Wednesday, March 28, 2012

You Are Enough - Focus On Living It Out: Part 3

For this week, I have invited Fred Myrtle (class of 2011), Leadership Consultant for Beta Theta Pi, to author our final post on the subject of You Are Enough. Fred travels in the Southwest Region visiting chapters and coaching them on how to be the best men they can be through their experience in Beta. He also joined us in 2012 as a co-facilitator at the Ultimate Greek Adventure. Enjoy this message from one of our own. -Mandy

My mother always used to say, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Looking back at my undergraduate career, I would definitely agree. I spent countless hours staying up all night writing papers and studying for tests. By the time I was a senior, I was engrained to study the night before a test or to start a paper a few days before it was due. I grew confident in my ability to procrastinate, plus it let me do all of the other things in my life (fraternity, work, social life, etc.)

Despite this “confidence” I never really liked my work. I always thought: “I would be a better student if I had more time to study” or “I could have gotten a higher GPA if I tried harder.” Having developed a tendency to procrastinate during my undergraduate years, I have begun to see it negatively affect my current role as a leadership consultant.

Having read Mandy’s previous blog posts and really enjoying Brené Brown’s talk on shame and vulnerability (I even bought her book to further explore them) I wanted to spend my time focusing on something concrete, something that I could “fix” in a short amount of time. I bought the book Procrastination written by Jane Burka, PhD and Lenora Yuen, PhD on Amazon because it had the highest reviews and was about, you guessed it…. Procrastination. I was on page two when I realized this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. It took me until page 20 to realize that what Mandy had blogged about last week was in every single way relevant to my problem with procrastination.

To quickly summarize the first part of the book, we have to know ourselves and understand why we procrastinate before we can begin to address it. The authors break procrastination into four categories:
  1. Fear of Failure: The Procrastinator on Trial
  2. Fear of Success: Hello Procrastination, Good-bye Success
  3. The Procrastinator in Combat: Fear of Losing the Battle
  4. The Comfort Zone: Fear of Separation and Fear of Intimacy
For me, fear of failure is what really makes me procrastinate. I suffer from perfectionism: I want everything to be perfect, if it is not perfect then people will judge me, and then I’ll be a failure. Here is a simple equation of the predicament:
Self-worth = Ability = Performance
In order to protect myself from failing/ not being perfect, I procrastinate:
Self-worth = Ability –(Procrastination) – Performance

By purposefully procrastinating I was giving myself a safety net in case any of my work was not perfect. This brings us back to my previous comments, “I would be a better student if I had more time to study” or “I could have gotten a higher GPA if I tried harder.” I was sabotaging myself because I was deathly afraid of being judged, of not being perfect. If I tried my hardest and still fell short I would be a failure, no matter how trivial the task.

This brings us back to the previous blog posts. In order to stop procrastinating, I have to know that I am enough; that the work that I produce is not a direct reflection of who I am as a person. I have to have courage to get my work completed and know that if it’s judged, either good or bad, I will be okay.

Procrastination is exceedingly complex and there are many aspects that contribute to it. Beating procrastination is a constant work in progress. The individual has to become mindful of his or her actions in order to overcome it.

If you struggle with procrastination and it causes you stress and or anxiety in your life, I highly recommend this book. It offers great insight and poses a lot of great questions. It should also be known that I am still working through my procrastination, I was asked to guest write over 2 weeks ago and I completed this the night before it was due. It’s a work in progress…. =)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You are Enough - Focus on How You Think: Part 2

Something really surprising happened to me this past week. It wasn't surprising because it was the first time, it was surprising because I'd never focused on it through this lens. All of a sudden, I became very aware that I had received no feedback on last week's post. As I sat in my living room working on this week's post, all I could think was, "Should I abandon this series of posts? Is this not relevant? Is this not interesting (or worse, not helpful) to those I serve?" Without too much effort, I became filled with self-doubt. All those feelings of, "Who I am to be writing about anything?" That moment when you question your knowledge, expertise, worth.

Dang it, I am 39 years old. I know a lot and have experienced a lot. Where was all of this coming from? I took a deep breath, summoned all of my courage and realized it was shame. Like the video that I posted last week - that overwhelming feeling of, "I'm not X enough." You know what I mean, right?

  • "I could never be an Exec Board member, I'm not organized enough"
  • "They wouldn't want me to invite them to have lunch, I'm not fun enough"
  • "I shouldn't be a 'Big', I'm not good enough"

These are powerful messages that many live with every day. In watching the TED Talk, the primary research point that hit me was, People who know and feel they are worthy of love and belonging believe they are worthy of that love and belonging. Stay with me here for a moment. This means that you don't have to have all of your 'ish' together before you take on a project, help another, show up to a chapter meeting. Fraternity and sorority life are designed to be a 'Come As You Are' experience. We are all imperfect - and that's what makes us wonderful.

