Welcome back my beautiful, wonderful, amazing, incredible teacher friend. Hey, Toni here. So glad to be back with you for part two of our burnout busters series on how to find your why. If you’re enjoying this series or anything that I share, consider sharing it with a friend. Give a friend some hope, some encouragement. And oh boy, would I be so grateful.
Last week, we got clear on what burnout was and what it felt like. I gave you two anchor thoughts to use this year to help you overcome it. I hope you’ll go back if you haven’t checked it out, because it might help you realize you have a problem that you hadn’t noticed. Sometimes burnout can sneak right in and overcome our thoughts like this horrible leech that just sucks the joy out a little bit at a time. And finding an anchor, whether you’re burned out or not, is so helpful. So make sure you hop back to LAST WEEK.
Today, I’m going to give you a powerful tool that can help you combat burnout. There are lots of strategies and processes out there that can help you prevent and overcome that feeling of overwhelm, but this tool may very well outshine them all.
And that is why I use this in my step by step process to manifest joy. That’s a module that I teach inside of Joyful Teacher Academy (you can sign up right there for notifications when it’s ready and *hint hint* it’s soon!!). That is a digital online training and community for teachers just like you and believe it or not, that will soon be open for you. So I just want to put a little bug in your ear that this content is derived, not complete, but derived from Joyful Teacher Academy.
Why You Need to Find Your Why
So today, I’m going to give you what you need to know about how to find your purpose, find your why, behind teaching.
When you identify your why and become really clear about it, you can use it to beat burnout, and to keep on keeping on in a joyful, meaningful way. I’m going to share with you my why for being here, and just a spoiler alert, that comes with a deep secret that I’ve never shared here. And hardly anyone knows about me outside of my immediate family. So if you want to hear a juicy secret that I’m really nervous to tell you, but may help you connect with your why too, then hang around to the very end.
My goal is to help you understand how this can work for you and give you energy and passion even in the hardest times of your career. So sweet teacher, let’s dig in and find your why. Simon Sinek says, “The why is the purpose, cause, or belief that drives every one of us.”
Beat Burnout With Your Purpose
So if you joined in last time, we talked about jet engine burnout and how when they run out of fuel they cut off immediately. Your why, your purpose, is the fuel, my friend. And the thing about purpose is we all have one, but we sometimes aren’t clear about it. Or maybe sometimes we’ve just forgotten about it.
It’s sort of like a dirty Barbie doll my girls found buried in the yard last summer. We had a little flower bed that we had planted things in, but that never grew. So yeah, I don’t have a green thumb. My girls started using that little dirt pit to play in and bury things in, and it was so much fun.
So time passes. And this last summer, they found this little dirty Barbie doll. They were so excited because they had completely forgotten about it. It was like buried treasure to them. They soaked it in the sink and took a brush and scrubbed it clean, and it was not exactly new, but it was just perfect for them.
Sometimes your purpose, your why, is just like that dirty Barbie. At some point it got buried. And maybe you weren’t the one that dug the hole, but it got buried under overwhelm, exhaustion, too many things to do on the to do list, and you forgot about it.
My challenge to you today, teacher, is to dig out that little Barbie doll. Dig out your purpose and find your why.
So let’s do it. Let’s clean it up and reconnect with it. Let’s pinpoint why you became a teacher and why you’re still here. Or maybe why you should go back if you currently are taking a break, which I know many of you are.
Find Your Why, Find a Tool
I want you to commit to me that you’re going to write this down. Writing things down makes them more significant to our brain. Then, I want you to put it in a strategic place so you’ll run into it often. You can hang it in your classroom above your computer, put it on the front of your planner, or set it as a lock screen on your phone.
With purpose comes direction and focus and meaning. So use this to guide you on good days and bad days and completely burned out days, to drown out the negativity and the overwhelm. This is a tool to use. What I tell my kids in the classroom is a hammer won’t drive a nail until you pick it up and put it into motion. So use your hammer, use your why, to fight the hard times.
So what is your why? We are going to turn this into a statement, a reminder that you can use again and again.
And to help you figure out yours, I’m going to give you a few questions that can help you pinpoint your purpose for becoming a teacher or remaining a teacher. Now your why can change through the years. Our purpose changes as our life and our directions change. So here are some questions that can help you find your why.
Find Your Why – What brings you energy?
What brings you energy in the classroom? Also known as passion. And I know it is a dramatic word. But at its core passion is actually very simple. It’s just energy. It is a physical feeling of expansion or excitement.
So what part of this career gives you energy? Be specific. You can use this sentence frame if you want. In the classroom, I feel energy when _____. It can be a specific moment like, I feel energy when a student realizes they’re capable of hard things, or I feel energy when I’m reading a story out loud to my class, or I feel energy when my students are all engaged and following directions.
Oh boy, does that make me feel passionate. So think about when you feel that physical energy, that passion. This can help you figure out your why.
Find Your Why – Where do you have the greatest impact?
