The Answer Isn't Magic; It's You!

By Edna Olive, RYI
Posted on October 31, 2013, in Leadership Development

The adult is aware that he has no magic; no quick fix to solve problems. He must communicate to the student clearly that not only does he have no magic, but he needs no magic.” William Glasser, 1998

This is one of my favorite quotes because it reminds us that in caring for and working with our youth, we do not have nor do we need magic to be successful. However, it remains true that we do need something. And at times I’m sure that we have all asked, “Exactly what do I need to support this child, work with this person, be in this relationship, etc.?” The answer to what you need is you! 

Tool #1 of Positive Behavior Facilitation, Awareness and Management of Self, teaches us that everything flows through us as individuals. This includes every program we implement, every word we say, every gesture we make, and every strategy we attempt. Nothing happens outside of us; nothing happens outside of you. We must be self-aware and self-managing in order to implement the best of strategies, utilize the best of programs, and participate in the best of relationships. If we are not aware of what we bring to bear, i.e., of what we bring to the table, even the best programs and strategies can be compromised.

When we are unaware of our own baggage or what has contributed to our personal development, we are likely to make someone else responsible for our behavior, even children! When we take a look at ourselves through the lens of self-awareness, we can begin to differentiate between what belongs to us and what belongs to someone else. In other words, we can begin to identify our challenges without having to make someone else responsible for them.

For many of us, frustration and confusion regarding why certain techniques don’t work can be cleared when we realize that any program or strategy is only as effective as the person using it. Although becoming aware of ourselves can be challenging, what we learn can make the difference in whether or not we are satisfied or dissatisfied in our work with youth. Parker Palmer (1998) reminds us that, “The work required to ‘know thyself’ is neither selfish nor narcissistic. Whatever self-knowledge we attain will serve our students and our scholarship well.”

In working with challenging youth, it is especially necessary for us to manage all aspects of ourselves that we uncover. If there are behaviors that we must change, we must learn new behaviors. If there are beliefs that no longer work for us, we must release them. If there are thoughts and feelings that we have that don’t produce the results we want, we must make an effort to create different ones. This is particularly important for those of us who are working with other human beings. We must contemplate this question: How can we possibly manage another if we cannot manage ourselves?

Once, during my training as a life coach, I called my coach to share a huge revelation I’d had about myself. I was proud to call him believing that sharing my new awareness would surely be evidence of how self-reflective I was as a student. He listened quietly and when I finished with what I was sure to prove how willing I was to look at even the darkest places within myself, he said, “That’s great that you know that about yourself. Now what are you going to do about it?” Needless to say I had forgotten that once we become aware of something, it’s now our responsibility to manage whatever we’ve discovered.

The skills necessary to be self-managing include the ability to monitor your personal thoughts and feelings, be responsible for the results of your behavior, and utilize healthy coping skills to handle difficult situations. When we are able to effectively employ our self-management skills, the challenging task of handling our own “stuff” while supporting youth in managing their “stuff” becomes doable. When we are not self-managing, we are more likely to spend a great deal of time and energy surviving our own lives which can distract us from our intention to support the lives of children and youth.

For those of us whose life’s work is to educate and nurture the world’s youth, we must remember that we are always impacting the lives of others. How we impact others is greatly influenced by our willingness to be aware of ourselves and be self-managing. Each of us has a story, a history, an experience and a view that contributes to our development and humanness. By becoming aware of who we are and using our ability to address what we discover, we can create and re-create our own unique version of magic that allows us to support others. What is your unique version of magic? YOU!

For more information about PBF and our PBF Summer 2011 Courses, visit



Glasser, W. (1998). The quality school: Managing students without coercion. New York: HarperCollins. 

Palmer, P.J. (1998). The courage to teach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

About Edna Olive

Author of "Positive Behavior Facilitation" Silver Spring, Maryland Read Edna Olive’s Bio

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