Pattye Benson

Community Matters

January 1, 2011 . . . Armed with hope, we tackle a new year

Armed with hope, we tackle a new year . . .

Oscar Wilde, the great 19th century literary figure, wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” And so, just as we began 2010, so we begin 2011 – with a long list of hopes and dreams for the New Year. Yes, that time of the year is upon us again.

‘Tis the season to reflect on the year gone by and make resolutions and wishes for a better 2011. We resolve to be especially good to ourselves. We’ll eat healthier, we’ll make our lifestyles more sustainable, we’ll be more frugal (the current economic climate leaves us little choice), we’ll turn over that proverbial new leaf that pops up every year around this time . . .

We will wish good thoughts for the New Year. The economy is atop nearly everyone’s list of hopes for the coming months. More jobs. Better growth numbers. We will hope that our elected officials in Washington, Harrisburg and yes, in Tredyffrin Township always put the people’s best interests ahead of their own. There is a lot to wish for. Indicators are pointing to improvement, but patience is in order since the economy has quite a way to go to return to something approaching normal.

The year 2011 certainly won’t be a carefree one, but there’s no reason it can’t be a happy one. Happy new years don’t happen automatically. They require a lot of work, a lot of planning, and more than a little bit of luck. There’s not much anyone can do about number three, but those first two factors are something members of this community understand and are good at.

Happy new years are never guaranteed. But as they arrive, they offer the chance for all of us to find our footing and focus and resolve — an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and move forward.

Here’s to a happy 2011 and remembering to take time for “looking at the stars”.

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  1. How well said Patty. Thanks for this well considered advice.
    I have a favorite clipping that I’ll contribute here — it came from a website at some time – I saved it and read it periodically. It’s on the same path as many others here have tried to take us, and asks us all to figure out what path that is.

    If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Take You There
    By Andy Giddings
    There is a passage from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll which cleverly illustrates why it’s important to know where you are headed in life:

    “Cheshire Puss”, she began, rather timidly, as she did not know at all whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. Come, it’s pleased so far, thought Alice, and she went on.” Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”

    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.

    “I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat.

    “… So long as I get somewhere, “Alice added as an explanation.

    “Oh, you’re sure to do that, ‘said the cat,’ if you only walk long enough”

    How many people do you know who just seem to be wandering aimlessly through their lives, without any apparent sense of direction? Another way of phrasing the quote would be to say, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

    To put this into Life Coaching parlance, every goal should have a Well Formed Outcome. So what then, is a Well Formed Outcome? Quite simply, it means being very clear…..CRYSTAL clear, on the outcome you want from a particular goal. Notice that we use the word “outcome” rather than “objective” for the goal. THIS IS BECAUSE OUTCOMES CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF ACHIEVING THE GOAL, RATHER THAN JUST THE GOAL ITSELF.

    For instance, let’s imagine someone sets themselves a goal to get promoted in their career – that is, the objective of the goal is promotion. So they work very hard, put in lots of hours and take on lots of extra work that no-one else wants to do, and after 2 long hard years they achieve their objective and are rewarded with promotion. Unfortunately though, their marriage is at breakdown point and their kids hardly know them, because they have not been around for the last 2 years!

    In considering promotion as an outcome, you would think about the conditions of achieving it – for example, “Is it worth the cost to my relationships?”, or “What else might suffer if I really go for this?”

    Another feature of a Well Formed Outcome is that it is stated in the POSITIVE. Let me just ask you not to think of a pink elephant…. What did you think of? This is because the way the subconscious mind works is that it can’t represent negatives without first turning them into positives. So saying, for example, “I must stop smoking” focuses the mind on exactly the thing you want to stop. By saying “I am a non-smoker”, you are giving your subconscious an alternative self image to focus on, and one which is aligned to the outcome you want to produce.

    Remember, don’t say what you don’t want, say what you do! ”

    So how do we go about applying this to paying for the services we expect and want? What are the Well Formed Outcomes we are seeking? Seriously, where do we want to get to? Are we willing to pay the price (monetarily) of staying the course, or the price (in a quality sense) of changing the destination….which is what, by the way?

    Happy New Year!

    1. Very interesting. This does give us something to think about as we go forward in 2011. What is the outcome that we are seeking . . . I like the notion that we don’t say what we don’t want, but rather say we do want. Let’s consider what we ‘want’ as our destination in 2011.

    2. Before objectives and outcome there needs to be vision and strategy. What is the longer term vision and strategy for Tredyffrin?

      1. TC – I think you just asked the same question as the initial comment. It seems to me that if you don’t know where you are going, any route will get you there is precisely why your question might be moot. Ms. Benson’s comment that we should consider what we want as our destination is already asking what you are stating. We need to have a sense (i.e., strategic vision) of what we want before we can talk about whether we can afford it. That’s why the well formed outcome is a good analogy…because we need to understand the pieces that will be required, and the results we need to live with.

