Last week, a number of people in my social media feeds were talking about how difficult it was to focus on work. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only one having trouble. But the work must be done.
You have to find ways to meet new member needs, redesign events, and rework budgets. You’re already fatigued and dispirited by the pandemic and its economic impact. Now, every time you read or hear the news, all kinds of emotions bubble up—anger, sadness, pride, frustration, hope, despondency—it’s a roller coaster.
When bigger issues demand your attention, it’s only natural to look at your to-do list and think: does any of this work matter in the grand scheme of things? Short answer: yes. Here are some strategies for rekindling your motivation when you’re dealing with an onslaught of emotions—in essence, we want you to remember your purpose.
Don’t keep your troubles to yourself
You’re not alone. Everyone’s feeling it. Invite some colleagues, friends and/or acquaintances to a Zoom meeting. Get it out in the open. Talk about distraction, procrastination, lack of focus, and loss of motivation.
• How is everyone holding up?
• What are people struggling with?
• Has anyone read anything helpful?
• Has anyone done something that’s made them feel they’ve pushed the needle in the right direction?
Take care of your work family
If you’re a leader, understand the need for psychological safety before inviting employees to share their feelings. You don’t want them to struggle alone but you also don’t want to make them feel vulnerable.
Instead, be a little vulnerable yourself. Acknowledge the difficulties of “business as usual” right now. Describe what you’re feeling and how you’re reigniting your drive. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. The most important thing is to listen and show support.
Remember your purpose
In the midst of awfulness, we would like to remind you about the impact that you and your colleagues have on your members and industry, and the impact your association has on society. When you feel like you’re floundering, please remember your professional purpose.
You’re fortunate to work for a mission-driven organization—the work you do matters. Members count on you to fulfill a role in their lives and in their industry or profession. Even though things may not be going as planned, your association and your work still matter. You make a difference.
Recently, in an ASAE Collaborate discussion forum, an association component relations manager said:
“I often feel uninspired due to not having a direct impact on the end goal… I only began to realize the impression I made on the world when I looked at it from a more holistic perspective… It's what you help others do, that in turn helps others on down the line, that eventually helps someone you will likely never know. In the end, you helped that person too, even if it was through six degrees of separation.”
His words are a good reminder about why you do the things you do. Maybe now you do them differently because of the pandemic, but keep adjusting, adapting, and moving forward. You will no doubt get sidetracked but keep your eyes on the prize—your association’s mission.
Here’s a short list of what you and your colleagues make possible:
• Facilitating relationships and community—benefits members need more than ever right now—plus a sense of belonging, peer support, conversations, mentoring, advice, referrals, leads, and connections.
• Providing education and credentials through virtual conferences, webinars, discussions, online courses, certificate programs and all kinds of credentialing programs.
• Creating opportunities for members to grow, stretch their comfort zones, contribute their time and talents, learn how to be a leader, and serve a greater purpose through volunteering.
• Helping chapter/component staff and volunteer leaders better serve their members and create smaller communities.
• Advocating and speaking up for members, helping them understand new governmental programs and regulations, and fighting for a better future.
Find purpose within your realm of control at work
Even if you love your job, you can still be emotionally exhausted from grieving the loss of what you knew and what you thought the future held. If you can reignite your sense of purpose, you’ll be better positioned to deal with whatever comes your way.
Explore ways to make a difference at work on issues that concern you. This project doesn’t have to take lots of time and you don’t have to do it alone. Some of your colleagues may appreciate the chance to help you out on issues that concern them too.
What’s possible within the realm of your control? Pick something that’s aligned with your association or department’s goals.
Don’t get too ambitious. At this point, your psyche needs something that will deliver small wins. What can you achieve this week?
• Can you reach out to people in an underserved segment of your market to learn more about their needs?
• Can you contact a member who might be going through a difficult time?
• Can you and a member arrange a meeting with young people in your market to provide advice and answer questions?
• Can you ask an industry partner to provide a virtual conference scholarship to someone who lost their job or doesn’t have a professional development budget?
• Can your association donate time and/or resources to a nonprofit that’s on the frontlines of one of our current crises?
Find purpose in a personal mission
Maybe you really can’t do anything substantial at work, but you can do something. Thank a volunteer. Call a member to learn about their current situation. Do a random act of kindness.
If you rather focus your time on issues in the news:
• Learn more about our shared history.
• Educate yourself on the issues being discussed—you can find lots of reading lists online.
• Start an online book club or discussion group with friends, co-workers, members, or leaders.
• Volunteer for a nonprofit that can use your set of skills, for example, training and education, membership recruitment and retention, marketing, volunteer management, leadership development, governance, or component relations.
When things aren’t going as planned and the future is more uncertain than usual, it’s natural to lose grasp of our sense of purpose and feel out of sorts. But you can spark the flame within by finding the purpose in the work you’re doing now.
Remember, you’re making a difference. You’re helping members advance in their careers, build their businesses, develop professional relationships, and become better positioned to make a difference themselves.