When the Irish rugby player Cian Healy was in his mid-teens he was told he needed to bulk up to make the school team. One of the creative things he did to help achieve this was to put a set of weights at the foot of his stairs. Every time after that he needed to go upstairs for any reason he'd pick up the weights, carry them up on his way and leave them at the top of the stairs. Likewise, every time he was coming back downstairs he'd again pick them up, carry them back down and leave them at the foot of the stairs again. Without any extra time input to his training he was able to add this small change to his routine and it helped him gain the necessary muscle to propel him towards his goals. In another era, but on a similar vein, the legendary hurler Christy Ring was known to carry a hurley and ball in the back of his truck when on deliveries. At lunchtime he'd park near a gable wall and get in his two to three hundred strikes before continuing with his day. Recently I've heard two separate athletes speak about how they sleep in their running gear the night before a training session. That way they just turn out of bed and onto the road or track in the morning. And in case you think all this is all only for athletes, it's not. The Beetles famously used to play two and three, rather than just the standard one, show each day in the same nightclub in Hamburg while they lived there.
Where am I going with all this? If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you are interested in improving your level of RP knowledge and skill but you know this takes effort and change - which is where the problem arises. The world (and the people within it) are filled with good intentions? But how do you make the necessary changes to your daily schedule to fit in the extra learning or practice you require? It probably seems like a big, if not impossible, task given all the other commitments you have. Starting a new habit, even the simplest one, can be exceptionally difficult. But what if you didn't start a new habit? What if, instead, you grafted it onto an existing one? This is known as habit-stacking and can make the difference between good intentions and concrete change. Struggling to find the time to listen to that recommended RP podcast? How about listening to it while you walk the dog (welcome to my world in this example) or on the commute to work or for the weekly shop? Take something you already do, and graft on the new habit. Other examples that work for me are getting up the same time as my wife, who rises early for work in the hospital, and getting in some tai chi exercise (you are allowed habit stack for other purposes as well), or just the old-fashioned one of using your interactions with your children to trial out your restorative language and questions (presumably you'll be talking to them anyway). If you don't have kids of your own you can practice on nephews, nieces, students, friends or other relations.
All still sounding like too much effort? Consider this. The chances are you are already habit-stacking unconsciously in many ways. Eating a biscuit (or 4!!!) with your coffee? Habit stacking. Listening to music while in the bath? Habit stacking. Meeting a friend in the evening to get in a walk or run? Habit stacking. Even singing happy birthday while you wash your hands these days? Yes, habit stacking. The trick is to make it conscious and purposeful. Probably my biggest recent achievement with this has nothing to do with RP in fact. I've never been a fan of the house cleaning. Now, don't get me wrong. We're not talking Britain's (or Ireland's) Dirtiest Houses here. It was just never that high on my radar which, when you are living or working with other people, can cause the occasional problem. One of the things I do like however, is listening to my Guns'n'Roses playlist on Spotify (ironically though, when you are living or working with other people, this too can cause the occasional problem!!!). Anyhow you see where I am going with this. I've managed to graft the Saturday morning cleaning onto my Guns'n'Roses playlist (yes that's the order I see it in). And the result? I won't lie and say I like cleaning now but it's definitely 100% more enjoyable and less stressful.
It'll obviously look different for you given your own routines and the changes you want to make but, if you do want to graft on some RP changes, here's my top 5 recommendations:
1. Get in an RP podcast while walking the dog - if necessary, buy a dog for this. Seriously it's that good.
2. Get in an RP podcast while driving - Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper will be saying exactly the same thing again tomorrow.
3. Put the RP question card in your wallet/purse. It's the exact opposite of "out of sight, out of mind" whatever the expression for that is.
4. Have a check-in circle at the start of your class, staff meeting, family dinner, etc. You're having the class, staff meeting, family dinner, etc anyway. Just ask - "Pineapple on pizza? Yes or No" to everyone
5. Have your morning coffee and biscuit after you read three pages of The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Sometimes we just need to stack the habits in the right order. If you treat yourself first, you'll never do the work afterwards. Same idea as "greens before desert".
Find what works for you, and make one simple change to your existing habit.
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.