My 20 year career in public education comes to an end in June and I have many Senior level students who are graduating. I was thinking about what a Graduation Speaker could talk about to spark their interest and to effectively impact them as they venture out of the walls of public education and into their lives. This milestone, in life is an opportunity to begin to distill out the essence of your true self and evolve in a deliberate way toward your most fulfilled life. But at 18 you really have some soul searching to do.

And nobody is addressing that in a formal manner for you. The walls of your k-12 education provided a (relatively) safe—albeit constrained chrysalis for you to grow and develop in a very controlled and micromanaged system. The end result of a chrysalis in nature is a Butterfly—gorgeous, delicate & freely catching the currents in the breeze. If we compare k-12 to a chrysalis and the end result to a butterfly taking flight, we have a “picture” of a process in our heads. I am going to talk about the space in this process that is ignored. We don’t ever talk about the space in time after the chrysalis opens and just before the butterfly takes flight. Let’s call this space in life—the time between graduation and really finding your true passion & calling “The Shift”. Graduating, Seniors, you are about to enter your “shift”.

Many of us spend what can feel like an eternity, from age 5 through age 18 within the confines of an education system that defines parameters and standards for us. We have letter grades, percentage grades, grade point averages, standardized test scores, and all kinds of measurement systems to relate performance in school to projected success in life.   And three things they all have in common is that you are measured by them, you don’t create them AND we make them “mean” something about you. We use them as predictors, sorters, dividers, recognizers, award givers, promoters.

We like to think that our systems are finely tuned and data driven. We have aligned standards to tests in our curriculum and we guide students to demonstrate proficiency at each standard in order to advance their “rank” in school and their projected proficiency in life. As a young teacher I felt so strongly that the “points” students earned represented their true learning. I had gone straight from this k-12 structure to University and back to the k-12 structure–an uninterrupted continuum.   I had never left the “inside” of this system in reality. But as I matured in life experience and as a teacher, I grew uncertain that the connection between points and impact on one’s life was very strong. And as a mom, my inner compass whispered to me that there was a more compassionate way to connect to my students—my fellow kindred spirits.

If I was the one giving the graduation speech this year, I would start out by telling students to forget what they’ve learned about a grading scale. Forget all of it. Points don’t matter and neither do grades. Being measured on someone else’s standards has zero bearing on quality of life. It is actually easier in the short term to be told what standards you need to meet and to allow someone to make “check marks” for you to announce whether you’ve accomplished something meaningful or not. But in the long term, this way of thinking will not be the basis of an authentic life “well lived”. Something MUCH more intrinsic and difficult to measure but much more meaningful is the relationship between daily life and full self expression and happiness. It is difficult to put into words the gravity this subject deserves. But there will come a day when you look at the space between your High School Graduation celebration and where you currently sit and you will wonder, “How did I get here?”, “Is this really my life?”, or “Is this it?”. You might wonder other things too. J I hope that whenever this comes up for you, you are able to allow yourself to be honest and accept your feelings about that moment. Assess it—on your own standards–against your own checklist. Are you fulfilled? Are you experiencing true happiness in more moments of your life? Or are you simply putting your time into a “shift”?

Everyone has the opportunity to spend time at a “shift”. If you look up “shift” in a modern day dictionary, there are many meanings. As a “noun”, it can be thought of as a period of time during which a type of work is performed (I think this is totally lame and boring. Who wants to describe their vocation in terms of how many hours you put in? Not this girl.). As a verb, shift can mean that you’ve changed gears (like driving…not so bad…could be fun…), or another use as a verb is to go through a change or to evolve. Now THIS sounds exciting to me. First of all, I want to live my life with ACTION, so I’ll always choose the VERB use! Second…I think that any time I can “move” toward a truer version of myself, my life will become more fulfilling. But you can look at your “shift” either way:

  1. Choose to view your “shift” as a period of time you will allow to pass while performing a particular job, activity, class, etc.


  1. Choose to view your “shift” as your movement toward your intentions, actions and most fulfilling LIFE.

You will need to define for yourself: The standards you want to live by. The meaning of life? Your quality of life? What is true happiness and how does that feel to you? What causes you to feel fulfillment?

Ultimately, what matters in life—to YOU? And what are you doing to have “that” in your life? When you determine that and decide that you are willing to walk through the fear or any obstacle that stands in your way, you will actively “SHIFT” and experience this as a VERB in your life as opposed to staying in your “SHIFT”—the noun–the non-action…boring thing that’s not moving you closer to happiness and vibrance.

Nobody can create your true standards for you—because you are an individual with a unique life experience. There is no other person exactly as you are anyplace and you have this one life to be as fully self expressed as you possibly can in order to make the most difference here—today—on this planet. When you in sync with your truest self

Live your life connected to your true self and manifesting your PERSONAL standards. Live according to YOUR rules that allow you to be the truest form of your BEST self during the most moments.

This will feel so strange to some of you and will be a simple thing for others. Those of you who have not conformed to the standards set in school may actually live a more richly experienced life more easily. There is no way to know for sure who will have the most fulfilling, rich moments. But as you look beyond your constraints and what you have been taught, and you move into the life you were meant to live, I encourage you to reconnect to your inner thoughts and just check in. Is the path ahead the one that is most reflective of your inner values and standards?

I encourage you to ignore my standards. Instead, shift through your life. Experience your humanity in a way that only you can.

Live your life of impact. Live your life of fulfillment.

Experience your SHIFT so that you can go out and live lives that matter.

Live lives that matter… live days that change lives.

Enjoy your SHIFT.


PS:  Is there a shift you’d like to make in your life?  Tell me about it here or email me.