Why my approach is so effective for social change leaders, organizers, and activists at risk of burning out…

If you’re like a lot of my clients, you’ve probably done a lot of personal growth and professional development—

—Therapy, coaching, 12 Steps, meditation, journaling, reading, podcasts, leadership trainings, hiring facilitators or consultants, professional development courses, talking with friends or partners or colleagues, making changes at work, somatics, spiritual practices, naps, exercise, affirmations, setting more realistic goals, setting bigger goals, setting no goals at all, and all sorts of self-care, taking space from your problems and hoping they’ll disappear, gritting your teeth and just trying to make it through.

Most of these have probably helped somewhat. But you still feel stuck, confused, and frustrated.

The problem with most approaches is that they either prioritize your personal needs or organizational/societal needs.

But if we hyperfocus on ourselves, we buy into toxic individualism and wind up out of integrity. If we hyperfocus on the collective, we wind up resentful, drain our capacity to care, and risk getting lost in despair.

To create a world in which all peoples’ needs are met, including our own, we need an approach that helps us cultivate both personal power and systemic power.

The following principles make it possible to show up effectively without burning out.

The Five Principles for Contribution and Joy that I Integrate into All My Work:

1.  Acknowledgement heals.

When we’re stuck in a repeating pattern—feelings, thoughts, behavior, or interpersonal patterns that don’t seem to change despite our best efforts—there’s usually something that we have yet to fully acknowledge. This may be an unmet need, hidden loyalty, unconscious contract, intergenerational trauma, unpaid debt, or something else. Honoring what is creates space for energy to flow again.

2.  Systemic order allows rest.

What this means, simply, is that we each have a role to play. Sometimes, these are official roles within an organization; sometimes, it’s about our gifts and skills. When people stray outside their roles—like when a child acts like their parent’s parent or confidante—it causes confusion, frustration, and conflict. Honoring roles eliminates a significant portion of conflict, prevents people from taking on too much, and just makes things work.

3.  Change happens at the speed of trust.

Although most people think that burnout arises from having too much to do, even more often, burnout emerges from interpersonal conflict. When people, especially in organizations, learn healthy ways to be together, it’s easy to build trusting relationships, which naturally lead to effectiveness and sustain us for the long haul. Similarly, learning how to trust ourselves brings an ease to change that we may not have experienced before.

4.  The quality of our choices is determined by the quality of the decision-making process, not the outcome.

Too often, people hyperfocus on the content of decisions—what to decide—and ignore the process of how to decide. Without a practice of wise discernment, we can get stuck in inaction and self-doubt, fail to consider important needs, and make choices we later regret.

5.  Time management is grief work.

No practice will ameliorate the fact that our lives are finite; we constantly have to choose to say no to things we wish we could say yes to. Saying no often hurts, and one of the most common strategies for coping with grief is shifting to blaming others and ourselves. When we lovingly acknowledge our inevitable feelings of grief and guilt, we can soothe our nervous systems and more effectively choose where to dedicate our precious attention, energy, and time.

    When you consistently engage in practices that align with these principles, it becomes much easier to show up effectively for yourself and the collective.

    If this resonates and you want to learn more, I invite you to receive my Love Letters to Changemakers.

    They’re free email morsels of guidance to help you honor your needs, show up effectively, and prevent burnout.

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    Want to learn more about my story, my training, and what called me to do this work? If so, learn more about me.

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