Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: One Risk at a Time

I'm moving full-speed ahead on my two big, audacious goals: to start a public Montessori charter school (professionally) and a pocket neighborhood (personally) in Austin.

I have no idea how either of these will turn out. Some days, I think, "Why on Earth did I publicly declare my goals? If I fail, I'm going to have to share my failure with the world." When I'm really tired, I'm convinced that these goals are too big and too impossible.

On good days, I just remind myself to take it one to-do item at a time. I keep a prioritized list of everything that needs to get done. If I break down my responsibilities into manageable little chunks, then it's easy to put my head down, pick something off the list, and do it.

One step at a time.

It feels weird to walk around and publicly declare my goals. For example, I just attended a conference and I wrote "Executive Director, Montessori For All" on my name tag. When I had to introduce myself to the rest of the group during a session, I explained that I am "in the process of starting a national network of high-performing, authentic Montessori charter schools." It's not a lie; I am in the process. It's just that I'm in the very beginning stages (which I explained if anyone probed further).

Declaring my intentions out loud has done so much to help me in this journey. When I say my goals out loud, people have advice or they ask clarifying questions that allow me to strengthen my plans.

I've identified two mentors that I talk with on a monthly basis. I also created a volunteer position for myself at a charter school that is going to open next year. I'm partnering with the school leader to work on compliance and operations (which will round out my resume, since my experience is more in teacher support and curriculum development).

I'm taking little risks--here and there--and it's really helping me move forward in this process.

When we're undertaking challenging goals, the best we can do is put ourselves out there. For example, my internet friend Kelly is also putting herself out there on her journey to reach her big goals, and she was recently asked to sell her scarves at a new boutique in Austin. So cool!

One small risk at a time. One to-do task at a time. One day at a time.

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stef said...

You know the more I think about it, the more I think that our (by our I mean western) society doesn't do well with failure. We avoid it all costs which means we don't know how to deal with it when it eventually comes knocking on our door. But really isn't a fail just a


Think about your students. You aren't just interested in the shiny finished product at the end, but the process and setbacks they used to get there.

The same applies to the Pocket neighbourhood/Montessori for all projects. By writing about your journey you are having other people helping, you encouraging you and supporting you from all over the planet. Which I think is rather awesome because I enjoy reading about the journey and feel inspired by what you do.

Jessica said...

The way in which you are posting your large goals is really courageous, because you're allowing people to see both your successes and your failures. That's a huge step!

Can't wait to hear more about the intentional community!

Meghan said...

You're so inspiring, Sara! I love reading about your big life goals and dwelling in possibility. Since you've started writing this series of dwelling in possibility, I've started thinking more about my own big life goals. One step at a time is the only way to get there. You've inspired me to be more intentional and thoughtful in those steps so I don't find myself in a few years wondering why I haven't achieved those goals. Thanks!

Kelsey said...

I think declaring your goals is an awesome (and scary) first step! If you didn't put it out there it would be much easier to abandon them when it seems tough. Also, by telling lots of people you are more likely to find people who can help you and make the dreams happen!

Kelly said...

Yes, yes, yes! Go, Sara, Go!

1. Thanks for the shout out. It almost made me cry because I was reading along, mentally cheering you on, thinking, "That Sara is so awesome for shouting her big goals out loud to the world and then admitting that that is terrifying!" And then I kept reading and saw *my* name! It just goes to show you don't have to FEEL brave & successful to BE brave and successful.

2. I LOVE your name tag story! I think that publicly declaring things makes them possible. Nobody cares that you aren't further in the process - they take you at your word. If you're saying you're doing it, they'll be interested and want to help you, no matter what you've accomplished yet. It's like magic, isn't it? Declarations have magic powers.

3. I love Stef's acronym! Remember how Henry wasn't trying to reach the woman's bracelet but instead trying to become someone who could reach the bracelet? You do not have to be the director of a school yet - just someone who is working towards becoming the director of a school. Keep reaching!

4. I love your commenters. You seriously have the best community of articulate cheerleaders. I wish I could hang out with all of you!

5. Like Meghan said, you're also inspiring others when you share your goals. I'm having a painful and unproductive week, and this post makes me want to jump right back in the game!

Raquel.Somatra said...

I've recently decided against pursuing an academic career in favor of two creative fields well known for their high failure rate. Thus, I am familiar with a lot of the fears you list here.

It helps me to sit back and look at the big picture-- though daunting at times, I remember why I'm doing this. I want to do work I love and am passionate about. I don't want to settle for anything in my life.

And for you, since you have Henry, know that someday in the future he might be going through similar struggles, and you can be a great example for him.

One step at a time may feel too slow or small, but these steps are integral to the big, lovely goal. It helps me to remember that, too.

Sara E. Cotner said...

You're right, Kelly. This community is amazing! What if we have a Feeding the Soil Reflection & Rejuvenation Retreat?

Thank you all for your comments. They always mean so much to me.

stef said...

You know I would totally come all the way from New Zealand for that!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a retreat. I really enjoy reading about your goals. Keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

I love seeing all your goals. And your lists! The lists!

I was almost expecting to see a list about the Montessori school. I was actually thinking how I could help you on parts on your list.

Maybe that's the difference. You aren't sure what the next step is? We support you and we can help you o the list.

Jen said...

Thanks for this post, and many others! We're expecting our first baby any day now and it's been really good for me hearing your experiences with pregnancy and parenting.

Could I ask about your camera? Your pics are always so lovely, and we are in the market for a new camera for newborn photo purposes.

Thanks in advance!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Stef, that's awesome!

Hi, Anonymous: There's definitely a list! What do you want to help with? I'd be happy to have help! Right now, I need to get a website created, so let me know if you have any recommendations.

Hi, Jen: Thanks for the compliment! We bought a used Nikon D60 base (no lens) and then we bought an 18mm-200 lens to go with it. Wishing you and your family well!

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