Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wisdom for the School Leader: Coping with the What-If's

How many times a day does someone, perhaps one of your teachers or even a parent come to you reminding you of the "What-If's" that you and your school currently face. For example, they say, "What if it snows next week during exams and state testing?" Or, "What if parents become upset with your decision to delay report cards?" As a school leader, there is no shortage of people around you reminding you of all the possible outcomes of a given situation. The honest truth is, though, we can't deal with the "What-ifs." Sure, we can plan for the most possible contingencies, and as effective leaders, we should. To do less than that is shirking our duties.

But the reality is our schools and our lives are complicated. There is absolutely no way to prepare for the "what-ifs" with high levels of certainty. The wisest course of action is offered by Buddhist Teacher,Thubten Chodron:
"We can ask ourselves, "Can I do something about this situation?" If the answer is yes, then there's no need to worry. We can act. If the answer is no, then there's no use for worry. We can relax, see what happens, and deal with the situation the best we can."
When the "What-if's" start echoing through our minds, it is so easy to get caught up in playing through scenario after scenario. These stories are compelling and often frightening. But that's just it. They're stories. The truth is we can't possibly plan for all those potentialities. There are times when we can't plan for any possibilities. We have to accept, relax and see what happens. We have to let go of the mistaken belief we are always in control.

Being an effective leader, educator, person or even student, means recognizing that there's sometimes no preparation for every "What-if" we face. Being effective means knowing when to let things be. We sometimes need to let go, relax, and see what happens. Things are sometimes as they are. As Sharon Salzberg writes and I often remind myself, "Life is as it is despite our protests."

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