New year. Time to reflect on what we did, and what we can do. It’s also time to define our priorities and review our goals.
I was talking to my sister, who’s a clinical psychologist, about goals and how to reach them. She said we may get anxious or lost sometimes when we have a goal or a project that requires a lot of work because we’re looking at the bigger picture. She added that our first reaction is to feel overwhelmed and even doubt our ideas and ourselves, and this is because we only focus on the final results we’re hoping to get.
It’s like this big mountain below. We want to climb it, to conquer it, but it looks absolutely daunting at first.
What do we do then?
She said we should break that major goal into smaller goals, so then each time we conquer one, we’ll feel good about ourselves which in turn will motivate us to go on to the next one.
Looking back to 2019, it didn’t seem like I had done much for my career, but when I went over the pictures on my phone, I was actually surprised! I didn’t plan much for what I saw in those pictures, I have to say. Opportunities came up and I took them. Then I wondered… If I were able to do all that without a well-thought-out road map to guide me, imagine what I can accomplish if I do have a plan?
My advice to you, dear reader, is to carefully think about what you want to achieve. Look back at what you’ve done so far. See what needs to be improved, changed, or left behind. (Yes, sometimes we must give something up and move on). Write down all that you want to conquer this year. Set that aside and start breaking up your goals into smaller, more tangible ones.
For instance, say you want to read more this year. (I do). You already have lots of books that you haven’t opened, and you’re overwhelmed because you’ll need to read some titles for work, while others are on your not-so-important list, but you bought them because you liked the author or the topic. (You know how that goes). Now, you ask yourself, what do I need to do to be able to read more? You can start by setting a time to read and silence your phone and notifications. You can also read what you like first, and ditch the books you’re not enjoying and don’t need. Sell or donate them. They’re just taking up space and collecting dust on your shelves. Now that ultimate goal is getting more realistic and attainable. (These ideas about reading more I found here)
I have to say I’m not great at this. I’m used to just going with the flow. What I can tell you is that this is not a good way to get what you really want. We waste time and energy. I now realize that. So, if you’re up for it, join me this year in this new challenge: planning and taking one bite at a time. If you’re already doing it, though, it’d be great to hear your thoughts and ideas.
One of the things that kept me from blogging for years was fear of exposure. Once your words are out anyone can hear them. Some ears will be kind but others won’t, and that’s OK.
I also used to ask myself these questions: What am I going to write about? There are so many blogs about teaching, ELT and freelancing, already.
There is another version of that. When there was an ELT event approaching, and colleagues asked me if I would submit a proposal, that same inner voice would strike again: What am I going to talk about? Who will want to listen to me? Or, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? Etc.
Have you had these thoughts? Have you heard other teachers say that?
This way of thinking can be more harmful than it might seem. When we ask these questions, we are usually comparing ourselves with other people. What we fail to realize is that we each have a voice and our own experience to share. When we teach a lesson, it’s never the same no matter how many times we do it over. So, why would that be different than when we write from our perspective or give a talk?
When someone writes about a topic, or gives a lecture, they’ll bring into light not only the theoretical aspects about it but also their unique view on that subject. We each experience teaching differently. Some made that a career choice before College, while others embraced it later in life after graduating in a different field, such as myself. For this and many other intrinsic reasons, we will have different stories to tell.
Your story, impressions and views on a subject will be yoursonly.
Don’t wait any longer. Get ready!
Here’s a list of pros to give you that push so you can start writing and submittingproposals to that conference, or event you may be shying away from:
The world can benefit from your knowledge. You may say: Oh, but that has been said many times! Maybe, but has it been said by you? Your way, from your perspective? What if you see it through an angle that no one has seen before? How can you know it if you don’t try? It’s like the saying goes, you’re failing before even trying!
Promote your business or services to a broader audience. If you hide, who will know about you besides those close to you, your friends and family? You can potentially reach anyone on the planet who sees your website, blog or hear you at a conference, webinar, etc.
Advance in your career. By writing or participating in events as a speaker, you will be taking your teaching career to another level. The good news is that you can find support from experienced teachers to assist you with all the steps from writing your proposal to preparing your first presentation. Check with the event’s organizers.
Let me share something with you. I gave my first talk in 2017. Yes, last year! Here’s the opening slide that started it all.
I had total support from experienced colleagues from BrELT who organized this wonderful event called BrELT on the Road bringing together teachers who only met online on Facebook to a live event held in Rio de Janeiro.
I was a first time speaker, so I was helped during the entire process. From writing the proposal, to rehearsing my presentation and getting a personal call from Bruno Andrade, the Group’s founder himself who watched my talk and offered me his feedback! How wonderful was that!? In the end I felt energized, happy and accomplished. Some of the teachers who attended my session were beginners, but some were experienced as well. They came to me after the presentation and asked me questions. It felt great! And to think that I almost didn’t do it because, oh well, what could I possibly say that someone hadn’t said before?
My advice? Choose a topic with which you’re familiar. Something you know very well, and have tested again and again. It’ll give you the confidence you need.
By sharing what we know, we can help other people avoid making the same mistakes we made. We can also shed new light onto an old issue.
OK, we all know that sunny days won’t last forever. Some clouds will move in eventually. There will be rainy days. It’s just part of life. In order to succeed as a writer and speaker, you will need to hone your skills like any other professional, but you’ll also need to work on your emotional intelligence. With exposure, comes constructive as well as destructive criticism. There are all kinds of people out there reading what we write and watching us. That shouldn’t stop us. If you receive destructive criticism, it should serve as fuel to make you write even more! If that happens to you, don’t get bothered with that. Carry on!
Constructive feedback on the other hand is great and should be welcome! It’ll make you a better teacher, writer, lecturer and so on.
We should think the same way when we get to a position when we can offer feedback. First of all, we must ask ourselves, was it solicited? We shouldn’t assume the other person wants our feedback! Instead, we can reach them via inbox if we really mean to help. Remember the feedback I received after my first talk? My colleague contacted me in private and asked me if I wanted his feedback. That’s the way to do it.
I’ll leave you with a picture from my first talk, and it would make me really happy to hear that you have taken the first step to write, or to submit a proposal. I will be giving my 2nd talk this July at BRAZ-TESOL International Conference in Caxias do Sul, Brazil. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had the support of friends and colleagues to have my proposal accepted yet again. I took the first step, but I also asked for help. Don’t be shy. This is my advice. Teachers are generous. Ask and you shall receive!