“What if…?” is the great crippler. Think about it, how many people use this question in the positive sense? What if I win the race? What if the sun shines for our wedding day? What if I don’t get sick on this trip? What if I don’t make a fool of myself? Rather, we worry about losing the race, having a special event rained out, getting seasick, or being humiliated over a poor performance.
These questions of ‘what if’ can consume us to the point of paralysis. As a young girl, I remember standing on the second highest diving board of the local outdoor, sea water fed swimming pool in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Frozen (not just because of the Baltic temperatures), I rehearsed all the horrors that could mark the outcomes of a failed landing. Or even worse, the humiliation of retreating to ground level. “It’s now or never!” I remember thinking just before taking the step of no return. Nose held tight by shaking fingers, it was the longest fall of my life—but it wasn’t the last time I stepped off that platform! The positives what ifs won. What if I make it? What if my friends are totally impressed with my bravery? What if the water is bathtub warm by the time I land? (nope, that didn’t happen!)
As I write this blog, most of us are living in self-isolation due to COVID-19. The what ifs are very real. Our concerns around elderly parents, pregnant daughters, children living in other parts of the world, family members with health issues, friends losing their livelihoods, are very real. No one should be shamed for obsessing on the what ifs in such a reality.
It would be reasonable if our doubts were limited to such global pandemics, but they are not. As we consider a temporary leave from the life we really do enjoy in British Columbia, trading it for a year traveling with me working remote, many ‘what ifs’ bubble to the surface. What if one of us gets sick? What if we can’t find suitable accommodations? What if we can’t stay within our budget? What if we can’t rent our home out? What if we don’t get to see our daughter and son-in-law and new baby for a year? (He/she will be one by then). What if another pandemic strikes? What if my dad passing away while we’re gone? What if a family member or close friend has a crisis? What if I go through all the planning and my funding proposal is rejected? What if…? I get depressed just thinking about all the possible catastrophes!
“You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing like that.”
― Roald Dahl
But…what if we pass up such an opportunity? What experiences and adventures might we never have, never get to share with our family and friends when they come to visit (and they will)? What new learning experiences might we lose out on, or new relationships never built? What if the funding approval is given enthusiastically and all this planning actually becomes a reality? Now I’m starting to feel giddy with the possibilities!
Interesting, nothing about my current situation has changed, I’m no closer to having the trip planned or approved. However, my outlook, my state of mind, my level of excitement has brought a smile to my face, and added a few BPM to my heart rate.
What if we chose to face each day, each adventure, or each challenge, from the perspective of positive potential. What if we face life with expectancy—like a child on Christmas morning, rather than channeling Winnie the Pooh’s dear old friend Eeyore?
A year of travel and remote work would be both influenced and impacted by how we choose to face the joys and challenges presented. What if it turns out to be the greatest year ever?
I cannot lie — sometimes I take a different route to a destination just to see if I can frustrate my dashboard companion. Who of us have not, in the midst of directional challenges, imitated the impatient GPS voice letting us know that we have taken a turn not laid out according to the infinite wisdom of Google Maps?
If it’s not the GPS warning us we need to recalculate, it could be a health scare, a global virus, a job loss, a new baby…you name it.
I’m currently in the throes of a graduated return to work plan following a surgical medical leave. In my last blog you would have read how my mind basically turned to mush, obliterating any plans I had for ‘enjoying’ my recovery time. However, as the fog cleared I began to think about life pre-surgery, and how it truly felt like running full out, but on a treadmill. I knew something had to change, I knew a recalculation was in my future.
To be honest, only a short six month previous my doctor informed me that the exhaustion, lack of focus and ambition I was experiencing was the result of burn out. It took me a while to get to that point, and he cautioned it would take a while to fully climb out of the hole I dug for myself. So the extraction began…I made appropriate small changes that really did make a difference, but the journey is not over. Soul searching is still in its infancy.
What does it look like to recalculate? I’m not totally sure, in fact I’m still exploring that deep mystery. What I do know is that while my home bound recovery didn’t go as smoothly as planned, mostly because of my unrealistic expectations, it did give me time to think through how I want to emerge from my cocoon and reintegrate into life in a manner that is not only sustainable, but fulfilling, impactful to those I interact with, and with an even deeper curiosity to learn…a curiosity that is contagious
How Should We Then Live?
