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February 13, 2007

Playing With Fire

THIS POST is as much for me as it is for anyone else. You see, I'm a hardcore idealist and also a slightly driven person. That leaves me at high risk of activist burnout. Having experienced work-related burnout in the not-so-distant past (confession: I think I'm still a bit singed around the edges because I'm definitely not performing at anywhere near my pre-burnout productivity level), I definitely don't want to end up heading into the activist burnout zone. I mean changing the world should be a positive, life-affirming experience -- not something that makes you want to beat your head against the wall, right?

Okay -- I'm willing to beat my head against the wall (gently) on the odd occasion. After all, I'm not working for change in Utopia. But a new friend wisely flagged the risks of burnout for me a week or two ago, when I was feeling discouraged by the less-than-noble behavior that some people exhibit when they are working for supposedly noble causes. I was feeling frustrated, disillusioned, angry, upset. He gently pointed out that it's possible to work for change on a part-time basis: that wanting to combat injustice doesn't have to take over your entire brain or become an obsession.

Here's the thing. I have this problem with moderation. To put it bluntly, I suck at it. But I'm going to have to get better at it if I want to have the energy and motivation and creative drive to work for change over the long haul. After all, I don't think the battle for social justice is going to be won in a day a week a year or even my lifetime. If I want to have the energy to further the cause and pass the torch to the next generation while I'm here to make a difference, I have to budget my energy for a marathon, not a sprint event.

The Wise Turtle's Remedy for Activist Burnout
Working with Activist Burnout
Avoiding Burnout
Sustainable Activism
Duluth Public Policy Alliance: Burnout -- Treating the Symptoms


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this spoke to me in volumes. thank you. happy to have you at our roundtable. very happy.

Wise words from a wise woman.

I hear you on the go at whatever you're passionate about full-tilt, burn out be damned stuff, but I'm glad you have the courage and conviction to actively fight for change.

Hi Ann,
I'm here via Andrea.

Yup, I hear you on this one. I ran a theatre festival on a volunteer basis up until a few months ago. It took every second of my spare time and then when I had a kid and I felt that the other organizers just didn't get my situation, I snapped. Unfortunatly, I was still committed to the org and spent the next 3 months working from a place of misery.

I vowed it would be a while before I got all fired up about a cause. My blogging became a more consistent hobby and now, BLAM, I am doing this Just Post thing and while it is all very rewarding I can't help but think: moderation, moderation, moderation.

This is a tough one. I struggle with it all the time, especially as I sit in Yet Another Useless Staff Meeting where we all discuss in great detail how absolutely useless 90% of our work is, and yet how legally inescapable. It's so hard and frustrating to throw your passion into something and see it rebound into your face over and over.

And I wish I had an answer, but sadly, I too keep throwing myself wholeheartedly into things and then being disappointed when it doesn't lead to Grand, Sweeping Change by Tuesday Next. making this officially the Most Useless Blog Comment Ever, Plus the One with Most Random Capitalizations.

I tell myself that I feel better about myself and the world trying to make a change and failing, than I would if I didn't try. And it's true. I think.

Thanks, Wayne! And thanks for the great advice. :-)

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