The Gap

“If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.”
–Fulton Sheen

What you believe drives your behavior; how you behave tells you what you believe.  As leaders in our schools, this concept is vital. 

As I continue to write about leading with L.E.S.S. and focus on “Self”; we have to make sure that we have behaviors built into our lives that give us the time and space to take care of ourselves. This is often where the gap lies in many educator’s lives. We say our beliefs are one thing and then behave in contradiction to them. We know we need to be better at creating boundaries between school and life, yet we fail to do so. We need to ask ourselves: Do our behaviors align with where we think our beliefs and values stand? And if we find that our behaviors are not aligning in ways of self-care, then we need to either admit our values are different, or we need to start behaving differently. If we say self-care is important for educators, then we have to behave in a way that gives it a priority in our lives. Here are a few places where educators tend to struggle, myself included.

Others always come first. I know I have discussed many times about living a life in the service of others. But, that service cannot come at the detriment of yourself. Giving takes energy. To give energy, you have to find ways to produce energy for yourself. The amount of energy you have to give is finite. If you do not find ways to fill your tank, you will not be able to continue to give.

It’s hard to say no. When people that we care about, our students, our colleagues, our family, ask us to do something for them, it is really hard to say no. Educators tend to be people-pleasers and are always willing to give a little more. And, before we know it, we can feel hopelessly overwhelmed with all that we have committed to doing. All those yeses can create overcommitments that lead to not doing our best work in any area of our life. Sometimes, you have to say no, and we have to understand that that in itself is okay to do. 

Busyness is the norm. There is always one more thing that needs to be done…always. The work of educators is never-ending. One more paper to grade; one more event to tend; one more conversation that needs to be had. Busyness therefore just becomes normal. But, normal does not lead to healthy. We cannot wait until our body is manifesting the signs of exhaustion or stress to start addressing the issue. You have to find ways now, at the moment to do a little less. It has to be more about the quality of work, rather than the quantity of work. 

You are trying to prove yourself to others. You can never give your best while you are busy proving yourself to others. If the thing we are chasing is to please others, and we think that we will ultimately find our worth in their happiness, the outcome will never fulfill us. We are often so worried about getting to the results, that when we get there we realize the ladder we were trying to climb was placed on the wrong wall… someone else’s wall. The majority of our time needs to focus on placing the ladder on the right wall; reaching a goal is not as important as making sure you are starting in the right place, and climbing for the right reasons. If you are working with kids for the wrong reasons, you are wasting your time. The only person you need to prove anything to is yourself. It has to be about you before it can be about anyone else.

It is never a waste of time to evaluate our beliefs. More importantly, it is important to look at our behaviors in our daily actions and see if those align with those beliefs. If your behaviors do not provide room for self-care, then you will never be the best you can for others in your life. You cannot worry about what your future self will look like until you worry about what your current self is doing today. There cannot be a gap between what you know you need to do to take care of yourself and what you are doing today. Taking care of yourself must become a permanent part of your daily life as an educator so you can best take care of those you serve.

Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!

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