Graduates and guests at the August Commencement Ceremony were treated to hear from Sandy Pennington, PhD, RN, former Program Director, Provost, Dean, and Chief of Staff to the president at RMU. Reaffirming their success, but also preparing them for what lies ahead, Pennington shared with graduates six principles for being their true, healthiest selves.
Live in Alignment with Your Core Values and Purpose
“Changing the world, even for one person, has its start in knowing ourselves, and living our life in the best possible way” Pennington said. To accomplish this, she counseled graduates to fix their lives around their purpose and principles. “When you live in alignment with your values, you are the most authentic version of yourself,” she stated. “Your core values help guide you in your decisions, attitudes, and behaviors.”
In addition to being true to values in one’s personal life, Pennington also emphasized the importance of having shared vision and values with coworkers and the organizations where you work. “People who share the same values with the company and colleagues tend to work together much better compared to those who have conflicting interests” she said. “When core values are consistent, it is easier to build great working relationships because the institution and people carry similar goals, intentions, and passion.”
“Happiness forms through the experiences of our lives,” Pennington said. “It is doing something that we love and not placing our worth on the outcomes or the opinions of others.” She warned against false forms of happiness like materialism and prestige. “Most of us know happiness isn’t something that is going to come from materialistic things, nor is it about job titles and validation from others,” she stated. “Those are all fleeting feelings that will fade away and leave an emptiness.” Instead, she suggests a life focused on gratitude. “The journey of life brings both challenges and chances. It has been said that gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness.”
Live Life from a Position of Abundance
Pennington shared that gratitude results by changing our mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance, as Stephen Covey described in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “When you operate from a position of plenty, you focus on what you have, and not on what you don’t,” she told graduates. “That supports gratitude for what you have.”
An abundance perspective allows individuals to give more freely, believing that there is plenty for all, including themselves. Pennington added, “This breeds collaboration and the peace that comes from a life well lived.”
Be of Service to Others
“Being of service through your thoughts, words, actions, time, expertise, and resources can enrich the lives of others,” she said. Pennington pointed out how service makes a positive difference in the lives of those who render it. “Volunteering your time to support a cause you are passionate about will enrich your life, engage you in your community, and connect you to people and opportunities,” she shared.
Whether most realize it or not, many services are possible because of those who willingly serve.“Without volunteers, many of the services and events we enjoy in our communities would not be so readily available,” Pennington said. She then encouraged the graduates to get involved and “share your gratitude.” She asked the graduates to stand and acknowledge their gratitude to those who have contributed much to their success.
Say No, Be a Quitter
Pennington emphasized the importance of balance and making time for oneself. “Quitting at a certain time each day gives your mind a place to stop,” she said. “It also frees up space for the little things in life like spending time with those you love.”
Despite sounding a bit contradictory to giving back and paying it forward, a healthy life balance allows one to be more productive and focused on one’s purpose and intentions. “The truth is that there is no end to the tasks at hand, so there comes a time when you must walk away,” she said. “The work is waiting for you the next morning.”
Embrace Change and Anticipate Adversity
“You will likely fail, and some will fail big,” Pennington said. “No one is exempt from the trials and tribulations brought on by the adversities of life.” She encouraged graduates to use difficulties as challenges to “strengthen their mindset and travel on a more productive path.”
This will inevitably require adjustment. “Living your best life may require making big changes in your career, relationships, home, and health,” Pennington added. “Embrace change and uncertainty as it enables you to thrive.”
Looking back at what they have accomplished, and looking forward at what they will achieve, Pennington praised the graduates for their dedication and commitment. “We honor you and celebrate the goal you have accomplished today,” she said. “And we rejoice in what lies ahead for you.” She left the graduates with a final thought. “You only live once,” she said. “But if you do it right, once is enough.”