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Head Off Stress: Set Goals That Include Work, Home, Community, and Self

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The 2015 - 2016 school year has begun for some and will begin soon for the rest of us. It is another beginning in our work's life cycle of beginnings and endings. It is a gift that many other professionals do not have. We get to begin anew every year. We have the opportunity to reflect on last year's successes and disappointments and design and refine the way we do business this year. It is not uncommon for teachers to want to:  

  • teach a redesigned a lesson or unit,
  • commit to better follow up with parents,
  • provide more after school help,
  • integrate more technology into their lessons,
  • work more closely with colleagues,
  • read more books,
  • attend a conference
  • be more patient...

Or for leaders to want to:

  • invite more perspectives to the planning table,
  • give more time to the observation process,
  • create new business/school partnerships,
  • implement more successful ways to address gaps in student achievement,
  • use more social-media to communicate with the community
  • improve relationships with and within the board of education,
  • attend a conference
  • exercise daily....

Knowing how to do things and learning how to do things better, is, after all, a perennial responsibility for an educator. But, the year begins, the routines grab, and the best of intentions dissolve...that is unless there is an intentional plan for protecting them, often by sharing them with others.

Stewart D. Friedman begins his 2008 Harvard Business Review article:

In my research and coaching work over the past two decades, I have met many people who feel unfulfilled, overwhelmed, or stagnant because they are forsaking performance in one or more aspects of their lives.They aren't bringing their leadership abilities to bear in all of life's domains--work, home, community, and self (mind, body, and spirit). Of course, there will always be some tension among the different roles we play. But, contrary to the common wisdom, there's no reason to assume that it's a zero-sum game. It makes more sense to pursue excellent performance as a leader in all four domains--achieving what I call "four-way wins"--not trading off one for another but finding mutual value among them.

For school leaders and their teachers, a quick look at the four domains reveals not only that there is a tendency to focus on one, but we most often see one type of goal arise. Based upon the response of our readers to our posts on stress* and to our guest post on mindfulness, there is a thirst for mind, body, and spirit domain to receive attention. The leader's vigilance and vision to carefully guide the ship, gently shifting the direction, with knowledge, integrity, compassion, ethical action, understanding, courage, and confidence calls for the health of the fourth domain, don't you agree? What if goals were limited and crafted to invite attention to all of the four domains: work, home, community, and self? 

Successful change begins within the leader. Sustainable improvement and motivation of others calls for the ability to form and articulate the vision, build a culture of trust, reflect on decisions, coach, encourage, reinforce, take risks, and celebrate just to name a few. All of these abilities spring from the integration within the "mind-body-spirit" domain.  Yet, typical annual goals exclude the personal well-being as they focus on professional skills and knowledge.

Our suggestion is a simple one. Take a step back from rote goal setting and consider all four domains for yourselves and others. So for example, if the goal is to include more perspectives think about the ways in which you reinforce your own. Could you watch the news on a channel that reports from a perspective not traditionally yours? Could yoga be added to golf and could dissidents be at the table? Is there a minute for reading a poem or taking a walk outside before a big meeting? And, while it is important to attend those games and events, don't miss all of your own children's...remember to stay in alignment and model the priorities that guide your life. So commit to creating a mind/body/spirit goal this year and create the space needed to develop the habits that will nurture yourself. Do it without apology; it is as important as the other three domains.

These goals, too, can dissolve into the daily grind calls and all that is urgent. The good news is most leaders are tied to calendars. Once the goals are decided, schedule how you are going to work them into the calendar.  Don't give them up. With most of us carrying smartphones, a reminder can be automatic.  If the gym is part of the goal...get it on the calendar.  If alone time is needed to clear your mind...make the space for it on the calendar. 

Certainly not your usual focus, but this beginning offers an opportunity to prepare for a more fulfilling year. This is a personal choice and an important one. Ask:

  • Who am I going to invite into my process? 
  • How am I going to check in with myself to be sure I am staying on track? 
  • How will I recognize my successes?
  • Who will benefit if my mind, body and spirit are healthy and integrated? Who will be harmed if one of those aspects of myself is too long unattended? 

*Other Posts on Stress:
Teachers and Leaders: Stress and Burnout Can be Ameliorated
Goal Setting: An Antidote to Stress
Leading to Reduce Stressors in the System

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