Graduation During A Pandemic Yields a Strategic Refocus

| by Shannon Williams

Our younger son, Carson, graduates high school this Sunday—sort of.

He will put on his cap and gown. We will drive to the school. He will jump out of the car and onto a makeshift stage. His name will be called, a photo snapped, and a brief video captured. He will get back into the car and we will leave. Should take about 3 minutes.

In fairness, this is one of myriad ways that Carson’s school is celebrating the class of 2020, and we are hoping, praying, and crossing all body parts that we can have an actual graduation on August 1.

Nevertheless, graduation feels surreal…just like much of the past 10 weeks has felt surreal.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog about our older son’s graduation. You may remember that I was sad, nostalgic, and just not ready to celebrate this milestone. My momma’s heart was struggling to find the joy among the nostalgia.

With Carson, some of those same feelings persist but, as a wily graduation veteran, I was much more ready to enjoy the moment, to throw myself into the celebration and enjoy it with Carson without reservation. But it is not going according to plan.

I know you can relate.

I am sure not much has gone according to plan in your personal or professional life either.

Instead of being frustrated or sad, I decided to apply a technique that Armstrong McGuire is using with our clients—a strategic refocus. Essentially, you place things (programs/campaigns/initiatives) into one of three buckets: must continue, continue with a delay, stop altogether.

For graduation I have decided that the family celebration of the original graduation must continue, complete with gifts and photos and fun. It is a chance to relive some of the memories of the past four years and envision Carson’s very exciting next chapter. This must happen.

On the other hand, the original graduation party must be delayed until August 1. And yes, I know there is a chance that it will not happen at all, but I am keeping it in the delayed category as long as possible. So many people want to celebrate Carson’s accomplishments with us, and we want them and him to have that opportunity.

Some of the things that are in the stop category were just out of my control—like prom, senior picnic, senior parent dinner. These things just won’t happen. I can choose to focus on what was lost or I can embrace what remains. I am choosing the latter.

In some ways the circumstances have given me the opportunity to focus on what is most important—Carson. I have let go of my own disappointments to focus on how to make the most of the situation for him.

Nonprofit leaders have definitely been doing the same, and I am grateful. Instead of mourning what could have been, they are focused on what must be done. No matter how difficult the struggle, they are serving those that need them most. Many unknowns remain for all of us, but there is a new day coming. Much like the tradition of graduation, we must celebrate what has ended to successfully start a new chapter. To maximize your ending and your new beginning, I highly recommend a strategic refocus.

Congratulations class of 2020!

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