January is the time of year we think about a fresh start, a new year, new goals, a chance to look ahead to all of the possibilities that are before us. As we turn the calendar to 2018, many of you have a new found optmism for what about ourselves must change to get to where we want to be. Maybe we recognize unhealthy habits that are leading us down a path we don’t want to go. Whether we need to eat healthier meals, work out a little more, make better decisions about how we spend our time, money, or just our energy and we start off the month believing that we can finally conquer our problems with the right plan.
On college campuses, this same idea is at play. The spring semester comes with a sense that it is time to focus. Even our newest students now have some experience as college students to draw from to prepare for what is ahead. This semester, I will: stay on top of my classes; get involved in an organization that is in my major; apply for summer internships; work on my admission to grad school; or search for a full time position after college.
For much of our Sorority/Fraternity community, there are new leaders and a fresh optimism for getting the business of our organizations right. New teams of leaders will begin to strategize and plan for how to build a better fraternity or sorority. For others it is a busy season of intake with new faces joining our chapters. This all creates a new found optimism and a breath of life that energizes all of us. What possibilities are out there to get it right, make good decisions and have a positive impact on our members, our campus and our community?
As with well intended set of resolutions, we recognize the vast majority of folks who fill the gyms in January have abandoned those resolutions by Superbowl Sunday. Many students seeking to make a 4.0 in the spring, find themselves stressed and playing catch up in their classes before spring break. So why is that and how do we get to the lasting change we so desire?
Here are a few simple strategies that may help both individuals and organizations:
- Start with a vision… or as Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits for Highly Effective People says “Begin with the end in mind.” What will it look like when I get to where I want to be? How will it make a difference in my life or to others? Some folks use vision boards for personal reminders or create a message/ mantra to communicate the vision with others. Simple steps to remind yourself or your team where you are going and the underlying reason we do what we do. In the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life at UT, we have a vision to be “a premier sorority and fraternity community.” You are all a part of that. At the end of the day, never get so lost in the weeds you lose sight of the bigger picture.
- Make a plan with identifiable, measurable specific goals. Sometimes we want to change the world at once. We may be so dissatisfied by the current state of things that we fail to recognize we didn’t get here overnight and getting where we need to be may take some time. What one thing do I/we need to accomplish today; before the end of the week; by the end of the month: before I/we leave for spring break; or before summer break. The journey will always start with a single step moving in the right direction. The ultimate definition of success is making small decisions/steps in the right direction every single day. Well defined goals and action plans will make sure you are moving in the right direction and not walking in a circle.
- Share the plan. Write your goals and action steps down. Put them where you can see there. Maybe a screensaver on your laptop or printing them out and putting them on a bulletin board or your refrigerator. Talk about the plan. Make it a part of the routine. Make sure you involve others and listen to their insights. Even for personal goals, people are far more likely to achieve their goals if they have communicated their plan and have surrounded themselves with people who are holding them accountable to doing what they said they wanted to do. Whether it is a group of classmate that meets weekly to review for a statistics class or taking a chapter meeting where you connect the events of the week to the goals you established at your retreat, make sure your team of supporters know the road you are on and how they can help get you there.
- Reward the small wins and the big accomplishments. Don’t forget to celebrate the wins. Reward yourself with time with friends for getting the paper done first instead of putting it off until after you get back. In organizations, be gracious with sincere praise and appreciation. Tell people when they do something well, share your own wins with the people around you and give people credit for the support they give to you or the team. Post the Positive on social media, share the good things happening that are making a difference. People enjoy being on a winning team. It is easy to fixate on what is not going well. Remind yourself and your team of all the victories.
- If you stumble, and at some point we all do, don’t give up. Failure is always more common than victory, but learning to persevere is one of failure’s greatest gifts. In fact failure is often the prerequisite for some of life’s victories. Getting back up, and going to work when its seems nothing is going your way is just an opportunity to take a look at what might need extra support, redirection, or an extra try,,,, it’s all a part of the process of getting where you want to be. As a lifelong Tennessee Football fan, some of my favorite memories have been victories after losing streaks against our opponents. No one ever sought the losses, but it made the taste of victory much sweeter.
Wishing all of you in our Rocky Top Sorority and Fraternity Family the best for 2018!