Times are tough in the conservation arena. I see that employee morale, particularly in the government sector, is in the pit. Work is piling up and costs are rising. It’s easy to get discouraged, even depressed. Yep, being a conservationist today is tough. But if we love our work and our friends and family, we have to manage this stress and be optimistic. Here are some things we should do:
Exercise and eat well. We can’t be on top of our game if we feel lousy. Establish a daily exercise routine and we’ll have more energy and tolerance for stress. When we’re healthy we can focus on exhibiting leadership and not be distracted by poor health.
Make use of a daily escape. We absolutely must set aside some time, some where, everyday where we can digest what’s happening around us.
Find a confidant. We need to share our concerns and ideas with someone outside of the profession that knows us well. It’s also important that this person isn’t afraid to tell us what we don’t want to hear.
Pay attention to body language. Smile! Evidence suggests our postures and facial expressions can reduce cortisol (stress) in the body. And our body language helps us influence and lead others.
Avoid the four Cs. Former US Fish and Wildlife Service assistant director and leadership coach, Mamie Parker has some great advice for all of us: “Avoid the four cancers of life: criticizing, competing, complaining and comparing.” If we follow her advice we’re more likely to use our time and energy on the challenges before us.
Speak with optimism. The legends, the people who were able to lead others through great adversity were not pessimists. If we speak of a better future, we inspire each other to face the challenges of our time.
I have two children that value wild things and wild places. I believe they and millions like them have a moral right to nature – a right to walk in the woods, a right to hear the clarion call of cranes. Will we lead others through the challenges ahead to preserve that right? I suppose we have two choices to how we respond to the “world of wounds” Aldo Leopold spoke of: we can be pessimistic or optimistic. The pessimist asks when will someone step forward and lead. The optimist says we can do this.
Let’s choose optimism. Let’s choose to be healthy and on top of our game. Let’s inspire each other every day. Let’s look in the mirror and see a leader. If each of us makes these choices, imagine what we can do together.