Open Space

June 1, 2023

Definition: Clearing
“An open space in a forest, especially one cleared for cultivation.”

Ah, June – a time when schools have closed, summer begins, and we can breathe a little easier. A little more time outside. A little more time before the sun sets in the evening. A little more time for…what?

That is where, for me, the idea of a ‘clearing’ comes in. What do we do with the time and the space – besides fill it with the busy-ness of events, movement, vacations, celebrations, more more more? What can we do but just fill in the blank?

I have nothing against filling time with a trip to see a family member or doing a remodeling project. The question isn’t that we shouldn’t fill our time with what we consider to be important and worthwhile but that we should to stop long enough to ask ourselves what is worthwhile to us?

In Shane Parrish’s Farnam Street blog there is an annual review in which he asks questions that I think are worthwhile as we head into a bit of a clearing in the year.

Questions such as:

If I took over my life from scratch today, what would I immediately start doing?
If I took over my life from scratch today, what would I immediately stop doing?

Now those are some “pause, stop, reflect” questions!

And why not experiment with some answers when you have a stretch of time to be less reactive, less busy, less everything?

For me…

Things I will stop doing

  • Saying yes to work I don’t particularly want to do out of obligation or out of fear that more work won’t come
  • Feeling comparative when I see folks at events on social media I often feel I ‘should’ be at
  • Not valuing myself and my expertise and thus charging less for workshops and energy

Things I will start doing

  • Seeing more sunsets
  • Listening to more classical music
  • Going to gorgeous spots in the world, which could include making my home an even more gorgeous spot
  • Just taking a minute often to breathe and be
  • Relaxing into life more and being grateful for every moment

My colleague, Ewan, said he wouldn’t even ask the questions above as for him they would bring up regret and anxiety. Instead, he’d ask, “What am I doing that makes the exchange of my limited and precious time worth it?” Love the question! Very Mary Oliver.

Here are some additional questions for contemplation in the open space time we have in the summer months.

For those still in a space of teacher reflection, check out 20 Teacher End of the Year Reflection Questions.

For those in a space of mid-year individual and team reflections, try Julie Winkle Giulioni’s Collaborative End of Year Reflections and modify away.

For those on a personal journey, try Courtney Martin’s 10 End of Year Reflection Questions. You’ll want to adapt them to do a half year reflection vs. her ‘full on December 31’ questions and they will be just as good to chew on 6 months in.

As much as the sun is setting a later time during each day, in my life at age 56 with moments of sadness and grief becoming ever more present and more commonplace personally and socio-culturally, it is time to be ever more conscious of where I need more open space and get fiercely intentional about spending my time and my energy in ways I feel good about. As another poster above my desk shows me…

Join me in the clearing. Happy June.

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents – and What They Mean for America’s Future – by Jean M. Twenge, PhD. “A groundbreaking, revelatory portrait of the six generations that currently live in the United States and how they connect, conflict, and compete with one another—from the acclaimed author of Generation Me and iGen.”

Human Work: Five Leadership Mindsets for Humanising the Workplace by Leanne Holdsworth, Naryan Wong and Friends. “What if the best workplace we’ve experienced is just a fraction of what is possible? Dare we dream of something so far beyond ‘business as usual’ that it feels like a fantasy? In this book, we aim to venture past the workplaces of the past and into the unknown, to imagine and create something recognisably different. To create truly human work at workplaces that support everyone to be their best.”

The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human by Karolin Helbig and Minette Norman. “The Psychological Safety Playbook invites you to explore twenty-five specific actions that will create more psychological safety in your workplace. These are all moves that every leader can adopt and practice. Each move features a description of why to try it, instructions on how to do it, and a nutshell summary. You can start anywhere in the playbook—all the plays and moves are self-contained!”