When You Cannot Run… Walk: 10 Principles for Getting On Track

There is no case of my sore feet that Sarah ca...Image by colorblindPICASO via Flickr
I love running, this new sport that I started a little over a year a go. And now that I'm doing Weight Watchers, the weight is coming off.

But the Monday of preplanning I sat in a really old decrepit chair and although I've been running 12 – 15 miles a week all summer, it was the doggone chair that wrenched my knee! So, I've been trying to run and sometimes walking being very careful to let my knee heal.

The pivotal choice
Today, I set my Nike+ on my ipod for a 5K. I like to run at least 1 5K a week, but it just wasn't happening. I stretched, walked, and ran for about 10 steps and said to myself:

“I can either run on this knee today and perhaps damage it for the rest of my life, or continue to let this thing rest and have some hope of healing.”

So, I didn't give up but instead walked the 5K. It was hugely frustrating because I'm used to running. The track went by slowly but I did get to see some of the most amazing cloud formations I've seen in a long time. I still sweated and although it took twice as long, I did burn quite a few calories and felt better. I told Kip that if he'd stick it out, I wanted to meet my goal, no matter how long it took.

If I had my choice, I'd rather be running, but sometimes there is no choice – it is walk or nothing.

Or Nothing
You see, this is life. Many of us get used to a fast pace. But sometimes, age or circumstances get to us and the very best we can do is slower than we've done in the past.  It may be that we need to heal from emotional scars or just that we cannot go as fast as we used to. 

On Track Principle #1: Keep Going.
To look in the face of slowing down is OK. It is not, however, OK to quit. Not when we still have race left in us. When we still have things to contribute and do, we cannot just do nothing.

Run the Race. Walk the Race. Stay on the Track.
Sometimes we have to stay the course. We are in a tough school where we feel called to be but the principal is always critical. Or we've got big budget cuts and the largest class we've ever taught and a new curriculum to teach.  Or, we just didn't get enough rest over the summer because of family issues we had to attend to — or whatever.

We all have excuses. I have them too.

Do we know our goal? Are we willing to stay on track and stay the course? Will we remain faithful amidst the excuses.

Perhaps those of you who are used to my technology-rich posts may have tired of the reflective, “keep going” nature of my free writing, but that is just where I am.

It is 1:18 am in the morning and I'm about to go to bed. I've tried to pay bills with more month than money and tried to catch up on email. We're working on kicking off Flat Classroom projects and making sure we've got all of the applications in and have another six chapters to finish up by November 1st as well as several keynotes coming up in October and December.

I am probably going to be grading at 5 am but this week was a 60 hour week for me in terms of school and I just don't have anything else left.

Accepting Responsibility
However, I have to realize this. When I hopelessly whine, complain, and mope without working on a plan, I am behaving like a victim. In reality, my life as it is this moment is a result of my habits, actions, decisions, and behaviors up until this point.

On Track Principle #2: Accept Responsibility
If I want to improve things then I must begin by accepting responsibility for who I am and where I am. I must set my goals and see that I am on track. Then, I must begin. I must run or walk or crawl or skate or whatever will take me in the direction of the goals for my life.

Be Solution Oriented
I blogged this weekend about the Pareto Principle, and it is amazing how sometimes tackling a problem can lead to the easiest solutions. For example, the dishes! We cannot keep up with them, however, when I realized that the biggest problem is that we don't know when the items in the dishwasher are clean or dirty, I took a magnet and stuck a paper on the front. One side says Clean (Unload me) and the other says Dirty (Load me) and I flip it depending on what is in there. Then, I can in a glance see where I am. Such a little thing made all the difference in the world!

On Track Principle #3: Seek Solutions
I digressed to make this point: someone in this world has experienced the same problem(s) you are experiencing. You can back up and take a look at the situation and learn from those who have made it through before you. Sometimes it isn't in a book but in the mind of a respected mentor. But it is there somewhere.

