Why? Why do we do this? Good questions. We do this because we know, deep down, that self-improvement is a critical piece of fulfillment and happiness.
Are we successful at it? Another good question, to which I reply: Do you realize that the top items sold on eBay during the month of February every year are pieces of exercise equipment? *
We set for ourselves unreasonable, unrealistic, and unrealizable goals. We go whole-hog at that treadmill for a couple of weeks, 45 minutes a day on the hilly course, then we inadvertently hang that one shirt over the handles, followed by a box or two that will just sit on the tread temporarily. We'll get to the workouts again soon, we say. But the change in our routines was too immediate, too dramatic, too shocking to our systems. Pretty soon the treadmill is just another computerized closet. What was supposed to be a surge into healthiness has become a sashay into clutterdom.
For this new year, let's tone it down just a little bit. Let's promise ourselves we won't overdo it with pledges we can't keep. Let's make a few subtle shifts in our attitudes that can pay substantial dividends in our daily routines. We're educators, right? Let's educate ourselves.
TO DO IN THE NEW YEAR
1. Do everything else on this list. A professional trainer once gave me this advice: "Only give your audience three big ideas in a presentation. Any more than that and they become fuddled." That seems sane to me, so I'll follow the guideline. But, since in previous columns I've offered the "Three Golden Rules" and "My Three Favorite Things," I figured it was time to use a new numeral. Let's proceed with the (rest of the) list.
2. Be the duck. When the parents start a-yellin' and the students start a-fightin', when the teachers start a-screamin' and the fish just aren't a-bitin', let it be. We can't make everyone happy all the time, and some things just don't go as planned. We can't control all things that happen, but we can control how we respond to them. So, when it hits the fan, let it roll off your back. Get over it. Focus on what's important. Keep your eyes and mind on the 595 reasons that all is good in your building, not the 5 that are crummy. Waxy, water-repellent layers on a duck's feathers keep the water rolling off. Develop your own waxy layers, smile, and move on to the next challenge.
3. Take time for you. Before the day. During the day. After the day. Anytime. Have you noticed that, as the building principal, everyone expects you to be everything to everyone? That's a tall order, and despite the fact that it's irrational, it really won't change. Principal is synonymous with Superhero. However, whether you're Wonder Woman or Mr. Incredible, you're no good to anyone else if you're not good to yourself. So pause every once in awhile to put life in perspective. Stay hydrated. Exercise. Smile. Read. Listen to music. Don't neglect your duties, but set aside a minute or two here and there to stop and smell the weeds. You never know what flowers might be blooming nearby.
Each of the four (ha!) suggestions on this list is not too time-consuming. And each is simple to embrace. If it helps you to make them a reality, write the three ideas at the bottom of every page on your new calendar. That's right, every page. Then
Whatever it takes, help yourself to make this new year the one in which you believed in yourself, and you began to