Identity – you need one and so does our community

Identity is summation of our personal values, beliefs, likes, and dislikes.  Identity distinguishes us from others.  It is both how we view ourselves and how we desire for others to view us.  An individual with a healthy identity is comfortable with themselves socially, emotionally, and intellectually.  Sure, they may have certain aspects of their life they want to grow and improve in as they progress through life, but they know who they are at the core and know the general direction they are going.

I talk about identity every chance I get to various groups, but particularly focus on this concept when talking to young people in their teen-age years through those first job pursuits.  Far too many young people or even older adults have no idea of their identity and just do their best to maneuver through the challenges of life.  While not an easy task to just blow through, giving thought to who we are and what we want to be known for is a very healthy endeavor for all of us.  It’s after this thoughtful challenge that we can then start to align our actions and choices in life to support that identity.  Habits are formed and lifestyles can be developed consistent with the identity that we are pursuing.  

That same concept is also true for organizations and teams.  Every organization that I have ever lead or team that I have ever coached needed and deserved a clear identity.  We were known for something and that needed to be crystal clear to our employees, our stakeholders, our customers, our teammates, and our opponents.  Our identity shaped who we were as an organization or team.  It provided a foundation for decision making, priority setting, financial investing, employee hiring, and player developing (whichever was the case).   Fit became a focus when identity was the foundation.  We found great strategic benefits in knowing and pursuing our identity.

Communities also benefit from this same focus.  Whether we are talking about the City of Ruston or Lincoln Parish, we need a clear identity of both who we are as a community and what we are pursuing.  With La Tech in Ruston and Grambling also in Lincoln Parish, education must be at the forefront of our identity. We have seen promising discussions around economic growth recently with plans for a new hospital, a very high profile service center along the interstate, and the potential for a passenger rail stop to be located in Ruston.  These are examples of real economic development that can help define a community and a parish.  We don’t have a large, heavy manufacturing presence in the community, so we have to focus on what we do have and can build upon for growth.

In the coming weeks and months, citizens of the city and parish will be called upon at different times to vote on measures that will ultimately impact the identity of Ruston and Lincoln Parish.  We will be voting on an alcoholic referendum, a possible school consolidation proposal, other property tax amendments, and other items that will further define the city and ultimately the parish.  As you proceed to investigate these options and make your decisions, consider the identity of our community and parish as the foundation for future decision making.  Every community wants a strong economy and solid education system.  The question is how do the items in question rank on our list of priorities and how are we going to achieve them.  The answer to those questions distinguishes one community from another and forms one’s identity.  

There are certain aspects of an identity that I would love to see for Ruston and Lincoln Parish, while others I am willing to compromise on for the sake of unity.  I would love to see a community united at the heart of our identity!  We won’t all agree on everything, but it would be great to unite on seeking what’s best for everyone as a collective group.  We build on our strong educational presence and move forward together.

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