Being Honest Can Be Messy, Risky and Liberating

Just before heading to bed one evening, I was casually scrolling through Facebook when a friend’s post caught my eye.  It was the “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.  A little morbid, I know, but I was intrigued and clicked on the link.

As I was reading, one particular regret caught my attention: “I’d wish I had the courage to express my feelings.”  Ware goes on to explain, “… although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end, it raises the relationship to a whole new level…or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.”

Such an obvious truth that I had been ignoring for awhile.  I was struggling with a couple of friendships that I valued but knew there was some unspoken tensions in them.  The article was a reminder that maybe I needed to deal with those tensions. No matter how hard I was trying to pretend nothing was wrong, the proverbial “elephant in the room” was getting in the way of both relationships.

In one friendship we were avoiding each other, and in the other, we were drifting apart.  I knew that the only way to get rid of the elephant was to speak honestly.  But I had to ask myself, why had I been so hesitant to talk honestly with them in the first place? Was I trying to avoid the messiness if things went bad?  Was I worried that it might force me to face some uncomfortable truths about myself?  Maybe the biggest question of all, was I worried that I might lose the relationships altogether?

Whatever my motives were for keeping silent, I knew I had to find my courage and confront the issues.  Relationships, personal or professional, built on half-truths or distrust aren’t fulfilling or healthy.

Taking a deep breath, I contacted one friend saying that I sensed a shift in the relationship and asked if we could talk.  Had something happened that compromised our friendship?  It took some time to get a reply, so I suspected that there was some ‘initial reacting’ happening.  When I did get a reply, it confirmed my suspicions.  I made a couple more attempts, but I wasn’t successful at getting a conversation going. The elephant had been confronted, and the risk I took exposed a relationship that was on fragile ground.

With my other friend, we happened to run in to each other at a business function.  When we were talking, I braced myself and brought up the issue that had been bothering me for some time.  I struggled to speak honestly, and the resulting conversation was a little raw and awkward.  But it cleared the air.

I knew the risks involved, and I had to be prepared for the worst.  The elephants had been confronted and both relationships changed as a result.  Sadly, the first did not survive the messiness of honesty.  While this stung, I knew that it released an unhealthy relationship. In the second one, though, the relationship not only survived, it thrived.

In the end, I’m glad I found the courage to get honest even though not everything turned out the way I had hoped.  It was raw, messy, and risky, but I didn’t settle for second-rate friendships.  Just as importantly, they weren’t burdened with one either.

Are there any elephants in your relationships that you need to confront? What might be holding you back from dealing with them?

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Posted in Personal Growth | Tagged | Leave a comment

In the Midst of a Divorce: 4 Behaviours that Help the Healing Process

Disclaimer Alert!  This is a departure from my usual ramblings, but one that I think still fits under the “purposeful living” theme:)

Last week I wrapped up my seventh session of facilitating DivorceCare, a support group for people going through divorce and separation.  As I was reflecting on past sessions and on my own divorce,  I realized that there some mistakes that I see over and over again.  These mistakes often end up making the situation worse.  However, there are four things you can do to minimize some of the emotional trauma you and your children are facing.

“Pareja” (Couple) by Daniel Lobo, licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. Delay making major life decisions.  Our emotional energy is on overload and our physical, mental, and spiritual energies are sorely depleted.  Unfortunately, this means that our decision-making abilities are impaired as well.  What looks like a good decision today may very well turn out to be a disastrous one a few months down the road.  Moving to another city or quitting your job may cause more pain in the long run.  Particularly if children are involved.  However, there are times when major decisions have to be made. Make sure you are brutally honest with yourself as to why you’re making the decision.  Is it in the best interests of everybody, or is it a way to get back at your former spouse?  A decision made in anger or deep pain can end up causing more harm to you and your family.

2. Take time to heal before getting into another relationship.  Bringing your baggage into another relationship can not only cause you more pain, it can hurt your new partner and your children.  Take time to heal and learn from your divorce.  What were the contributing factors?  How much and what do you need to take responsibility for?  Being whole, healthy, and happy is the kind of ‘baggage’ you want to take into a new relationship.

3. Be wise with your money.  Many times divorce means a significant loss of income. Two incomes have been reduced to one, but you still have many of the same expenses. Take the time to do a budget, be realistic about it, and live within your means.  You may need to give up the spa treatments, fishing trips, or the new sports car until your finances stabilize and you can afford it.

