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Professional Development Opinion

An Alternative to a New Year’s Resolution: One Thing a Day

By Elena Aguilar — January 05, 2014 3 min read
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The very concept of a New Year’s resolution is central to coaching: resolutions are intentions to make change, shift behaviors, and improve our lives. Good ideas, but I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Most resolutions are usually too big, unsustainable, and often emerge from a place of guilt or shame. We’ve all heard how the majority of people don’t fulfill their resolutions and many come to equate resolutions (and therefore intentions to make change) with failure. I think I’m actually anti-New Year’s resolutions.

Our work as coaches is to help others make changes, shift their behaviors, beliefs and ways of being, and improve their own lives—as well as the lives of their students. However, as coaches we also know that just setting one big goal doesn’t work—we know that it’s key that we create a plan for how to realize that goal, and that we need on-going support, feedback, encouragement, and checking in on progress if we’re going to reach our goal. This is why a coach is essential in making change—you need help on a journey of big change.

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The Basics of Behavior Change

Here’s what we know about making behavior changes:

  1. Strongly held beliefs, of which we may or may not be aware of, lurk right below our behaviors. If we don’t explore and shift some of these beliefs, it’s even harder to make behavior changes.
  2. Most people aim to make behavior changes that are too big (i.e. I will run a marathon this year). Smaller is better. It’s also fine to set a reachable goal (i.e., I will run five miles this month or I will grade students’ papers within four days of receiving them) and then add a goal or increase it as you meet the one you’ve set.
  3. And finally, in order to make behavior changes we need quick wins—and we need to celebrate these—so that we can build our confidence and momentum to strive for larger goals.

My New Year Goals

While I don’t believe in setting New Year’s resolutions, I am constantly setting goals for myself. I find many times of year are conducive to this practice—the beginning and end of the school year, my birthday, and a new year.

Vacation creates time for reflection and intention setting, and so I’ve been deep in thought about my life in 2013 and what I want to create in 2014. The last year was a busy one for me—my book was published which brought many opportunities for work and writing. This was wonderful and rewarding, but my work/home/personal life became unbalanced. I never struggle to allocate time to develop as a professional, but I do struggle to carve out enough time to take care of my body, heart, and soul.

So here’s my 2014 goal. I’m calling it the “One Thing” Goal: Each day, I will do one thing to nourish my body, heart, or soul. The “thing” can be anything—yesterday I sat in the sun with my eyes closed for ten minutes and that counted as something I did for my body. The day before I played some of my favorite music—that was something for my soul. Today I spent about 10 minutes petting my cat while she napped on my lap—this counts as a thing for my heart. In the first five days of January, I’ve found it’s been easy to do One Thing each day—and usually, I’ve done more than one. Each day, I’m recording what the thing was in a small date book.

The key is that almost anything can count—little things are really the best—and what’s most important is that in the moment, I acknowledge that I’m doing something for my heart or soul or body and that I fully experience the moment. So when I tuck my son into bed and kiss him goodnight, I register that this is something wonderful for my heart and soul. And right now, as I write this, I’m drinking some delicious caffeine free chai tea and I’m relishing the flavors of the spices and the sweetness of the honey; something for my body.

In a way, this is an ambitious goal—one thing, every day. But it also feels manageable. So far (on January 6) I feel quite accomplished and successful—and I’m enjoying this project! And if I continue to integrate these little moments into my daily life, to consciously do One Thing every day to nourish my heart, body or soul, and to make sure that I’m registering the experience, I know I’ll feel so much more balanced and happy and I’ll be much more effective in my work.

I hope this might help you think about returning to support the teachers you coach this week—how you might help them break down their goals and resolutions into manageable bite sizes in which they’ll have success. New habits take time to form. (Read this for more about forming habits). Smaller habits are easier to form. One thing at a time.

What are your feelings about resolutions? Do you set resolutions or intentions or goals?

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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