Daniel Ludvigson
Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Public Schools

There are many things we do simply because we need to do them. We brush our teeth, drive to work, and a host of many other things. They have steps that we typically don’t even think about and many times develop a sort of automaticity. Yet this routine nature or feeling can easily become a rut and separate you from the spark of interest that inspired you to select this profession in the first place. It is the difference in knowing what you are doing versus why you are doing it.

I come from an artistic background, and this idea that your art has lost its spark is a way of saying it no longer feels inspired. It is often said that simply knowing what needs to be done isn’t sufficient to produce memorizing performances, truly moving imagery, and craft words that truly speak to us. You can still produce items of master craftsmanship and check off all the proverbial boxes, but something is lost. That sense of wonder in the craft is gone.

Sometimes we get so lost in the day-to-day demands of our lives that we lose touch with our why. We go through the motions and develop a sort of comfort in the predictability around us. We stop striving, and we lose touch with the very thing that inspired us to do the work we devoted our lives to. As the why gets lost, it becomes “just what we do.” We know the steps we need to accomplish to satisfy a rubric, we know how to complete the tasks asked of us, and sometimes, we even get to a point where we fight for everything to stay the same just for the sake of nothing changing. This is just what we do.

As a principal, perhaps, we stop interacting with students because we have reports to do. As a teacher, maybe we are assigning the same work we did 10 years ago because that is just the way you do it. We stop seeking that lightbulb moment and we stop feeling that warm glow inside when we make a positive impact. Taking enjoyment in the work can oftentimes be seen as frivolous or a waste of time. That spark, however, that inspired you to do the work you do needs to be fed. Otherwise, we snuff it out inadvertently and sometimes so subtly that we don’t even notice.

Remember to connect with what sparked your initial desire to be in this field. Stay connected with the want to do the work for its own sake. Do the things that remind you of the joy you felt and not just go through the motions. Step back from the rat race long enough to separate yourself from the next item on your to-do list. Yes, that to-do list will still be there, and it will still demand you give it attention when you return to the pace of the rat race. Don’t bury the spark that inspired you to enter into this work. Don’t lose touch with that want, don’t forget why you do the work.

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