New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year for reflection and goal setting. In this episode, I share my personal reflections on the past year and how I am using that to shape what my next year looks like so you can use the same process to make your next year your best year ever.
Reflections and Setting Goals For The New Year
I personally have just always been a really big fan of Christmas. My birthday’s right around that time of year, and I love Christmas lights and all the traditions. But when it comes to New Year’s, I am just really motivated by this idea of having a fresh start.
I think it’s because I personally struggle with dwelling on my own shortcomings and failures, but having these benchmarks and concrete dates that I get to start and finish makes it easier for me to stay motivated and keep pushing forward.
I believe that any day of the year you can make a change and start to change your life, but the reality is it usually takes some sort of extreme rock bottom or being pushed to an unpleasant, terrible situation for us to start to put this significant amount of work into making the changes necessary to create a new life for ourselves except for when New Year’s comes around.
New Year’s is just one of these occasions when people are motivated to start making momentum and take a new direction, even without having to hit that rock bottom place. But the most important part of this is to continue the momentum past January. What we write down on that piece of paper as a resolution is not going to be what really dictates success.
It’s what we actually do on a daily basis, how we show up for ourselves, what we do with those extra 20 minutes of our day-to-day, and the ways that our work and our efforts compound over time that makes us a different person at the end of that year. So in this episode, I’m going to share on a really personal level my reflection of the last year and my goals for this upcoming year.
I’m going to tell you the specific framework that I use to help me reflect and create these focused goals, and I want you to use the exact same process to set your own unique goals and make this new year your best here ever. First, every new year starts off with reflection and just having some gratitude for the last year, even if it was a crappy year.
Daphne’s family’s holiday tradition of reflection
My husband and I actually have this holiday tradition, which is something that we call the “happy memory jar.” And I don’t know where we got this idea from, but we just basically have a small mason jar sitting on our fireplace. And anytime we have one of those days that just makes us say, wow, that was so much fun, or what an amazing day, or what an amazing experience, just something that usually you would write a Facebook or Instagram post about, we write it on a piece of paper and we put it in this Mason jar.
Then on New Year’s Day, we open it up and we read and we reflect on all of these moments, these small things that happened, and it’s just a really beautiful tradition and it’s an easy way for me to stay grounded and remember what was really truly important.
What types of memories were the ones that stuck out the most and when was I the happiest that past year and what can I do more to incorporate those types of memories into the next year. So in addition to just having this happy memory jar, I just sat down and reflect on my professional and personal highs and lows to help me shape what I want the next year to look and feel like.
What Daphne is grateful for in 2022
So, I’ll start by sharing some of the professional and personal positives from the last year. First, starting with some professional positives, I am just constantly blown away with how strong the Teacher Career Coach community is. I never could have imagined building something that had this much impact on this many people’s lives.
This is something that I am truly grateful for day after day after day. This year alone has opened up the door for me to advocate for teachers and talk about what is going on in the Wall Street Journal, in NPR.
Just last week, I was on NBC. That should air sometime in January. I’ve been given the opportunity to be on this amazing podcast network, the Podglomerate, which is now the home of this podcast. All of these opportunities are just so incredible and on a daily basis, we receive messages, DMs, emails from teachers who are former teachers who have said the work that we are doing is important and has changed their life, sharing their success stories, sharing their new roles.
We get so many, we are constantly trying to schedule them months in advance. Some of the testimonials that you see, and former teacher success stories are from even a month or two months before because we’re not able to even share as many as we get. And that is just something that is mind blowing to me, how many people we are truly impacting.
In addition to that, it takes a lot of work and I truly have some of the best and smartest and most kind, amazing people working for Teacher Career Coach who are dedicated to the mission of helping teachers find careers outside of the classroom.
They also all bring in a variety of unique strengths and expertise from their personal lives or their careers outside of the classroom, and I’m just so grateful that we have all found each other. Even on top of that, my husband and I actually finally got to go on our honeymoon this year.
We were really cautious and nervous travel during the pandemic, and I honestly wasn’t really sure if I would ever feel comfortable being away from the company even for a few weeks worth of time, but I did. I left in late July and was able to go on this life-changing and incredible vacation and the team took over and I just spent time with my husband and celebrated our marriage.
And on top of that in personal news, my husband and I are in the process of trying to start a family, and that’s just something really exciting to even be able to say that out loud. The possibility and being hopeful about that for our future is just a big win in itself.
