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Always Strive to Be a Better You

Four Things You Must Do in the New Year

If you look outside, you can see it's January. January is easy to identify since it's frosty, people are wearing scarves, and our garbage cans are cluttered with broken snow shovels, old socks, tinsel, and the shiny boxes in which our New Year's Resolutions arrived.

Unfortunately, there are no warning labels on those boxes, and many of us open them whimsically and attack the contents with a reckless abandon that might make Bob, the rabid workout trainer from "The Biggest Loser," blush in hesitation.

This column is here to help you, dear readers, as you strive to be a better you. As we flip our calendars to reveal there is no next page, we also flip over that proverbial new leaf. We spend a few minutes, between sips of eggnog and bites of peanut brittle, to evaluate our lives and to determine a couple things that will help us get fit; get more in touch with ourselves; get happy; get peace; or get lost. And we write down those goals in the form of New Year's Resolutions.

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.


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.

"Draw stars for each time you push your metaphorical pause button and place yourself at the top of the totem pole."

4. Find the positive in every negative. I know, you've heard that before, but it's too difficult to practice. Well, here's an idea: Make a list of all the people and things that irritate you. Then write 10 compliments you could pay those people; 10 aspects of those things that you respect, admire, or like; and 10 ways that you can make those relationships and thoughts more positive and productive. Look at those lists frequently -- daily, even. The more you read them, the more you'll believe them. The more you believe them, the more you'll live them. Pretty soon those irritants can be sources of tremendous positive energy in your life. That works for schedules, colleagues, parents, children, pencil sharpeners, and car batteries, among other things.

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:

  • make a tally-mark each time you shrug off an angry parent's insult or an idea gone wrong;
  • draw stars for each time you push your metaphorical pause button and place yourself at the top of the totem pole; and
  • write your list of nuisances on a 3x5 card and keep it in your pocket for handy reference.

Whatever it takes, help yourself to make this new year the one in which you believed in yourself, and you began to

Always strive to be a better you,

*This is not true, but it's believable fiction. I have no idea about eBay's sales, but I can tell you I know a lot of people who bought and scrap-heaped their exercise equipment in short order.

Article by Pete Hall
Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originally published 01/08/2007
Last updated 01/03/2008