Sunday, December 31, 2023

Sparking Change in the New Year: Ignite, Impact, Instigate

My 3 Words for 2024 by The Compelled Educator

Every year before 2014, I would select a "New Year's Resolution"  to start on January 1, and I would usually make a misstep and end up NOT reaching my goal. (In this study, less than half of participants reported success at sticking to their goals). 

It was a tradition that I knew I needed to ditch, and in 2014 I learned of a practice by Chris Brogan that has proven to be beneficial to me both personally and professionally.

Since 2014, I select three words at the beginning of the year that will set my intentions, drive my actions, and align my purpose throughout the year. 

For 2023, I chose Heal, Leap, and Sow. Little did I know how much I would lean into those words throughout the year, as it has been a year full of changes, big life events, and lots of joy. 

As I get back to blogging consistently in 2024, I will be sharing about those changes and hard right turns that I made in 2023.

As each year comes to a close, I reflect on the year with specific questions to help me prepare and build momentum for the next one. 

Here are five questions I ask myself as the end of the year approaches. (I don't think anything so far in my life has topped my answers for 2023!)

  1. What has had the greatest impact and how can I do more to amplify that?
  2. What am I most grateful for?
  3. What am I most proud of and why?
  4. What did I learn this year, and what do I need to dive deeper into?
  5. What challenged me this year?


Ignite: Lighting the Fire Within
The word "Ignite" embodies the spirit of beginnings. It's not just about the external flames but the internal spark waiting to be kindled. As we stand on the threshold of the new year, let's ignite the passion within us. Using "ignite" as a guidepost and reminder throughout the year, I will seek out the activities, pursuits, and relationships that set my soul on fire so that I may shine brightly for others.

Impact: Creating Ripples of Change
"In impact, there is meaning." In the coming year, I want to be mindful of the footprints I leave on the sands of time and on new pathways. Impact is not just about the grand gestures but the small, consistent acts that shape our world, and my desire it to be conscious of choices I make and recognize the potential impact they have on my life as well as the lives of others.

Instigate: Provoking Positive Change
Sometimes, change needs a nudge. "Instigate" isn’t about stirring up trouble; it's about being a catalyst for positive transformation. It's about asking the hard questions, sparking the necessary conversations, and instigating change where change is due. It's about being a force for good. In my new role as a high school principal, I will continue to provoke positive change.

While Chris says that we don't need to explain our words to anyone else, I find that posting them helps me with accountability as well as community. I learn a lot by reading about others' words, and over the years I've had others with common stories and goals to reach out to me. 

“The three words are a shorthand representation of your bigger story. It’s kind of like how an icon isn’t the software program. It’s just a way for you to mentally access all the work you’re doing.”
                                                                - Chris Brogan

May the flames of enthusiasm, the ripples of impact, and the sparks of positive change guide us through the uncharted territories of the coming year. Here's to a year of intention, growth, and making a difference -- one ignited moment, impactful choice, and instigated change at a time!

I hope these words have inspired you to create and share your own words for 2024. If so, please share them in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook

Past #My3Words Choices

2014 - Discipline. Intentional. Balance.
2015 - Rhythm. Bravery. Fitness.
2016 - Focus. Purpose. Do.
2017 - Pivot. Go. Grow.
2018 - Lift. Create. Relentless. 
2019 - Practice. Execute. Be.

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My 3 Words for 2024 by The Compelled Educator

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Increase Your Productivity by Using Pockets of Time

One of my core memories from my early softball coaching days is a conversation I had with one of our best players. She was a conscientious student as well as a gifted athlete, and she was stressed. She competed in three sports until her senior year, and during her junior year, she was feeling the stress of a schedule that was full of deadlines, emotional and physical demands, and mentally exhausting days. 

I remember her expressing her feelings of being drained and overwhelmed with not having a long break to focus on "one thing." I reminded her that we were nearing the end of our softball season, which meant a break from sports and school at the same time. Also, school would be out soon and summer break would give her time to relax and get recharged before her senior year. 

