Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / How to take a stand without losing yourself

Marjorie Spitz Rento1 Comment

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I recently surprised myself by getting deeply involved with two local issues in our Montauk community.  Surprised because I tend to be a Zen, c’mon-let’s-all-get-along type of gal instead of the protester type.  I was both energized by the commitment of my compadres aligned for the causes, and deflated by the endless path of nonsensical data clouding the issues and coinciding potential government corruption.

On the one hand we were protesting, getting visibility, filling Town Hall meetings!  On the other, the powers that be were essentially giving us lip service and caving to political pressure to go through with a project that makes no sense, the community doesn’t want and is actually even illegal.

It’s a cold-air-in-the-face moment when you implore those in charge to just do what’s right and they put up the hand.  Isn’t the princess always supposed to get the prince?

Then this week I took lead on a second issue that directly impacts the character of the neighborhood we live.  It involves educating myself and co-op neighbors, and corralling many to get actively engaged. 

Tonight I will speak at a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting for that issue, and tomorrow I will appear in court among my peers for the other. 

Being an activist is a full time job and it takes a thick skin!  I am confident we are making a difference, even though the outcomes may disappoint.  Where I am not so confident is my ability to remain passionately involved without losing myself.   How much is enough, and how do I stay involved without allowing it to take over my life?

For example, this morning is an important meeting with County Officials.  But the drive an hour, and research and communication around the aforementioned activities already consuming a significant amount of time. Let’s also not forget my responsibilities to my clients, day-to-day work, travel, family and friends, and important self-care to fit in.  

I’m forced to ask tough questions:  How much can I give and where do I draw the line?

I made the difficult decision to skip this morning’s meeting and focus on dedicating myself to what I’ve already committed.  Life is a balancing act and we all have decisions to make. 

Given my background running Account Management in Advertising Agencies, and as Executive Director at non-profits, it’s in my core being to step in and take over.  I enjoy it and I’m good at it.  But I’ve learned not to make it about me, and be self-aware enough to recognize when I’ve headed too far down a black hole.

The signs are obvious.  Interrupted sleep.  Feeling bad about not participating in everything.  Spending the majority of my time consumed with “it” (whatever “it” may be) and not prioritizing things that serve me long term.

But here’s the thing:  With proper planning, confidence and focus, I CAN choose to support my passions without piling it on too thick.  I can stand up for what I believe in without losing myself!  I just need to set boundaries.   

Easier said than done, right?  Well, planning is critical.

Thus, if you’re encountering a time where your attention divided, say with the holidays coming up, let’s pinpoint how to manage life without draining yourself and sidetracking what’s important.

First, get out your calendar and input the following activities and make them non-negotiable:

Self-care:  Mark down when you will exercise, take a relaxing bath, hang with someone you love, make yourself a home cooked meal, indulge in a treat, meditate, sleep – however self-care is defined for YOU.  Stick to those commitments no matter what – if you aren’t a healthy, thriving being, then frankly what use are you to anything else?

Love:  In even the busiest of times, there’s always the opportunity to say, “I love you.”  Make a point of saying that to those you may be not able to give as much attention as you would like, or may feel neglected.  That includes you.

Now that the non-negotiable outlined, what are the “must do” priorities?  For example, work, help with your kid’s homework, tend to any committee or board promises, etc.  Write those down.  Which can be delegated and which need your direct attention?  Highlight each, and take action.

With self-care tactics set as non-negotiable, and the must-dos outlined, consider what else you want to take on.  Something you might tend to get too lost in, or can invade what you’ve prioritized. It could be a local or national cause, volunteerism, an art project, or a class.   These are still “must dos” for you because you’re passionate about them, so let’s figure out how to fit them in! 

Once outlined, it’s important to communicate to those around you so they can be supportive and help keep you on task.  MOJO Maker™ #12:  Surround yourself with a supportive circle.  They will be thrilled you thought to include them in your plan, and likely more compassionate when you are forced to make a difficult decision. 

Life is a learning process, and we’re constantly learning about ourselves.  Today being “Giving Tuesday,” perhaps all you can give is a small donation to a cause you believe in.  Or perhaps you can go down to a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting and plead a case for something you believe in.  Whatever it is, it is enough.  Get comfortable with that. 

There may be times you feel tempted to follow your heart at the expense of what you’ve prioritize.  Be aware of the cost and be kind to yourself by acknowledging what you do give, rather than allowing your saboteur to tell you you’re falling short.  

Taking a stand feels powerful.  Now go do so, with yourself fully intact! 

With love and support, 

Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™