Those who come to federal service are a special breed. We come out of a call to service, a desire to give back, an intent to leave the world a better place than we found it. As we come on board with our respective organizations we expect, and are even eager, to make certain sacrifices in the service of our agency and our country. Most of our organizations have the word sacrifice somewhere in the either our Vision, Mission or Values statements.
I believe that sacrifice is the one thing that we do NOT need, or even want, from our federal employees. Before you label me a heretic, a traitor, or someone looking collect more for less, hear me out. Sacrifice means giving of oneself from a place of scarcity or lack. Whether that giving is in terms of money, time, energy, or physical well-being, it assumes a giving, willingly or otherwise, from a source that has finite boundaries. Because of those finite boundaries, at some point there will be nothing left to give. The cup is empty. We simply cannot pour out any more. When that cup is empty, we are left tired, bored, frustrated, depressed, and wondering, “why did I sacrifice so much in the first place? Did everything I gave up really even matter?”
So what if instead of asking federal employees to sacrifice, we instead asked them to give? What’s the difference? The difference is that a gift comes from a place of abundance, even excess. Thankfully, each of us is truly unique. We have different talents, skills, abilities, and loves that come together to create who we are as people and as employees. As we cultivate each of those things within ourselves beginning with the things that matter most to us, we continually fill our cup. Our service is no longer a “pouring out” of finite resources but rather a “spilling over” of unlimited abundance doing what we love in the service of those who love what we do.
While there are steps that organizations can take to facilitate the process (a different topic for a different day), the creation of an engaged, on purpose, abundant work force, is not up to the organization. It is up to us as individuals to create that reality for ourselves. We are the individuals who protect our borders, who create the face of our nation abroad, who insure that our veterans, our elderly, and our under-privileged are cared for, who insure that our nation’s fiscal resources are managed responsibly, who preserve our natural lands, and who perform countless other roles creating a nation that, while not perfect, we believe is the best deal going. When we recognize the enormity of our endeavor, we realize that it is impossible for us to sacrifice enough to face the challenges ahead of us. The only way that we can sustain our missions for the long haul is to give, of our time, energy, talent, and love, from our individual overflow.
So what does it mean to give from our individual overflow? The answer might sound counterintuitive…or worse self-serving. It means being absolutely clear on what matters most to you, what makes your heart sing, and consistently choosing in favor of that. As you begin to focus on those things that you are good at, that bring you joy, that make you smile, you will find yourself naturally led to the place where your specific gifts are of highest service. Your gifts will spill over on to the work you do, the people you work with, and the people who mean the most to you both personally and professionally. There will be no limit to your time, your energy, your creativity, or your possibilities because you are giving from abundance. Contrary to popular belief, you not only deserve to love your work, you have a responsibility to.
So as you drive to work this morning, check in with yourself. Are you excited and looking forward to getting to work? If not, imagine just for a minute what it might feel like if you were. What would be different for you? What would be different for those around you? Then make a choice.