As is usually the case, my writing today is inspired by the work of others. I’ve been a fan of George Couros for years; my “fandom” runs much deeper than admiration: I am inspired, on a nearly daily basis, by the guy. And that inspiration has led to significant changes, or habits, that I’ve developed, and quite frankly, have become addicted to. That near-daily inspiration is possible because of the public space that George is willing to occupy. He has maintained a blog for over 10 years, he is a public speaker, he writes a weekly email, he produces a podcast, and has recently started releasing Mindset Monday’s. His third episode of Mindset Mondays ended up being the inspiration for this blogpost (thanks, Corrine, for the recommendation to listen to that episode!).
The habit of gratitude “You can’t control the things that happen to you, but you can control the way you react to them.” I don’t know who gets credit for this quote, but it sure packs a powerful punch! When we make gratitude a habit, our reactions tend to follow suit. Years ago, because of the influence of people like Hal Urban and Jon Gordon, I formed the habit of starting each day focused on gratitude. Before I get out of bed, I take five deep breaths; with each breath, I think of something I’m grateful for. The original idea (from Hal Urban?) is to think of five new things you are grateful for each day. I can’t say that I accomplish that, but this is another of those habits that has become so deeply ingrained, that I don’t feel right if I haven’t started my day with this practice. If I forget, which does happen on occasion, I simply insert my “gratitude deep breath” routine when I remember it later in the day. Jon Gordon often writes about the importance of practicing gratitude. He combines exercise with gratitude by taking daily gratitude walks.
The habit of exercise I frequently reference my habit of running. The practice of running started when I was young (12 years old?) and has evolved from a practice into a habit. There are some physical benefits… and drawbacks… that come with running, but I have always said it is the mental benefits that have made running a habit that I don’t want to live without. I have resolved more issues, planned more lessons, diffused much anger and frustration, and written many a blogpost through running. And I feel so much better, for the entire day, as a result of getting a good, solid run in. I am more focused and have a higher energy level for the day. Maybe those physical benefits do get equal credit…
The habit of being in the now I don’t know that I ever really gave much thought to “being in the moment” until reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. It’s a simple concept, really, that can be incredibly difficult to pull off, and incredibly powerful when we do. Quite simply, being in the now boils down to being completely aware of everything around you: the sights, the sounds, the pure simplicity of existing. Being in the now, for me, means not overthinking our daily interactions, but simply “being” with them. This practice has not truly become a habit of mine, yet, but is one that I make a conscious effort to employ each day.
The habit of learning …which coincides with the habit of questioning… which coincides with the habit of reading… which coincides with the habit of writing. More to come on those in a bit. I’m fortunate enough to have had strong educational experiences – public kindergarten, Catholic 1st – 12th grade, four years at a University, attainment of a master’s degree with a local cohort of teachers – all of which contribute to learning. But it is the self-sought-after learning that is truly a habit for me. I think this thirst for knowledge came about after going through National Board Certification. Although my original motivation in seeking that certification was monetary, there was clearly a strong interest in furthering my knowledge and skill as a teacher. Before that, most learning was for the attainment of a diploma or completion of a degree. After the NBCT process, my journey of learning was primarily driven from a desire to know more and do better. My coworker put it this way, when describing herself: “I have a craving to learn.” I can’t think of a better description, Rachella!
The habit of collaboration So much of my learning occurs as a result of collaboration. I am forever grateful for my coworkers – fellow coaches, teachers, students, and administration – who have greatly impacted my learning and who have driven it to higher levels than it ever would go without their collaboration. I have written about the power of collaboration over isolation before, and I stand by that as strongly today as I did when I wrote about it in January: “There is colossal power in working interdependently for a common good. Collaboration accelerates growth for all members of the team…”
The habit of questioning This habit, an offshoot of the habit of learning, is one that I am still working on. It’s not truly a habit yet, if I’m being completely honest, but I sure am trying to make it a habit. And let me be clear, the habit I’m trying to form around questioning is in the spirit to understand, not to prove that I am right. I do not have this art mastered, but I continue to work on it. There is a distinct difference between those who question to cause trouble, to dodge work, or to avoid a bigger issue. And then there are those who question to truly understand and to improve. I continue to work to fall in that latter category.
The habit of reading This one has always, always been with me. I have quite simply always loved reading, and am incredibly fortunate that reading came easy for me. I begin and end my days with books: I read to learn in the morning – usually books that have to do with effective literacy instruction – and I read for pleasure at night. I always travel with books, I have piles of “to be read” books littering several areas of our home, and I spend entirely too much money on books! My justification for this spending habit? I can think of worse habits to spend money on. 🙂
The habit of writing As with my learning journey, my writing journey has evolved over time. Throughout much of my early education, I wrote because I “had to” for assignment completion. There was also a lot of “self-chosen” writing that I did during those years: I kept a diary at different times. I kept journals at different times. I wrote a story, which I fully intended to turn into a book, when I was in 6th grade. When my children were born, I committed to writing (typing) journal entries to describe different events in their early lives. As it goes, Elton has several journal entries, Owen has a few, and Emmett may have one or two! 🙁 And now, I’ve formed the habit of writing this blog (thanks, again, to George Couros for this inspiration!), with a commitment to submitting a weekly entry. As I mentioned last week, I’m uncomfortable when this weekly writing routine is disrupted. It is a habit that truly makes me feel better, and has been one of the most significant learning endeavors I have undertaken.
The bad habits Oh no – I’m not going there – I have far too many to mention! But with each positive habit that is formed, a bad habit no longer has room to take up space in my life. There simply is not enough time in the day. As a matter of self-reflection and growth, we might ask ourselves to reflect on the habits we have formed. Which habits are those that do nothing to contribute to a better self? What would it take to replace those with habits that result in a better self? It ain’t easy, but it’s oh-so-worth-it. And oh-quite-a-lifetime journey.