Based on the frequency of posting here it might look as if I’ve decided against this whole blogging thing.
I haven’t. Actually, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what I want to put out there in the world, on and off the internet. There’s even a handful of posts waiting for me to click “publish”. I’ve been blogging without blogging and rather focused on the professional and personal facets of evaluating.
Ever notice how you begin with one vision, get into doing and then your vision changes? That’s what happened with this blog. Not long after I started it I realized the look didn’t fit my vision. This version feels more like home. It surprised me how difficult it was to make the small, yet public, admission that I’d picked the “wrong” theme, find a new one and publish it. Such a small and unimportant change. No wonder there are such issues with evaluation, improvement and monitoring, eh? We so want to cling to what we know, even when we’re sure it isn’t quite right or as good as it could be.
It’s easy to get caught up in a professional, personal, (and also programmatic or organizational) identity and wear those labels and accomplishments as if they were tattoos. My psychology of assessment professor once advised that if you’ have to apply labels to people, better to make them small and removable. He was talking about psychologically diagnostic labels and the assertion holds for other types of labeling too. No person, program, or organization is one single, unchanging characteristic. It’s not healthy to be so totally identified with one aspect of life that there is no room for anything else. It’s limiting and it can be harmful.
A couple of months ago in a meditation retreat I was posed the question,
“Who are you if you’re not who you think you are?”
Wait a minute, I’m an evaluator! I’m the one who is supposed to ask people the hard questions! It’s a darn good question- one that has personal and professional uses. Answering this question means coming up with a response to another darn good question:
“Who do you think you are?”
Those of us involved in organizational change and program improvement activities have gentler ways of asking these questions. Much of the resistance we encounter (in life and in work) is a reflection of who we believe we are and what it is we believe we do (and how well we do it). Shifting the tone from accusation to curiosity fundamentally changes the way we consider difficult, important questions. Curiosity is gentler, more expansive. Notice I didn’t say easier? We need more gentle expansiveness in the world.
An interesting phenomena occurs when one spends many hours in meditation. The fixed sense we carry around about who we are and what we do gets flexible. We begin to realize that there is no constant, no one thing. We’re always shifting, changing, and adapting – so is everything and everyone around us. Programs are the same way…and that sure can be uncomfortable. The path we thought was clear gets tricky.
We think, “Gee, this isn’t going the way I thought it would. Looks like we could get dirty. I’ll be so embarrassed if I slip. And my boots will be covered in muck. Someone could get hurt.”
Don’t get me wrong, finding a wobbly board on the path is unsettling. Evaluation is infused with unsettling.
The thing is, we have to keep going. Going back is still going. Going another way entirely is still going. Staying put for a while and then going is still going. And it’s all totally workable.
On the actual trip with the real wobbly boards above, we all made it across. One person held the wobbliest board in place so the others could cross. We worked together. No one got covered in muck. I won’t say no one ever fell. Each of us did and it was fine.
The pay off from trekking through the wobbly parts of evaluation, work, life and all things is enormous. My path never feels as sure and true as the path I observe others taking. The path above wound up here:
So, I’ll keep walking this blogging path and see where it leads.