Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

by Stacey Ebert /
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Apr 09, 2024 / 0 comments


“Stay the course. When thwarted try again: harder: smarter. Persevere relentlessly.” - John Wooden

Springtime—a time of renewal, regrowth, and rebuilding. With it often comes a burst of energy. As the tulips unfurl their leaves, so too do humans step out into the sunlight to shed that winter coat and dive into their own reawakening. Like counting the days till the return of pitchers and catchers or spring break, the arrival of baseball’s opening day or that ringing of the last bell marking the holiday’s start sparks a palpable kinetic buzz of energy as we leap into that next season with open arms and a grateful heart. 

Our energy, excitement, and need for rest ebbs and flows like the seasons. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

We do our best to find balance amidst the chaos and ease, the curiosity amidst the grace, the insane frenetic periods amidst the ones that call for rest and recovery, and to get back up when we feel knocked down. Those of us with a long-term goal in mind and those of us who haven’t yet figured out our journey—all of us have the ability to put in the work, take rest when we need (even when it’s not often celebrated), and cultivate a resilient spirit. Still, there are some, who have that one thing: that elusive grit that allows them to do the work even when it’s hard, even when choosing other things might be easier or more preferable, and even when society screams loudly to watch this or buy this or do this thing. 

Whether you’ve got that long-term goal, play host to skilled resilience and adaptability, have that flexible growth mindset, or feel a bit stuck and lost, there’s a way forward toward a brighter day. 

What if we shifted our focus? 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

What if instead of thinking about slogging from Monday to Friday, or making it to the next grade, or just getting through this one exam, we reframed our message and thought about playing the long game? The idea of rest and recovery when needed, do the work even when you don’t want to, learn more, ask for help, change gears if you need, but continue to show up again, and again, and again. 

You in?

How would our educational experience be different if we talked about longevity? What if we shifted our focus to consistency, resilience, long term ability, and our strength to stay the course? 

What if we chose to be guided by the underpinning principles and ethos of Blue Zone centenarians, longevity studies, and the science of happiness? What if we empowered our students to utilize their character strengths, embrace fundamental principles as well as encourage dreaming and future planning, and set out to harness skills to promote the long game with resilience, gratitude, wellbeing, and joy in mind? 

If we could set a framework to encourage and empower humans to seek lifelong learning with a beginner mindset at any age, perhaps we’d reframe the educational story away from a test-centered focus to one of a continued learning journey. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

A powerful life skill is to be where your feet are, to want what you have, to aim for full life satisfaction. That doesn’t mean being happy at every moment every day. That doesn’t mean things will always go your way, or that every try will bring success. 

It does mean that our mindset, resilience, compassion, and vision when tested can find its way back to gratitude, more positive thinking, and embracing the length of a contented journey. It does mean trusting in the neuroplasticity of our brain and feeding it more positive thoughts, behaviors, and growth learning along the way. 

Perhaps sharing those types of mental skills for long term satisfaction with our students will not only couple their rigorous reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic, but provide significant other life skills for a continued path towards life-long success and a satisfied heart. 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

If we encourage our young people to strive for compassion and contentment, build grit and resilience, model paying attention to mindset and intention, attend to dreams and goals, cultivate curiosity and that adaptable spirit, and aim toward happiness for happiness’ sake, perhaps the success, satisfaction, and long-term holistic wellbeing will follow. 

Imagine if the world worked to build better humans for the long haul, the amount of good that could follow. A drive to be in it for the long game, to share that wisdom as wise elders do, to aim for a life well lived—that kind of satisfaction is priceless. 

When we teach our young minds skills for longevity, imagine the change they’ll bring to the world, the stories they’ll tell, the lives they’ll touch.

Imagine the good they’ll do on that journey. 

