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Burnout buster for social change agents

I took a walk today and was delighted to discover this teeny-tiny egg shell at my feet on the way home. Like a little piece of the sky. I made a nest from grass clippings to honor the creature that gave birth to it, and the creature that was birthed from it.

Before I took my walk, I was feeling discouraged and frustrated. Wondering whether my work made a difference. How I would keep going despite all the challenges. Crispy around the edges, if not quite burned-out.

A tiny soft voice that I could just barely make out whispered “get outside.” I’d been ignoring her for hours, but she’d made some sort of deal with my dog to guilt me out of the house. (One of the many things I like about dogs – they seem to be aligned with wise mind more often than not.)

What does your tiny soft voice say? If you’re feeling burned out, you’ve been ignoring her, or him, for a while now. Start listening. That voice will lead you to signs of new life, reasons to have faith and hope, and clear evidence that you’re making a difference.

Tell me what you hear and what you learned in the comments.

The question I would ask God…

You know those moments when something that has been rolling around in your head for months, maybe years, crystallizes and comes popping out of your mouth? Almost before you know what you’re saying? I think the technical term might be “aha moment.” (And you know, coaches love technical terms. 🙂

I had one such moment the other day, talking with my partner. What came out of my mouth was “if I could ask God one question today, it would be – how do we know when to push and when to receive? When to be disciplined and All-American go-for-it, and when do we just  let life unfold ?”

Partly I was surprised because I don’t believe in God as an entity you can interview like Barbara WaWa, glass of iced tea on the side table and mic carefully hidden under lapel. But my lovely partner reminded me that God does often answer questions if you’re looking in the right place for answers.

I know that entire ancient philosophies have been dedicated to this question. In fact, now that I think of it, the Yin Yang symbol is probably supposed to represent the balance between these two ways of being. In my own humble life, I find myself constantly wrestling with this question: should I push myself to rewrite my website now, today, or should I instead walk my dog, fold the laundry, call that friend back? What’s the right thing? And how much will my inner critic punish me later if I don’t choose “correctly?”

Later that evening I was reading Laura Fortgang’s new book Prosperity Plan, and a quote jumped out at me that, I think, was God answering in her own indirect way.

“Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.”  Paul Hawken

When I’m taking Paul’s brilliant advice, there is almost always a clear answer to that big hairy question ready and waiting like a scroll from one of those old-fashioned fortune-telling machines. It comes from somewhere between my diaphragm and my collarbone, and always seems to have the just-right idea for right now. And when I listen to this voice, somehow everything gets done and everything is just fine and there was no need to worry.

I think God wants me to listen to this voice more often, and to hear it, I need to enjoy myself more often.

So, today I spent 2 hours in the garden clearing out dead stuff and noticing little green shoots and weeding. And I’m writing to you, and I had biscuits for breakfast after jumping rope at booty camp. And life is good. And my to-do list is shrinking.

Does this ring true for you? How would you answer this big question? Love to hear from you!

Where are you keeping your chestnuts?

That may sound like a personal question, intrusive even, and perhaps slightly dirty. 🙂

One cool morning last week as I walked out my front door to pick Japanese anemones for my altar, a very loud squirrel (unintentionally) offered a life lesson. Alarming and alarmed-sounding squeaks from the transformer across the street kinda’ killed my flower-buzz, but I didn’t think much of it; there’s a chestnut tree on the corner that they assault with military determination every fall.

However, as I walked back up my front steps, I saw the reason for the little guy’s freakout: he had “hidden” some of these treasured chestnuts right on top of my mailbox, which is right at the top of my front steps, which is right next to my front door. 

I laughed for a minute and felt bad for him and impressed at the same time – his brain is smaller than even one of these nuts, but his determination is much bigger. He had carried two golf-ball sized, attached prizes all the way down the tree and across the street, braving traffic and dog, scrambled up my glider, and carefully deposited his harvest…in a very un-strategic location.

Note to self, I thought: you shouldn’t tell just anyone about your chestnuts – especially the really big ones. If you you dream of a totally different career, plan to take up sky-diving or spend a year in Tanzania, play it close to the vest for a while. Humans have an unfortunate tendency to project all of our fears and worries onto the brave souls who stick their necks out.

The fastest way to kill your new idea is to have your Aunt Hazel remind you of what a dreamer you’ve always been.

What are your biggest chestnuts right now? And have you squirreled them away somewhere safe until you’re ready to eat ’em?