Next Time, Try This

I’m sitting next to a stack of essays, coffee in one hand, pen in the other.  As I read, I celebrate great writing with enthusiastic comments in the margin.  Bravo!  Genius!  Fantastic!

I circle mistakes; usually I find semicolons used improperly, weak verbs, or sentence patterns with no variation.  Immediately, I find myself writing, “Next time, try this,” as I scribble out a plan for their writing improvement.

I realize how discouraging a bad grade feels.  The only thing that soothes sometimes is that plan for “next time.”  These strategies for development keep our focus on growth, not setbacks.

I remember a parenting book that taught me to correct a child’s behavior and say “next time” right away.  “Next time, don’t jump on the furniture,” or “next time, don’t spread the peas all over the kitchen wall.”

It really works.   It’s like a little mantra that reminds us we are all on a journey of growing, of getting it right eventually.  “Next time” invites me to rise up to a challenge, and it keeps me from the despair of failure.

I think of that with my overeating, my fits of dark emotions, my bad choices with my time, my harsh words.  Next time, I’ll change something.  Next time, I’ll grow a little bit more into the woman I want to be.  And the beauty of the “next time” expression is that it starts immediately.  I don’t have to wait till tomorrow or next year. 

When I get it wrong, I think of an immediate plan for development.  We’re moving forward, don’t look back.  Start fresh!  It’s next time right now. 

There’s always another chance to grow.  I want to be as gentle with myself as I am with my children or my students.  If I fail today, I remember that next time, I can try this. 

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Journal:  If I’ve already messed up today, how can “next time” help me?

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