Like the flowers emerging from their beds of fertile soil, that journey begins today.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

5 Tips to Mindfully Stay the Course

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

One step at a time

“Always play the long game” - Mel Robbins

What are the odds of winning the lottery or securing that elusive start-up IPO? Whether you’re a mathematician or one who struggles with numbers, you know the chances are slim. Yet according to financial consultants and stock wizards like Warren Buffet, playing the long game is another way to win that financial lottery. The difference? It’s not a pick six or blackjack casino win; it’s saving your money, strategizing, having patience, learning, choosing, holding steady amidst the challenges, and allowing that money the necessary time to grow. No slot machine bells, lights, or whistles, rather time, effort, attention, and long-term planning. The story, however, is a metaphor for the long game—not as glitzy as the impulse purchase, but one of forethought, patience, and consistency. 

Consider a sports story. Miracle, the journey of the 1980 winter Olympic USA ice hockey team, reminds us of those slow steps and the constant effort needed. With will, wisdom, and a whistle, Coach Brooks changes the entire practice strategy working the players on a whole different level from their prior experience. The goal: to be able to skate with the team that no other could ever keep up with, no less out-skate. “The legs feed the wolf,” he exclaimed, and while it hurt, it was hard, and players left it all on the ice to reach the goal they’d set, these small steps would give them the shot at glory. Each one, each harder than the next, each forcing the need for a next level mindset—through the challenge, grew a team of warriors. Imagine what that same measure of determination can do for you.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

Growth mindset & healthy habits

“A long healthy life is no accident… it also depends on good habits.” - Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner has worked for decades studying the secrets of centenarians. He has found multiple Blue Zone regions around the globe; these places are known to have the most centenarians. While it started with National Geographic research, it spiraled into sharing how the way of life of these centenarians can teach the world at large how to live longer with a full heart and a contented spirit. By sharing the stories, lives, recipes, and cultures of these areas and inhabitants, we can learn how to incorporate their longevity secrets into our way of life. 

Today, longevity research is a growing science. Whether we’re focused on learning happiness with Harvard’s Dr. Arthur C. Brooks or Yale’s Dr. Laurie Santos, getting our reframing focus from the likes of Chip Conley and the Modern Elder Academy, or working on shifting our mindset from fixed to growth with the likes of Martha Beck, we can be reminded of the fact that, in Moana’s words, “there’s more beyond the reef.” 

Beyond what we’ve been told of career or financial success, there’s more. What if we taught our students about the myriad of methods, lessons, and ways to both achieve and measure life success? Studies on the u-curve of happiness tend upwards, meaning we get happier as we age. We grow to learn how to ride the waves of life, treat ourselves with compassion, and aim for a story filled with community and connection. 

In those young educational years, we may learn a small bit about healthy nutrition, yet that peters off as the years progress. Perhaps it’s more about cultivating a healthy ‘life nutrition’, the food and people with which we allow into our diets, the habits we absorb and adapt, the growth we work towards, and the positive attitude we aim to take hold of and maintain. 

Cultivating that EQ along with our IQ, our curiosity along with our compassion, and our resilience along with our acceptance; add seeking movement, laughter, and community, and our recipe for a life well lived is bound to succeed.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

Slow steps still get you where you’re going

“Long-term consistency beats short term intensity.” - Bruce Lee

In our youth, we often hear and share our messages through stories and fables. Perhaps you remember the famed lesson of tortoise and the hare, the challenges of The Velveteen Rabbit, or the life lessons from Bambi. As we grow, books and movies help us learn stories of other cultures, customs, or choices we might seek to experience or understand. And, while we’re happy to read or listen to these words, often we think we ‘should’ be at a certain point by a certain time. Yet, where did we get that timeline…and why do we think there’s one that guides us all the same? 

Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor at the University of Texas, is a pioneer in the study of self-compassion. She’s spoken of the capacity of humans to treat themselves with the same care and consideration as we do close friends. Perhaps this is one of those missing elements in our educational framework. Perhaps, along with those rigorous courses, physical education, and multiple arts, we can add compassion of self to our curricula. 

Imagine if these elements were intertwined at a young age—how would that sustain us for a life well lived? In her book, Fierce Self-Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak Up, Claim Their Power, and Thrive, she shares “According to my model, self-compassion consists of three main elements: mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. These elements are distinct but interact as a system, and all three must be present in a self-compassionate mindset to make it healthy and stable.”

