Personal Development: 4 Steps to Thrive, Not Just Survive

Jonathan Moody, Vice President

“The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less”

Leonardo Da Vinci

When was the last time you did something just for yourself? How about the last time you spent 12 hours without looking at your phone or email?

As a nonprofit leader or fundraiser, your mind is likely flying nonstop, strategizing about how to reach more people, raise more money, and ultimately achieve your organization’s mission. However, how often do you put that same amount of strategic thinking and planning into the other areas of your life?

The wake up call for me was during a busy season when my wife candidly told me that she felt invisible. I was so busy working to excel on behalf of my organization, that I was falling short personally, at home. As a result, I re-prioritized things and changed both my perspective and my behavior.

Below, I’ve distilled my journey of personal growth into four steps that have helped me move from frazzled to calm, focused, and fulfilled. I hope they’ll be valuable in your journey as well.

  1. Take care of yourself

Society glamorizes pulling all-nighters and “workaholism” to truly excel at work. However, I’ve found that taking a moment to pray, meditate, or even take a couple minutes to do some deep breathing in the midst of a workday helps me reemerge as a more focused and intentional executive. Another critical need of a healthy self is getting enough sleep! Don’t fall into the trap of being too busy to recharge.

Exercise at least three times per week. Whether before, during, or after work, keeping your body active will allow your mind to follow suit. And for days when you’re especially crunched on time? Here’s a five minute yoga routine you can always make time for (whether at home or on the road), and another for yoga at your desk.

Lastly, find ways to calm your mind and truly “log off.” Choose one full day to log off from e-mail and other technology, and spend some WiFi-free time with your family. Although challenging, it’s amazing how rejuvenated and productive you will feel by truly giving yourself, and your mind, a day off.

Fitting these priorities into work can be challenging (especially when traveling for donor visits), but setting aside time for rest, exercise, and thinking about something besides work, can go a long way.

  1. Know yourself

One key to life-long learning and personal growth is to spend time developing a greater understanding of “self.” For me, I have always been a fairly energetic person and felt that at times, my mind was running at an unsustainably high pace. However it wasn’t until I went through a neurofeedback program to learn more about my brain that I discovered it was in part due to  consistently high “beta” brain waves, which are connected to high energy and stress. What I learned has helped me develop habits toward calm focus.

I now proactively wrap up my work thoughts before I make it home and “assign” any unresolved thoughts to a future time, so that I can walk in the door ready to be on point with my family (and prepared to stash my phone somewhere out of sight!).

You do not need to go through a neurofeedback program, however, to learn more about yourself. Self-study can also be accomplished using assessments (and asking your closest friends for honest feedback!). Two surveys that have been helpful to me are the MCORE Motivational Blueprint assessment and the Strengths Finder assessment – both of which will leave you with a greater understanding of your strengths and potential for growth.

  1. Define what matters and set realistic goals

In the words of Stephen Covey, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” We tend to prioritize organizational goals in the office, but rarely do this for every area of our personal lives. Choose what’s important to you, develop an intentional life plan, and set realistic goals.

A helpful book for developing and implementing a proactive life plan is Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, which was recommended in our monthly Nonprofit Partner. To break down your life plan into achievable monthly, weekly, and daily goals and action items, The Full Focus Planner is a helpful resource.

  1. Build your dream team

Fundraisers spend every day recruiting donors and advocates to champion their organization’s mission. Have you thought about your own life in the same way?

Consider implementing the concept of “constellation mentoring” in your life, as referenced in Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed, by Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton.

Identify key areas in which you’d like to grow, and identify one person for each of those areas to serve as a mentor. Ask that person for a defined amount of time. For example, you could request a 30 minute conversation once per quarter regarding a specific topic, skill, or theme. Additionally, look for opportunities to serve as a mentor to someone else.

Nonprofit employees choose their profession because they want to make an impact on the world. Although changing the world is an ambitious goal, you don’t have to risk burn out or sacrifice personal fulfullment in order to achieve it.

At A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates, we know an organization is only as strong as its people. We parter with organizational leadership and staff, training them to be effective advocates for their nonprofit, while avoiding burnout. If you’d like to learn more about our wide array of training programs, visit our website or get in touch!

See you there!

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