Sometimes we overlook the simple solutions to our challenges. If a problem seems complex, we feel that the solution must also be complex. We dismiss the obvious. We’ve grown up in an educational system that has taught us to look for answers outside of ourselves. Because we believe the answers lie somewhere else, so does accountability, and for some, blame.
Most of us try to think our way through difficulties. We strain to find the answers in our minds, our heads. What if we looked only to ourselves for the answers we seek? What if we added our heart to the solutions? I propose a simple practice that incorporates the heart and the mind, and has the potential to change education and the world.
The first step in this practice is to feel your purpose. I use the word “feel” deliberately because feeling your purpose is quite different from thinking about your purpose. Most of us work for organizations that have mission statements that are collections of well meaning words and concepts; but don’t touch our souls. Perhaps that is why we can’t recite the organizational mission. It’s for our heads only.
Now, close your eyes, settle yourself, and ask, “Why am I an educator?” Your answer may be something like, “To have a positive impact on kids” Usually, your first answer only scratches the surface; so ask yourself, “For the sake of what will I have a positive impact on kids?” Once again, feel your answer. Try not to think too much. Try not to respond with a “right” answer, one that sounds good. Answer from your heart. Keep digging deeper by asking “For the sake of what…” after each of your answers until at last, you “know” you have connected to your real purpose, a purpose that seems at once clear, simple, and stirs your soul. Don’t be discouraged if the first attempt at this doesn’t produce something. Try again at another time.
If your mind is busy, it may intrude on the process, “This is crazy!” It may try to make you feel bad, “Something is wrong with me. No matter how hard I try, I can’t “feel” my purpose.” Or it may try to confuse you, “What does he mean by “feel” my purpose? I don’t get it.” The mind may even try to edit your feelings, “No, that purpose is not realistic. It’ll never happen.” Whatever the mind does to distract you, let it go; release it; and come back to your heart. Surrender to it. Relax. You are not going to “think up” a purpose for a mission statement, you are going to “feel” a purpose that is already working in you.
When you feel it, it may surprise you. It may be a purpose that is large and profound and seems impossible to achieve. It may be a purpose that is different than the one that you have been carrying around in your head for years. You may be surprised at how far you have wandered from your purpose or how simple and clear it is. Whatever you find, it will become the foundation of all your learning, transformation, and growth. It will be the bedrock that supports all that is built upon it.
When you have found your purpose. When you have felt it. When you “know” as best you can, that this is it, then you are ready to commit to a simple practice that has the potential to change education and the world.
Each morning, before your first class, your first task, cup of coffee, or meeting; sit quietly for a moment. Feel your purpose again. Write it on a piece of paper. Now, list at least one intention for the day that flows from that purpose, no matter how small, for example, “I will recognize the gifts of one of my students.” You’re Done.
What would happen to our schools and our world if every teacher, administrator, and staff member lived and acted from his purpose each day? A purpose rooted in the deepest parts of his mind, body, and soul.