When Intention and Reality Collide
By Kathryn Bingham; published first @ Leadistics
Life isn’t—and perhaps shouldn’t be—about absolute perfection. Setting and striving for ambitious goals offers a certain joy in the journey and anticipated achievement. And yet, sometimes, we face roadblocks, interference and struggle. We’re not operating in “flow.” Our plans go awry.
“The best laid plans of mice and men” should read, “the best laid plans of mice, men and doc students!” (If you’re not a doctoral student, substitute your role into the phrase.) Relationships need to be nurtured and maintained. Information you need is not accessible. People you count on do not come through. Interruptions and distractions impede progress. The “bug” circulating in your community slams you, tapping your resilience. Life happens. And you miss a target, self-imposed or one set by others.
I embrace the domain of goal setting with enthusiasm. Aspirations are not only challenging in content (hello, “doc student”), but time span. My style is to set personal deadlines in advance of any “real” deadlines. Achieving personal deadlines creates a win—gifting me with time to share or pursue broad interests. The difference between the “personal” and “real” deadline creates “slack”—time that can be consumed in an adaptation to the original plan as needed. (Process geeks reading this description will recognize “critical chain” methodologies.)
So, how do you recover when intention and reality collide? I use a three-step process: Clearing, Analyzing, Reorienting—a “car” to take me to my goal:
- Clearing requires taking a break—a separation from the issue at hand. Taking a walk (or a nap!). Going for coffee. Working out. Tapping into fun and laughter. Whatever the “clearing” activity, the key involves focusing on the moments and the people I’m with, and resolutely NOT consciously allocating brain time to the challenge.
- Analyzing involves recognizing equally what was and what wasn’t working and contemplating my assumptions, beliefs and values—how am I “being” and not just how am I “doing.” What had I anticipated, and which if-then strategies had I employed successfully? What did I miss? What did I not do, that I should have?
- Reorienting incorporates two components. The external “technical” piece is a simple plan modification—what occurs when on a calendar. I also own the internal element of assuring I live consistent with my values, learn from and adapt to environmental change, and both prioritize my engagement with others and harmonize who I am within what I seek to do.
There are times I feel aligned with the universe—expansive, empowered and maximizing potential beyond the conventionally possible. And I have times where I am acutely aware of my own humanness. Reconciling the two involves faith, courage, a sense of humor, committing to act on my intentions . . . and, sometimes, taking a car ride.
January 7-21, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for a school counseling SOLES global trip. During my program interview in the spring of 2012, I first heard Kenya was a possible destination, and I was determined to go. From past students, I heard testimony of a life changing trip and fond memories of the girls of Daraja Academy.
Daraja Academy was founded by a former USD graduate, and is located in the small rural community of Nanyuki, Kenya. It is a boarding school for girls, and gives them an opportunity to get a high school education that they otherwise could not afford. Each girl is selected through an extensive application and interview process, and represents one of the 40 tribes located across Kenya.
The most amazing quality of each and every girl I met was her dedication to her education, which was seen through every interaction during our visit. The lamplights in the residence hall would flicker on at 4 am to light the exam materials of the studious seniors. The laundry and individual chores would be finished by the 7 am breakfast time, before an eight hour day of intense classwork. The teachers in each class would speak with passion, constantly reminding the girls of their potential in this day. When speaking about their school, the girls would discuss what their education meant to them, and all of the things they could do to help their home communities if they studied hard at Daraja. With dreams of being photographers, pilots, business women, teachers, or leaders in the community, the girls were visibly eager for knowledge.
My personal experience at Daraja has shaped my goals as a school counselor. It is unbelievably important to me to serve underrepresented communities, and do so with caring and compassion. As an outsider knowing very little about the history of education in Kenya, I was amazed at the resiliency shown by the students of Daraja. Many of them faced trauma and adversity that I could not imagine, yet they remained optimistic for their future. I hope to support the students I work with to build resiliency, and help to promote a passion for learning like I saw at Daraja.
It is difficult to put this life changing experience into words, so I’ve created a video documenting 10 of the most memorable moments of my trip. Traveling to Kenya through the school counseling program was one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had, and I would recommend taking advantage of any opportunities to travel and learn abroad!
