Friday, June 19, 2009

Activity Trap

In times of trepidation or discomfort, what helps us feel secure?

If you're not getting the results you want from your work, how do you improve the program?

If your community non-profit is struggling to stay afloat, what do you do next?

It's really easy to answer these kinds of challenges with "nose to the grindstone" stuff. We can easily assuage our concerns or feelings of guilt by working so much it hurts. Surely, this kind of martyrdom or repentance is acceptable in the eyes of the powers-that-be.

But really, who is in charge? Who is calling the shots? Who is keeping score of how much manual labour or amount of hours we put in? I've had my share of bosses that were watching for facetime or sweat on my brow (figuratively), but none of them held a candle to the pressure I put on myself.

I don't think this is a good reason to respond with "work harder." We should focus on getting the right results, even if that means stepping back, not leaning in.

As the title of this post suggests, being active for activity's sake is a trap. It's a trick we've learned to help us get through the anxiety. I've really struggled to see an example where this additional effort really created the outcome we were seeking. More likely, pushing, hurrying and embracing urgency puts up blinders... they make it easy to absolve yourself of the responsibility to see the big picture.

I'm operating with a principle that says, "no matter how much pressure I feel to be active, I won't do it at the expense of maintaining perspective."

Easy to say, hard to do.

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