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In this Wednesday blog series, I share 1) words and phrases that helped me build the mental strength I needed when my weight-loss / fitness / triathlon journeys felt daunting, along with 2) the cultural and self-improvement concepts I taught to community-leadership teams to help them lead an award-winning change process that resulted in cultural change.
The Change Formula
(D x V x K) x B > R
Change begins when you have a Dissatisfaction with the status quo, a Vision of how you would like life to be, Knowledge of the first few steps, Belief in your ability to bring about change, and the ability to lessen Resistance. Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on one of those key foundations for successful change. (Note: The change formula that I use is adapted from the work of Kathie Dannemiller and Robert Jacobs.)
Vision - Defining the Dream
Edmund Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer, explore, and philosopher. On May 29, 1953, Hillary was the first person to climb Mount Everest with the help of his Indian sherpa, Tenzing Norkay. Do you imagine that Hillary was just out wandering around one day and just happened up the summit? Of course not. Hillary had a vision, a crazy dream that motivated and gave his actions direction.
At times, I’ve been criticized for having dreams. Once, I wasn’t hired for a job because the principal at the school were I wanted to work said I was too idealistic about what kids could achieve. Another time, a colleague told me that collective dreaming was like singing Kumbaya – a silly plea for harmony and unity. But this I know: If we don’t dream it first, we will never achieve it. Any large accomplishment begins as a seemingly unobtainable dream, followed by a series of sound choices.
Dreams may be lofty, pie-in-the-sky, and unrealistic. They may be so huge that we suspect we will never reach them. That’s ok. There’s no expectation that we will actually reach our crazy dreams, but there is an realistic expectation that we will move closer to our dreams. How does that saying go? “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars!”
We may surprise ourselves by reaching the dream we thought was impossible. No one was more surprised than I when I qualified to represent the United States at the World Triathlon Championship! If you reach your dream, no problem. If you do reach your crazy dream, just set another.
Why dream? Although some people think dreaming about the seemingly impossible may be a waste of time, there are a lot of practical reasons for dreaming:
Motivation: Our dreams give purpose to our actions resulting in motivation. As an educator, my strong dream for 100% of the students in my state to be successful learners and responsible citizens, so they could become productive members of a global economy and enjoy the lifestyles that they desired. That dream created the motivation I needed to found a non-profit and work long hours on it’s mission. My dream of representing the USA at the World Triathlon Championship motivates me to push through tough workouts when my body begs to shut down. Whenever I experience a low motivation day, I remind myself of the dream I’m pursuing and push forward.
Efficiency: I’ve worked in schools where a common vision didn’t exist. In those situations, the each educator had a slightly different dream, and the school’s efforts were scattered in lots of different directions. In contrast, in schools were the administrators, teachers, parents, and community worked together to create a common vision, everyone’s time and energy were directed at the same dream — creating a much greater chance of moving toward the dream. It’s the same in triathlon. My coach and I meet at the start of each season to talk about our vision and what we’re going to do in the coming year to move toward that dream.
Prioritizing Actions: Once I’ve defined a vision or dream, I now have a means for evaluating the priority of my actions. Is teaching this content in my classroom going to move us closer to the vision? If so, keep that content. If not, omit the content to make time for something that will. Is this workout going to move me closer to my dream? If so, do it with integrity.
Vision-Based Approach to Change: Some change processes use a deficit approach, and begin by seeking explanations for things that didn’t work in the past. This approach forces people to find faults. In schools using this approach, I often hear high school educators say, “It’s the middle schools’ fault. They didn’t teach kids about ____.” I hear middle school educators say it’s the elementary schools’ fault, and elementary educators blame the parents.
In contrast, in a vision-based change process, we begin with the future — the vision or dream. There is no blaming for the past because visioning puts the emphasis on the future. We don’t even talk about the past. We simply define the dream and then figure out what each of us will do to move toward the dream. I love the visioning process in triathlon. Once my coach and I agree on the dream, we determine the steps that each of us will take to move closer to that dream.
No Whining: In schools and in sports, it’s so easy to forget about the dream and begin focusing on ourselves when we feel unappreciated or maligned. As a teacher, I’d find myself complaining about how the parents of my students didn’t appreciate all the unpaid time that I put into my jobs. As a triathlete, I sometimes feel sorry for myself because I’m exhausted by a hard workout. When I find myself whining, I quickly remind myself about my dream and my committed to that dream. It doesn’t matter if my work is unappreciated or if I’m tired from a tough workout, I have to just keep taking one step after another. I also remind myself that it’s impossible to have positive energy and whine at the same time!
What is your dream?
Don’t Get Stuck in Reality! As you think about your dream, be careful not to get stuck in reality. One of my favorite Zig Ziglar stories is his story about training fleas. Evidently, you can put fleas in a jar with a lid, and after jumping around for a while (like fleas do), they learn to not jump too high or they’ll bang into the jar’s lid. At that point, you can take the lid off the jar and the fleas will not jump out! They let past experiences put an invisible lid on their dreams. When you establish your vision or dream, there is no limit. Remember, dreams are not based in reality. They are lofty. (Later, I’ll blog about turning our lofty dreams into realistic goals that fall somewhere between the current state and our dreams).
Should you tell people your dream? That depends. Some people find it motivating to tell others their dreams. Doing so creates a sense of accountability. They said there were going to move toward their dream, so now they must do so or have to admit to others that they gave up on their dream. I’ve heard triathletes say that as soon as you decide to do your first Ironman race, you should tell people right away so you stay on track during the long workouts as you prepare for the 140.3 mile race. In my case, I like to keep my dreams secret. Telling people my secret dreams puts too much pressure on me to perform and takes the fun out of training. Each person is different. Figure out which approach works best for you.
Next Wednesday’s Words: KNOWLEDGE OF THE FIRST FEW STEPS
Road to Worlds 2021 . . .
Precision Hydration: I am now serving as a brand ambassador for Precision Hydration. Woohoo! PH provides FREE Sweat Tests to help people determine how much electrolyte they’re losing when they sweat during exercise, FREE Video Calls with a sweat expert (my call was with a former pro triathlete!), and easy-to-use electrolytes that athletes can add to their water. I’ve been using PH’s products for the past year and really like them. Later in the week Precision Hydration posted an article about my story on their blog! Hopefully, their blog will help to encourage others to chase their dreams! PH also agreed to provide those who use the Start Your Journey tool on my website to establish their foundations for success with a 15% discount to help celebrate their first step in chasing their dream!
Training: The weight bench and dumbbells I ordered from Amazon finally arrived. My living room is starting to look like the free-weights room at my local YMCA!
Laugh of the week: My coach told me this week that we’re trying to reroute my neurological impulses to bypass my dominant quads when I run. He added that this was challenging because I had an “old brain.” An old brain? LOL.