Years ago, just before I joined the field of coaching, I was working full-time, taking night courses at my local college and online university courses, and volunteering in community groups. Life was busy – way too busy! The courses were geared towards my work in accounting (a career that wasn’t my passion), and although I loved the groups I was involved with, the amount of time I was spending in total was more than I could properly give. Not only was I suffering, so were my kids. We were never home anymore.
Changing careers to start coaching still meant schooling; I wanted to do this properly and be certified as a life coach. As much as I felt drawn to this field naturally, I knew there was still a lot to learn too. But it was different this time. Probably because this time I was learning something I was truly passionate about!
And something shifted – in me. My whole outlook on life was different. I continued with the job I had until I was in a position to leave, but the stress and toxicity of it didn’t have the same effect on me, it was a lot less.
I was moving in another direction and it felt so right!
Something else had to happen though, in order for all of this to work. The volunteer work I was doing had to be given up. I’m a very strong believer in ‘giving back’ and being an active member of the communities we live in – what would our communities be without people participating to make them what they are?
But I had to learn to let go, at least for a while, until I was in a position to be of help.
When I started my coaching full time, I left the other job (very happily I might add!) and found my way back to volunteering.
I meet such wonderful and inspiring people this way! I also discover a huge variety of groups who provide unbelievable services to others in need. Seriously, if you haven’t been involved with community groups before, take a look at what’s out there, get involved, and witness, be part of, the little miracles right in your own neighbourhood!
A break from community volunteering has happened a few times. In 2011, my world was rocked by a number of familial losses. In order to function, a lot of things had to change. And letting go of my volunteer commitments had to be one of them. But not forever.
After a couple of years, I was back again. This time I chose an organization that closely mirrored my own purpose and mission – empowering others.
I remained there until just this past month. Once again, in order to focus and give the time required on other demands, I need to step back on my commitments elsewhere. For now 😊
As vital and necessary as volunteerism is, we still need to take care of ourselves. Even if that means stepping back or stepping down until we’re in a place to help. Maybe it means a few months, maybe it’s a couple of years. Or maybe it’s saying, ‘Hey, I can help with only this much, but that’s all I can give for now.”
I don’t feel guilty anymore when I take a break. I know I need to give my focus to something else for the time being. And I know that I’ll be back, helping out somewhere, somehow.
In case you’re curious, I’ve been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, community theatre, several groups who support adults with disabilities, historical societies, Habitat for Humanity, youth in school, and groups for the elderly.
Whatever your area of interest, there is a group like that out there!
If you’re a volunteer, please share in the comments what it is you do or who you’re helping – I’d love to hear what you’re up to and your story of why you do it! You’ll be an inspiration to me and many others!