Sending Your Child Off to College

Horse back riding at the Grand Canyon - Sending Your Child Off to College

Mom,” my son begged, “don’t do it.

“Judge, I’ll try not to … but it’s really hard.  It’s my nature.”

I explained this to my son while moving him into his college dorm last week.  Upon spotting another freshman a few rooms down from his, my instincts were strong – go up to this young man and introduce him to my son so they could both be friends … maybe even best buds for life?    

I could tell by the look in my son’s eyes that his freshman year success depended on me fighting every single urge in my body to not be a “helper” in this moment.  To not embarrass him.  So, I didn’t do anything.  Then.

But when we started walking outside, the young guy started to, too.  It would’ve been weird not to say anything, so once we were out of the dorm I turned around and said, “Hey there, where are you from?”  Long story short: Kyle is a student athlete and seems to be a really great kid. 

After introductions were made, and when we parted ways, Judge looked at me, cracked a smile, and said, “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

Clearly, no. 

Behavior change for me, and for anybody, is really hard.  It’s challenging yourself to overcome years of programming and instincts – to tell yourself that maybe what you want to do isn’t what you should do … and override a powerful force that’s gotten you this far in life. 

Taking this experience one step further, this explains why it’s so hard for leaders in organizations to lead through change – new projects or processes, new technologies that they’re implementing, and a new strategic direction.  It’s not just yourself that has to be better than your instincts, it’s getting everyone else on board, too. A seemingly insurmountable task!

Change is an emotional process.  Even good change, like a military service member leaving active duty, getting a new puppy, or moving to a new community.  On paper, good ideas seem so easy to implement.  In action, there are powerful human instincts that have to be overridden in order for a new era of success to be realized.  And these emotions aren’t just yours – they’re everyone’s, which you have to learn to respect, empathize with, and influence.

Going back to my situation, aka my “mojo dojo casa house becoming less mojo*,” my son’s new chapter represents a cultural change for my family – especially my youngest son, whose emotions I’m tuning into heavily right now.  It’s easy to get distracted and/or consumed with how change is impacting you, but when you pick your head up, look around, you can start to see how one event is creating a seismic shift for everyone and you realize that there’s a whole lot of emotional potpourri that you’re dealing with … a whole lot opportunities to be the leader you know you can be.

There are three qualities I believe we have to lean into when we experience a significant change in our lives.

–   Self Awareness.  Let’s start here.  It’s impossible to lead other people through change if you can’t lead yourself.  Being honest with yourself about your emotions is a starting point in being able to manage them.  For me, self awareness is achieved in reflection – long walks and quiet moments have been my lifetime best friends.  Reflection also helps me think about others and how they’re doing, and how I can support, which brings me to my second quality ….

–   Empathy:  Empathy is being able to identify with the emotions of others.  I don’t have to have a similar experience as you to be empathetic.  I just need to imagine what you’re going through and how I might feel in the process.  This gives me insight into your mental and emotional state, and will inform me how I can support you.

–   Grace: Significant change means we’re not always going to be our best because we’re operating in a new paradigm.  Give yourself, and others, a bit of grace as we stumble in adjusting to our new normal.

Speaking of change, my thoughts are with you as we all transition into September, which marks for everyone a new pace, a new routine, and a new season.  May self awareness, empathy, and grace guide you and help you better lead yourself and those around you.

My best, Angie

*If you don’t get the reference, go see the Barbie movie.  It’ll all make sense, especially the picture of the horses.  🙂