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10/20/2019 » 10/22/2019
2019 Annual Conference - East Lansing, Michigan

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Harmony in Resistance: Pushing Back on Your Purpose

Posted By Nicole DeLiberis, Residential Communities Coordinator, Millikin University, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

At many of our institutions, in our divisions, and within our offices, the “why” is more valuable than the “what”. And don’t we get caught up in the “what” most frequently? Questions such as, “what do you do in your position?” can lead us to answer with the “what”: housing placement, training student leaders and paraprofessionals, student conduct, overseeing an area of residential living spaces on campus, and more - oh, our many hats! How often do you share the “why” of what you do? For those of us 1) in survival mode, 2) experiencing various changes, or 3) caught up in the busy-ness of the summer (“but don’t you enjoy time off when the students are away?”...too soon?), we often look at what comes next instead of asking how our daily and weekly tasks lead ourselves and our organizations into achieving the “why”.

As a new professional, the TED Talk below pushed me further to understanding why we do what we do. I entered the field humbly, yet at war with imposter syndrome. I was fending off a memory of a mock interviewer in the field saying, “you’ll never be hired to work in residence life or housing”, paired with a stronger memory of my first act of boldness, when I firmly said aloud, “thank you for your feedback. I’ll get there on my own path, then”.

Resistance, both alarming and affirming. I caught my breath and moved forward.

My perspective of the mock interviewer led me to believe that I didn’t know my “why” of working with college students from a residential life and housing perspective. I had a phenomenal undergraduate experience that shaped who I was, and when I shared that narrative, many of my peers understood and felt similarly; yet not every seasoned professional accepted my truthful answer and wanted more.

Resistance. Challenge accepted.

I wanted to see students grow. I wanted to contribute new things. I wanted to help. I wanted others to sell me their “why” so i could be part of an achievement-driven team. How grateful I am to have learned the “why” of a place now so near to my heart, to feel affirmed, and to be encouraged to revisit and adapt my “why” as I grow in the field. Not everyone experiences this, but I hope you, dear Reader, will strive for it.

What is my “why” now? Appropriately disruptive. Relationship-building on behalf of the greater good. Justice, both restorative and social. Vulnerability amidst challenge. Acknowledging and striking down broken systems. For me, whatever that looks like paired with my best characteristics - we’re doing it.

According to Simon Sinek, the pattern of achieving your “why” asks the following questions:

  • What is your purpose?

  • What is the cause?

  • What is your belief?

  • Why does your organization exist?

  • Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

  • What is proven to us by your “why”?

Sinek then discusses the Golden Circle and its three sections: the “what”, “how”, and “why”. Like I said, it can be easy to sell what we do and how we do it - those are rational and analytical processes. But the “why” - that innermost section - can be the most challenging and crucial because the “why” gets people on board. Sinek used Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech as the example, citing that 250,000 people attended to hear his belief in changing America, not to hear what he thought America needed during the Civil Rights Era. “He gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not ‘I Have a Plan’,” says Sinek.


I encourage you now, today, to establish or revisit your ”why” - not just professionally, but also in terms of your wellness- and health-related goals. Allow your goals to resist comparison and recognize your purpose. Fend off the looming imposter syndrome with strength and bravery that has been hidden away waiting to pounce since it began stirring inside of you, waiting for the right moment. I hope that this reflection renews you and brings harmony to you in the face of resistance and challenge.

Video Link here!


Tags:  #wellness #SAPro #SAGrad #GLACUHO #H_W 

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