In response to the conversation on the blog on commitment, our colleague Laura Lamothe stretched my thinking with her personal reflection. Laura, a supervisor at Southwest Human Development in Arizona, invites us to think about the relationship between commitment and purpose and how absolutely essential it is to know YOUR “why”. Specifically, when our roles become more complex and things get murky, a go-to response (and not necessarily the best one) is to experience self-doubt. And with insecurity can come the need to be perfect. The result – being derailed from your sense of purpose and thereby losing your commitment.
As always we invite your responses. If commenting on the website isn’t your thing, you’re welcome to send it to us directly and we’ll share it with Laura. Remember too that you can always use the Leading for Children facebook page for a place to engage in conversation with colleagues. Enjoy!
When I entered the field of early childhood education, I was very clear about my purpose…about WHY I was doing what I was doing. I was “all in” mentally and emotionally. My love of the learning process and figuring out how to guide others in exploring how to do their best learning fueled me and anchored me to working with young children. My commitment to this purpose continues to anchor me today as a coach.
I think commitment is about persistence even when facing resistance and not compromising on what I said I would do even when compromise feels like the only option. This requires me to be “all in”. However true commitment is not possible unless I know and believe in what I am committing to.
After many years of teaching children, I became a director at a corporate child care center. A year or so into my new role, I somehow lost my purpose and became adrift. I was still committed, but to the job, not my purpose.
The opportunity to guide and mentor teachers was what enticed me to become a director but I quickly found myself submerged in business management. I didn’t know how to navigate this new path, especially when asked to uphold policies that went against my beliefs about what was best for children and teachers. The combination of my uncertainty about business management and the policy issues challenging my beliefs, made me feel incompetent and full of self-doubt for the first time in my career.
Insecurity drove me to seek perfection–first and foremost from myself and then eventually from others. And oddly enough, the more I sought perfection, the less “in” I became. You’d think it would be the opposite. If it was perfection I was after, you’d think I would be 100% committed. Instead, seeking perfection highlighted flaws, challenges, and frustration in myself and others. I lost sight of why I was doing the work I was doing in the first place. By seeking perfection I further lost my purpose.
After some deep introspection and guidance from the people I trusted most in my life, I let go of perfection by realizing not only how unrealistic it is but also how much it closed me off to truly seeing myself and those that I worked with. I accepted that being a director was not the role for me, which was difficult because at the time it felt like a failure. Then someone said to me, “Failure is continuing down the wrong road when you know it is the wrong road. Success is getting yourself back on the right road.” Only then was I able to realign and reconnect with MY purpose.
Being clear with myself about what drives me in this work, and why I want to continue doing it (even in the face of the many challenges and adversities it can bring) is what keeps me all in. My purpose anchors me as a leader in this field, regardless of what role I hold. Commitment, deep commitment, is much easier to uphold and is much more fulfilling when I know and believe in what I am committing myself to…..MY purpose….my individual driving force.
Laura Lamothe is a Quality First! supervisor at Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development.