For many of us a “normal day” would include performing that day’s tasks with clear objectives and a well-defined path forward/strategy/action plan while possessing a mindset and capacity to get it done.
Our preferred emotional state is driven by positive thinking and satisfaction as we complete our tasks without undue stress.
Depending upon the complexity of the task we may encounter difficult challenges and roadblocks along the way. The bigger the challenges and roadblocks the more we are required to stretch our capacity. On the emotional front our positive state may begin to wane. Up the ante even more in the complexity and depth of our challenges and perhaps self-doubt appears with the possibility of despair.
Have you had those experiences before? Can you see yourself at this place emotionally? Now, as you are reflecting on how this would feel, imagine for a moment that the objective/task you are trying to solve is to address one of the more challenging global health issues, while at the same time living in a completely new country to what you call your own. Let’s even say it is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. You are living there for three months, mostly disconnected from your everyday comforts in addition to friends and family. Welcome to the YouSocial Volunteer’s experience!
Living in India and volunteering to design a “Life Skills, Sexual Education and Family Planning Program” has taken me through these three emotional states. One day during a moment of self-reflection I drew a chart to describe my Emotional Journey, which had me cycling through stages:
1. Excitement – to be in India to help, and deeply curious to learn
2. Sadness – by the depth and complexity of the issues and challenges facing Indians
3. Encouraged – with the belief that I (we) can make a difference
When I first arrived in India, I was EXCITED to learn about a lot of things—from understanding the people and diversity of their culture to how people live (and survive) when faced with some of the harshest conditions yet remain extremely pleasant and happy. I yearned to better understand what are the challenges facing our project, and can we help make a difference. I have spent a lot of time observing and interacting with the people of India. From a project perspective, I keep “peeling back the onion” trying to understand more deeply the issues and how could we make a meaningful and sustainable impact. As I deepened my engagement and began to better understand the issues from a holistic sense, I felt SADNESS creeping into my consciousness. Moving from sympathy to empathy, I quickly realized many of these issues and challenges have been around for a long time—so why can I (we) think we can make a difference in only three months? The level and complexity of the challenges seem insurmountable at times. And, even if we make traction can it be sustainable? Without the familiarity of friends, family and my normal surroundings, I reflect on the enormity of the task. Self-doubt has arrived.
What moved me from self-doubt to being ENCOURAGED, I cannot exactly say. Maybe it was a positive interaction with a key stakeholder or the epiphany of an idea. Mix in innate characteristics of resilience, persistence and determination and now, I find myself energized, feeling a renewed sense of confidence. I begin to look past the obstacles, to the possibilities. I draw in strength from the environment absorbing in my mind the many positives that exist in the life and culture of the people of India. As we are in the final days of preparing our presentation for the NGO leadership team, I can see our hard work paying off. Even when faced with long hours in 98-degree weather, I brim with excitement and curiosity as to how our presentation will be received. Yes, I am now back to the EXCITED mental state once again, my curiosity restored, and the cycle continues!
Have you considered applying for the YouSocial Volunteer Experience? I can tell you firsthand the emotional journey is worth it!