Sometimes trying to see how we can make a positive impact in the world is daunting. It is easy to feel like we are too small, and that the problems facing our planet are too big and too many, for us to make a difference.
It is at these times that we look to our grantees, and realize that together we are not too small to make an impact. These extraordinary people have committed themselves to taking action where they can, and we count ourselves lucky to be able to play a role in supporting their work. It’s not always an easy journey, but the results can be life changing.
Here are some reflections from Michelle Welsch, who received funding from us for her work in Nepal, on what it takes to step up, take action, and stay the course as a champion for change.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been at it: there’s a moment you feel like quitting, throwing in the towel, giving up. Seth Godin penned the journey “The Dip” and believes we too often quit the wrong things at the wrong time. Knowing the difference between staying put and moving on can help us find success and meaning both professionally and personally.
According to Angela Lee Duckworth, the ability to tough it out and stay put is the closest indicator we have of success (check out her TED talk here). The names we don’t hear about, the people who fail to make an impact, quit too early. They never made it to the intersection of do-or-don’t, or they never found the right problems to solve to begin with. Champions devote themselves to causes that matter and subscribe to the notion that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.
The truth is that everything new is always fun: relationships, jobs, projects, cars, clothes, music, movies, towns, school. You name it. Then, over time, it gets boring or hard and you find yourself at a point you can’t be bothered to care at all. This is when professionals step away from hobbyists: they remain focused, trim off the frayed edges and keep going. And if they do quit, they do it in a way that’s strategic and thoughtful.
So, if you’re in a rut and feel like quitting, here are four points to consider before you make any decisions:
Remember when you started.
“Champions devote themselves to causes that matter and subscribe to the notion that the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.”
As a founder, there’s always something to be done. I don’t think I’ve had an empty “to-do list” in over three years. That’s why when I want to hop in a plane back to America, I take a second to recognize how far we’ve come. There was a point I was scrubbing floors and felt a constant film of construction dust on my teeth. Now, our little Learning House is a lively center with classes and students and seminars.
Think about the challenges you’ve overcome to get where you are today, and be proud.
Why are you doing this?
We’re all human. God knows I’ve had moments I’ve had to talk myself out of bed and out the door. I’ve gone through weeks of daily internal debates: Am I effective? Should I keep going?
Sometimes, our original goal becomes a blurry dot on the horizon. For whatever reason — projects, donors, grants, social responsibilities — we’ve moved away from that original purpose that gave us meaning, the work that first brought us joy.
Can you remember your original spark? That first flash of inspiration, the smile of someone’s life changed? Ask yourself: the mission you’ve devoted yourself to, is it worth it? If the scale tips in favor, keep going.
Know it won’t always be easy.
When you can accept that grey days are part of the color spectrum, you can relax into rutty moments.
About one year ago, a South Bronx school principal found herself in the Oval office with President Obama . She asked, “When is the time you felt most broken?”
He described his 1999 Congress run. He lost. Bad. He felt old, ineffective, and his relationship with his wife was on the rocks.
“The thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck.”
Focus on your work and what needs to be done.
Take a break.
We’re people, not machines. Create space to renew and energize, step away from obligations and responsibilities. Even though you’re a leader doesn’t mean you’re always strong! Watch a movie, go for a long walk, call a friend.
Social work can take an impact on your mental and emotional health. It can be helpful to connect with someone who can empathize with your struggles and keep you on track.
Then, chin up, shoulders back, stand tall. Keep going. The world needs you. We need you.