I recently returned to work after a lovely, relaxing holiday. I had no wifi while I was away for the first time in forever, and despite the irritation at not being able to check the weather forecast for the next day (sunny) or how to get to the town (down the hill, aim for the sea), it gave me my first opportunity to reflect and think in such a long time.
I gorged on books and one of the reads recommended to me was “Reasons to stay alive” by Matt Haig about depression and what it feels like. I’m grateful to have not suffered from this debilitating disease myself, but one of the stories he recounted from a period of depression that really stood out to me was about a time that he had forced himself to go to the cornershop: it made him feel so incredibly awful:
“There is no way I can do this. There is no way I can walk to the shop. On my own. And find milk. And Marmite…Do it. Just walk to the shop…One foot in front of the other, shoulders back. Breathe.”
This had me thinking about putting myself out of my comfort zone. I do it a lot. I like it. I get a real buzz from having to do something that makes me uncomfortable or that scares me a bit: Presenting work at important meetings; contacting someone when I’m not sure about what reaction I’ll get; making that ask when you really aren’t sure of the response…it all results in a great sense of achievement and an endorphin high – a bit of a buzz. Obviously if someone says “YES!” – the endorphin surge is better than if they say “no”, but either way you’ve achieved something by putting yourself out of your comfort zone and that is part of our development as fundraisers.
So then I thought some more.
The best fundraisers I know as very, very busy. They find it hard to stop. They have lots of other interests outside of their job (though you often find they are related in some way to their work). They might volunteer for other charities. They mentor, train or coach their peers or speak at events and conferences. They exercise. They like to write, make jewellery or be creative in some other way. They don’t stop. Are fundraisers constantly seeking the high of being out of their comfort zone? Chasing the endorphin rush? Are we trying to do so much that there is no time to stop and think?
So what? Well, I have finally been forced to think about this. And, I think that we DO have to stop and think.
We have busy jobs where we are juggling internal and external pressures at every level as well as internal and external relationships. Managing teams and fundraising projects, budgets, strategies, networking and keeping up with constant developments in fundraising regulations. This is all before we walk out of the door at the end of the day and have all sorts of other challenges (or opportunities!) to get on with at home.
The space that I recently gave myself (or that was enforced due to my lack of connectivity) provided me with the space I needed to think about new ideas for doing things differently at work, provided me with insights into my own mind, and made me realise how I can force myself to have the time to think that we all need (running – no distractions from my thoughts).
Oh yes, we want to keep chasing that high, putting ourselves in difficult and busy situations that give us a buzz. BUT if we don’t give ourselves time to reflect, we will end up being distracted from the areas that need our focus and attention across our busy lives.