Throughout the year, our blog series “Pearls: 30 Lessons Learned on Our 30 Year Journey” will be featuring lessons we’ve learned as an organization throughout the past three decades. These “pearls,” as we call them, illuminate how we’ve survived and thrived for 30 years.
Sometimes We Need a Break
Don’t get me wrong. Mostly I find this work to be exciting and uplifting. I have the opportunity to meet the women we hire on their first day of work when they come across as scared, closed-up and even hopeless. Then, over the next six to nine months I get to watch them literally blossom into women who feel hopeful, happy and proud of themselves and all they have accomplished. Witnessing this transformation is one of my favorite parts of working at the Bean Project.
At the same time, it can be frustrating and even heart-wrenching when a woman who has been doing well takes a step backward. Sometimes she makes the choice to run from the halfway house, or relapses or quits just as she seems to making progress toward completing the program. Our staff members get so invested in the women. No one could want their success more than our team.
That means when women do make choices that take them backward, it can feel like a devastating blow to our to all of us. We often discuss how we can’t want their success more than they want it, but it still feels lousy to lose a woman who we believe is on the verge of a breakthrough or on the cusp of creating lasting change in her life.
Getting emotionally invested in others who are trying to change their lives is a tough business to be in. It brings into play all of our emotions and has the potential to tap our own baggage. When that happens, we aren’t able to perform at our best. That’s why we now require every staff member to take a mental health day once each quarter, in addition to the vacation time earned. On their Mental Health Days staff members are not allowed to check emails or otherwise do work. My hope is it will give a well-deserved break from the challenges of become emotionally invested in the women’s success and allow us to show up refreshed and ready to face the tough challenges.
We know there will always be challenges with the work we do. Individual free will means that we each have the ability to choose our own course, even if others might not recommend those choices. Such is the case with the women we serve. Our role is to help them set their own goals for their lives and then bring to bear the resources that will help them accomplish those goals. The key to our ability to weather the challenges created when women work against their own self-interest is to focus on the positive, to realize that when we successfully help a woman create lasting change in her life, it will set her on a beautiful, sustainable path. I believe that a part of our long-term success as an organization will be found in our team’s ability to last in the face of hardship and disappointment – and we’ll do that best when we allow ourselves to take a break occasionally.
Written by Tamra Ryan, CEO