A Simple Technique To Get Out Of A Rut

The school year ebbs and flows like a mountain stream in many respects; student behavior, parental involvement, and administrative decisions are just a few.  Educators rarely acknowledge the most important ebb and flow: their passion to be there.

Stop reading and reflect.  Think about your school year as a whole and think about how you feel about your profession in this moment.

We'd be silly and naive to say that our passion for education, our job, doesn't change.  There are aggressive rapids where it around every bend we careen into a rock and violently get thrown in a different direction.  You find yourself lacking support and reacting rather than being proactive.  Every moment is a problem solving situation and you're the only one available to put out the flames.  Learning objectives and lesson procedural steps are out of sync; activities lack the flow-like characteristic a properly planned lesson should have.  It's tough to be in school when you're a salmon always swimming upstream.  As a result, your passion is low.

However there are beautiful, serene runs where the school day flows into one continuous productive experience.  Your smile becomes the only necessary ingredient to solve a problem and your body language exudes confidence.  Students react with unparalleled enthusiasm and your lessons begin planning themselves.  You passion to educate is high.

This up and down cycle is natural, and we'll not spend time assigning its cause.

We arguably teach and lead better when our innate passion for education shines through.

How do we get out of a rut?  How do we regain our passion when all signs point to a stretch of violent water?

In this post you'll learn a powerful and simple technique to refocus your passion.

You are a leader in your building.  As a leader, you need to inspire change.  Most of the time, you need to inspire others.  However, when in a rut, you need to inspire yourself.

Simon Sinek has a life changing idea that will help us:
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it."

To inspire, stop focusing on WHAT your are doing and start focusing on WHY you are doing it.

Sinek explains the WHY:
"By "why," I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? "
How do you get out of a rut?  Start with your why.

You'll inspire yourself by identifying your why.

As you get that knot in your stomach that signals an upstream battle where you struggle, find a quite place.  Bring with you something to write on (I use a small whiteboard).  Make three columns.

Label the column all the way on the right "what."  Make a list, from memory, of everything you need to do that day:  this is your what list.  This list will flow organically and find itself successfully completed when you act with inspiration.

Label the middle column "how."  Make a second list of the steps and procedures necessary to get your what list done: this is your how list.  Your how list outlines the necessary steps to get your what list done.

Label the last column "why."  You will not make a list.  Here, you will write a simple phrase outlining why you work with kids.  You will not write things like: to get them to pass, to make money, or so achieve satisfactory on my teacher evaluation form.  Answer the question: why are you helping kids?

Your why is the core of your educator identity and at the heart of your educational philosophy.  It often gets buried under all the daily nonsense.  By re-identifying your why, you bring to light your professional fuel.

I find myself using this technique often in the winter months, when the grind of the school year becomes overbearing.  It is also a technique that I vary in scale.  The above activity is for a single day and this is how I most often use it.  However, it can be used on larger scales; the start of your school year is a fantastic time to highlight your why.

For another example of an awesome educator using this technique, check out this blog.

Inspire yourself by focusing on your why as you work through your daily business.  Keep it front and center and approach each task/lesson with inspired passion.

Thanks for reading.

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