How to Pick Yourself Up When You Feel Like You’re Not Making a Difference

Josh is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub and is a thought leader at VolunteerMark, where they’re dedicated to maximizing the volunteer experience for nonprofits and for-profits alike. Josh writes on all things volunteer, corporate social responsibility and other purposeful musings. In his spare time, he loves traveling, reading, hanging with friends and is a wannabe triathlete.

Let’s be honest here—all of us in the nonprofit space have moments when we seriously question the difference we’re really making. Being on the front lines of social justice means that we are constantly bombarded with injustice, challenge and scarcity at a level that few others know.

Now, of course our passion and our love for our communities ultimately sees us through—but there is no denying that we are prime candidates for this type of despair. So what to do?

I’ve been working on the front lines of social change for around 10 years now—and over that course of time, I’ve had my share of ‘doubting’ moments… but, one day, I finally decided enough was enough. I decided it was time to write myself a message for those days when I doubted my power to spark change.

What follows is the letter I wrote myself on a day of particularly strong doubts, and it now hangs on my wall for me to see it any time I start questioning my power to spark change. I want to share it with you today in hopes that it will also help you as you run into those inevitable moments.


I know you’re feeling doubtful today—so I need you to read this now, and remember just why it is you do what you do for others…

If you’ve changed one life, you’ve changed the world. I know the world faces massive challenges, and they can seem overwhelming, but the fact is—if you can change the trajectory of just one life, you’ve changed the trajectory of the world. Remember this the next time you think the world is beyond saving.

It’s more about consistency than the amount of time.  In social work, you will often feel like there is not enough time to solve all the world’s problems–and there isn’t! It’s a good thing that consistency is what really matters. So remember—whether you’re choosing to spend an hour or 10 hours with a family you’re serving, just be honest about what you can consistently commit to.

Focus on what you’re best at. You need to be sure that, in every way possible, you are seeking to serve others in your areas of strength. Far too many change agents burn out because they try to be all things to all people—don’t do this. Know what you excel at, and serve the world in those areas.

Keep things right with yourself, so that you can be right for others. If you get burnt out by trying to be all things to all people, you’ll be no things to no people.    

Keep it Real. I know at times, it may appear that the struggles our families face are insurmountable—but this is a marathon we’re in, not a sprint. Be sure to laugh along the way, to sing, to cry, dance randomly and never take yourself too seriously. The people you serve will love you for this.

We would love to hear your insight. What are some similar strategies you’ve used to remind yourself of your ‘why’?

How to Pick Yourself Up When You Feel Like You’re Not Making a Difference

Josh Schukman

October 22, 2014

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