At some point in our careers each of us has probably experienced the feeling that some element of our practice or the design of our approach is not working, or at least is not working well enough for enough students. We sense that there must be a better approach, a more effective strategy, or a new way of thinking about a persistent problem or unmet need.
We may decide to just keep on keeping on and make the best of what is, or we may choose to explore something different. We may not even know exactly what we are looking for or need, but we resolve to spend some time, give some attention, and dedicate some effort trying to find out.
We need to know where to start and how to find the answers we seek. We may be unsure of what to do when we land on something that seems promising and worth pursuing. We might even wonder if we have what it will take to pursue our idea or strategy to the point where it begins to pay off and provide the benefits we hope.
Fortunately, there is a path, or sequence of thinking and action, we can employ to guide us on this journey. We can follow these four C’s and the sequence they suggest to focus our attention and support our work.
The first C is curiosity. Without curiosity we fail to see opportunities, we ignore promising ideas, and bypass exploitable circumstances. Curiosity leads us to ask more questions, observe more closely, and keep our attention engaged. Without curiosity we are left to respond to what others point out and tell us is important and doable. Curiosity opens the door to possibility.
The second C is confidence. When we feel confident in our skills and abilities, we are freer to take risks, explore options, and move forward before every question is answered. Alternatively, when we doubt and talk negatively to ourselves about our capabilities, we may see opportunities and paths worth pursuing, but hesitate fearing failure and embarrassment. Interestingly, asking ourselves what we would do if we were not afraid can make us aware of what is possible and worthy of our attention and bolster our willingness to act, even when our confidence is not strong.
The third C is commitment. Commitment is our confidence in action. Once we commit, we move from exploring to exploiting opportunities and circumstances. Without commitment, we risk false starts, early abandonment, and lost opportunities. Commitment becomes stronger when we gain clarity about our intentions, set goals for our work, and measure our progress.
The fourth C is courage. The path to success and innovation almost always includes setbacks and experiences that lead us to question our goals, doubt our worthiness, and require us to respond to doubters and skeptics. We might face criticism for choosing to try something new, pursue a different path, or question tradition. Yet, we need to continue to work, learn, and move forward. Remember: Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the choice to act despite it. Courage is what carries us through the final stages of the journey to success.
The path to success and innovation will not always be smooth and easy. Yet, it holds the promise for us to make a difference, leave our practice and profession better than we found it, and provide learners with opportunities that they otherwise would not have experienced. In short, it is more than worth the risk and effort. It may even open doors and create opportunities beyond what we imagine.