Get Outside of Your Box – A Reflection on Work with the Leading Change Network

This summer I was lucky enough to be in Boston at the same time as the Leading Change Network’s First-Annual Conference. It was an amazing event where folks trained in the Ganz Organizing Method came together to share how they were practicing organizing in our individual contexts. One of the attendees was Chris Torres. Chris works with New Organizing Institute (NOI), he’s great. During his presentation on NOI he passed on one of his mantras. “Every day do something that nourishes your body, mind and soul.”

I loved it. At least the sound of it … putting it into practice was a challenge. Work just gets in the way: the deadline is “crucial,” a favor “necessary,” a coaching assignment “vital” for the health of the team … you know the story. I end up forgoing holistic care, especially the ‘mind’ part of that quote. I would imagine many of us fall into the same trap.

Why? I think it’s because we work our minds all the time. Daily we tax our brains: we crunch numbers, draft agendas, dream up strategy … but the mantra isn’t “work your mind, body and soul” it’s NOURISH your mind, body and soul. For me, this means I have to ‘get out of my box’ and use my brain in a way that I don’t during normal work hours.

Take last Wednesady, I had just been on a 2 hour board call and I was done! The bad news is that I still had to do some prep work for a recruitment meeting for Be the Change before my day similarly done … what to do? My typical response would be to push through but I knew that wouldn’t work. Instead, I took 30 minutes to engage my mind in a totally different manner – studying Kiswahili. It was great, I think I practiced verbs and vocabulary. I wasn’t thrilled about closing the book when my 30 minutes were up and it was time to prep but I was SO much more energized.

For me, that energy comes when I get outside of my box, my mental routine, and challenge myself to think in a way other than my typical 9-5 responsibilities. Gardner says there are nine types of intelligence. Challenge yourself to engage another part of your brain this week. The Tatua Kenya Team attempts to spend 10% of our weekly work hours giving back to our minds. So far, we’ve yet to have a staff meeting where we’ve all taken part in the weekly allotment … but we’re getting there and even with imperfect participation we’re noticing that this exercise keeps us energized and builds up our capacity in ways that just “pushing through” could never do.

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