Did you ever really surprise yourself?

This summer Kari did. She did it by water skiing 70 days in a row!

She didn’t originally plan to go for 70 days.
In fact she still has a hard time believing she did it.

If you had said to her in July, “Kari, you should ski 70 days in a row,” she’d have laughed. She’d have told you that it was impossible. She’d surely have pointed out to you a dozen reasons why she just couldn’t do it.

She started out with the goal of pushing herself to ski 7 consecutive days. And although, from this vantage point seven seems fairly humble, when she began, seven seemed plenty big, and plenty ambitious.

And, once she’d made those first seven days, she didn’t say to herself, “Oh, I guess now I’ll try for 70 consecutive days.”  Instead she said something like. . .
“I guess if I can do 7 then I can probably do 10.”
And when she got to 10, she thought to herself, “I can surely do 14.”
And then, “If I’ve done 14, 21 seems within reach.”
And then, “Having done 21, 30 seems like the next logical step.”
And before she knew it she was at 50, 60, and 70!

So, what does Kari’s 70 day streak have to do with early literacy instruction, anyway?

Actually, a lot! Any transformational change involves developing new habits. If you are trying to habituate a new practice, we offer these five ideas that can help.

  1. Start small. But start. Believe us, we know about a million techniques for putting things off. But we only know one way to get started. Decide you are going to do something and start! Do the best you can. Don’t overthink it. You can learn and adjust as you go.
  2. Tell people who care about you what you’re up to. They’ll want to cheer you on and check in on your progress. Who knows? You may even inspire a few of them to join you, or to initiate brave actions of their own. Doing hard things is hard! We all need people who will cheer us on, remind us of our bravery, and hold us accountable with love.
  3. Quit waiting for the conditions to be just right. Get in the water and see what you can do. Some days will be cloudy, some windy, some rainy, some truly cold. Some all four! Show up for yourself come rain or shine. Because the more time you spend in less than perfect conditions, the more prepared you’ll be to really rock it when the sun does shine and the water is truly glassy and smooth.
  4. Expect to feel empowered. Expect to feel a little extra bounce in your step, just knowing that you’re doing what you’re doing. Expect to feel your confidence grow. Expect to feel your stamina, your strength and muscle memory expand. Expect the new commitment to become a part of who you are. Because if you let it, it will.
  5. Celebrate progress. Make some tally marks or checkmarks on a calendar. Celebrate every milestone …. 1 day, 7 days, 10 days, 15 days, 3 weeks . . . each milestone you reach sets up to reach just a tiny bit farther. Celebrate the effortless success of the easiest days. But also the feeblest attempts of the hardest days. Most of all, celebrate the times you go crashing down and find the courage to get back up and try again. You are a badass, afterall.

It’s fall in Minnesota, now. It’s time to take the boat out of the water for the year. Yesterday, Kari’s ski streak came to a natural end.

But you can be sure she’s already scheming about spring . . . wondering how early she’ll dare to brave that icy MN lake water to get an early start on a new streak?

In the meantime, though, it’s time for her to zoom in on a new commitment. To decide how she might intentionally stretch herself, next? What new skills she might be ready to learn? What old habits she might be ready to replace? What changes she wants to make . . .

How about you?

Whether it’s a commitment to stronger relationships, healthier habits, or a more effective professional practice, what important commitment are you ready to make?

Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading Into the Balanced Literacy Classroom is written to inspire you and support making adjustments, establish new habits, and build your strength and stamina for the kinds of science-aligned practices that will make learning to read easier, not harder for the children you serve.

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