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The Mentality of Making a Difference

Posted By Molly Hutchcroft, MSW, Residence Hall Director at Rockford University, Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Molly Hutchcroft, MSW, Residence Hall Director at Rockford University

 

 

Imagine sitting in a room with a group of Student Affairs or Higher Education Professionals. Now imagine each of you go around and share why you wanted to work in this field. What do you think you’d hear? I would guess at least 85% of the group will make statements that refer to wanting to help others, that college students are at a very interesting and impressionable stage in their life, and that they want to make a difference in the lives of college students because of that. Now, moving forward, that 85% is now going into their position with the mentality that they are going to make a difference in the lives of students. Notice how I use the plural students. I think that many of us, myself included, get hung up on the idea of the difference needing to be drastic, that the steps taken to get to that drastic change needs to be grand and elaborate, and it needs to benefit many people.

 

By definition, making a difference means doing something that is important and doing something that helps people or makes the world a better place. Nowhere in that definition does it say that making a difference needs to be something that receives recognition or that it has to be for an entire population of people. A positive difference in one person’s life can have a huge ripple effect, whether you realize it or not. I think the most frustrating part is not knowing how you make a difference or if it gets passed on. However, I think that so often, the individual experiencing the difference may not realize it themselves. All of that being said, it’s easy to forget that a difference, no matter how small, is still a difference.

 

“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts

humanity has dignity and importance and should be

undertaken with painstaking excellence.” 
 Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Now, if you’re anything like me, it’s pretty easy to feel defeated when you try, try, and try again to help a student with something they’re struggling with and nothing seems to be getting through.  Whether it’s academics, a behavior, socializing with others, or anything else that you are assisting with, you want to help them be the best version of themselves. But when it seems like nothing is registering and nothing is changing, I think it’s very easy to believe that in some way it’s your fault. When that happens, it seems that in general there are two basic ways individuals tend to proceed. You can keep trying or you can give up. With the first route of continuing to try, you can still get to point where you feel like you’ve tried everything you can and then you get to the second route anyway. However, what if instead of giving up, we realized that maybe everything that we’ve been trying actually did work to some degree? This is where getting out of the mindset that change needs to be drastic is beneficial and necessary. Sometimes it takes saying to the student, ‘hey, I’ve done everything that I can to assist you,” and then let them run with what you’ve given them. It’s important that you make sure they don’t feel like you are giving up on them, but rather that you’ve just exhausted all of the methods or resources that you know of. More often than not, something has stuck with them, and it’s just time for them to spread their wings and for you to kick them out of the nest. They will learn to fly.

 

According to Kathy Caprino, she has observed seven key behaviors that individuals who make a difference exhibit:

 

1.     They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose.

2.     They commit to continually bettering themselves.

3.     They engage with people in open, mutually-beneficial ways.

4.     They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be.

5.     They spread what they know.

6.     They uplift others as they ascend.

7.     They use their power and influence well.

 

If any of those seem to resonate with you and your experiences working with students, then chances are you’re making more of a difference than you think you are. If you get anything out of this post, I hope it’s to not get down on yourself. You are important, the work you are doing is important, and you matter. When you help others, you make a splash, and whether you see it or not, you make ripples all around you that will influence so many more people than you can imagine. So keep pushing and keep trying, it will pay off!

 

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

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