Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Re-framing Success...

I've been doing a little soul searching and self reflection as of late. It's all been triggered by some changes and stresses that just seem to be part of this middle aged life. I might share some here. I might not share them all. One of the things I've realized in the process is that I need to be better at spending a little extra time taking care of me. Not just the physical me, but the mental me. I'm trying to spend a little time on Sunday afternoons  not just getting our house and family ready for a new week, but recharging myself for the week ahead. Self-care Sundays have begun. and I'm happy to say this, so far, has been one of my favorite views in that process.

And now, back to the planned thought for this post...

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"Change is the only constant in life," isn't that how the saying goes? For much of my adult life, change has been really hard for me. That fact is kind of ironic considering change was a pretty regular part of my childhood. I had lived in 10 ( I think) different houses and attended 8 different schools (6 elementary schools, 1 middle school, 1 high school) by the time I left home for college. But then again, maybe it was repeatedly having to face the discomfort that came with those changes that made me a generally "change adverse" individual. As a shy, slightly awkward introvert playing the part of "the new girl" so often was not my favorite role as a kid. Even now, as a slightly less awkward adult, being "the new girl" in a social setting causes me quite a bit of anxiety. Or maybe change is just hard, regardless of one's childhood experiences.

Recently the team my library program is part of at school went through the process of looking at our current programming and exploring changes that could help our areas make a better impact on our students' learning experience. Additionally, changes needed to be made to help alleviate some of the teacher stress that comes with serving approximately 950 kids, in 6 grades, spread across 2 buildings. It's a lot of kids. Going into the process we knew change was gonna happen, we just didn't know what it would look like. As is generally the case when faced with unknown change, I turned into an emotional wreck. I worried. And I worried. And I worried. (You know, because worrying makes dealing with change SOOOOO much better.) Regardless of how much energy I wasted worrying, change is happening We now know in general what those changes will look like, even if we don't know all the details of how our programming will exactly look as a result of those changes. Life continues to move forward. I still have a job. And now that I've started to wrap my brain around the possibilities the planned changes could create, I'm even feeling a little excited to tackle the challenge of creating something new come next fall. 

As the whole decision making process was going on, when I was considering the fact that come the end of the process I may not have a job, I did lots of thinking about what I would do if I had to start job searching. It's one of  least favorite tasks, job searching. While I pretty much believe I can do any job that I set my mind (and heart) to, I am TERRIBLE at self promotion. And part of my mental block when it comes to self promotion is the conflict I feel between what I grew up believing was a successful professional life, and the reality of my own professional history. 

Successful professionals choose a field, stay in it, move up the ranks, move up the scale of financial reward, and retire having worked in their chosen profession for the entirety of their career, right? 

That is SOOOOO far from what my professional pursuits have looked like over the past 20 years, which has really messed with my internal feelings about my own professional successes. As such, confident self promoter I am not.

The other day I had a brief conversation with a friend who I asked for some advice, professionally speaking. That short conversation started my mental wheels turning. While my professional successes may not follow the path I would have traditionally used to define success, successes have been experienced. Because of the variety of professional experiences I have over the past 20 years, I've picked up some skills I probably would not have had the chance to learn working only in one field. I've recruited, trained, and managed both groups of volunteers and seasonal employees. I've played a major role in planning and executing large scale events. I've learned a number of technical skills from web coding to Photoshop use to some of the finer aspects of information organization and usage. I've marketed businesses, both my own and those belonging to others. And, I've become a writer. That fact, still blows my mind at times knowing how little I cared for literacy related subjects throughout my educational career.

What I've realized through the process of self reflection is what I HAVE done pretty darn successfully over the past 20 years is reinvent myself whenever the opportunity, or need, arises. And I like to think that not only was a I successful in each of the positions I have held, but that I have left programs stronger than when I first started working with them. Re-framing professional success in that manner has started to help me shift my thoughts should the opportunity for me to step into a new professional position come open. For now, I really am happy and excited to face the changes ahead in my current professional setting. Maybe change isn't such a bad thing after all. 

(But hopefully I don't have to test that theory again for a little while. Baby steps. Baby steps.)