My latest posting for the ACHA blog explores my propensity to over-commit myself to volunteer activities and offers some tips on how to prioritize. (I think I need to learn to follow my own advice at times.) It was published this past Tuesday (May 29, 2012).
I consider myself very fortunate to be an adult with a CHD who generally does not have to think about or actively manage his condition on a day-to-day basis. While I’m certainly always aware of it, my personal experience with CHD has been much less traumatic or severe than many of my peers. In part because of this, I feel it is especially important for me to be more involved in the cause. And it has led me to become an active volunteer with ACHA: as a blogger, as an advocate, and now as a runner (which has included being involved in helping to create ACHA’s very first endurance event team—the Captain Cardio’s Pace Makers—to raise awareness for the cause and money for ACHA).
As my family and friends know quite well, I like to get involved in a variety of things. But I often seem to find myself walking that fine line between being actively and productively engaged and being overwhelmed. In addition to my volunteer work with ACHA, I sing in two community choirs, am the treasurer of my condo association, serve on the wellness committee at work, and participate in a local young professionals’ group. Oh yeah, and I also have that little thing called a full-time job.
I was recently telling a friend of mine that, by getting more involved with ACHA and its work for the CHD community these past few months, I feel like I have really found my cause, in part, because, well, it is my cause. Over the years I have gotten involved with and donated to different organizations in support of a variety of worthy causes, from LGBT rights and bullying prevention to cancer care and HIV/AIDS service organizations. While I certainly have a direct or indirect connection to each of these other causes, something about being involved in the CHD community feels a little closer to my heart (no pun intended).
The challenge for me, now, is figuring out how I can be the most effective advocate for the cause in a way that allows me to stay actively engaged and enthusiastic about it without over committing myself. Now don’t get me wrong! I enjoy everything that I’m doing and oftentimes wish I could be doing even more (whether it’s for CHD awareness or any of the other causes I support). But I know that crossing that line to the point of being overwhelmed and ineffective is not beneficial to anyone.
Here are just a few general “rules” or tips that I try to keep in mind when it comes to my volunteer activities. However, I’m usually better at giving advice than taking it—even when it’s my own advice:
1) Do what makes you happy. There are a lot of great organizations out there that are doing important work for a huge number of causes. Find your passion or passions and focus the bulk of your efforts on a limited number (1–3 perhaps) in order to have the greatest impact. And don’t worry if your passions or interests change from time to time. That’s just a part of life.
2) Do what you can. Your best is all anyone can ask of you. Don’t compare yourself to others or feel like you’re not doing enough just because someone else may be doing more than you are.
3) Learn to say “no.” (Truth be told, I’m still working on this one myself.) If you know you can’t—or don’t want to—do something, simply say “no.” If you need to step away from something that you are currently doing, find the best way to make the most gracious and least disruptive exit that you can. (Note: This is not intended as a way to back out of every little thing you may not want to do. Rather, it’s meant as a reminder to be realistic about what you can and cannot realistically commit yourself to.)
So what’s important to you?