Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paying it forward - the unexpected way to stay motivated

In one of the worst times of my life, I felt like I was completely lost. I had a hard time channeling my thoughts, keeping on track and looking ahead. One thing that I knew that would help me get outside of myself, re-adjust and get back on track was to help others by volunteering: how could I possibly not feel compelled to get up and get moving with a sense of purpose and urgency, when I was doing whatever needed to be done on someone else's behalf? It was the best decision that I could make at a time like that.

With my ever-present gravitation towards animals, the natural choice was to start volunteering at a local animal shelter. I was nervous making that first call to inquire and then attend volunteer orientation, but from there it became much easier. It was hard work - heart-breaking at times, propelling at other times but always gratifying. Seeing wagging tails, smiling faces and being in the midst of others who shared my passion was motivating and helped me keep my sense purpose. I had the opportunity to learn about other people who I volunteered alongside - another plus. I understood that we all had two things in common: we were human beings, and had a passion for helping animals. Some had outside labels like stay-at-home mom, postal worker, vet tech student, retiree, CEO of a large company, out-of-work secretary, attorney, high school student, carpenter, fellow small business owner. The former was the only important thing, and the sense of being needed for those few short hours per week was like a refuge, I think. Even if one didn't feel terribly motivated or useful during the time that we spent outside of volunteering, we certainly felt needed and valued when we were there.

There are great ways for folks to offer their time and talents for the benefit of others. Websites like VolunteerMatch and Points of Light are great resources for getting information on volunteering. Locally, in Washtenaw County, there is a way to discover groups that are a fit  - - a database of sorts that helps one search for great opportunites.

Volunteering one's time is a great way to do so much for others. It gives people a chance to be their best: they see that they are useful, valued, capable - and in turn they go further and continue to be motivated.

I think that quite often, the biggest obstacle that we face collectively in life is ourselves. We get in our own way, think too much about ourselves and when that's the case, it's easy to get lagged down. Thinking about others, well, there's just no room for that.

Lorrie Shaw is a professional pet sitter, regular pets contributor to and pet blogger in Dexter Twp, MI. She participates in Motivated Mondays along with writer, speaker, mountain bike rider and author of Backroads & Byways Of Arizona, Jackie Dishner. #MotivatedMondays on Twitter is a culmination of inspirational notes, blogs and tips to help motivate and get other ready for each week after the weekend lull - or anytime.


  1. I am generally a person who loves to volunteer to maintain high levels of motivatation. But, lately, I am finding that I need to spend less time volunteering and more time working on my career. I can lose my balance sometimes. What about you?

  2. Well, the past few months, I've transitioned (and the process continues) from one business to another. This has not been the best setting for doing volunteer work, needless to say. However, I find slivers of opportunity to feed my soul with clients that I have left. I am fairly focused in my career, and need to be to get it where I want it to be. In the future, my goal is to have volunteering time cemented in there, somewhere permanantly.