4. Above all else, let your children love their other parent.  Speak respectfully of your former spouse and his or her family, even if (and especially) if your former spouse is bad mouthing you.  Save the fighting for when your children aren’t around.  If you are manipulative or disrespectful or treat your children as spies, they can become resentful of you.  And you teach them to become manipulative and disrespectful.  Be flexible and fair in sharing parenting duties.  If a last minute opportunity comes up, let your children go. Don’t be a doormat, but be reasonable, and be happy for your children.  You are not competing for their love.  They love both of you unconditionally.  Do the same for them.

Going through a divorce or separation can bring up feelings of anger, betrayal, bitterness, and unforgiveness.  Protect yourself from reacting blindly and protect your children from the fall out of these emotions as much as possible.  Practicing these 4 behaviours can help you do just that.

What other suggestions might be helpful for people dealing with divorce or separation?  

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Posted in Personal Growth | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Why It’s Good to Have Good Friends who Get You Into Trouble (aka The Benefits of a Mentor Group)

I have this good friend who keeps getting me into all sorts of trouble.  I first met her on the soccer field.  She could play every position, including keeper, with ease.  That should have been my first warning, but I ignored it.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons: Public Domain Pictures, Aubrey Kirkham

Since the soccer playing days, I’ve been talked into a number of adventures: traversing a cliff face in Waterton, hanging onto a cable for dear life; snowshoe backpacking in Kananaskis; week-long back-country kayak around the Bowron Lakes in BC; hiking and getting lost in the Marin Headlands near San Francisco.

To be fair, I’ve also had some experiences that have helped shape me as a teacher. Meeting with the Director of the New Tech High School model and visiting one of the schools helped me see how a project-based model of learning could be implemented.  Another was the shared model of services in Olds where high school students, college students, and the residents of the community share venues and services to the benefit of all.

Last fall, I thought I would get back at her by laying out a trap of sorts.  She has a weak spot for learning all kinds of interesting stuff.  I sent out an invite looking for people who might be interested in taking a Seth Godin Krypton College online course called, “Go: How to Overcome Fear, Pick Yourself, & Start a Project that Matters.” She took the bait alright, but I was the one outmaneuvered.  She introduced me to two more people who got me into even more trouble.

Because of them, I ended up at the Alberta Tech Leaders in Education conference.  Wait! I said.  I’m not a tech leader; I just play with the stuff.  I’ll feel like an impostor!  Come anyway, they said.  It’ll be fun.  And it was, and I did learn a lot.  I wrote about it here.

Another time, I ended up in Calgary for a 56-hour Start Up weekend marathon.  Wait! I said.  I’m not an entrepreneur.  I have no business experience.  How does this possible relate to me??  Come anyway, they said.  It’ll be fun.  And it was.  I learned a lot about the fascinating world of startups.  Pitching ideas, conducting market validation, developing a business proposal, building a minimum viable product.  And seeing how this could relate to Alberta Educations’s Inspiring Education document.

While we finished our online course several weeks ago, we decided to keep meeting on a weekly basis because we found it so valuable.  However, we have been without a purpose and have been feeling somewhat rudderless.  Not for long, though.  They have an idea.  I’m in! I said. Wait! they said. You don’t know what it is yet.  Oh. Yeah, I said, but I’m still in.

I suppose I could just say no.  But that would be like saying, “Stop introducing me to smart, amazing people and incredible adventures.”  So I’ll take a pass on the ‘no’ and keep getting into trouble.

Have some friends you wouldn’t mind getting into some trouble with?  Here’s a great place to start: Seth Godin’s Krypton College Courses.  Overcome Fear, Pick Yourself, & Start a Project that Matters:)

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Posted in Education, Personal Growth | 2 Comments

Narrowly Averting a Leadership Fail

Since taking the role as lead teacher for our junior high department, our team has been collaborating around an idea I took my principal two years ago: common reading strategies across all subjects.  We are a small team of 6 teachers who vary not only in the subjects we teach but also in age and experience.  My team is a dynamic, high performing group of teachers.  And I came close to jeopardizing that by attempting to respond to a complex problem using a simple problem solving framework.

Because I suggested the idea, I felt somewhat invested in this project and in its success.  The first year was our “honeymoon period.” This was new for us, and we met challenges with optimism and a willingness to give it a try.

We started the next year wiser about some of the issues we were going to face and began our second round a little less optimistically but still willingly. It wasn’t long before a few cracks began to show up in our collaboration, though.

