Resilience

Resilience

Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness.

Even after more than 30 years as a university administrator, I continue to be plagued by my own negative thoughts.  It may even be that because of my long professional experience that I manifest negative thoughts and concerns about my leadership, my decisions, and my interaction with others.

Certainly one of the ways of dealing with negative thoughts is to practice resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, what some call grit.

Dealing with negative thoughts is the first step in practicing resilience.  Two recent articles one on turning off negative thoughts https://www.powerofpositivity.com/turn-off-negative-thoughts/And another in a recent EAB post (https://www.eab.com/daily-briefing/2018/01/29/8-daily-habits-of-resilient-people?elq_cid=1684623&x_id=003C000001lxS3rIAE&WT.mc_id=%7CEABDB%7CDailyBriefing%7CDBA%7CEmail%20Marketing%7C2018Jan29%7C%7CALL%7C&elqTrackId=24c05c443e0a40e3b859a41613fd51be&elq=8786a1a204da4c2daaf44208e5efa7c9&elqaid=74281&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=35174 describing what clinical psychologist Meg Jan in her book Supernormal, 8 habits of resilient people provided some insights into becoming more resilient.

1: Resilient people avoid self-deprecation. When I first read this I thought what a minute I appreciate some self-deprecating humor but that wasn’t the point.  The point is recognizing and acknowledging that your own challenges are legitimate.

One of the suggestions in turning off the negative thoughts, related to this point is first recognize and observe the negative thought.  Recognizing the negative thought and where that thought may be coming from is an initial step in dealing with it.

2: Resilient people remember how far they’ve come. In all honesty, my experience in setting up the new College of Continuing Education and Professional Development has come with challenges I simply didn’t anticipate.  That doesn’t mean it has been a negative experience, just the opposite it has been quite rewarding, but there are times when one is stuck in the minutia that do feel stuck and that you are not accomplishing what you set out to do.  Jay recommends thinking about three previous challenges you faced and what strategies you used to get through them.

3: Resilient people take back control. “Every problem can be approached somehow,” Jay argues. When faced with a set back we can find ourselves in the situation of “I am simply frozen, I can’t think of a way out.”  We go down the rabbit hole of ruminating over our negative thoughts.  One way to deal with this suggests Alice Boyes create two columns on a sheet of paper. Label the first column “Thought” and the second column “Solution.”  With this track the solutions you develop when the negative thoughts appear.  This tool will assist you in finding the solutions and will quick thaw being frozen.

4: Resilient people use their talents. Everyone copes with a challenging situation differently. Resilient people know their strengths, such as a specific skill or friendly personality, and use those to help solve their problem.

To do this one needs to be mindful, in turning off negative thoughts https://www.powerofpositivity.com/turn-off-negative-thoughts/ Christopher Bergland, three-time champion of the Triple Ironman triathlon and scientists, breaks down his approach to mindfulness in three steps: “Stop. Breathe. Think about your thinking.”

5: Resilient people find allies. In a tongue and cheek response when asked about my leadership style I will sometimes say I subscribe to the Blanche DuBois leadership style, I depend on the kindness of strangers.  In my case nothing could be further from the truth.  I have always had great support from Peggy and have had the good fortune to have a number of friends that I can count on.  The difficult thing is first recognizing you need help and then reaching out to friends for help and insights.  Of course the last step in taking and acting on the advice.

We can’t underestimate the importance of allies.  According to Jay, people who recover from adversity tend to have at least one other person they can rely on for support, such as a close friend, family member, or counselor.

6: Resilient people maintain their relationships. You don’t need a hundred best friends to be resilient, but it helps to recognize your desired level of interaction (one close friend or dozens of acquaintances?) and make sure you’re filling your social needs.}

7: Resilient people take breaks. Stephen Covey reminds us that we need to take time to sharpen the saw.  The difficulty is if you are ruminating about a particular challenge you may not give yourself permission to take a break.  Jay tells us “if you constantly focus on your challenges, you will burn yourself out. Instead, identify the activities that refresh you (such as reading, socializing, or playing sports) and schedule regular time for those activities.”

