At the end of last year I was stretched pretty thin with many different projects: At Civil Action Network we’ve been growing our circle of collaborators, strategizing, fundraising, revamping our website and ideating intensely over the last year. Simultaneously I’ve been getting more and more involved in the microsolidarity network, hosting a summer camp, running online practice programs, designing new course content and contributing to developing the long term vision for the network. In between all of this the core of my work is working with people: coaching changemakers and leaders through challenging decisions and supporting them to align their actions more with their values, facilitating group processes and leading trainings on skills for regenerative transformation.
With all of these projects and strands of work my deepest desire is to contribute to a radical shift in culture: away from a domination paradigm, toward a partnership paradigm; away from extraction, toward regeneration; away from urgency, toward spaciousness; away from “we should”, toward “this is us”. It is very clear for me that at this stage of my life, with everything that’s going on in the world, this is what I’m called to.
At the end of last year I had to admit to myself, that the way I was showing up to this calling was out of integrity with what it is that I was trying to do: I was constantly chasing my todo list, never quite letting go of my mental image of what needed to happen next. I was juggling with too many things at once and in the process lost enthusiasm for what I was doing. I was always tired, dragged myself through long days and frankly didn’t enjoy what I was doing (except for coaching and hosting events, somehow my work with people always brings me back). When I realized that I was burning myself out in the name of regeneration, partnership and justice (the thing that I supposedly help people to avoid) in November, I decided to take a month off over christmas and new years. This was one of the better decisions I’ve taken recently.
My time off was not very introspective. I didn’t go deep in to reflection mode about the last year nor did I set many intentions for the next. Instead I enjoyed spending time with my family, catching up with old friends and going on an epic 7 day mountain adventure with some of my favorite people. I spent a whole week at home in Vienna with out any plans, just connecting with my room mates and doing whatever I felt like. Finally I travelled to the south of spain to join some friends who are prototyping a future retreat center with a 3 month experiment. Spending time like this was the best thing I could have done. What I needed to do was to reconnect with my enthusiam, find my spark for the things that I’m doing again. I needed to not worry about what was going on in the rest of the world, not try to figure out a plan for the next year, but just be and enjoy and land on my feet again.
The big takeaway from all of this: it works! If you have to much going on, taking a break actually makes a difference. It does so in a slow, gradual way though. There is no big bang and all of a sudden inspiration hits. The body jut slowly regulates itself down, relaxes in to being rather than doing. It took me about two weeks of the four to start feeling more calm again. Then I started to notice how my mind was producing more interesting thoughts, how I had more bandwidth to pay attention to the signals my body was sending. On our mountain adventure I started getting really inspired around some of the topics I had been working with last year. And finally I couldn’t wait to get back to work and start putting in to practice some of the ideas that had surfaced.
Now it’s been 3 weeks since I started working again and I notice a fundamental difference: I don’t want to work as much anymore. Having reconnected with the beauty of life, the joy that I can experience when I’m doing the things I most love to do for their own sake, not for some higher purpose, I notice myself not having quite such an appetite for producing output, making change. And I actually think that’s a good thing. It enables me to engage the work that I do with integrity and in connection with myself, my body and the world around me. I feel like I’ve unlocked another level of “being the change” I want to see in the world and have taken another step in my development away from “grind culture”.
The moral of the story: you can overextend yourself even in the name of regeneration. And you can choose to stop doing so. Your body will recover if you let it. Enthusiasm, creativity and motivation will return. It’s okay to stumble, as long as you course correct when you notice.
If you’re experiencing similar challenges and want to get support, let me know, I’d be happy to chat!