Sometimes the common reading strategy was difficult to fit in with the learning outcomes being covered in class.  Sometimes teachers struggled to find meaningful ways to formatively assess the strategy.  Sometimes we questioned the validity of our assessments. The honeymoon period was over.

We brainstormed and adjusted our game plan.  No longer were we going to collaboratively mark our formative assessments.  Teachers would mark their own subject area assessments.  Then, in our meetings we would share assessments used, results, challenges, and successes.  The bulk of our meetings would focus more on ways to implement the next strategy in our classes.

It wasn’t long before this began to show some cracks, too.  Not all teachers were assessing all students.  As a PLC school, the focus on results is one of the 3 big ideas.  Results drive instruction and intervention.  How would we know if this project was improving student learning if our results were based on inconsistent assessment practices?  How could we provide equity of intervention if not all students were assessed?

I sought the advice of my principal about how to frame that conversation with my colleagues.  How could I get them to buy into the importance of consistent assessment practices without alienating them?  His advice was to shape the conversation with important questions that get to the heart of the matter.

I drafted a framework and went back to my principal for feedback.  After I was done, he asked me what two things I wanted to accomplish most.  Equity of assessment and intervention and data that will inform us if the project is working, I responded.  Then he suggested that I use questions to shape the conversation.  Yup, that’s right. Somewhere between our first conversation and my planning, I lost sight of that.  All I was doing was telling them what to do based on what I thought was obvious.  Back to the drafting table.

The meeting went well.  At the beginning we reviewed why we were doing the reading strategies in the first place and the value we originally saw in it.  Then came the tough questions.  There were a few anxious moments, but listening, clarifying, and letting go of the personal attachment I had helped.  If the consensus was that this project was not improving student learning, then it needed to come off the table.

In the end, they came up with a great idea that allows more flexibility in assessing and fitting into curriculum.  So we are going to adjust again. This is a complex challenge that requires us to probe, sense, respond and then probe, sense, and respond again.  I am so thankful that our meeting did not go the way I had originally planned.  I would have lost a lot of credibility but, more importantly, I wouldn’t have honoured the wisdom and expertise in my team. That would have been a leadership fail.

Posted in Education | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Improv, Stories, Motorcycles, and Life

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately (well, probably more like a lot) about leadership and living a great life.  I’ve been feeling that my life has hit a plateau, and I’ve been searching for the next adventure, the next chapter.  And I don’t mean the next bring-your-own-everything-to-survive-7-day-kayak-around-the-Bowron-Lakes adventure.  I mean the next adventure in my everyday work life.  What do I want to take on that will push me outside my comfort zone?  I’m not sure why I like it out there, but I do.  Sometimes I wish I would just settle for a rut and coast along with my blinders on.   But I know that that is not realistic nor productive, and I’d just get restless as I am now.  So my quest continues.

This quest took me to the Storyline Conference in San Diego.  To be honest, the main draw to this conference was that it got me out of an Edmonton winter that was wearing me down.  So, while I wasn’t too sure what it was going to be about, some of the guest speakers really intrigued me.  Jia Jang, the 100 Days of Rejection Therapy guy; Tripp Crosby of the comedy duo Tyler & Tripp; Anne Lamott, a quirky and hilarious writer; John Richmond, a human trafficker and civil rights prosecutor, and not to mention a free concert with two up and coming musicians, Ben Rector and Steve Moakler.

I came away with two new insights, along with some other lessons (and some much-appreciated sun and seaside time).  One insight came from an improv workshop I attended.  Because there is no script in improv, you have to make it up as you go which can be scary.  To do good improv I learned, you have to do four things: live in the moment, listen well, make bold choices, and commit to them.  Life is like improv, says Tripp, there is no script.  You wake up each day with a blank slate, and to make the most of life, you have to live in the moment, listen well, make bold choices, and commit to them.  Which can be scary.

The other thing I learned is that nobody wants to read stories with boring characters who live boring, mundane lives.  Actually I already knew that, but when our session leader equated that to living our lives, the proverbial light bulb flicked on.  Who wants to be the boring character living a boring life?  Do I step boldly into my story or shrink back from it? When I am pursuing my dreams and challenges confront me, do I hit the brakes or hit the gas?  Like riding a motorcycle, when you get into trouble, hitting the gas instead of the brakes often straightens the bike out.  Same with life.

