kathy toogood professor

This blog is for women who are seeking to live more authentically and make a difference. I have been on this journey for about 20 years, since a time when I was a young mom, and teacher. Bound by so many expectations spoken and unspoken, from the church, other moms, and society, I didn’t trust my heart, or my own knowing. This left me feeling conflicted and anxious about what I “should” do. I was working hard on so many fronts, yet still experiencing so much guilt, and so little joy.

I am in a very different place in my life now, in no small part because of my striving and wondering. These words reflect my pursuit of grace and excellence, while also embracing a reflective practice. They speak to my angst and joy and adjustments along the way—discovering what I could control and influence, and what I couldn’t. In these blogs I will share stories of critical moments—and how they have affected my thinking, doing and beng.

Mostly I write about what I am learning, as a hopeful yet imperfect woman.

As you read,I invite you to consider your own life, and what you can do to could bring more alignment, joy and meaning to your life.

Striving

My mission is to pursue, inspire, and nurture grace and excellence, for my family and those in my circle of influence

Writing my mission statement 20 years ago was a turning point for me, as it helped me identify the activities that were aligned with who I was and what I wanted to offer the world. I chose the word pursue as one of my three verbs. Choosing those verbs and identifying grace and excellence as my values was instrumental in supporting strategic decision-making.

As I think about the insights I have gained since then from my Enneagram identity, (3-Achiever) and my Myers Briggs type (ENFJ) I understand my mission and choice of words in a new light. I get energized by setting goals and achieving them. And grace reminds me to be kind to myself and others, and mindful of our shared humanity.

Pursuing Excellence in Graduate Learning

Soon after I wrote my mission statement, I started considering a Master of Education program. When I laid it alongside my mission statement, it passed the test. Would this help me pursue excellence in my career? Absolutely! I found a program through the University of Portland that I believed would work for me and the family. In conversation with my husband, we narrowed down our commitments to work, family and my studies, enlisted the help of a babysitter, and I began.

It was a busy and wonderful two years of working and studying and parenting. I tell my current Masters’ students that it literally changed my life. This program shifted my thinking, doing and being in so many ways. In a few short years I had shifted into a consulting position and had recovered my investment in the program through increased salary. I saw how striving to enhance my education made a difference in my life, while adjusting how we organized the rest of our life as a family. I realized that a certain amount of striving was healthy and helpful for me; that I was a better mother when I knew and addressed my needs for purpose.

There were times when I felt weary of the pursuit.

I experimented with the words in my mission statement, inserting the word “embrace” instead of pursue for a time. But I switched back to pursue, realizing that was central to my identity. Recognizing both the joy and burden of this tendency, it has been important to offset my times of pursuit with times of rest. As a family, we kept learning and growing, building everyone’s capacity to contribute. My girls saw in their mother a woman who supported them and made a difference in her work. They gained skills for helping around the house, while also having opportunities to thrive and have fun.

Kathy Toogood Retirement Transition

Gift of words from my colleagues upon Retirement

I recently retired from full time work at the end of May 2020. I was able to do this because of my striving. Over 12 years ago, I imagined a time like this when I could teach, do research, write and consult, with a pension base. Seeing this goal allowed me to take action over several years that would set me up to do this. I pursued a doctorate degree, expanded my network, and took on various leadership positions as a means of preparing for this time.

Despite many obstacles and challenges that you will read about in other blogs, this dream came to fruition. We all live our lives in this space between things we can control—our thoughts, words, actions—and things we cannot—pandemics, getting jobs, other people’s behaviours. For me striving is about investing energy in those things I can control and influence. When I am clear about my vision, and intentional about my actions, I have found that the right opportunities come along at the right time, and I am ready to step into them.

Striving has some upsides and some downsides. Having taken steps to prepare for this phase of my career, I stepped right into it. I enlisted help to establish my website. My teaching continued and I kept working to improve education for refugee and newcomer students. I returned to my research to start writing a book.

It has been hard for me to turn off, or dial down the striving, even while we were travelling and camping around Alberta this past summer. I am still in transition—figuring out what this could look like—knowing I get to decide when and how much to work. I want ‘pursuing excellence’ to live alongside ‘nurturing grace’—for myself and others. I want space to rest, and walk, and have adventures with my husband who is retired.

My Striving is guided by my wondering. . .

As I went to find my journal from December 2019, I realized that I had filled four journals this year. I have been writing in a journal since I was 18 years old, however, it has not always been consistent. About 18 months ago, I re-ignited my morning practice when I moved closer to work and shortened my commute. Every morning I choose gratitude and set intentions for the day. I read inspiring material and write. I think about what is happening in my life, and reflect on my values, how I am showing up, and what I need to do to move my life forward. Though the amount of time dedicated to this can shift, investing time daily has become essential to alignment, meaning and joy in my life.

This daily time of wondering deepens my self-awareness, shapes my striving, and enables me to learn from my experiences.

Wondering is closely related to learning for me. Doing my Masters of Education really awakened my love of learning, and empowered me to own and direct my learning journey. My learning has been supported through reading, research, teaching, listening to other people. Realizing that no matter the circumstances, we can always choose to learn helped me get through times of change in my workplace. Learning is always within our control.

For all of the loss and disappointment that came with the pandemic, there has been the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our values, who is important, and why we do what we do. With everyone else, I look forward to putting this pandemic behind me, but, I don’t want to go back to the way things were. Rather, I hope we can honour the learning that has come out of it and recognize that we are all connected, with our choices affecting each other.

If you are seeking greater alignment and purpose in your life. If you want to make a difference, but aren’t sure where to start. If you have given away your power to the expectations of others and want to take it back, this is a blog for you. You will find stories and tools to deepen your self-awareness and inspire you to take action to offer your gifts to the world in a sustainable way. What are you longing for this year? Tell me about your aspirations and one thing you can do to move toward that.