I began volunteering right after high school. I worked with a local NGO in Kenya called Lifeskills Promoters and this was the beginning of my interaction with development and the humanitarian world. I remember that initial feeling of clearly wanting to make a change and being bright eyed and excited because I could be useful and ‘make a difference‘. For the longest time my why was crystal clear and my path towards my notion of ‘making a difference’ was obvious.
Many years following that, I found myself so immersed in the work that I could not remember my why. The overarching reason why I was doing the work was shrouded in all the short term outputs that I needed to achieve and for some time there, I placed further emphasis on these small outputs and their immediate gratification. Maybe this was easier than the reality that even after many years of work I could not see the difference that I so badly wanted to make. I felt I had given of my time, given of my mind and given of my very soul and I was depleted and frustrated.
At this point of possibly full blown burn out was where I realized I had to stop. It was difficult to stop because it felt like taking a moment for myself while so much needed to be done was utter selfishness. It took a lot of energy to realize that if I did not take time to replenish my depleted self I would have nothing to give anyone else. This was a hard truth, a tough reality but one that proved worthwhile when I completed my self healing hiatus and returned to with renewed energy and a clearer vision of my evolved ‘why’.
“Keeping your core beliefs or your “why” at the forefront is a critical strategy for longevity in the social sector and can serve as an anthem during periods of frustration. Remembering the “Why” By Lori Gardinier
This article by Lori Gardinier (that I highly recommend) speaks on keeping your eye on your overarching goal because therein lies the driving force for humanitarian and altruistic souls and to lose sight of that overarching ‘why’ is to be running around like a well intentioned headless chicken, so to speak.
So, dear altruistic soul, why do you do the work that you do?