Growth Lists

It’s Sunday. Or some may call it, “Monday Eve.” It can be difficult to live in the moment and enjoy the beauty of a nice Sunday.

For many of us, Sundays are work week prep days. We pack lunches, we lay out clothes, we work on that agenda for that meeting that snuck up on us. Even as I type this, I can feel the tension rising. Sundays have the potential to be insecurity breeding too. They can get us wondering if we can really do that hard thing we need to do this week and whether people will see us as a fraud.

But Sundays are beautiful. And we deserve so much more than all of that ick described above. So, I’m talking back. To myself. In my head mostly but if things get dire, I’m not afraid to speak it out loud. And what I’m speaking back are growth affirmations.

Think about how far you’ve come. Just think about it for a second. Think about all of the hard days that you’ve made it through. And just look at you. Wow, you made it. You are strong and inspiring and you’ve grown. I’m so deeply proud of you. I’m proud of us.

The happiness research suggests that people are more motivated by seeing how far they’ve come than seeing how far they have to go. So, if you want to get motivated for the week ahead, instead of obsessing over some of those work week details, try obsessing over celebrating yourself and noticing your growth.

This past week I was in a huge room full of building leadership teams. 10 total teams. The room was filled with people I knew and those that I didn’t because I’m new to my job. Growth for me was being confident if there was a time for me to speak to the room.

This has not always been the case.

About seven years ago, I was hired as the Assessment and Accountability Coordinator in a local school district. That’s a fancy way of saying, “It was really hard to make new friends.” Let’s be real – that title was not drawing teachers to me. And there was only so much candy I could put on tables and only so much self-deprecating humor I could use to make the “shows I brought to town” a little better. We made little moves like putting pictures of kids on the tables at data meetings, and we stayed focused on what we could control and what really mattered and eventually, people seemed to relax and accept me.

But that took time. And it was a bit touch and go there for a bit. Upon my first couple of months on the job, I was asked to explain state testing results and value-added to the school board in a presentation at a school board meeting.

Those of you familiar with value-added. I will give you a moment to laugh about how impossible that feels. I still don’t fully understand it. To this day, I still cannot explain value-added.

I tried to learn what I could and distill it down, so it was practical and smart and concise for a school board.

I got up there, stepped behind the podium, looked out into the small sea of faces, and my heart grow up into my throat. I started sweating. I looked down at my notes and note-cards, and it was like I couldn’t read anymore. Letters were jumbled. The words I said did not make any sense. And I knew they didn’t make sense which made me more nervous. I wanted to run out of the room and cry.

It was bad.

Fast-forward to the meeting with the building leadership teams last week. I didn’t write anything down. I knew what I wanted to say. I knew that I had spoken to groups before. I knew I had taken George Couros’s course: Creating and Delivering Incredible Presentations (highly recommend.)

And I knew that I believed in what I had to share. And that my message mattered.

While I kept it brief, I got into what we call “flow.” A feeling during speaking that I can only describe as being taken to church. Have you ever felt that in your work? It’s a feeling like you are light and airy and FREE, and everything comes together in this natural way that you probably couldn’t completely recreate if you tried. There is something about it that feels almost spiritual.

So, as I sit here on this Sunday, prepping meals for the week, folding laundry, and reviewing my calendar, I’m also going to make space to celebrate my growth in public speaking skills. Because this growth extends well beyond the tactical skills themselves.

This growth is about no longer shrinking myself. This growth is about being comfortable being seen and taking up space. And when we make that kind of growth, we are one step closer to being the people who can grow that in others, making the necessary space for others and their voices. Especially those least likely to be handed the mic. People like our students.

So, today, celebrate how far you’ve come. What growth big or small can you celebrate today? Be proud of yourself.

You deserve it. And allow that celebration to fuel you for the week ahead. Because we’ve got work to do, and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Because children are worth it.

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