You’re restless, and so am I.
In 2013, Penelope Burk surveyed more than 1,100 fundraisers and found the average time someone stayed in a fundraising position was 16 months. 16 months! And we know that it typically takes at least 10-12 months to integrate and acclimate an individual to become productive in an organization. Wow!
I do not intend to address the organizational impact of this turnover (costs, relationships, etc.) because that topic is covered extensively by others elsewhere. A.L Haggerty from the Virginia Commonwealth University presents an excellent overview in her dissertation.
What I do intend to share with you is how by being restless you can sabotage yourself. And, yes, I’m intimately familiar with this saboteur because I was restless for much of my adult life (see my story at www.DavidLangiulli.com).
In his excellent book, Positive Intelligence, Shirzad Chamine defines “Saboteurs” as: “internal enemies..,..a set of automatic and habitual mind patterns, each with its own voice, beliefs, and assumptions that work against your best interest.” In particular, Shirzad describes the “Restless Saboteur” as a mind pattern that is frequently in search of greater excitement in the next activity. It is rarely at peace or content with the present moment or situation.
One of the characteristics of the Restless is that s/he stays busy, juggling many different tasks and plans. Sound familiar? Many of the fundraising leaders I’ve observed over the years see this behavior as a strength–until it isn’t. Impatience coupled with a fear of missing out on other more worthwhile experiences (or, positions) manifests in relentless frenzy and chaos. The impact is often one of burn-out, combined with the inability to build anything sustainable or lasting. Trust me–I know. Here are some of the voices in the head you may want to aware of:
- I’m bored.
- Can’t anyone around here keep up with me?
- Ooh, that position at _______ looks exciting.
- I wonder what it would be like to live in ______?
- Wouldn’t it be cool to try________.
- These guys just don’t get it. I need to move on.
- I’m not learning anything here.
- Same old, same old.
- Really? Do I need to go through that again?
- Life is too short for this BS.
Sure, at any given time, these may very well be valid concerns. However, be careful, and be aware of your mind. If some of the above thoughts (or others with which you are more familiar) are recurring patterns, and they collude with your high achieving and success-driven nature, then it may be time to take a pause. Just at the moment when you are starting to feel a bit restless, it can be helpful to ask yourself: “Am I being restless here?”
If your Restless Saboteur is strong, another way to neutralize it is to ask yourself Byron Katie’s Four Questions:
- Is this thought true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
I’ve found these questions extraordinarily helpful in quieting my own Restless Saboteur. Even if you choose not to ask the Four Questions, I believe that if you pause and begin to ask if you’re being restless (especially around a change in employer), you’ll be in a better position to make an informed choice.