Today is part four of Wise Living’s series on Slog vs. Leap Challenges. If you didn’t read the previous posts, click here to get oriented to slogs and leaps, and to what this series is all about.
Today, you’ll hear from writer Ali Hale about her slog and leap challenges, and what’s she’s learned about what supports her in making leaps.
Ali writes fabulous blog Aliventures and also writes professionally for many other popular blogs. In my opinion, she writes some of the most interesting personal growth articles online.
One of the things that struck me about her reflection below is that even a lightweight, volunteer commitment can become a slog if its not the right fit — that we have the opportunity to choose leaps, not just in our careers and relationships, but in how we spend our time.
Slogging or Leaping Forwards?
by Ali Hale
A couple of months ago, Tara wrote a piece for The Change Blog, Are You Choosing the Right Challenges? It really grabbed my attention — because I’ve been guilty, time and time again, of going for slog challenges. I talk myself into doing the “sensible” thing or one which I think will be a “good learning experience” … and all too often, all I learn is that I wish I’d never taken it on in the first place.
The September before last, I had an “uh-oh” moment. I’d realised that, after a year’s membership of my church, I was eligible to be nominated as an Elder — one of a group of 12 men and women who look after visiting ministers, make decisions about budget and so on, and generally keep everything running smoothly.
I duly was nominated, and I had to decide whether or not I was willing to stand for election. I’d just left my full-time job to start a part-time Creative Writing MA, and to freelance on the side. Six months earlier, it’d have been an easy decision: I simply didn’t have the time. Now, I figured I had plenty of free time. Surely I could slot in a bit of extra work. I’d learn something useful from being on a committee. And, above all, I felt needed. The church had been struggling on with half the usual number of Elders, due to a lack of people standing at the last election. I was the youngest nominee, aged 25, and still quite new to the church. I was flattered that people thought I’d do a good job.
There was definitely an element of excitement too, especially to begin with, but I ended up focusing on practicalities rather than long-term vision. I found myself resenting the time spent on various duties — especially when I somehow ended up volunteering to be the secretary for the group, taking minutes every meeting (which I hate doing!)
In retrospect, I made the wrong decision. The church is a lovely, welcoming place and the other Elders are great people, and I’ve been pleased to be part of the group — but all too often I’ve been slogging forwards without my heart in it.
In a month, my fiancé and I are moving from where we currently live in London to be near my family in Oxford. We’ll be going back to the church I went to as a child, and I’m already mentally preparing myself to gently but firmly turn down requests to get involved — unless it’s something I really do want to be part of. For instance, I’ll gladly help with the annual kids’ Holiday Club — there’s a great vibe and lots of fun being with the children — but I’m definitely avoiding taking minutes for anything, full stop!
It sounds a bit corny, but I think that the definition of a leap challenge is that it makes your heart leap — not sink. I’ve had several leap challenges over the past couple of years, including taking my creative writing MA — which I’ve absolutely loved — and growing my small business.
So what does it feel like? Well, with the creative writing MA, I’ve worked really hard. I’ve written a whole novel while studying: drafting, then redrafting extensively, and now I’m digging back in for the third draft. If someone had told me two years ago how much work I was going to do, I’d probably have thought twice about taking the course! But actually, I’m really enjoying myself.
My heart and mind are both engaged, and I feel like I have an abundance of energy for my writing. I’ve been quite heavily involved with extra-curricular aspects of the course: I convene a small group of fellow students, meeting most weeks to workshop one another’s writing.
I have to keep reminding myself that it’s good to be doing this. There’s part of me which worries that it’s very self-indulgent to spend so much time writing a novel which may never get published. I often feel that I should be focusing more on my business (which is also a leap challenge!) because my business activities make money.
I feel as though I’ve taken on too many slog challenges in my life. My first job, for instance, which I struggled on with for nearly two years — I knew right from the day I applied that it wasn’t really “me” and that I didn’t feel passionate about it.
I want to take longer making decisions in future. I want to trust how I feel, and go for the challenges which excite me and which bring me alive. For one thing, I do much better at them, with the energy to keep going forwards despite any difficulties or discouragements. They help me grow as a person. But more importantly, I enjoy them!
Ali Hale blogs about getting more from life over at her blog Aliventures, and about productivity with perspective on Constructively Productive, which she runs jointly with Thursday Bram.