People always say, “new year, new you” but I don’t think it’s about becoming a “new me” verses making improvements and setting exciting goals. The number one news year’s resolution always seems to be, I want to lose weight and get in shape. How about… I want to feel great inside and out and challenge myself. There is so much emphasis on image that this year I am trying to personally make a conscious effort to resolute towards a more positive and healthy me, and embark on new challenges. I have already set out for my biggest challenge in that I will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon.
The Marathon this year will be a once in a lifetime event and I have received the opportunity to run for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. Joe Andruzzi, a former NFL player, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt’s lymphoma, predicted to double in size in just 24 hours. He and his family relocated back to New England where Andruzzi had an aggressive form of chemotherapy treatment over three months at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Though Andruzzi has beaten his cancer, he mourned the loss of a young boy who was also diagnosed, that the Andruzzi family was very close with.
On the upside of this story, in exchange of having the privilege of running for the Foundation, I am raising funds for their brain cancer research program at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. 100% of funds raised will go directly to cancer care where financial and emotional help is provided to patients and their families. April 21, 2014 will be a day of healing for a city torn apart last year. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to run and raise money for such a worthy cause.
I have certainly hit the ground running in my training and fundraising. I am nervous as this is my first full marathon, but I have never felt so much support from friends and family, and nothing has excited me more than running for a city that feels like home to me and being part of this one in a life time opportunity. If you would like to join me in making strides and supporting this Foundation, any contribution towards my fundraising is warmly welcomed.
I look forward to sharing my post- 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton, MA to downtown Boston’s Copley Square!
Whether a person’s leadership is being developed or expressed in an organization, at home, in her or his community, or—as some colleagues and I are experiencing—in a doctoral program, embracing a holistic practice of “being” yields significant benefits. Attending to our health undergirds our interactions with others. Weaving in dimensions of body, mind and spirit allows the fabric of our lives to be strengthened and assures a measure of balance amidst the competing demands of daily life. Here are three ideas to inspire your own practice:
1. Get moving. Yes, I explicitly mean the “e” word: exercise. Literally, get up from the chair and walk somewhere—even if it’s just a block away. Do it daily, or even better, more than once a day. Better still, join a gym. I joined the local YMCA and go to an early morning class Monday through Saturday. I know it’s hard to start, and—for some—even more difficult to maintain. And if, for any legitimate reason, you have a day or two of break (as in you are in bed with the flu), get right back to creating a forever habit of exercise ASAP. You NEED this. Your Brain and Heart need this. Every cell in your body needs this.
Still require a bit more motivation? Here’s a great link for the top ten reasons to exercise (other than losing weight): http://lifehacker.com/top-10-reasons-to-exercise-regularly-besides-losing-we-1473616982
2. Engage your brain. Yes, I’m adding “brain training” to your body routine, especially if you have cognitively challenging work. You need the mental off-set to inspire different ways of thinking and to build the subtle skills that support the “day job” you expect of your grey matter. And, literally, the activities take only a couple minutes daily.
BEFORE you roll your eyes—I saw that!—go check out Lumosity.com. You can sign up for FREE. Ignore the emails inviting you to join the paid version [or go ahead and pay, it costs very little, but wait until you’re offered at least 35% off ;-)]; the free version will expose you to a few games daily on a rotation basis. Over the week, you’ll have tests of memory, cognitive skills, problem solving, adaptiveness, decision speed, and more. You get to track how consistently you follow through, as well as how well you’re achieving across the various dimensions. Need greater detail before you’re willing to commit? Here’s a great link on Neuroscience 101: http://www.lumosity.com/hcp/research/neuroscience
3. Begin a reflective practice. I know, you’re already suggesting there’s no room in your schedule to shoe-horn in another activity. Somehow, you must find a way to fit this in. Even ten minutes will pay huge dividends. So what exactly do I mean? You have a multitude of options. A faith-based option includes meditative prayer. A mind-body option could be learning yoga. Begin a gratitude journal at the end of each day.
