Admin Corner: Present Purpose, Future Actions: How Are You Showing Up?

3 Mar
Katie Barr

This is a year like no other. It’s been as hard, if not harder, than the year before it. At times like this, it’s hard to lift our chins and see the horizon, to see what’s in front of us.

As a principal—even under more conventional circumstances—this was a time of year that often felt like a slog through the mud. Instead of focusing on plans for next year or making moves toward meeting my district office’s deadlines, I was covering classrooms without teachers or dealing with crises that demanded immediate attention. The pressure felt insurmountable as I focused on the daily survival of my staff, my students, and myself.

At times like these, the question, in my mind, becomes: What is my present purpose? How do I turn daily survival into a collection of present purpose, so I can step into my future actions?

The Wayfinder definition of Purpose is finding a meaningful direction through contribution. When I think about my present purpose, though, it looks a bit different. 

Purpose is most often connected to a long-term goal for ourselves and our communities. However, we are also making contributions to our communities each and every day. Therefore, acting with present purpose means connecting meaningfully to today’s tasks and responsibilities. It creates an opportunity to find joy in the pressure of daily tasks, lift ourselves out of the burden of the moment, and get back in touch with the long view. It is what leads us to our future actions.

Our present purpose can be a daily occurrence that requires a small action. When we accomplish it, something physical happens in our bodies. It’s the production of dopamine, which fights stress and anxiety. Our present purpose moves us forward by helping us find joy in small accomplishments. 

What do you see as your present purpose? What task can you commit to finding joy in accomplishing? 

  • Helping your office staff find peace
  • Making classroom visits
  • Supporting struggling teachers
  • Being visible for your students
  • Checking in with your new teachers

As we accumulate little accomplishments, they build up to the future actions we plan to take. For me, present purpose helps me raise my head above the small stuff to see that I can be my future actions. As a principal, it helped me remember that I could be the instructional leader my staff deserved. It reminded me that I could create joy for my staff and my students.

The promise of our purpose is what keeps us going. Make the choice to rise and greet your present purpose, to make your future actions possible.

Katie Barr is the Director of Education + Innovation at Wayfinder. She has held a variety of roles throughout her 25 years in education, including classroom teacher, school administrator, county director, school board member, and educational non-profit leader. Her experience has led to a unique understanding and perspective on the educational system. Using Liberatory Design and Design Thinking models, Katie has reenvisioned educational systems at the middle and high school level in the North Bay of California.