In my time as the director of both preschool and after school programs, I had a fantastic experience. However, during those years, I had some tough seasons as well.
I still remember when I felt like I was untouchable, our center was growing rapidly, and my team working together like a well-oiled machine.
I also remember seasons where it seemed like I couldn't catch a break. I experienced severe turnover internally, parents were upset at my decisions, and things seemed to be out of control.
No matter what role you play at your center or where you work, you've likely experienced something similar to this. Things don't always go your way, and sometimes the circumstances of life can be so overwhelming that you don't know where to turn. We all have ups and downs, and it is how we deal with these obstacles that mark us as leaders at our center and in lives.
Today, I want to share with you how I continued to find my joy even when the seasons at work were really hard. Sometimes the circumstances are out of our hands, but I am here to tell you there is still a way to find peace and joy amongst the chaos.
The first thing I did was reset my goals for both my work and my personal life. Sometimes tough seasons require you to adjust. You likely don't need to focus on long term goals that make you who you are, concentrate more on the daily/weekly goals.
I decided that I was going to focus on what I most wanted to accomplish in a particular season and work towards it. By setting short term goals, I was able to take the focus off my circumstances and focus on something else.
Sample goals for tough seasons:
We all have people in our lives that we have a special connection with, whether it be friends, family, or colleagues. They are people with a positive influence that help build you up, and you are comfortable being around.
Focus on spending more time with these people. If it's a colleague, try to connect for a quick five-minute chat each day. If it's a family member or a friend, contact them to set up a coffee date.
Knowing who these people are there for you is key. Human interaction is essential to our lives, especially in difficult times. Make sure you let them know you value their friendship, and you are there for them as well.
I am personally most satisfied with the big wins, like enrollment growth, successful new hires, adding new classrooms, and starting new centers. But let's be honest, that can't be the reality all the time. Your center won't always be in a growth season.
When things are hard, and you're struggling to find your joy, it's important to appreciate the small things. This could be something like reading through a great lesson plan from a teacher who has been struggling with planning or having a family return to your center who maybe thought the grass was greener on the other side.
A small win will look different for everyone depending on what you value. In these difficult seasons, look for the small wins and celebrate them.
Being grateful is something I find helpful in all seasons of life. Try to create a regular habit of thinking about what you are thankful for, and you may even want to look into starting a gratitude journal.
Being grateful will shift your focus to help you combat stress. When we remind ourselves of what we have and make this a daily habit, we can find a space of joy in our lives.
My last tip on finding your joy is to remember why you do what you do. It can be hard to focus on this every day, but it's still important to remember.
When I was director, I loved coaching teachers and helping them grow. The success of my center wasn't because of me, it was because of the work we did together as a team. I loved being with my team, seeing their gifts, and helping them find new ways to use those gifts at work.
When the seasons were rough, I remind myself of this. I got to coach a team of 56 people, and even though it was a massive responsibility, it was a huge source of joy for me personally.
In the child care industry, we are often understaffed and overworked by dealing with large groups of children daily. The key to finding joy when circumstances are hard is to shift your focus. If you work in the child care industry, this is so important.
I hope you find these tips helpful, and I would love to hear what you do to find your joy again in stressful times as an owner or educator.