ProD: It’s not always about you!

Let’s take a moment to talk professional development.

What do you think of when you think of professional development?

I used to be one who felt that professional development was all about what I wanted to experience and how I wanted to grow as a professional and sharpen my craft. I also used to feel these experiences were approximately half new knowledge and half networking. Now that I have made a few laps around the proverbial track, I am starting to look at professional development through a different lens.

First and foremost, professional development is about the growth and development of your organization so that the organization is better able to meet the needs of the students and achieve organizational goals…not solely you.

If your department is moving in a new direction or has clear goals for the future, your professional development needs to be focused on moving the organization in that direction. The organization can have a larger impact on the lives of students than one singular person.

Secondly, professional development does not equal conference attendance.

What meetings have you been requested to sit in for your supervisor? How did that experience help you grow?

What committees have you served on? How has that experience shaped how you view your work now?

What networking opportunities have you taken advantage of and how will those interactions assist your organization is achieving its goals?

What have you written and published? How have you contributed to the literature?

What have you read both in your field and outside your field to help broaden your understanding and perspective? How you can you apply those readings to your work?

Finally, there are experiences that are valuable for individual development. In shifting our overall mindset to serving the organization and helping it to achieve goals related to student success, you will professionally develop far beyond any one conference experience. However, “you” should not be the only goal of development.

By modifying your focus from the individual to the good of the whole, we all succeed and most importantly, so do the students we serve.

Alone we can do so little

Never Enough: A Promise

I sit here with a blank page not knowing what to say or where to start. I’d fight for you, I’d take a literal and proverbial bullet for you…but that’s not what you want nor what you need. Rather my fight should be focused on disrupting a system that favors me over you.

The problem is, I don’t know how to fight that fight. But I’ll try. I can’t undo what I’ve already done. I can’t unlearn nearly 40 years of acculturation into a system that favors people who look like me. I can’t teach myself about thoughts, words, phrases, and actions that may be problematic if I don’t know that they are in the moment I display them.

However, I can make a promise.

I promise to unlearn as much as I can in the years I have left. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to learn the truths and many perspectives of others. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to read. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to dedicate my time, talent and re$ource$ in order to try to pay back the harm my people have caused. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to pay closer attention and call out symptoms and actions of systemic racism when I see, hear, feel, and read them. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to decrease the time needed in reflection to notice the issues previously stated in order to responded closer to the moment at hand. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to help educate my people. Though, it will never be enough.

I promise to raise a privileged son whose eyes are as open I can get them so that he may continue along this path of waking and disruption. Though, it will never be enough.

My promise will never be enough. I will get it wrong and mess it up way more than I will get it right. I will find grace and let go of perfection in the journey of becoming better today than I was yesterday.

It’s too late for our wilting friendship to blossom. The damage of my ignorance has been done. Today, I find peace in my heart and an abundance of gratitude for your impact on my journey. I promise to learn from this moment and do better tomorrow; even though it will never be enough.

photo credit: Cymone Wilder On Drible

No Longer Yours

To all those whose expectations I have been trying hard to meet,

Thank you, but no thank you, I am no longer yours.

You tell me to act like this, dress like that, find your voice but keep it quiet. Be yourself but only on a diet. Say these things in this way just as prescribed. Your thoughts, words and full self can be too much and cause others to feel insecure at your side.

I am no longer yours.

If I am to succeed in your definition of success then here is the path you have thoughtfully shared. The problem is our definitions do not align and to walk the path you described dilutes the gifts and talents I provide.

I am no longer yours.

Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your well-intended guidance. I appreciate your efforts to refine this mess. Thank you for the lonely silence when my “performance” was always less. Though, all I have ever felt is compounding distress. I no longer wish to sit on this tight rope wearing your expectations as a dress.

I am no longer yours.

I am finally brave enough to say I have had enough and it ends today. I like my flaws, no I love my flaws. There is so much beauty and strength to be found there. And if I am to live as designed by my creator then walking my own path is where I must reside.

I am no longer yours.

On my own path I’ll likely be alone. There will be many obstacles to over come. But it will be my path, my success, my journey or none. It will be hard work to carve out my space and completely worth it in the end to see the accomplished smile upon my face.

To all those whose expectations I have been trying hard to meet,

Thank you, but no thank you, I am no longer yours.

