Originally posted on Skins of Ill Shaped Fishes.)

By Bjorn Paige

Have you ever had someone you trusted be so honest with you that you found yourself shaken? It’s in those moments when we’re blessed by the clarity only another pair of eyes can give us about ourselves that we grow. It’s seldom a compliment, and it’s not always pretty, but if we can hear it, really hear it, nothing else can propel us forward with as much power.

I got a dose of that honesty this morning, and it woke me up in just the way I needed. More than inspiring my little scribbles here, it’s likely to stay with me for a long, long time.New Day

Walking down the hallway before school began, on my way to fill my coffee maker, a classified employee tapped me on my shoulder and said: “Now how am I going to draw strength from you if you look like that?”

Truth be told, it had been a long week, a long couple in fact, and the accumulated stresses, little and big, had worn on me more than I wanted to admit. Before the day had even begun my face showed that tension, and rather than pass me with a nod of empathy or a smile of compassion, this amazing and honest person did something better: she called me on it.

In the quiet of an empty hallway her words snapped me to attention; it was time I put some focus on what I was thinking and how those thoughts were manifested in my demeanor. It was time for me to shake of the selfish feeling of self-pity or the indulgent attitude of overwork. It was time for me to show some strength, perhaps even enough to share. It was time for spirit.

What I mean by spirit isn’t a slogan or word of the week, but an attitude of envisioning the best. One of the most important jobs of an educator is to create a space where hope is welcomed, even expected. Walking across campus, or indeed through life, our spirit is apparent in who we are and what we do. I’ve never been great at putting on a false face, and anyway an empty smile wouldn’t have fooled my honest coworker for a second. Spirit isn’t something to fake.

Instead, spirit is making the conscious decision to believe that today could be a pretty good day. Spirit is deciding that while some things are beyond our control, and while some realities frustrate us, we can and do have power over our own choices. We can allow that something is difficult AND we are going to make a difference. It’s enough to bring a genuine smile.

I work in a place where great things happen every day. Kindness. Bravery. Teaching and learning. I also see people in crisis and need, and if I’m mindful of my spirit, I see these as opportunities to help. By the time I’d gotten back to my desk, and coffee was bubbling at my elbow, I realized that maintaining a vision of La Costa Canyon as the best place it can be is one of the most important parts of my job.

Showing it is another.

It’s as I strive to make that vision a reality that I have a chance to make a difference. Acknowledging challenges doesn’t mean succumbing to them. Believing in hope can even make it real. I haven’t thanked that person who shook me with her words this morning (I wanted to get these thoughts out first), but I will. I’ll thank her for her honesty, for her kindness, and for her spirit.

Bjorn Paige is a Principal in Encenitas, CA. He shares his insights on his website, Skins of Ill Shaped Fishes. Follow Bjorn on Twitter at @BjornPaige.