Your Life. Your Choice.
Things are tough all over. If they are great for you, then enjoy it! But if they are not, then take a hard look at yourself. It is times like these we HAVE to make time to plan. We have to make our list. We have to set our goals. We have to take a look at the things not adding value to our lives and say “no.”
Go ahead, I dare you. Right now, close the door, and practice saying it… “No!”  Say it again, “No!” Now, you have proven your ability to physically say the word “No.” Realize that if you say “yes” to everything then you are making yourself into a liar. No human being can do it all. You have to select. No one is going to live this life for you — most people just don't care. If they can get you do to their work for them, doggone it, they certainly will.
On Track Principle #4: Know that you need to say “No” Sometimes
Be kind, but be firm on this. Sometimes you have to say no because it doesn't fit with your purpose in life. It doesn't fit with who you want to be. Sometimes relationships are killing you and things you're doing just aren't working any more. And if you don't say “No” to something in your life currently, you cannot make room for that “Yes” you might need to say.
Your Body. Your Mind. Your Emotions.
As Ken Medina shares in Brain Rules, your mind is part of your body. Exercise is important. If you are not taking care of your body, eating well, getting rest (OK, I'm going to bed SOON!), exercising, and being emotionally healthy, you are not going to make good decisions. If you are under stress it is even more important to put these things in your day.
I know that those perpetually happy skinny people with boundless energy make so many of us sick, but you know what — BE THAT PERSON. Why not?  I read the book Finally Thin by Kim Bensen and realized that if she could lose 200 pounds, by golly I could lose 50.  I've got an amazing support group of women at the Weight Watchers class in Camilla and we laugh and have a great time.
On Track Principle #5: Take Care of Your Body
Your body is YOU! It is a beautiful, wonderful organism but it is not possible to have a perfectly functioning brain and a flabby, unrested, unkempt body. We don't work that way. Start small. You can do it.
 Look at your Schedule
In Focal Point and several of the other books I read this summer, I was challenged to write my ideal schedule and I've written it. I follow it religiously each morning. We become a product of our habits! It is unfair to expect ourselves to do everything when we get home from work in the evening. Get up early! Look at the things that need to happen and schedule them.
On Track Principle #6: Write Your Dream Schedule
Take time to write down your ideal schedule in the morning, afternoon, the week. Look at your goals and write down what needs to happen daily. If you've got too much, pare down. What would you leave out that is currently in? (See #4 and practice if you need to.)

Be Realistic.
You cannot do it all. Be fair with yourself! I use Kip as a sounding board and ask him if an expectation I have of myself is fair and he'll tell me “Vicki, you're not being fair to yourself, in fact, you're being ridiculous.”
we need to know what we can realistically do and make DECISIONS. You are in control of your life. Make decisions. Don't be a victim, be a victor. Be decisive.
On Track Principle #7: Prioritize
The Franklin Covey system has you write, A, B, C for the importance with A's the things you HAVE to do today, B's less, and C's optional with D's being items to delegate. Well not all of us can delegate, but we can all set priorities and order. 
Contextualize to help you Prioritize
My  list is traditionally 100-150 things A DAY. Again, total lack of reality there. I've gone to a system that is working very well. I keep pretty much everything in Toodledo as a capture, but for planning, I have a small dated calendar in my pocketbook that is my family list. My items for the kids were getting lost and not done and the MOST important thing is for Kip and the kids to know I love them. This notebook is THEIR notebook. If the kids need something it goes on the list. I have all of the days on two pages and only family items and appointments go in this calendar including my “shuttle schedule.” 
I take this calendar to work, home, everywhere and I open it continually. This one habit has helped me put my family as my highest priority because I can clearly see what I need to do for them and I get it done!! They are important.
I have a list for school – classroom work, I use Fogbugz for technical support issues, and have a very large weekly planner at home for Flat Classroom – again, all of these show a week on 2 pages so I can see it all and are really for to do items, as I have my calendar on Google Calendar. So, I have 3 contextual lists: family, school, Flat Classroom/ cool cat teacher.  I have a chore list by the phone that we all do in my family. 
I have found that extracting these lists from one another has helped me function and focus.
On Track Principle #8: Contextualize and Compartmentalize
Put systems in place that help you clearly see what you should be working on at that moment. If your list is consistently more than 30 items, breaking it down is going to be important. Make it easier to split work and home and focus on the items that you need to do for each. Reading Getting Things Done is a good start on understanding this, but I found that the list of 100's of items was demoralizing me. This is much more manageable.

