There are several reasons why an institution might decide to invest in professional development trainings on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some organizations are motivated by a mandate from a funder, for others it’s precipitated by an internal call from staff who want to create a more inclusive culture. Hopefully, you haven’t hit a crisis point triggered by a failure of leadership to interrupt oppressive behavior in the workplace.
Yesterday, as I found myself going down the rabbit hole of Tweets about Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, I stopped mid-scroll realizing that once again I had gotten distracted.
It’s busy day. I’ve got proposals to write, client projects to design, and emails to respond to. It’s a Tuesday, which means that most of my team is in the office today and I want to be available to them if they need my input or support. I don’t have time to be distracted.
But distractions abound.
We’re only halfway through 2017 and the year has already presented us with more terrifying distractions than we can all handle.
Working within social justice with a commitment to making the world a more equitable place often means not only facing the difficult realities but responding with urgency to protect the most vulnerable. It can feel like we’re putting out fires in a fire swamp. Just when you think you’ve made it out, here comes Donald Trump Jr. and his email-gate quicksand threatening to take you under. (That’s a Princess Bride reference.)
In moments like this, you have to remember your “Why”. Why do YOU get up every day and commit to making an impact in the world? Why is it worth it to keep getting up and fighting back no matter how down and dirty the forces of chaos and destruction decide to get? In times like these, you have got to be anchored to your “WHY”. Allow it to be the thing that brings you back when you find yourself working so hard to keep up with the never-ending assault on our civil and human rights.
Three ways to make your "WHY" your anchor in times of mass distraction:
1. Define and Refine your Three L’s. I love this exercise I learned it from my coach, Jlove Calderon at Move the Crowd. It’s a staple of the MTC methodology. How do you "Live, Love, and Lead"? Three statements that clarify your values and vision for your life and work. When I find myself losing sight of the big picture I come back to my 3Ls. Some days/weeks I need it to be an open tab on my laptop as a daily affirmation of why, who, and what I want to bring to the world. I look at my commitments and use my 3Ls as a litmus test to ensure that the work I’m doing aligns with what matters most to me.
2. Create a Flame Keeper Circle. These are the folks who know you at your best and know the signs when you are losing your light. This circle is who you turn to when you need to be reminded, affirmed, or held to account. They hold you up and they also keep you grounded. They might be mentors, friends, a Mastermind group of other leaders who meet monthly. Maybe you have regular check-ins via Skype or just a group text chain as long as you know you can depend on them to support you when need it most.
3. Accept that Change is a Constant. At any point, we have to be prepared for the possibility that what drives you, what feels like your purpose may one day change. Perhaps you woke up after the 2016 election and decided that your new purpose was to protect and preserve American democracy or maybe your “Why” became more radical as you realized that scientists no longer have the luxury of being agnostic when it comes to social justice. Move toward what excites you, makes you feel most charged and ready to take action. But most of all don’t be afraid to say yes, to change when she comes a knocking.
Lastly, keep telling stories. Stories are how we remember what matters.
At Create Forward we use storytelling to help our clients identify what matters most to them. In defining the moments when we feel most excited about our work and the communities we serve, we discover what we most value, we see the kernels of an irresistible vision for the future, and most of all we’re reminded of our “Why”.