8: Resilient people celebrate their growth. When you get through a difficult situation, you may not feel like it helped you. Using Bergland’s “Stop. Breathe. Think about your thinking.”  It is important to recognize that you’ve learned “how to overcome the obstacle, you’ve actually built new confidence and coping skills that will help you recover more quickly next time (Jay, TED.com, 1/5).”

The APA reminds us “resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections and thankfulness: An open letter to the my colleagues in the College of Continuing Education and Professional Development

Holiday Wishes

To my friends and colleagues in the College of Continuing Education and Professional Development:

It is that time of year when we take the opportunity to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  Over the past several weeks, I have spent lots of time in reflection on all that I have learned in the past three and one-half years since launching the new College of Continuing Education and Professional Development.

In our conversations, there is a constant theme related to our work together.  We are well aware of the number of challenges we have faced together and the changes we have made as a unit.  As I look to the future, our success will depend upon our ability to deal positively the challenges we face and rely on our ability to embrace change to support our unique advantage.

As a College, we have – for the most part –  embraced change.  More times than not, we have made lemonade out of lemons.  Not all organizations can do that!  However, over the years, I have found that the most successful professional continuing education units look for and actually welcome change.

Recently, an article by Katya Andresen caught my eye and I am struck by how it beautifully describes what we have all experienced as we have grown into the vibrant community we are becoming.  Interestingly enough, the article isn’t about education.  It isn’t about professional development.  It is about butterflies and what we can learn about change from the mystical transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly!

Let’s start from the beginning and what we are learning from scientists.

Until recently, to see the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, scientist would slice open a chrysalis, and peak inside to see the changes.  This didn’t bode well for the caterpillar.  A new technique, using micro CT, captures cross sections and allows the creation of a 3D model in order to watch the metamorphosis.

What this new method has revealed is rather than having the caterpillar completely dissolve into goo, they found that the caterpillar does not completely fall apart and that parts of the caterpillar only modify themselves in becoming the butterfly.  I found this so interesting that I went to the primary source from National Geographic and they described the metamorphous as “the caterpillar’s guts quickly change shape, becoming narrower, shorter and more convoluted. Meanwhile, the tracheal tubes become bigger, although their arrangement barely changes.”

The fact that the caterpillar doesn’t completely go to goo and that, in fact, most of the caterpillar is remodeled is, as Andresen points out, is an apt metaphor for how we deal with change.  When we face change, there are parts of us that we “create or grow and parts that we must leave behind.”

Andresen suggests that with change we need to move beyond “matching ourselves to roles that reflect exactly what we did before.”  Rather it is making a transformation or “metamorphosing into a future state” much like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.

The ultimate take away for Andresen, and I couldn’t agree more is, “the most amazing part of the story of metamorphosis is that the caterpillar comes with everything it needs to become something else. It is equipped to let the past dissolve and prepared to engineer its own future parts.”

That’s what I believe so beautifully describes our college.  We have had all that we needed to meet the challenges and make the changes within us all of the time. And we have all that we need within us at this very moment to meet the challenges we don’t even know are out there in 2018 and beyond.

We are strong.  We are ready to move forward.  And for that I am thankful.  You have made this past year a success.  And you have made my work worthwhile.

I thank my colleagues in the College for willingness and ability to go through the metamorphosis that have been required in launching our College.  And to everyone, Peggy and I wish you a safe and happy holiday and here is to a great 2018.

To read the entire article that lit this fire, please check out the following web site:

(https://www.google.com/search?q=chrysalis&oq=chrysalis&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.13333j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8)” http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/14/3-d-scans-caterpillars-transforming-butterflies-metamorphosis/

 

 

 

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Having Fun at Commencement

Having Fun at Commencement

Yeah  – that’s right  – having fun at commencement.  Last Saturday, ODU held it’s 125th commencement and for me it was a day of commencing.  We have two ceremonies for our fall/winter commencement because of the size of our convocation center.  For some folks in higher education, commencement has become just another chore, but personally, I really it.  Think about it – have you ever been to a sad commencement?  After all, commencement represents not so much an end but a beginning of a new stage of life for the student, family and friends.

