People all over the world will identify resolutions, goals, or establish their #oneword for the year in the coming hours or may have completed this work, as 2018 is upon us. I have never been too big into resolutions; I am more interested in behaviors and actions that last. In this post, I am not going to blow your mind by any stretch of the imagination, but I hope to provoke thought and discussion from my focus areas of the new year.
You Get What You Give
We all want to be appreciated, recognized, and encouraged. It doesn't matter what position or title is held, we all want to know that we are making a positive contribution while feeling our work matters. I have noticed over the years the more appreciation, recognition, and encouragement I provide to others, the more I receive. As I approach the new year, I need to keep this in the front of my mind. Simple and genuine thank yous go a long way.
Stop Looking Out the Window and Start Looking in the Mirror
Educators face many challenges on a daily basis; this comes as no surprise to anyone reading this post. Our schools are not funded as we would like them to be, we have a leader in this country who appears to be delusional on his best day, mandates sometimes inhibit us from making the best decisions to positively impact kids, students are not always engaged at high levels. The list goes on and we can continue to point fingers. I am not discrediting any of the concerns listed above; however, I am most interested in focusing on what is directly within my control. When faced with adversity and challenges, we have a choice in how we choose to respond. It is easy to point the finger and push the blame to the system, other people, or them. As difficult scenarios are thrown my way in 2018, I will continue to focus on my behavior and keep this quote by Charles Swindoll in the front of my mind: "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it."
If you've seen the classic basketball film, Hoosiers, you are familiar with Dennis Hopper's character, Shooter, who is a struggling alcoholic with a mind for the game of basketball like no other. Gene Hackman's character, Coach Norman Dale, takes a big chance on Shooter and asks him to be part of the coaching staff for the Hickory Huskers. Dale sees leadership within Shooter, even when he doesn't see it within himself, as exemplified by this clip. Coach Dale intentionally gets kicked out of a game and turns the reins over to Shooter. When this happens, it appears Shooter is going to have an accident in his pants. There are Shooters everywhere within our schools (I'm not saying struggling alcoholics, rather those who have leadership within them and do not realize it). As leaders, we have a responsibility to find these people and place them in positions where their strengths can be maximized while building leadership capacity.
Listen Twice as Much as You Talk
It is natural in conversation to wait for your opportunity to respond, rather than truly listening with intent. I often find myself wanting to chime in to provide advice or share my story from a similar experience. Often times people don't want to hear my story or my advice; they simply want someone to listen with intention. If people want advice, they will ask for it. As the new year approaches, I will strive to listen with empathy in an attempt to understand the perspective of others and would encourage you to do the same. I truly believe we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
My mother passed away exactly four months ago. I miss her every single day, think about her often, and cry at the most random times when a memory is sparked. It would be easy to hang my head and fall into a "poor me" mentality. I have chosen to take a different approach, even though it has been extremely hard. As I think about my mom and the time I had with her, I can't help but feel gratitude for the 38 years of love, humor, stories, and experiences we had together. I would give up a lot for my mother to be with us, but that is simply not possible. Rather than dwell on what happened, I choose to appreciate the time I did have with this amazing person. In this fast paced, sometimes cut-throat world in which we live, we get swallowed up and forget about the gifts that surround us. Healthy, smiling children, a warm home, a reliable vehicle, loving friendships, jobs where we have the opportunity to make an impact are all things that can easily be taken for granted. We are always going to strive for more, but don't let this consume you. Focus on and love the process of continual growth and the results will take care of themselves.
These five thoughts will be my areas of focus in 2018. Can you imagine what our schools and places of business would be like if we appreciated, recognized, and encouraged each other more? What would happen if we held ourselves accountable while focusing on the things within our control? Would we be in a better place if we listened more and regularly practiced gratitude? We know the answers to these questions; however, another question comes to the surface. If we know these things to be common sense, why are they not common practice? As we experience the new year together, I encourage you to follow the advice of the late, great Maya Angelou: "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Have a great year, everyone.