Success and perfection are not the same. Growing up, however, I believed this to be true.
For as long as I can remember, I've been tough on myself. Through my youth, and on into adulthood. As a teacher, this mentality served me in my profession well. It made me a strong, and (thankfully) empathetic teacher. When a child succeeded, it was because of his or her hard work. When a child "failed", it was my fault; I was the one who failed the child. It was then I realized, how, working with kids taught me how success and perfection differ.
When I started working closely with adults as an administrator, my perspective changed.
Instead of asking, "What keeps you up at night?", ask, "What are those few things that absolutely must go right for you to be successful? ("The Magic Question", courtesy of Keith Hawk, from Welcome to Management by Ryan Hawk)
Adulthood and parenthood can, no doubt, keep you up at night. It's is an easy trap to fall into, when it comes to work and everyday occurrences, too. If you're the kind of person who tangles the idea of perfection with the idea of success, you will be on a downward spiral. Sprinkle in working as an educator, and you have a recipe for disaster. Choosing to see life through a lens like the above quote will lead to more fulfilling days and ultimately, a life of meaning. The key is knowing those few things that must go right, to ensure your success.
Ready to move from seeing the world through perfection glasses to success glasses?
#1. Stop looking at a day as 24 hours. See it instead as four quarters.
Everyone has a rough morning. Or a rotten afternoon. Or a cruddy evening, now and then.
Why let the first four hours and 15 minutes of your day define the last four hour and 15 minutes? Instead, divide your day into quarters. And make these periods with highlights, moments of gratitude, brief periods mindfulness and small things that bring you joy and energy. Have a morning full of things beyond your control? Not to worry, you've got not only your scheduled highlights, but also, the second, third, and fourth quarter to look forward to and to bounce back. Doing this will also help look for patterns and trends in four hour blocks of time, rather than generalizing one 24-hour period as "a bad day".
#2. Balance your schedule with both "get to do's" and "have to do's".
Whether or not we realize, we're in control of more of our time and energy than we realize. Make the time to appreciate how much we "get to do"in a day. Grab a coffee or lunch with or for someone you appreciate. Take a brisk walk or workout to optimize your day or to clear your head. Know you have a calendared event that will sap your energy? Buffer it with one that restores your mood. For some, this is a quiet or solitary activity. For others, it's one that puts you in a place where you can feed off the of the energy and enthusiasm of those around you. Visiting an active or focused learning space on any given day works for me.
#3. Take action. Then review, reflect, and revise.
Talk is cheap. And, talk without action is useless. So once you've set your mind towards trying these ideas, go for it. Then, track what you did and how it made you feel. Play around with different ideas and experiment until you've found your perfect (or rather, successful) balance. Just be sure to take action. Without action, you're just admiring the problem. You'd be amazed at how few a number of things have to go right to have a successful (not a perfect) day.
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