Thinking Outside of the Box: Personal Reflections of a Recovering Type-A Human

I noticed recently, in rereading my previous blog posts, that I tend to use a lot of lists and steps and bullets. This is pretty reflective of my attitude toward life in general: I have a habit of making to-do lists, wanting to break things into manageable chunks, and tend towards a fairly linear way of thinking. (I was even a logic model for Halloween…)

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Probably the most Type A Halloween costume ever

This got me thinking a lot about what I’m learning about myself in this program, and how my own worldview impacts my own approach to development work. I’m realizing that I need to be more flexible, more patient, and more open-minded, especially since I aspire to work in cross-cultural contexts. I have the opportunity to learn from so many people during grad school, and in my life, but if I’m too focused on an end-goal or crossing something off my to-do list, I’m going to miss those opportunities to learn from those around me.

This is not to say that I am calling on all of my fellow Type A-ers to reform their ways. I think there is a place for everyone in this world. But I have been reflecting a lot on my own desire for organization and control as I prepare to go on my internship this summer, and I’m trying to realize that there is a difference between controlling my own experience (and making the best of it), and wanting to control any situation I am in.

I used the word “recovering” in my title. That may be a little optimistic. I took a class called Systems Thinking and lamented how it didn’t follow a more logical progression. The irony of that is not lost on me. If you ask the members of my technical proposal group from last semester, I am still pretty squarely (ok VERY squarely) in the Type-A camp. I may have behaved a little like a drill sergeant in some of our meetings…

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But, even coming from someone who is still very rigid in my way of thinking, I think that one of the most important things I can share with anyone entering graduate school is to be prepared to have all of your preconceived notions challenged. And be open to those challenges! Don’t be so focused on what you think you want to get out of grad school that you miss all the other teachable (learnable?) moments out there. Because honestly, the most important things I am learning in grad school are about myself.

(I so badly want to sum this post up into some kind of numbered or bulleted “Lessons Learned” list, but I’m refraining from doing so. See, progress!)

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