You might not come here because you want to save the world, or make it a better place. I know some of us come here mostly because we want to save ourselves and our families. Is that right? If that is so, please know that I don’t want to disparage you ideals in any way by sharing these ideas.
The thing is, I do think a great many of us here want to do both: save the world and work toward our own personal growth and well-being. And when we endeavor to save the world and ourselves at the same time, it is sometimes a difficult balance.
To begin working toward change in our communities is not easy. But I found that once I opened one door, and found one volunteer opportunity… literally hundreds of other doors began to open. Sustainable Seattle, Sustainable Capitol Hill, P-Patches, Native Planting, … not to mention the large local, national, and multinational NGOs that can always use volunteers…!
And then once I settled on one or two (or three!) of those organizations, I have to figure out where I can help the most. And how much time I can spend with each organization. And overall, what I am willing to give. The following are some thoughts I find important to remember as I navigate this new territory.
Make Sure You Get Something Out Of The Experience
Find something you love to do, something you are good at or something you want to learn more about. For instance, if gardening makes you more at peace, you might find it incredibly rewarding to garden with and for others, and even teach other people how to garden.
This is important because you need to renew, you need to be happy doing what you’re doing. When you are, you will become more effective at creating change, and you will be much more likely to stick with it for the long term.
Make Sure You’re Using Your Time Wisely
In the past, I have begun working at an organization, only to find myself spending a lot of time fighting to get just a few things done. When we have a limited time we can give, we have to make it count. That means that sometimes we have to make hard decisions: if an organization just isn’t working for you, kindly move to something that does. If you feel you’re doing too much or too little or not doing the right thing, be open and honest about it. People like that – it’s refreshing. And usually the end result gets you closer to finding balance.
Work Toward Healthy Balance In Your Life
This is difficult for me. Saying “no” does not come easily, and my natural instinct is to overdo things so that I lose sleep, put aside my personal life, forget to fulfill my intentions, and in general neglect my own health and well-being. I want to save the world, now now now! But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to remember that you need to be healthy and happy in order to be truly effective.
I haven’t totally figured out how to maintain a healthy balance, but I’m getting better. One trick for me has been to figure out ways to nurture myself at the same time as I nurture the world. So again, I am making sure I’m personally getting something out of my work toward global and community change.
The second trick for me has been to set limits – whether that is to stop working at a certain time every night, or to make sure I have a To Do list that includes personal and large-scale change, or to set aside a day or two per week where I have family time only (or the reverse, to set aside a day or two to create change), … there are many ways to do this and each of us has our own. The important thing is to be consistent with yourself so that your own personal needs are met as you work within your community.
I know that I have been writing about these issues quite a bit lately, and I hope you’re not tiring of these ideas. I think this is the next step toward living sustainably, at least for me. First I began to make personal changes. Then I worked on worldwide changes with filmmaking. Then I made a lot more personal changes. Then I reached out to share my experiences and motivate others by writing. Then I worked within my local community to create change. And now, finally, I’m learning how to synthesize all of these things together. That requires finding a good, healthy balance.
How Are You Doing With Finding A Balance?
Where are you in the process of sustainability? Are you at the point where you are beginning to synthesize your many steps? Are you finding it easy or difficult to find balance between personal growth and world/community change? Do you have any tips for finding balance – how do you do it?