For school leaders, life is always hectic at this time of year. We must make sure the loose ends are tied up before the end of the first semester. We’ve finished tours and mid-year staff notes, overseeing school programs and sporting events, attending meetings, and sending emails – and that doesn’t include any home commitments during the holiday season.
How, in the midst of all this chaos, are we actually creating the much-needed mental reset to be ready to tackle the new year?
As we approach the end of the first semester, I encourage you to take some time to meditate. Maybe it means accessing memories from past vacations or some other happy moment in your mind. It can be a reflection of some aspect of your life or a reminder of your goals for this year. Whatever it looks like to you, taking some time to think and reset in the middle of the year is crucial. Here are some suggestions.
List your accomplishments – professional and personal.
As I write this article (a noteworthy career achievement), I’m thinking of a personal one: I’ve completed 127 weightlifting sessions in a gym. Before June, I had never really lifted my dick. I am proud of this achievement.
What comes to mind for you?
Create a list of your accomplishments for the year – in life and work. At first, this may sound arrogant, but so often in life we focus only on the negative: what needs fixing, what doesn’t work, what we haven’t done and what we have to get. We constantly live in negative self-talk. Force yourself to make a list of all the major accomplishments for the year. Think about success. Bask in the glory of a job well done – especially in such a difficult year.
Blow it up: Like this idea? For 2022, create a show “I Did It!” magazine. Write an achievement at the end of each day. Be sure to include a reason for it being an achievement. This ends your day on a positive note and creates a detailed diary of your daily successes. When we wait to think about an accomplishment until the end of the week, month, or year, we lose sight of the minute details that made it successful.
Enjoy the happiness of guilt without feeling guilty.
Give yourself permission to spend at least 10 minutes doing something you enjoy. Maybe you read a magazine or listen to music. It could be going for a walk or doing yoga. You can enjoy baking but never find time. Make time for yourself. If you don’t, who will? When it comes to “my time,” it’s okay to be a little selfish.
Blow it up: We shouldn’t have to wait for vacations or vacations to do what we enjoy. Life is too short to wait for happiness. For the New Year, plan “me time” every week for at least 10 minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, if you’re enjoying yourself, give yourself permission to go longer. Plan a weekly time just for you. It’s healthy. We all need it.
Do something nice for someone.
We reset our feelings when we do something unexpectedly nice for someone else. Whether it’s delivering cookies to a neighbor, spending time with nursing home residents, writing cards for your employees, or shoveling snow from someone’s driveway (I’m in Indiana; it happens. People in warm climates may need to choose another idea). Or volunteering at an animal shelter, the joy that comes from doing something for someone without expecting the services to return is a feeling like no other. Try it. You will feel more emotionally relaxed when you are finished.
Blow it up: This is very easy. Invite others to join you. When more people engage in the task, this builds camaraderie, increases fun, and makes more impact.
Stick to your Friday meditations.
All of the above suggestions can now be made to reset your feelings for the next year. But let me give you a way to engage in constant mental resets on a weekly basis to carry you into the next year. Friday Meditations, As Explained in The Teaching Change Agent: 48 Ways to Be the Leader Your School Needs, Provides Mentor for Every Friday–An opportunity to reflect on the past week and make plans for the week ahead. Engaging in thought on Friday provides a conclusion to the current week and allows you to enjoy the weekend ahead, rather than persevering over all the things that might happen.
Here is a list of questions to think about each week:
- What went well this week? Why did everything go well?
- What went wrong this week? Why didn’t things go well?
- What activity consumed the most time this week? How was this the best school?
- What are your three goals for the next week? How will you achieve these goals?
- What do you consider a major hurdle in the coming week? How will you manage expectations for this task?
Blow it up: I recommend using a Google Form to set up this ongoing thinking. This way, you can quickly enter your answers to the set of questions. But most importantly, you can download historical data to look at your achievements and identify trends that may be useful in preventing future challenges.
A mental reset in the middle of the year is largely an individual experience. What works for you may not work for your spouse, neighbor, or friend. We hope the above suggestions will provide an opportunity to spend some time thinking about the method that is most important to you. Researcher John Hattie shares that reflection is a high-return strategy for improving student performance. It makes sense that this would be useful to us as well.
When I think of a happy moment from the past, I turn to a time when I am 11 years old. It’s six in the morning on Christmas morning. The tree was lit surrounded by gifts. I can see my three younger siblings going down the stairs ready to open the presents. The excitement at home permeates, and the smell of breakfast casserole stays with me to this day.
Think of one of your favorite vacation memories. what do you see? Hears? Smell? Feel? As you begin to reset your mind for the year, I will continue my journey down memory lane. a happy New Year!