Autumn- The Season That Teaches Us, That Change Can Be Beautiful

Kristin D. Kushmider, PhD, Membership Coordinator - Colorado

September 30, 2019

I love autumn! I have a whole Pinterest board with quotes, decorations and photos dedicated to this time of year. I chose one of my favorite fall quotes as the title of this month’s blog to remind us that change is inevitable in life and at work, but it can also produce wonderful opportunities.

At the summer board meeting I bonded with so many of you as we exchanged stories regarding the perpetual state of change our universities and colleges are navigating. Our campuses are reorganizing, restructuring, reconfiguring, dealing with turnover in staff and leadership and managing funding challenges. Our students’ needs are evolving, our structures are catching up to meet those needs, the value of higher education is being questioned and staff are feeling fatigued. In navigating my own experiences with change, I am reminded of a quote from the Buddha, “change is never painful, only resistance to change is painful”. I wish I had the mind of the Buddha so I would be able to adopt this mentality each time I experience transformation, but for so many of us change is just arduous! It can be exciting or anxiety provoking, sometimes things change for the better and sometimes they do not. What I do know is change really is the only guarantee in life.

Each passing year I age and mature with the hope that I acquire more wisdom and knowledge and I try to be more open and embracing of change. I consider the lessons I am supposed to discover each time I face difficulty. Some of those lessons have been damn tough to learn and some outcomes have been exhilarating. Lately, I have been exposed to a significant amount of transition. Some of which I have embraced and some of which I have struggled with, and through all of it another quote comes to mind from Eckhart Tolle; “some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” As challenging as change may be in our personal lives, careers or relationships, change propels us to move forward. For many of our institutions, this period of adjustment is preparing us for the future, for our future students, our future leaders and the sustainability of higher education. This is my hope and the lens from which I am choosing to view this period of transition.

I recently attended a leadership workshop and the facilitator, a longtime leader in higher education, reinforced the notion that change in our careers and at our colleges and universities is inescapable. She added a new nugget of knowledge for me to consider though; not only do our institutions evolve but we as individuals grow as well. Her nugget of advice was to be aware of the culture and climate and the direction change is taking you; either you are changing or your institution is changing and the relationship may no longer be a good fit. As we mature personally and as our campuses continue to develop, we have to keep considering whether or not we fit or can adapt to progress. When your workplace is no longer a good fit for you as a person or you are no longer a good fit for your organization, it’s time to consider all of your options.

Sometimes transition can be slow and gradual. Here in Colorado, the leaves have been unhurried to change this fall and we are all anxiously awaiting nature’s beauty. The golden aspens and red maples, in conjunction with the cooling temperatures and the crisp smell of fall air, create a feeling of delight and anticipation. I try to savor these days and spend as much time outside as I can. It is also a time for reflection and as the energy and hustle and bustle of the long days of summer move into the shorter days of fall it is a great time to shed things in your life or career that are holding you back.

While the season of fall encourages nature, and us, to slow down and start preparing for the winter months, the fall semester is actually hectic in higher education. Make sure you take time to pause and care for yourself in this season of transformation. Whether you treat yourself to the coveted pumpkin spice latte, or you gather with friends and family to cheer on your favorite football teams (Go Broncos), maybe you spend your downtime in sweats with a good book and a hearty blanket or you enjoy a brisk walk on a cool autumn morning, set aside some time for yourself in the coming days to appreciate mother nature’s beautiful season of transition.

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