Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Self-Improvement



September is Self-Improvement Month.  Some readers may be thinking to themselves, “Wow, I didn’t know that!  Where can I find more information?”  Some readers may be shaking their heads and saying, “I’m so tired of hearing about self-improvement!” Your personal feelings about self-improvement may lie in one of these two camps, or somewhere in between.  Regardless of what you might be thinking, I encourage you to keep reading.

The idea of self-improvement and the publication of self-improvement resources have been around since the Ancient Egyptians. Today it is a $1 billion industry, which some say is fueled by the fact that life does not come with an owner’s manual.  Many people seek out ways to learn more about themselves and others by roaming the aisles of the self-help section of local bookstores. 

This desire to learn more, should be the common denominator that resonates with ECE professionals.   It is easy to become frustrated after implementing a new strategy and not getting the prefect life results we were seeking. 
As a member of the early care and education community, being a life-long learner is vital to your success. If you can look at self-improvement through this lens, it may become more palatable. For those of you who enjoy self-improvement practices, please keep in mind that self-improvement does not mean self-perfection.

Self-improvement is the act of continuing to seek out new information, thinking critically about how it relates to our lives, incorporating the pieces that serve us, and leaving the rest behind. When we approach self-improvement in this manner, we are more likely to be balanced, confident, and ready to support the children in our care.

Think about it.  If you are unhappy with an element of your life, you likely carry that with you into other areas of your life, including the workplace.  Children feel the stress that adults carry around with them. In addition, when you are not your finest, most-fulfilled self, you are probably not in the best frame of mind to respond to the needs of others – most notably – the children in your care. 

With this in mind, here are a few ideas that you may find helpful in your self-improvement (lifelong learning) practice that can impact your work with children: 

Organize:  Find new ways to organize materials, your environment, and your time. De-clutter your counters, closets, car, and computer files.

De-stress: Identify ways that help you release the stress that you carry. Some people take walks, others lift weights or do yoga.  Some play with a pet while others listen to music. There are so many ways to relieve stress. Do some research and find the strategies that work for you.

Take a class: Professional learning is always encouraged, but personal learning is also important. Learn more about making jewelry, cooking, painting, gardening, self-defense, or other topic that piques your curiosity. 
 
Engage: Research shows the importance of connection between human beings.  Find organizations or causes that resonate with you and get involved. Participate in events at a place of worship, volunteer at an animal shelter, seek activism opportunities, or contribute to a community garden or event planning committee.

Diversify: Variety is the spice of life! If you normally read mystery novels, try Sci-fi or a biography. Read different magazines, listen to a new pod-cast, watch a different news channel.  Make it a point to expose yourself to a variety of information and viewpoints… not necessarily to change your mind… but to build your capacity for compassion and understanding of other perspectives. 
 
Commit: Yes, September is Self-Improvement Month. It’s a great time to start the process of self-improvement that should continue throughout the year.  Start a journal, photo gallery, or other form of documentation.  Keep it updated throughout the year and next September look back on how much you have learned! 

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