Recently, my junior high daughter began taking clarinet lessons from a private tutor.
When I picked her up from her first session, she said, “I have been playing for three years, but I learned today that I wasn’t putting the mouth piece in far enough. That one tip has helped me hit my first high notes ever!”
We all have a lot to learn, and none of us ever reaches a point in our lives, positions, relationships, or responsibilities where we have “arrived.”
Sometimes this is frustrating. But it is also a relief.
So what are some helpful sources of support and instruction that can help you keep growing in your life or calling?
Here are a five questions to ask yourself to discover some right in front of you:
1. To whom do you read or listen to most?
Farmers have a strong understanding of the basic facts of sowing and reaping. And you are fooling yourself if you think your problem solving and critical thinking improve by chance.
The thoughts you put into your mind play a strong part in shaping your vision, direction, beliefs, and actions.
Whether you start your morning off with a good book, or use your commute for good listens, the habit of reading and learning will increase your knowledge, inspiration, and motivation.
So choose wisely what your mind is taking in. And welcome opportunities to digest truth and wisdom.
2. To whom do you entrust most of your time?
I have heard it said that you are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time.
Whether or not this is an exaggeration, the truth is that we often reflect and model the behaviors of those we value most.
Some of us may have callings where we pour time into others lives. But from whom are you receiving feedback, input and direction?
Find others who not only share mutual ideals but also model behaviors and character to which you aspire.
In other words, hang out with people you’d like to be like.
3. Who has your best interest in mind?
We can receive feedback from a lot of sources. Sometimes even our worst critics can shine a light on areas where we need to grow.
But when you receive correction from a trusted source, then you often have more motivation to take positive action.
The other day my assistant principals and I were working through an agenda for an upcoming meeting. They took a look at the draft I provided and suggested I cut out about half of what I had included.
Because they are trusted sources, I took their advice, and the new agenda fit our next faculty meeting time exactly–up to the very last scheduled minute.
4. Whom are you serving?
Sometimes the most helpful feedback is from those you directly influence most.
I like to ask students occasionally what they like or don’t like about our school. Sometimes the feedback is surprising, encouraging, or alarming.
But the feedback is valuable.
When I was in the classroom, I would often survey my own students at the end of a grading period for their feedback.
In business, a client’s feedback often comes in the amount of money they are willing to pay for the value you provide them.
In schools, our students, parents, teachers, and community are the ones to whom we are providing value. How do they like what they are receiving?
5. To whom are you accountable?
All of us are accountable to someone. Even the self-employed must obey laws, pay taxes, and serve clients if they experience long-term success.
As a principal, I am also accountable to those whom I serve.
Most notably, I often take direct instruction from my superintendent.
His feedback provides me with an additional perspective on what is or is not working well at my school.
Who is that for you? Those observations or corrections can help shine a light on your blind spots and save you a lot of grief in the long-term.
If like me, you have the privilege of a trusting relationship with the people who lead you, then you should embrace, not resent, their feedback.
You are surrounded by valuable sources every day–whether that includes your reading or those to whom you are listening, serving or following.
Like my daughter, when you allow feedback from trustworthy sources, you will keep growing and learning.
And in the process, you may hit higher goals than you ever have before.
Now It’s Your Turn
What are some of your most valuable sources of feedback? Share with the rest of us.
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