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Reisverslag The main thing
8 april 2015
The main thing
A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine decided to print his life-motto and tape it to the wall above the desk of another colleague: “Alone you go faster, but together we go farther”. At first we laughed at it and amused ourselves with searching the internet for the most ridiculous motto to hang above our own desk. Some just didn’t capture my spirit (“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours”) and some were deemed in appropriate by colleagues (“sure there’s no ‘I’ in team, but there’s a ‘u’ in suck”). But eventually I did find the one motto that I love, that suits me and that reminds me about what my father always says: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Read it a few times. It will start to make sense. It is one of those statements that defines such a simple concept which is so often forgotten, by myself as well. I can get lost in the small irritations in life, the daily frustrations that tire me and pointless anger about things I cannot change. In those situations it helps to focus on the main thing, which is very cliché and shockingly mature, but effective. For instance, there might be a new procedure at work (maybe something about UN and numbers…) which irritates me to no end (as you might have deduced from the previous blog). It takes a lot of energy to be irritated, and it will not change the situation (believe me, I know) so I focus on the main thing: can I still do my job effectively and with enjoyment? Yes. So, I better get over it and enable the obsession.
However, I am by no means saying that we should just get over and accept whatever procedure or situation upsets us. I am saying you should always keep the main thing in mind. Don’t lose it in small irritations or easy gratification. Sometimes you know that any compromise is worse than the consequence of backing out of the deal all together. Let me give an example: The camps in Kurdistan are partly run by the local government. At times these authorities are in a split between following the easiest procedure, or doing what the annoying foreigners from some far-away NGO ask them to do. I think you can guess what way they lean…. Surprisingly often we reach a compromise and sometimes the annoying foreigners get down from their high horses and accept the local expertise. But on rare occasions, I am sure I cannot back down from my position. Reaching a compromise in order to be able to continue working in the camp is useless if the compromise renders my work ineffective or even harmful to the people I aim to help. However, you’d be surprised how far some organizations are willing to go to keep their projects, even if the main objective of their presence is lost in the process. Their “main thing” was to provide effective assistance to refugees, but slowly they lost sight of that goal in their efforts to keep good relationships with the local government, to keep the project going, to keep getting money from the donor, etc.
If you cannot keep your focus on the main thing – or if you never understood the main thing to begin with – you should change profession because the road to effective aid is paved with empty achievements disguised as humanitarian victories.
Hypothetically: What good is money if you are only allowed to spend it on beneficiaries selected by a bias panel? What benefit will offering ‘psychological counseling’ have if you are forced to hire a 21-years old English teacher to provide it? What good are you able to do in an extremely well-paid position as SGBV officer, if you don’t understand what those letters stand for? And finally: how is anyone helped by you working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and end up so stressed and burned out that you cannot work for a year? Exactly! Regular breaks are needed and therefore I am going on leave tomorrow.
Have a great day all!
8 april 2015 20:21 | Door: Juul
:) zeer welkom thuis!!!
8 april 2015 20:39 | Door: Jantien
Ik snap helemaal wat je bedoelt! En een break kan ook helpen om 'the main thing' weer even helder te krijgen. Het is in ieder geval meer ontspannen ;-)
Tot morgen lieffie!!!
9 april 2015 11:12 | Door: petrus