Why Persistence Beats Enthusiasm
Today’s guest blog is by Amanda Salapong. Amanda recently graduated from the University of California, Merced, and decided to spend her time before graduate school actively developing as a global citizen. She moved from Los Angeles to Miami to start serving with City Year Miami, where she has been serving for the past eight months. Amanda hopes to continue with another year of service and a career in the nonprofit sector.
I started my service with City Year full of excitement and motivation. I was ready to change the world in just 10 months. When I got to the midpoint of my service, however, I realized I had been sprinting to the finish line of a marathon. By mile thirteen, I was ready for a new pair of shoes and a Powerbar.
I was not ready for the realities of the tough road before me. My enthusiasm was worn down by long hours, limited achievements, and the hard environment I now called home. I had realized the true power and limits of my idealism and the breakthroughs I could make in 10 months. Spirit alone can wear thin though after the draining (emotional, physical, and mental) experience AmeriCorps service can be.
With the new year at hand, I aimed to support my idealism with tangible actions to get reenergized and inspired. There were five things I set out to do.
1. Think of The Big Picture: I was lost in the numbers. I had forgotten all the minutes with my students weren’t supposed to add up to a certain number, but to a real difference. I reminded myself of the greater purpose of my work so I could feel the spirit and enthusiasm I did at the beginning of my service. I wrote a mission statement for the service I hoped to achieve in life, not just with City Year. I regularly reminded myself of that goal to keep me grounded in the big picture.
2. Support Your Team: My team was facing the same problems I was. My motivational problems were magnified when the whole team came together discouraged and tired. I needed to give my team the support they needed from me, so they could in turn support me. In this case karma was a good rule of thumb: do onto others as you’d have them do onto you.
3. Prioritize: I am working with limited resources, which includes my time and energy. I have to limit all the things I say yes to, so I can properly support the projects I am working on. Stretching myself thin would only make me ineffective in other projects.
4. Seek to Be Creative: I decided not to do the same things I did in the first half of my service if I didn’t enjoy it, or if it wasn’t getting me the outcomes I wanted. I sought creative solutions to my work, adding a little spice and excitement on my trek to the finish line. This made things a lot more fun and more effective. My work stopped being work and became of an expression of my idealism and creativity.
5. Celebrate Daily Triumphs. Documenting daily triumphs in a journal gave me something positive I could reflect on to see the difference I was making day by day. I stayed motivated and focused by recognizing my daily wins and working on what I could immediately control. Expecting to change a large system in mere months would lead even the most capable leader to be wrought with feelings of inadequacy. Setting little goals for myself each day, like having a two-minute conversation with a student I don’t usually talk to, made it easier to feel accomplished. It also helped build the foundation for the greater goals I had.
By the end of the month I had accumulated dozens of daily triumphs, was working with a more collaborative team, and felt more consistently inspired than at any other point of my service. My idealism, which had been severely bruised since the start of my service, came back as I become more purposeful with my actions. I also discovered another way to stay idealistic. Share your story.
Talking to others about your struggles is cathartic, sharing your passion is infectious, and laughing with others is simply fun. Being purposeful and persistent has been the greatest inspiration during my service, and I know it will sustain me in the months to come.