I can remember when I was young hearing my mother, in exasperation, exclaim, “Enough is enough!” It usually meant that I had pushed the envelope a little (maybe a lot) too far. Sometimes it’s the way I feel now when the demands of my job exceed my limited capabilities. What can be done when my best is not good enough?
I’ve wrestled with this dilemma for years. With the help and guidance of many of my peers in the veteran service business, I’ve come up with a few ways of coping with my limitations.
Probably the best piece of advice I received involved defining my role in working with veteran students. A long-time veteran service provider told me, “I have to keep reminding myself that my job is not to help veterans. My job is to help veterans help themselves.” This had a profound impact on me. I wasn’t Pulp Fiction’s “Wolf,” who fixed everything. As an educator, I was there to show veterans the way that they could work to fix it themselves.
In implementing this role of educator, I recalled when I spent a few years as a part-time instructor at a prestigious boarding school. A former supervisor gave me some advice. She insisted that in my student progress reports, that I not stop at “more effort needed” or “more attention to detail.” Instead, she called upon me to be very specific and detailed in my advice on improvements needed. I use this technique now in my “lists” for veteran students and my advice on the steps needed to resolve an issue. Frequently, I find my “advice” could also be referred to as “instructions.”
Sometimes, indeed often, guiding the student on the steps necessary to resolve their concerns is harder and more time consuming than just “fixing it.” But, in the long run it is better for all concerned.
This role of educator as opposed to fixer is one that I believe is a crucial one. You cannot be there, nor should you be, twenty-four seven to make things right. But, if you can educate the student, your advice and guidance are always with them.
Finally, I think we must all realize that we are human. Our best may not be enough. There are just some things that are out of my control. This happens more frequently than I would like to admit. But, in those times, I ask myself, “Did you do all you could do?” If the answer is no, then I take whatever extra steps, no matter how small, that I can. Once the answer is yes, I let it go (or try very hard to).
Let’s face it. We will likely always feel that what we do, no matter how hard we try, is not enough. But frankly, putting forth your sincere, maximum effort is all you can expect of yourself. And in the final analysis, that sincere, maximum effort is often more than enough.