Daphne reflects on areas where she can grow
Moving on, and I don’t like labeling things like highs and lows because I personally believe that every low is a learning moment, but I want to just maybe call the next category what I know needs to change. So Teacher Career Coach has grown really fast, really quickly with this great team of employees, and that comes with constantly changing pressures and demands that I couldn’t have ever anticipated.
It falls more into the category of being a CEO as opposed to the content that I’m putting out, but not going to bore you. My biggest struggles just come with all the paperwork, the financial decisions, and being able to help manage people quickly make decisions and just execute and help a growing team.
And there are so many ways that I can get better in all of these areas. They’re all, as Marie Furlow says, figure-outable. But what is the most screaming loudest, most important thing for me to address first is that in October, November and December of this year, my mental health rapidly declined. And this is not something that I have felt since I have left the classroom.
And I’ve mentioned anxiety attacks and things like this on the podcast, and I have been working with a really amazing therapist since March, but I had a breaking point with this perfect storm of running a company, a brain that just works too much, too hard, over-complicates things and coupling that with some pretty big personal matters that just set me back mentally to a place that was a really bad, scary wake-up call for me.
And I contemplated if I even planned on addressing any of this in the podcast at all, because I don’t want to worry any of you when I also know that you are all going through so much and I’m here to be this voice that cheerleads you through it and helps you get to the other side.
But I thought that it was more important for me to be honest and vulnerable and also thought that this is an important way for me to use this as a learning lesson and also hold me accountable on what my intention for the next year is going to be. So for you, I want you to sit down and focus and reflect on your wins and those things that you know need to change for the following year.
What are your wins from 2022?
Maybe your win is that you moved forward, you found career clarity. Maybe it took you a little bit longer than you wanted to, but you took a couple of courses or you learned something that you were going to put on your resume. Those are all huge wins.
Maybe you volunteered for something at school that actually helps you add some new leadership bullet points to your resume when you apply for those project management positions. You may have also just completely shut off work during all of your holiday break and not worked whatsoever and prioritized yourself, gave yourself the space that you needed to heal. And that itself is just a huge win.
So whatever personal or professional accomplishments you had this year, I just want you to pat yourself on the back and celebrate yourself because it’s huge and you just want to keep making that type of momentum in the next upcoming year. So write it down and also start to reflect on some of those lower moments.
Pick a word for 2023
And after you have done that activity, it’s time for you to pick a word. And I haven’t really talked about this on the podcast before, but you are just going to pick a word that’s going to be like the theme or a gentle nudge and direction to help remind you of your intention for the year.
This is going to be dependent on your personality and what your goals are maybe going to be for the year. And once you have your word, you can write it on a poster or a vision board and just help remind you of the direction you’re going in and just bring more awareness to your intention when you see it.
So after reflecting on everything that happened this last year, my word is going to be less. So less to me means less stuff, less clutter. My environment currently is chaotic and messy. As I’m recording this, I have a stack of paperwork that stresses me out and makes me feel bad every time I look at it.
And so I’m going to prioritize taking care of that and keeping myself in a focused and clean environment. It’s less projects. I don’t want to put more on my body and my brain right now, especially if I’m trying to get healthy and trying to have a family. It’s going to be less social media. I actually just read How To Break Up With Your Phone, which is a really great book if you are struggling with that as well.
It’s less to opportunities, even the ones that I actually want, but just in order to give myself more space to be in the moment, to be more present and to work on what the top priorities are. It’s also going to have to be caring a little bit less of what people think of me based on my decisions or my boundaries or my need to do this.
And I feel like I have to clarify that less does not mean that I care less about teachers or former teachers or you any less. It’s just that I have to be strategic with my time and my energy and my personal resources because there’s always going to be more that I can do.
And that probably sounds pretty familiar to what you are struggling with as a teacher as well. Here’s an example of how this looks in my personal work environment right now. I recently had a comment from a follower that had a question from one Instagram post, and I spent a good amount of time showing her where the resource was that actually answered that question.
And she followed up with nine questions and I realized quickly that she was very upset that I didn’t answer the question I had just directed her to a free resource that answered the question outside. And so I explained to her that these are complex questions that she has that can’t be answered on a single Instagram post, but here are all the now 10 resources that answer all 10 of these questions.
And it just, it’s not as easy to answer in three sentences when they’re these big complex questions. A good example would be, what happens if I leave teaching? What’s going to happen to my pension? That’s very dependent on where you are on the salary schedule. So we show you in teachercareercoach.com/pensionvideo depending on how close you are to your retirement, how it’s going to impact you personally, not something I can really answer on an Instagram post.
Anyhow, the response that I got was that it was my responsibility to address all of these and all of my upcoming posts and to make some pretty big changes due to her feedback as a follower since, something around the lines of, I’m a content creator and I need to listen to the followers.
And I wish that this feedback didn’t hurt me or haunt me and that I could just chalk it up to somebody who I really want to help being under a lot of stress and trauma. But it did come across as someone entitled to more of my time and energy because I’ve put myself in that situation, and this isn’t the only time that this has happened. I have to recognize that I’m a people pleaser by nature and I have to care less that I will inevitably let someone down if I set up a boundary.
I will have to recognize that I’m going to burn myself out if I answer 100000 special requests, even if I do care about every single person who asks them. And the irony of this is that this is my podcast talking about how I’m going to do less. I wrote this podcast on Saturday, December 17th.
I plan to use an interview that was already recorded for this content because the last few weeks have been really challenging and I really wanted to make sure I prioritize my weekend. But I really got this in my head that I wanted to share what was going on and I wanted to share what my intention was. And I wanted this to be a learning lesson. So I sat down, I created this outline, I did not have time off, and that was truly of my own choosing. You as the listener wouldn’t have known a difference.
I would’ve had more breathing room. It’s been a month since my doctor handed me three different referrals of people she wants me to go talk to, specialists based on one of our past conversations. I still haven’t quote, unquote been able to find time quote, unquote to make all of them.
Remember that you can still care for others while prioritizing your self-care
So I know what I am doing to burn myself out, and I know that I can be kind and I can be helpful, and I can be impactful while still prioritizing my own needs and doing less. And you can too. I want you to know that you need to prioritize your own needs this year. And unfortunately that might mean letting down some people that you really care about and that is really hard.
But if they care about you and your boundaries, they should respect your decision as well. So your word might also be less, or it might be fearless or abundance or successful or happy or accomplished or creative or strong or kind, or grateful or confident or authentic or focused, while you’re writing down your word, you might want to even make a vision board and write down other words or phrases that are associated with how you want to feel this year or what you think success would look like if you felt this way.
For me, success is just being happy with where I am and in my body. And I just currently want to rid myself of some of the toxic things that I know are making me unhappy and the habits that I’ve formed over the last few months.
Set your goals for 2023
After you’re done, it’s time for you to sit down and write out some focus goals for the year. I usually write out a list of 100 goals, but I try to keep it limited to 12 really big goals. And you’re really not supposed to do any more than 12 so that you can have three for every three months or every quarter. I’ve talked about this on a past episode, but I really dislike the types of goals that are out of your control like lose 20 pounds because it tends to make you feel bad about yourself if you didn’t actually lose those pounds after a certain amount of putting the work in.
The goal that’s better is something within your reach like working out three times a week or eating healthy five days out of the week. That way you are in charge of setting the habit and then you can start to look back after a month and reflect if you feel a difference. And that can help you keep your motivation going as opposed to a number on a scale.
But as you’re writing down these goals, you might be able to go back and look at some of them and see that they don’t align with what your overarching theme of the year is. For example, I have talked about I want to write a book someday, but in my year of less, that is not going to be a good priority for me. And if you’re having difficulty figuring out what your goals or areas of focus can be, you can look up an image search of something that’s called the Wheel of Life.
I’ve talked to life coaches and therapists before who have brought it up, and it’s a really good way to figure out where you are dissatisfied. I know many of you are probably struggling with your career satisfaction because you’re listening to this podcast, so that’s obviously going to be a clear area that you can set your goals for.
But if there’s other areas like your social life, your love life, your physical health that you want to focus on, you might want to write some of those down as well. And you really want to try to focus on one or two goals that can help you stay motivated and show you that you’re capable of sticking to a goal and making some momentum and also choosing something that might trigger success with the other goals as well.
So one of my areas of focus is my physical health because that’s also impacting my mental health, but it also helps my productivity as well. So one of my goals is to work out, but I know that that goal is actually going to help me set up for success with some of the other things on my plate as well.
