Like most things I write about on this blog, responsibility is a double edged sword. At face value, it’s a great trait – it proves you have the expertise, knowledge, and experience to manage projects. I’m definitely one of those people who strives to have more and more responsibility, even if I’m in a low level position. There’s something thrilling knowing you have total ownership of a project – that you did all the research, planning, and follow through for everything. You know every component inside out, and you can vouch for the project, no matter what.
Although it can be fun to have responsibility, it can also be exhausting. If anything’s wrong, your reputation is on the line. You have to take into account everyone’s opinions in your decisions, and answer to them when things don’t go their way. And you have to do the work! Responsibility can be very difficult.
It’s been tough for me to learn this, but I believe I have – responsibility is not something I need to go after all the time. Especially working in a nonprofit, the more responsibility you volunteer for, the more you’ll have. And it won’t necessarily reflect in your title or your pay. Before you know it, you’ll be working on very complex projects from start to end and won’t have anything to show for it. Of course, you are gaining experience, which is priceless. But honestly, I’m at the point where experience just won’t cut it. If I’m going to take responsibility for something, I need to be compensated for that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I’m happy to help in any way I can. But I’m learning the lesson that I can’t kill myself working when I don’t have a higher title or higher pay. It just isn’t worth it. All I can do is what I was hired to do, and do it the best I can. And go home at night knowing that I won’t have to answer all the critics the next day.
On Sunday I participated in an all day silent mindfulness meditation retreat. I’ve been doing a weekly mindfulness class for six weeks now, and this was part of that program (I wrote a little more about mindfulness in this post). Each week we’ve learned a different form of practicing mindfulness meditation, whether through mindful eating, yoga, the body scan, or sitting with awareness. The class, and learning about mindfulness in general, has opened my eyes to what being present is, and how living in the moment can truly help bring everything in balance. It’s really helped me with my stress management.
Before the retreat, I was very curious about how the day would go. We were instructed not to speak or even make any eye contact for six hours. The facilitator guided us through the day, giving us a suggested schedule to follow. The longest we had ever practiced in class was for 30 minutes. I couldn’t imagine participating in mindful meditation from 9:30 – 3:30 on my precious Sunday!
Well I did it, and it actually wasn’t too difficult. I was worried that my overactive mind would be running the whole time and I was scared of the idea that I would be trapped with my thoughts. Actually, over the course of this class, I have trained my mind to be a little less overactive and a little more intentional. The point of mindfulness is not to clear your thoughts, it’s about the ability to see them as temporary and impermanent. So you can move on to the next. And nothing feels like a crisis.
My biggest lesson? That I probably could have achieved the same feeling that I got from six hours of practice during a thirty minute stint. I think that’s a good lesson for most things in life as well, and a great reflection on why perfectionism is never necessary. You can do your best at work and still be a stellar employee. You can prepare for a presentation for two hours instead of six hours and still knock it out of the park. You can have a glass of wine, a piece of chocolate, or a cookie without going overboard. Balance with moderation is the key.
Perhaps that is the secret to a happy life. Not always doing more, carpe diem, living out loud. In fact, it’s doing less – more mindfully.
I’m in the middle of my summer break from grad school (I’m getting my Masters in Nonprofit Administration at University of San Francisco) and it is glorious. I have time to jog, clean the house, and sleep – all things that eluded me when I was in school (OK, OK, I still cleaned the house, but I didn’t keep up with it the way I am now!). But more than allowing me to watch hours of Mad Men, this break has done a lot for me.
Here’s a few reasons why a break from grad school is so important.
- It brings you back to your center. I have to admit that managing full time work and grad school made my inner equilibrium go haywire. There were moments when I found the balance again, but the majority of the time I was off. I was stressed out and finding it difficult to determine priorities. Having more than a week off from school has allowed me to explore a more balanced lifestyle. And while it doesn’t mean I will jump back into the program stress free, it does mean that I am renewed and ready to move forward. I remember what it’s like to be balanced again.
- It allows you time to reflect. Having some time away from the program has caused me to think back on the past year and how the material will impact my professional life in the future. With such a practical program, it’s easy to see how it can be useful in the moment. What will be important is how it will be useful in the future. And without being immersed in learning new material, I can take a step back and evaluate the importance this program will have to my life.
- It builds excitement to start again. While I don’t miss the stress of always having something to do, I do miss the learning aspect of my program. I have really enjoyed being an active participant in understanding the nonprofit sector today and how I can be a part of it and make change (or simply promote something that’s successful). Having this break has given me breathing room to understand grad school’s importance to my life again.
I want to emphasize the importance of having a REAL break, too. I had a break of a comparable size in December/January and yet it didn’t have this effect on me at all. I was running around, preparing for the holidays, and I even got sick for a long period of time. That did not count. I was so distracted with things that I didn’t feel relaxed at all. This break has been great because I’ve been able to really relax and do the things I love (yes, that includes watching Netflix). And it’s been more than wonderful for me. Now, check back with me in a month and remind me of this post!!
