“True compassion arises from a healthy sense of self.” - Jack Kornfield
Those of us working in nonprofit organizations, trying to fulfill our lofty missions, are always stretched too thin. On top of that, we tend to congenitally feel responsible for the well-being of others. Along comes a global pandemic, and this tendency can take us to the breaking point.
We can — and must — keep body and soul together in this sustained emergency. But to do that, it’s essential to break out of old patterns of putting others’ needs before our own — no matter how big those needs are.
As Stephen Covey wrote in his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we each have a Circle of Concern. This consists of all the things we are concerned about. Talk about a big Circle of Concern: at the moment our hearts are aching over the hugeness of global suffering as the coronavirus takes a toll in our communities and all over the world.
But, except for where practically needed, this awareness is not where we need to focus all our time and energy. We must unplug from this daily news story and consciously direct our attention to our own well-being. When we focus on our own Circle of Influence — what we actually have control over — we end up enlarging and magnifying what we’re able to influence outside of our own lives.
It’s a simple but profound concept. By caring for ourselves, we’re better able to care for others. In this way we can make the difference that we so want to make in this world.
So nonprofit comrades, I know this can sound selfish to our habitually selfless selves: we need to stop taking on the world right now. In the middle of so much upheaval, more than ever we need to prioritize ourselves, our energy and well-being, our peace and our happiness. Then we can give to others, now and over the long run.
Take the time for exercise, rest, meditation, art, play, and most of all, relationships — even in the midst of this global crisis. The saying, “you can’t give from an empty cup” has never been more true. As we take care of ourselves, we become better equipped to take care of others.