Why do I choose to work in higher education?
This is a question I ask myself everyday as I sit at my desk responding to emails and interacting with colleagues and students. This is not because I dislike my career choice or profession. It is quite the opposite actually.
For me, that question is utilized to ignite intention and focus. Exploring why I chose my field reconnects my beliefs and habits with my intended purpose. I personally choose to work in higher education because I have an interest in working with students at this critical stage where they are setting the foundation for their future. Most importantly, I enjoy connecting with people. I am energized when interacting with students and supporting them to build autonomy, grow their resilience, recognize their value, and connect their passions with future career choices.
I have no doubt that if you are reading this article, it is because you have a desire to better yourself so you can positively impact students. I also have no doubt that your job is hard.
There will always be barriers to the powerful work you do. Wrapped up in the passion and excitement of higher education are the real realities that universities face. The truth is, there are budget cuts. The student you worked with for months still might not see the power or possibility that lies within them. You may not always show up as your best self during those extended departmental meetings.
The real question we should ask ourselves is….
How can I show up as my best self to reconnect with my purpose?
Making yourself a priority and developing a clear understanding of what you need as a person and professional, will support you in doing amazing work. Focusing your energy on yourself, will inevitability make the barriers you stumble upon less significant and allow space for you to grow projects and initiatives from a place of passion rather than necessity.
I put together 4 strategies that I utilize to redirect my energy and focus on myself throughout the day. If you are like me, once you start incorporating these into your work routine you will be more in touch with your authentic self during your busiest of work days.
Start your day in a place of flow.
Flow can be described as being completely engaged in an activity and absorbed in the moment. Being in flow is being present. When I am present, I have no room to dwell on the past or future. Starting my day in a place of flow, provides me an opportunity to easily transition into my professional role with a mindfulness ease. To further explore how you can start your day in a place of flow, I would encourage you to think about moments when you find yourself completely absorbed in something that leaves you feeling energized. What are you doing? What is surrounding you? What is keeping your attention? Begin to incorporate these activities into your morning routine to prepare your mind for a positive and productive day.
I start my day in a place of flow by listening to my favorite podcasts while I get ready. Starting my morning with inspirational knowledge regarding health, wellness, and positive living resets my brain and connects my thoughts with passion. I find myself with a renewed excitement and my positive emotional state translates into my work environment and how I approach my day.
Be present to make better decisions.
As you read this, I can only imagine your first question is, “How can I explore the present moment when my to-do list is over 50 items long?” Let me start by saying, I am with you! Arriving at work with a full day ahead and a growing list of responsibilities can create a feeling of desperation to stay afloat. Do you approach work with a mind of racing thoughts ready to get to the next task? If so, you may be missing out on opportunities to be present and fully aware of what is occurring around you. Existing in this state of mind does not give us the capacity to connect with our intended purpose.
Accept the fact that the work will be there. You will not always have control over the amount of work assigned to you; however, you do have ownership over how you approach being productive. Being fully present to each task will allow you to think clearly as you focus your attention on one item. When you are fully present, you open yourself up to being fully invested in the current experience. I have found when I am fully present in a meeting, I am more aware of my colleague’s point of views and gain a deeper understanding of each individuals thought process. When I am fully present while sending a student email, the words in my email reflect an authentic response that allows for a deeper interpersonal connection. Having fewer errors in my emails is also a plus! Being present allows for an authentic experience and creates a sense of clarity by directing focus.
Drop your story.
The idea of dropping my story was first presented to me during yoga teacher training. It truly resonated with me and has become a lens through which I evaluate my thoughts. Throughout the day, I am constantly creating stories about people and situations around me. The student late for our meeting is clearly not invested. The email I sent my team with a grammatical error will obviously lead them to believe I am careless. The lack luster response I received when I gave my opinion about future programming clearly means everyone hated my idea. The stories we create to make sense of our experiences often do not serve us and steal our energy. The lies we tell ourselves hold us back from working from a place of passion.
Throughout the day, I would encourage you to notice the quality of your thoughts. Are they serving you? Do your thoughts bring you down or do they empower you? If you notice they bring you down, drop them. Just like that. Stop creating meaning around every interaction. Use your energy and creative brain to inspire you and take actionable steps that align with your purpose.
Make your personal needs a professional priority.
Working as a Credentialed Coach at a university, I know the rewarding and sometimes draining demands of higher education. I give a lot of myself to my students. I want to offer my students unconditional positive regard, nonjudgmental perspectives, creative outlets, empowering messages, and honest feedback. Maintaining this stamina, requires effort and energy. So much so, at the end of the day, the last thing I want to think about is what I can do to foster my own self-care. I simply wanted to relax without having to engage in more conversations or use any leftover brain power. This is exactly why I needed to stop making myself an afterthought during my work day.
I chose to become more intentional with energy. I decided I was worthy of my own attention. Most importantly, I chose to prioritize myself so I could show up big for others!
When making this decision, my habits had to change. Instead of rushing through my to-do list, I examined my list and determined which tasks energized or drained me. I then became more intentional about how I approach my work. For example, as an introverted extravert, I enjoy spending time with others but after an extended period of socializing, I need a moment to recharge alone. Therefore, after a large group presentation, I often schedule 15 minutes of returning emails. This task gives me the opportunity to be alone. After giving myself those short 15 minutes, I feel as though I have hit the reset button and I am able to show up as my best self for the next task. By approaching my work with a simple act of awareness, I am able to create a productive work experience while also giving myself the attention I deserve.
I would encourage you to think about how you can prioritize yourself at work. Start by thinking about what aspects of your work inspire you and which ones require a lot of your energy. The tasks that require a lot of energy, how can you approach them differently? How can you think outside of the box and work from a place of flow?
In my experiences, people often know what they need to feel motivated and energized but have not given themselves permission to proceed. Start prioritizing a mindfulness practice and see how your work is transformed. Start integrating your personal needs into your work day. I challenge you to give yourself permission.
About the Author: Krista Casale serves as a Success Coach at Tulane University in the Tulane Academic Success Center. Krista is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) through the International Coach Federation. In addition, she attained an ADHD specific coach training and is graduate of the ADD Coach Academy (AAC). Krista also leads the Resilience Cooperative’s Initiatives within her department to support students in growing their resilience and being strategic in the face of adversity. In her personal life, Krista is a certified Yoga Instructor and incorporates holistic and mindfulness practices into all aspects of her work. As a professional in higher education, Krista believes it is our responsibility to empower students to develop mindsets that will support them in growing their resilience and reaching their greatest potential. Prior to her work at Tulane, Krista received her undergraduate degree in Family and Community Services and her graduate degree in Counselor Education. Krista started her career off as a school counselor. For three years, Krista supported a local public school in Greenville, North Carolina by developing a comprehensive school counseling program that targeted social, emotional, and academic needs. She also oversaw the process that identified students for special education services by implementing academic and behavioral interventions to aid students in the general education classroom.