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In my ongoing Learning and Support Group for executive directors of NYC nonprofit organizations (in conjunction with the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York), a recurring topic is finding and maintaining balance.

One of the reasons these organizational leaders continue to come to these group meetings is because they have come to understand that maintaining balance outside is dependent on being centered inside.

The individuals who participate in the Learning and Support Group use these monthly meetings as a time to reflect and pay attention to what is going on internally so as to develop and maintain the sense of internal centering and balance that is necessary for them to be able to effectively keep their external professional and personal lives in balance.

Finding internal centering and balance requires getting in touch with your core values and own personal life mission and vision. Your personal core values and life mission and vision serve two major purposes. They are like the two tools ancient mariners have used over centuries. They serve as both a “North Star,” or a “compass,” to keep you ever mindful of your desired direction, and where it is, as well as a steering wheel that enables you to stay on course.

Without these tools, you are left like a ship at sea on a cloudy night without a steering mechanism. You don’t know which way is North and you have no way of steering in that direction even if you did.

This is the way many organizational leaders feel at times. Without their internal sense of balance, they continue to be buffeted about by whatever may be taking place around them, rushing from crisis to crisis, putting out fires.

They find themselves in constant motion working incredibly long hours but not necessarily feeling effective in the process. What little quiet time they find, is often spent moving papers around or redrafting lists of tasks that need to be handled.

And, they often find themselves focused incessantly on concerns about financial limitations and operational issues losing sight of the big picture and the overall organizational mission and vision.

The individuals in the Learning and Support Group have found that by putting aside and taking the time once a month to step back and reflect, they are able to regain their balance and sense of perspective that enables them to be more effective in both their professional and personal lives.

Particularly in the nonprofit world, it is easy to get sucked into working non-stop because the organizational mission is compelling. Keep in mind, however, that you will not continue to be able to function and serve your organization well unless you take care of yourself as well as your organization.

And, just as important, if you lose sight of your personal core values and life mission and vision, you will eventually lose the passion that is vital to your being able to remain energized, committed, and effective.

When is the last time that you feel completely energized and passionate about your work?

When is the last time that you stopped your constant motion to sit back and reflect on what is important to you personally?

Using the Quilt of HumanityTMModel to help develop your personal core values and life mission and vision, try one or more of the following:

(1) Create of vision of what you want your piece of the Quilt of HumanityTM to look like? Who do you see yourself being as a person? How do you see yourself being?

(2) Examine the threads of your personal cloth – what are the threads of your personal core values? What are the values and beliefs that are part of the core of who you are – the values and beliefs that you need to remain true to in order to be authentic?

(3) What is your personal mission? What role do you see yourself playing in the overall Quilt of HumanityTM? Where do you want it to fit in? What do you see as your work? What part of the quilt draws your interest and commitment?