One of my clients, a high school teacher, gets jittery about returning to the classroom every September. Despite glowing evaluations year after year, she always worries whether she’ll be able to manage her students, whether they’ll like her and if they’ll absorb all of her lessons. But each year, her nerves consume less energy because she sees them for what they are: habitual nuisances.
Sometimes it can be hard to recognize the incremental ways that we improve from year to year. As a society focused on tangible accomplishments, we’re not conditioned to share our personal growth. When was the last time you bumped into a friend who boasted, “Great news! Last week, I conquered my need for my boss’s approval, and today I didn’t scream at my daughter when she spilled soda all over the kitchen floor!”
Yet these small personal victories — facing a fear, changing an attitude or kicking a bad habit — are the important shifts that build character and transform your life. When we change the way we respond to challenging situations, we change our experience of the world and how we see ourselves.
As we return from the lazy days of summer to the daily grind, we may be looking at familiar situations through fresh eyes. As the unofficial start of the year for many people, September is a natural benchmark to reflect on how we’ve changed and rededicate ourselves to our personal growth projects.
Point of view
It’s vital to remember that while we may return to the same situations over and over again, we never return to them from exactly the same vantage point. Personal growth is like a spiral staircase: It may seem like you’re going around and around, but your perspective changes with every step. The key is to keep moving upward. Some questions to consider:
1.How has my life changed since last September?
2.Have I changed? Am I responding to challenging situations differently?
3.How do I want to improve my handling of conflicts?
4.What is one thing that I might dodifferently?
5. How can I put this into action and make this change?
Kim Schneiderman’s book, “Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life,”is being published in the spring. Email your questions to[email protected] and check out her website, Novel Perspective.