How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs helping others?

Question from Emma T: 

I work in the charity sector and I love my job and what we are working towards. However sometimes there are not enough hours in the day.

I’ve started trying to make the most of the time outside of work with micro adventures and crafting projects. I do occasionally get paid to cycle around for part of the day so it has its benefits. The charity sector is full of passionate people who work over and above but this can sometimes take it toll.

How do you strike a balance between what you want to do personally vs working/ helping others?

Answer:

Before diving in to explore work vs life balance, it’s important to understand where the question comes from for you personally. That there’s a question at all suggests something isn't working for you.

We all have to work, without it we don't get paid, can't afford rent, food and the lifestyle we choose. Deriving a sense of value from the work we do is a prerequisite that most of us consider, but how far that value takes us is a question of will. People who work in the charity sector have almost always chosen a lower wage in return for adding value to other people's lives.

Yes, there's a (good) selfish return from the feeling of helping others, but when that feeling of worth is outweighed by doubt the most obvious answer lies in a lack of balance.

There are lots of different ways to help others, and there are many charitable jobs that require people to sit in offices and never see the direct results of their contribution. At some point, for most, the appeal will wain.

Direct contact with other people and feeling the tangible impact of our work is something we all crave, Helping others can keep the fire going, but the fire is brighter when the contact is face to face rather than from afar. 

I'd always encourage folks considering a new career path to first assess ways to try and change their current role so they can be more satisfied, and at the same time make more of a positive impact from within an organisation.

When you're working in the charity sector and then start to feel like you're not enjoying yourself, there might be a great sense of guilt. After all, you're contributing to the wellbeing of others, and surely there are plenty of other people doing similar work who are satisfied with the honour of helping others? 

The simple answer to your conundrum is one you already know, that your work vs life balance isn't level.

There are many different ways to help others and your current role certainly isn't your only option. It's natural to want for a new challenge and whether it's within your current organisation or not, there's another more satisfying work option out there waiting for you. Remember, this isn't your fault - even if you enjoyed your job more in the past, we change, we need different things in time. It's not a phase, it's time. Look after yourself now, not then.

On the personal side, if you don't feel like you're doing enough for yourself, then sort that out, now! If you're not happy then it doesn't matter what your job title is, you're not going to be at your best when helping others.

You can make more difference smiling and chatting to every stranger you meet in a day than working in a refugee camp with a scowl. Our ability to help and give comes from within, and when you're forgoing self care in the pursuit of helping others, you're caught in a vicious circle between feeling and expectation.

An idea:

Find half an hour out of your day and split a page into two columns. On the left side, write THE THINGS I LIKE ABOUT WORK AND LIFE and on the right side write THE THINGS I DON'T LIKE AND NEED TO CHANGE.

Then list as many bits about your work and life as you can think of. By the time you get to the bottom of your page, you'll have plenty of things to work on, and a pretty good idea of what your ideal life looks like. Go in pursuit of that, and your work/life balance will start to look after you a little more.


Do you have a question that I might be able to help with? In 2019 I’m answering one new question a day; about adventure, lifestyle, resilience, facing up to a challenge (or a naysayer) and so on.

Even if it’s a small one, why not ask? I’d like that. Thank you!