September is designated as self-improvement month. How will you improve this month? This article explores taking smaller daily action in your school counseling program instead of trying to make giant, immediate changes.

Do you get frustrated at the pace of change in school? Doesn’t it seem like the most basic changes in education can take months (and even years)? I think about the contrast to a workplace like Facebook, where one software engineer can change a line of code and instantly effect billions of people. In minutes.

Then I think about a struggling fourth grader. It can take months to get all the right people in place, write an individual plan and get approval from a team of teachers, parents and administrators. It can take weeks, and even months, to implement change, for one student. I wish we could change things as quickly as writing a line of code.

What I realized (after years) as a school counselor: I couldn’t change things overnight. At least not always. It took years to implement a comprehensive school counseling program that reflected my goals. It took years to put courses and programs into place to better serve students. Slowly, over time, I built my program into what I wanted it to be.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” Bill Gates

As much as I like instant gratification, I’ve found comfort in the sage advice of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race. I also thought about the idea of looking at my life in the span of several years instead of just one year. Which brought about the idea of thinking about life over a thousand days.

There’s something comforting about one thousand. You may recall the Japanese legend of a thousand origami cranes bringing about good luck. We celebrate the passing of 1,000 years. A thousand has a lucky, expansive feel.

A thousand days is about two years and eight months. If you are reading this in the fall of 2017, a thousand days into the future is about graduation time for the class of 2020. What could you accomplish in that time? Where were you a thousand days ago? How has your life changed since then?

So, putting my fantasy aside of writing a line of code and instantly changing the lives of students, I’m embracing consistent, incremental steps each day.

What could you do by investing just minutes of your day over a thousand days?

  • Reading 15 pages a day would equate to about 50 books.
  • Writing 750 words a day is the equivalent of writing five novels.
  • Writing 550 words a day equals the length of War and Peace.
  • Choosing tap water over a soda a day could save $500 to $1,000 (or more).
  • Spending 15 minutes a day walking covers roughly 1,000 miles (1600 km).
  • Cutting out the average of 20 minutes a day on Facebook would equate to 40 work days. That is 8 solid weeks. Mind-boggling!

Instead of trying to sprint through each day (and I know it’s hard to avoid that sometimes), think about setting a consistent pace. Imagine your school counseling program 1,000 days into the future. What curriculum could you implement? How could you advance your education? How will your students change in that time?

Here’s a self-improvement challenge for you: write a description of your school counseling program 1,000 days from now. Be very specific and focused on what you want to do. Instead of having a mindset of making it happen quickly, slow down and spend time getting the pieces into place. Be deliberate and mindful of what you want to do and, most important, why you want to do it.

Keep in mind it isn’t about perfection and getting everything exactly right. It’s important to keep moving ahead. The key is finding a balance between getting overwhelmed or discouraged from not getting things in place quickly enough to being stuck in a cycle of overthinking every step. 

How could your life change in the next thousand days? What do you imagine doing with your school counseling program? Will you be able to say ‘no’ to distractions? Share your thoughts in the comments below.  

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