Have I figured out what my next chapter is going to be about?  No, not exactly.  But I do have a vision.  So I’m going to hit the gas and keep working towards it because another thing I learned is that visions don’t need the details worked out in advance.  Then it isn’t a vision anymore, it’s simply an errand.  And now, I don’t feel as restless or anxious about my next adventure anymore…well, OK, maybe just a little.

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

Olympic Glory or Shame?

I like watching the Olympics, especially the Winter Olympics.  Canada is a winter country, and we know our winter sports.  This is where Canadians shine.

However, I’m becoming somewhat jaded because of the irony behind the cost of the Olympics and find myself feeling a little guilty whenever I watch them.

The amount of money spent getting the cities and venues ready is mind boggling. Vancouver spent about $7 billion. Russia spent an astonishing $50 billion.  And yet upwards of 60% of the potable water in Russia is not safe to drink.  Close to 13% of Russians live below the poverty line while about 4% of Canadians do.

There is more behind the billions of dollars spent on the Olympics than just the numbers, but when countries spend this kind of money on them, and there are people who can’t get clean drinking water, who desperately need social supports and services,  and children who go hungry, what does it say about our priorities?  If we can find that kind of money for sports, can we not find some for programs and supports to help lift people out of poverty? That is what seems so ironic and shameful.

Some will argue that the Games brought in billions of dollars in tourist and spin-off revenue.  I won’t argue that.  But, who benefited?  Was it just a few mega-corporations? How much of that revenue filtered down to the our most vulnerable?  Were the economic benefits short term or long lasting?  How many of those jobs are still in existence today? How better off, economically and socially, is a country because of hosting the Olympics?

I get it that countries need to unite and celebrate as a nation, and the Olympics has a way of doing just that.  Seeing our athletes standing on the podium fills us with pride.  We celebrate with them as all their hard work, commitment, and sacrifice pay off in Olympic hardware.

But wouldn’t it add to our Olympic glory, though,  if the poor, the homeless, and the vulnerable could stand on their own podium of success as well?  Could we not celebrate the spirit of competition and the spirit of compassion?  Maybe the IOC could even make that a condition to hosting the Olympics.

What do you think?  Are the Olympics becoming to expensive with little return?  Should the IOC add some conditions to hosting the Games?  Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you enjoyed reading this and know someone else who might like to read it, pass it on. That way they can weigh in on the conversation, too!

Posted in Social Consciousness | Leave a comment

21st Century Skills: Out With the Old and in With the…New?

I get it.  Education is facing significant, unprecedented challenges today because of technology that changes quicker than I can catch my breath.  Buzzwords like 21st century skills, flipped classroom, digital natives, and connected educator abound in the blogs and boardrooms of the educational world.

What I don’t get is why some educators are ready to throw the whole system under the bus.  Where is the examination of past practices that did work?  Why we are willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater?  An expression that first showed up in its English version sometime during the Industrial Revolution.  Another time when education faced unprecedented challenges.  The emerging industrialized world needed a work force that had the basic knowledge and skills to work in the factories.

Their solutions to these challenges formed the basis of our current educational system. Today, leaders ask if we should be educating our students in a system originally designed for producing factory workers.  Well, yes and no.

No because some of the practices used to teach children then were highly ineffective. Especially practices that relied heavily on sit and git, drill and kill, copying copious amounts of notes, and curtailing student choice.  Not to mention culturally biased standards and assessments. Unfortunately, some of these are still in use today, and they are the ones that need to be thrown out.

And, yes because today’s educators are not the first to experiment with project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, student engagement, collaboration, or any number of ‘new’ practices.  These have been around for a long time, minus today’s terminology.  And this system has produced countless numbers of talented people who have influenced our world in a multitude of ways.  Tommy Douglas, Nellie McClung, Alexander Graham Bell, David Suzuki,  Romeo D’Allaire, Wayne Gretzky, Anne Murray, to name just a few.

The Industrial Revolution era needed knowledgeable, skilled people who could work productively in the factories.  Today we need knowledgeable, skilled people who can work productively in the rapidly changing world of technology.  We have cleverly coined these as “21st Century Skills.”  We could just as easily call the Industrial Revolution era as needing 19th or 20th Century skills.  Skilled workers were just as important then as our 21st century skilled worker is today.  The difference is that the definition of a knowledgeable, skilled worker has changed.

