This time last year .. I felt absolutely awful.
I was teaching at a school in ‘challenging circumstances’ and feeling the pressure of a life spent focusing on the myriad of improvements we were directed to make.
OFSTED (the UK school inspectorate) had failed our school in every category, and as an ICT teacher teaching Geography, I felt under particular pressure.
Student behaviour was off-the-chart-awful in most of my classes, and teaching staff were being blamed for everything.
I was already dreading an observation booked for the first week back after Christmas (with one of my worst classes) ..
.. I had a week of ‘holiday marking’ to do - and a growing list of non-negotiable BS I had to add into my lessons to be judged 'satisfactory' by school management.
I felt absolutely exhausted - and I hated my working life.
I was beginning to hate being me too.
Had I been 10 years younger I might have just carried on, but there is something about realising your 50th birthday is approaching that sharpens the mind!
So I made a crazy decision.
I would hand in my notice of resignation, on my very first day back in January.
I didn’t know what job I would do instead - but I knew I couldn’t continue to teach there any more.
The job was turning me into an angry man, full of frustration at the impossible job I was being asked to do.
And I was arriving back home after work with nothing left to give my own little girl.
I left my teaching job a few months later in April 2019 - and I am much happier for it.
This all started with a plan - and 3 simple questions.
What Have I Done Since Leaving my Classroom Job?
Since leaving my classroom job I have rediscovered who I am - and what I am here for.
I have had time to focus on the value I can bring the world.
I have discovered that I can use my skills differently and still teach, without the many compromises of working in the school system.
I have written about the things which inspire me, created learning resources to help other people learn the things I know ..
.. and I have met people who genuinely need my help - and felt the satisfaction of being able to help them.
This has reawakened the passion I have for learning and helping others to develop themselves.
Professionally I feel more connected to my purpose and more satisfied with who I am, than I ever did working in the classroom.
The world we live in now offers opportunities that simply didn’t exist when I started teaching. The Information Age has spawned an explosion of interest in self-development courses, events and training.
I have found that my classroom skills make me uniquely qualified to create these experiences.
I explain more about how I use my existing classroom skills online, in a video series I created .. you can watch this by clicking here.
But the Biggest Benefits of Leaving my Classroom Job have Been Personal ..
Instead of being forced to put my job first 24/7, I have had the chance to spend time on me and my family.
I have been able to prioritise my most important job - being a father to my 5 year old daughter Josie.
My daughter is at least a year ahead of her peers in her reading, because I read with her regularly.
I walk her to school, I go to all her concerts and performances - and we go on adventures together!
As a result she now knows who her daddy is. I don't believe she did before.
I have realised that I don’t need a huge salary to live a happy life .. and that the value of my time is worth so much more.
In the last 12 months I have also studied Buddhism, learned different ways to meditate, realised my relationship was broken and had the time to fix it ..
.. and I have had the opportunity to look after my own mental and physical health.
My family have all eaten healthy home-cooked food, instead of having to grab whatever is quick or available.
I have perfected a range of healthy new dishes - including a drop dead gorgeous slow cooked beef curry.
And I have exercised every day and lost over 28 pounds in unwanted weight.
I simply did not have the time to do these things while teaching - the unrealistic workload of my job always had to come first.
It is wrong that as teachers we are expected to focus so exclusively on the demands of our classroom jobs - and that our own health, dreams and families - are fitted in as an afterthought.
This was not what I signed up for when I joined the profession 20 years ago.
After almost 20 years of putting my students and my job before everything else in my life - it is refreshing to have the time to give myself and my daughter the same love and attention.
A year on, I don’t pretend to have all the answers.
But I sit here proud that I am putting the things I know are most important in life first.
I am so much happier with my choices.
And I no longer feel guilty about the job I am doing as a father.
Key to the Changes I Have Made in my Life Were Answering 3 Simple Questions ..
In order to get to where I am, I had to dig deep - and ask 3 big questions.
I want to share these with you in advance of your upcoming holidays, in the hope that they help you as much as they helped me.
After all, as we approach the turn of a new decade, what better time is there to decide where you want to go in the future?
So let's kick off with the biggest of them all ..
1. What is Your Purpose in Life?
You are here to do more than simply exist or survive.
- So what are you REALLY here for?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
- What would you like to achieve the most?
This isn’t your job.
It isn't given to you by someone else - and it doesn't just happen by accident.
You can decide - so why not decide something exciting?
Something that makes you smile uncontrollably when you think of it. Something so inspiring that other people will raise their eyebrows with surprise ...
“I didn’t know you had it in you” .. they will say.