Question number two is, What do I do that has the greatest impact? So this one is a little bit trickier because we don’t give ourselves much credit. You know that we humans have an innate need to feel validated and useful to others around us. Although your purpose is for you, it can help you to realize your value to others.
To help you get started, you can fill in the blank. My greatest impact comes from my ability to _____. Is it your ability to help students work through phonics skills that turn them into readers? To help parents feel connected with their students at school, even though they’re never there? Tto uplift that little learner in your class who has a disability who you see a bright future for, even though others around you may not?
Where does your greatest impact come from? That can help you create your why.
Find Your Why – What do you want your eulogy to say?
And finally, teacher, this can be the most powerful of all. What would I want my eulogy to say? I know this is an awkward one. But I realized the impact it could have. So I wanted to share it with you.
As a mother of four small kids it is unbearable for me to think about ever leaving this world. But one day, my eulogy will be written. What do I want it to depict about my life? As a teacher? I want it to show my purpose. Of course, I want it to reflect my why.
What would you want your eulogy to say? How do you want to be remembered as an educator?
Wow, can that really bring some clarity around why you do what you do. This will show what you want your life’s work to result in. And it can be so powerful.
Tips to Write Your Why
So take these three questions. What brings you energy? Where is your greatest impact? And what would you want your eulogy to say? Condense all of that down and create your why.
So just a few tips. You want to make it short. You want to make it memorable. And I would highly recommend adding some sort of kinesthetic aspect to it, maybe touching your fingers down as you say it. Having that physical aspect of touch can really anchor you down in hard times as well.
So write down your why. If you want some accountability, email it to me at toni @ teachertoni.com. I’m actually working to create a collection of teacher why’s to inspire other teachers. I would love to include yours. Email it to me if you wouldn’t mind me including it there. I can leave your name out; I want it to be anonymous.
My Why is Deeply Rooted
And now I’m going to share my why for being here with you. So you can use this as an example and really understand how to put drive and meaning behind what you’re doing in the classroom. When I asked myself why I work so hard to serve teachers, whether through coaching, which takes up a lot of my extra time, or creating this blog and podcast that I do on the weekends, or designing resources for teachers, or just being a positive encouraging co worker.
My purpose, my why for doing all those things is deeply rooted, and when I meditate on it, it truly swells up deep emotions for me. This is what I want your why to do for you. So make sure you put in some emotion and thoughtfulness to make it truly meaningful.
So the secret that I’ve been keeping from you, from my career, and even from many people who know me personally, is that I’m not going to be able to remain in this profession much longer.
I will, within the next decade, lose my ability to teach. My secret is one I’ve hidden for quite some time, but it’s slowly becoming harder and harder to hide.
It Started With a Visual Disability
What you may not know about me is that I have a visual disability. I was born, and continue to be, legally blind. I have a degenerative eye disease called RP, retinitis pigmentosa. I’ve known about it my whole life, but I’ve fought against it. In the last few years, it has become more and more prevalent in my everyday life. After seeing a specialist this last year, I learned that most teachers with this disease start feeling uncomfortable and leaving the profession at around age 40.
So yeah, I’m 32 years old, and more than anything, I would love to stay in the classroom until the moment that I can retire. But I face the demon that says Toni, you’re not going to be physically able to remain in the profession that you love. It hurt me so deeply, I cannot even describe to you how hard it was to hear that. And to realize in my everyday struggles that it’s true.
I Chose Not to Let Disability Overcome Possibility
But here’s the thing. I do not let that ruin me. And I use that to drive me forward in helping you. You know I love you, you know that I support you, but you just might not understand the why behind it. But the purpose that keeps me working on these projects and moving forward with what, to most people, I know seems like extra work, a little hobby, or maybe unnecessary is that this may be my last avenue for impacting children.
I go to my classroom every day excited and grateful because I know I won’t get to do this forever. It’s just a season of my life, a wonderful magical season, but all seasons come to an end. And that is why I show up here for you, to encourage and remind you that your purpose is irreplaceable. It’s noble, and it’s absolutely vital to children.
As a child who grew up with this disability, I could have easily fallen through the cracks. But loving, passionate teachers just like you encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Many people let disability overcome their possibility.
Here’s My Why
So here it is, my why. My reason for being here for you is that I want to uplift and encourage teachers so they can inspire children in the way that I was inspired. I want to give teachers hope, joy, and sustainability to keep going in the way that I wish I could.
That hits my heart, but it keeps me moving forward, and I love it. I hope your purpose, the one that you create, can do the very same for you, my friend. Those emotions are powerful, and I use them to move forward. And that is all that I want for you.
Another burnout buster next week!
I really hope that you will continue in this series with me. Next week, I’m going to give you something even more powerful. It’s the magic pill that can absolutely cure burnout and I cannot wait to tell you about it and to show you the opportunities that lie ahead.
So please join me next week in our last episode of the Burnout Buster series. I am so happy and grateful for you sweet teacher. I hope you have the most incredible week ever, because you don’t deserve anything less. But as always, until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.