I absolutely love lists. I love to-do lists, to-read lists, to-dream lists. There is something particularly appealing about “bucket lists.” They have a meaningful excitement to them that reminds us that time is finite. Because the summer months are especially fleeting, I write a bucket list every year for my family. I post it right on my fridge on Memorial Day.
Lists like this help us focus on the things that matter. For my family, it’s watching sunsets and staying up late to see rocket launches. Camping in our backyard, spontaneous road trips, and lots of ice cream and sushi. Any list-lover will tell you that time is everything—use it wisely.
Right now, summer stretches before you in all of its finite glory. And if you haven’t read Kylene Beers’ beautiful letter to teachers to go ahead and embrace their truest self this summer, then read that first. It’s healing.
Then, recharge your momentum and find your hidden leader in the next two months. There is nothing extraordinary on this list. I have found that the most meaningful experiences challenge and teach us in the simplest of ways.
1. Choose to be imperfect.
If you toss and turn at night, replaying conversations and wishing you could redo a part of your day, then you will be pleasantly surprised to know that you are not alone. Even the most confident leaders fear they said or did the wrong thing.
When you fall short this summer, acknowledge the discomfort, and move on. Embrace imperfection by fully accepting your story reel each day, bloopers and all. Don’t waste time trying to edit your mistakes; more forward instead. Start by saying to yourself, “That didn’t go as planned. Let’s see what happens next.”
2. Focus on joy.
There is just not enough of this. Take time this summer to find out what exactly brings you joy—and what takes it away.
3. Get strategic about something you care about.
There is never going to be a perfect time to take action. Start now. Choose one goal that is deeply important to you and set a plan. Truly commit by asking these two critical questions:
- Why do I want this?
- What is the very first thing I have to do to get there?
Read to reset your compass. Books remind us what matters. Start with our summer book list or revisit an old favorite that inspires you just by running your fingers over the worn binding.
Rediscover picture books to gain new perspective on leadership and the kind of leader you want to be. Read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. Learn what it means to truly embrace imperfection from Molly Lou Melon: a clumsy, buck-toothed, bullied child who doesn’t let anyone shake her belief in herself.
5. Do one thing that scares you.
Do you have a chicken list? Move at least one thing from that list to your summer bucket agenda. In Beers’ letter to teachers, she tells us to “Find something you can’t do and try. Try and fail. And remember how that feels.”
The other important thing about failing is that you create stories in the process. Leaders need stories, more than anything, to convince others that they have been where others have been. Experience struggle this summer, and be ready to share what it feels like when you are encouraging others to jump into the arena.
6. Find a new way to manage stress.
It’s impossible to tackle the biggest challenges when stress takes over. Take time this summer to really notice how you respond to stress and make a point to change your reaction. Resolve to keep this in place beyond the summer. Don’t allow “feeling stressed” to become your normal.
7. Write another bucket list for the upcoming year.
The interesting thing about bucket lists is that it’s not really about what’s on the paper. It’s the idea of looking forward. The compelling reason to get up and lead, even when you feel uninspired or when making progress seems daunting. As you prepare for a new school year, go beyond your usual to-do, to-make, and to-plan lists. Write one more list. Because what you are really writing is your story. Make the chapters matter.
Comment and tell us what is on your own summer bucket list. How will you find your hidden leader this summer?
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