As an aside, one of the things that has changed with commencement is the decorating of the mortarboard.  As one of my colleagues pointed out, when we graduated, the decorating of the mortarboard was done by the “rebels” and today it seems that it is the norm rather than the exception.  The messages range from heartfelt gratitude to cheeky goodbyes to the world of studying and books – and the misguided belief that they are “done” with their education.  In any situation – they express joy, excitement and hope for tomorrow.

One of the most difficult tasks of the entire ceremony, is the job of the commencement speaker. Having attended dozens of commencements, I’ve heard good and not so good speakers and I am happy to say that we had two very good speakers at our commencements on Saturday.  I actually took notes so I could capture some the insightful jewels each provided the graduates and all those in attendance.  Below are some of the insights as grouped by me.

Always be aspirational—make stretch goals

Both speakers challenged graduates to continue to grow as individuals.  Encouraging them to never stop learning and to always strive to make a difference.

You can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar     

The morning speaker suggested that we should always take a moment to say thank you to those who provide us assistance.  For me, I’ve been very lucky.  Much of my success is due to the help of others.  The afternoon speaker asked that we “always be nice to others and make time for everyone.”   In my mind, this can be as simple as stopping to say hello and asking someone how are they doing and here is the important, ask and actually you mean it.  Take that extra step and you actually really listen to the answer.

To be successful you must be receptive and adaptable

One speaker reminded the graduates that they need to recognize that they don’t know everything and that we need to learn from others. We can best learn from others by becoming a good listener.  The afternoon speaker put it in a slightly different way in which she challenged the graduates to keep an open mind.

Be accountable for your actions

One of the speakers used the phase “Own your failures.”  Hold yourself accountable and avoid making excuses when things don’t turn out as well as you may have hoped.  We were also reminded “No job is too small, no matter how big we think we’ve become.”  This rings particularly true for an old continuing education guy like me.  We never overgrow the need to move chairs and tables, schlep flip charts, and basically do whatever needs to be done.

Wag more—bark less 

This bit of advice comes not from the commencement speakers but from me.  It goes back to what I learned in kindergarten – if you don’t have something nice to say then……you know the rest.  I also believe that wagging more means having fun whether you are at work or at play.  And speaking of having fun at commencement, there is no substitute to being surrounded by good and fun colleagues during the commencement ceremony. For example, at commencement we sometimes play the over/under game in terms of when the commencement will end.  This year we had no winner (for the record I won at the last commencement).

Finally, I’ll end this post with the last piece of advice from the afternoon speaker: Give more than you receive.   This is certainly poignant advice during this holiday season but it has meaning all year round.  While it is very difficult at times, making that extra effort, going that extra mile, often times makes the difference between success and failure.

Peggy and I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday.

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We’ve lost a thought leader, visionary, trail blazer, colleague and friend

We’ve lost a thought leader, visionary, trail blazer, colleague and friend

Over the thanksgiving holiday we learned of the passing of Dr. John F. Ebersole.  Perhaps like many of you, I was not aware that John had taken a leave from Excelisor College as he battled the myelodyspastic syndromes. Our UPCEA friends Bob Hansen and Lori Derkay, passed the news on to several of us.  The responses were one of shared grief and loss, but also outpourings of admiration for the friend, leader and person that John was to so many and to education.

John was a wonderful colleague, a sentiment shared by all who knew him..  Rather than just offer my memories, I hope my friends don’t mind, that I pass on collective thoughts about John.  He was seen as a trusted colleague, mentor and friend.

John’s contributions to our field will be felt for years to come.  He was the consummate professional and leader.  For many of us, he provided the nudge and a sense of urgency about higher education to be more accessible.  As one colleague indicated, John was a “thought” leader as well as someone drawn to ambitious action. He truly was a force of nature in the implementation of innovation in higher education.

