I took a break from this blog, worked on some things for NAEA, and spent some time away from the screen. I also had a chance to celebrate in NYC for the Scholastic Awards and think about what I want to do moving forward, both in my classroom and for myself.
About three years ago on a very long and tiring trip from a conference, I struck up a conversation with the person next to me on the plane (yes, I am that person on a plane). As a nervous flyer, especially when flying solo, I find myself rambling to anyone I am next to as a way to calm the nerves and usually the person next to me is willing to comply. On this flight I happened to be sitting next to a therapist (what are the chances?!?!). We talked about our families and careers and I shared with her some feelings I had about not really knowing where I wanted to go next. During the conversation she explained to me a concept I had not considered before, but now think and do yearly: Renegotiating the Contract.
During our conversation, I explained how I was a teacher and that I was starting a new road via blogging and social media. We discussed how this impacted both my professional and personal life and how sometimes things grew in stops and starts, making for awkward adjustments. While talking, she explained that I was relying on an understanding established almost ten years ago and needed to sit down and renegotiate the terms of both how I wanted my professional and personal life to function. Hearing this changed my perception of the growing pains I was feeling and helped usher in a method for reflecting on my life as well as planning for the future.
Here are some helpful tactics I use to help me focus on what I want as I negotiate the terms for my life's goals (as adapted from NOLO):
1. Break It Up: Rather than lumping everything into one big group and taking an "all or nothing" approach, consider each goal separately. I like to think of this as a tree and each part a branch that stems from the trunk. If one area of the tree is not as developed as the other, it is okay because they all feed into the base and I know I can look at those other areas later for development. I can think about family goals, career goals, and personal goals as separate entities that sometimes intertwine, but are not always dependent on each other. By compartmentalizing these things, I can examine each separately and then think about how they fit into the larger picture.
2. Prioritize: Thinking about the tree analogy and moving it a bit further, when looking through the contract I have made with myself over both work and life goals, I start with the most important things towards the trunk and work my way up. By focusing on what is most important first, I can then look to the off-shoot areas and decide which help feed into that goal. It is overwhelming to look at what others are doing at times, by spending the time looking inward and prioritizing what I am interested in doing, it helps alleviate that anxiety and provides a roadmap for moving forward.
3. Just the Facts: Sometimes the mind and heart just do not agree. This conflict between facts and feelings can halt progress on goals for moving forward. I often have to give myself a reality check and face the facts when confronted with feelings that counter. For example, I would love to attend every conference available. Doing so comes at a cost of time, money, and health. So, facing the facts in this case are important and it gives me less guilt or fear of missing out. This is one of the reasons I have been a little bit more absent as of late on social media. I admire others who can "do it all" and have faced the fact I am not one of them. I am okay with that (for now).
There are more things to consider in this process, but these few resonate with me. Good luck in whatever goals you set and the map you lay out to get there. If you have any particularly good negotiating tips, please share.