Mindful beginnings


Starting a blog is hardly a major life- changing event like starting a graduate degree, getting married or forging a new career path.  It’s just a blog entry. So why have I perseverated about this entry  for over a year now?  With every solo run and quiet moment to myself I have wondered what I would say. What is the “theme?”   Do I need a theme? How long does each entry need to be? What if I don’t have anything profound to say? Is saying something profound important? Do I speak as an  “educational leader”  or just as Nadine:  eldest daughter to Susan and Wayne, sister to Sandy, wife to Bill, auntie to Sara and Ben, “dog-mom” to Demi and Pico, and a friend to many amazing people in my life. These are the roles that I am the most proud to hold in my life.  I am also a leader.  I love my job as a principal, and yet that is secondary to my health and wellness which necessitates quality time with my family and friends. This has been the single most important lesson for me the past year as a new principal. Practising mindfulness and extending that learning to my school and community has brought me to this place- that of a mindful beginning.

My commitment to begin this reflective journey started when I was first placed as a principal  in August 2014. I wanted to capture both my insights and my struggles in the hopes that I would deepen my learning to become a better leader.  Perhaps it isn’t frightening for everyone,  but undertaking a blog has forced me to reflect on a few of my less -desirable personal attributes.  Number one: I tend to overanalyze situations. God forbid I have missed some detail that will make all the difference moving forward. Honestly- it doesn’t matter that much, Nadine. Be thoughtful, take into consideration the best you know and accept that not every decision will be the best. It might not be perfect; get over it!  This tendency speaks directly to my nemisis perfectionism- coined by my husband (one of my most important mentors) as “the enemy of good enough.”  Another of my mentors, Brene Brown, in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, claims that the definition of perfectionism is the most requested definition on her blog site. This has been reassuring for me and has helped me to find the courage to be vulnerable in sharing my personal struggle.  I have learned the counter to perfectionism is self compassion (yes- even when it takes you a year to begin your blog!)  Self compassion has three key elements; self- kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. I  sometimes feel overly versed in the area of common humanity due in large part to my life experiences.  I have plenty of work to do in the area of self kindness, but I have been intentionally developing my skills in the area of mindfulness. I have been practising strategies for mindfulness in my own life and working to extend this learning within my school and community.

A key aspect of mindfulness is the daily practise of gratitude. This has become a prevailing theme in my life.  I am learning how to stop and practise gratitude especially when things in my life go sideways.  I literally stop and say to myself- ok, Naughton- _______has happened but what is right with the situation?  The human brains natural tendency to  gravitate to the negative predisposes us to over- identify with or exaggerate negative feelings (Brown, 2010.) The practise of gratitude grounds me in celebrating all the good in my life. The good is always present even when life hands out the raw deals.

From a school-wide perspective,  we created a gratitude wreath together as a staff. That wreath has now become an interactive bulletin board in our hallway. In one classroom we are beginning to play with gratitude journals to help our students learn to reflect and be positively  mindful because no matter how hard things get- there is always something for which we can be grateful. I also love my GratOodle- a simple but ingenious tool for taking stock of  each and every thing for which you are grateful. I put this on my desk for the really challenging days  (Twitter GratOodle-LUs!)  I also gift GratOodles to support others in their own journeys.

So there it is- my first blog post and I’m exhausted. It has taken me too long to write because I have overanalyzed each paragraph.  I am also a bit worried about it being imperfect in form and style,  but most of all I am proud of myself for completing it.  For me it is about small steps daily. And so I continue from this place of a mindful beginning.