I also told her of a lesson that I had learned early on that had served me well during my high school and college athletic careers and into my professional life. I reminded her that as an athlete, she had to be aware of her "pockets of time." We all have them, and they can add up to a large amount of time during a week. They are breaks that we have during different times: while waiting, after finishing a task early, between tasks, during the early morning, and more. They show up differently for all of us, depending on the day or week and what is needed from us in our personal and professional lives. 

To this day, I've maintained an awareness of my pockets of time, and I've been intentional to use them and not waste them. Some might say I'm "Type A," or it's because of my Enneagram 1 personality. Maybe it's because my mom modeled it for me growing up. Whatever the reason, I'm wired to use my pockets of time in ways that serve me, whether it's for production, learning, or self-care. 

5 ideas for using your pockets of time 


If you are feeling overwhelmed, use the time for meditation, journaling, quiet reflection or prayer, listening to soft music, or taking a walk. I highly recommend Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She has many different yoga videos, including a 5-Minute Full Body Stretch video. Intentional self-care can lead to a more productive and effective rest of your day. 

Build relationships

Use the time to connect with a colleague, make a quick phone call to a friend, or leave your desk to have a conversation with someone in a nearby office.  According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, along with food, water, & safety, love and belonging are the most important needs. (Related Post: "We must Maslow before we Bloom")


Depending on where you are when you have your pocket of time (at work, between clients, at the doctors office, waiting in carpool line, etc.), you have several ways to use the time for learning. 
-Read or listen to a chapter in a book 
-Listen to a podcast episode
-Watch a YouTube video

Chip away at a larger task

If you have a large task that needs to completed, create a task list and use the time to complete the quick tasks. When my daughters were younger, we would do "10-minute clean up" in the house. I would set the timer and they would pick up and clean as much as they could for 10 minutes. It was amazing what the 10 minutes would do for keeping the house neater, and it kept me from needing a large chunk of time after work or on a weekend to clean the house. 

Try keeping a list of tasks that can be completed in 10 minutes or less, and you'll be surprised at how much can get done during your pockets of time. It can help you from feeling weighed down at the end of the day with a looming to-do list!

Let your phone work FOR you

It's easy to do mindless scrolling on social media outlets when you have a short break or pocket of time during your day. (Don't do this!)

Ideas for using your phone to be productive:
-Create your meal plan and grocery list for the week
-Clean up email inbox
-Order the gift for the upcoming birthday, holiday, retirement, etc. 
-Review your budget
-Unsubscribe from emails you no longer want to receive
-Respond to an email
-What would you add?

What are your best tips for using pockets of time that appear during the day? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me on twitter!

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Increase your productivity

Friday, May 19, 2023

Leadership Lessons from Brene Brown

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

I'm a huge fan of Brene Brown. She's a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. As an educator for almost 30 years and a person who is always trying to get and be better than before... I find that her lessons are extremely valuable and on point. I hope you enjoy this post and feel free to share your comments below about lessons you have learned from Brene Brown. 

Brene's book, Dare to Lead, is full of lessons for leaders. 

If you've been following this blog or me on twitter, you know that I believe that leadership is not a title. Leaders are leaders through their beliefs and actions, not because of a title or position. This book is for most everyone, and especially for those who lead others. 

Brene Brown defines a leader as "anyone who takes responsibility for finding potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential."

Courage is contagious.

Brene's research supports the idea that vulnerability is "the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure." 

Sometimes, people tend to see vulnerability and courage at opposite ends of a spectrum, but Brene defends that one cannot happen without the other. The other interesting component about vulnerability is that trust and vulnerability walk hand in hand. 

The best leaders understand that they don't have to wear a protective armor or be perfect to be considered effective or courageous, and they definitely know that perfection is not a building block of trust. Leaders provide psychological safety for their teams to be vulnerable with and in front of each other. Leadership creates a safe space that is an integral part of the work that teams must engage in. 

Clear is kind.

Leaders have to have courageous conversations with others. They have to share feedback with others, and leaders determine the tone, words, and emotions that will be used while giving feedback. 

Brene reminds us that when we give unclear feedback to try to "protect others' feelings", we're really just trying to make ourselves feel more comfortable. 

Brene shares this lesson: "In my research and in my life, I've found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there's an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand." 

I once worked for a principal who demonstrated how to effectively "circle back" to a contentious issue at hand.