If we can create that kind of chapter - one that truly sets the stage that being real and being vulnerable is important, then change begins. Or, as my friend said it, "People feel they are enough and begin making better, more constructive decisions."

Last week, one of my favorite alums sent me a new TED Talk by Brené Brown... In it she stated, 
"Vulnerability is not weakness.... Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage." 
Be courageous.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You Are Enough - Focus on You: Part 1

In February, I was invited to be on the facilitation team for Delta Tau Delta's Division Meeting. Nearly 200 undergraduate members from 15+ campuses met in Palm Springs to talk about Delt, their officer positions and leadership. One of the small group sessions I sat in on showed a TED Talk by Brené Brown called, "The Power of Vulnerability". It is about the power of connection and how we can live as whole-hearted people. The talk is 18 minutes long, but well-worth the time.

This next week is Greek Week here on campus. Sam Littlefield and Amanda Castillo have been working tirelessly to coordinate all of the activities. (THANK YOU!) I would ask that in the midst of the busyness and fun distraction of this next week that you take time for yourself. Watch this TED Talk, spend some time thinking. Send it to a friend, ask them what they thought. Rest, stay focused on what really matters.

More next week. For now, Focus on You. You are enough.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Big A - Ambiguity

When I was a newer professional, a Director in Student Affairs said to me, "People who can't work in ambiguity don't last long working with me." I was quite overwhelmed by the boldness of the statement. I mean, really, my entire life had been a search for solid answers and detailed responses. She shared her statement with a snarky smile and a sense of joy. Joy? She was describing my worst nightmare!

My life plan had included ambiguity in many areas... Friendships, job, graduate school plans, dating. But, I had fought the good fight and beat back the unknown to a manageable place. I worked and battled to be sure of things. I was certain that my career was what I wanted. My new husband met the criteria on my mental checklist. I had friends that I chose - and that were fulfilling relationships. Even faith was an area that I was sure of... And, trust me, the irony of that statement is not lost on me now.

To have a seasoned professional embrace living without definitive answers around every corner puzzled me. As I worked at USD longer, student conduct responsibilities were added to my job. A seeming match made in heaven - rules are black and white. Did people/groups break the rules? Yes or No - no ambiguity there. Little did I know that the answer is almost always "maybe". As I sought clarity, direction, definition I realized that in the midst of the "maybe" was often understanding, grace, and people's lives. I learned to lean into the discomfort of not knowing all of the answers. More importantly, I realized that the beauty of my life was in that discomfort. A colleague of mine called it, "the space between fear and faith, everything is fine and nothing is fine, maybe so and maybe not; the space between I am sure and surprise!"

Where is your heart when you consider ambiguity? Mine still starts pounding when I don't have all of the answers, but I know that it is a part of the ride. One of my pastors often talks about the excitement of the messiness of life. She parents, shepherds, teaches, mentors, loves - all without needing firm answers at each turn. She models for me the beauty of embracing the unknown.

If you've made it this far in, you may be asking - so what on earth does this have to do with the fraternity and sorority experience? Over the next two months we will be having conversation about the See Action, Take Action program. Some of the questions rolling through my head are: Is it working? What happens if we stop talking about personal responsibility? Are our members safe in the context of the events we plan? Are our members cared for by others to the point where their friends will step into the ambiguity with them and challenge them to be better?

Ambiguity. It's beautiful. It sucks. It is where I have to rest and know that the work we do matters.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meet Me Half-Way

This semester, I sat and talked for a while with a well-respect fraternity leader. He is appreciated by his peers and valued by me, personally. We were talking about this next semester and where our community could/should be come May. During this conversation, he said something interesting to me. He said, "I really think people are willing to work together if you will meet them half-way."

"Meet you half-way?", I responded, "Tell me more." As I listened for the next few minutes, I became more and more convinced of my reaction. When he finished, I shared my honest response. If I am meeting students "half-way", that implies that we are, in the least, coming from opposite places. Or, at the most, moving in opposite directions.

He was quite surprised when I shared, "You're thinking about it wrong. I am working with you. There is no need to meet you anywhere - we are already side by side.

Now, I will confess to you that in college there were a large number of students that felt that our Greek Advisor was not working with us. Perhaps that's just what happens when a large organization is led by such a small group. Additionally, our Advisor held the role of holding us accountable. And, heaven knows, that never makes you well-liked by the masses. I know that for many, it was always easier to just allow the blame fall to him rather than owning it ourselves.

So, two lessons come to mind as I continue to reflect on this:
1. It is important to not see your "help" as your "enemy". My job is designed to help you - in a variety of ways. I am here to make your events go smoother, to help you work better as a group, and to help develop you as men and women prepared to leave USD and change the world.

2. When you don't own your own decisions and allow your members to place blame on "the administration" or IFC and Panhellenic, you are taking away your own power. As student leaders, you are powerful  beyond measure. Take up your authority and challenge others to follow you.

I wish you a wonderful and restful Spring Break. Be safe and have fun. I am looking forward to working with you, alongside you, when you return!