3 Points to Ponder: Writing Goals for the New Year

‘Tis the season of goal writing and New Year’s resolutions. We reflect on the closing year and wonder where the time has gone. We take note of our accomplishments and areas we wish we would have done differently. With the new year upon us and hope of a better year ahead restored, many of us sit down to write new goals and resolutions. Before you write yours, I offer the following for pontification:

What are your values and are your goals and resolutions aligned?

Goals and resolutions that are aligned with our core values will be much easier to accomplish over the year ahead. Trying to stick with New Year’s resolutions that are not inherently yours means you will not only be chasing the resolutions but attempting to transform a piece of you into someone else at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I have tried to be so many others and, in the end, I am happier and more successful at being myself. So before writing goals, identify your values.

How long is your list?

As an over achiever I can tell you I love lists and I am excited by attempting to accomplish what others deem impossible. In years past, that has meant lists of 15- 20 goals per year. One year, it was a goal a week…really! I failed at crossing everything off each one of those lists. And, at the end of those years, I felt like a failure. However, I noticed I was able to accomplish 4-5 of items on those lists each year. Therefore, this year, I will challenge myself to commit to 5 goals, maximum. If I identify 6 or 7, I will push myself to really consider which are my top 5 that most align with my values and only commit to those. I challenge you to do the same.

From where will your accountability come and what methods work best for you?

Accountability comes in many forms. For some, public accountability works wonders. Those humans, are the ones who proclaim their goals to the world and share their work towards those goals all year long (I do this with my running goals). For others, a trusted and honest friend is all the accountability they need. A common goal this time year is related to one’s health thereby making the various ways of measuring those health goals an accountability tool (scale, heart-rate, sleep analysis, and so on). Accountability looks different for everyone, even when we might have the same goal. Know what works for you then next to each of your values aligned goals for the year, write the appropriate accountability measure to keep yourself motivated and on track for success.

what-are-your-goals

These three guiding pontifications should help you write more productive goals for you in a way that will help you stick to your goals throughout the year! Best of luck on your journey to accomplish your values based goals and resolutions in 2018!

Imperfectly Perfect

My world is full of learning experiences. I am a momma to a two year old. I work full time. I am a doctoral student. I am a wife. I am an ultrarunner.

How do you balance everything? A common question I am asked. Outsiders constantly judging my commitments as too much, wondering if I can truly handle anything more and retain my focus on being a good mother to my son. I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on this questions, trying to drill down and find out what exactly it is that makes all this possible for me.

There are two key pieces to success in my life. The first being the fact that I am confident in my decisions and know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am the best mother for my boy – mistakes included. I think this is because I whole heartedly believe that my world is imperfectly perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are a million little things, some big things I may “mess up” on or “fail” at from time to time. My perspective, however, is that there is much to be learned in each misstep and there is no way I could be the person I am without each one. I value my imperfections as they are what makes me perfect.

The second key piece hit me over head while I listened to the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. There is a point in the book when Sandberg talks about the need for a true partner to achieve success. My partner is just that, perfect! He helps me work though problems. He kicks me out of the house to go run insisting I not feel guilty for leaving him with the boy. He rises early with the boy to allow me to sleep in (he understands the sleep diva that I am). He encourages me to be me. He catches me when I momentarily fail. He argues with me to challenge my brain to function at its highest level. He pushes me to continue to follow my dreams. We are in this together! He runs ultra’s with me, he is an equal parent to our son and he is my cohort as fellow doctoral student. Not to mention he does all the cooking and the laundry! He is essential to my success.

I am imperfectly perfect and I know it and that is how I accomplish what I do when others wouldn’t dare try.

How do you handle what’s on your plate? What is it that helps you be successful?

Until next time, keep it real and keep showing up! 

The world tells me I am lucky.

The world tells me I am lucky. 

I met my best friend and life partner at the age of 17. We married six years later. In five short months, we will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary.  

The realists and the cynics are quick to site the stats that less than half of all marriages survive. We are only 10 years in and still young in our relationship as compared to those who make it 40 and 50 years together. However, we love each other. I mean undoubtedly, unwaveringly, truly love each other. We also respect, challenge, support, celebrate, and hold each other. 

