balancedstones 2013-Oct04
You and your fundraising colleagues are notorious for “putting your all” into your work.  Many days you’re in the office before the sun rises and you’re the last one to leave at the end of the day.
You want to do good.  And, to do good means you will do what it takes.  You can’t help but want to get the work done.  You love what you do.
However, you may have a certain sense of pride in your work that causes you to feel judgmental of others who are “not working as hard” as you are.  “No one is as dedicated to her work as I am and I’m going to prove it.”  Is there a little bit of truth in that statement?
I’m going to be honest with you – this is a difficult subject for me to write about. It is essentially about achieving balance in your life when your job demands that you be unbalanced… or you THINK it does.
I’m always in the process of trying to achieve balance in my life.  I love what I do and I always have.  I’ve been professionally successful because I’ve worked really hard.  But there is a cost to that.  I haven’t always taken care of my relationships with my family, my friends or my business partner.
And I haven’t always taken care of myself, either, whether it was slowing down, taking time to step away from work, exercising or eating right.  I struggle with all of that today.  Perhaps it’s a fear that if I’m not always working hard something bad will happen and I won’t be able to pay for the kids’ college or the mortgage.
But, this I do know: I have to “get a life” in order to have a full and meaningful life.  Several weeks ago my wife, Julie, and I took a vacation.  It was the first vacation in many years without our kids or visiting family – just a solid week of relaxing on a small island in Maine.
That week really opened my eyes.  I committed to not looking at e-mail and just tried to “be.”  It was tremendous.  I felt rejuvenated, and we both agreed it was the best vacation we’d ever had.  And we did nothing, just relaxed.  Next year we want to take two weeks.
While on vacation and feeling this sense of peace, I started thinking of you.  I know so many development professionals who are slowly killing themselves by putting everything they have into their work.  Their excuse is that if they don’t do it, something bad is going to happen or someone will not get what they need, or… the list just goes on and on.
Yet, personally, they struggle.  Is this you?
So, as I was watching the waves crash against the rocks in Maine, I realized that I need to work toward making some changes that will help me “get a life.”  Here are some things I came up with to help you and me both actually do that:

  1. Have a hobby or interest outside of work — I know you love your work, but you have to get “outside” of it to get a different perspective.
  2. Cultivate friendships OUTSIDE of work — What are you doing to nurture relationships with others outside of your workplace?
  3. Take vacations — Use all of your vacation time every year.  If you are a manager, demand that everyone use theirs.  I once worked with someone who, over the course of her employment, racked up 6 months of vacation time because she never took it.
  4. Volunteer at another organization — Yep, go work on the board of another non-profit or help out in some other way.  Get outside of your own work.
  5. Take a class — Audit a university course or take a community-based class near you – something different from your daily work.
  6. Go on a two-day retreat every six months — I’ve done this and it’s amazing how two days by yourself can help you gain perspective.  As Richard always tells me, “Slow down.”  This will do it.
  7. Take half a day a month to “just be” — Walk in the park one afternoon and experience nature.  Again, it gives you perspective.
  8. Be sad — We don’t allow ourselves to feel sad emotions — When we cry, our bodies release endorphins that actually make us feel better.  In other words, we feel better when we allow ourselves to go down for a bit.  Then we can come back up and move ahead.
  9. Every day, take 10 minutes to be grateful and 10 minutes to meditate, resting your brain — This is something I really have to work on.
  10. Exercise — Move your body.  It doesn’t matter what you do, but it will relieve stress and make you feel better… and allow you to tackle the work that is on your desk.

I know that when I’m practicing many of these things I feel so good.  But then I get back into some old habits and forget how important they all are.  I start to feel out of balance and it’s a downward spiral.
So, together, let’s practice regaining balance in our lives and still DO GOOD.  It’s actually possible to do both!