When the academic term ended last week, I felt like a thick mental fog had blurred my vision. I should have been elated, but instead I was in a funk. I felt irritable. The term had been one of the more frustrating ones I had experienced in over 20 years of teaching. After working with a handful of students who made it clear they didn’t want to take one of my required classes and weren’t willing to put any effort into their own learning, I started doubting myself. I wondered if I had lost my ability to be an effective educator. I couldn’t even lift my spirits by reminding myself why I had gone into teaching in the first place. Instead of keeping my mental focus on the transformations I’d witnessed in students’ lives, I focused on my dissatisfaction with temporary circumstances and small annoyances.
As I started drawing inward, the self-doubts began to multiply. I wondered if I could even survive another year of teaching – the last planned year of teaching before retiring from this career. I even lost sight of my financial reasons for teaching until January 2019. All I could think about was escaping – maybe sleeping all day or disappearing for awhile.
Ironically during the last week of the academic term, our entire region was covered in a heavy blanket of fog. When trying to make out the outline of trees across a small field, all I could see was dim shadows.
Inspiration: Florence Chadwick
As I thought about my own mental fog, I was reminded of a story I heard this fall about the importance of seeing beyond the fog. After co-presenting a keynote speech on the power of vision in our lives, a participant told me about the inspirational story of Florence Chadwick. Although this story has been told numerous times over the years, I hadn’t heard it before.
Florence Chadwick was a world-class swimmer. In 1951 she was the first woman to swim 23 miles across the English Channel. A year later, she set her sights on a 21 mile swim from Catalina Island to the California Coast. After a grueling 15 hours in bone-chilling, shark-infested water and enveloped by thick fog, Chadwick gave up her quest. She was pulled into the boat only to soon realize she was only a mile from shore. The heavy fog had obscured her vision. She had lost sight of where she was headed. Later she said it wasn’t the fatigue but rather the fog that bested her. Two months later, she again attempted the swim and completed it with her mind focused on the California shoreline.
Thinking about Florence Chadwick’s story helped me refocus. Even though circumstances had temporarily gotten the best of me, I do have a clear vision for myself. I see myself as a wise elder woman who helps others find their voices and their best lives.
I need to keep my eye on my vision. I also need to keep taking small steps toward making my vision a reality. These small steps are allowing me to develop new disciplines. My vision map is the tool I use to keep moving forward. That map has allowed me to break down my vision into measurable components or small steps that I can put on a scale.
Even though we all have setbacks, that does not mean we are defeated. When we refocus and keep our mind fixed on our vision, we will find the strength and inspiration to keep moving forward.