Are you chasing the letters or the process?

Are you chasing the letters or the process?

This phrase caught my attention when I was listening to Darren LaCroix present at the 2015 International Convention.

He was talking about the invaluable knowledge and experience that is gained as we walk the path to Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) and it made me reflect on my own path to DTM, and what members who race to the letters could be missing out on.

What Toastmasters with a meaningful approach to learning do differently…

A Toastmaster who wants to learn and grow:

  • takes the time to read and understand the manual
  • discusses the assignments with a mentor or friend
  • sets learning goals

Let’s focus on that last one: what is a learning goal? Psychologist Carol Dweck says that goals come in 2 varieties – performance goals and learning goals. Getting a DTM is a performance goal, learning to speak and lead effectively is a learning goal. “Both goals are entirely normal and pretty much universal,” Dweck says, “and both can fuel achievement.” But as Career Analyst Dan Pink points out, only one leads to mastery.*

At first, it was all about me and what I could do, not about what I could give to the audience. As I made the gradual shift to becoming a learner, I opened up to sometimes difficult feedback from my audience. I took on challenges, stepping into leadership and training roles – and discovered that I loved being able to help others learn.

To me, the most important things about striving for a DTM, or any other award, is to challenge yourself and be open to all possibilities. The best achievement is not the shiniest or the fastest, it is the one when you can look back to the start and see how far you’ve come, what you’ve learned and how many people you have brought along with you.

Rebecca Plush, Program Quality Director 2015/2016

* References come from ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ by Dan Pink and ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’ by Carol Dweck

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Kathleen O'Rourke