Using the Tools

Posted: October 15th, 2015  |  No Comments  | 

Earlier this week, I posted this thought on Facebook: “Success comes through setting a standard and then building a system to reach that standard.” It reminded me of the famous proverb, “What good is having a broom if it only stays in the closet?” (Okay, I actually don’t think that’s a famous proverb, but it’s certainly becoming one in my household as I have to remind my kids often to clean up their messes).

Our students are quick to tell us that they are shooting for a 4.0 this term. They can set the theoretical standard. But do they have a system to attain this 4.0? Do they know what it will take (beyond the well-intentioned response “hard work”)? Will they sweep up daily, on a regular schedule, to always maintain their standard of excellence, or will they only feel moved to take the broom out when there’s a huge mess, neglecting other areas and only addressing the obvious. Will this become their practical standard – to do the bare minimum, only when it can no longer be avoided (and when prodded by someone else), and pretend that everything is okay, and that this approach will be enough to get them an A?

What about us as student affairs professionals, educators, and counselors? What are our standards? What systems do we have in place to guide us to success? Do we plan our days with our systematic framework in mind, or do we simply do the best we can (which is our way of saying “work hard”), with no clear objective. If we haven’t even defined the outcomes we intend to produce, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we feel like we’re going in circles, not really getting anything done. There’s a huge difference between being busy and being successful. We must clearly identify what we want to achieve, then we must invest our efforts strategically to get it done, never losing focus on the bigger picture, even when the nature of the work presents numerous new challenges and tasks along the way.

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