One particularly good way to learn meditation (for free, of course) is to visit http://www.getsomeheadspace.com. [Here’s a hint, replay the early days of the 10 free days to get a sense of the habit.] There are also apps for your tablet or smart phone, if you require additional help to replicate a “headspace” type activity. I recommend reading reviews to find one that’s a good fit. The key for reflection is to become still, self-aware, to recognize your breathing and the influence of stimuli around you, and then allow yourself to begin reflective examination of a topic. Let go of preconceived notions, allow insights to come.
Engaging in leadership requires us to build competencies, awareness and reserves across multiple dimensions, allowing us to tap into our resources as needed. [Hmmm. Anyone else pushing to complete a research project or paper by the end of the semester? Now is not the time to find the body-mind-spirit well dry!] The interactions of a body-mind-spirit practice provide an ongoing, positive reinforcement of the best and healthiest “you.” Consider the benefits of committing to a holistic practice . . . your investment in regular self-care is a gift that appreciates with time.
Published first at http://leadistics.com/leadership-foundations-three-critical-practices/ on December 8, 2013. © 2013 by Kathryn Bingham, all rights reserved.
If you’re pondering the possibility of embarking on this doctoral journey, or have just started the program, I say: follow your dream. What gives me the “creds” to share? To date, I’ve successfully combined a challenging job (the way more than 40+ hours weekly type of role) and a full graduate load and have just reached the transition from my “academic” plan to the “dissertation” plan. Each individual forges their personal path on this journey, and here’s a couple elements I’ve found helpful . . .
Keeping my “ize” on the doctoral prize. In my work, I coach leaders and organizations to surface a vision of an ideal future state, assess their current state and implement the best options to bridge the gap. Once I determined the doctoral degree would offer the right vehicle to take me to my dream and passion, I created a means to visualize this end as achieved. I had my prior degree certificates framed, as well as a “placeholder” for the doctoral diploma. My metaphor for this journey involved the set of patches for the Apollo space program, which my grandmother worked on—symbolizing an amazing time and achievement in our history. The quadrant of diplomas—three attained and the fourth “to be” in the form of the framed patches—reminds me every day of just exactly where I’m going and provides the inspiration for my journey.
Once I determined where I was headed, I crafted a map to take me there. To strategize my journey, I laid out a plan for each semester. Embracing my inner geek, my method included a spreadsheet identifying years, semesters, requirements, electives and calculated course credits for each semester and cumulative totals for each year. Every spring, summer, fall and intercession completed reflects a colorful highlight. I keep this mounted on a board—front and center to where I spend the majority of my workday. The strategy clearly lays out method and milestones, and shows my progress toward achieving my objective.
Execution and transition. Perhaps it’s no surprise I generated a super-spreadsheet to capture every single reading, task, assignment, and paper, by date, by course, by type, with descriptions, plan dates and status (remember, inner geek) for each semester. This tool helped me execute, powering ahead when possible to create slack for crunch times. Years ago a colleague and I were joking around about my approach to life and how I “planned” opportunities to be “spontaneous” in my calendar. So, yes, I then integrated other personal and family items into this file. In for a penny, in for a pound, or, in spreadsheet vernacular, in for a cell, in for a worksheet ;-).
With the beginning of this semester, I became a “3rd year”—and since I’ve completed two courses each spring and fall and one or two every intercession and summer—I’m close to finished with the academic requirements this semester. Now I have a new spreadsheet—are you surprised? In it, I’ve laid out all the milestones to take me through to my dissertation defense. I’ve identified my committee and submitted my paper for the Part A qualification. I’m slotted for dissertation seminar in the spring. I have a path, and I’m able to look back, stand in the present and anticipate the future.
What path are you on? If you’re interested in USD SOLES—or if you’re already part of the community—and you have questions about balancing work and school, or the program, or this transition to the dissertation journey, ping me. I’m happy to be a traveling companion.
Kathryn is a 3rd year Doctoral student in our Leadership Studies, PhD program, and she is also a SOLES Ambassador. To learn more about Kathryn and her experiences in the PhD program, follow the link>>