Words of Wellness: Transitions

March 31, 2022 - Culture of Caring - Claudia Finkelstein

You will notice that this March edition of the Culture of Caring newsletter is arriving at the last minute.

Why? Because the topic has flip flopped as the month has passed. It ranged from goodbye to anticipation, and now, to the concept of transparency, goodbye and anticipation all rolled into one newsletter.

You may have attended one of the first Culture of Caring offerings - a presentation given by Jennifer Johnson and me on the concept of psychological safety.  In it we discussed culture, safety, communication and trauma-informed principles. We spoke about clarity as an act of kindness, both in setting expectations and giving feedback, and reviewed how trustworthiness and transparency are essential trauma-informed principles.

You may have noted a lot of transition in the college, recently. There is security in knowing who our official dean will be. There is also awareness of tremendous movement and shifting of people and roles as referenced in the latest dean's update. Some people are gone for months before we learn of their departure. The reasons for other departures speculated on.

I’d like to use this newsletter to be trustworthy and transparent. You may have heard whispers that I’m leaving the college. This is true. I was neither “shown the door” nor did I choose to leave in a huff or due to any perceived ill treatment or grudge. The truth is, one of my daughters is expecting a baby in May and might want some maternal support, which caused me to reflect on my current stage of life and energy level. That, and the fact that I am excited about a writing project, tipped the scales in favor of not renewing my contract when it expires this June.

It has been a very rich and interesting time here. I am delighted with the numerous relationships I have formed with so many of you. I know that the work of the Culture of Caring is just beginning. The Qualtrics survey you received a few days ago will help guide what it will look like going forward. Which brings me to anticipation.

Anticipating the next step in any endeavor is an exercise in preparation, learning from the past, being in the moment and ultimately, having a flexible mindset. If asked, I anticipate being able to help with ongoing efforts for culture change in the college. This may or may not work out. I am working on not grasping for a known outcome.

I encourage you to look at an aspect of anticipation that you may be experiencing (impending professional or personal events or goals) with a lens of flexibility and adaptability. It may require getting some help with perspective or emotional regulation, or both. Sometimes “walking the plank” of the worst-case scenario in your head is liberating. This one minute  "brain hack" quickly summarizes an exercise developed by Martin Seligman, one of the pioneers of positive psychology. It can help us to manage the anxiety of not knowing. We may not know any certain outcome, but we can know our personal characteristics and skills that will help us to deal with any outcome. We may also learn which skills we may want to strengthen preemptively.

Dealing with future uncertainty seems to be a very apt concept for this moment in time - actually for most moments in time. And it requires of us to hold opposing truths at once. My wish for all of us is to balance strong resolve and flexibility, acceptance (of the unchangeable) and effort to make necessary changes.

This isn’t goodbye yet. April and May newsletters will follow. In the meantime, please take a moment to answer a few brief questions and send any suggestions to me finkel22@msu.edu or anonymously to Virtual Suggestion Box.

Read more Words of Wellness from the Culture of Caring.

Photo by Cynthia Vincent