When I reflect on my work, I realize that I talk a lot about making decisions based on values. The topic always prompts interesting discussions, unpacking so many related questions:
- What are my core values?
- Do the people I work with (and for) know those values? Do they share them?
- Does what I do align with what I say, even during challenging times? Especially during challenging times?
- How do I respond when I’m expected to act in a way that conflicts with my values?
… and the more we talk, the more questions arise. That discussion always feels good to me because it’s truly a learning experience; it’s authentic and it’s relevant and it’s thought provoking. In those moments, as a listener, a learner, and as a leader, I feel like I’m doing my best work because it’s helpful and because it’s challenging, as growth often is.
As expected during a pandemic, my workload is lighter than usual this summer. Add in a holiday weekend, and this week was really, really slow. I have to admit that I struggled with feeling unproductive, even “unnecessary” professionally — and I do not like that feeling. Yet, I didn’t take this downtime to learn to speak Mandarin or write a book or teach my dog sign language; I just sort of sat with my feelings and watched a lot of Netflix.
In a moment of clarity, I took the advice I often give others and decided to focus on what I did accomplish, rather than dwell on that unproductive feeling. I made an actual list, noting that I successfully:
- Created a template for my 17YO daughter to draft her first resume
- Located a budget template for a colleague who is working on a grant
- Answered a few pandemic-related questions for child care center owners, sharing insight I’ve learned from other stakeholders
- Offered advice to a friend who shared her mixed feelings about a job offer and needed to “talk it though”
- Forwarded new guidance documents to a colleague who is working on reopening her summer camp program
- Created a quick video tip for the audience of a volunteer committee that I chair
- Scheduled coffee with a friend who seems to need a listening ear
- Babysat my 3YO niece for a few hours so her dad could go to a doctor’s appointment
Admittedly, this list isn’t very long and at the surface, it’s kind of lame — in a busy week, this probably would have been one day’s to-do list. However, writing (and reading) this list reminded me of something really important: I am at my best when I am helping others. With that in mind, I realized that every item on this list beautifully aligns with my values.
… and for now, amidst this pandemic, during this stressful and uncertain time, that is enough.