There are protests in Austin. A car is set on fire, nine shops are vandalized. The police use tear gas and I can hear helicopters all night long. The highway is blocked off by protesters, I can hear voices through a megaphone. probably less than three miles away.
And I feel scared.
I am afraid this violence will escalate into greater violence and cruel hardships for all of us, and I feel at a loss for how to contribute.
Until I see a grackle in my backyard. Her baby chick follows her around, making a lot of sounds, trying to get her attention by opening his beak. As if to say “Mommy, mommy, I’m hungry, feed me. Now!”
She jumps around from spot to spot, putting in a lot of work to find seeds. Apparently not quickly enough, because the chick starts imitating his mommy and finds his own food.
When I look at her, I feel relieved. I can do the best I can with the resources and qualities I have been given and then let go. I can see that I am not the only one responsible for keeping everyone fed and safe. I can look for the helpers, as Fred Rogers said, and follow their example.
Just like the grackle teaches her young to find food, Fred Rogers’s mom taught him to look for the helpers when he felt scared. We can look for the helpers too and form a community where we make sure that everyone is fed.
I see clients struggle with the same issue. Managers and leaders have an enormous sense of responsibility for the well-being of others, especially in organizations with missions of caring. They use all their talent and energy to support causes that are way bigger than themselves. Many struggle to rest when social injustice is clearly not resolved and the environment remains increasingly under threat.
I have spent the greater part of my life developing practices to contribute to others without depleting myself. I have coached hundreds of clients around self-care and self-compassion. That’s how I know which tools help, no matter what your commitment, experience, or circumstance.
Practice gratitude every day and notice our interbeing, even if you work by yourself, you can’t get the support you need or feel isolated. Every wisdom teacher and tradition recommends a gratitude practice to experience more joy.
What you have to do to feel rejuvenated, even when demands on you increase, funding shrinks, and you have to let go of precious staff members.
Why a short exercise of 10 minutes or less each day will help you in these challenging times, keep you excited, and inspire you to work for systemic change. You can do it everywhere, anytime and effects will easily justify your time investment.
How to be stable and powerful, without being pushy or feeling overwhelmed, and inspire your team to find new solutions. You can’t do it alone, so use the talents in your team to creatively come up with unconventional ideas.
Trust that knowing your ‘why’ will help you with almost any ‘how’ even when it seems hopeless. Viktor Frankl inspires me to believe that meaning generates the resilience to accomplish anything in spite of our conditions and conditioning.
That seeing our behavior as strategies to meet human, universal needs nurtures compassion for others, helps us move beyond us-them thinking, and increases the likelihood that others will support your cause. After only a couple of sessions, Megan started to empathize with a key stakeholder and now is regularly invited to meetings where she meets shakers and doers who help to have an impact on systemic change.
Sign-up for my free webinar:
“Two ridiculously simple ways to refresh in times of protests”.
And walk away with a deeper sense of peace, joy, and hope.
Tuesday, June 9, at 8:00-9:00 am.
Contact me with any questions. I am here to support you.
Or sign up here.
Elly van Laar
Coach for Nonprofit Leaders
“There is one external partner that I work with on a regular basis who is in a position to do a great deal of good. And I wanted to support that person, but I felt like they were not listening or that they were not seeing my perspective. And when I stopped trying to get them into my boat and decided to just go ahead and get in their boat, that was where we had a breakthrough.
I now have regular standing meetings with that person who is much higher than me on their organizational chart than I am in mine. And they have connected me to key doers and movers and shakers within their organization to start getting things done. I think there’s finally traction and they are open, they’re reviewing my input with an open mind.
By being able to get the right people in the room, we might actually accomplish social change. If for lack of being able to communicate effectively, you’re unable to get the right people in the room, you know, great things never kick-off.
But just being able to communicate more effectively got the right people in the room, things started happening. And as a result, on a systemic level, we can affect change that will be beneficial.”
Director Talent PipeLine Success, Workforce Solutions, Capital Area Austin