It might be one step at a time, one staircase at a time, one breath at a time, one compassionate message to ourselves at a time…each consistent and consecutive motion of mindful attention to our stamina and heart will get us where we wish to go. Keep going, you’ll get there, we believe in you!

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

Everything’s a choice

“Grit is about having what researchers call an ‘ultimate concern,’ a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal even when you fall down.” - Angela Duckworth

The stories of elite athletes are stuff of legends. Challenges overcome, struggles, triumphs, injuries, disappointment, defeat, taunts, jeers, all of it—and yet, they show up. Whether in their first test or fifth Olympic attempt, they show up. Their training regimen often restricts other portions of their lives, yet the gift of doing that thing they do remains paramount. 

Of course, we’re not all elite athletes, but in each story, there’s choice. In each try—regardless of podium step, color of hardware, or even qualifying—there’s learning. Those young kids who hold a vision of what they want to do when they grow up? Often that goal requires a whole host of yes’s dedicated solely to that purpose and a lot of ‘no’s to everything else. The 8-year-old who grows up to be a pediatric oncologist had years of school, possible relocations, and studying in between. The international ballerina who began that dream at the age of 10 worked her way there through talent, grit, choice, determination, intense effort, lots of support, and tough physical and mental strength; that changed their whole game. 

It’s the comeback when it’s hard, the showing up when the doubt is loud, the stepping away when the naysayers want to guide you, and the belief that yes you can. For you, it might not be about that career goal or dream, but that inner belief in yourself that not only can you do hard things, but you can excel in character, humanity, and being a change. 

Every student, every child, every human has the potential to excel. 

Be it career or compassion, invention or intention, helping others or harnessing their abilities in various pursuits—in the words of one of the wizarding world’s greatest teachers, Albus Dumbledore, “it is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” 

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

Get back up & try again

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” - Thomas Edison

Consider your favorite brand, be it a sports team, small business, or giant corporation. How many rebrands do you know about? The soccer jerseys change color, the company changes their logo, and the goods and services give themselves a reboot with every new model, policy, or upgrade. 

If they can do it, so can you. 

We don’t need permission from anyone for our own personal rebrand. Want to change your major? Do it. Want to get a PhD at 70? Go ahead. Want to pursue another career? Go for it. Want to pack up your belongings and travel abroad? Buy the ticket. 

Tap into your curiosity, change the game, and then change it again. 

Recently, much of the world has now learned about the Barkley Marathon, a race known as “the race that eats its young.” The eligibility is limited, only a few dozen start each year, and very few ever finish. Some return year after year aiming to not only start each daunting and arduous loop, but to survive that premier test of physical and mental strength and make it to the iconic yellow gate signifying the finish. Designed to be nearly impossible, the course of this unique ultra marathon in Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park challenges limits of the human condition. 100 miles, insanely elevated rocky terrain, altitude upon altitude, no maps, heaps of quirks, and only 60 hours to complete it all. In its near 40-year existence, only 20 people have ever finished. This year marked a significant change to the data. A return competitor, who had showed up twice before and made it some of the way, showed back up again and this time changed the game. The learning came from the time and again trials. This time, with literal seconds before the 60-hour window closed, Jasmin Paris touched the gate and became the first woman to EVER finish the Barkley Marathon. When interviewed, she said “I still find it really exciting to push myself, especially when I don’t know whether I can do something,” she says. “It sounds a bit corny, but you also find out more about yourself, when you strip away all the stuff that makes life easier (The Guardian).”

We only get one life. 

Make the most of it for as long as we possibly can. So, whatever you do, whatever your choices, wherever your support, keep in mind that yes, you can. Your story is yours, no one else's. 

Be it traditional or non-traditional, pursued by many or one, you can change your story, you can start again, you can choose something different, you can do that thing. Whatever your story, live a great one, know your value, do what makes your heart soar, and play the long game.

You’re the author; the story is yours to write. 

We can’t wait to read it.

Through the Eyes of an Educator: The Long Game

“The game of life is a game of everlasting learning. At least it is if you want to win.” - Charlie Munger



Please click the photo below for a collection of my Through the Eyes of an Educator columns:

 A Compendium


Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.

Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.