By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

I love the New Year celebration. I adore the holiday more than Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday or any other celebration. I see it as holding the most potential for renewal and a re-molding of who I am- toward who I want to be. It is the time of year I most hold myself accountable. The time of year I am most reflective. The New Year holiday most simply stated is a time of revaluing myself, my goals, and my dreams.  It is when I admit my mistakes, forgive myself and then focus forward. It is a time when I tell myself, “Sherry– do not mourn yesterday’s mistakes and shortcomings, rather focus forward. Think about what you have left to do and how you will be better as you do it. Predict your future by inventing it as you focus forward on your mission.” 

Focus Forward
In my professional and personal life enemy #1 is distraction. I find that cares and anxieties are huge distractions. Especially powerful are emotional distractions that come from either being offended too easily or genuine offenses, the kind that wipe me out for a day or two. Both kinds of distractions are lethal to keeping my focus and accomplishing what I have set my heart to do that day. Electronic distractions in the form of legitimate phone calls, Skype calls, emails, and not so legitimate winks from Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter all steal valuable time that should be spent working on my purpose– at least as I understand it now.

This year I am going to commit strong to not losing my focus so easily to distractions. I have come to the revelation that inner peace and joy are paramount to reaching my goals. Distractions are peace destroyers. This year I am going to get fierce about protecting my peace. I am going to set clear boundaries or fences and when folks cross them I will act calmly but firmly. If I place myself in a circumstance that is robbing my peace- I am pledging that I will remove myself. Let 2013 be the year of focus and inner peace.

I have also decided that worrying about or focusing on idle talk or negative thoughts about politics, the failing of education, the devaluing of the  teaching profession, or others in my sphere of influence  is useless. Anger about things I can’t control (such as testing or the economy) is wasted time spent. It is a distraction. I want to discuss diverse ideas openly and fully, as all educators should, but with people who understand civility, respect, and how to disagree without being disagreeable. Truth, I think, is powerful enough that it becomes self evident if people dialog while honoring and respecting the others views.

This year I am going to take the energy I normally spend focused on what is wrong and funnel it in the direction of making things right. Innovation, building trust through relationships,  modeling and other proactive, appreciative efforts will get my fervor and attention.

People Before Things
I also am going to revisit my priorities. Business isn’t first and the work isn’t first — God needs to be first. When I put my focus on doing the work rather than relationships (the outcomes and values of the work) I am missing the mark. My goal is to leave education better than I found it. To operate in such a way that I spend whatever intelligence, creativity, hospitality I have on making the world a better place for children. That is my calling and my focus. I commit to putting people before payroll, people before email, people (including myself) before the bottom line. I will seek balance and moderation in all things. And I will downsize the “stuff” by asking myself, “Are you using this material thing to bless others?” Does this possession add beauty and peace to your life?” Anything that doesn’t make the cut has to go. I want to have a steward rather than owner mentality of things I have in my possession.

This year, more than in the past, I am committing to excellence in all things. I want to get compromise out of my work mentality. You know, the human tendency to do just enough to be acceptable at work. The justifications we make for doing a little less than our best. I want to continually exceed expectation. In every situation I want to give my best. I want to stretch myself and leave everything better than I found it. This year I am going to ask myself, “How excellent do you want to be Sherry? Are you willing to go all the way? Are you willing to be 100% committed to your cause?”

Just think of how amazing education would be if every one of us gave 100% every day. Whether we realize it or not, our impact — our results in the classroom, at school, at work and at home — is directly tied to the level of  effort we are willing to give. Excellence as a mindset is one of my priority focus points this year.

I am determined to influence the world this year rather than be  influenced by it. 

My plan of excellence includes:

  • keeping my word
  • keeping my mind and spirit free of resentment
  • making a conscious effort to defuse strife  (keeping my peace and joy at all costs)
  • being polite and kind to everyone but especially to those with whom I am most familiar (family and colleagues)
  • to let go of the belief that I am not worthy and to help others see their worth
  • to say “no” more often so that I can be more generous with my giving to those most deserving
  • to let go of the idea that there is not enough time (as we make time for what we value)
  • to surround myself with beauty and use my creative talents more often
  • to listen more and help others find their voice
  • to operate in faith, let go of negativity and unbelief, to concentrate on that which is good, pure and holy
  • to honor my passion and help others find and honor their passion.
So how about you? What are you committing to this year? What changes are you going to make as you reflect deeply about your own practice? I’d love for you to share your commitments below. Let’s support and hold each other accountable.

