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The True Gifts: What Do You Really Want? - December 2023

Updated: Jun 4

As we navigate the final weeks of term towards the yearned-for Christmas break, there's a fundamental question that we rarely give deep thought: What do we really want?

In education, we can often turn our attention to the big systemic issues which are, in the main, beyond our immediate control: OFSTED reform, increased funding, easier recruitment, accessible external services, and so on.

If we turn our attention inward for a moment, we can gain a lot from considerations which are more directly within our circle of influence.

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” – Dolly Parton

If you could choose one deeply personal gift that would transform your day-to-day experience, what would it be?

Here are some examples which, through our years of coaching school leaders, we know are common drivers of enhanced fulfilment and wellbeing:

  • Clarity of your Contribution: Knowing exactly what is expected of you, being an action-taker with clearly defined goals, and collaborating with a supportive team and efficient systems can turn each workday into a series of accomplishments.

  • Learning and Development: The gift of continuous learning and development is a key driver of both personal and organisational progress. Imagine having a self-driven development plan which not only broadens your skill set but also ensures that your thirst for new knowledge and understanding is satisfied.

  • Career Progression: Receiving recognition of your individual skills, strengths and potential can be extremely rewarding. Moreover, the opportunity of making an impact through your work in a wider or more meaningful context is transformative, creating a sense of contribution that transcends the daily grind.

  • Stress Management: Personal strategies for managing stress significantly impact your wellbeing at work as you navigate the challenges of your job with a calm and collected mindset. The ability to effectively manage stress contributes not only to your own mental health but also to a harmonious work environment.

  • Life Balance: Finding a balance between work and life is a gift that many seek, allowing you to excel in your professional life while maintaining a happy and healthy personal life.

  • Intrinsic Motivation: Loving your job is a valuable gift in itself, turning tasks into opportunities for fulfillment. Identify the aspects of your role that motivate you (research shows even if it’s just 20% of your work time) to stay energised and engaged.

  • Shared Values: Feeling aligned to the values of your school or trust can be a transformative gift. When you and your colleagues consistently embody shared expectations of each others’ attitudes, behaviours and decision-making principles, the aligned approach fosters a sense of unity and psychological safety.

  • Purpose: Imagine waking up every morning with a vivid sense of your life purpose, eager to embark on a day at work that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Challenges become seen as obstacles to overcome on a meaningful journey, rather than causes of angst or negative thinking.

As you consider which of these gifts would make the most positive difference to your performance and wellbeing at work, we invite you to take 3 minutes to complete our coaching quiz

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change” – Eckart Tolle

By asking ourselves the right questions, we all have the power to transform this wish list into a version of reality:

  • What do I really want to be different about my day-to-day experience at work?

  • How would my perfect week at work look different from my current reality?

  • What steps can I realistically take to move closer to this goal?

Let's make a conscious effort to select for ourselves the gifts of greatest value to us. By using the holiday to acknowledge their importance, we can return in January with a clear understanding of what we truly need. Armed with this insight, we can proactively exercise our sense of agency to prioritise these areas, sustaining our personal wellbeing and professional development throughout this school year, and beyond.


Leadership Edge is a growing team of experienced school leaders who have seen person-centred coaching create high-performing, happy and healthy cultures within our schools. Our mission is to empower other school leaders to create positive workplaces where staff are solution-focused and actively responsible for their own personal wellbeing and professional development.

Our 3-Tier Coaching Accreditation Programme is low-cost and self-sustaining, providing a systematic and structured model for staff across your school to become powerful coaches for each other, enhancing colleague relationships and their feeling of being valued as an individual within a supportive school community.

Connect with us: Twitter/X @EdgeSchools | Linked In: Leadership Edge – Coaching in Schools

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