I don’t enjoy buying clothes. I used to, but now it feels like a hassle with finding the right size and trying it on only to find out I’ve gained more weight than in the past. But, I had to buy a few new suits in the past month. It’s not that I outgrew the suits by height or girth. Two of my suits got holes in the elbows. The person at the store shared that was probably due to typing.
It’s amazing to think about how the daily rubbing against the table created those holes. It didn’t happen in a single event. And, it wasn’t caused by a massive movement. Instead, it happened due to a series of small, incremental, and on-going moments that happened over time – a collective impact.
We tend to look at the “big” moments that cause a monumental movement. A devastating incident that causes something to be lesser than before. Or, a decision or vote that allows something to increase. But, we sometimes neglect to see how those small moments that accumulate into something more, something else, over time.
One day, it’s a hole in a suit. The next, it’s the changing of a life of another person. The daily gesture of welcoming someone in the morning. The weekly check-ins with a student inspiring them with hope and belief in their future. The continued acknowledgement of a colleague’s hard work. The persistent follow-up and coaching to help a person through a trial.
I was talking with a colleague earlier this week who was questioning whether he was making a difference. He shared about his struggles and feelings not feeling adequate in his role to be the person to lead during this time. He shared that he didn’t feel he was making an impact.
In helping him to reflect, I asked him what made him feel this way and how he was defining impact. He was looking for a movie-making moment; some theatrical movement of people singing in unison to announce a breakthrough. Yet, no music was being played in his background, and he only felt the drudgery of his time and effort being wasted.
Taking a step back, I asked him what he loved about his job. In his sharing, he revealed stories of lives impacted based on the collective impact he had by coming to work everyday. Believing in each student. Being visible and connecting with students to offer support and purpose. Talking with staff and check-in on them, asking them what they needed help with, and supporting them in their work. As he shared those stories out loud, he began to nod his head. A smile covered his face. He realized that he wasn’t asking the right question to himself. He admitted his fault in not investing time reflecting on his purpose.
I’m sure the same may be happening to some of you. There may be times during the school year that may be more difficult than others. It’s hard work. And, it’s easy to get caught up with then negative voices in our head.
Those movies that we watch in the theater don’t capture the daily grind of our work. But, it’s important to define how we measure our success – it’s not always those big things that let us know we are living in our purpose – it’s those small on-going, moment-by-moment opportunities we get to connect, share, inspire, love, and support others. It’s that collective impact. The small wear that created the hole in my suit has the same impact in changing a life. Stay focused and keep doing the right thing, and over time the care that you invest will alter a future.