Because whether you live your life intentionally or not - you create your future by what you do each day.
I was drifting through each week of my life, fighting daily fires at work - unaware that I was creating my legacy by accident.
So if you don’t like your life - if you're not happy with how you feel, or the priorities thrust upon you professionally .. then decide what you want instead.
Do some blue sky thinking .. and set some goals which give you the chance to live a happier existence.
Decide what you want your purpose to be.
What would you be doing with your time in an ideal world?
What might you have been born to do?
Forget what is possible for a moment. Suspend the doubts you have which have created your life as it is today ..
.. and dream big dreams.
You deserve it.
Spend some time brainstorming options, and reawaken the young person inside you who believed they could change the world.
The alternative is to press pause on your dreams permanently and accept your current situation as your end game.
I didn't want that for myself this time last year - and I don't think you do either.
When you have reconnected with what would make you truly happy .. start thinking about travelling the journey towards your goals, with question 2.
2. What Changes Could you Make to Bring you Closer to your Purpose?
How might your begin to travel the journey towards where you want to be?
Most people start a new year with some kind of new intention or goal - but these often only tweak around the edges rather than profoundly change peoples' lives.
By answering question 1 first, you have a BIG dream to achieve with the changes you make in 2020.
You have given yourself a POINT to making New Year Resolutions!
This fact will mean you are truly invested in the changes you decide to make.
It will mean that you have a reason for each and every one of them.
- So what would you like to achieve this year, which will build towards achieving your purpose?
- What small steps could you plan, to start to travel the exciting journey ahead?
- What changes would make you feel more connected to who you really are?
- And what is getting in the way of achieving your purpose?
Start making some decisions about what you will do differently next year.
Every great journey begins with some simple steps - what are yours?
This is where most people stop - and concentrate on implementing the changes they want to see ..
.. and this is the biggest reason most resolutions (or changes people try and make) fail.
The missing piece is Question 3 ..
3. Who do You Need to Become to Achieve The Changes you Want to Make?
Too often when we decide to improve our circumstances or make a change in our lives, we focus on practicalities first:
.. like changes we can make to the way we spend our time .. or the physical things we want to achieve and the milestones which will tell us that we have made progress.
These things matter - but real change doesn’t start with these things.
It begins internally.
Because with all the focus in the world - if you approach your new year with the same ingredients you went into this one with ..
.. don’t be surprised if you repeat the same mistakes - meet the same obstacles .. and feel the same frustrations.
Like making improvements to a good beef curry - the ingredients and cooking method need to change to get a different result.
So who do you need to become to achieve the things you want for yourself?
- What skills do you lack?
- What qualities do you need to nurture?
- What do you need to learn?
- How might you develop yourself to give yourself a better chance of success?
- Do you need to be better connected?
- Do you need to find new friendship groups?
- Are you spending time on the things which will change your circumstances?
- Are your priorities mixed up?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- Is your outlook on life and the world helping you - or holding you back?
- Do you need two mend yourself before you can make the journey ahead?
- What information might help you?
- What research could you do into the options available to you?
- How might your finances be rearranged to give you different options?
- Where can you save money?
- What are your relationships like with those closest to you? .. Are there changes which need to be made to give you the chance to grow?
- If someone else was looking at your situation - what would they suggest? .. Are there elements of what they see which could help you change your outlook?
The internal change which made the biggest difference for me was meditation.
It changed how I reacted to difficulties and problems in my life - and gave me the mental space to make different choices.
If this is something you feel would benefit you, I have a starter guide for teachers available free by clicking here.
Make no mistake, who we are underneath produces the conditions which determine if we succeed or fail in making positive changes in our lives.
Like the climate a plant grows in, we either provide the perfect growing conditions - or we make growth very unlikely.
If you start to see your life as a plant or flower which needs the right conditions to grow to its full potential ..
.. which elements are you missing?
Love Yourself Enough to Ask These 3 Questions Over your Holiday ..
If you want a different lifestyle to the one you have now, or if you are unhappy with the balance in your life ..
.. take some time to ask these 3 questions of yourself in advance of the New Year.
And rather than rushing the traditional sticking-plaster New Years resolutions - think more deeply about what would make you feel truly happy and fulfilled.
Big change doesn’t happen because you decide to change the small things.
It occurs as a result of changing the foundations you build on.
And the magical thing about taking time out to ask these bigger questions .. is that it refocuses you internally on what really matters.
You start seeing the world differently - recognising the possibilities open to you .. and seeing the choices you have more clearly.
Spend some time showing yourself the love you give others.
You are worth it.
(and you are not alone)