The silliest title to a blog post that I’ve ever written. But – for some of us overachievers, very important to know!! Relaxing is not always something that comes naturally to us in today’s world. We’re used to going full speed ahead, being efficient, and getting it done, always thinking about the next project. We’re not so used to taking time for ourselves and chilling out.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to relax and remember these tips. They’re not intuitive when your mind is always on the go!
- Clear your mind. This means leave your work at work and put your commitments aside. Relaxing is not going to do any good if your mind is still going over your to do list. Nothing productive comes from obsessing over what needs to be done or dwelling on your problems. When it’s time to relax, put all of that thinking aside and clear your mind of the clutter.
- Find what you love to do and do it, no matter what anyone else says. We don’t have TV at home, so Hulu is a treat to me. My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy when instead of getting extra sleep, I want to watch an episode of Project Runway. Although it seems counter-intuitive to him that watching TV would actually relax me, I swear it does. For those 44 precious minutes I don’t have to think about anything except for Heidi Klum. So I do it!
- Schedule it in. You know how I often give a tip that I myself have to work on including in my life? This one is it. It is so important to make relaxing a priority in your life – self-care is something that should always be at the top of your list, to avoid getting sick and being unhappy.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to really take to heart the importance of relaxing. Even if you take just an hour a week… it’s so important. And keep these tips in mind! Your body and mind will thank you!
I’m currently enrolled in Nonprofit Human Resources Management through the Masters in Nonprofit Administration program at University of San Francisco. For my class project, I want to evaluate the role of stress in the lives of nonprofit employees. What a shocker, right?? Basically what this blog is about!! Anyway, I’ve created a short survey on the topic and if you work for a nonprofit organization, I would love your input! I’m hoping for responses by next Friday, June 22.
You can access the survey by clicking here.
Please pass along the link to colleagues or any other friends you know working in the nonprofit sector! Thank you!!
Like most people, I’m often consumed with the unknown in my mind. What if this happens? What about if I had said this instead? What am I doing wrong? My mind is endlessly running, thinking of how I could have done something differently, or how I’ll do something in the future.
And when you’re like me – someone who loves efficiency, whether it’s in your nonprofit or your personal life – this tendency to over-think can have serious ramifications.
I’ve always thought it was an asset that I have a knack for making things more efficient. I like to read up on the latest technology, understand best practices, and help nonprofits become more efficient, through new systems, procedures, and policies. I love that stuff!
But – because I want to make sure I do everything the best way I can, I try to prepare for how I’ll do it in advance, instead of relying on my instincts at the moment. Planning is good, but over-planning is my downfall.
Here are some tips that help me fight the over-thinking beast!
- Admit you have a problem. I’ve always been aware that I’ve been an over-thinker. I never really thought it was much of a problem. It’s only now that I realize how much damage it does to me. Instead of reveling in the present – our days, after all, are filled with beautiful small moments to appreciate – I dwell on the past or plan for the future. Understanding that this is a part of me and my life is the first step to addressing it.
- Cut yourself off. Now that you’ve realized the problem you have, you will notice yourself doing it. All the time. I mean, all the time! Whenever I realize I’m doing it (often when I’m driving or doing something else routine), I gently bring myself back to the present. I wrote about this practice of mindfulness in What is Work/Life Balance?.
- Bring this knowledge back to your work. As a development staff member, special events are inevitably part of the job. I’ve always hated them (as you read here), but I never fully understood why – until now! Events are one of those things that you can never plan for every small detail – you just have to move forward as best prepared as possible. It is highly possible to over-prepare for an event – that’s what I do!! And then I just make myself miserable with all the negative possibilities and work myself to the bone preparing back up plans in my mind. Now I understand why I dislike events, and hopefully now I can move toward not hating them so much!
It’s good to plan, but I’m realizing more and more that this strength comes with its drawbacks, too. Like I said, the first step is becoming aware of the problem, and I will tell you that’s helped me tremendously already. I have a long way to go to focus on fully embracing the present, but at least now I know the task at hand, and can slowly move in that direction.
I’m commemorating blogging for one year with a blog redesign! I’ve changed my photo, headline, About Me section, and design of the homepage! I’ve even changed my Twitter bio to go along with everything. Please let me know what you think!
What a good exercise this was. Now that it’s been a year, I understand better what I’m passionate about and what comes naturally when I’m thinking about blogging. It wasn’t until I put it into words that I’ve really understood what this blog has become.
Nonprofit Chapin is not just about my experience working in the nonprofit sector. It’s framing my experience in the context of stress management and other important things to incorporate into your life as a nonprofit staffer. It’s about creating personal and professional vision. It’s about getting your needs met, whether that be in the professional or personal sense. It’s about putting you first – something I’m working on as we go! These are the things I’ve felt compelled to write about, and this is what the blog has become.
When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure to write everything from my personal perspective. I didn’t want to pretend to be an expert in the nonprofit sector, in Gen-Y, in anything. I wanted to write from my heart and see what happens. And the product has been something beautiful: writing about the aspects of personal success that aren’t necessarily so prevalent in the workforce – happiness, peace, and love, for yourself and others. These are the things I’m working on for myself, so I’m happy to have you alongside with me.
Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you are continuing to enjoy this journey as much as I am!