You’ve heard it before – life is a series of ups and downs, and there’s no getting away from the fact that some days are really crappy. Things happen to us that are beyond our control, not in our plans, or not what we wanted at all. Sometimes little things, and other times, very big ones. You can’t control that. All you can control is how you react and respond.
Last year around this time, I had to have emergency surgery. I was in the hospital for five days followed by five more days in rehab. At the time I was in the middle of teaching an online course and revising one for the summer session. I could have quit. I could have dumped the course in the lap of my program head. Instead, I chose to find a way to act responsibly and take responsibility. I chose to give my very best. My students were alerted to my situation. I was able to keep up with them via my phone and waited to grade their papers until I returned home.
In doing this, I felt empowered. I was getting a handle on what was wrong. Despite what happened, I could take control of my responses. In addition to making my current commitments work, I scrupulously followed the directions of the doctors and nurses because I wanted to get better as fast as possible, for my sake, the sake of my students, and to honor a commitment I had made to do a keynote address in Wyoming at the end of July.
I know a great librarian whose job was terminated for reasons that had nothing to do with her work. She was angry and frustrated. But she didn’t quit. She went back to the classroom and was a great teacher, using her skills as a librarian in her new situation. All the while she kept up with librarianship and kept an eye out for a library job opening. Today, she is back in the library probably better than ever.
In an online post, Sue Fowler asks Do You Have a Credo? She talks of a friend who had a life-threatening event happen, and it caused him to shift his motivational mindset. He incorporated five choices into his daily life, and they are worth considering even without a serious illness.
- I choose to always act with a purpose: There is a reason for why you do anything whether it’s going to work or making a dinner choice. What is it that motivated you? This is about being mindful rather than having our decisions run as an undercurrent without thought.
- I choose to write a daily gratitude list: Many people have written on the power of an “attitude of gratitude”. I note two things for which I am grateful each day. It reminds me that no matter what else is happening in my life, I am fortunate.
- I choose to send thank-you cards or emails: Acknowledging the support and accomplishments of others is empowering for both the sender and the receiver. I know I receive one, it gives me a lift, so this is something I am going to look to do more often.
- I choose to stop complaining: It’s really a waste of time as it accomplished nothing. Better to spend the time focusing on how to make changes. What we focus on expands. Complaining brings us – and the people around us – down.
- I choose to learn something new each day: As a librarian, this is as natural as breathing. We have so many resources – including our students – from which to choose. For me, it’s another way of staying young and finding life exciting.
Fowler suggests you create your own credo, offering three guiding ideas:
- I create choice
- I create connection
- I create competence
Whether you choose Fowler’s three suggestions or her friends five choices, creating a credo can help you put a positive spin on your life and allow you recognize that you can’t control life, but you can control how you deal with it. And how you deal with it, defines who you are as a leader.