A Break to Ponder

The life of a teacher requires a big investment in the well-being of others. As a teacher, my drive to and from school every day was filled with scenes from the school day and thoughts about whether my students were truly learning. As those concerns grow throughout the year, they could crowd out some brain space. Evening appointments might get missed, and the big picture of what really matters in the classroom might get overlooked.

I was always incredibly thankful, then, for the winter break. It allowed me to engage in a process I too often neglected: pondering.

To me, pondering is a practice of deep thinking. It is not necessarily strategic or goal-oriented. It requires us to, for a time, neglect some of the pressing responsibilities that cause us to lose focus. During that time, our minds orient around a purpose—individual to every one of us—that connects our head to our heart.

No matter your career title, pondering is an essential task. You can’t serve others without first serving yourself. Every culture and successful organization I can think of has some form of pondering built into their personal development. I consider that a good sign of its power.

Here are my favorite questions to ponder during a break:

What’s my contribution?

What story am I meant to tell?

How will I become the best at making that contribution?

Whom will I touch? How will I know it mattered?

What is most worthy of doing when everything seems important?

What will my impact be? How will the world be changed because of my presence in it?

What do I need to practice tomorrow to ensure that my time here is well spent?

Bring these questions into the foreground over the next week. All the details that you worry about during a regular week—put them in the background. The details always become clear once the deeper questions get answered.