For my progressive friends, this week has been disheartening. If you're involved in politics it seems every week brings a new headache, a new call to arms. So how do those of us in the business of changing the world (non-profits, governing, politics, education, leadership, etc.) continue to fight to save the world, without totally losing it? It's a skill we all need and look around, some are doing it more gracefully than others (ahem...Rosanne Barr). I haven't yet perfected the art, but I've got over 15 years practice and here's a few things I've picked up along the way.
1. Perspective - I know the drill, in the time of your crisis, it can seem overwhelming to do anything but focus on the major problem staring at you and chip away at it. Give yourself some credit though, you will chip away at it and for just a minute of your day, try to make sure you understand this particular crisis' place in the bigger picture. Are you turning a small blip into a huge bomb? Or is this truly life-shattering? For who? For you? Your clients? Make sure you know who is affected, how they are affected and what role you play in this before (or even as) you are acting.
2. Balance - We're all sick of the work-life struggle debate, especially if you're a give 110%, and work 80 hours a week kinda person already for your cause. So let's leave it at this. Stop chasing crisis. Know your arena and stick to it. If you have more to give and want to step up, ask the experts in that area what you or your organization can help with in the amount of time or with the resources you have. Don't overextend yourself. You'll burn yourself out and probably disappoint the people counting on your help.
3. Fun - Even in the most serious moments and sobering fields of work, there are always opportunities for fun. Take them. The rough days will be rough, but if you have fun when and where you can, you'll have those times to look back on and forward to in the heat of your crisis.
4. Mentors - Been meaning to call that former colleague? Find 5 minutes to do it in your crisis. Not only can they help you with ideas and strategies, but they are likely to reinvigorate you in your cause! And please don't forget to take the opportunity to mentor others around you. Nothing like being in the eye of the storm to teach a young coworker the ropes. Let them just follow you, sit on calls. If anything, they'll also be able to remind you who else you said you wanted to call, or that you haven't eaten in 6 hours.
5. Go back to the beginning - Take a breath and look back on your first day in this world or on the job. You'll be instantly reminded of how far you've come and what you've learned.
6. Look at the end - Remember too that at some point this ride ends, whether it's retirement, a new gig, crisis averted, whatever. Take a moment to remind yourself what you do or don't want the results of your actions to be.
7. Start small - When an overwhelmingly large issue stands in front of you, it can be stressful to even know where to start. Pick the smallest littlest thing, and start there. Have 100 calls to make? Maybe step 1 is go to the bathroom. Need to get in front of a public relations snafu? Step 1 might be to check (or delegate checking) current planned media strategies. Start small and the plan will unfold while you're in action.
8. Focus Locally - When solving the world's woes, sometimes its important to remember the needs locally. Check your own community for ways your efforts can help. Or even check your own office. If crisis strikes while a coworker is in a personal crisis, it might be worth checking with them to boost them up for battle. Ultimately, you'll need their help.
9. Self-Care - I know. I know. But seriously, fix your own oxygen mask before helping others. Schedule that doctor appointment, eat some food, get some sleep and maybe some exercise. You'll be much more capable of saving the world if your own world isn't crumbling, and let's face it, the world will just keep needing saving.
10. Celebrate and Forgive - Remember that you are still only one person, and you've done great things. You will not fix all the problems of this world, but you are making great progress in the ways you know how. Forgive yourself for not doing it all, and celebrate the ways in which you are making a difference!