This month, I am having one of those proverbial “milestone” birthdays. These events can provide a pause in life to reflect, celebrate or mourn(!) the passage of time and the realization that there really are fewer years ahead than behind. When I look back, I know I have been blessed with a wonderful family, good friends and truly nice people with whom I work (both staff and volunteers). Challenges have occurred along the way, but those experiences can make us stronger, more emotionally mature and, one hopes, a little wiser.
I have spent almost half of my life in and around the American Counseling Association, so it obviously represents more than just a job to me. My time with the organization has been an experience. In some ways, it has been a long-running experiment in which I have had the great pleasure of testing out ideas and theories to benefit those associated with ACA.
When reviewing the operation of the organization that is ACA, we typically look at certain measures such as financial reserves, membership growth and product development. But at the end of the day, we are confronted by two questions: “Is the place still standing?!” and “Are we leaving this situation in a better place than when we started?”
The first question is somewhat facetious (although there was a time at ACA when we couldn’t just laugh that question off). The second question is one we all need to ask as it relates to the various situations in which we find ourselves. At the end of the hour, the day, the week, the month, the year, the career — did we leave this situation/place/job/client/student in a better place than when we started?
Do you ever ask yourself that question? If so, what have you learned from the answer? For those situations in which things have worked and are measurably better, I feel good and even take pride in my contribution. For those times when I have to answer “no,” I push myself to learn how things could have gone better or been more fulfilling.
Today’s world provides us with information about issues, crises, calamities and disasters more quickly than at any time in history. I think this is good because it helps us make midcourse corrections so that we can be better at our jobs — whether as professional counselors, counselor educators, advocates, parents, partners or friends.
Here is something to validate that observation. Look at the front page of today’s newspaper, be it USA Today or your local paper. It can be the old-fashioned print version or the digital one. Now read any story on that front page and tell me how the work of professional counselors would have made that situation better. I can pretty much guarantee that you would be able to share with me how you and your colleagues could have played an important role. In fact, feel free to email me at the address below to let me know what you found.
We live in a world where stress-inducing challenges face us each and every day (sometimes, each and every hour). International issues, local human-made tragedies, divisive statements by national politicians, obstacles to those seeking the services of professional counselors and many other challenges are brought to our attention. We can contribute to the solutions for some of these issues; in others, we cannot. So, I return to my question: “Are we leaving this situation in a better place than when we started?”
I know the work of professional counselors is challenging, and I want you to know that 99.9 percent of the time, I do believe that the profession makes an incredible difference in the lives of those you serve. I hope you will take that into account when asking yourself that question (whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 or 100-plus). I am grateful for your work and for the difference you make in society each and every day.