Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude: Thanksgiving in Action

Hi Cougars, I am so excited to be writing to you again.  I hope you have enjoyed the stories from our students and staff throughout the fall.  I am so happy to share since the beginning of school we have had over 15,000 people read our Celebrating Cinco blog. I am overwhelmed by the response and the feedback.  It has been a special treat to read the stories of struggle and success. The authors of these blogs have shown vulnerability and "dared greatly" for sure..  After all, it can be scary to publicly share your thoughts with the world...or even with our Cinco community. I am grateful for everyone who has written and everyone who has taken time to read these blog posts. I am also so grateful for this school and this community. Speaking of being grateful, this time of year seems like a good time to share some thoughts on gratitude. So here it goes. 

Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance.  Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us.  Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy. The root of joy is gratefulness." 

"We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.
We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."

"Gratefulness has two sides. Expressing gratitude is partly a conscious action, like opening
a door or telling a story. It is also a result of deep attitudes: the way we look at our lives and the way we turn the events of our lives into meaningful stories. Parents teach their children to say “thank you,” the action part, in the hope that their children will grow into the attitude part. For
adults, I believe, the path toward gratitude includes an exploration of both."

These thoughts (from people wiser than me) on gratitude and joy remind me that gratitude is practiced, and when gratitude is practiced, joy follows.  How do we go about practicing gratitude you may ask?  I wish I had a simple, magic answer.  I do not.  I can tell you it requires thought and action, and it requires a regular occurrence of both.  Anyone I've ever known who practices gratitude and expresses joy does so regardless of the circumstances of the moment. I have always been encouraged and uplifted by these people and strive to be like them.  

My hope is that reading this will remind you of things you probably already know but lose sight of in your day to day life.  I know I do.  So, as you head off into your thanksgiving break, take a moment, or two, or three to not only recognize the good things in your life, but take time to verbalize them...take time to put those words of gratitude into action.  I'm sure you will find joy not far behind waiting there like a dear, trusted friend.  I wish our Cougar students, staff, and families a very happy thanksgiving, no, scratch that, I wish you a very joyful thanksgiving and hope you enjoy this time with your friends and family.  Until next time, take care.

James Cross, Principal

Friday, November 13, 2015

Daring Greatly: Forming Your Legacy

What do you want your legacy to be?

I simply want my legacy to be that I loved others well. Maybe you want your legacy to be that you were good at something or that you always made people laugh. It's different for anyone, but everyone wants something positive to come to people's mind when someone says his or her name. But in order for our "dream legacy" to become reality, we have to live it every minute of every day- and that's where it becomes difficult.

For the past two years, I have served as a drum major for the Cougar Band. You learn a lot by standing up on the podium and leading 300 dedicated members, but the biggest lesson I've learned is how strong of an influence every single person has- whether they're a leader, follower, or bystander. However, it's easy to lose sight of that and go around with the mindset that nobody will care about what we do. Nothing about that is true. If you're a leader, people recognize that and watch to see what kind of movement you may be starting. If you're a follower, who or what you choose to follow speaks volumes. Following is even its own form of leadership because you're making it more socially acceptable for other followers to join in on what you're doing. Someone is always watching to see what you're doing, and you may not even know who they are. Every tweet you post, word you say, and action you take says at least one thing about you and somehow contributes to what your legacy is.

I want to challenge you to think about a statement that has changed how I live: the average person influences at least 10,000 people in their lifetime. Now this may sound silly, but notice how this is just talking about the average person- someone who just lives life doing nothing too special. If there's one thing I know, it's that students at Cinco Ranch High School are going to go out and do above average things, and some have even gotten a head start. We have future doctors, lawyers, educators, engineers, cancer curers, and many more walking through the halls every day. So if the average person influences 10,000 people, imagine how much that multiplies when someone goes off to do great things. Imagine how much that multiplies when someone even does the small things, like smiling at a stranger or telling someone that you hope they'll have a good day.

You will never know the full extent of your influence. Daring greatly is accepting that and never putting that influence to waste.

