The Weight of Being a Change Agent
Published on August 19, 2018
VP, Head of Emerging Business Global Customer Unit
I have been blessed at many points in my career to combine my passion to create positive change in the world with my professional life. One of my deepest passion projects involved creating a platform to connect smallholder farmers, in the poorest parts of the world, with access to capital. When I went to the farms and saw how lives could be transformed by the work I was doing, it became a personal burning imperative. It was only one of the many “tasks” I had at work, but it knew it had to be done. This meant that I would work after hours, weekends, even spending weeks at a time in Africa, away from my family. I kept feeling that if I just worked harder, I could Get It Done. Only then would I be “allowed” to take a break. I keep going in a way that was not sustainable. I started to suffer from burnout.
When a project connects to something you desperately believe in, it’s hard to get some distance.
Many times, being a Catalyst (change agent, innovator, intrapreneur) can be filled with light and energy. You create new things. You hold a positive vision of the future or how things can be done. People around you get excited and inspired. You know what needs to be done and you do it!
Having a sense of purpose and vision can be a gift. But it can also be an albatross. The work is the mission. Time or energy taken away from achieving that goal can feel like stealing resources away from accomplishing our goals. Startup founders know this. Every ounce of energy not spent in service of the company, every dime not committed to the mission, feels like it diminishes the likelihood of success.
Catalysts often feel the same way because they are so often driven by a deep sense of creating positive impact in the world. “This issue is so critical to the world; how can I not spend every drop of energy on fixing it!?” All our time must be in service of the vision. At the expense of ourselves.
If you don’t refuel cars they can’t get you to the destination. We know we need to fuel our bodies to survive. Our mental and emotional well-being needs time for recharging. Americans in particular suffer from the over-work syndrome. And it’s not doing any of us, but particularly catalysts, any favors. We know this. Science confirms what we know.
Downtime isn’t “slacking.” It’s literally reinvesting in our success. Hopefully it’s fun! We can get a sense of things bigger than us. We reconnect with our purpose. And all of this actually increases our ability to succeed as catalysts.
Reinvesting in yourself doesn’t have to be big. It can start with any number of small recharges:
- setting an alarm in your calendar a few times a day to step away from the computer and go for a walk,
- introducing breathing exercises to kick off your team meetings,
- enjoying every morsel of food without distraction and being fully present for the experience.
Sometimes though, you’re at a place in your journey when you (and your work!) could benefit from a bigger commitment to rejuvenation. I have been there many times. While it can feel selfish to “indulge” in time away…it’s actually an amazing way to supercharge your ability to materialize your calling.
That’s why I partnered with the amazing Tracey Lovejoy to create Catalyst Constellations retreats. This tribe of catalysts can benefit from taking a weekend away to (re)establish mindfulness practices, surrounded by a highly-curated of peers who understand what it means to be a catalyst. We have seen the profound impact that this has had in recharging the individuals and supercharging what they are creating. You can hear from the participants themselves about the powerful gift of the retreat.
If this sounds familiar and you feel like you and your work could benefit from a Catalyst Constellations retreat, please contact us.