Pay Attention
Focus. Ever see a Dad driving down the road eating a burger while talking on his cell phone with three kids in the back set? Ever been that Dad or Mom? Do you want to know why we eat so much – perhaps it is because we inhale our food and don't enjoy it! We don't give our tummies time to be full!  

Sometimes it is great to turn off the music and focus on that one thing that you should be doing at that moment. Sometimes music can help one focus and tune out distractions but sometimes not. Who says the TV has to be on all the time? This morning I was up before 6 am on this Sunday and just read my Bible and planned my day and took a look at the items that I'm struggling with (like dishes) to determine what would help improve the situation. No TV, just peace and quiet.

On Track Principle #9: Focus
When you have something important to do, turn everything off and tune in to that one task. Work uninterrupted or listen uninterrupted but focus on that one thing. Your highest priorities deserve your highest attention.

Watch Out!
Some things are permanent. Knee damage, that is permanent. As I'm finishing up this blog post, a HUGE, I mean HUGE spider just crawled up beside me. He flew and I flew and am now completely across the room keeping eye out for him. He was probably a house spider but happened to be as BIG AS MY HAND, but the point is that there are things in life that are dangerous. You can do irreparable harm to yourself if you ignore the signs of stroke. There are times in life you cannot turn back.
On Track Principle #10: Beware of Habits that Cause Permanent Damage
I have had to be realistic with myself. My overeating was causing unhealthy eating in my whole family. It is time for the cycle to stop. Heart conditions run in my family as does diabetes and cancer. I may still face those things, but I will know that I did everything I could to listen to the wake up call of my own health. Family relationships, health, emotional health, these are things that are permanent.Legacy. Pay attention to them.
Well, I'm heading to bed before old Spider -zilla finds me on this side of the room. Yes, this is yet another reflective meaning of life type post, but hey, if you check the technology news post coming up in a few hours, I think you'll find some great technology items in there!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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William Hushburn August 23, 2010 - 9:32 am

i couldn’t agree more! have everything slowly but surely. The principles are great and indeed true. Having it applied in our lives would be the most awesome thing to do.

Tracy August 23, 2010 - 10:26 am

My latest mantra is ‘day by day’. There are a few things I’d like to get to right now in my life and oh how liberating it is to keep those things in sight but slow down to enjoy the getting there.

Lara Savory August 23, 2010 - 10:29 am

Thanks – I needed to read this this morning. A break from tech is never a bad idea – keep it coming!

Jeanne Simpson August 23, 2010 - 11:42 am

Wonderful post! I have been running too, and I love it! Keep up the great work!

Michelle Vitt August 23, 2010 - 12:15 pm

Thank you. Today is the first day of teacher workshops for me and I needed this more than anyone will know. Here’s the wonderful part, I just subscribed to your blog this weekend.

Mr Hoffmann August 23, 2010 - 12:07 pm

GREAT ARTICLE! We are working with ING to put on a running program for middle school students that begins in September. A number of the things you said in this article will be helpful as we encourage students over the 10 week (3 times a week) running program.

Hope the knee heals up!

Roger Neilson August 23, 2010 - 7:39 pm

Excellent post thank you.

coolcatteacher September 25, 2010 - 11:53 am

Thank you! Good luck! I appreciate every single person who subscribes to my blog!

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere