There are a lot of big issues afoot at the moment — global health, racism, environmental sustainability, and more. These issues matter. We need to step up to create sustainable, positive change … and in order to do that, some of us will likely need to step back first.
Although it may seem counterproductive, jumping in straight away is not always the right move. Doing some prep, like researching the problem, creating a plan, and getting clear on what you are capable of, will go a long way toward making sure the help you’re offering is indeed helpful.
First, do your own work.
Are you struggling to sleep? Have super high levels of stress? Need to get clear on your own wounds and biases? Whatever it is that you need right now to feel stable and strong and ready to contribute — do that first. Get really clear on where you are and why you want to help, so that you know you’ll indeed be a part of the solution (and not just another problem for others to manage).
Don’t offer what you can’t deliver. You’ll only serve to let people down and create more stress for those already involved. Instead, find something you’re good at, that you’re happy to do and have the bandwidth for … then show up to do that, again and again. Keep showing up and sharing your unique skillset to further the cause. Get creative and remember that everyone has something to offer — from being a spokesperson to baking cookies to donating much needed funds.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
We are all different and will be able to show up in different ways. Some will be obvious and others more subtle. This is not a measure of caring or support, but rather an authentic approach that delivers the best of ourselves. If everyone was more upfront about what they’re willing to do, I suspect there would be a whole lot more people showing up and sharing the load, which would lead to a more powerful collective for change.
Be willing to change.
Rarely does anyone get it right the first time around and you likely won’t either. Just try to do your best and don’t get defensive if and when you’re asked to do it differently. Be open to trying new things and stepping (pretty far) out of your comfort zone in order to find your niche in the collaborative work that’s required. Release judgement around not only what others request but also around what you’re able to say ‘yes’ to. And, above all else, always come from a place of love and be willing to forgive yourself (and others) when challenges arise. This will help to prevent resentment from seeping in and making you want to stop altogether. We need you to keep going.
Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed.
Big change takes hard work and dedication. Things will get rough; you’ll get tired. But that’s all to be expected. The key to having stamina and not losing your focus is to take breaks when you need them: Step out of a meeting for a few deep breaths; turn off your phone for the weekend to reconnect with your truth; say ‘no’ when you feel the need to; and always step back when your wellbeing is on the line.
In taking care of yourself first, you’re empowering yourself to show up again and again, without the fear of fizzling out when you’re needed most. Sustainable change requires long-term commitment and focus — the kind that comes from taking smaller steps and making honest efforts.
Show up from where you are and give what you can give, knowing that taking a step back is sometimes the best way forward.