Over the holidays, I went to Puerto Rico to visit family for their annual Christmas Party. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, I didn’t know what to expect and arrived prepared for anything — from bringing fun, good energy to help my relatives take a break from the stress, to rolling up my sleeves and helping with the recovery.
We landed in San Juan on the 24th, and I was amazed by how normal everything looked. The foliage was green and lush, Uber drivers were ready for passengers despite the low number of tourists, and restaurants were open and serving fresh food. When I arrived at my family’s home, their party was in full swing with vibrant people, tables full of food, a fantastic band, and plenty of dancing.
However, as we travelled around more of the island during our time there, evidence of the hurricane devastation emerged in felled trees, boarded up windows and power lines in repair. Yet everywhere there was a calm and positive spirit. Wondering what accounted for the emotional and physical resilience, every single person said the same thing: it was the sense of community combined with the unified impulse to get things in order as quickly as possible. The night of the hurricane people felt isolated in their homes listening to terrifying winds, crashes and sounds, not knowing how their friends and family were faring. As soon as the hurricane passed, people joined together to lift each other up and get life back to normal as quickly as possible through community kitchens, shared generators and resource pooling to clean up debris. Order, wherever they could create it, was energizing and liberating.
Puerto Rico's spirit in the face of hardship is a beautiful illustration that perseverance and resilience often come from focusing on others. In my coaching practice, I developed a tool called The Balance Wheel to help clients revitalize their energy and motivation when they are feeling burnt out. The guidelines are the opposite of how many of us tend to prioritize our schedules — putting work first, using leftover time for family and leaving hardly any time for ourselves, let alone our communities. Instead, it focuses on community and self care first, as a method for generating the energy to tackle the bigger challenges in your life. Here’s how it works.
Each week, plan activities in the following order:
1 - COMMUNITY: Do one thing a week for your community. No matter how your own life is going, when you volunteer or contribute, you gain a palpable sense of purpose and meaning, which boosts your sense of value and motivates you.
2 - SELF: Taking care of yourself gives you the energy and focus you need to give back to your loved ones. Gift yourself 2 activities a week that fuel you.
3 - FAMILY & FRIENDS: By investing time in your family and friends, you gain a sense of love, connection and belonging that gives you confidence, perspective, and motivation to do your work. Plan 3 connections per week with family and friends to nurture those relationships.
4 - WORK: Proactively growing at work gives you energy as you gain a sense of contribution, security and freedom that enables you to give back to your community. Plan 4 proactive tasks per week that will help you succeed at work.
And The Balance Wheel begins again...
In 2018, don’t give up on your resolutions. Follow the lead of our neighbors in Puerto Rico to put community first, and help nurture yourself to go the distance on your goals.