For the past 4 months I’ve been pondering what route to explore next. After 23 years in education, the last 13 as an administrator, I made the decision in May not to return to my current position and resigned. Since then, I’ve done a great deal of thinking, reading, thinking, listening, thinking and then some more thinking. During this time, I’ve been able to read through blogs and articles, engage in chats and basically do a great many things that I found it hard to do. And as I’ve had time to think and play with my 4 year old son, I’ve seen that indeed, Yoda was right -
Do or Do Not, there is no try
For many things in life, it is okay to try – new foods, clothes, hairstyles, hobbies, books, blogs and various other things require us to try. But, as I’ve been reflecting, there are some things, very important things, that you either do or do not, trying doesn’t work.
The one big one I’ve discovered is forgiveness. Either you forgive or you don’t. This goes for others and for ourselves. It has taken me a some time to forgive some of the people around me – for real or imagined hurts – but before I can move on, it was absolutely necessary to do this and let the past flow away. Sounds easy. Just let it flow away. Well, for me, it wasn’t. In fact, I had to move through blame to make a decision to forgive. I couldn’t just try to, I had to do or do not. I chose to do which has allowed me to move forward and focus on positive relationship building.
Even harder was forgiving myself for past – for lousy decisions I made as an administrator, for not living up to my own idea of what I need to be as an administrator, for not fulfilling my goals of moving into central office, for poor job choices and the list went on. But in order to do this, I had to recognize that although some of them weren’t that great, I had learned a great deal from them and now could help others. Forgiving oneself, especially as an administrator and teacher, is really hard to do. We get to see the consequences of our decisions reflected in the faces of the children with whom we interact and those images can hang upon us like the proverbial albatross! Forgiving oneself is a do or do not!
As an administrator, the most important thing for building a positive and productive culture is trust. It must be developed with all partners – parents, students, teachers, community members, division personnel – all people involved in the school. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or difficult times, but, if you have based relationships on trust, these will not harm the relationships. Trust you either do or do not. It’s either there or it isn’t. Again, this is in all relationships – marriage, friendships, family, business – and we even have to have trust in ourselves, our abilities and what we are capable of doing. I’ve been rereading Stephen R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust as it helps me to refocus and reflect on trust, building trust and trusting myself. I highly recommend it for anyone in education.
After years of working hard and feeling unfulfilled, I had to make a decision that was, from what I can gather from others’, a rather difficult one. However, when I made the decision, it was actually easy. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled as a professional, I wasn’t seeing any avenue to make advancement in the current hierarchical structures that are in place in education, I wasn’t using my talents as best I could and I was stressed and frustrated beyond belief. There was a bit of “what next” but I knew that where I was wasn’t helping others the way I wanted. Somewhere and somehow, I had lost the focus on “others” and I needed to get that back. It’s not that I didn’t make decisions as an administrator with the best interest of students in mind or I wasn’t concerned for others but I was not happy or feeling fulfilled and it showed. I either needed to figure out how to change things in my current situation or move on. Do or do not.
Helping others. Seeking to improve the lives of those around us. Sharing. Giving without expecting anything back.
All of these are part of living a life of fulfillment and joy. But, when you are in a state of depression and anxiety, these become difficult. The spiral of self-loathing leaves no room for others. In order to break that spiral and move onward and upward, I had to decide that there was a problem and seek help. Do or do not – there is no try – I had tried before and failed. So now, relationships are growing and improving, slowly.
Yoda was right when he tells Luke – “Do or Do Not – there is no try”. In life, we have times where trying isn’t an option, we need to make a decision to do or not to do. What Yoda was telling Luke at that moment was that he had to believe in himself, feel the connection to the force, feel that flow through him and do it. Luke doesn’t succeed at that time but he does learn and understands, ultimately, that there are decisions that are so important they require our resolve to do. For me, it’s taken a long time to work to this point in time. I’m not a sharing person – it’s hard to do this but to do it opens up to sharing and growth which is so important for all of us.
DO OR DO NOT – THERE IS NO TRY
I imagine Luke, standing before the evil Emperor having thrown away his his lightsaber – that when the first sparks of evil struck him he second guessed that decision. However, he believed there was good in his father – and at his most vulnerable he continued to trust – to DO – and reached out. Sometimes, as a leader, you have to make the hard choices and one of the hardest, I believe, is to let someone else leave while you move on to something else. Having left my “title” behind, I know look forward to reaching out and sharing – moving forward – like Yoda says – DOING!