Sunday, June 16, 2019

Focusing Your Vision with Style

Image by John Hain from Pixabay 
This year, I was introduced to an amazing book called Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy.  I learned about the book from a podcast I listen to and decided to buy it because I was looking for some ways to simplify areas of my life. The idea behind the book intrigued me. Basically, the authors give you a series of thought exercises to work through to reflect on different areas of your life. After doing the exercises, you look for patterns and whittle your reflections down to 2 words that sum up your style statement. The first word represents 80% of your style (think big furniture or basic wardrobe) and the other word represents 20% (think artwork or accessories). Now the book goes into all aspects of life including learning, home, fashion, relationships and more.  In the end, your 2 words should reflect you and how you approach all areas of your life.  It’s kind of like the #oneword idea for New Year’s resolutions.  The key to the book is that you want your style statement to represent who you are authentically-not what you want others to think you are.  Once you figure out your two words, you can use them to guide choices that are more aligned with your true values.

Anyway, I spent about a month going through the exercises and narrowing my style down to 2 words: timeless playful.  Those were not the words I would have predicted at the beginning of that journey. I wanted them to be statements like sophisticated bold or classic edgy, but that’s not what came to the surface through the exercises. Words like order, calm, comfort, peace, and open bubbled up in my positive reflections; whereas words such as chaos, bother, closed, and trapped were repeated in my more negative reflections. After realizing my two words, I started taking stock to see if they matched my life.  My clothes are mostly classic designs that don’t go out of style, but I like putting them in unique color combinations or playing with patterns.  My house is filled with furniture that will last and can withstand trends, but we have funky wallpaper and big, bold artwork on our walls.  My marriage is consistent, strong, and relaxing, but we love the adventure of travel and to laugh...a lot. So, timeless playful actually summed up most of my lifeSTYLE. Now...and thanks to Marie Kondo...those things that don’t fit are thanked and tossed. These words have started to drive most of my purchasing decisions, too. It’s made life much more simple and focused.

So, this summer, I’ve decided to play with this concept and how it might apply in education--teaching, coaching, leadership.  If you want to try, I’ve created my own modified version of Style Statement exercises you can do.

To get started, here are some questions to consider. I encourage you to write your reflections on paper so that you can see patterns that may emerge:

What works for you:

  • If you did not have to worry about test scores, what would you do in your classroom, school, or position?
  • You are at your professional best when you….
  • How would your best students, co-workers, and/or employees describe you?
  • Who are some of your professional mentors? What about them would you like to emulate?
  • What professional books, podcasts, Twitter chats, trainings, etc. have had the most impact on your work? In what ways?
  • The best part of being an educator is…
  • The best part of your job is…

What does not work well:

  • What does a bad day look like for you?
  • What aspects of your job are most irritating? Why?
  • How would you describe someone who is difficult to work with?
  • What was your worst experience as a student?
  • What was your worst experience as an employee? What made it a negative experience?
  • How would your most difficult students, co-workers, and/or employees describe you?
  • What are the 3 biggest things you would change about education? 

After you have written your thoughts, go through and circle words, concepts, or feelings that tend to repeat or that seem interesting to you. Choose 5 of these words that resonate most strongly with you and write them down (List A). Take a thesaurus and look for synonyms of the words and make a new list that includes all of the synonyms.  Choose 5 of the synonyms that resonate most strongly (List B).  Now using List A and List B, cross off any words that seem too dramatic or that just don’t feel quite right.  From the remaining words, play with some combinations that might represent your education style statement.

So, what did you create? What is your coaching style statement? Your teaching style statement? Your school culture style statement? Was what bubbled to the surface what you wanted it to be. What does the statement reflect?  Does it reflect what you truly believe? If not, what can you do to change it?

I hope this gives you some food for thought as you rejuvenate this summer and look toward the coming year.  Use this to help guide how you want to approach your work and the people that you encounter.

I’d love to hear some of your statements!