We talk a lot at the R.J. Leonard Foundation about goals – setting them, working toward them, achieving them. We ask all our Fellows from their first meeting on to be willing to progress toward education and career success. We encourage our Mentors to focus on these plans in one-on-one meetings. And we celebrate privately (at dinners, on calls, and over coffee) and publicly (in newsletters, blog and social media posts, and at our fundraisers) when our Fellows achieve their goals.
However, as important as these goals and making progress toward them are, they can’t always be the main focus for a Fellow. Our Fellows – like everyone else and in many ways even more so – face obstacles in their lives. They find unexpected challenges in the everyday, as they attempt to work toward the long and short-term goals they set. Whether it is a failed permit test, a lost job, an unexpectedly high utility bill, or a personal matter, there are times when our Fellows feel stuck. They must turn away from their long-term plan to address a, hopefully, short-term problem, and that pivot can make the ultimate goal feel impossibly far away.
We may not always say it. It may not always feel true to them. But it is during those moments, when they must pivot, that we are especially proud of our Fellows. They do not give up. Yes, they feel frustrated and overwhelmed. They may even want to scrap their long-term goals. But they don’t. They find a way to overcome the obstacle in their path and, even as they brace for the next delay, even as they find themselves two steps farther away, they move forward.
Progress and success don’t come in straight lines. Paths like these are never easy to follow. Our Fellows find a way, and we couldn’t be prouder.