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There are times when we find ourselves searching for energy and scrounging for motivation to power through work struggles. We might put off the task and hope for inspiration, or we might give minimal effort and wait for urgency and pressure to motivate us. Neither approach is likely to be productive and satisfying.

Sometimes we need a shift in our thinking, a technique to tap our motivation, or a way to draw on an area of strength. We need a new perspective and approach to get on track and avoid worker burn-out or depression. Fortunately, there are strategies to improve our outlook, increase our confidence, and accelerate our learning and skill growth. Consider these four strategies:

Strategy:

A great place to start is focusing less on what we must do and reminding ourselves of why we’re doing it. To do lists can be intimidating and “must do’s” can feel like drudgery, thus making procrastinating a reasonable option. But if we shift our thinking from what we must do to why we’re doing it, it can make a big difference. Our list of tasks becomes more meaningful, and doing the work results in greater value and satisfaction.

In practice:

Correcting a set of essays may feel like time consuming toil. Yet, if we shift our mindset and consider the work as exploring the thinking, imagination, and creativity of our students and providing insightful and helpful feedback, grading presents new meaning and becomes more worthwhile. Similarly, we might think of lesson planning as merely an item to check of our to-do list. Or we can view our planning as designing engaging and productive learning experiences for our students that’ll ignite their energy while building excitement. Simple thought shifts can go a long way to improve our mood, as well as unleash our own renewed energy.

Strategy:

We can leverage our current strengths to support the development of new learning and skills. Learning new instructional practices, trying new approaches, and developing new strategies can be difficult and humbling work. Inevitably, early attempts will prove less than successful, leading to frustration by the slow pace of progress. Yet, if we pair what we’re learning with a current area of strength and expertise, we’ll shore up our confidence and accelerate our progress.

In practice:

Strength lies in organizing our content to make it understandable. Our goal seeks to enhance our impact and improve student learning recall by introducing new content through memorable and compelling stories. We achieve this through organizing and sequencing what students need to learn within the structure of good storytelling. While our stories may seem lame at first, the content we share becomes more memorable and impactful through story telling. Over time, our storytelling skills grow. Our organizational skills lead students to understand what they’re asked to learn, and our stories help with student recall long after we move on to other content and skills.

Strategy:

By embracing “going forward together”, we choose to move beyond “going it alone” when we face difficult challenges and when we need new ideas. Generating new approaches and developing strategies to engage our students can become a daunting challenge, especially if we try to do it alone. Even if we work with a partner or team, we can fall into habits and patterns that limit new thinking and new idea exploration. We may need to expand our network of resources and our exposure to others in our profession.

In practice:

Social media, virtual networks, and other ways of accessing professionals beyond our physical presence open new possibilities and provide rich and varied resources to expand our thinking and improve our practice. Sometimes admitting that we feel stuck and need new thinking can mean uncomfortable conversations and awkward admissions with close colleagues. Yet, reaching out to others virtually and seeking ideas can feel much safer and less uncomfortable. Meanwhile, we gain a new appreciation of our ideas, skills, and practices as we share our experiences with them and provide support to their work, as well.

Strategy:

We can have a vision for where we want to take our learning and practice, but building momentum and positioning for success are easier when we focus our attention and energy on the next step or steps. Learning journeys can easily overwhelm and discourage us when we try to grasp the entire picture and all that it might entail. We can falsely assume that once we begin something new, we should be immediately proficient. Yet, when we try something significant and new, just like our students, we’re likely to make mistakes and experience setbacks. And as we do with our students, we must provide ourselves encouragement not to give up.

In practice:

It helps to shift our practice by becoming less instruction driven and more learner centered. We might start by giving students more opportunities for choice in their learning, as a first step. We maintain other elements of our current practice until we build routines. Students then develop the skills and processes necessary to take more responsibility for their learning. If we focus on the next steps we need to take, we grasp what we want to change, adjust strategy, and mark progress to prepare for more significant changes. We celebrate our wins even when our long-term goal seems far off. As the saying goes, “The greatest journey begins with a single step.”

Sometimes it’s not the work struggle that’s the problem, but our mindset toward it. At other times we need to draw on our talents and strengths to carry us through as we develop new skills and engage in new learning. Meanwhile, if we draw on the knowledge, expertise, and creativity of others, the options and possibilities available to us grow. Finally, when we focus on what we need to do next and refuse to become preoccupied and overwhelmed by the size and complexity of what we face, we move forward with clarity and confidence.

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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