In January I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.
December’s habit is Focus on the Bright Spots and the disposition is Empowerment.
I love that this is the last chapter of the year, and therefore the last chapter I have left to reread. Focusing on the bright spots is all about a strength-based approach, which is how I view coaching. Everyone appreciates being seen, and being recognized for their hard work and their efforts. Acknowledging the positives we observe makes both the observer and the receiver feel good!
“The brain perceives negative stimuli faster and more intensely than positive stimuli.”
This is such an interesting and sad fact. I know from personal experience how I can have a great day full of positive interactions, but if there is one negative interaction I will perseverate on it for hours afterwards. Aguilar reminds us that this is why we develop the habits throughout this book, to tell retrain our brain to focus on the bright spots in each moment. The more resilient we are, the less the negative thoughts will stick with us.
“When we focus on our strengths, we can access the positive emotions that open us up to learning. Whether we’re looking at our own behavior or that of our colleagues, students, or bosses, what we focus on grows.”
Aguilar advises us to work with our mind to set intentions to enter situations with a positive frame of mind. We can train our brain to work with us, instead of against us. She also recommends an inquiry stance, where you seek to understand through questioning. This is also how I like to approach coaching, presuming positive intent and seeking clarification so I can support.
As I continue to read this chapter, I am reminding of the entire purpose in rereading this book. This is an entire way of thinking, of reflecting, and of being. It takes time to develop new habits, and to retrain my own brain to focus on the bright spots. I used this blog series as a way to dive back into the book, but my reflection has gone far beyond the 12 blogs I’ve posted about it. I am very reflective by nature, and I write in my own personal journal, I write in a professional journal, and I blog, because I reflect best by writing, and then by talking to trusted friends. I love reading this, because it reinforces my current reflection tools.
“I know how powerful it is to write down your reflections, and I know that this build resilience.”
The disposition of empowerment is such a great way to end this chapter, and this year of rereading. When we are empowered, we have self-efficacy, we believe we can be our best. We are resilient.
I hope you’ve enjoyed coming on this year-long journey with me. I am so grateful to Elena Aguilar, for all of her research and her willingness to share it with us through her amazing professional books. I think that Onward is a great book to give each new teacher and each new principal at the start of a new job, as they enter the most challenging year of their profession. Every educator I know has struggled with their own resiliency. We all need this work, and we need to be talking about it, together.
Posts in the Building Resilience series: