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  • Rachel Ireland

You’re Already Doing Enough

This came from a conversation I was having recently about the voluntary sector community I love being part of, and how you keep seeing the same people popping up at lots of different events; one day they’ll be running their organisation, that evening they’ll be volunteering somewhere else, you might see them at the weekend helping to run a community event.

There are those people who just can’t help helping; it’s who they are.

Whilst we might not all do quite that much, here are some quick thoughts on how you’re probably already making a positive difference in the world and not giving yourself credit for it.

I’ll start with what I’ve been thinking about lately, which is that often, when someone goes through a life-changing experience, for example a breakdown, bereavement, prison sentence, addiction, or illness, they feel a sense of duty to help other people in the same situation; they feel called to take action.

These people become advocates, volunteers & activists – in short, they change the world.

It’s true that some of the biggest and most successful charities were borne out of that exact situation. From that place of pain or injustice. It’s a wonderful thing to see. It’s inspirational.

And even on a local level, the people that I’ve enjoyed working with the most, where I’ve loved seeing their process, admired watching them turn pain into action have included the founders of an ADHD support group, a foundation supporting teenage cancer, a charity delivering activities for carers, music for people with dementia, the list goes on.

If that’s what you feel called to do, go for it. I’ll be cheering you on.

The people who are at that stage are those who I’ve created the workbooks for and I can even take your hand and lead you step by step through the process.

If that’s where you are and you need some help deciding which direction to go in, please feel free to book a call with me.

I’d love to hear your idea, but only when you’re ready, and only if that’s the right path for you.

But also know that you don’t have to do any of that – you don’t have to do it just yet, and you don’t have to do it at all.

A couple of years ago I stopped drinking, and because I felt so grateful for all the help I’d had through the support groups, and I’d met so many lovely and inspirational people along the way, I had this overwhelming need to give something back. I decided I was going to set up my own support group, put on regular activities, write a book, re-train in counselling. In other words, I got a bit carried away with it all, and what happened during that time was that I forgot to look after myself. I forgot why I was doing it in the first place, which was to help my own mental health and to have more time and energy for my family.

So, before you make the leap, it can help to just check in…

Is this really my purpose or is it a distraction?

I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about that one small part of my journey. To me it would have felt like dwelling on it, and for my own wellbeing I needed to move past it and get on with my life.

One of my workshops, where we talk about the different structures of not-for-profit organisations and how to pick the right one, always results in some friendly (ish) debate amongst the audience members. I usually end up refereeing an argument about why a charity is better than a CIC or something like that. And I have to laugh because, and I tell them this, it’s so easy to get caught up in the detail, the legal stuff, the processes, but you’re missing the point.

Instead, let’s focus on asking ourselves:

‘What am I actually trying to do here?’

Once we know that then we can just start.

Just do something.

Before you fill in the forms to set up a community group that picks up litter, pick up the litter.

Before you start another dementia choir, go along to one that already exists and give some of your time.

Then, as your idea grows, you can ask:

‘What, exactly, do I need in order to achieve this?’

Because it’s probably not a huge organisation, a team of staff, thousands of pounds. My guess is that in most cases it’s something a lot more realistic, like one afternoon per week, a DBS check, a small grant, an opportunity to speak at an event, a small group of friends to help out, an advert in a local newsletter.

But I know what it feels like to have that niggling feeling that you’re not doing enough, or that you could be doing more.

One way to think about this is to ask and reflect on:

‘How do I spend my time?’

What do you do on a daily basis that helps others.

This could be in your job – do your skills and experience help the company you work for to keep going? Do you make things and sell them to people who love and appreciate them? Do you work in a caring or nurturing role, like in a care home, hospital or school?

It could be in your interactions – I go for a walk along the canal path with the dog once a week because it’s much busier than where I usually walk. I go there deliberately because I end up saying ‘good morning’ many times in that short period, and often bumping into someone I know and having a quick chat. A simple ‘good morning’ makes both you and someone else smile. Don’t underestimate the power of that.

It could be with your family – do you prepare a meal and all sit together? Do you ask each other about your day? We’ve started something at the dinner table that I got from Dr Chatterjee where we go round the table and ask each other ‘what was the best part of your day?’

It could be in your community - my mum is on a cleaning rota at her church. My friend reads to people in the hospital. My neighbour swept up all the leaves in the communal area the other week.

Stand up for what you believe in, advocate for change, start a movement.

But on the days when you’re tired and unmotivated, or if your priority right now needs to be self-care, remember…

You’re already doing enough.

As the wonderful quote from Mother Teresa goes:

Do small things with great love – Mother Teresa

You can find more details about workshops, courses & mentoring here on the website.

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