As we close in on wrapping up the month of February, I have to admit to you that I am tired. Personally, I have come to find that this is one of the toughest times of year to push through. Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the lack of sunlight and the busyness of this time of year have finally caught up to me. It is this time of year, I need to be very cautious to manage my attitude and mood. When I become physically drained, it is always much harder for me to manage my mental and emotional state.
I want to you to stop reading for a minute and answer two questions:
- What is something you have recently succeed at despite physical, mental, or emotional struggles?
- What is something you have failed at recently because you could not handle the physical, mental, or emotional struggles?
Go ahead, think of answers to both and write them down.
Now, be honest with yourself, why did you achieve one but not the other? Was it really that much more physically exhausting in one scenario, was the emotional demand exceptionally more draining, or was your mental capacity not up to one of the tasks? What is the difference? Why do we accomplish some things, while failing at others.
I am not sure if the answer is the same for everyone, but when I think about myself, and what I have accomplished or not accomplished it comes down to my ability to regulate all three aspects of my life. When my physical state starts to dip, I find I struggle to manage my temper or make sound decisions. The decline of my physical health greatly impacts the regulation of my mental and emotional health. I also know that if I let my emotions and mood drift to the negative, I am less likely to pay attention to my overall mental and physical health and so on.
This balance reminds me of a Navy Seal quote I have come across: “Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.”
In times when you feel like you are under a great deal of pressure (AKA the month of February in my world) the question becomes: What do you do to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional training? There are two key points that have the most impact on my “training” — routines and purpose.
What things for you have become routine rather than a daily choice? These needed routines are probably different for everyone, but there are five things that have become practice in my daily life: prayer, gratitude walks, exercise, 20 minutes of reading, and my What Went Well Journal. I am not saying these always happen, there are times when one or two might not happen in a given day. But, my day is always contain a combination of these activities.
When this routine breaks down, many other things break down as well. These five practices for me are what Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” calls keystone habits. These are habits or routines in our lives that are connected with other good habits. These habits are your training. They help keep you going and help you keep all aspects of your life regulated. Duhigg states that keystone habits can cause “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
Another key factor in keeping a balance of the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of life is all about having a clear purpose in what we are doing. Many things we do not achieve because of the lack of purpose. We lose interest in an activity and are not willing to push through and struggle a it to achieve the level of training we can fall back on. When starting an activity, if you cannot define why it is important, you are very unlikely to achieve the desired outcome. Even mundane life activities like doing laundry or helping with 3rd grade homework have a purpose. More importantly, we need to have a purpose for showing up every day and doing the work we do. If you have lost sight of that purpose, it is time to refocus.
As we wrap up February and make our final push to Spring Break, I challenge you to look for these two ideas in your life. Decide what keystone habits are vital to your success with your students and make sure you remember your purpose in coming to work each day. Have these two ideas in the forefront of your mind every day and when things get tough, you will fall to the level of your training.
You decide where that level exists…only you!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!