Large or small, we all encounter setbacks as leaders in education. It's the new hire you advocated for who quit after a week. It's the role you interviewed for in which you were the heir apparent, and apparently you were not. It's the presentation you worked on for the televised board meeting where you got so nervous that you forgot your content and stumbled all the way through. It's the job you thought was perfect that turned out to be anything but. It's the report you just published with two edits you missed, including misspelling of the word 'education' that showed up in community blogs and questioned your competence.
The good news is that it isn't too late to stop, reflect, and end the year on a high ready to move into 2020 with a new perspective. Reflection is a great way to start and end your days, weeks, and even your year. And its much more effective when you are able to be honest with yourself and be your own critically loving friend. More importantly, reflection helps you better cope with more that may come. Because they will, in which case we all need to know your secret sauce for success.
As you look back on 2019, try these questions out for a bit....
What accomplishments came your way in 2019, big or small? Was there something that surprised you? Did you work really hard and then receive an accolade that added icing to the cake? Even if you had a near win this year, that's a win too. It means you're on the right track, and that resilience to reflect and push a little harder can make the accomplishment even greater in 2020.
What came out of the difficulties you faced and what opportunities did they bring? Perhaps that bungled board presentation resulted in you connecting with a little-known colleague who felt that same sense of public humiliation and you both bonded and now check each other's presentations, rehearsing before board meetings. New connection that pushes you both to be more effective than before. Maybe you have a rejuvenated feel for the job you have after the one you yearned for didn't work out. Strengthening that resilience muscle will do you well in the future if you ease into it and find the good that came out of the disappointment.
What did you learn? Perhaps the setback you experienced taught you that you need more of a skill that you didn't have before, or at least weren't as strong in. Maybe you learned that no matter who you are as a leader, there is something that someone else had that was needed in the role at the time. Or perhaps you can ease into one of my favorite phrases: You can be the juiciest peach out there and there will be someone out there who doesn't like peaches. There is much that can be learned, including stronger relationships, more time with different team mates, and even a rejuvenated commitment to where you are and what you are doing.
How did you challenge yourself in 2019 and how can you do more of that in 2020? Personal growth, even in a job you've done for years, can be a great platform to launch into 2020. Think about how you step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. Yes, it may feel a little (or very) uncomfortable when you first try it, but you can shorten it and then master that skill. As you head into 2020, contemplate an intentional move toward an area where you aren't as polished or as skilled and see if that can be your focus in 2020.
Is there anything you need to let go of in 2020? We all have choices. Some of those include letting go of negative thoughts, challenging experiences, and even those who tend to bring you down. Now is the time to think it through and charge into 2020.
The most important lesson to think about in your reflection is this - you are not perfect and that is your gift. It is the gift that each of us has. Embrace where you're great. Strengthen that which needs a bit of work. Enjoy the road ahead, leaders. Our students, staff, and communities need you and your gifts.