I don’t know at what time in my life I was introduced to this phrase by Francis A. Schaeffer (American Theologian), but it seems to be ingrained in my very psyche; however, it has recently crept its way from the recesses of my mind to a still, small voice begging to be heard. I do believe it is patiently awaiting resolution…yearning for me to pay attention and recalculate.
I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am a researcher (for whatever reason, this term or concept has always conjured up some less than desirable images). However, I will only engage if the research has practical application and is accessible to those who can most benefit from the resulting discoveries. I am an advocate for remote work and care deeply that is it done with excellence. While policies and processes are vital, my passion lies with people. I am concerned that we prepare students for the unknowns of their future careers, and I am concerned that those already experiencing the joys and challenges of remote work have been correctly selected and are being well supported. I also am impassioned to ensure those providing leadership to remote workers are doing so with integrity, empathy, and selfless support. I care that they are being selected effectively and provided the training necessary to be true champions of those entrusted to their supervision.
Knowing my passion, how should I then live? In what direction does this query point me? What precisely does this path look like for me as I reintegrate into the world of academia, research, and remote work? Good questions – and that is exactly where the new adventure begins!
Do you ever get to the point when you simply need to de-clutter? It could mean de-cluttering your home, your car, your office…or your mind. Throughout the year my mind flips from one course of study prep to the next, from classes to contracts, from strategy to application, from delivery to review. What I long for now is to let my mind be still, to reflect, to let it wander and wonder, and to learn. Actually, I think that perhaps now is the time to develop more than learn.
Have you ever considered what the difference is between training and development? For many years I have used the terms interchangeably, but now realize that while both are vital, they each have their own focus. The way I see the two is that training focuses on the skills I need to do the ‘job’ right now, while development is more about learning new skills and techniques for the future. I love the element of past, present and future that comes into play here; we consider what skills we have used to be successful in the past, tweak them for efficiency in the present, and creatively consider what skills will carry us into the endless possibilities of the future.
This idea of learning and developing took on a new meaning to me when visiting Il Duomo di Firenze in Florence. Do you know that they built the cathedral with the skills they currently had, but counted on the development of new skills to complete the dome? And…history proves their optimism paid off, the result is breathtaking!
As 2018 comes to a close (it’s been a great year!) I find myself looking back on what I have learned from past experiences, reflecting on what I am learning today, and challenging my mind as I prepare for the possibilities of tomorrow.
I really appreciate this quote from philosopher and educator Mortimer J. Adler…
“There is a strange fact about the human mind, a fact that differentiates the mind from the body. The body is limited in ways the mind is not. One sign of this is that the body does not continue indefinitely to grow in strength and develop in skill and grace. By the time most people are 30 years old, their bodies are as good as they will ever be; in fact, many person’s bodies have begun to determinate by that time. But there is no limit to the amount of growth and development that the mind can sustain. The mind does not stop growing at any particular age.”
My current development is around UX Design; I’m taking an on-line course through Interaction Design Foundation and finding my thinking being stretched once again. What are your learning and development plans for 2019?
I am committed to taking a positive approach to teaching and learning…join me in the journey?
5 classes are now finished, and I am very much enjoying getting to know my students individually, and applying what I’m learning to deliver a more effective learning experience for them.
As mentioned in my previous post, we began the first class with a discussion around positive learning experiences, and how they personally contributed to that learning.
The follow up to that activity was one on one meetings between the students and myself. The stories they shared were humorous, inspiring, emotional, and insightful; it was wonderful to see how positive their body language was, and how animated and excited they were as they reflected on the joy of those experiences. I can’t stress enough how eye opening those 15 minute ‘chats’ were. Using the questions on the hand-outs as a foundation, the students shared information from their lives in their home countries, and how life has changed since they came to Canada (70% of this specific class are from countries other than Canada). Without exception, they love this ‘new world’ (this in no way minimizes how much they miss their families back home).
One topic we discussed this week was values…a potentially hot topic when dealing with cultural diversity; having 5 different cultures represented in the class it was inevitable that there would be varying opinions regarding what each holds close as a value or guiding principle. I’m happy to report that, once again, the class discussions were rich with mutual learning and respect. The class started with an exercise that dealt with one of my values…punctuality. Based on the various student arrival times to class, I was fairly certain that this was not a shared classroom value. Here is a brief overview of that activity.
