We all enter the world knowing exactly what we want and the things that interest us. As young children we begin to conform to what others (our parents, teachers, and other adults in our lives) believe is acceptable to do with our lives. We begin to hear that dreaded word “no” when we behave in a way that is not aligned to our caregivers ideas and principles and we are praised when our actions support their beliefs and values. Our belief system begins to become molded by what others believe is right and/or wrong, resulting in us departing from our true identity, our purpose, our Why.
This month we introduce Principle #3: Drive with Purpose. Now that we are in the driver’s seat and we know our vision for the road ahead, it’s time to reflect on our personal Why.
Many of us are aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out or reconnect with our purpose that we abandoned years ago in exchange for love, attention, and support of the adult figures in our lives.
When we consider Principle #3: Drive with Purpose, it allows us to venture back to our childhood as we reflect on our personal interests and desires and we pose the following questions: What are those things that interest me? What brings a smile to my face? What is important to me? And ultimately is my bus headed in the right direction? Is this my true destination/purpose or someone else’s?
During my time as principal at an elementary school, I often had my team participate in exercises that would help them reconnect with their purpose, so many times when teachers are bogged down with the day-to-day tasks, they can sometimes lose focus which can leave them feeling unmotivated and purposeless.
I recall one activity in which teachers were asked to think about their Why (or purpose for becoming an educator) and write it down on a brown paper lunch bag. Many of them volunteered to stand and present their Why as they related it back to a memorable experience that impacted their lives in some way.
As I listened to teachers share their Why, I noticed that many of them had a common thread- their Why had formed as a result of a painful or significant experience in their life. Some of them revealed that they had a challenging home life and therefore wanted to impact the lives of other young people and others shared their own difficulties with learning in school and longed to create a safe place for others who had the same struggles. One thing that they all had in common was a passion to serve and make the world a better place.
Looking back and reflecting on these educator’s responses as they shared their Why, those educators who were driving with purpose had a passion and JOY for working with children and families. You could actually feel a strong sense of purpose and this was evident in the relationships formed with others.
I meet and talk with people all the time who share with me their aspirations to assume a leadership position. They tell me that they want to become a curriculum specialist, administrator, or hold a district-level position. When I probe a little further and ask about their Why— they usually say something like “…I’ve always wanted to help others” or “I just want to do something different.” Are these reasons strong enough to make a difference? In other words, will this Why trigger them to take action to make their Why a reality?
Let’s face it, if you want different outcomes – you must have the COURAGE to take the necessary steps to accomplish your goals. Coming to work and doing a good job does not lead to you assuming a new role or getting more out of your students or your teammates.
Those that earn great achievements -walk strongly in their Why and very little time is spent on When something will happen. When you have a strong Why you feel purposeful and alive! You are not bitter or blaming others for your circumstances, instead, you are grateful for the challenges because you see them as opportunities to grow.
If you want to do something different – be different. If you want different results – you will need to make different decisions and take the necessary risks.
As you reflect on your purpose, ask yourself these 2 questions:
What problems am I passionate about solving? Pay close attention to what grabs your attention.
What steps can I take to solve these problems (write them down)?
Now take the steps you’ve outlined in question number 2!
Today- reflect on your Why. Does it inspire you to do more? Why or Why not?
With something to think about. Make it a great life or not. The choice is yours.
– Niki Spears, Co-Founder, The Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey