The beginning of September feels like a fresh start, and I often find myself a little restless around this time of year. After some relaxation and a softer summer schedule, I’m ready for a new challenge to go with my new notebooks and pencils.
This isn’t everyone’s rhythm; even if it was three years ago, it might not be now. Especially in the social service sector, some of the colleagues I most admire are tired, treading water and certainly not feeling like they have the energy for new endeavours.
There is so much to do. I don’t mean our to-do lists, although those are almost certainly too long.
I’m referring to more existential things like our roles in dismantling oppressive systems.
And I submit for your consideration the possibility that coming together in community for a common goal may provide just the restorative boost you need. It’s not another thing to do, it could be the energy source to power you through your to-dos.
So! Whether you are looking for validation or inspiration for your next right thing, I’m sharing two excerpts from Seth Godin, perhaps not obviously related but both rolling around in my brain right now, and a consideration related to success anxiety, a term I just learned.
1. Speaking Up, Seths.blog entry for August 24
“For many, the imagined cost of speaking up is almost always higher than the actual cost. And we live with the cost in our imagination daily, dying a little bit over time as we keep our insights to ourselves. Speaking up is a skill, and we can only improve it with practice.”
2. From Song of Significance
“‘Mr. Strickland, what an extraordinary story and what a great school. And we were particularly touched by the flowers and we were curious as to how the flowers got there.’ I said, ‘Well, I got in my car and I went out to the greenhouse and I bought them and I brought them back and I put them there.’ You don’t need a task force or a study group to buy flowers for your kids. What you need to know is that the children and the adults deserve flowers in their life. The cost is incidental but the gesture is huge. And so in my building, which is full of sunlight and full of flowers, we believe in hope and human possibilities.”
3. Success anxiety
I have recently become aware of this term, which I inexplicably identify with more than “fear of success,” a term I was more familiar with. Specifically, I’m currently pondering what subconscious ideas I might have about potential consequences of “success” and how those might be keeping me from speaking up, showing up, or doing the thing.
If I am vulnerable for a moment, the version of success that I find challenging is usually related to visibility. I was discussing this last week with a very wise person: I crave external validation, and also, external validation makes me uncomfortable. How unfortunate! Obviously, I have some work to do here.
Any one of these three separate points is worth pondering on its own.
Sitting at the intersection of the imagined cost of speaking up, the tendency to hide behind consultation processes rather than doing what we all know will be a good thing, and how success anxiety may be holding me back, I take it as a not-so-subtle nudge to get out there with a bias for action.
There is, of course, a place for thoughtful, thorough consultation, careful planning, and caution. This is how we guard against saviourism, making decisions on behalf of directly affected communities, and unintended harm.
And yet. Procrasti-planning is real. At some point, we need to get out from behind our desk and make it happen. Especially when the stakes are high like they are in our work.
Maybe this will be the nudge you need, too. And it is also ok if you are in a season of rest. We can take turns. xo.
I'm Jennifer. I am an advocacy and communications strategist working with multiple charities and nonprofits. And I want to disrupt our sector for good.