Volunteerism – To Step Up or Step Away?

Whether or not to volunteer for something is a quandary we’ve all faced – in our professional lives and in our personal lives.  Do I step up or do I step away?  Finding that balance between giving of yourself and saving yourself from over-commitment is an ongoing challenge.

As the New England chapter of the American Society for Indexing is facing difficult decisions about its future direction due to a lack of volunteers, I have been thinking about the topic often.  A couple of months ago there was an interesting discussion here on LinkedIn about whether or not professional organizations give enough bang for the buck.  There were mixed responses to that, but one consistent response was that if you want to get something out of an organization, you have to contribute something as well.  The more involved you are, the more benefit you receive.  That said, where do you draw the line?

In my younger years, I thought I had to participate fully in whatever venture was before me, to my own detriment at times.  I recall one point when I was making myself sick with stress about how much was on my plate.  My husband wisely commented that I should just stop volunteering so much.  “But who will do it if I don’t?” I whined.  His response was that maybe others would step up, and maybe they wouldn’t, and probably the world wouldn’t end either way.  He was right.  I stepped back; I felt healthier; and the world didn’t end.

I’ve worked over the years to find a healthy balance and still don’t think I’m quite there yet.  I do believe that committing to something beyond our own front door is what makes the world go ‘round. Working in civic organizations, professional organizations, school ventures, church functions, or just helping your neighbor is important.  Volunteerism is vital for so many positive things to come to fruition.  But somewhere along the way, you have to find that balance of stepping up and stepping away.

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