I remember when I was back in corporate America, this voice would dig at me. It would say, "There are so many problems in the world that need your skills. You've got drive, savings and have been privileged in so many ways. Go put all of this to better use. Go do some good that will help people live better lives."
I think this pressure hit me hard for a number of reasons: I was young and single (the voice started in my late 20s) and I realized that I was craving more meaning in my career; I came to realize later that that meant more connection to people and driving change in areas I truly cared about.
But another truth I realized was I felt guilty for being so privileged. My desire to "do good" was fueled by guilt. I would ask myself, why I deserved my opportunities? Why not other people? What made me special?
But at the same point, I was SO tired and realized that pushing myself to go volunteer on a Sunday afternoon didn't actually feel good (I know, how selfish of me to not want to feel worse for doing good). So I started to question whether guilt had to be the primary driver of doing good? It didn't feel right to me. There had to be another way. It was like, how can I give when I'm burnt out? It seems to run me further into the ground.
So in order to actually start feeling like a steward in this giant world, instead of forcing myself to go do more, I looked inwards to understand why I felt the guilt and then took steps to heal it by "filling up" on stuff that felt good to me. It seems so counterproductive, but it works!
I learned that good can 100% come from guilt, but even greater good comes from acceptance, gratitude and strength which is a result of paying attention to your needs FIRST. It's the difference in being a martyr vs. giving from a proverbial "full cup!" It also allows you the insight to contribute your time to something you deeply feel connected to, which drives creativity, dedication and ultimately, change!
Do you ever feel this pressure or guilt? What do you do with it? Do you give from the remaining dwindling energy you have? Or do take steps to understand the guilt, fill up on what you need to feel your best, connect to a clear intention... and then give? I'd recommend the latter - I can say from experience that it feels much better and drives more benefit for others (win/win, huh?)! Being a little kinder to ourselves and others each day can drive exponentially more good in the world, whether it's your daily interactions with people and the earth, or taking a big step to pivot to a more meaningful career.
Here's a list of some ideas to help "fill your cup," so you can genuinely do good from a place of energy, gratitude and strength. I promise, you will start to be a kinder person, naturally, in every aspect of your life, without even thinking about it!
- Schedule no technology lunches to re-energize and fuel a more productive afternoon. You'll leave work earlier and be kinder to your loved ones (and with practice, maybe even have energy to go to the gym).
- For one week, try a 5-minute morning meditation - see if it keeps your mind clear, prevents spinning thoughts and overwhelm? If it's helpful, start integrating it into your afternoons too.
- Treat yo-self to a massage, with no guilt! Yes, you deserve it. Notice how you feel afterwards and how that influences your thoughts, actions and ultimately how you treat others.
- Turn off screens at least 1 hour before bed to increase the quality of your sleep - journal or read a book to fall asleep instead of watching TV.
- Sleep with phone away from bed so social media is not the first thing you look at in the morning (you can purchase a sunrise fancy alarm clock or a basic old school one for very little investment). This will set you up to be more inwardly when you wake up vs. immediately focused on the world.
What are you going to do this week to be a little kinder to yourself? Please share!