01/30/2022 / Education

Intentional Progress

I don’t know about  you, but lately I’ve been allowing myself to go down a slippery slope which affects my confidence and  mindset. Now, using the term “slippery slope” can be quite ambiguous, so let me explain. The past few years have been stressful for all of us with so many changes in how we go about our daily lives. So, with that said, I’m sure what I’m about to dive into will be relatable to many. 
Setting goals and working hard to succeed has always been my routine, and for the most part has helped me stay on course. As an educator, I feel I’ve done pretty well in making the necessary changes, sustaining an environment of learning and a classroom community that is welcoming. This is all well, good, and important, but I’ve just felt like there is something missing. So, here is where I make my shift from thinking about what is going on around me, to what is going on within me.

 I truly feel this is a necessary topic that needs to be shared as I know many of us put others before ourselves, but if we allow our inner light to burn at both ends and dim we will be good to no one. So, feeling the need to stop myself from going down this slippery slope, I’ve done a little “action research”. Action research by definition is generally used in an academic, investigative way. It works to identify a problem to be studied, collect data on this problem, analyze the data in order to implement a plan, and then evaluate the results from the plan. I’ve decided to apply this method of research to  my inner thoughts, and shift how I plan to include making myself a priority. Self care needs to be part of everyone’s plan, and we need to believe that this is not selfish, this is necessary. 

Where to begin? In the very early morning hours on a cold Sunday, with a hot cup of coffee in hand, I sat quietly in front of my computer. Using my inner thoughts as my guide, I began to brainstorm words to help me start my research. I came up with the word “progress”. I need to find ways to plan that will lead to progress. So, I typed “progress” into my Google search box and began going through the results. I came across a link to the Harvard Business Review on the  Power of Small Wins by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer. While this article was written in 2011, and it is written for managers about motivating employees by making work meaningful, stay with me on this thought. The authors wrote in their summary, “This progress principle suggests that managers have more influence than they may realize over employees’ well-being, motivation, and creative output. The key is to learn which actions support progress—such as setting clear goals, providing sufficient time and resources, and offering recognition—and which have the opposite effect.” How may this principle apply to personal progress? Simply by shifting the thought and recognizing that we are our own managers. Motivation and creative input is our inner voice that helps us support our own progress. Looking for those small wins or steps toward progress needs to be enough to help us feel what we do is meaningful. 

Next, I clicked on a link that brought me to a YouTube link entitled “The Real Secret to Productivity: 3 Hacks to being more productive” by Mel Robbins. Within this video, Mel discusses the idea of creating time and focusing on making  progress on the important things. She hit upon the idea that was the main part of my action research and what was going on within me. I am that person she discusses that creates a list and many times gets unfocused because of all the “busy work” that goes along with the list. Mel states, "Part of the reason you don’t feel productive is because you’re busy doing the things that aren’t important to you…you really need to figure out how to create time and how to create the focus that you need in order to feel you are making progress on the important things.”  She believes we need a game plan, and the idea that if we audit our time we would realize that 95% of our time is spent on things we really don’t care about and how much time is wasted. Figure out what is the most important thing that you want to make progress on and make the time. Mornings are said to be the peak time when our brain is fueled and we need to tap into that energy to partner with our productivity. By directing our brain in the morning to what matters most will help us feel more in control.  Interestingly, Mel references the Harvard Business Review Progress Principle study within her talk. 

Finally, Mel discusses her “5 second rule” brain hack that is based on her belief that changes come down to five second windows of opportunity. When your inner instinct or “voice” speaks to you, act within your five second window by being in tune to what you want. Basically, you can change yourself five seconds at a time by knowing your own wisdom and what you truly want. This video is definitely worth the time to watch. Mel Robbins is not a therapist, but she is a highly accomplished author and motivational speaker who has dealt with anxiety. For more information on Mel Robbins impressive background, please visit her website, MelRobbins.com

As I continued my research, I read several scholarly papers and various articles on self care and progress.  Here are some of the pearls of wisdom I took away: 

  • Listen to your own internal voice- take that step back when needed. 

  • Focus on your mood- are you feeling good (happy, uplifted) or down (depressed, anxious). Find ways to elevate your mood- exercise, time outside in the fresh air, meditation, yoga, etc.

  • Pay attention and be aware of downward trends; stay connected with others and be aware of your normal, seeking help when needed. 

  • Meditation- create a space where you can take time daily to be quiet and reflect; focus on positive things. Carve out time for in the morning or evening or both- you are worth it. 

  • Take time in the morning when you rise to set the tone for your day. 

  • Most importantly...Be kind to yourself. 

What is it that matters most to you? Put yourself first, prioritize, and create a plan for progress. I would love to know if any of my “action research” makes a difference for you. 

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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and is an educator researcher and writer. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices, and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. Educator well being is a priority, thus the name "Mindful Teaching Moments". Mindfulness along with knowledge is important. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.