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Harness Your Mental Energy: A Teacher’s Roadmap to Prioritizing What Matters Most

Updated: Jun 5



In my last post, I mentioned to you that the book, Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators, completely changed my life. I want to continue that conversation since we're still in #MentalHealthAwareness month. Bonus: I just saw Onward is on 39% off right now on Amazon - as of May 5th, 2024).


When I opened the book for the first time and saw that Chapter 1 was titled, "Know Yourself, " I knew that I was going to be asked to reflect on things that may or may not make me uncomfortable. There are not many people who like having a mirror held up to their face, and I am definitely not one of those people. However, I realize now how absolutely important it is that we take the time to truly get to know ourselves inside and out. What makes us tick, what makes us happy, what makes us angry, what are our values? That last one completely had me stumped. I couldn't even begin to write a list of words that described values. Luckily, Aguilar did that work for us and provided a list of Core Values. Let's take a minute and look over this list:


You can find the printable version here. Before continuing to read, I strongly encourage you to go through the process of identifying your core values shown in the blue box. This was a very eye-opening experience for me, and I know you will find it beneficial too!


Why is it important to know your core values, you might be wondering. Well, first, your core values get to the heart of who you are as a person. They influence how you handle conflict, how you make decisions, how you spend your money, and even who you surround yourself with. One of my favorite quotes from financial expert, Dave Ramsey, is "How you spend your money reveals what you truly value in life." When our actions, decisions, budget, and friends go against our core values, this leads to stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. So when we recognize that something is "off", one action that we might take is to reflect on how our life is reflecting our core values and readjust where needed.


A second reason why it is so important to know and understand your core values is because it helps us align our energy. As we all know, time is finite and our mental and physical energy is limited. We only have so much to give, and its important for our mental health and well-being that our energy expenditure is aligned with our values. We all know the saying, "You can't pour from an empty cup." This is what that phrase is referring to. Energy runs out eventually, therefore, it should be aligned to what we actually have influence and control over.


One of my favorite reflection activities to do when I'm feeling really overwhelmed is the Sphere of Influence activity. I've also seen it called the Sphere of Control. No matter what you call it, here's what it looks like:


To use this tool, get a sheet of paper and write down everything that is bothering you. What is making you angry, what do you find yourself complaining about, what are you worrying about? Once you have your list made, go through and code each one as either a C, I, or E. "C" is going to go beside everything that you have direct Control over. "I" goes beside everything that you have some Influence over, and "E" goes beside all of your items that you have no control or influence over.


Typically what I realize when I do this activity is that the vast majority of items that I'm stressing about or that are causing me anxiety are things that I have absolutely no control over. What about you? What did you find when you did this activity? So how can we use the Sphere of Influence alongside our Core Values to help us prioritize, and in the process build up our resilience?


Like I said earlier, our time is finite and energy is limited. If we spend our time and energy worrying and stressing about something that is outside of our control, we're not leaving any of our time and energy for those areas of our life where we do have control and influence. So, let's look back at your list. Where do you need to redirect your energy so that you'll see movement or progress? What are some things that you need to let go of (easier said that done, I know).


There may be some aspects of our experience that we don't have 100% control over, but where we do have some influence. These are important areas to explore as well because our actions can determine the outcomes of these situations. We have to ask ourselves, "What would happen if I stayed silent or didn't act? What would happen if I spoke up or did something?" Weighing the possible consequences of each of these decisions is a much better place to spend your mental and physical energy because you may have a very real impact one way or the other.


I hope that these tools, along with what you learned in my previous post about understanding your emotions, will help you on your journey of becoming a more resilient educator. My next post will continue with the theme of educator resilience and mental health by discussing strategies for dealing with unwanted or unexpected change. If you found this post useful, please leave me a comment below!




Title and images created in collaboration with AI using ChatGPT and Ideogram.ai, respectively. All other content was created by the author.



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