Sunday, September 25, 2011

Core Values For The University Of Life

I graduated with my MFA a little more than four years ago. I remember when I started the program in 2004, at one of our first meetings (possibly our very first meeting) as a graduate class of 13, our advisor and chair of the acting program gave us a list of core values he felt we should work to incorporate into our lives and work ethic during our three years in the program to help us make the most of our time and be as successful as possible. I took very seriously the advice he gave us and tried very hard to live up to those core values, and I think it served me well. I had an amazing education and experience, and I think my diligence in trying to follow this "code" was very instrumental in my success.

I have been working hard lately at throwing away a lot of the extraneous junk in my life. As I have written about previously, I can be a bit of a hoarder, and I'm am trying to get rid of a lot of the useless stuff I needlessly hang on to, and I have been making slow, but sure progress in my efforts.

Today as I was going through an old box of papers (papers are one of the things I hoard the most), I came across many things I saved from my graduate school days (much of which I finally threw away) and happened to run across this set of core values. I am going to throw away the original paper these core values are written on, but thought them worth saving, so I thought I'd post them here because I think them not only valuable for success in a graduate program, but in life as well.

1. Familial support - we were encouraged to lift each other up, support each other, and work as a team. Personal independence was also stressed, but familial support among the 13 of us was stressed.

2. Preparation - the program involved a great deal of work and we were both told to prepare for what was to come as well as be prepared for each individual assignment we were given in order to achieve our ultimate goal.

3. Organization - we were asked to work on having great organizational skills so we could both organize our time and projects to help us most effectively and efficiently reach our goals.

4. Ensemble - this kind of goes along with #1, but we were reminded that we are all in this together, and especially when times got tough, which we we warned they would (and they sometimes did), to remember to lean on each other for support and to support those who were having a harder time. We we're all shooting for the same goal, and we needed to remember that none of us could get there alone.

5. Discipline - we were told to manage our time well and remember why we were here and work to remain disciplined in what we needed to do to achieve our goal.

6. Jump in the water - this was actually one of the most useful of the core values I was given. The program was quite intense, and we we're encouraged not to just "dip our toes in the water" or be act with trepidation, but to dive right in and embrace whatever the program threw at you without fear. We did a lot of stuff in the program that was new, exciting, strange, and sometimes did difficult things in a very vulnerable position, and this piece of advice was one of the things that really helped me the most. I just embraced whatever was given to me. Eventually I decided what was most most useful to me and what wasn't, but I accepted and did everything that was asked of me with an open mind, and it made all the difference.

7. Have your own point of view and express it - while encouraged to take everything the program threw at us, we were also encouraged not to just take it all blindly and to develop a point of view about what we were were learning and express and defend that point of view.

8. Invest - this program was a financial investment, an investment of time, and an investment in our future and in our career. We were asked to treat it as such and to fully participate in order to help our investment reach its highest potential.

9. Have the ability to have a paradigm shift - I really liked this one. A paradigm shift is defined as "as a change from one way of thinking to another. It's a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. It just does not happen, but rather it is driven by agents of change." We may spend much of our lives thinking things are one way and then events and experiences completely change our way of thinking and seeing the world. The graduate program did much to change my attitudes and thinking about acting and movement in ways I did not expect, and likewise, I had paradigm shifts about my own life and and spirituality, and I think my openness to allowing those shifts was instrumental in helping me be a more successful performer as well as a happier human being. I remember one other thing our advisor told us when laying out this value, and I think it's good advice for human beings in general: "Listen before speaking."

10. Enjoy the experience - this was the last point and also a very useful one. It isn't just about the destination; it's about the journey and enjoying what you learn and experience on the way. It really is. I loved my graduate program. I enjoyed it so much. I remember after I graduated and started watching the TV show "Lost" I remember (and still maintain) that I didn't care how it ended; I just loved the journey of these characters and what I was experiencing while the show was taking me on the journey. When the finale finally happened, I was completely satisfied. Other viewers were upset that some of their questions hadn't been answered or that the resolution wasn't what they expected. That certainly was their right, but I think they may have missed the big picture. They were too busy trying to get the answers to questions that maybe didn't matter so much and missing the beautiful journey they were taking. I tried to view my graduate program (and try to view my life) in that respect, too.

I used to spend life worrying about how I was going to get to the destination and stressing about what I had to do to get there. I no longer do that (at least I try not to), and life is so much more enjoyable and rich now.

I think all ten of these core values can be applied to our lives here on this planet with our fellow man. As fellow human beings, we should support and love and care for one another. We should remember we're all in this together and not try to get through life on our own. We should decide what our ultimate goals in life are and prepare, organize, and discipline ourselves to get what is most valuable and important for our success and happiness. Then we should jump in with both feet without fear and trepidation and take what life throws at us and roll with the punches. We should invest fully in our lives and relationships and goals and participate fully in the precious life we have been given. We should be better listeners of others' points-of-view and life experiences without judging. We should respect each other's life experiences. We should also be willing to allow ourselves to have paradigm shifts and allow ourselves to see that not everything is black-and-white; that there are nuances in life; that things are not always as they seem; that what we were sometimes taught would make us happy isn't always what actually makes us happy and brings us closer to our Father. We should be willing to develop a point-of-view about our life and life experiences and who we are and why we are that way and express it and defend it. And we should enjoy the journey of life because there is so much to enjoy and experience and learn and glean. We should find joy in the journey of life because, after all, we are, that we might have joy.

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