What will you do with your influence? What will your legacy truly be?

Daniela Ichter, Senior

Friday, November 6, 2015

Daring Greatly Through Your "Uh-Oh" Moments

He stands in the doorway to my office with a huge grin on his face which seems to last for an eternity.  I can only think, “Uh-oh, what now??”  And then he says the words I’ve been dreading for two months, “I want you to write our next blog.” My heart races, my palms get sweaty…can I crawl under my desk?

Who is this man?  Well, he’s Mr. Cross, my boss. And why am I so nervous to write something as innocent as a blog post about Daring Greatly?  After all, I’m reasonably intelligent.  I have a college degree; in fact, I have two!  I write emails and memos every day and most of them make sense.  I am, however, someone who needs affirmation from others for my accomplishments and, because of this, I rarely put my vulnerability out there for all to see.  I have never been able to look from within for that atta-girl confirmation. 

So what does it mean to a mom, a secretary, a runner, to dare greatly?  Are we only defined by the roles we play in our lives instead of the lives we live? Are we meant to be satisfied with getting by instead of getting out there and inspiring those in our lives?  These are some really heavy questions to ponder in between the “what should I wear to work today” and “why can’t I ever find a parking spot at HEB” reality of a day in the life.  As I began this new school year with these questions, I searched for the “right” answers.  And I found them in Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

This summer, my daughter got married and my son began his first job.  For 26 years, I have measured my worth by getting my children through the peaks or valleys in their lives.  They are beginning their own journeys now, no longer needing my direction.  And there’s an emptiness inside me.  How do I forge a new relationship with these adults I used to feed and diaper? By daring greatly.  Brene wrote a Parenting Manifesto to use whenever she feels vulnerable or fearful. Her final thoughts have become my salvation in this time of uncertainty: “As you begin your wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.  I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you.  Truly, deeply, seeing you.”

Two ladies who I’ve worked with in the front office for over 10 years left for other opportunities this year.  Instead of everyone knowing their roles in the flow of the well-oiled machine we’d become, we would welcome two new staff members from different campuses.  I would need to step forward as the leader to set the tone for our changing team.  I don’t see myself as a leader; I’m more of a team player.  How do I adapt my approach to ensure we will continue to provide the excellent customer service for which Cinco Ranch is known?  By daring greatly.  Brene refers to this situation as “Minding the Gap”, looking at the space between where we are and where we want to be.  When I stepped back from the familiarity of what used to be, I began to reevaluate some of our procedures and make changes to improve the work we do.  Along the way, I grew as a leader and became a better secretary.

For 9 years, I have tried and failed to run a marathon.  I’ve done a few half-marathons but can’t seem to take that next step.  But I have great excuses: I missed too many long runs; I blew out my IT Band; I just can’t seem to find the right outfit to match my running shoes; blah-blah-blah.  Are these excuses masking the real reason I stop at 13.1 miles…that I’m afraid of failing, of telling everyone I’m going to do this great thing, of asking them to come watch, only to see me carted off by the medics at Mile 17?  How do I reach my goal?  By daring greatly. Brene examines how shame contributes to our inability to be vulnerable.  She says that in order to be vulnerable, we need to develop a resilience to shame.  She refers to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech ‘Citizenship in a Republic”, often referred to as “The Man in the Arena”.  She asks us to identify who is in the arena with us and challenges us to walk into the arena not when we are perfect and bulletproof, but when we realize that to do so will afford us with great opportunities to use our gifts to make unique contributions.  Do I have a gift for running fast? No, but what I do have is a passion for running that can be used to inspire others and ultimately myself to reach the finish line.

What have I learned from the time spent writing this blog and facing my vulnerability? I enjoy the time I spend with my adult children as we explore seeing each other as we really are.  The front office is still that well-oiled machine, version 2.0. The marathon…well, if you see me trudging the streets of Cinco Ranch, be kind and don’t run over my prone body.  We all have our “uh-oh” moments in life that make us afraid to go on. Define them, but don’t let them define who you are. 

Anita Kuhlmann, Secretary to Mr. Cross