For many of us, we remember his strong leadership in UPCEA.  John was not only instrumental in taking us in new directions at the national level, he also would scout at Regional Meetings and the Annual Conference for future UPCEA leaders.  He encouraged these individuals to take on leadership roles at all levels in UPCEA.

I remember serving on the UPCEA board when John was president and one of my most fond memories was talking with him about “his story.” His road from enlisting in the Coast Guard to his own pursuit of his education which lead to completing his doctorate and advocating for access to education for all provided inspiration to many, not just me. John embodied the person that I hoped I could serve.

More than anything else, my colleagues most often thought of John as a friend.  A person who reminded us of why we do what we do.  John, you will be sorely missed.  While you had a national impact you always took the time to be accessible to all.  As one friend indicated, the best way to recognize our friend John Ebersole is to attempt to emulate his courage and vision.  We can carry forth his vision and passion for educational access.

Many thanks to my friends for giving me the words to celebrate John.

We all extend our sympathy and warm thoughts to John’s family.  You will be missed but not forgotten.

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High EQ–a necessity for professional continuing educators

It’s been awhile sense I posted on my blog.  Here is a note I sent to our staff about the importance of exercising our high EQ in our roles as professional continuing educators based on an article by Travis Bradberry.  I’ve copied a link to the article at the end of the post.

Good morning CoCEPD colleagues:

I hope you had a great weekend and got out to enjoy the surprising sunshiny days. I have a number of news/information outlets that “push” articles to me on a daily basis and I received one today about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that I think speaks directly to our mindset, high EQ, as professional continuing educators.

The author, Travis Bradberry, looked at data from a million-plus people and identified the habits that set high-EQ people apart. These habits seem to best describe what we strive for as individuals as well as members in CoCEPD.

What sets high-EQ people apart:

They are relentlessly positive—they focus on those things that are completely within their power-their attention and their effort.

They have a large emotional vocabulary-they can pinpoint and describe their emotions, that is, some people can only describe their emotions as feeling “bad” –high EQ people pinpoint their feeling, e.g., being irritable, frustrated, downtrodden, anxious. Why is this important, if you can identify your feelings you are less likely to make irrational choices and counterproductive actions.

They are assertive-they remain balance and neutralize difficult and toxic people without creating enemies.

The are curious about other people-they have empathy for others and are truly curious about how others are doing.

They forgive, but they don’t forget-they avoid the toxic feelings that comes with holding a grudge but they don’t forget in that they avoid a similar situation in the future.

They won’t let anyone (and I think anything) limit their joy—Hi EQ people don’t let anyone’s opinions diminish the pleasure and satisfaction they feel about their own accomplishments.

They make things fun-they go the extra mile to make people they care about happy.

They are difficult to offend—Hi EQ people are self-confident and open-minded, which creates a pretty thick skin. To quote from our staff meetings, “I don’t mean to throw so and so under the bus, BUT……”

They quash negative self-talk-They understand that our negative thoughts are just that, thoughts, not facts.

There is no doubt in my mind to be happy and successful we need a high EQ and I believe that this is particularly true for those of us in the field of professional and continuing education. When I think about our own challenges in fully establishing the new College of Continuing Educating and Professional Development, it is our collective high EQ that allows to continue to move forward even through much of what we do does not fit the traditional university model.

Thanks to all you for bringing your high EQ game to all we do.

 

Jim

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/habits-highly-emotionally-intelligent-people-dr-travis-bradberry?trk=eml-b2_content_ecosystem_digest-recommended_articles-73-null&midToken=AQGnMc8vXu2JNQ&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=3EK-VYOxj5DTg1

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I’ve been thinking about failure recently—-REALLY??

I’ve been thinking about failure recently—-REALLY??

I’ve been thinking about failure recently. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t in some deep dark mood wondering why things might be going to hell in a hand basket. Actually just the opposite. I was thinking how we best leverage what we learn from things that don’t go exactly like we would have hoped. For example, let’s say we launch a graduate certificate that we believe has been fully vetted and we have clearly identified our target audience but our enrollment falls much shorter than we anticipated. Is this a failure or is it really learning experience.

