I shared in my blog about “Trying” (https://annmarieklotz.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/one-word-2012-continuing-to-evolve-and-ready-to-try/) that I recently decided to start running. While it’s true that this is my year to attempt all of the things that scare me just a little bit, there is more to the story as to why I decided to start running.
I (cover your ears, my contemplative, processing friends) despise reflection. I acknowledge that this is not a popular thing to say, especially in higher education. Every “best practice” document from our professional organizations discusses the need for “reflective practitioners.” It is absolutely imperative to have people around you who excel at this in your organization. You know, the folks who say “let’s unpack this issue a bit more.” Meanwhile, I want to pack up the backpack and move on to the next thing already. A work day for me means production, crossing off “to-do” lists and having tangible evidence of a successful day. Thinking deeply, processing at any great length, pondering about the “what ifs” and working on the 10 year strategic plan are just not skills that I naturally possess.
Call it impatience, “Activator” strength, or just my general need to keep things moving along, but I have always been like this. Which has always served me well…about 97% percent of the time. In our roles as students leaders, entry and mid-level professionals my mode of operation made sense. Entry level folks deal with juggling multiple things at once and this suited my style perfectly. Even at mid-level, my job is to keep the department moving forward, ensuring that we meet our departmental objectives—all of which are conducive to my “execute and move on” philosophy.
But now, as I delve in to the writing stage of my doctoral process and take on a new professional role where I will lead a unit, a new skill set is required. I can fight against it or I can lean into it, and I am opting to do the latter…as uncomfortable as it may be.
In my doctoral work, I am called to be the academic expert on my particular topic which means really getting into the literature and knowing it backwards and forward. It requires thinking about how it fits in a historical and modern-day context. It isn’t about a checklist, it’s about creating a new body of knowledge. New body of knowledge? That wasn’t on my daily to-do list. But it is now. Reflection and contemplation are required.
In my new position, I will be asked to construct a sustainable model of leadership for our professional staff that benefits our residential students. This isn’t like planning RA training, folks. It requires a deep understanding of the context of the university, the geographical area (totally new to me) and the needs of the incoming freshman class. Vision, careful planning and a willingness to make incremental change is necessary to ensure that we get it right.
Insert running. Despite the fact that I had to dust off an old pair of tennis shoes in the back of my closet and buy my first pair of shorts since 1995 I have found this time to be incredibly valuable. In the last 30 days I have logged 63 miles and have been thinking about the kind of researcher I want to be and the kind of leader I hope to become. It requires me (4 times a week for 30-40 minutes) to spend time with myself and think about the big picture. It’s a process—one I’m willing to go through because at the end of it I hope to emerge with a stronger skill set, create new research for our field and ensure the success of my new department. It is just the beginning stages for me, but I am hopeful that this new lifestyle change will help me in a variety of ways.
Do I love reflection? Nope. But do I enjoy the opportunity to become a better version of myself to serve others and our field? Without a doubt.