As leaders, we have to remember that clear feedback is HARD to hear sometimes. As leaders, we can't own the other person's emotions. They are going to be mad, hurt, surprised, and more. 

"We can't both serve people and try to control their feelings."  
- Brene Brown, Dare to Lead

Who we are is how we lead.

While it can be very hard to do, it's important for leaders to connect with our own emotions as well as the emotions of those we lead. 

Brene describes Armored Leadership vs Daring Leadership, which consists of dichotomies such as "Being a knower and being right vs. Being a learner and getting it right" and "Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth vs Modeling rest, play, and recovery."  

While fear will always be present when we rumble with vulnerability, our response to fear will determine our success as a leader. 

On a personal note:
"Only God and the enemy" - as my friend Sarah Johnson says - know the struggles I've gone through with shame and how it has impacted my life. So when Brene speaks or writes, I take heed to the message she delivers.
I've carried a "bag of rocks" throughout my life that I've been able to reduce, pebble by pebble, because of the teachings and impact of people like Brene.  
Shame is a heavy burden. Through reflection, actions, introspection, and responding to feedback, shame can be lifted or reduced to a manageable amount. I encourage anyone who is dealing with shame to seek out help. Reading the works of Brene is an excellent start to a long but rewarding journey. 

Dare to Lead is full of practical ideas that are backed by research, and Brene's writing style is concise, real, and relatable. I encourage you to put this book on your reading list! 

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Thursday, May 11, 2023

How to find your Core Values

Our core values are the guiding principles that shape our beliefs, decisions, and actions. They are the deeply held beliefs that drive our behavior, influence our attitudes, and define who we are. 

Identifying our core values is an essential step in building a fulfilling life, a successful and rewarding career, and healthy relationships. 

But how do we find our core values?

In this post, I'll share some strategies to help you identify your core values.


How to find your Core Values


Self-reflection is a powerful tool to identify your core values. Take some time to reflect on your life experiences, your achievements, your failures, your relationships, and your goals. 

At a recent session of the Hope Leadership Academy led by Dr. Amy Johnston, she shared the following questions to help participants identify their own core values: 
1. When you were a child, what virtue did your parents most want to instill in you?
2. If you saw a "For Sale" sign in your neighbor's yard, what virtue do you hope the new neighbors have?
3. What virtues do you want to see in your co-workers?
4. What values do you hope to instill in your students?
5. At your funeral, what virtue do you hope is used to describe you in your eulogy? 

Look at your role models

Our role models can provide valuable insights into our core values. Think of the people you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess that you admire? What values do they represent? Look for commonalities between your role models and what they stand for. It can help you identify values that resonate with you.

Identify what triggers you emotionally

Our emotions can be powerful indicators of our core values. Think of the situations or events that evoke a strong emotional response from you. What is it about those situations that trigger your emotions? It could be a sense of injustice, fairness, or compassion. Whatever it is, it can give you clues about your values.

Assess your priorities

Our priorities reflect our values. Take a look at how you spend your time, energy, and resources. What do you prioritize in your life? Is it your family, career, hobbies, or social life? How do you balance these priorities? By analyzing your priorities, you can identify your values and what matters most to you. 

Where to look first? Your bank account and your calendar. The things that we make a priority will show up clearly in those two places.

| Related Post: Staying Balanced in Life

Take a values and/or strengths assessment

There are many values and strengths assessments available online that can help you identify your core values. These assessments usually involve answering a series of questions that measure your preferences and priorities. The results can help you identify your top values and how they influence your behavior. One popular (FREE!) values assessment is the VIA Inventory of Strengths

Seek feedback from others

Sometimes, it can be helpful to seek feedback from others to identify your core values. Ask your friends, family, or colleagues to describe your strengths and weaknesses. What values do they see in you? How do they perceive your behavior? Their feedback can provide valuable insights into your values and how your values are perceived by others.

Final Thought

Should you live for your resume or your eulogy?

Identifying your core values is a process of self-discovery that requires self-reflection, introspection, and feedback from others. Your core values are unique to you, and they can change over time as you grow and evolve. By identifying your values, you can align your actions with your beliefs, make better decisions, and live a more fulfilling life. 

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