I’ve had the privilege to participate in meaningful conversations with higher education student services leaders during the pandemic. Leaders who are knowledgeable, skilled and innovative. Our conversations usually start with these leaders reflecting on their passion to help young people and how this desire has led them to the work they currently do in student services.
But inevitably, these conversations take a turn and we begin to discuss the many professional challenges that they and their teams face. These seasoned leaders share how overwhelmed they feel due to multiple tasks and demands inherent in their jobs as student services professionals. They state that their plates are completely filled. In fact, their plates are overflowing with responsibilities and obligations!
We exchange war stories and frustrations and then many of these leaders state that they see no clear path to change or plan of action.
When demands and challenges are high, it’s easy to fall into a scarcity mindset. A preoccupation with unmet needs. For higher ed student services professionals, the most common unmet needs are related to a shortage of money, time, and/or resources.
In a scarcity mindset, we can become single-minded and focus solely on the problems at hand rather than finding successful solutions. This preoccupation with unmet needs can dominate our attention and impede our ability to attend to those things that we want and need to focus on…such as our students.
It’s time for a mindset shift because a scarcity mindset can be costly! One of the biggest tolls it takes is on our well-being.
But what does a shift from a scarcity mindset look like? Well, it’s not an abundance mindset – which is often considered to be the opposite of a scarcity mindset. This is because abundance (of time or money) is not usually a reality for higher ed student services professionals.
Instead, I advocate for a possibility mindset. A possibility mindset is the willingness to look for opportunities that exist in the midst of challenges. It’s the ability to shift from “I can’t” to “I can”. To believe that options are present in all situations. A possibility mindset allows us to tap into our creativity, expand our imagination, and uncover new concepts.
To Build a Possibility Mindset:
- Create Space for Curiosity
Curiosity involves the obtainment of information through exploration and investigation. Be present and open when examining challenging circumstances because it’s when we’re curious that new perspectives, clarity and answers emerge to situations that initially appeared hopeless and unchangeable.
- Discover New Ideas and Possibilities Through Empowering Questions
We often place great emphasis on asking the right questions when instead we would benefit from asking empowering questions. Empowering questions are thought-provoking, open-ended questions that expand our understanding and make space for possibilities and opportunities. Here are a few examples:
- What additional possibilities exist?
- What might a healthy path forward look like?
- How can I be flexible regarding my circumstances?
- What does thinking outside of the box look like?
- If this new possibility was obtainable, what would I do?
- Manage the Scarcity Inner Voice
A scarcity mindset often presents as a quiet, subtle voice. Sometimes we’re aware of it. Other times we’re not. Scarcity thinking is the internal dialogue that plays in the background of our mind. Telling us that there’s not enough. That we’re not enough.
It’s crucial to increase our self-awareness regarding this scarcity voice in order to conquer it. We must pay attention to the soft, but often inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts and behaviors related to “not enough”. Once we notice the presence of scarcity thinking and behavior, we can challenge and replace it with more accurate and productive beliefs that are grounded in possibilities.
Where can you see yourself or your team members falling into this kind of scarcity thinking and behavior? That there isn’t enough. Enough time, money or resources.
How could a work environment that allows for the discovery of possibilities, opportunities and solutions enhance you and your team’s well-being, and keep your skilled team members energized and excited about their jobs?
Professional development opportunities are an ideal way to examine and shift mindsets, and if you and your team are not engaging in these opportunities, now may be the perfect time to begin! You may be missing out on a powerful tool that can elevate the well-being for yourself, your staff and your students.
About June Parks, Ph.D.
June Parks, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, consultant, speaker, and youth empowerment expert who shows young people, and the professionals who provide services to them, how to obtain youth mental wellness and resilience. Dr. Parks celebrates the creativity, passion, and unique talents that reside within young people and this appreciation can be found in every aspect of her work. With over 20 years of experience in the areas of child psychology and childhood trauma, Dr. Parks has the skills to heighten youth and student well-being, and she shows other professionals how to do the same while never losing sight of their own personal and professional wellness. Dr. Parks elevates the professional knowledge of higher education student services professionals through experiential activities that increase learning and discovery. Dr. Parks has been featured in webinars, podcasts, and panels for groups including The Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors, The University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, and The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
P.S… And when you’re ready, here’s how I can help. I work with higher education student services professionals to enhance the well-being for themselves, their staff, and students so that they can achieve greater professional satisfaction and productivity, and reduce burnout and staff turnover. If you would like to explore what an engagement might look like for your team…let’s schedule a call.
You can also connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.