31 October 2010

My Role Model

I've been reading a whole bunch of papers from my students about their role models, the people they see as worthy of their respect and emulation.  It's always interesting to see what young people value, and it may bring some people some peace of mind to know that high school students still value traits such as honesty, integrity, compassion, love, and helping others.  Whenever I get to reading such papers, though (and I assign them every year), I start to wonder whether I live up to the concept of being a role model.  I also start to realize that my strongest role model should, for all practical purposes, be me!

Think about it:  We all have ideas about how the ideal person should act, what kinds of things that person should say and do, how that person should be.  If those are the traits that we truly value in others, then doesn't it make sense that we ourselves should strive to live up to those ideals?  Since we're the only ones who know for sure what our own personal ideals consist of, then we're truly the only people who can fully live up to those ideals, aren't we?

So we're the only people who can live up to all the ideals that we can imagine as important in a role model for ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm an adequate role model for others--for students, for fellow teachers, for people on the street whom I don't know--and I'm never sure of the answer.  But now I'm going to start thinking of just what it means to be a role model for myself.  What do I think a role model should do and say?  And then I'm going to strive to live up to those ideals so that eventually I can become my own role model, the person I'd most like to be like.  It will be a nice day if and when I ever reach that point!

It can be dangerous always looking to others to provide us with models for our actions and ideals.  How often have we seen a person who seems to be strong, ethical, and upstanding on the outside, only to find out later that that person has been hiding dishonesty and hypocrisy all along?  And how can we know just what steps were necessary for that person to reach the ideals that he or she has reached in life?  Would we be able to go through the exact same struggles in the exact same way, or should we focus on getting through our own struggles in life, and learning from them?

One of the greatest truths that I've found is that the best role models in life are those people who don't necessarily try to be role models--they just try to do the best they can, all the time, whether anyone's around to notice or not.  And that sort of integrity acts as a natural beacon--though it's often a small candle on a huge, windy plain rather than a huge lighthouse on a rocky shore.

28 October 2010

An Abundance of. . . .

“Abundance” is a word that always has been pretty foreign to me.  The way I grew up, we didn’t have a whole lot of anything.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite dinners when I was a kid was noodles and ketchup–and it still is.  I never realized when I was young, though, that we had noodles and ketchup when we didn’t have any money with which to buy “real” food.  So what was our out-of-money meal became one of my favorite dishes of all.

But when you grow up in a family that focuses so much on lack–lack of money, lack of food, lack of clothing (but never a lack of cigarettes!)–it’s easy to stay focused on lack for an entire lifetime.  What a shame this is when the world has given us so much abundance for which we can be very grateful, if only we’ll make the effort and take the time to recognize and appreciate all that’s there!

In my life, I have some great abundances.  Friends, family, co-workers, food, health, gadgets, technological devices, movies, music, books, students, information, opportunities for education and work. . . and the list can go on and on.  And what do I do sometimes?  I focus on the very few things that I don’t have in abundance, such as money.  And I do this even though I firmly believe that God and life will take care of us, all the time.  I’ve gone through times of trials and tribulations, just as everyone has, but the point is that I’ve gone through them.  And everything has turned out okay, usually even better that I would have dared to hope.  The blessings that I can truly count as mine represent an abundance that is deeper and richer than most kings and queens that ever have been in the world could have counted as theirs.  I have more to be thankful for than the vast majority of the other people on the planet, yet I can still focus on what I lack.  Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

I hope not just to recognize the abundance in my life, but also to appreciate all that I have, all the time.  It’s a lot.  And I hope to keep my focus on that abundance rather than on whatever I may perceive as lacking.  If I can do these things–and it’s only a matter of changing my perspective and keeping track of my thoughts–then I can make my life truly rich indeed!  It already is rich, but if I’m not living like it is, then I’m doing a great disservice to life!

Where one sees lack, lack manifests.
Where one sees abundance, abundance is supplied.
Darwin Gross

26 October 2010

A Path to Walk

I read some words the other day that had been written by someone who is very wise.  She wrote about walking a path towards our vision, a path towards what we want to become.  As I read the words I had a sudden feeling that I didn't have any idea what I want to become in life.  I do have a very good idea of what I want to be in any given moment, how I want to act, things that I might want to say or do, but I don't really have a vision of what I want to become, what I want to be working towards as I go through life.  Is it enlightenment?  Is it peace of mind and heart and spirit?  Is it a deeper spirituality?  Is it more money or higher social status?  Wisdom?  Friendliness?  To be a better teacher or coach?  Or am I working towards many things without clearly defining any of them?

Having a clearly defined vision of what I want to become obviously entails a commitment to creating the conditions that will allow me to reach that vision.  If I have a vision of becoming a better (more effective) teacher, then obviously I have to be teaching and/or working on learning about teaching.  If I have a vision of reaching a deeper spirituality, then don't I have to commit myself to creating or finding situations in which my spirituality will be developed and stretched to its limits?  I can't reach a deeper level of spirituality if I never explore my own spirituality, can I, whether that exploration be through reading, discussion, classes, meditation, or however else I best learn.

If I want to be on a path to fulfilling my vision, then I have to be committed to constantly working towards that vision.  I can't have a vision and just expect to reach it through the desire to reach it--desire can be a great motivator, but it's a lousy path to walk.

Do you have any visions of the person you wish to become?  If so, then what are you doing to reach those visions, to help yourself to become the person that the fulfillment of those visions would make you?  Have you made the commitment to allow yourself the time and resources to reach your visions?  Most of us wouldn't hesitate to help another person to reach his or her visions with all the resources available to us, yet few of us are willing to commit the time, effort, and resources necessary to reaching our own visions.  Heck--few of us are even willing to take the time to clearly define our visions, much less try to reach them.  But one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to define the person we'd like to become and then work towards becoming that person.  And once we reach that point, then it will be time to re-define, and then start making the effort to reach the new vision!  That process will put us on ever new paths, with new things to see, new people to meet, and new things to learn about life, other people, and ourselves.  Paths are great that way. . . .