I recently finished Jon Acuff’s book, Finish. He got me thinking about so muchl kately, I’ve been thinking about his commentary on enjoying while pursuing goals, and how it’s not cheating. A lot of us think about enjoying as “cheating” or as a less than admirable way to approach a goal. Think about it. When we picture people accomplishing seamingly impossible things, we picture the hard work. We imagine the dedication. We imagine people pushing through the pain and discomfort.
But what we don’t often picture is enjoyment.
Take for example healthy eating. I am VERY easily swayed into buying a bunch of healthy foods that I know I DON’T EVEN LIKE. And I will meal prep and put them all into clear containers in my fridge, ready for the taking. And for a few days, I will make myself eat that food because somehow I’m a different person now who loves spinach.
And then, I get tired of making myself eat foods that I hate, and since I didn’t eat much, I’m get super hungry, and I desperately dig through the cabinets to find something to eat that I will actually enjoy. Something like CHIPS. Why are chips so good? I can tell you why. They are so good when you thought you couldn’t or shouldn’t have any.
Same with exercise. For the longest time, I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t wake up early enough to get my workout in before my day started. I’ve seen countless programs and books about starting your day off with exercise. But I just could not figure out how to be that person. So, I commited to doing my workouts after work. And that has been working for me. I also found a trainer who I love working out with every day. This is what works for me.
When it comes to health, there are ways for us to eat foods we enjoy and to get exercise in ways that we enjoy. And life is too short not to enjoy. Do you love to dance? A Jazzercise class is real exercise. That’s not cheating. Do you enjoy walks? A good walk is exercise – that’s not cheating.
Unfortunately, I think some of these same toxic beliefs about enjoying spill into our classrooms – especially at the secondary level.
To start, as educators, we try to be something we’ve read in a book, or we try to emulate some edu-celebrity that we follow on Twitter. We are quick to ignore our true inclinations and strengths. And when what worked for them doesn’t work for us in the same way, just like morning workouts didn’t work for me, we feel like a failure. We think we are less talented. We think we are too lazy. We think we aren’t smart enough. And when that happens, what do we do? We binge on the chips and skip the workouts. In educator terms, we go back to what is comfortable, and we do a lot of that thing that is comfortable. That strategy we always used. That book we always taught. That grading and homework policy is always implemented.
And are we happy? Many times, no. But at least we didn’t try and fail. It’s a little messed up. But we’ve all been there.
I’m wondering what if would look like for us as educators to become so self-aware that we know exactly what makes us come alive. It’s not cheating for us to find ways to do hard things in ways that we enjoy. In fact, it’s the way to truly accomplish hard things without losing our minds. It’s not cheating to do things in sustainable ways.
And that same is true for our students. I can remember learning quickly as a new high school teacher that I had to keep my classroom quiet and serious. And that I had to give zeros for homework in order to be a respectable teacher. Did I believe that was right? No. Did I enjoy running my classroom that way? No. Did my students love my class – heck no!
I ignored all of my instincts to do it the way more experienced teachers thought it “should” be done. And we all suffered. My students suffered. And I suffered. No one was having fun, and as a result, my students didn’t learn as much as they could have learned. They merely complied.
Tackling hard things can feel fun. It can feel like a play. We can enjoy it and still reach out goals. That’s not cheating. And that doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging. It just means we aren’t making things harder than they need to be.
Maybe if we stop making ourselves and others miserable, we will have a better shot at achieving our goals.
What is something necessary that you’re dreading? How might you make it more enjoyable?