Life after 50,  Motivation

Who Have You Decided to Be?

I breathed a sigh of relief one spring when I found my teaching assignment would mirror the year that was coming to a close. That last day of classes when I said good-bye to my sophomores, I smiled knowing that the two most difficult students in my classes that year would not find their way into my room the next year.

The joke, however, was on me. As a person who could teach a variety of electives and all four levels of English, I was usually the one who found a change in teaching assignments over the summer. When I entered my building that August to prepare my room for the year, I indeed found a change of teaching assignment notification in my mailbox. I would now be teaching junior and senior level English courses in addition to the two electives for which I had written the curriculum. I knew there would be no confronting the principal or the counselors about this because the junior and senior level courses were, more than likely, overflow sections, but I felt that my summer had been wasted. I had read for personal enjoyment instead of preparation for teaching.

It wasn’t until the first of two teacher institute days that the potential horror for the year loomed in front of me. Yup, you guessed it. The two young men I had been glad to see pass Sophomore English and walk out my classroom were again on my class list. Another year with these two teenagers; another nine months which equals another 172 class days. I was not sure I would survive managing their behavior and attitude.

My only hope was that they might have grown up over the summer.

I took a chance the first day of school that year; I began, more than ever before, by believing that the past school year was non-existent, that I would not judge any of my students by previous events, or by what other teachers had told me; and I began believing that each student was walking into my classroom a changed individual.

“Happy New Year,” I greeted my students in each class. “It’s a new school year, right? You are not sophomores (or juniors) anymore, you are juniors (or seniors). This is your chance for a new beginning. A chance to apply yourself and do your best. A chance to set some new goals for yourself and to set your sights on attaining those goals. A chance for you to decide what you want to get out of this school year.”

The change was not easy for the students or myself, but it was a change worth the effort. By the night of parent-teacher conferences in October, I was happy to report to the parents of the two “potential horrors” that their child was a pleasure to have in class and was doing quite well. In fact, they had become model students.

Was it my decision to really look at them in a different light? (I had always tried to let students start the year fresh, but sometimes it wasn’t easy.) Was it their decision to change? Was their decision to change supported by the idea that I was willing to forget what had happened in the past?

I will never know whether these two young men had decided to change over the summer, whether something had happened that summer that prompted their change, or whether it was the fact that I was willing to forget; but I do know it had to be a conscious effort on both our parts.

Have you ever given yourself a chance for a new beginning, to make some positive choices as to the person you really want to be?

About nine months ago, my step-daughter and her sister conference-called my husband and me. My step-daughter had been through an extremely horrific break-up with her fiancée and no longer wanted to live where she was currently residing. “Instead of coming down for a two-week visit, can you (Daddy) come pick up me and my stuff (in New York) and can I come down to Tennessee to live with you and get a fresh start on life?”

My husband and I had been empty-nesters for more than five years. Now, we were going to have one of our kids return to the “nest” at age 29. With no money to her name because she hadn’t had a job in over two years, debt from college tuition, no driver’s license, and unknown life skills, she moved into our guest room and “enrolled” into our “Life 101: How to Live and Survive on Your Own” – a two-year course.

She has made a conscious decision to change who she is and her life. After nine months, she has gained some confidence, learned a lot about living and living as a family, and learned a great deal about herself. She still has a long way to go, but I do believe that she will succeed.

Ok, so what about you. When did you last take a long look at yourself in the mirror? Did you like the person you saw?

No, I’m not asking if you like your hair, your makeup, your smile, your clothes, or your weight.

I’m asking you if, deep down, you like the person you are. I’m asking you if you are working toward the goals you have set for yourself. I’m asking if those goals you have set are the ones you are really passionate about. I’m asking if you are living life with passion and purpose. I’m asking you if you are really the person you want to be.

Change comes with the desire to change.

It begins with reflection: a look at the past week, month, year, or even several years. (In January when I was the monthly motivator for one of my writing groups, I wrote (on my author blog) about the need for reflection in an article “Reflection Before Resolution” and about the idea of resolutions in “Resolution – or Something Else”)

You see, you can’t change where you’ve been or what you’ve been through – all of those things have helped to make you who you are today.

Ok. So there are some things that you want to change. It begins with looking ahead at where you want to be in the next month, six months, year, or maybe even five years, ten years, or even fifteen years.

Some changes will take you less time than you plan, but some changes will take you more time than you thought they would.


  1. Take time to reflect on who you are.

Do you like who you really are as a person? Are you aware of life as you ride the Earth around the sun? Do you want to make some changes in your life, and if so why do you want/need to make a change?

If there is something you want to improve upon in your life, it should be your decision. It is so much easier to change something about yourself when you see something you don’t like about yourself than it is to change because someone tells you to change or because of some big event and you want others to notice that you’ve changed.

  1. Deciding to improve upon your changes in your life requires a deep desire / passion that takes over on the days you feel that the changes aren’t worth the effort.

The easiest way to look at this is if you want to lead a healthier life. There will be days that the junk food beckons you to just have a taste or that the couch sucks you in and doesn’t let you go to the gym for that 30 minutes on the treadmill. With desire and passion on your side, it is easier to silence the junk food and escape the couch.

  1. Start small.

Any journey that is worth your time starts with the first step.

As I am working on simplifying my clutter or cleaning my house, many times I need to begin with five. Just pick up five items and put them away or throw them away. When I look at the disaster in my garage, I usually get overwhelmed, turn around, and close the door.

When you begin big, it is easy to get discouraged about your tasks, but when you start with a single step, it is easy to add a second step the next day and become victorious.

  1. Make a commitment to the change(s) you want to make.

Without commitment, you can get derailed. It’s easier to let your guard down for a day and revert to old behaviors, and then the next day determine that the changes you decided to make weren’t all that important. Commitment lets you say, “Ok, I tripped up, but today is a new day. Time to get back on track.”

  1. Remember that change requires courage.

There are people that will attempt to derail you and tell you that you are being fake when you decide to make a change. It takes great courage to be true to your decisions.

I had a student one year who was admitted to an inpatient rehab facility for drug addiction. When she returned to school, her friends pushed her to return to her previous behavior. She came to my room one day almost in tears. One of her “friends” had passed her a bag of “weed” in the hall. She didn’t want it but didn’t know what to do. I told her she needed to go to the administration and let them know what was going on. She agreed and mustered up the courage to stand up for the changes she had decided to make in her life.

  1. Enlist support from a friend or family member.

When you have made a decision to make changes in your life, a decision to live with passion / purpose, a decision to improve yourself, it can help to find a friend or family member who you can confide in – someone who can be your support system when things seem to overwhelm you – someone who can hold you accountable.

  1. Working to make changes in your life and in who you are takes energy.

Change takes energy. When I decide to change something about myself or in my life, there are many days where I crawl into bed exhausted. Remember to get enough relaxation time and enough sleep.

What changes have you ever decided to make in your life?

Thanks for reading.


As you move through your day-to-day activities and responsibilities, please remember to

Live Life –

Keep Things Simple –

Look for the Positive –



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