The Bush Fellowship is more than a list of activities or goals to accomplish. That's the mindset I had when the Fellowship first kicked off. The clock starts ticking, and I immediately wanted to dive into my work and get "it" all done. I had the opportunity to attend two conferences in the first six months around impact investing, which expanded my network and mind to new worlds. These events got me thinking critically about what our region needs in terms of ecosystem builders for women, non-binary, and trans business owners. While grateful to attend, I think the biggest learning for me was to spend time reflecting on those experiences. I'm a person of action, which can be helpful when you need to move quickly from idea to implementation. But when you're working to build something so radically different, you need time to absorb, brainstorm, and think before it can move to the application stage.
I've discovered that the greatest gift from the Bush Fellowship is time. Time to think and breathe. It took me a good 6 months to fully understand that. As leaders, we're often looked to for fast answers, and I've surly answered that call. Being able to provide quick feedback and take action has served me well in organizations as well as my own business. However, when leaders take time for themselves and create space in their lives for wonder, that's where the real magic lives.
The word that comes to mind is "expansion." When we're busy moving from one thing to the next, building, breaking, and iterating, there's a constriction of the mind and body. Our heads are down, our shoulders are hunched, and our breaths are short. We're focused on the outcome instead of the journey, and the messy in-between (where the real nuggets of learning live) are left as a distant memory. What I've learned over the last 6 months is the value of that in-between space. It's where the feeling and the thinking collide in an uncomfortably energetic way. Without that space, there is only action and reaction, which is taxing on the mind and body. Imagine running a sprint for your entire life...that's the mode I've been in for most of my 30 years of life. In this mode, resources feel scarce and energy is limited. An achiever at heart, you move from one "accomplishment" to the next, each like a dopamine hit of energy that propels you to the next marker of success. This is what fuels burn out in young leaders, activists, and changemakers.
When we take time for the literal expansion of our lungs, bodies, and brains, we find abundance. I've used the Fellowship to prioritize quiet moments to pause the sprint. Time to read. Time to think. Time to not think. Still so early in this process, I'm just starting to reap the benefits of rest and reflection. The key is to make these daily practices. Whether it's blocking your calendar as unmovable rest time or taking 10 minutes in the morning and evening to write, read, or meditate, consistency is key when you're building a new practice.
I've stopped calling this self-care and started calling it self-preservation. Not only does it reserve your energy for the next sprint, but it allows for expansion of the mind just when you thought another thing couldn't fit in there.
The Bush Fellowship has given me something that's invaluable. Space.