Running hard, but not going anywhere?

Written by Amelia Terrapin

December 8, 2021

I’m working with a group of public school teachers right now who are going through the Bold Moves course together. During our weekly discussions, they’re saying the same thing that I often hear from leaders in other fields like city government and social enterprise:

There’s so much to do.
We have to say yes to everything.
We need to be more productive to keep up with all the things we’ve said yes to.

In other words, they feel like this:

The leaders we work with, including this group of teachers, are naturally wired to serve and contribute meaningfully via their work. They want to make progress, improve, and change the lives of the people they serve. Running hard but feeling like they’re not moving forward is deeply frustrating and demoralizing.

This uncomfortable feeling of not moving forward comes from two things:

  • losing clarity and alignment with your purpose not moving in the direction of your shared purpose
  • not managing boundaries (having to say YES to everything… in other words being in a culture where you feel like you can’t say no)

Often we seek to get out of the discomfort by trying to be more productive (“If we could just run faster…”).  

But you can’t do everything. Saying yes to everything dilutes your power and capacity to do the things that are actually the most important. The antidote is not more productivity!

The antidote is two simple yet powerful steps… to connect to your purpose and manage boundaries:

Does the way you spend your time and energy align with heart of your organization’s purpose?

What boundaries need to be set to align more clearly with your purpose? 

Boundaries can look like clarifying roles, creating or eliminating processes, or reallocating time and other resources. When your boundaries are aligned with your purpose, you will feel the rush of forward movement as you advance towards your goal. 

  • Is there a conversation you could have this week to clarify your team’s shared purpose? 
  • How could you manage your boundaries or your team’s boundaries in a way that supports and amplifies your reason for doing what you do?

Set those boundaries!

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