As long as I can remember, my life has been ruled by semesters. Between actually being in college followed by working in college and university environments for almost 15 years after, scarcely do a remember a time when my days weren't defined by students being in session or out of session, when move in and orientations happened, big sporting events, moms/dads/family weekends, trustees meetings, or any of the random and unique traditions that fill campuses across the world. New years resolutions and calendars be damned; my life started over again mid-May when students left and the pace and type of work rapidly shifted from replicating any one of the Fast and the Furious movies to immediately taking an exit ramp into a school zone. Summer was the time when I tried to make new good habits, break the bad old ones, reflect and reset.
Higher education and its seasons are similar to so many other occupations. Accountants in their "busy" seasons. Engineers qualifying new programs. OB/GYN's, midwives and doulas approximately nine months after the first cold day in fall. Parenting in those seasons of life when your kiddos are cuddly and want to love up on you, especially when it's 102 degrees and you are picking raspberries in the middle of the day, and people just HAVE to drape themselves on you. And then the fighting starts because everyone wants to go home... have we talked about how lions supposedly eat their young sometimes? Oops, I digress.
While some may make and successfully keep New Year's Resolutions, research shows that it takes much more to create and follow through on new habits. And really, it's pretty abstract to pick that one day of the year when you decide that all old habits must be broken, and new, glorious, amazing ways of being shall exist henceforth. Change takes more reflection, depth and thought than just buying a gym membership, which is why I want to share my favorite tool.
A long time ago, I came across a blog called Superhero Life, by a creative, amazing woman and coach named Andrea. Truth be told, I've never met her. I've posted a comment on her blog here and there, but let me tell you, I'm fairly certain I have a mini-coach crush on her. She has this AMAZING free tool called "Complete Your Year" that provides some powerful reflection questions to help you make sense of all the things you've been through in a year, because let's be honest, while some of the hours and days are long, the years are seeming to go by pretty quickly. Is anyone else out there counting every time a form (or little person) asks them how old they are? Oh, it's just me--#mombrain.
This tool asks amazing questions, and let's be honest, without amazing questions we can't get to amazing answers. Questions about what you faced with strength and courage, the brave choices you made, things that were scary and hard, and finally, at the end, you pick your word or intention for the next year. And then, you get to make choices about how to live that out! I've done this exercise on my own every year for the past few years, but this last year, I did it with a group of colleagues and we all picked our words for the year. Then one of them, who is an amazing artist calligraphied each of our words so we could hang them where we would see them every day and be reminded.
My words for the 2017-2018 school year? Pause and Fierce. In that order. Sometimes I'm a bit of a pressure cooker. I've got to keep my inside voice inside until I'm really ready to put my words into the universe-- the old toothpaste analogy of how you can't get it back in the tube once it's out. But once I've thought it through, consulted my account-a-bil-a-buddies (more on these in a future post) to help me ensure I'm thinking through it logically, I needed to fiercely pursue what needed to happen, fearlessly and assertively. I worked these words into my life every way I could. On the sign in my office. In passwords (note: no longer the case, so no go if you are trying to hack me). My phone. etc. etc. etc. Because the more these words could be my mantra, the litmus test for all I would do, the better my decisions. The happier my relationships. The stronger my values. And the best version of me showed up more often.
So take some time in a place where you can focus, reflect, grieve, celebrate, and truly be, and take a copy of Andrea's amazing tool with you. Pick your word. Or come up with a list of words, and don't settle until you have the one(s) that sing to your soul. Then freaking live it. And if you need some help figuring out how to live them, consider a coach, an account-a-bil-a-buddy, or anyone else who calls you to the best version of you. Invest in yourself. It's the best return you will ever get.