Lost Your Sustainability Mojo? Here's How to Get it Back

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter:

Sustainability professionals do not have an easy road to travel in order to reach their goals -- there is just SO MUCH that needs to be done and never enough time, executive support, and money in the budget to implement change as quickly as is needed. While most of the time it's an exhilarating challenge, I must admit that I occasionally  lose momentum when facing a particularly daunting goal. And that's when the recent Fast Company article 4 Ways To Shed Your Slump And Get Back to Awesome comes to the rescue. 

In the article, author Gwen Moran provides four ways to rediscover your enthusiasm and get back on track- ideas developed with the help of her husband, Bill  Tierfelder, a sports psychologist.  Moran's key points are shared below followed by my reflections on what they mean for sustainability practitioners.

1. Remind Yourself Why You're Here.

 Leave  your desk for awhile and take a walk. Gaze around you and marvel at the awe-inspiring complexity of the world. Whether you are wandering around a teeming city block, or meandering near a secluded pond, take a few minutes to really appreciate and revel in the magnitude of the challenge ahead. Recognize and celebrate the fact that you have the amazing privilege of contributing to the solutions that we so desperately need.

Do you know how lucky you are?  I probably don't pause often enough to remember how lucky *I* am to have a job in such an engaging, important, challenging, complicated, inspiring, frustrating, and humbling profession.

2. Remember When You Were Trying to Prove Yourself.

Think back to when you were at the beginning of your professional sustainability journey. What were you doing those first few weeks? Who were you reaching out to? What methods were you using when trying to build enthusiasm and consensus? How were you measuring success for those first tentative steps? 

Now think back to your greatest success, and the efforts that led up to that achievement. What were the key factors that helped solidify your success? What bridges did you build in order to bring others along? What kind of project planning did you meticulously institute in order to keep it all on track?

Essentially, you need to recapture the essence of who you were and what you were doing when you had "mojo." Be as specific as you can -- and don't just look at the work aspects of your life. Maybe you were getting more sleep back then, or eating breakfast regularly. Look holistically at the circumstances in your past to determine if they helped you fire on all cylinders. 

Now, what can you do today to bring some of those things back into your life?

3. Find a coach.

I'm a huge advocate of having a formal business coach -- I meet twice a month with my coach who helps keep me on track and accountable for my choices. Even if you can't afford coaching on an ongoing basis, you will find that a few sessions can make a huge difference. A good coach will be able to spot things about you that, although they may seem obvious in retrospect, will initially blow your mind and will make you rethink certain fundamental assumptions that you've made about your career and your work...but in a wonderful, exciting way. 

Hate the idea of a coach? Consider setting up a regular meeting with a colleague or friend -- preferably someone in a similar stage of their career and with similar pressures. In addition to my coaching, I make time for a weekly meeting with the wonderful Julie Urlaub (head of Taiga Company). We're both women entrepreneurs in the sustainability space, and being able to put our heads together to share our successes and frustrations on a regular basis has brought real value and joy to my work. Over the years we've found ways to collaborate professionally as well, and knowing that she's just a Skype call away has provided great peace of mind during the inevitable tough times that crop up from time to time.

4. Celebrate your successes.

Sustainability is a tough, complicated topic -- and we are not going to solve all of the challenges overnight. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't celebrate the small achievements that we make along the way. Make a point of noticing the baby steps that you've taken each day and week. Schedule time on a monthly basis to look back and appreciate how those baby steps added up small successes. As an added bonus, when your annual performance review comes up, you'll have plenty of evidence to justify that raise!

Thanks to 2degrees for publishing the article!

Want to learn more about bringing about positive change in both yourself and your organization? Read our book review of The Dance of Change.