Searching for Meaning

It is 4:17am, and I have already blown through three different blog topic starts that just didn't work this morning. Everything turns out to be a "poor me" topic when I start to develop it a bit more, so I'm giving up on writing about these things.

So, instead of writing about my own current gripes, I am going to focus on solving a problem that is happening with my work environment.

Some background information - Every other year, our current principal finds an "inspirational" book for the entire faculty to read. This year's book is "The Energy Bus," by Jon Gordon. If you haven't read it, I found it to be quite interesting and an easy read. It took me an hour to read (and take notes), and we are starting to put the rules of the book into place at my facility.

Enter the difficulty.

We've been invited to "get on the bus" with a set of nebulous goals that are framed similar to "we want to do better." We've done a series of meetings where we are asked to write down our personal concerns about various situations with our roles at the facility and then share them with others. Okay, a bit concerning, but not too out of the ordinary so far.

This past week, however, we were asked to "write goals" for our areas about how we can do "better."

Hmmm. I am just arrogant enough to realize that I am a pretty good music therapist. I engage in regular continuing education, I create things, and I challenge myself to be the best I can be for my clients. All of these things are things that I feel an ethical responsibility to do as part of my work, so I do them all the time. I was not really sure how I could write more goals about being better without just stating that I was "continuing the process of finding relevant continuing education," etc. It felt like a meaningless exercise to me.

In conversation with others, I found that I was not alone in this feeling. We were all a bit unsure of how this was actually going to help us "be better" as a faculty.

So, I went to the source.

I asked the principal what she wanted. Each classroom group was developing goals for their classrooms on how to serve their clients better. I was at a loss. The principal stated that she had spoken to another one of the "specials" professionals and had decided that our goals were to be "what we wanted staff members to do while they were in our areas."

Hmmm. Not at all what I was expecting.

All of a sudden, my goals are not for me, but are for other people? Okay. I can write down my expectations for what I want staff members to do in music therapy. I've been doing that for years and years and years and years. Doesn't that really defeat the purpose of the exercise, though? All of a sudden, the focus is no longer on what I will do to make my area of expertise better but on what I want other people to do to make my life better. Seems to be a completely different focus from what I worked out from reading our book.

At the moment, I am doing the task I've been given. I have a long list of things to do during music therapy (I am trying to incorporate my PBIS training here - focus on what to do rather than on what not to do). I will send that list to my principal later today, finishing my task for the week. I am still wondering how this really accomplishes anything that the book talks about. Seems no one really knows - even the "Building Leadership Team" seems to be in the dark.

All of this really illustrates to me that I am a "whole picture" type of person. I get on board all sorts of things, especially when I can see the desired outcome and when that outcome makes sense to me. I do not like busy work. I never have. I follow specific patterns when writing goals - desired outcome, task analysis, assessment of present levels of performance, developing objectives, etc. - but I always start with the desired outcome. Always. 

How can you start developing meaningful goals if you don't know where you want to go?

That's the meaning that I am searching for in this exercise. What is our destination? "Doing better" is not enough of a target - doing better on what? Learning client names? Keeping our areas neat and clean? Making things for our clients to do? Keeping kids safer? Increasing our educational output? There are so many different ways to be "better" that it overwhelms me.

Every year, I write personal and professional goals for myself. I usually do this during the start of the school year because that is when I am ready to start anew. My goals for myself are sometimes easily shared with others, and sometimes, are not. I know what my desired outcomes are, and I can see a pathway to those desired outcomes. My outcomes, however, are not always something that I can talk about with other people. Sometimes, they just don't need to know what I hold dear and what I am working towards.

I constantly strive to be "better" as a music therapist. Constantly. I don't need a book to tell me what to do or how to do it. I just do it. My quest for "better" comes from several ideas. First, that I have much to learn and experience. Second, that my clients deserve a music therapist who is constantly focused on them. Third, that I have a professional responsibility to the music therapists before me and that will come after me to be the best representative of our profession that I can be, and that means constant growth.

It is time to start some of that growth this morning. I will finish my task of writing up goals for others and then look at my own goals for myself. I will evaluate where I am on those goals and set some short-term objectives. There you go. A goal with a set desired outcome for this day.

Happy Friday, all.


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