My wife has a sign on the refrigerator door that says this:
When you feel like quitting, remember why you started!
It’s an encouragement to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.
But it’s also a vital thought to help us stay whatever course we consider important enough to be on in the first place.
- It can be parenting.
- It can be yardwork.
- It can be mentoring.
- It can be creating an arts program.
- It can be starting a new nonprofit or other business.
You and I both started doing what we’re doing for a reason. And we will always have to contend with the mess that follows the exhilaration of the dreaming and visioning and starting phase. That stuff… the messy middle as Michael Hyatt puts it… can derail us if we’re not careful.
What is the ‘Stuff’ of the messy middle?
The messy middle – that junk that makes us watch reality TV or get mad at others in our Facebook feed or check email way more than we really need to – is a strange brew of wildly varied ingredients. But they all conspire against getting the ultimate results that you’re looking for.
You didn’t start your nonprofit as a money-making venture. Unless you’re heading up a major nonprofit or up to something shady (or have a side business), you’re probably not pulling in mid to high six figures.
You got into the nonprofit sector to see change happen for a particular group of people or a particular cause.
Yet now you’re in it, and you’re not seeing the change happen as quickly as you wanted (or at all). Or you are overwhelmed by the vastness of the need. The results you were hoping for seem like a ridiculous pipe dream.
You’re frustrated with your current work and the politics of your organization, and you can’t see how your daily activities are connected to the ultimate reasons why you got into this business of social change in the first place.
Your work feels like factory work (no offense to factory work). You punch your clock at 8am and slog through until you punch it again at 5pm.
Your connection to the vision and mission is gone, or hanging by a thread.
The whole world and beyond seem to be conspiring against you.
When you feel like quitting…. remember why you started.
Let me make a small suggestion. Call it a personal fake-out if you need to, but if you’ve never tried the exercise I’m about to suggest, please give it a shot.
Think about one person. One child. One lonely elderly man. One dog or cat. One frightened or scared new mother.
Forget the demographic your organization is supposed to be helping and boil it all down to one singular face.
And ask this:
What are the results that I hope to bring for that one individual?
Give that person a name. Give her hopes and dreams. Give him a future. An ideal future.
Focus on the nitty-gritty results that you know you can bring to the table to help make that future happen. How is what you are doing right now or today tied to making those results happen?
Write it down. Make post-its. Make it a screensaver of wallpaper on your phone or computer.
Make sure to include the name you give that individual in all of your reminders
Fall in love with that person like a mom or dad falls in love with a child or like a child falls in love with a parent. Or if you’re an animal rescue outfit, fall in love with that individual animal like a 6 year old falls in love with her first puppy.
Now today… try hard to remember to do for that one individual in some small way, what you wish you could do for everybody and over time, you’ll be amazed at what happens.
You’re no longer working for all the foster kids in St. Louis or Atlanta or Phoenix. You’re working for Anna. She’s 5. She’s scared. She’s lonely, but she’s hopeful.
What can you do today for Anna?