  2. I’m glad you found it as interesting as I did. I know that all this talk here and elsewhere (U.S,?) started with the idea that GWB said it was our money and he was going to give it back to us. Well — he gave it back, but no one backed off on what they expected and wanted, so the government didn’t cut down on spending. Locally, they do it the other way — they hear a constituency that says they don’t want them to take our money, so they decide what we can live without. We need to speak up and figure out what it costs for what we want, and be willing to pay. We have the lowest tax rate of almost any neighboring community. Yet we expect and demand excellence. So what is our destination?
    Happy New Year!

  3. Sarah,

    If it were only a matter of figuring out “what it costs for what we want and be willing to pay” at all levels of government…..

    Sadly, most Americans have lost faith that such costs can even be accurately determined without partisan interference or the influence of special interests like defense contractors, big pharma, insurance providers, the big banks, gas and oil behemoths and the agri-businesses.

    But the question of what “we” want is even more challenging and divisive. It seems a growing number of people are not interested in paying for services or safety nets if they are not personally benefitting from them. Yet many others, myself included, believe strongly that we have an obligation to offer basic services to the 20% of Americans living in poverty, the unemployed, the disabled, our seniors. We cannot leave it up to the priorities of charitable organizations to fill the gaps, as some on this blog have suggested. We have a responsibility as a society.

    Over the last 30 years, the partisan divide about the proper function and right-size of government has only gotten wider. So the deceptively simple-sounding goal of figuring out how much it costs to fund the services the majority of us want has not gotten beyond partisan gridlock very often.

    Where are we going as a country, state and community?

    We know Tredyffrin’s all-Republican BOS would rather cut services than raise our modest municipal taxes. The taxpayers they’re listening to told them so. This ideologically based position will not change without a change in board membership.

    Wouldn’t the election of Democrats to the BOS in 2011 at least broaden representation and provide some pushback? And wouldn’t that be good for the township? I certainly think so!.

    There is now a 22- seat Republican majority in the state House and a 30- to 19 seat advantage in the state Senate. (There’s currently one vacancy) Governor Corbett has pledged not to raise taxes, so the state’s $5 billion deficit will come out of current program budgets, hurting this state’s most vulnerable residents and reducing Governor Rendell’s improvements in education funding. Some people shrug their shoulders at the prospect. Others wring their hands.

    Washington will soon be transformed by the most conservative freshman Congress in its history. With Republican control of the House of Representatives and a larger minority in the Senate, the party’s stated goal is to “take down this president” and undo much of his legislatiive accomplishents. They plan to cut, cut, cut – but at what cost to all but the most fortunate Americans?

    What will it cost, what do we want ,and what are we willing to pay for it?

    How about this as a worthy New Year’s resolution? Become more engaged in your government’s activities – at all levels – and weigh in with your elected representatives in 2011.

    1. Kate, how about big government pork barrel expenditures? Incredible. damn big business. How about public union abuses? And absurd union contracts, pensions health care? I mean you think you are FAIR?
      Well I know you think you are always right. Damn Republicans. Wait…. it was the Democrats that bankrupted this country,, and in only 2 YEARS! Great job. Bush and Obama now have about the same favorability ratings. Interesting.

  4. All good thoughts Kate. Here’s the problem — our ability to influence the larger problems can be overwhelming, and off-putting. . But we have a duty to attempt to inform our representatives at the school level by being sure the people who want to say “no more” understand the implications of that statement. It’s not about taking care of anyone. It can be self-serving to suggest that keeping the schools excellent will protect your property values, but in selling an idea, don’t you put forward every argument available?
    I once heard someone defend charter schools by saying that fixing major urban school districts was just too complicated — it was easier to fix them one student at a time – which is why they supported vouchers.
    Maybe a community conversation should NOT be lead by our leaders — and should avoid the PARTISAN/POLITIC word completely. In pushing for candidates to run against the sitting members, I believe we are inflaming and stiffening their resolve to stand firm.
    Maybe I’m wrong. You seem to understand this community. All I know is that much of this relatiing to schools has to be considered penny-wise AND pound-foolish.

    The meaning of the phrase is something on the line of “saving a little money only to lose a great deal more due to their own stupidity.”

    PENNY WISE AND POUND FOOLISH – “Overcareful about trivial things and undercareful about important ones. The literal image is of the person who fusses over small amounts of money to such an extent that he misses opportunities to save or make large amounts. But the figurative image goes way back; in ‘The Historie of Foure-footed Beastes’ Edward Topsell wrote: ‘If by covetousnesse or negligence, one withdraw from them their ordinary foode, he shall be penny wise, and pound foolish.’

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