The conditions inside the factories is a whole other issue that is not the focus of this post. But the basic purpose of education at that time was to produce workers with the required amount of skill needed for the factories.  The byproduct, however unintended, was intelligent, educated people who fought for safer and better working conditions.  This eventually lead to our society and our education system as we know it today.

Because of today’s rapidly changing technology, we can predict with even less certainty what tomorrow’s world will look like.  Nor what the unintended byproducts of our education system will be.  In light of that, we need to focus on picking those strategies and practices, of yesterday and today, that will encourage critical, creative, and capable thinking in our students.  We need to throw the bathwater out and keep the baby.

Posted in Education | Tagged | 10 Comments

Resolutions or Goals. Is there a difference?

Has your resolve to stick to your New Year’s resolutions begun to fade?  Or has it fizzled out altogether?  If so, you are not alone.  Forty percent or so already have. By the end of the month, some 85% of us will have abandoned our resolutions.  Not very encouraging, is it?

I got so discouraged with failed resolutions that I made a resolution to never make another New Year’s resolution again.  It’s the only one I’ve managed to keep.

That doesn’t mean I stopped setting goals, though.  Over the years, I’ve learned to do just that: set goals.  Ones that have a much better chance of surviving beyond the first month. The key, I discovered, is to answer the ‘how’ of the goals I wanted to accomplish.  If I wanted to develop leadership skills, how was I going to accomplish that?  If I wanted to get fit, how was I going to accomplish it?  If I wanted to write more, how was I going to accomplish it?

I needed a plan of action, and I needed to write down my plan of action.  Leadership and time management experts like Bill Zipp and Michael Hyatt suggest that we are more likely to meet our goals if we write them down (something I never did when I made resolutions). But, not only do we need to write them down, we need to make them smart or, rather, SMART:

S – Is my goal specific?  Rather than ‘write more,’ a more specific goal might be to write for 20 minutes a day everyday in order to produce 2 blog posts per month.  The ‘what to write’ could be a little less specific but still have prompts available for any writer’s block. On weekdays, I could set aside 20 minutes after supper.  On weekends, the first thing in the morning before turning on any electronics.

M – Is the goal measurable?  I can measure the time and the days that I write.  I could also check them off on a calendar.

A – Is my goal actionable/achievable? Yes, and it pushes me outside my comfort zone just enough.

– Is my goal realistic and/or relevant?   This is crucial.  If we set unrealistic goals for ourselves, we are more likely to lose heart and give up.  Going from couch potato to marathon runner in 30 days is not realistic.  For me, writing 20 minutes a day is realistic and relevant to meeting my goal.

T – Is my goal time-bound?  Do I need to set a deadline or a time frame?  My daily writing will be ongoing, but my posts will need to have deadlines, likely every 2 weeks.

This is not a fail-safe method.  It still requires self-discipline, but by writing our goals down and being deliberate about how we work towards them, we improve our odds of achieving them.

So, is there a difference between resolutions and goals?  Perhaps not, especially if your resolutions are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound.  That is what can make all the difference.  I just like to call them goals.  That way I can set them at any time of the year.  And I can keep my resolution to never make another New Year’s resolution.

What have been some of your successes (or struggles) with resolutions or goals? I’d love to hear from you.  And, if you know someone who might enjoy reading this, please send it on to them!

If you’d like to try using SMART goals, here is a link to one planning page: https://akla.org/commons/files/2013/01/GoalSettingwithSMARTGoals.pdf

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Defending Points of Entry

“Memorizing multiplication facts is pointless.  Students nowadays need to know problem solving.”

“Writing 5-paragraph essays is no longer necessary.  They can learn how to organize their writing other ways.”

“And what is the point in memorizing a poem?  They can just look it up on the internet.”

Whenever I hear comments like these, most of me agrees.  Spending large chunks of instruction time on questions and facts that can easily be Googled does not improve student learning.  Nor does writing 5-paragraph essays 5 times a year.

But there is also a part of me that believes that teachers cannot unilaterally abandon every googable question or fact.  And I’m not even sure why.  But I keep thinking back to the high school that both of my boys attended.  No matter how many times I had been in there, I would always get a little lost.  But I learned to navigate my way around the school by returning to the main entrance and re-orienting from there.  That point of entry helped me to find my way around the school.

In much the same way, students knowing their multiplication facts is the entry point to better number sense.  When my grade 9 students have to stop and think what the product of 8×6 is, I get a little uneasy.   Will this come back to haunt them when they are trying to assess the safety factor of a load bearing beam?  Will they be able to double the ingredients in a recipe without a calculator?

