Sunday, November 30, 2008


By: Joseph Norman

Do you have a place where you think? And, I mean really think. A place where you can ask yourself the tough questions like, “What are you doing with your life? Why are you doing it? Who are you serving?”

We all need to answer these questions consistently in our lives to give us clarity in our direction. Your spot could be a particular chair in your office, a vacation home you or your family has, or even a bench at your favorite park. If you don’t have one, find one! For me, it is the chaise lounge in my bedroom and I’m usually accompanied by candle light. Mood lighting may help you as well!

Why is this important?

The truth is not enough people really think about what they’re doing. We are all guilty off it more often then not. We run a path with reckless abandon because we think that’s what we want. When, in fact, over time we change and desire new things and fresh direction for our life.

Think about this natural phenomenon. A hiker is walking through the woods without a compass. He gets lost and cannot find his way. Everything looks the same so he just keeps walking, waiting for something to strike his memory and provide him with clarity for how he can get home. But, a funny thing happens as this man keeps walking. The earth’s rotation, as slight as it is, causes the man to travel in circles without him even knowing it!

Without stopping to think or use some tools, this hiker could be walking in circles for days. In our own lives we may do this for months or even years without stopping to really think! But, we keep walking…feeling lost and unfulfilled.

Once you have found your place to really think, you now need some ammunition to take advantage the greatest tool we as humans have, our minds! Here are some questions you may find helpful to prevent you from walking in circles your whole life. I’ve picked them up from mentors, business associates and from my personal studies of NLP (Neuro-Linguistics Programming).

If money were no option, what would I be doing? Who would I be helping? How would I be helping them?

What is it I really want in my life? (Some categories: Health, Money, Business, Relationships, Material Things, Living Environment). How will you know when you’ve got it? What will you see? Hear? Feel? Believe? Experience?

What would you want if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you want if you knew it was ok to fail?

What would you want if it didn’t have to mean anything about you? (Reputation, etc.) What would you want if you knew nothing bad would happen as a result of getting it?

Are you in line with your goals and desires? How can you get back on track?

My challenge to you this week is to give yourself an opportunity to answer some of these questions. Don’t burden yourself with a time limit; just let your mind run free with a pen and pad of paper in hand. Keep yourself from filtering your answers as well! Don’t let your subconscious foil your own unique ability to dream up the life you’ve always wanted.

Know that it is okay to want what you want. It is an authentic expression of who you are so embrace and celebrate it! Get clarity on the person you want to become and don't let complacency get in your way!

Mary Grace Dixon

What is your definition of success?

MGD: My definition of success is one’s ability to reflect on what they have accomplished and feeling that they made an impact (good or bad). However, I also feel that success is never final because there is always room for improvement. This is why I would call something I have accomplished a “marking point” rather than a success, telling me I can move on to my next challenge.

If you could pass any bit of information or one piece of advice onto the world, what would it be?

MGD: There is so much advice I want to give, I’m going to be a teacher remember?

-Never doubt what you are capable of accomplishing. You may not know until you are presented with a challenge, but reflect knowing you did the best you could.

-Think before you speak, one that I have learned the hard way many times.

-Always have a clean pair of dress pants in your closet.

-Never make assumptions based on what others tell you. Learn for yourself.

-Read books. When you have finished one, start another.

-Learn to cook one or two dishes very well.

-Smile as much as you can.

-Laughter really is the best medicine.

-Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be a goofball sometimes.

-Listen to your mother. She is almost always right.

What do you consider your greatest personal strength? Weakness?

MGD: One of my greatest strengths would have to be my compassion. I love making people feel good about themselves and helping them through difficult times. It is a trait I have been fortunate enough to inherit from my mother. It also works as one of my weaknesses, I am often too involved and feel that I have failed when I do not solve someone else’s problems. I need to learn to let go at times.

Having known you for many years now and knowing that you are about to begin your career in elementary and special education, tell me a little bit about your background in and your passion for helping people with disabilities.

MGD: I graduated high school well aware of my abilities when it came to working with children. Not sure if I wanted to pursue that pathway at the time, I began my fall 2004 semester at Broome Community College with a goal of being an educator, but not sure of what kind. I contemplated high school Spanish, History and English, all of which I was never really passionate about, just good at. As I was taking classes, I had a mess of odd jobs that were nothing more than a paycheck to me. It was when my older brother Chris moved back to Binghamton to begin a position at Community Options, Inc., and was looking for help that I began to get some clarity.

This company’s mission is to develop long and short term goals for adults with disabilities that ultimately make them independent members of society. They needed more staff to be trained to work with the individuals in accomplishing their goals, so I thought I’d try it. It was then I realized my passion, I loved every minute I spent with these adults. I left everyday knowing I made a difference in someone’s life. Was it difficult? Sometimes difficult was not strong enough of a word, but I never felt defeated. That’s how I knew that this was something I needed to pursue for the rest of my life. After that, I transferred to SUNY Geneseo and enrolled in their rigorous program, still loving every new experience and constantly seeking more information. I substitute at Community Options when I am home, and also work at Broome/Tioga BOCES. I learn something new every time I work with a child or an adult with a disability, which to me is what being an educator is all about: lifelong learning.

What are some of your short term and mid term goals?

MGD: A short term goal of mine would be to complete student teaching, which is roughly two weeks from now, and graduate in May. I also plan to start applying for teaching positions and to graduate schools in January; the earlier the better. By next fall, I hope to be teaching or in graduate school, but hopefully both. Long term goals for me are slightly more arbitrary, I never like to plan too far ahead because I feel it may distract from new opportunities I didn’t plan on. Ultimately I want to be teaching, married, and have children of course but putting a time frame on it would personally make me feel pressured to meet that goal and possibly settle if I were to be at that “goal point” in my life, and settling to me is unacceptable.

Who are three people from any time period that you would like to meet?

MGD: The first would be Carol Burnett, a woman who truly finds humor in all walks of life. Another would be Temple Grandin, a woman who is a major advocate for awareness and acceptance of individuals with Autism. Lastly, I would want to meet John Lennon, a revolutionary through his music.

What are some of your favorite books? Quotes?

MGD: Books: “Thinking in Pictures” and “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin. She reveals her life as a woman with Autism and how she and the rest of the Autistic community see the world. I will also forever love the Harry Potter series. Living vicariously through Harry’s life for a few chapters at a time pretty much got me through high school. Lastly, “Educating Esme” by Esme Raji Codell is a personal favorite. In her book, Codell writes about her first year as a teacher in an impoverished area and I feel it should be required reading among elementary education majors.

Quotes: “Go confidently in pursuit of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”-Henry David Thoreau

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”-Ferris Bueller

“Time you enjoy wasting was not wasted”-John Lennon

Final thoughts?

MGD: Do what you love and settle for nothing less.

Mary Grace Dixon

SUNY Geneseo '09

Elementary / Special Education