- As students arrive pass out coloured mini clothes pegs (one colour to those arriving early, another for those arriving just on time, another for those arriving late)
- Introduce the topic of values and the importance of understanding and respecting the values of those we work with (the context is a class of business students).
- Let them know that I have a high value of punctuality, but that I realize it may not be a shared classroom value.
- Explain the meaning of the different colours of clothes pegs, and have student divide into those groups.
- Stage one discussion is to dialogue around whether or not punctuality was a shared value, and how their opinion was reflected in their actions.
- Stage two, mix the groups up so that each group has representation from the ‘early arrivers’, ‘on timers’, and ‘late arrivers’. In these groups they are to discuss how they feel about the actions of others, and how they are impacted by other’s actions.
- The final instruction…I would not be in the room to facilitate the discussion. I explained that I didn’t want my presence to in anyway influence the discussion.
- After what I thought was an acceptable amount of time I came back in the classroom, but was immediately told that they needed more time! I was thrilled that the self-directed discussion was so energy filled.
The activity went well, I could hear laughter, the murmur of discussion, and also silence. The ah-ha learning? It appears that I was the only one that was really bothered by people coming in late. The collective opinion was that if you come in late and miss some of the learning, it’s your choice and the responsibility is on your own shoulders. The tension came when I asked how they feel when someone shows up late for a meeting or event that they have planned…would they be OK with that? At first I was faced with shrugged shoulders and comments such as, ‘it depends on the situation’. However, as small group discussion continued, they did agree that this would not be so favourable.
So, how are those perspective reconciled? I would suggest that the outcome is indicative of how truly values based we all are. In organizational behaviour we talked about stated values and actual values; perhaps this is an example of that being played out individually. It also made me consider how my values are lived out…in this situation, I needed to be willing to accept tardiness if I truly want the classroom to be about my students, and about shared values. I need to be true to my value of punctuality by showing up on time (in this case, early), prepared, and ready for whenever the students show up. I also need to honour those students who are punctual and start class on time…even if only 3 students are there! I think it’s also important to add that from experience, the cultural mix has an impact on the outcome of such a discussion. Students in other classes I have facilitated included punctuality in their classroom agreement (or code of conduct). The learning for me? A reminder that every class is different and unique. What works for one will not necessarily work for another…even if the subject material is the same.
And so the learning continues…for me, and for my students.
Change…what kind of emotions, images, memories does that word bring to mind? For some the excitement level soars, while for others the response is nothing short of instant panic. The majority of us will find ourselves somewhere along the spectrum, depending on the nature of the change.
For me change is exciting…most of the time, when I feel I’m in control (yup, a bit of a control freak). Right now my life seems to be marked by change; let me just share some highlights:
- we just moved to a basement suite and will move again in 6 months (who knew the condo market was so hot!)
- our son and family moved to Dublin 3 weeks ago (yes, and they took all 6 of our grandkids!)
- in a few days, deciding on my daily schedule will once again have to submit to the college calendar.
- and of course we are starting to welcome autumn.
All of these changes are good and come with the promise of exciting outcomes. However, the impact of each greatly depends on my attitude toward the change.
I keep remembering the morning we said goodbye to our kids at the Kelowna airport. Kudos to the agents at Westjet…they were terrific with the challenges presented with checking in 2 adults, 6 kids, and all their luggage, and a flight plan that was a little messed up! The words that are forever etched into my memory came from the response our daughter in law had to a question asked by the agent: ‘So how are you feeling about this big move?’ Without a second’s hesitation, Crystal said ‘Totally excited!’. Needless to say the agents were amazed with her instant and exuberant outlook regarding what could be an overwhelming change.
When I reflect on my previous blog regarding expectations vs expectancy, I’m impressed by the link between that, and the certainty of change. I can’t imagine a life without change, nor would I want a life without change! However, I want to live a life that welcomes change with the enthusiasm of my grandson finding a really cool shell on the beach, or the wonder with which our youngest granddaughter looked at the picture of a giant rose I texted to her. I want to model the kind of attitude our son and daughter in law modelled for their children when moving to Ireland…and the sense of adventure I experienced when my parents moved us from Ireland to Canada 45 years ago.
I have a full schedule this fall and I am excited about each and every event on my calendar. I can’t control how each activity will play out, or what unexpected changes will occur. However, I can approach each with a spirit of expectancy, positivity, and wholeheartedness.