I just know that this is something I personally struggle with. So I really want to emphasize you cannot do everything all at once. And focus on what is the most important goal first and start there to see if you have extra additional energy or time. And if you are at this point where you are working 60 or 70 hours as a teacher and you’re so burned out and there’s no way you can do anything, I want you to go back and listen to episode 30 of this podcast where I interview Angela Watson on creating a sustainable teaching career because that alone might help you add more time into your weekdays and weeknights so that you can work on your career goals or your personal goals inside those work weeks a little bit easier.
Learn about yourself in 2023
Now, the last thing that I want you to do this new year is learn about yourself. Teachers are given so much professional development and personal development that’s completely irrelevant to their needs, and I often feel like this is the part that many people don’t focus on until they’re totally out of the classroom.
But I really strongly encourage you this year to make it a goal to either start therapy or at least pick one personal development book or book about trauma and try to learn a little bit more about yourself. You’ve already listened to this far into this podcast episode, so I feel like you should be open to this type of conversation, but this is specifically why I have shared so much in this episode and been so vulnerable about my fears and anxieties and mental health struggles. This is not because I want you to pity me or my personal life or worry about me.
My mental health is suffering for a variety of reasons, some of which are my own choosing. They are due to my lack of ability to shut off work at nighttime, period. My brain is also wired in a way that if something is really big and important to me, I am hyper focused and passionate about it and I can’t turn it off.
But I’ve spent every day of the last four years thinking about or learning about how to better serve this audience, learning about education or politics surrounding education or career changes or trends in the job market. I can say with confidence that I could easily work 365 days a year, but I did not know that about myself until this year. I thought that when I left my full-time role with Microsoft to focus on just doing Teacher Career Coach, it would kind of go away.
Right now, I’m only working one job, but I can’t shut it off. And working with a therapist and learning about myself and noticing patterns in my past are starting to identify the fact that some of this is going to probably happen no matter what job I have.
And it would’ve made things more difficult and challenging just due to the way that my brain works. It’s unfortunate that it made me hitting somewhat of a rock bottom this year and being overstimulated to really pay attention to it and acknowledge that it’s not just decision fatigue, but it is helping me feel better that I’m not just a disorganized person or bad at this. It’s just something that I need to personally work on improving myself.
It’s not that I’m getting lost in my thoughts, and the best way I can describe it right now is I am just getting drowned in my own thoughts, but I would not be able to move forward and start to feel better if I wasn’t so focused on learning about myself and acknowledging that I do have some power to help myself get out of this situation.
So for my own personal development goals, I’m actually currently listening to the book, Your Brain Isn’t Broken based on my therapist’s recommendations, but another book on my list is The Body Keeps the Score. I am just happy to say that this is a lesson that I learned this year and it’s a scary lesson, but I wanted to take it and shape my next year in it.
And in order for you to shape your own next year, you have to find out what works and what you need to focus on and how you can best support yourself with what you need. And if you’re anything like me and just reading a book, you may not feel like you have time for it, you can also sign up for a free month of audible at teachercareercouch.com/audible if that helps you pick a personal development goal a little bit easier to work it into your schedule.
Daphne recaps her reflection process
So to recap, it is time for you to sit down, reflect on all of your amazing accomplishments and all of your happiest memories from the past year. Use any lessons that you learned to reflect on what your goals for the future year will be. Make sure that you pick a word or a theme to help remind you of your intentions and what you want the next year to really feel like and keep you accountable.
Write down 12 goals and try to pick one personal development book or book a session with a therapist. And for me, I’m going to be focusing on my goals and making the next year the best year ever. Thank you so much for giving me a space to be vulnerable and share with you. And thank you so much for being a listener of the Teacher Career Coach podcast for the last year.
We wouldn’t have been able to do all of those amazing accomplishments without your support, and I am just truly so grateful. So thank you so much for being a listener and for sharing this show with other teachers who are looking for this type of support.
My wish for you this upcoming year is that this podcast helps motivate you to figure out what you need to put together an action plan to prioritize your own needs, and to learn about yourself, and to see if there’s anything that might be needing a little bit extra love this next year to help you reach those goals. I am wishing you all the healthiest and happiest of New Year’s. We’ll see you on the very next episode of the Teacher Career Coach podcast.