|"Soul in Our Work"|
From Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs
By Marlene Wilson
In one of the most thought-provoking books I've read lately, The Heart Aroused, David Whyte explores the vital task of recognizing that what is killing too many people at work is not so much the pace we go at but that we have removed the soul from our work. (He defines "soul" as "the indefinable essence of a person's spirit and being... It is not about functions, it is about beauty, form and memory.") He goes on to say: "While we think we are simply driving to work every morning to earn a living, the soul knows it's secretly engaged in a life-or-death struggle for its existence."
Quite honestly, that was my most compelling reason for taking a sabbatical. I sensed I was in grave danger of the soul going out of my work. Did that mean it was simply time for me to quit (25 years is a long run on any stage) or should I retire and just enjoy myself (people told me I deserved to do that)? Was there another kind of work or career out there that could rekindle the "fire in the belly" excitement I'd had for this field for so long, or was it possible to somehow fan the embers and rekindle the flame for my work in this field?...
Since many of you have told me that you, too, are feeling burned out and uncertain about your work and future (in volunteer administration, or any other career) let's take a few moments for you to explore two questions:
1. Why did I enter this profession in the first place?
2. Why have I stayed?
The answers to these two questions may lead you to the third and most critical question:
3. Do I still want to be in it?
What helped me to finally realize that I truly did want to fan the embers, blow on the coals and stay in this field is when I realized I am still totally committed to what I believe this work is all about and why I've loved it for so many years.
What do I believe our field has to give to others that is ours uniquely? To give hope! These are angry, confusing, violent times of change and transition. People feel overwhelmed and lost. Too many feel they have no control over their lives and no impact on others.
Volunteering, when it's done well, can be an antidote to people's feelings of alienation and hopelessness. When people volunteer, they experience firsthand that they can make a difference in other people's lives and especially when they join with others taking back responsibility and control of their own communities and neighborhoods. They begin to see and experience the good in themselves and others. This is democracy at its best!
Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of source, as provided: Excerpted from Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs: Insight and Inspiration from the Speeches of Marlene Wilson, © 2008, Energize, Inc. Can be purchased in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore at http://www.energizeinc.com/store/1-218-E-1.