Sunday, March 4, 2012

Personal change initiative

it is pretty rare that you want to post a school assignment on your blog.  However, I thought this was pretty applicable.  I am taking a "professional issues in nursing" class, in which we are examining everything from leadership, to power differentials, to unions, to.... you name it, it's there.  At the start of the semester, we were coming up with the class outline, and one of the aspects that we added to the class outline was a personal change initiative.

it is not a "super serious" assignment, but one which is good to reflect on.   I always laugh about the aspect of "reflective practice" that occurs in nursing.  just sit, and think about what you did, and what could've been different.  :) anyway, this is how the assignment was described: "Leaders must embrace change and model change in order to encourage others to do so.  Learners will submit a 3-page, double spaced, 12 font description of a personal change initiative undertaken during the semester on March 30, 2012. Value of this assignment is 5%."  

so, since I didn't come up with new years resolutions this year, I present you with my "personal change initiative" assignment...

Since arriving back from Malawi, and settling into my life again as a student in Montreal, I have experienced an absolute growing together of both academics, and personal life.  In many ways, being in a southern country allows you to realize many of the things that you appreciate about your own life, which you do not think about on a day-to-day basis while in your home environment.  Academically, I am in a stage of transition: papers are being written, classes are coming together to build off each other and other concepts that have been learnt over the past three years, and my nine and a half stint as a student is coming to an end.  Finally, this year includes moving back to Vancouver, finding employment, and getting married.  Needless to say, it is a year filled with transitions, new situations to anticipate, and experiences to learn from and build upon.   With all these things coming together, I have a sense of anticipation that is brewing in me, and also a sense that it is a good time to be able to put effort on some of the areas in my life which need improvement, or change.
The first area that I want to work on is “quieting” myself.  In Malawi, there is a lot of time to do “nothing.”  To sit and observe the world going by, to take time and talk with strangers, to read in a chair, to journal, to walk slowly back from school or work.  There are a lot of times that force extroverts like myself to self-reflect and “be still.”  Upon returning to Canada, this was one of the areas in which I struggled the most.  My schedule was so jammed with “things to do” that I felt as if I was rushing from one thing to another, never having enough time to fit everything in.  Not that I was doing things that I don’t enjoy, or are not beneficial, but trying to do too many of those things.  Forgetting to take the time and focus on my personal life, and the environment around me.  I have known for a long time that I try to take on a lot (or, too many) different tasks; as a result, I often overstretch myself. 
The first area of personal growth this year, is to purposely give myself time each day (at least 30 minutes) of being quiet:  to unplug from electronics and conversation, but to engage in self-examination, and plug into the environment around me.  Part of this desire has rooted from reading “Ordering your private world,” (MacDonald, 2003), in which the premise is that if an individual’s “private world” is in order, it will be because the inner (spiritual) world is able to govern the outer world of activity.  In my personal life, I think it fosters the ability to live life from the “inside out,” allowing engaging the inner accomplishments that are necessary for public effectiveness.  I tend to suspect that the more my “private world” is in order, the more I will be able to effectively manage my public life and the occupations that I engage in (whether those be school, employment, sport, or relationship). 
The second area of personal growth that I am attempting to engage this year, is listening more, and being more direct with my use of anecdotal comparisons (i.e. story telling).  In both academic writing, as well as inter-personal conversations, I have had a consistent emphasis this year on how much can be said while using fewer words.  Marshall (2011) stated that active listening is useful in such things as effective communication (pp. 107), dealing with conflict (pp. 111), showing presence in leadership (pg. 31), taking courage in visionary leadership (pp. 36), and motivating others (pp. 118). I want to use the skills that I have strengthened through this program to be able to listen more effectively to what people are saying, and use my love of stories as short anecdotes to build relationship. Listening not only includes being able to “help” or “lead” other people, but in seeking my own mentorship and guidance. 
Finally, the last thing that I want to engage in more is reading outside of my discipline and reading works of “current great minds” (Marshall, 2011, pp. 64, 93).  Despite the difficulty of doing this during school, I believe that reading outside of our discipline allows us to a) foster entrepreneurial thinking and habits, b) engage in productive and open discussions with individuals of other fields, b) expand our world views, strengthening our ability to collaborate and have a broader understanding of other areas of knowledge.  Adding extra things to schedules that seem to have a less direct impact on our current engagements may be easily dropped; because of this, I tend to think that extra reading does not necessarily need to be “a lot,” but a little, frequently.  Definitely upon graduation, I hope to be able to give myself time to read more.
As I was writing this, I was able to reflect upon how picking aspects in my own life that need to be “changed” is very goal orientated, and could possibly add extra (un-needed) stress.  Essentially, adding different things into my life, when really I want to do is be able to simplify.  However, when I think about these three things, they are areas in which I can add, that should ultimately simplify everything else in life.  Being a goal oriented individual, I believe that I give myself small, and large goals to obtain.  It is my hope that in adding these three different things into my life, I will be able to move one step closer to achieving my ultimate goal in life of better serving and helping other people.

MacDonald, G. (2003).  Ordering your private world.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 
Marshall, E.S. (2011). Transformational leadership in Nursing.  New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. 

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