Do I want to keep going? Making the choice to persevere
When I give webinars to animal shelters, I often ask: why do you continue to choose to do this work, now that you know how hard it is?
Back when we’re new to the job, our choice to show up is an easy one, often fueled by passion (but few skills and almost no boundaries…it’s no wonder compassion fatigue is so common).
The hard choice comes later, when we decide if we want to keep showing up now that we understand the complexity of the work and that our passion won’t lead to a happy outcome for every animal or person we try to help.
And that's where the inspiration for our next book highlight comes from...
This month we have an excerpt from one of my favorite authors, Margaret J. Wheatley, and her little book, Perseverance.
“Perseverance is a choice. It's not a simple, one-time choice, it's a daily one. There's never a final decision.
Our first “yes” - filled with energy and enthusiasm - brought us here, but it's of no use as the waters rise and the turbulence increases. By the time we're surrounded by obstacles and opposition, by aggression and mean-spiritedness, our initial choice has no meaning (even if we can remember that optimistic moment).
This is as it should be. Having to make a choice every day keeps us alert and present. Do I have the resources, internal and external, to keep going? Can I deal with what's in front of me right now? Do I have any patience left? Is there a way through this mess? These critical questions require a momentary pause, a little reflection. Rather than just striking out or being reactive to a bad day, we offer ourselves freedom. Do I continue or do I give up? Even a brief pause creates the space for freedom. We're not trapped by circumstances or fatigue. We give ourselves a moment to look as clearly as we can at the current situation.
And then we make a conscious choice. Every day.”
For me, this passage is helpful because it reminds me that:
Choosing takes our power back.
When we’re experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout we often feel powerless.
Like we’re victims, unfairly trapped, by external forces.
Feeling stuck saps our energy. It increases our stress.
It helps if you can remember that doing this work is a choice that you made once…and that you get to make again each and every day.
You choose to do this.
And you can choose to do something else to earn a living. That's okay too.
You can choose to set boundaries with your work.
And you can choose to change those boundaries.
You can choose to change your perspective.
You can choose to ask for help.
You can choose to create a Plan B to work in a bookstore/bakery/garden, so that you have an exit strategy should you ever need to use it.
When we remember that we have choices and we pause to choose this work again - just for today - then we take some of our power back.
That helps us stress less and more skillfully navigate the external forces that truly are challenging.
Want to explore this idea more? Then I hope you'll check out this excellent little book. You can find a copy here.
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