Changing the Narrative on “Winning the Race”

Henrietta Pichon, New Mexico State Membership Representative

March 1, 2018

When I graduated from college, I thought I had won the race. I literally “jumped for joy” when I crossed the stage: I screamed, I shouted, and I even did a little happy dance. And somewhere between my happy dance and glancing back at the graduating class, I realized that I was alone. You see, many of the students—whom I had befriended along the way (that I had met at new student orientation, in my freshmen general education courses, or in the dorms)—were not with me. While running the race, I seemed to have forgotten that while winning the race (getting across the finish line first) was important, it was not more important than making sure that others in the race gets to the finish line as well.

Having had that experience then, I can now see “winning” the race differently.  Whenever I enter a race (i.e., graduate studies, retention work, administration, faculty, promotion & tenure), I do not focus on winning. Instead, I focus on making sure that I, and as many others as possible, cross the finish line together.  Lessons that I have learned include the following.

1. Don’t be afraid to change the narrative.  For some, “winning” is everything.  And that is okay.  Allow them to have those moments while we continue to work to get everyone else to the finish line.  We don’t always know the experiences of individuals entering the race with us. Some may be better prepared to run the race than others. Being less prepared to run the race does not mean that one cannot finish the race. So, let them know that you are there to support them and that you will do all you can to help them get to the finish line. 

2. Know who you are in the race with.  While running the race, it is important for us to know who is in the race with you. That way, we are better able to understand their needs and perspectives. From there, we can build on each other’s strengths, ensuring that everyone gets to the finish line. 

3. Enjoy the opportunity to be in the race. Sometimes when we are in the race, we are unable to fully focus on being in the moment. We may spend too much time worrying about what happened before we entered the race or what we are going to do when the race is over, and we may not spend enough time on the race itself. While running the race, use your senses and be in the moment.  Build on those memories as we move to the finish line.

4. The struggle is what makes being the race so important.  Every race is going to have some challenges. The key to moving forward is overcoming those challenges and having others by your side as we seek to move through them.  In the end, we will all be stronger. It is overcoming those challenges that allows us to grow as professionals and get to the finish line every time.  

5. Don’t give up.  When we change the narrative about winning, we realize that there are too many people in the race depending on you to give up. So, even when we are tired, stressed, or feeling unappreciated, we know we have to hang in there. We need them just as much as they need us.   

Running the race in institutions of higher education can be scary for students, faculty, staff, and administrators alike. If we change the narrative regarding “winning”, we are more likely to move everyone to the finish line. This changes our narrative on winning. It is not about being the first to cross the finish line, it is about making sure that everyone who starts the race gets to the finish line.

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