What got me thinking about failure was my recent reading on innovation and the growing mantra about how important it is to fail early and often and to learn from the failure. Bob Asghar in his article Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Fail Fast’ Mantra Is Just Hype captures my thinking, “Forget the cute mantras. No one should ever set out to fail.” I seriously doubt that anyone who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Boy I can’t wait to fail so that I can learn fast. I start projects with the idea that they will be successful. I also build into the thinking a contingency plan just in case things don’t go well. Asghar suggests, “The key, really, shouldn’t be to embrace failure, but to embrace resilience and the ability to bounce back. And the goal shouldn’t be to glorify mistakes and errors and catastrophes, but to cultivate the ability to adapt and learn from them.”

If the key in failure is not the failure but your reaction to failure, what do we know about being the ability to bounce back from failure?

Travis Bradberry in his article “How to use failure to your advantage” suggests five actions that you can “take when you fail that will enable you to succeed in the future and allow others to see you positively in spite of your failure.”

  • Break the bad news yourself. Don’t wait around for someone to point out the failure, “when someone else points out your failure, that one failure turns into two.”
  • Provide an explanation “but don’t make excuses.” I would add that sooner the better in owning up to your failure. Remember the old saw “Crow often tastes better when it is warm.”
  • “Have a plan for fixing things” as compared to either just standing there and/or hoping someone will pick up the pieces. Become part of the solution as compared to being the problem.
  • “Have a plan for prevention.” Show others that you learned from the mistake and that you have a plan to prevent this same mistake in the future.
  • “Get back on the horse.” One reaction to failure is to become reluctant to suggest ideas and attempt new projects. There are times when I must admit I think I’m not putting my neck out there again but after some thoughtful moments, I do get back on that horse.

If you don’t get back on the horse than you develop a fear of failure that Bradberry reminds us “is worse than failure itself because it condemns you to a life of unrealized potential.”

I’ve work with people who develop such a fear of failure that they become almost paralyzed, unwilling to try anything until it is fully researched believing the only result will be success. And that is simply never a 100% possibility.

I stumbled across an article (Fail fast, fail often: How losing can help you win, thedailybest.com) that I use when talking to the staff about the importance of getting back on the horse and taking risks. It tells the story of a ceramics teacher who did an experiment with his class (taken from Art and Fear from Ted Orland and David Waylon). The teacher divided the class into two groups. Group one was told that their grade depended on “the single best piece produced over the duration of the course.” And the other group was told that their grade was dependent “on the quantity of their work. The more clay you use the higher your grade.”

You might guess or maybe not, that when it came to judging the pots “by technical and artistic sophistication” the best pots were made by the quantity group.   What happened is that students in the quality group spent most of their time in planning out the pot “to produce refined, flawless work.” Where as those in the quantity group spent their time making lots of pots and in the process “they were experimenting, becoming more adept at working with the class, and learning from the mistakes on each progressive piece.”

Facing failure is inevitable if you are a leader because leaders take chances. What isn’t inevitable is how you react to the failure. The road to success is not embracing the failure it is “to embrace resilience and the ability to bounce back.” I agree with Bradberry, persistence and optimism are two important characteristics to have in dealing with failure. “Persistent people are special because their optimism never dies. This makes them great at rising from failure.”

I wish you all the persistence to do great things and the optimism to rise from failure in making great successes.

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Managing Yourself, How to Embrace Complex Changes

Managing Yourself, How to Embrace Complex Changes

I wish that I had read this article when Peggy and I were making our move from The Valley to Norfolk. The author provides great advices in terms of looking at and dealing with change whether it is a move, changing jobs, or changes in your family.

