Deciding Your Path When the Options are Tough

As we prepare to start the 20-21 school year, we acknowledge that Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on education at every level.  Families are faced with deciding between non-ideal options in hopes of minimizing the inevitable loss and discomfort this pandemic brings. Children lose the stability and normalcy of school and a familiar learning environment.  Adults have lost work, certainty of future careers and the normalcy of school as a regular place of engagement for their children.  This is all pretty tough.

So, how do you decide what to do?

While there’s not one cookie-cutter answer to this question, I believe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is going to guide our decisions – basic needs first and working our way up and striving  to reach self-actualization.  Maslow identifies our basic needs as “physiological” (food, water, warmth, rest) and “safety” (security, safety).  At this level, for example,  is where  you will consider things like ensuring that your kids have a safe place and the proper resources to receive their school lessons.  Once you have locked down the necessities, consider your values, which should help you satisfy the psychological needs on the hierarchy.

Psychological needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy include “belongingness and love” (intimate relationships, friends) and “esteem” (prestige, feeling of accomplishment).  If it isn’t already a top value for you, I am going to suggest you also consider development. I love development because it is the one thing you can count on getting, even when you don’t like what you are doing.  Development can turn a “have to do it” into a “get to do it” situation, and can certainly offer you a feeling of accomplishment during uncertain times. Encourage your children to appreciate this feeling of “job well done,” as well.  My husband just gave my kids a lecture on taking charge of their education.  Ensuring they learn is up to them since the model has changed and will likely change again. Their active attention to their education will be great development and serve them the rest of their lives. I can’t say this little talk was met with excitement, but I could see them starting to at least think about it.  What development are you getting from living in a pandemic?  Maybe the time spent at home is teaching us to be more present, strengthening our bonds with family and friends.

Finally, once the basic and psychological needs have been satisfied, you are set to conquer the self-actualization needs and achieve your full potential!

As you consider what’s important to you, see how your decisions align. Are your choices helping you stay true to what you value and meeting your needs as best you can?  Whatever you are getting from this time–and I will argue you are getting something–there are some bright spots. Don’t miss them.  It can make deciding on your path with tough options a little less tough.  

Dr. Lisa Toppin

PS: Our theme song is “Keep Your Head to the Sky” by Earth, Wind & Fire


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