I listen to stories of those on the hunt for what I have already found. I hear about the abuse others endure for those tiny moments to feel loved. This one’s partner left them. That one’s partner is no longer emotionally available. Those two just simply grew apart. She rushed into marriage or a commitment too soon. He only stuck around to avoid the feelings of being lonely. She is too strong and driven and doesn’t need anyone in her life… so she tells herself. He is constantly worried she is cheating on him. She feels the need to get pregnant so he’ll stay. He is looking for his fair maiden and she her prince in shining armor. 

You combine the stats and stories (both real life and what is portrayed in the media) and the world tells me I am lucky. The reality is, I am grateful for what I have, but what this message of “I am lucky” has done is caused to me to hide what I have; afraid that somehow sharing my story would hurt, offend, and/or push away, others. For many years I have carried guilt for being happily married. There is likely no logic in these feelings however, they are real for me. They exist. And, as a result, I have hidden that part of my story. Or, I have shared it as “we are ‘that’ couple…” and quickly turn the conversation back to the story of others. 

The truth is, there are people out there who need to hear that good relationships do exist. Great partners do exist. Building a solid foundation with another human being for a life-long relationship is possible. It’s a heck of a lot of work, takes endless commitment to success and the constant sharpening of our communication skills.  And it does exist. It is possible. My marriage is proof.

The world tells me I am lucky. 

After seven years of marriage, our little one was born. He has grown into a 2.5 year old little boy who calls me “Momma” and tells me “I love you very much” before bed at night. I was celebrated and critiqued for returning to work after maternity leave. I was celebrated and critiqued for quitting my job to try being a stay-at-home-parent. I was celebrated and critiqued when I returned to my job five months later with the confidence that being a stay-at-home-parent was not for me. I was again celebrated and critiqued when I decided to accept a promotion and start a PhD program one month after my son celebrated his first birthday. Constantly, I am celebrated and critiqued for my choice to have only one child. Still more celebrate and critique that I continue my sport of running ultra marathons.

I have learned and accepted the fact that I will always be celebrated and critiqued for the choices I make as mother. But there’s one thing that is certain, no one, I mean no one, can be a better mother to that little boy than I am! I say that with great confidence. For that, I am grateful. There are parents out there who need to see and know, that as they make the best decisions for their families, they can have confidence that they are doing just that; making the best decisions for their families, regardless of all those who may (let’s be real) will, celebrate and critique those decisions. 

My husband always has been and forever will be leading the celebratory crowd when it comes to the decisions I make. 

The world tells me I am lucky. 

I am an excellent wife, mother, athlete, student and professional. Far from perfect and full of mistakes, but excellent none-the-less. It is not easy. It takes a good amount of work, commitment, intentionality and a true partner. But, it’s possible and there are people out there that need to hear about it.  

The world tells me I am lucky. I say I am privileged to have experienced all the good times, the bad, the sleepless nights, the laughs, the tears, the fights, the struggles, the celebrations, the opportunities, the growth, the partnership. It’s all imperfectly perfect and it’s mine and am truly grateful. 

Are there great parts of your story untold? I want to hear about them, and so do many others!

Until next time, keep it real and keep showing up! 

Just be you, already

We know that media is constantly sending us images and messages about how we should look, behave, dress and progress through life. For the most part, I try to block these messages out. I am sure there are some that get through on a sub conscience level no matter how hard I may try to block them out.

What I have noticed to be sneaky messages as of late are all these blog posts telling us what words we should stop using at a certain age, fashion mistakes that age you, how our generation compares to others, and (insert other topics here). These posts might seem entertaining and fun at first but what internalized messages are we taking away from them? Should we really be engaging with these messages, entertaining or not?

Everyone has an opinion on how, what, when and where life should happen to/for/around us. It’s like taking a year to travel from coast to coast in the Unites States. There is plenty of time and likely more than a million routes from one coast to the other. Seeking perspectives and advice of others along the way is a good thing. However, in the end, I hope we are able to celebrate the routes chosen by others as well as find strength and confidence in the route we have chosen for ourselves – no matter how many times our route changes over the course of our travels.

My challenge for 2014 is that we all begin/continue to own our unique ways of thinking, acting and being. Find strength and power in that struggle and just be you already!

Until next time, keep it real and keep showing up!