Seven months ago, I relocated to Oberlin, Ohio, with the intention of making The Empower Excellence Experience: Personal Sustainability a reality. As an experienced entrepreneur, I knew that it would not happen overnight. The move was first on the priority list, and it was a successful move. Getting acclimated to the community was next, and I did not get to do all I wanted to do in that respect, but I have plenty of time to continue that. My next step was to get involved with the Oberlin Business Partnership, the equivalent of a local Chamber of Commerce/Main Street. It was my way to learn the business community in one way, and I did. I was tapped to help with a new major project by the Executive Director about two months after my move. I had the ability to create blocks of volunteerism, and I did. I learned a lot about the dedication of the Executive Director. I made great strides towards the launch of the project, but I learned that the timing for me was not to the advantage of the Executive Director. She was ambitious and took on a lot of projects, but there was no management path for me as a volunteer. My time was dwindling as the Summer moved on, and my business was gelling in the new format. Now the time of the Executive Director was pressured because the project was only a little over a month off at the time, and my time was gone! The discussion occurred earlier in the Summer that she appeared to be overwhelmed. Initiatives I had taken were left unfinished on her end as the Director. And then she became ill and was not working from the Oberlin location. But no one bothered to tell me. One of the major initiatives at the beginning came alive, and I was trying to reach her so that she could take advantage of it, but she was not available. She was out ill. Being overwhelmed leads to illness. Period.
It was at this time that, because of my business commitments, I could not even attend the event. My calendar was full with no more time for meetings. The responsibility was mine to be honest and let the other volunteers take this on without me, and that was what I did. The email to the Executive Director was brief and to the point: my business and family had to come first. No response. More requests for my time followed, so I asked the question if she had received my letter withdrawing from the project. She “thought” I was only unavailable for that day. So I clarified, and there was no further response. There was a small thank you, and that was it.
Do I have regrets about any of this? Will this hurt me and my business in my new community? “No” is the answer to both questions. It will hurt me only if I allow it to hurt me.
This experience was not for the faint of heart. I became involved early and learned early on what I wanted from living in Oberlin. My active participation in the business community, my historical pattern of involvement, has changed. This is small town, and I love it. However, I am looking for balance. I have had a lifelong history of volunteerism, as a leader and a follower. I do not need that for my personal satisfaction or credentials. I am still involved in other ways in the community; that will continue. I have a role that will fit in with my life not with the needs of the others and their organizations. I am not the paid employee; I do want and need clear management as a volunteer, and I have the experience to discern when that management and leadership is missing. I know who I am. Period.
So what does this have to do with Sustainability? Everything. Know who you are and what it takes to create and maintain Sustainability in your life. Accept no less than that. When it is not working, whether it is volunteerism or other areas of your life, change it. And change it quickly. Your life and your time are precious. Put your ego aside, admit that something is not working, and move on in a path correction mode. One sure sign that a correction needs to occur is when you are feeling overwhelmed. That is not being sustainable and will lead to failure of whatever progress you may have made in your life. You will become distracted, you will eat poorly, you will begin to neglect what is yours to protect, and you will find fatigue in your thinking, in your sleeping, and in your health. Take the time to look at the situation and listen to your heart and your head: you will know what you need to do, and it is up to you to do it! So, in the words of Nike, “Just do it!”