It’s really appropriate that I am finally getting around to doing this unit, because the very reason that I haven’t done it is because “my give a damn’s been busted.” When you’re really passionate about something, and devoting so much time to it, especially if that time is not your job but a hobby/volunteer…that can take lots of energy. And you can only expend that amount of physical and mental energy for so long, especially if you go months or years without a “win” without feeling burned out.
And your give a damn’s busted. It’s September and my state still does not have a budget. And you don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent in 2015 lobbying for education funding. It is frustrating, for sure. I’ve personally be lobbying for special education funding reform for over 5 years and we still don’t have it passed. I’ve testified before two commissions on it, been to Harrisburg several times and more phone calls and letters than I can count. And yet here we are, without a budget and decent education funding.
So how do you regroup? How do you regain your energy, passion and enthusiasm if you’re feeling burned out on the issue and effort?
Take a break: Simple. Take a break. Step away. Don’t watch the news, don’t send emails, don’t make calls. Give yourself a break. Most lobbying efforts are years in the making, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s ok to step back in order to refresh.
Know that your efforts are part of a bigger picture: No politician is ever going to vote yes or no on a specific bill because of one visit from you or one phone call from you. And if you see them say that on TV, they are merely trying to make good TV. It doesn’t happen that way. You, me, we are part of a larger movement. And we want that movement to grow. I know that my one phone call doesn’t change things. But I hope that when I make my one phone call then either tell a friend or write about it on Facebook, that I inspire others to do the same. Our movement needs us, even if we need a break now and then.
Accept that there will lots of ups, downs and nothingness: It takes forever and a day to get legislation passed. And that time will be filled with lots of ups and downs and nothing. You’ll see politicians come out for this, then line items will get tacked on and they’re against it. Or it never gets voted on. Your issue may not even be a priority for this legislative session and might be fully ignored. This is not a smooth process and it’s not a quick one, so we have to adjust our expectations about how quickly things will happen.
Don’t take it personally: When you are so personally passionate about something and it’s an issue so near and dear to your heart, it’s hard not to be emotional. Be sad, be angry…but only temporarily. And turn that anger into a more positive and productive emotion. Don’t take it personally. I saw a recently released Princeton study that states that our politicians are basically ignoring us. They are listening to us only 30% of the time, and listening to paid lobbyists. We knew that. Having the data in black and white stings a bit, but we knew it already. All the more reason to keep going and recruit more members in our effort.
Change your view or focus temporarily: In July and August, I took a break. Very little blog posting. No calls to action on the blog. I didn’t do any lobbying myself. But, I did a few fundraisers, I helped the cause in other ways. I donated school supplies. I did a blog post on how to raise money for your school. I stayed peripherally involved in education funding without lobbying. I helped with voter registration. There are so many other things you can do.