a Wayne Dyer tape, I discovered a poem that, to me, sums up the steps the students of On Course often go through:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to get out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

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