Looking back at my leap
At the end of August, I went for a run and for the first time in my fifteen-year school career, I did not have a job to start or return to on September 1st. In my head, I had planned to negotiate a job share and believed that it would all work out. A coach friend, looking to collaborate listened to my plans and said I had just told her how I was filling 150% of my time. The penny dropped. When I asked myself why I was still chasing school leadership, I realised that fear was playing a part. In the two weeks that followed, I gradually came to the realisation that this was it. I was out.
Last week, I arrived at my coach session with my peer coach Rob Kenning (www.robkenningcoaching.com), exhausted and happy. I went through the whirlwind of activity I have involved myself in since September and have pulled out the behaviours that have served me - and the ones that haven’t. I thought these might be worth sharing, particularly with my friends, colleagues and coachees in schools who may be able to relate to some of these behaviours in this exceptionally exhausting school term.
In order to embed learning as change in behaviour or a habit, it takes 20% insight and 80% muscle building . I will include these symbols to indicate whether I think I am working on the muscle (****) of each piece of learning or whether it is currently just insight (*):
Behaviour that has served me
1. Gratitude journalling. Every night, in order to bring my attention to the positive, I bullet note things that have gone well, things I am proud of myself or my kids for and my appreciation of people in my life. (****)
2. Trusting my intuition. Listening to my intuition is a new habit as I used to live in my head. For me, it means staying connected to what my body is telling me. I am using yoga, mindfulness and exercise to help with this. (****)
3. Recognising the value of sleep. I used to average between 6-7 hours, and now it’s often 8 hrs. This helps me to self-manage, do the running and cycling I love, eat mindfully and stay present when parenting. (****)
4. Prioritising ‘glee of lockdown moments’ and/or ‘glee of WFH moments’. In order to feel the benefit of my unstructured freedom, I try to plan in exceptional moments which mainly involve getting outside in the daylight. (****)
5. Prioritising activities and people I love: Laughing or scheming with my husband; laughing or scheming with friends; banter, painting or binge watching Spanish series with my kids; euphoric moments in running and cycling; cooking and listening to an audio book; long walks outside. (****)
6. Working with people who appreciate my strengths and have strengths I appreciate. Being honest about things I'm working on. This is so enriching and actually feels like being in ‘flow’. (****)
7. Learning the difference between fierce action and pure terror. As someone who has probably lived in a heightened state of anxiety for a very long time under a banner of ‘should do better’, I am just beginning to understand the difference between ‘good’ difficult and ‘anxiety-inducing, unhelpful and lacking in self-compassion’ difficult. (*)
8. Framing success in the present rather than chasing a dangling carrot into an endless future when I or it will be 'good enough'. I have a raft of mindfulness, yoga, coaching and therapy to thank for this major shift. (****)
9. Appreciating the plethora of transferable skills I have from 15 years teaching and leading in schools This brings me a sense of deep gratitude for all the skills and experience I bring with me into the future. (*)
Behaviour that has not served me
1. Mindless/restless scrolling on my phone whilst watching TV and then trying to go directly to bed directly without a wind-down routine. (*)
2. Offering up my diary availability with no regard for my own needs in a day. This can lead to feeling exhausted like I have emerged from having my head in a washing machine.(*)
3. Taking the cumulative effects of regular meditation, gratitude journalling and yoga for granted, letting them slip and then still expecting to retain the net effect. (*)
4. Setting goals and deadlines which lead me to prioritise tasks over the most important people in my life. I have realised that my amazing ability to ‘get shit done’ can be done from a place of wisdom or a place of fear. The trick for me is giving myself time to consider which one it is in order to get perspective on what is not only possible but desirable. (*)
As I look back on the last three months, I realise there is much wisdom to be gleaned if I slow down to feel it. I realise the importance of habits;
‘Excellence is an art won by training and habituation’ Aristotle
On the subject of training, I went on a run yesterday and slowed down without stopping when I realised I had less energy than I needed to smash my times. This self-compassion and ability to compromise rather than give up or push on, is new. This amazing shift has come from practising mental fitness: mindful practice to help stay present and choose to access my wisdom rather than react from a place of judgement, fear or sabotage. Each of us have a judge and some accomplice saboteurs which tried to keep us safe as children and no longer serve us. Our wisdom and learning is what serves us best as adults. By regularly slowing things down, learning about our own combination of saboteurs and how to intercept them, we can choose to access our wisdom.
If you would like insight into your saboteurs go to Saboteurs | Positive Intelligence. If you would like to build your mental fitness, with online support and resources, join one of my new group coaching courses starting in January. Email firstname.lastname@example.org