How Can We Embrace a Do Less Mentality?

Posted by Scott Allenby


We are just over a month removed from the end of the school year. A summer routine has settled on campus as Gordon Research Conferences arrive each Sunday afternoon to share their research over the course of the week. Those of us who remain working throughout the summer are busy with projects and planning for the upcoming school year, but it is a simpler existence. We are attempting to do less each day, and in that simplicity we find creativity as we downshift and decelerate out of life’s fast lane. 


A recent Hidden Brain podcast episode titled “Do Less” reinforced the value of finding ways to do less in our lives and in our organizations. The tendency when brainstorming and planning is to add to the status quo, but rarely do we possess the discipline to take away, even when we are afforded life-altering reminders of the benefits of a simpler life. (Does anyone recall how blissfully simple life was during the months of March-May 2020?)


Earlier this week, we published a post titled “You Are Enough” encouraging young people (all of us, really) to be confident in their identities. As a school, there are truths in this post that are equally applicable, especially around the primacy of relationships in our work. At the same time, if we become complacent in our development as a school, we run the risk of becoming obsolete. We must be confident in who we are, while always striving to become a better version of ourselves. 


In order to continue to drive forward, while remaining deeply committed to our roots, Proctor is engaged in a Strategic Visioning process. Over the past three months we have sought feedback from parents, students, and alumni through surveys and focus groups about their Proctor experience and their hopes for a Proctor of the future. Later this summer, we will engage in the same processes with our Board of Trustees and employees as we seek to clarify a vision for Proctor’s future. 


Central to this process has been identifying what aspects of Proctor are immovable (Proctor’s core would simply not be the same without these attributes), exceptional (things we do better than other boarding schools), and essential (those aspects of operating a school that serve as a baseline experience for families). Identifying the two or three immovables at Proctor has proven a significant challenge simply because there are so many aspects of Proctor that feel absolutely critical to our educational model. Our model is layered and intricate and works. How could we ever identify two core aspects of it that are truly immovable? 


And this is where we are deeply challenged to consider the wisdom of a “do less” mentality. How - as we consider the future of Proctor’s affordability, access, breadth and depth of program, opportunities for students, employees, and more - do all the pieces fit together in a way that maximizes the impact on the student experience? And, more importantly, what is Proctor all about at its very core? What are those immovables that serve as our central root system in our work? Is it our core immovables that make us who we are or the breadth of opportunities available to students? These are not easy questions for us or any school to wrestle with, but we cannot wait to further dig into this hard, important work in the coming months. 

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