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14 Responses to “New Year: Focus Forward (Personal Plans for the New Year)”

  1. Tony Baldasaro December 31, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Sheryl, I really appreciate your idea of using “commitment” not “resolutions”. Each year at this time I do like you, reflect and evaluate my prior year and generate hope for the coming year. Further, I do a really good job of making resolutions. Alas, I struggle to maintain them. Perhaps thinking of re-commitments will lead me more toward self-improvement.

    I also have to say that my favorite line is this: “It is when I admit my mistakes, forgive myself and then focus forward” I do not forgive myself enough for my failings, instead I worry more about making the same mistakes moving forward. That’s a shift I am excited to explore.

    Thanks for continuing to inspire me.

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach January 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      I think I commit to mindsets, dispositions, and values. I am resolute to work toward my goals. Each year, and this use to be a family event, I sit down and look back over last year’s goals and make new ones or become more resolute in achieving ones in the past.

      Obviously, when you see a goal not reached year after year there has to be forgiveness.

      Thanks Tony for your friendship. I look forward to a great 2013 for us both.

  2. Amber January 1, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    I’m liking this post. Clearing clutter, setting boundaries, moving on- all good things.

    “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.” -Lao Tzu

  3. Kay Bisaillon January 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm #


    Like you, I LOVE New Year’s resolutions- mine & others. I am always a bit confused when others say, “I don’t make any”. For me, it is any opportunity to reflect, analyze and commit to what is working in my life. To make my life and those I love and hold dear, a better place. Why wouldn’t I use this gift of a fresh start to think and reflect?

    Many of your commitments spoke to my heart:
    -Reminding yourself that you are worthy of your own time, energy, and focus

    -Staying committed to focusing on the positive instead of weighing ourselves down with the negative

    -Honoring your passion and helping others find theirs

    -Owning the fact we make time for those things that are important to us-we do have time, if we want it!

    A few days ago, I made a promise to myself that in the coming year, I would focus on two things this year-

    1-Staying present in the moment and stop allowing myself to get overwhelmed with tomorrow, next week, next month. Enjoy the now. Take each day, slow down and enjoy it.

    2-Cherish the love in my life. Truly cherish the love I am blessed to feel from family and friends. Stop looking at my phone, or iPad and let those around me know how much I feel blessed to have them in my life. People are more important than things. “Love the one you are with” as I use to tell my teenage children when I would encourage them to put away their phones!

    Thank you for sharing your renewed commitment to yourself, your passion and your profession. I look forward to 2013 and all it will bring!

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach January 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Lifting a glass in agreement to you Kay. Here is to accepting our calling and staying focus forward.

  4. Cathy Beach January 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Wow. Just wow. You are amazing, and I am so happy to know you and have your influence in my universe.

  5. Sheri Edwards January 2, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    Thanks for the inspiration to help start the new year. Balance. Focus.

    It helped me focus:
    A New Year Forward

  6. Lindy January 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Thank you, Sheryl, for sharing your commitments so beautifully and boldly.
    Before getting out of bed this morning, I framed a similar blogpost in way of my morning gratitude (isn’t it funny how prayers can turn into a blog post, into sharing and discussion…) Many of my own thoughts were brilliantly worded by you and shared in your post. :)

    When we align our personal lives it is echoes in all other areas- personal lives, our professional work, and in a global sense. Making “resolutions” may seem hokey to some, but if everyone made this regular commitment to better oneself, it’s true, the possibilities are truly limitless!

    • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach January 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      I really identify with this.. “(isn’t it funny how prayers can turn into a blog post, into sharing and discussion)”

      I believe all truth is God’s truth. I do not see secular truth and Faith based truth. I see truth. That is why when I read scripture It immediately carries over to learning.

      Thanks for commenting.


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    [...] Nussbaum-Beach described her New Year’s commitments and challenged the rest of us to do the same. As always, she makes a powerful statement and I found [...]

  2. A New Year Forward « What Else? 1DR - January 2, 2013

    [...] Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach reminded me in her reflective New Year’s post  to ”admit my mistakes, forgive myself and then focus forward.” Her goal is “I am determined to influence the world this year rather than be influenced by it. ” That correlates to Amada’s reflection: we as teachers need to stay focused on what counts — our students, no matter the issues, especially the negative ones, around us. [...]