My favorite African proverb is “One does not abandon their part of the battlefield, just because it has thorns.” I often share this to encourage and inspire embattled educators, organizational leaders and social servants to remain true to their purpose, remember their WHY and stay in the struggle. Many nod their heads in quiet self-reflection and flash a knowing smile at the (not so gentle) reminder.
We may find ourselves in organizations serving the most challenging youth, or facing underfunded mandates, on a dysfunctional team or working to empower marginalized communities. Wherever our struggle exists, we must acknowledge that this is hard work. Often, the forces resisting us are powerful or deeply entrenched, like bias, bigotry and apathy. Our success against them is not guaranteed and appears unlikely in our darkest hour.
Freeman Hrabrowski, president of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County and an influential Black thought-leader, stated, “All of the easiest problems that we face have already been solved; we need our brightest minds and bravest souls to take on the greatest problems of our time.” If the work that we are doing is worthy of our most precious resource, our time and energy, then it will be hard and challenging. This is most certain if this work is within the sphere of improving the human condition.
Here are a few suggestions to help remain in the struggle:
- Find and connect with fellow warriors. Isolation is a dangerous tendency when we are in the middle of the grind. Akoben is here to help with that!
- Be “self-restorative” and seek specific supports for our own personal struggles. Sometimes the desire to quit is rooted in or exacerbated by true personal needs or difficulties. If we are not self-aware and practice self-care, we run the risk of making poor choices in the heat of the battle that could ultimately harm others.
- Remind yourself that you are Built for this! Dig into your reservoir of resiliency and purpose to find the energy you need to keep going.
- Conquer this moment only. We have already gone through the past and the future is being determined by what we do now. Gain clarity of action by narrowing the focus on the short game at times.
- Uplift and remember your victories. My colleagues and I have lost 12 students to homicide over the past 5 years. This has been tremendously hard on us; however, we uplift and remind each other that during this same time, we have saved and helped positively transform thousands, and, we’re not even close to being done yet. Remember your victories…they are the best part of your story.
We need to regularly sharpen our skillset, stay current with the best research and evidence-based practices and engage in a strong dose of self-care. We also need powerful reminders often that this work is hard, but it is ours! Whether we raised our hands and willingly took this assignment or were “voluntold” to be here, this is where we find ourselves, on this part of the battlefield, at this moment in time, serving and working with these folks. Let us embrace this opportunity, find the beauty in this struggle, sharpen our tools and advance forward to victory.