Transitions

At the top of this post, is a picture of a place that was a sanctuary during the pandemic. It is approximately a 2-mile walk from my home. I would come here and look at the flowers, the gazebo, and the trees. I would ponder life and meditate. Today, I came here to do the same. I wanted to teach a class here but never did.

A little over a week ago, I gave my last lecture. Today will be my last class session. In lieu of a final exam, we will watch student-made videos and say goodbye.

This will be one of many transitions that will take place in the coming days. Seniors will be graduating from the institution I have loved for the past 16 years. Most will move into jobs and careers while others will matriculate to graduate school. Those not graduating will transition out of the dorms to home or other summer living arrangements. Many will transition from school to summer work and/or internships. And finally, many students and colleagues will transition out of Augustana into another phase of life (retirement, another school, work).

For me, I will continue my life change. I am moving out of academia back into the private sector (decisions will be made tomorrow). Next week, I will move back into our remodeled home. I will travel to see friends and places not seen for a couple of years (and a few new ones). My wife will transition to one year older and I will follow if a few weeks.

Today, I am pondering all of those transitions and wishing my students and colleagues the best. I hope we can remain connected but I understand that often life takes us in different directions.

I’m not attending any of the graduation festivities this weekend and my office is clean. When I leave Augustana today, it will be the last time as faculty. In the past, I often wondered how I would feel on this day. Joy? Sadness? Relief? Excitement? Mixed emotions? As I sit here on the bench looking at the gazebo, I have the answer. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. Harris out.

Who are you? (Part II)

In recent posts, I discussed identity. Identity is how you view yourself as a person. While identity is how YOU view yourself, we often have identities that others created for us. Further, our identities can conflict.

I did a three-step exercise with myself recently and found it helpful. I brainstormed as many of my identities as I could in two minutes. I utilized “I am” statements to list my identities. Example: “I am a father”, “I am a husband”, “I am a son”, “I am a brother”, and “I am a professor” I tried to cover the various aspects of my life including family, personal, professional, and health. After this step, I got a better picture of my own identity.

The next step provides meaning, importance, and priority to each identity listed in step one. If I am a husband, what does that mean? How important is this identity to me (extremely, somewhat, very little)? Finally, I rank each identity in order of importance and priority. This step takes a bit longer than two minutes. It requires you to dig deep. What does it mean to be a husband or a father? Where does this identity rank compared to being a professor or volunteer?

The third step is to determine if the definition and/or identity is something I wanted to keep, modify, or remove. Of the three steps, I struggled with this the most. It required me to examine long-held identities. In the end, I discovered identities that weren’t my own.

In diving into my various identities, I recognized that many of my identities came from other people. Put another way, most of MY identity was not MY identity. My identity evolved from what others believed I should be. My identity as a husband came largely from what I had observed from my father and what society expects of husbands. Similarly, much of my identity had its roots in how and where I was raised. This isn’t necessarily bad but it allowed me to modify some of my identities to meet who I really want to be.

Perhaps the most revealing part of the exercise concerned my professional identity as a professor. I became a professor, in part, to be a better father and husband. I wanted a career that allowed me to have a flexible schedule which allowed me to spend more time with family. The family was more important work. Yet, over time, my identity as a professor became more intertwined with my employer. Further, being a professor became more important and took up more of my life. Where initially the identity was a vehicle to be a better father and husband, it ended up actually harming the other identities. Had I recognized this sooner, I could have changed course sooner and avoided the unintended consequences.

This leads me to my final point for this post. Identity can be changed. In fact, identity should be changed. The world is changing all the time. James Clear provides a three-step process to jump-start an identity change and creation of identity-based habits. First, name the goal you and/or identity you want to achieve. Second, in one sentence describe the type of person who would achieve your goal. Third, list five very small steps you can take to become this person. Do each step for a week before moving to the next step. After five weeks, you will be closer to the new identity than before.

Do something today that makes you better tomorrow. Grow each day.

Weekend Thoughts

At the beginning of the year, I purchased two daily calendars: “Golf Tip-A-Day” and “YOU are a BADASS” One calendar provides inspiration, motivation, and guidance in life. The other calendar provides guidance for golf which is a hobby of mine in the summer.

Today, the comments appeared to intersect. One said “If it’s something you want to do, don’t wait until you’re less busy or richer or ‘ready’ or twenty pounds lighter. Start right now. You’ll never be this young again.”  The tile of the other is “Thinking of making a swing change?”  It advises that “If you are thinking of changing your swing, you should first make sure that you are doing the right thing.”  It goes on to caution that “[o]ften, change is difficult to accept as it may feel awkward and uncomfortable.” 

At first glance, the two appear to conflict with one saying act now and the other don’t act until you’re sure. Yet, a deeper analysis shows they complement each other. There is good advice in each. Here is my take. First, determine where you need to make a change and make the decision to change. Second, investigate the most effective way for you with the help of experts and/or people who made a similar change. Third, act and implement the change. Finally, understand that change is uncomfortable. Have a great weekend.