The author suggests that when thinking about navigating change use what she called the Seven C’s:

  • Complexity—considering all the issues at play in a change effort
  • Clarity—understanding and prioritizing those issues
  • Confidence—believing that the change can be made successfully
  • Creativity—brainstorming innovative solutions to problems that arise
  • Commitment—taking the first steps to implement the change
  • Consolidation—leaving the previous identity to adopt the new one
  • Change—living into the change and its consequences

I don’t think that Peggy and I are much different than others, in that when we have opportunities for changes in our life we create a matrix with the positives and negatives of the prospect. The author takes this step further when she suggests that we first embrace the complexity of making a change and seek the advice of a third-party. Peggy and I are lucky to have colleagues that we use for our sounding boards. One of the things I would add to this process is that we need to be open and not dismiss advice that doesn’t agree with what we think we want to do. In the end, the author suggests an effective approach is “envisioning a successful outcome.”

An important step in dealing with change is seeking clarity about those factors that cause us anxiety. The author suggests that the better we understand those factors the less anxious we will be.   In some ways, in defining and clarifying our concerns, we are better able to deal with our them.

In making a change, you need to have the confidence that you are prepared and capable in dealing with the challenges that will come as part of the change. Let’s face it – change is hard and comes with many unexpected challenges. From my experience many of these challenges are items you simply hadn’t anticipated. I think each of us builds confidence in our decisions in many different ways; from an encouraging word from a colleague to “resolving a minor problem associated with the change.”

In my mind it is hard to embrace change without having the ability to be creative in responding to the new problems the change presents. One of the ways that I’ve dealt in facing problems associated with a new job,is seeking out individuals on campus that I can trust to provide a perspective, usually a historical perspective related to the problem. This information is very helpful in providing guidance to how you might invest your time and efforts in those first few months.

The next step in embracing change is making the commitment. Your commitment is to a course of action that you will do your best to implement. It is that time in which you know you are closing off other options and saying to yourself, “I am moving forward.   I’m all in with what I am about to do.” The author indicates that executives tell her “it’s helpful to think about their decision not as right or wrong but as a different path.” Pesonally, this notion extremely helpful. Once you are all in about the change, you need to reach a point of no longer “weighing the pros and cons of the decision” because you are now working to make the change successful. I liken this to the notion of moving to the point of having “no buyers remorse.” You’ve made the decision based on the best information you had and now work on making it successful.

I think that this next phase, consolidation, is often the hardest for me. This is the phase in which you need to begin to let go of the “previous situation so that new possibilities can arise.” In some ways this is where you begin to unlearn some things so that you can learn something new. What makes this difficult is needing to set aside “some aspects of your old identity” allowing you to adapt to the new. I had a heck of a time finding myself using the name of my previous institution and still referring the old institution as “we.” Some of this is simply habit and after catching myself a few times I am very clear my “we” is ODU. The author recommends “ some individuals get through this stage by focusing not on what they’ve lost but on what they’ve gained.” For me, I don’t think it needs to be an on/off switch because I still have strong positive feelings for the people I’ve worked with and use those experiences in making my change that much more successful.

Change is the last “c.” I particularly like the phrase the author uses in describing this phase. “The final step in the process is living into the change, savoring its positive outcomes while dealing with any unintended consequences or new challenges that arise.” The phrase “living into the change” describes perfectly what I’ve experienced. One of the changes Peggy and I have been through is having our kids leave home and find partners. Early on it is difficult knowing you have to share your kids with their partners and their families but we’ve been lucky because as we began the process of “living into the change” we’ve actually enlarged our family to include lots of wonderful people.

The author ends the article with a nice reminder, now that you’ve survived/thrived through the change we must recognize that we are not at “a static state” and that “you must also be on the lookout for new opportunities that may lead to your next change effort.”

Way back in my undergraduate days, I had a friend and roommate that would remind me “the only constant in the world is change.” I know this has become one of those over used phrases but darn, it is so true and for me thank goodness this is the case. Interestingly a friend told me today that I remind her of her father because he was described by and proud of the title: “Never Leave Well Enough Alone!” Come to think about it, isn’t that a great description for a professional continuing educator? We are always looking the best way to serve our constituents so we will never leave well enough alone.

 

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