Lightness of Being.
I’m thinking of you today as you are probably facing some pretty daunting end of year stress. As Richard and I have often said, being a major gift officer is one of the hardest professions we know of. If you don’t watch it, it can literally take you down.
Recently, I read a Seth Godin blog post entitled “Light on Your Feet.” He says,

“to walk light in the world with a certain confidence and energy is far more compelling than to be plodding along, worn down by the weight on your shoulders.”

He goes on to say that there are two ways to get to this “lightness.” One is to reduce the weight. In other words, don’t really do too much of importance or significance, just kind of go through life with an attitude of “eh, doesn’t really matter that much.” The other is to embrace the weight of our commitment to making our world a better place, yet commit to being “light” about it.
In other words, take on all that life brings to you, be serious about your work, yet don’t take it too personally. Take on what I would call a certain “lightness of being.” One where your attitude is…

  • “I’m not doing this work because I have to; I’m doing this important work because I want to.”
  • “I want to make a difference, but I want to have joy doing it.”
  • “My work is important, difficult and challenging, but I love doing it because it’s important, difficult and challenging.”

How do you feel at this very moment reading this blog post? Are you hunched over, dreading your day? Do you feel the burden of meeting your year-end goals? Are you walking with your head down most of the day? Could you be taking your work not just seriously, but personally?
We in the non-profit world have a tough time with taking our work too personally. It’s all too common in our industry for people to burn out quickly. I’ve known many non-profit professionals, especially major gift officers, who look like they have aged 15 years after just five years in the profession.
What originally was supposed to bring them joy quickly devolved into despair, and they end up placing a heavy burden on their shoulders. Yes, you read that right. A heavy burden wasn’t placed on their shoulders, THEY placed that burden on their own shoulders.
How are you doing with that?
I freely admit that I struggle with it myself. There are days that I allow myself to take it all too personally, and I end up hunched over, with my head down. But then I shake myself, perhaps go talk to someone who helps me gain perspective, and choose to walk upright and regain that “lightness of being” that I know I have inside of me.
This work you do every day requires that you hold on, but not too tightly. To take it seriously, but not too personally. To do hard things, but to do it with joy.
Your work is never finished. There will always be problems, pain and suffering, and wrongs to make right. How you approach them will make all the difference. Choosing that “lightness of being” (or staying “light on your feet”) will help you take it on with determination, perseverance, love and joy.
Isn’t that how you want to live, to work, to be? I know I do.