I was a competitive swimmer in high school. My coach encouraged me to become a distance swimmer – which is still an appropriate metaphor for my life. There was a joke that I was last off the starting blocks and first to the wall: slow starts, fast turns, strong finishes, building perseverance and endurance. Thoughts to revisit another time.
When I switched to distance swimming, Coach Casci decided I must change my stroke. If you’ve ever been an athlete or a musician, you know a change like this is hard. It was so hard. His coaching ignited a series of personal changes in me.
First, I hated him. Only for a short time. I was, after all, a high school student. I just couldn’t believe that anyone who cared about me would make me do something that would make me look so bad, feel so miserable, and perform so poorly. I had to get slower as I practiced the changes before I could get faster. It got harder before it got better.
I just recently came across this research: the most common response high school teachers hear from students today regarding their school assignments is “this is too hard.” That’s the culture that we live in today! Contemporary culture says youth shouldn’t be required to do things that feel too hard. We’re not only working toward extraordinary change, we’re working against a culture that is pulling us back toward mediocrity.
It’s been said that we change once the pain change causes diminishes compared to the pain of staying the same. That’s a BIG thought. Here’s another way to put it: When we’re more dissatisfied with our current circumstances than we are afraid of change, we will change.
When we join an organization’s mission, we sign on to transformation – for ourselves and for others. Why would we make such a big commitment? Transformation? What makes it worth it?
I’m writing this at the end of a school year, the beginning of summer. For many, this is a time when we are considering our plans for the coming year – especially those in a season of education. We’re evaluating how our year is progressing. We may be resetting the bar for the remaining six months – or the coming twelve months. Sometimes we find ourselves stepping into new or different roles. We may be volunteering in a new capacity. We may have moved jobs or locations. Our children might be going into a new educational season – middle school to high school, or grammar school to middle school. All the while, we’re aware that change is both exciting and challenging. And honestly, much of it is just plain hard.
We want to make a difference. Paul urges us to continue in his letter to Christians in 1st century Rome:
“This is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV)
In other words, if you think the way you’ve always thought, you will do what you’ve always done. This is true. It is so easy for us to see it in our kids. But it’s true of us as parents, teachers, leaders, and mentors as well.
Over time my new stroke became my natural stroke. I began swimming faster, pacing better, winning for the team. In the process my thoughts changed. Instead of telling myself it was hard, I began telling myself it was good, and necessary, and helpful.
Change is hard. It’s also possible. And good. It happens when our minds are renewed.
How are you renewing your mind? How do you coach your students to renew their minds? What benefits have you observed?
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your own transformational results!