In order to best serve the mission and values of an institution, it is essential that I understand my own mission and values both individually and professionally. The process of values clarification is ongoing; although the constructs I value have remained constant throughout my experience thus far, the words that I utilize to convey them have evolved: commitment, connection, wellness, and authenticity. I identify these values as the glass balls in my juggling act.
A metaphor first shared with me by Dr. Allison Crume, I now consider the balance of my values with that of my institution and the profession as a whole to be a juggling act rather than a tight rope. She described how there are glass and rubber balls to represent the different responsibilities in your life. If you drop one of the glass balls, it will break, and it will be very difficult to pick up the pieces and reassemble the whole structure; however, if you drop on of the rubber balls, it will bounce back into your hands once you’re ready to catch it.
This metaphor has resonated with me since the third week of my graduate program when she shared it with me, so I now utilize it to describe my values. Commitment, connection, wellness, and authenticity are my glass values, unable to be compromised in my personal, academic, or professional life.
“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti
Making a commitment, whether it is professional, personal, or otherwise, equates to making a promise, and once made, there are only extenuating circumstances that should prevent that commitment from being upheld. Placing value on fulfilling promises requires that I carefully consider opportunities prior to committing and sometimes respectfully declining those that are outside of my current capacity.
A mentor once told me that one simply cannot do everything well, and that has resonated with me in developing my value for commitment. When I commit, I commit my whole self rather than a portion, and that philosophy has resulted in my ability to strive for excellence in those responsibilities I elect to take on.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
Some of the most powerful and motivating forces in my life are the connections I enjoy with my loved ones, colleagues, and students. Having strength in empathy, relation, and development, I am driven to build relationships with and mentor those that are closest to me. Establishing relationships comes relatively easily to me; however, cultivating and maintaining them is a process that requires an effort which I value contributing. I believe that it is my strength and passion in these areas that lead me down the paths I have chosen over the years, specifically, my path towards a career in student affairs.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” -Buddha
So what is wellness? For me, there are multiple spheres: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and occupational. Physical wellness involves healthy eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, and I have learned that this sphere of wellness requires that I hold myself accountable in addition to supporting others in their own journeys.
Through reading books such as Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Eric Hagerman, I’ve learned how interconnected the concepts of physical, intellectual, and emotional wellness can be. My commitment to physical wellness has proven integral to my lowered stress levels and ability to focus on intellectual pursuits. I find opportunities for reflection and increased desire for a challenge when I am peaking in healthy physical behaviors. My focus on strengthening connections with those in my various circles is evident of social wellness while occupational wellness relates to the passion I have for the work I am doing now and will do in the future. Spiritual wellness, for me, centers on connecting my actions to this value system.
“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” — Lance Secretan
Although authenticity remains word through which I hope to convey this last value, the construct has evolved somewhat as a result of my participation in conversations surrounding digital identity development and the need for congruence between our in-person and digital selves. Previously, I have viewed authenticity simply as putting values to action and ensuring that others’ perceptions of me were consistent with how I actually feel on the inside.
Now, it also refers to how I present myself online through social media such as WordPress, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The translation of my values into action must occur in both physical and online communities, and it is important to me that my various selves align with one another in my personal, academic, and professional work.
If I am accountable to my values of commitment, connection, and wellness, then I am being authentic in the representation of myself to the world. These are my glass values, and I believe they will continue to shape my endeavors and my philosophy towards the work that I do.