New Year's resolutions for 2017 that I think we can all benefit from!
Leave your work at work: In our field, there aren’t clearly delineated boundaries of working hours. We don’t get to work at 9AM, and glide out the door swiftly at 5PM. For most of us, our schedule is much more 6AM-9AM and 3PM-8PM, with some program development and IEPs thrown in between. Whatever you determine your working hours to be, ensure that you don’t let your work seep in to your home life. Set boundaries for yourself, such as turning your email off at 6PM, even if you have session supervision until 7PM. Don’t feel obligated to answer a parent’s call on a Saturday night when you’re out at dinner. Allowing yourself time away from work will make you a stronger BCBA while you’re at work, and will decrease the potential for burnout.
Embrace professional development: It’s easy to let professional development fall by the wayside until those CEUs come creeping up on us for our recertification requirement. It’s also tempting to cram all of the required Continuing Education in at just one or two conferences per year. Let’s make a resolution to pace our professional development over our two-year recertification cycle. Resolve to attend one professional development event per month; whether it’s a journal article review with co-workers, a meeting with your state’s ABA Association, a webinar, or a conference. These check-ins with other professionals will not only reinvigorate your practice, but are part of our ethical obligations as Behavior Analysts
Give back to the new crop of ABA Students: Some of us have been lucky to have had wonderful BCBA mentors along the way. Mine inspired me to stray from my initial path of International Business to pursue Applied Behavior Analysis. If you’re one of the lucky ones, pay it forward by mentoring a Behavior Technician. If you weren’t so lucky, and had to fight your way to the BCBA exam without a helping hand along the way, make the path a little easier for those that follow behind you. This can include providing support and resources as they develop in the field. It can also just be taking them out to lunch and talking about your path to becoming a BCBA. These simple gestures go a long way!
Integrate ABA in your business practices: The principles of ABA are not just for the children, adolescents, and adults we work with. They can, and should, be applied to our business practices as well. Setting clear expectations for staff and providing reinforcement for meeting expectations are an easy place to start. Every business owner, director, and supervisor should invest in Aubrey Daniels’ books on Organization Behavior Management to review the basics of ABA as it applies to your business.
Take a deep breath: The field of Applied Behavior Analysis is not inherently stressful, but many of the clients, families, and professionals that we work with need a lot from us. It can be overwhelming to feel that the success of a child falls solely on your shoulders or that you haven’t provided adequate supervision to a staff member. When you face these overwhelming moments, pause, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you’re only human. Maybe take a moment to remind yourself why you got in to the field in the first place. Think about the support network that you’ve built up along the way and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. One thing I’ve learned over the past 10 years, is that most BCBAs have reached a low point and questioned whether or not they were in the right field. Many of us have had this low point more than once. While recovery from this point required more than a deep breathe, it was an important place to start. Take a big, deep breath at the beginning of 2017 as you set your New Year’s resolutions.