Treating Learning and Change as Continuums

Some of my recent blog posts have discussed my desire to make positive changes in both personal mindset and conduct. Last Thursday, another Fellow asked how I was doing with running my personal life like a nonprofit program. I was not able to say that I have started documenting my plans and the way I spend my time, but last week I was more cognizant of how my choices relate to some of my goals, and that made me more intentional.

Overall, this past week reminded me that lasting learning and change occur as continuums, rather than single, grand moments. Accepting that requires a patient persistence, which can be frustrating. However, achieving desired changes and learning outcomes requires a mix of attention on both the details and the bigger picture in order to find the connections and direct the path of learning and change.

To demonstrate, I will provide two different outlooks on my week:

On the one hand, I spent many moments scrutinizing for what would be the most blog-worthy topic, yet I felt confused when I had different revelations each day, and none of them felt significantly more valuable than the others.

At the same time, an overview of my week makes it seem somewhat indistinct. I continued to spend most of my work days at an office desk and made gradual yet unremarkable progress revising summaries of legal statutes in the Crime Victims Rights Toolkit. I attended a couple events for our Fellows cohort and participated in a number of conversations, many of which felt fairly familiar and expected.

Unfortunately, both of those views obscure any progress that was made, and neither provide lessons on which to build for further learning and change. Instead, a combination is needed, creating a process of repeated review and updated conclusions, not unlike my method for the Toolkit revision.

For example, I experienced self-doubt early in the week as I moved slowly through my work on the Toolkit and struggled to focus. In something I read, though, I saw the message that one’s attitude can guide one’s behavior. I resolved to carry myself confidently and keep a positive outlook, instead of hindering my own ability with negative thoughts. It made a big difference.

Having often been timid to initiate interactions at the office, I set up a check-in meeting with my supervisor soon after adjusting my attitude. By the end of the week, I was able to have an extended, open conversation with the three attorneys at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center. This allowed me to hear more about the prospect of law school and to get their input for a couple blogs I am writing about the notions of victims’ rights and public awareness of the criminal justice process. Also, I admitted my difficulty focusing and received concrete suggestions for staying fresh throughout the day.

As another sign of progress that took a long time coming, I finally shared my blog posts on social media, something I had hoped to do since the beginning of the Fellowship.

More importantly, I experienced a revelation about a potential career interest to explore further. After witnessing a couple recent examples of ineffective communication, I realized that I think about communication and interpersonal behavior all the time. Because I have made plenty of mistakes myself, I always want to know how to communicate better to avoid misunderstanding and conflicts and to resolve them when they occur. I also love languages, and translation work has been one of my favorite activities this summer, so I decided I should look into the intersections of communication, cultural humility, and conflict resolution. Though I could not have fully planned for that discovery, I prepared for it nonetheless by putting myself in a professional situation that would help me to see aspects of work I like and do not like. I do not know exactly where it will lead me, but it provides another step along the continuums.

A staff meeting at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center (OCVJC) last week demonstrated that learning and change are continuums for organizations as well. Since joining the organization, I have repeatedly heard the staff discuss the importance of trauma-informed interactions with the victims they assist. Even so, my supervisor wanted to go over the topic again. In staff-client conversations, she had identified room for improvement that might have gone unnoticed without her attitude of continual evaluation for new learning and positive change.

A big component of treating lasting learning and change as the continuums that they are is being aware of every opportunity that can support growth. My supervisor acknowledged that the staff cannot always provide direct help to victims, but in those cases, OCVJC can continue to train prosecutors, law enforcement, and courts, so future victims will be benefitted as a result. When our Fellows cohort met with the Columbus Foundation Governing Committee last Tuesday, one of the committee members asked what our younger generation thinks the committee members should know. A couple days later when I was at my grandma’s retirement community, a resident pointed out that young people can be oblivious to experiences that older generations had in their lives. Those last two interactions emphasize the need to take advantage of the knowledge and perspectives of those nearby. They also show that full understanding and appreciation of learning and change involves recognizing the continuum of history that spans generations.

There are constant momentary instances of discovery and transition, but lasting learning and change require intentional effort. Treating them as continuums means continually drawing connections between the now and the bigger picture.

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