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The Process of Professional Development

You are what you eat...

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” Maybe you’re a supreme pizza. Maybe Cheetos. Maybe just five cups of coffee and a donut your coworker brought in. James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits” – a book I definitely recommend, has developed that proverb a bit further: Your body adapts to what you eat. Your mind adapts to what you consume. Your soul adapts to what you love. What you feed yourself today is who you become tomorrow. The most obvious example is food. If you eat healthy things, your body will have the proper nutrients to create a healthy body. If you eat fast food and stuff out of a vending machine, your body will reflect that too. The problem is when you’re stressed and/or tired, it’s usually more of the latter. If we change what you put in your bodies you can change the outcome. That is, if you make the decision to eat healthier foods and cut down on the crap, your body can become healthier. Change may not always seem easy, but if you do make them, you have the power to impact your body in a relatively short period of time. The mind is a bit trickier. We are always challenging our students to get out of their comfort zones, but do we? Eh, who has the time for that? You’re too busy juggling your work, the latest crisis, and finding time to go to the bathroom, right? Despite the fact your chaotic days seem like they bring a myriad of new and exciting challenges, you're really just running on autopilot most of the time. Sure, the student might be different or the exact way they were caught cheating/are failing out/are threatening their roommate, but you're really just talking about different kinds of apples, not anything as exotic as oranges. Even when you're doing the positive things you love, like building leaders and doing new educational programming, you’re still using your same set of skills and perspectives to handle all of these situations. When we think about professional development, we usually think about it being a thing we go do. In other words, you go to a conference; you take time out to read a book and go to a book club; you watch a webinar. Professional development is this thing that you do separately from your work. If it’s good, you think about incorporating some of it into what you do. If you’re like me 95% of professional development “opportunities” end up being that thing I did one time. Then I went back to my life and dealing with the same situations in pretty much the same way. That means the vast majority of the time you’re not putting anything new into your mind. Essentially, you’re running on reruns. You keep feeding your mind the same diet of situations, perspectives, people, knowledge, and skills, so that’s all that your mind can produce. If you're everything in a way that's productive, great. But what if you're not? There’s nothing new feeding your mind to develop new mindsets, skills, or perspectives. In a sense, you’re living in the past because all of your decisions are driven by old input. Eating one healthy salad for lunch one day doesn’t undo a week of bad eating. To really change your body, you have to develop a habit of choosing healthy food. If you really want to develop professionally – or personally – one conference, training, or webinar isn’t going to make much of a difference unless you develop habits that integrating that training into your daily life. What you eat today shows up in your body tomorrow. What you feed your mind shows up tomorrow. Eat the same thing every day, you’ll get consistent results over time – whether that be positive or negative. Think and experience the same thing every day, you’ll get consistent results over time too. Unfortunately, this all too often means you’re not growing or developing like you want or how you need to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

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