Being mindful, hope-filled and compassionate – a pathway to success

Over the last two months I have begun a new online course in Resonate Leadership. The course title is “Inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence” by Richard Boyatzis. You might ask why I would do this course and how I even have time to study. They are great questions because this course presents some very interesting challenges. With over 25 years in senior school leadership and just over 40 years in senior leadership in the military, there is still so much to learn. In fact, I think I am a living example of life-long, life-wide, and life-deep learning. We never stop learning. As for time, well if you are going to ask anyone to do something extra, then ask a busy person. I guess I have come to accept that you can always find the time if you are passionate.

Last week, my wife Debra showed me the story of her great aunt Dorothy Harris from Tumby Bay who celebrated her 107th birthday. Aunt Dorothy recalls meeting Charles Kingsford Smith and living through the 20th century, the world wars, the changes in technology and visiting the South Pole three times. She remembers the previous pandemic “The Spanish Flu” and today she is still active and mobile with a mind and memory as sharp as nails. What we have learnt from Aunt Dorothy is amazing.

Just recently I had a conversation with a parent who explained to me their challenges with parenting their 9 year old. Their child is exhibiting some behaviours which are really worrying and deeply troubling the parents. They are wondering where he has picked up the language, ideas, attitude and expressions. The parents begin thinking that it must be either from his friends or school. Discussions with the child were not going anywhere but I wonder how much we actually know about the impact of what young people experience and see when they are exposed to environments which are far too destructive for young minds. For instance, violence in electronic media – gaming, access to the internet, access to Netflix, Stan, Foxtel and Prime, the effect of social media and the attitude which prevails to be ‘in it or you miss out’. You then ask the question about the levels of freedom young children experience with access to these environments often without supervision. Furthermore, the challenges parents have when the friendship group of young people is such that some have access and others do not, where some children have close supervision and others have no supervision. I can already hear you crying out to me – that is what I’m dealing with!

Well you are not alone, and these challenges have not changed for decades but rather have become more complex. In my days it was convincing my teenage children that there is a curfew for getting home whilst others could stay out all night. Yes, it is much more complex today.

Resonate Leadership is about understanding the neuroscience of the socio-emotional side of our being. It is understanding what happens to the brain when you are confronted with situations which result in an emotional response. Whilst this differs for most people there are some great lessons which I have learnt already about how to respond to situations more effectively. There are three key elements to consider.

  1. Create an experience for young people based on hope – positive language about what we desire and want to see.
  2. Show compassion which engenders safety and a capacity that you care and that you want to help.
  3. Exercise mindfulness which creates the conditions of being aware and conscious of the situation and the timing, being in touch and in tune and the capacity to listen and observe.

    There have been many times this year when I have faced situations which I have not liked at all, times when I felt hurt by comments, disappointed by what I have seen and angry because I haven’t seen any action or in my view witnessed poor leadership. I wanted to react immediately and let my emotions do the talking. My best response has been to do nothing just at that point, to take a breath, to think it through and exercise the steps above. In mindfulness it was the realisation that I was not in a good place to respond at that time because I was aware that it was not the right timing emotionally. And after thinking it through you’d be surprised how my thinking, even after a good night sleep, circled back to compassion and hope as a response. This inevitably led to a much better outcome.

    There is so much more that I can learn and like Aunt Dorothy, a lifetime of wisdom that can be shared.

Dr Paul Rijken is principal of Cardijn College, an R-12 co-educational Catholic school in the Marist tradition, deeply inspired by the method of College patron Joseph Cardijn with a foundation built on the three pillars of his teachings; to See, Judge and Act. Educating and inspiring students in the beautiful Southern Vales region of Adelaide since 1984, Cardijn has grown to encompass three schools, each with distinct offerings. Cardijn College Galilee at Aldinga offers Reception to Year 7, expanding to include Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. Cardijn College at Noarlunga Downs offers Years 7-12 and is renowned for academic excellence and a vibrant extra-curricular program. Cardijn College Marcellin at Christie Downs provides a wide variety of vocational education and training opportunities for students in Years 10 – 12 and beyond, with relationships that extend well into their careers. With a current enrolment of 1750 students and 240 staff, Cardijn College is an institution which strives to be a beacon of faith in the community, with students who have enormous influence and impact on both a local and global level. Paul has been the principal at Cardijn College since 2005. He has a Ph.D. from Curtin University in Science and Mathematics Education. He is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educational Leaders.

1 comment on “Being mindful, hope-filled and compassionate – a pathway to success

  1. So amazing Dr Rijken, a true leader, always willing to learn. Many could follow your lead and build caring, compassionate leaders for the future. Thank you so much!


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