Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Composing a Good World

I am not a new agey kind of girl. I don't own any crystals or a copy of The Secret. I am blunt and often cynical, but with a core belief system based on the hope that most people are essentially good. There are some rare and glaring exceptions to this rule that I freely acknowledge: Hilter, Stalin, Pol Pot, James Woods, kidding about James Woods, but he seems like the kind of man who would sleep with your sister and make you feel guilty about it. Anyway, back to my earlier point. I am not new agey. And yet I've found myself drawn lately to practices and ideas that the younger me would have mocked the older me for trying, younger me would have followed this up with derisive snorting and hilarious yet condescending commentary about the ridiculousness of heart chakras or phrenology.

But as I've gotten older I've realized that there is some validity to what I would have called new agey hokum in the past. I let my daily thoughts get overcrowded with a lot of negative self talk. And this drives me to be a better person and work harder, but I get tired of it too. I've been looking for a solution that would give me some power over this ingrained habit and since this is me and I'm human, I want an easy solution. Not thousands of dollars and years spent on therapy, I've done plenty of that, and now I think I might have found something that will help.

I was sitting in a keynote luncheon session yesterday, part of a two day fundraising seminar I attended this week, and found myself enormously engaged by the speaker. This is rare. Speakers at these sorts of gatherings tend to be middle aged white men in higher education or healthcare fundraising who are happy to share their expertise, which is usually significant, but their presentation formats are dry as two day old toast. A lengthy powerpoint presentation, some "clever" cartoons to elicit polite titters, some reporting metrics, a personal story or two and scene. They are informative yes, but more likely sleep inducing. Yesterday's keynote was a little more unconventional.

Marcy Heim is a mature, vivacious woman of a certain age. Decked out in the always flattering head to toe black with dramatic flowing cardigan and a neck bejewelled with enormous sparkly purple stones, Marcy commands attention immediately. She is short and round and bold. And she has had an incredibly successful career in fundraising. Before women were a significant presence in fundraising, Marcy helped pave the way for the rest of us. While her presentation was certainly beneficial and informative around the fundraising aspects of donor relationship building, Marcy's presentation was deeper and broader than that. Simply through funny and revealing personal stories, clear and well designed construction of her message and some valuable quotes, she made the biggest impact on me of anyone at the conference. She spoke about fundraising as a way to create joyful givers, the responsibility nonprofits have to be grateful recipients and took away the corporate "sell sell sell" mentality that I have often found off-putting from other fundraisers. For me, Marcy put the soul back into fundraising. She takes the dirty veneer off of people's perceptions about asking for money and made it a bright, hopeful and valuable activity. One of my favorite statements that she shared was a quote from someone else, possibly Maya Angelou, that stated, "Compose a good world, that is a noble endeavor." I loved that. But beyond the fundraising focus, Marcy talked about happiness.

She gave some clear, daily methods that she uses to be a balanced, happy, and energized person. Making gratitude a priority, tracking her to-do list and a success list, she calls her ta-da list, and then one shining thing stuck out for me in this list of methods and that is daily affirmations. I know, you're saying, well duh, those have been around for years, this Marcy woman didn't invent them or gratitude journals or any of that crap, who does she think she is, Oprah? And no, she isn't. And yes, all of these methods have existed for centuries under some name or another. But her communication style and message resonated with me at the exact time that I was searching for something different. I felt like she was speaking to me in a lot of ways. And I'm not embarrassed or silly for feeling that way. Oprah doesn't work for me, but Marcy's humble, silly and outrageous presentation in the middle of that room full of 150 money grubbing fundraisers did.

I'm going to start implementing some daily affirmations for myself. I started this morning actually. I felt like a moron. And there's that negative self talk that I was telling you about. Marcy would suggest I take back the moron comment and replace it with some specific and personal affirmation. "I am a smart and talented writer." "I will accomplish all of the goals on my to do list today." "I love my family and will not kill any of them today." "I make healthy food choices." Why does this feel so uncomfortable? As women, we are conditioned to place our selves below our spouse's and children's and employers' needs. We are conditioned to not brag about ourselves for sounding conceited or narcissistic. I want to find a comfortable low-key way to talk myself up. I am confident but I want to be more confident. I want to be a better marketer of myself for my own career goals, so first I need to sell myself on how great I am. I'm not going to just do that through daily affirmations, it needs to be through daily action, but I think working to eliminate those negative internal nags can only bring a positive change.

I feel like I go to work everyday in a effort to "compose a good world." I work with some amazing nonprofits and help them find ways to raise money, engage their volunteers and present their messages so they can continue to help people in need, educate kids, share beautiful art. And if I work hard on that good world out there, I think I deserve a good world inside too.

1 comment:

Kristendom said...

What a great post - truly (there's your affirmation for today :-). I think this is something I need to work on for myself, although it will take a lot of effort on my part to get past my snark. But maybe I'll give it a try - at least to get me through my Mondays.