Experimenting with writing a 5-paragraph essay is as important as other forms of non-fiction and creative writing.  The essay helps serve as an entry point for expository and persuasive writing. It can provide a framework and improve critical thinking skills when essays are reformulated into business letters, proposals, blog posts, position papers, or tweets.

And memorizing a poem.  What possible value could that have?  Good question.  There is some research to suggest that memorizing is good for the brain function.  But, I remember having to memorize two parts of the poem “The Lady of Shalot” by Lord Alfred Tennyson and doing a lot of complaining about it.  But I also remember that as I said the lines over and over, I came to appreciate the beauty and lyricism of the words.  It was my entry point to discovering the richness of language.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not advocating for the return to rote memorization, nor am I advocating for the 5-paragraph essay 5 times a year.  My concern is that education sometimes falls prey to polarization on some issues.  It’s either “this OR that.”  Either we do lots of memorization OR none at all.  Either we over-emphasize 5-paragraph essays OR not at all. What I am advocating for is finding a balance between “this AND that.” Small, measured doses of memorizing AND lots of critical inquiry.  Experimenting with 5-paragraph essays AND other forms of writing.

At my sons’ high school, one point of entry was enough for me to eventually learn the layout of the school.  But, as educators, we need to be very mindful if we are limiting points of entry for our students.  We risk not meeting the learning needs of many of our students, and we can’t afford that.  Students need multiple points of entry.  This AND that.

Posted in Education | 3 Comments

Stressing About Being Stressed

I woke up this morning with my mind churning, and I wasn’t sure what day it was.  From experience, I know this is a sure sign that I have too much on the go, again.  Experience has also taught me that writing things down and tackling even one item on the list reduces my stress levels.  So, after breakfast and with coffee in hand, I sat down and made up my list of things that were weighing on me.

  • leave enough time so students can hand in their essays before Dec.18
  • finish redoing my resume for a position I’m thinking about applying for
  • ask a friend if I could put her name down as a reference
  • start (and finish) Christmas shopping
  • organize a time for family photos
  • put up Christmas decorations
  • write a post for my blog
  • decide which direction our Reading Strategies across the Curriculum needs to go in
  • plus work, eat, sleep, exercise, and prepare a soup for another staff lunch

When I looked at my finished list, my anxiety levels rose.  I got up and nervously paced around the house, picking up this and putting away that.  How was I ever going to get all this done in two weeks?  Bah!

I sat back down and stared at my list.  Trying to bore holes through it with my eyes was not going to solve my problems, so I needed to come up with a plan, a schedule (duh!), so I set about creating one, keeping in mind that I needed to:

1. Curb my impulsiveness and impatience, again.  The reading strategies challenge we are facing is a complex one.  We are doing something we have not done before, so it will be messy as we test ways to make it fit our diverse subject needs.  Expecting to have the problems solved within two weeks is not realistic.  

2. Block out a chunk of time to complete urgent, but less time-consuming items.  And the sooner, the better.  Send off the email to begin scheduling a time for family pictures and the email asking my colleague for a reference.  These will only take a few minutes, but once done will make me feel like I have more breathing room.

3. Develop a checklist and a deadline to complete the more complicated items.  I do have a checklist and deadline in place for my students to get their essays done.  I have also built in a couple of days of wiggle room, so I need to quit stressing about ‘Whatif,’ again.  Yeesh!  Why waste time and energy worrying about things that may never happen?  As for my resume, I’ve given myself to the end of the week to finish it.

4. Widen my options.  While I don’t put up a lot of Christmas decorations, I don’t have to do it on my own.  I could enlist the help of my boys (OK, maybe more like my boys’ girlfriends).  I’m thinking of inviting them to a mid-week supper instead of our usual week-end one and have the decorations out and ready to go.

Throughout all this, though, I finally figured out that I shouldn’t beat myself up when life gets out of balance.  Thinking that I can maintain the perfect amount of stress in my life is unrealistic.  What is far better for me to do is recognize early when the stress is building and deal with it before it gets too overwhelming.

As for Christmas shopping, well, given my dislike of shopping in general, I think I’ll stick to my usual strategy of procrastination and power shop my entire list at the last minute.  No sense in stressing about the crowds more than once.

What are the signs that your stress levels are rising?  What do you do that helps tame the stress?

And, if you know someone who may add an interesting perspective to this discussion, do me a favor and pass this on to them. Thanks!

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